This message was shared at Centerville United Methodist Church in Centerville, IN on Sunday, April 19, 2015. 1 John 3:16-24 served as the launching pad for this message.
1 John 3:18- “Let’s not love with words or speech but with action and truth.”
The passage of Scripture we heard from 1 John 3 is a powerful reminder of Jesus’ love and our call to now embody and live out that same kind of love. The kind of love Jesus demonstrated was sacrificial and unconditional.
John encourages us not to get so caught up with words or speech, but to be more consumed with demonstrating our love by our actions. In some ways, John is revealing to us that our knowledge and relationship with Christ is best proved by the way we live. In other words, it doesn’t really matter how much Scripture people can quote from heart. If it doesn’t translate into action…well, in the words of Duke Ellington and Irving Mills, “it don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that swing.”
There is a difference between Scripture memorization, Scriptural knowledge, and Scriptural understanding. I know people who can quote Scripture right and left, but they don’t bother to share their time, talents, or treasures…which would indicate that their head knowledge has not transformed into heart knowledge. If we truly understand Scripture, it will transform our entire lives.
Some of us are so convinced that we are “right” when it comes to our understanding of God, Jesus, and the Bible, that we never pause to humbly consider the fact that “we could be wrong.” And, a quick examination of some of the stereotypes non-Church folk have about church folk would reveal that not only could we be wrong, often times we are…Too often, we confuse our political agendas with our religious traditions and doctrine. Many times, our attitudes and actions communicate conflicting messages. For example, if you look at what we rally against and protest, we often present messages like:
- Drinking is wrong, but gluttony is okay
- Abortion is wrong, but war and capital punishment are okay
- Gay marriage is wrong, but divorce and adultery are okay
- Working on Sunday is wrong, but we love going out to eat after church
- Swearing is wrong, but gossip is okay
- Being overly involved in sports is wrong, but slothfulness/laziness is okay
Now, most of us know better and would protest “that’s not what we believe.” Many of us understand the reality that, within the church, within this church, there are several people with different thoughts, attitudes, and beliefs on all of those issues. And, guess what? That’s okay! Because sometimes our debates about these issues are really just adventures in missing the point! Too often we spend more time trying to be “right” and convince others we are “right” than we do trying to love one another in action and truth!
Therefore, when someone offers up an alternative understanding to what we believe to be “right”, we often get defensive. Many times, when we get defensive we also become judgmental of those with different viewpoints. When we get defensive and judgmental, we often begin to gossip. Then, we justify our defensiveness, judgment, and gossip by saying we’re just trying to love people into a right relationship with God. And by right, we mean what we are convinced is “right”. If we are going to love God and love others, we need to spend less time being defensive and judgmental and more time humbly listening and faithfully serving.
So, as Christians, our call is to follow in the way of Christ. Submitting to the authority of Christ by obeying his commandments leads us to love in truth and actions, laying down our lives for one another.
What is it that Jesus commands? (Read Matthew 22:34-40). Love God and love one another. If we can do these two things, the rest of the law and prophets, the rest of the Scripture naturally takes care of itself.
Jesus gives us some insight as to what it looks like to love God and love one another. (Read Matthew 25:31-40). Meeting the basic needs of those around us is the evidence of our faith. It’s the tangible proof of love in action. It’s the effect of head knowledge transforming into heart knowledge.
1 John 3:17 says that if we have the means to help a brother and sister in need and fail to help, it is difficult for the love of God to remain in us. In other words, we can say that we believe the right things, but if we don’t do the right things, do we truly believe the right things?
The love of Jesus is unconditional and sacrificial. So, what about our love? Is it unconditional and sacrificial? Or do we set certain criteria people have to meet in order to deserve and receive our love.
One of the biggest pieces of evidence that our head knowledge has transformed into heart knowledge is the sharing of our faith. (Read Matthew 28:18-20) In Matthew 28:18-20 Jesus tells us to get the word out! We are called to spread his love to everyone, everywhere. Sharing our faith, telling others about Jesus, inviting people to join us on this journey is tangible proof that God’s love is within us! Many times, we best share our faith when we feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and visit the sick and imprisoned.
There is great power in love. And, as our friends, The Beatles put it, “All You Need is Love”
Love, God’s love can unite what is currently divided.
Love, God’s love provides the motivation to serve God by serving others.
Love, God’s love is what makes it possible to love and serve our neighbors.
Love, God’s love is what makes it possible to love and serve, even our enemies.
Love, God’s love is demonstrated in how we love and serve one another.
Love, God’s love has the power to overcome our sins and failure.
Love, God’s love has the power to defeat evil and even death.
How many of you have ever heard of the Starbucks Love Project? Now, I’m going to be totally honest, I’m about to say something nice about Starbucks. And, that’s a pretty incredible thing because I can’t stand Starbucks. Starbucks, to me, is the corporate representation of the devil. Starbucks represents everything that is wrong and evil in the coffee industry. They have made their mark by removing the artistry of coffee. They make coffee for people who don’t really like coffee. A person who really likes coffee would never drink a Caramel Macchiato or a Frappuccino. And, what they call a caramel macchiato isn’t a macchiato, it’s a latte! They over-roast their beans, but with their advertising, they convince you that is what good coffee is supposed to taste like. However, Starbucks pulled off an amazingly awesome project that demonstrates love in action. In December of 2009, Starbucks pulled off an amazing feat to raise awareness (and funds) of AIDS in Africa. Here is the result. This is a great reminder that love can unite us…check this out…
In the United Methodist Church, when we become members, we make vows to put our love into action by making a commitment to uphold our church through our prayers, our presence, our gifts, our service, and our witness. We put our love into action when we pray,(for our church, community, nation, world), when we are present (being at church, showing up when our brothers and sisters are in need), when we share our gifts (sharing our time, talents, treasures and practicing extravagant generosity), when we serve (1 John 3:17; John Wesley “Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can.”), and when we witness (proclaiming the love of Jesus in word and deed).
Some of us are at different stages in life and what it looks like to uphold our church through prayer, presence, gifts, service, and witness will look different at various stages. However, each of us has a vitally important role to fill.
We have opportunities to put our love into action through the ministries of our church…We all can be involved in all of these:
- VBS- reaching families in our community (pray, give, go)
- Bulldog Buddies & Crossing Guards – reaching into our schools (pray, give, go)
- Mission Guatemala- reaching into our world (pray, give, go)
- Faith promises- supporting ministries that are reaching our locally, nationally, internationally (pray, give, go)
- Fellowship Friends (visiting nursing homes & shut-ins)- pray, give, go
- Hospital Visitation (when we have folks in for extended stays/surgery)- pray, give, go
- Ministry teams (pray, give, go)
- Sunday school – reaching inwardly and growing so we will be inspired and encouraged to put our love into action. (pray, give, go)
Is there something on your heart? Just do it.
Want to know more? Come see me, drop me an email or text or call
Romans 14:19 calls on us to “strive for the things that bring peace and the things that build each other up.” All we need to bring peace and build each other up is love…for God and one another.
What will you do this week to demonstrate your love for God and love for others?