- Love is that first feeling you feel before all the bad stuff gets in the way.
- When someone loves you, the way they say your name is different. You know that your name is safe in their mouth. – Billy, age 4
- Love is what makes you smile when you’re tired. – Terri, age 4
- If you want to learn to love better, you should start with a friend who you don’t like to play with. – age 6
- Love is when you tell a guy you like his shirt, then he wears it everyday. – Noelle, age 7
- Love is like an old woman and an old man who are still friends even after they know each other well. age 6
- Love is when mommy gives daddy the best piece of chicken. – Elaine, age 5
- Love is when mommy sees daddy smelly and sweaty and still says he is handsomer than [Brad Pitt] – age 7
- Love is when your puppy licks your face even after you left him alone all day. – Mary Ann, age 4
- When you love somebody, your eyelashes go up and down and little stars come out of you. – Karen, age 7
- You really shouldn’t say ‘I love you’ unless you mean it. But if you mean it, you should say it a lot. People forget. – Jessica, age 8
Love is a verb. Not long ago I gave a couple an assignment to choose two days in which they were not allowed to say, “I love you” but had to figure out ways to show they loved each other. Love is an action: “For God so loved the world that he GAVE his one and only son….”
John is AMAZED by the unbelievable love of God ~ this is why he calls himself “The Disciple Whom Jesus Loved” ~ not because he is better, but because he sees himself as a sinner, he sees himself as unlovable, he sees himself as unworthy, he sees himself as a mere human ~ yet he is loved by God the Father. Just as we ought not to ever take the love of another person for granted, the same with God’s love! The depth of the Love of Jesus Christ is more than we deserve. He died so that your sins would be forgiven and he was resurrected from the dead so that you could receive life!
Today I am speaking to those of you who have a hard time receiving love. This may be the biggest roadblock some people have for being a Christian, or at least maturing in faith ~ not allowing themselves to be loved. It is not uncommon for people to put up a wall not letting others love them ~ even God. Loving others is an important part of our Christian faith, but that is not the topic today! Today: Receiving the Love of Christ, amazed that God accepts you. The Fruit of the Spirit is not about what you do for others, it is What the Spirit of God does for you, changes you from the inside out, gives you the gift of Love, peace, patience…, transforming you into a child of God. READ 1 John 3:1.
The World does not get the Love of Christ. The reason we have a hard time accepting the Love of Christ is because we crave the elusive approval and understanding of the world. It says right here in 1 John the world will not completely understand. Accept the perfect love of Christ first and foremost and then you will find it easier to accept the imperfect love or the rejection of the love from others. Let the Love of Christ be the priority, he died for you… because Christ loves me unconditionally, I don’t need perfect love of others to complete me. It’s like the wise and good father that constantly tells his daughters how beautiful they are so they don’t need to hear it from other guys. How much more the love of Jesus Christ. To know in my heart, I am complete in Christ, I am his child that is Loved by Him ~ that’s everything! There is a reason John emphasizes the point that we are God’s children “And that is what you are” because we have a hard time accepting it.
The reason we have a hard time accepting the Love of Christ is because we don’t understand why he loves us so we think it can’t be true. READ 1 John 3:2. God loves you in your incompleteness. It says in this verse that a time is coming when you will see with more clarity. You will see with more understanding. When the Lord comes again your eyes will be open. But God won’t love you anymore than he does now. Perfectionists have a hard time accepting the fullness of the Love of God because they want to get everything just right first. God Loves you and accepts you in your incompleteness.
The reason we have a hard time accepting the Love of Christ is because we feel we need to earn his love. Love is pure gift. READ 1 John 3:4-5. The more we realize we don’t deserve the love of another or the love of God, the more amazing the love is. The disciple John seemed to understood the depth of his sin more than many people. When you understand how little you deserve, the more true love impacts your heart. Jesus Christ lavished his love upon us even when the world does not approve, even when we don’t get it, even when we don’t deserve it.
The depth of the Love of Christ is costly: Chuck Colson told the story of a group of American POWs during WWII, who were made to do hard labor in a prison camp. Each had a shovel and would dig all day, then come in and give an account of his tool in the evening. One evening 20 prisoners were lined up by the guard and the shovels were counted. The guard counted nineteen shovels and turned in rage on the 20 prisoners demanding to know which one did not bring his shovel back. No one responded. The guard took out his gun and said that he would shoot five men if the guilty prisoner did not step forward. After a moment of tense silence, a 19-year-old soldier stepped forward with his head bowed. The guard grabbed him, took him to the side and shot him in the head, and turned to warn the others that they better be more careful than he was. When he left, the men counted the shovels and there were 20. The guard had miscounted. The boy had given his life for his friends.
This message is for those who have a hard time accepting the Love of Jesus Christ. Jesus love is so great he suffers for us. Jesus said in John 15:13, "Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends." The depth of love is found in a life of love. This is our calling as a church family ~ to live out the love of Christ so others will have an easier time to receive Jesus Christ.
The greatest needs people have? I appreciate the three-fold needs of Love, Acceptance and Forgiveness. Christ is the ultimate giver of Loving people, Accepting people and forgiving people, yet we as a spiritual family can work towards living out these values and pointing to Christ. Jerry Cook, a pastor, tells the story of getting a phone call from a friend, also a pastor, “This was a brother I liked and respected, I still do. He was irritated because some of his people had started coming to our church. …I let him talk. At one point he said, ‘You know what you are out there? You’re nothing but a bunch of garbage collectors.’ As I thought about it, I realized he was telling the truth. That’s exactly what we are, garbage collectors. What were we before Jesus found us? Weren’t we all just garbage? Jesus finds us and recycles us. I mentioned this in church one Sunday and afterward a man who owns a garbage collection agency came floating up the aisle all excited, ‘That’s super’ he said, ‘Let me tell you something about garbage. There’s a landfill here. For 10 years we used it as a place to dump trash and garbage. Know what’s there now? A beautiful park.’”
A climate of love, acceptance and forgiveness is what transforms garbage into a park. A loving, accepting and forgiving community that points to Jesus Christ as the one who loved us so much, even while we are still garbage, even when we don’t deserve it, even in all our sin and unloveliness, and/he/recycles/us.
We at SACC may not have the best programs, the most cutting edge talented people, providing every niche of every age with every service, but none of that is necessary to boldly love people. Our way of life should tell people that if you hang around us and let us into your world we are going to love you, no matter what you have done or how you look or how you smell, we’re going to love you. Jesus Christ is in the business of making beautiful parks out of garbage. Let’s make it as easy as we can for people to receive the Love, Acceptance and Forgiveness of Jesus Christ!
We cannot love to the depth of the Love of Christ, but we can point the way to the one who does ~ Jesus Christ and him crucified, who is Raised from the dead and is alive, he who is waiting with outstretched arms to embrace you and love you unconditionally.
I believe there is a reason why those who first went to the empty tomb on that first Easter did not understand. READ John 20:11-13. It is normal to take time to grasp the depth of the Love of Christ. It is understandable for confusion and for you to need time for the truth of Jesus Christ and the resurrection to sink in: READ John 20:14-15.
While you are waiting to come to that great understanding that the Love of Jesus is greater than the love of the world, while you are waiting to sink in that Jesus loves you even though you don’t deserve it, while you are waiting to figure out that there is nothing you can do to earn the love of the Lord, you are invited to surround yourself with people of faith who do their best to point to the Love, Acceptance and Forgiveness of Christ.
Perhaps the greatest five words in the Bible are found in John 20:16, “Jesus said to her, ‘Mary.’” The resurrected Christ knows each one of us by name. This is the miracle of Easter: Jesus, who is alive, knows each one of you by name. To know and receive the Fruit of the Spirit of Love is to be ALIVE in Christ. May you learn to embrace the truth that Jesus Christ loves you unconditionally, he accepts you as you are, he forgives you of your sins. Christ the Lord is Risen today, and He Loves you and he knows your name! Amen.