Stewardship 3 – 2017 They’ll Know We Are Christians By Our Love
Text – 1 John 4:7
Beloved, let us love one another for love is from God, & whoever loves has been born of God & knows God.
Stewards Transformed by Love
Six year old Johnnie comes home from 1st grade, & asks his mother, “Mom, where do I come from?” His mother thought, Oh dear, I wish his father was here to answer this question. She had hoped the question would not come up for a few more years. But, after she had slowly & carefully explained the anatomy of males & females, she asked Johnny:
“Why did you ask?” He answered, “My friend Bobby came from Chicago, so I was wondering where I came from.”
There is also misunderstanding when we talk about God’s love so I’d like to make three points that we need to better understand God’s affection for us. In the epistle reading for today we find our 1st point which is “love begins with God.”
Verse seven of the Epistle lesson says, “Beloved, let us love one another for love is from God, & whoever loves has been born of God & knows God.” By ourselves, we are incapable of loving. But many people consider love to have originated with themselves. If that were true, it would be a very selfish & self-centered kind of love.
Christians know that God is the origin of love. He 1st loved us, & enables us to share that love with others, but God is not only the origin of love. Verse 8 tells us “God is love.” The very nature of God is love. Everything He does & says originates from His love for us. He created us, &, when we fell into sin, instead of giving up on us or destroying us, He set out to redeem us.
He showed His love for us as He sent His Son to pay the sacrifice for sins. He sent His Son into the world to die on the Cross as the propitiation for our sins. In verse 10 we see that propitiation means Jesus was the atoning sacrifice for our sin. A sacrifice had to be made for our sins. Jesus is the perfect Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, & He does that so we might live through Him. Because of God’s love & forgiveness, we have eternal life in His name. So we recognize, “Love begins with God.”
The 2nd major point is that “God’s love has a dramatic effect.” Verse 7 says we are born of God. Through Holy Baptism, we are born again of water & the Spirit, thus becoming children of God. Our old natural birth has been superseded by a new supernatural birth. We have been transformed & changed, because of which you & I are no longer the same person.
We know about the metamorphosis that takes place in a caterpillar as it becomes a butterfly. As great as that transformation is from caterpillar to butterfly, the change that occurs in our lives is much greater than that, because at one time we were lost. Now we are found. At one time we were dead. Now we are made alive.
Once we were enemies of God. Holy Scripture says that now we are considered His dear friends & children. Not only are we born of God, we possess knowledge of God that people who do not believe do not have. We don’t just know about God intellectually. We know God personally & intimately, because we are the recipients of His love as daughters & sons.
The most dramatic effect that God’s love has on us is that we love others, even those we would otherwise hate. Our love for one another is a response to God’s infinite love for each & every one of us. Showing the same kind of selfless, sacrificial love toward others witnesses to the love of our Heavenly Father that He reveals in Christ Jesus.
The Apostle John says it very well: “Beloved, if God so loved us, we also out to love one another.” You see, love that is of God is dynamic & explosive. It cannot be & just remain between God & me. The presence of Yahweh’s love in our lives is shown by the way that it
reaches out to others. Love originates with God, & then has a dramatic effect upon us.
Third “Love becomes the distinguishing mark of Christ’s followers.” After Jesus had washed His disciples’ feet, He tells them: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are My disciples if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35 ESV)
Unbelievers recognized Jesus’ disciples by their love. Believers gave evidence to being disciples by their love for one another. When the early church was just getting started, those outside the church would watch how people inside the church treated one another & responded by saying, “My, how they love one another.”
People watching us will see we are Christians by the love we display. The source of our love is Christ’s love for us. He loves unconditionally without setting limits. Jesus loves us sacrificially, & His love for us, not guilt, is what empowers us to love our neighbor as ourselves. Jesus was a living example of God’s love & we are to be living examples of Jesus’ love.
We struggle not to put conditions on our love. In response to that normal sinful attitude, St. Paul wrote in Romans 13: “Owe no one anything except to love each other.” (13:8 ESV) And whenever we talk about love, we have to remember that love is more than simple warm feelings. Love is an attitude that reveals itself in action. Love is more a verb than a noun.
Read the great love chapter sometime, 1 Corinthians 13, & see how Paul describes love: “Love is patient, love does not envy or boast, it does not insist on its own way, it is not irritable or resentful.” Paul then says, “Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” (13:7 ESV)
As we think about love, the kind that originated from God, love that changes us & transforms us, we ask ourselves, “How can we love others as Jesus loves us? How can we prove
that our love is real?” There are many ways, but here are five of them.
1.One way to show our love is by helping others when it’s not convenient. It is easy to help others when it’s convenient in our schedule. If we have to change schedules, are we going to be willing to help?
2.Another way to show love is by devoting time & energy to another person’s welfare rather than our own. Time is precious & often we don’t want to give up time that we reserve for ourselves. Sometimes we draw a line, thinking we’ve given too much. God says He’s given us plenty of time to do what He calls us to do.
3.We can prove that our love is real when we love those we don’t even like. Is there someone who gets under your skin or irritates you so much? Do you know anyone like that? Even if we don’t like someone, God expects us to love them.
4.We can prove our love when we are hurt by others & do not seek revenge or fight back, but instead we forgive them. That is something to see, isn’t it? By nature, when we’re hurt, we want to retaliate. Evidence of our love is that we are forgiving. Because we are loved & forgiven by God, our response can be to be forgiving people.
5.We can prove our love by giving generously, cheerfully & sacrificially. Giving until it hurts; that’s what sacrificial giving really is. This kind of giving is what proves the genuineness of our love. When St. Paul was writing to the Corinthians about the Macedonians who gave so generously to the Christians in Jerusalem, Paul said he can:
“..test you by the zeal of others to see how real your love is.” (2 Corinthians 8:8 NET) You see, love changes our giving from an obligation to a privilege. We are not giving to a budget or giving to anything. We are giving from the heart & from what God has 1st given to us.
Now, these things I’ve mentioned are not easy to do, yet, people notice when we do
them. Please know that you are empowered by a supernatural Being. Jesus calls for something far greater than we can accomplish on our own. Only in Christ, who is supernatural by nature, can we truly be stewards who are transformed by grace, faith & love.
At the beginning of this sermon, little Johnnie was wondering where he came from? Do you know where you are from? Maybe it’s Chicago, like Johnnie’s friend, but ultimately you have come from your heavenly Creator & Father. He is love, & He longs to remove the inward focus of your heart to restore to you the other-centered focus He created human beings to have.
Our Lord created us in love so that we might love each other, & not just love ourselves. Love is probably the most misunderstood of all of God’s blessings. In heaven we will know that blessing fully.
In a few moments, you are going to have the opportunity to worship our Lord through offering back to Him a portion of what He has given to you. Perhaps some of you are not ready to make a financial gift today. Your commitment to being in worship services, Bible studies & prayer are other obvious ways in which we worship our Creator & King.
Whether or not you have a financial offering today, I’d like to offer a prayer because God wants us to be good stewards of all that He has entrusted to us. Let’s bow our heads:
Heavenly Father, we know You are the giver of all good gifts. All that we have comes from You. You are not only the giver of all we have, You’re the owner & have entrusted to us our time, our talents & our treasures. As the offering basket is passed around, we pray that the sacrificial love Jesus demonstrated on the cross would change our hearts for all eternity. Amen.
Now may the peace of God that surpasses all human understanding guard your hearts & your minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.
Pastor Dean R. Poellet