I was privileged to preach at Jubilee Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia, PA on Sunday, May 24th. It was for the first time for me to preach three times a day. Physically pretty tiring, but it was a great blessing and encouragement to me as well as to them, as many said. Praise the Lord!
The sermon title was "Everyone Who Loves" based on 1 John 4:7-12. The sermon is summarized below:
Christianity is love because God is love. We Christians, therefore, feel familiar with "love." But, is it really true? Are you not using the word "love" habitually as a buzz word?
God's love is well explained as unconditional love, by God's sacrificing His one and only Son to save His people. (:9 and 10) John McArthur broke down God's love into two components: mercy and grace. According to him, mercy plays a role of removing the negative aspect of sin related to salvation while grace plays a role of adding the positive aspect of love to salvation. In other words, by mercy, God forgives our sins and justifies our salvation through the righteousness imputed to us while by grace God gives us the eternal life. John 3:16 is more explicit about this structure. "... whoever believes in Him (Jesus) shall not perish (salvation from the penalty of sin by mercy) but have eternal life (by grace)." When we reach the state of glorification with the Lord upon His return, we will be saved from the presence of sin. (oh how eagerly I am looking forward to it... you cannot sin even if you want to!) Until then, we are now being saved from the power of sin, little by little but surely, through the santification process.
It is God's love that is beyond our imagination and any measure.
How about our love? How should our love be in light of His amazing love? Apostle John suggests that we love one another. (:11) It sounds as if we do not have to love God. But, Matthew 22:39-40 explain that we should love God with all our mind, all our life and all our soul, (the first and greatest commandment), and that we should love our neighbors as our own bodies (the second greatest commandment). Our love for God goes without saying. But, it is pragmatically difficult. If we say we love God and hate a brother, the bible says that we are a liar because we cannot love God whom we have not seen if we cannot love a brother whom we have seen! (1 John 4:20) 1 John 4:12 says that if we love one another God's love is made complete. That is right! We should love one another not only to demonstrate our love for God but also to help make God's love complete or perfect!
1 John 3:18 encourages us to stop loving with words and tongues only, but to love with actions and truth.
Do you love God? Do what the lovers do. Listen, read, study, meditate on and memorize the God's love letter (the bible) more intensively and genuinely. Also spend more time in conversing with God through prayer since prayer is our conversation with God.
But, do not stop there. Show the evidence of your love for God by loving one another. It is a command. (1 John 4:21) When you love one another, do it as God does: not only with mercy but also with grace.
When someone annoys you, hurts you, hates you, cheats you, takes advantage of you or uses you for a selfish interest, you should still forgive him/her by the power of His mercy. Forgiveness is a mandate as we confess in the Lord's Prayer that "forgive our sins as we forgive those who sin against us." A mature Christian, however, would go even further by praying for and blessing the person who has harmed him/her. It is the power of His grace!
I admit and acknowledge that it is a lot easier to be said than done. But I will not give up on it and I would like to encourage everyone not to give up on it, either.
Moreover, when we love one another, we should go beyond the comfort zone of "me-ism." The "me-ism" centers around I, me, mine and myself. Our love should go beyond my family, my friends, my church and even my country. God is greater than all of the above combined. So should our love for our neighbors. We should extend our love to the poor, the sick, the lonely and the isolated. These are the "least of the brethren of the Lord" and "whatever we do for them would have been the same as having done it for the Lord." (Matt. 25:34-40) What a blessing!
May we love one another as much and as well as we confess that we love God! May His unceasing and faithful love fill the hearts of all His people so that His love may be made complete through our love and that His Kingdom may advance on earth quickly! Amen! - Jeffrey