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“LOVE MATTERS MOST: 40 Days of Love - Part 1"

(adapted with permission from Rick Warren, Saddleback Church, originally Sept. 13-14, 2008)

Living Water Christian Fellowship, Sept.17, 2017

If you want your life to count you have to focus it. You don’t have time for everything. Jesus said there are two things that are more valuable in life than anything else: loving God and loving each other. Jesus was asked, what is the most important command? And Jesus replied, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and soul and mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. The second most important is similar: Love your neighbor as much as you love yourself.” God says these are the two things that matter most in life. Love for God and love for people. If you get these two things, you’ve got it.

      Life is one giant lesson in love. Life is not about acquisition – how much I get. It’s not about accomplishment – how much I do. It’s not about achievement – how much I earn. It’s not about all the other things we’re told life’s about. Because all of that you’re going to leave behind. You’re not taking your career to heaven, or your car, or your fine china, or your house. But you are taking your character. You’re taking you. God put you on earth for eighty to a hundred years so you can learn to love. Life is all about learning how to love. If you don’t get that, wrong answer. You just wasted your life.

      If you’re going to ever be a great lover, you’re going to learn to really love God and learn to love other people, you’ve got to learn and keep in your mind the three laws of love.

      Law number one: The best use of life is love.

      That’s law number one. God says you need to make learning how to love your number one priority, your primary objective, your greatest ambition, your life purpose. More than anything else he says you need to say, I want to learn how to be a loving person; how to love God and how to love other people.

      Why does he say that? Four reasons why love is more important than anything else.

      1) Love validates my faith. It proves that I really am in God’s family. It proves that I am saved; that I have been born again; that I’m a part of the family of God. It validates my faith. You can’t just walk up to an ATM and say “Give me some money.” You have to validate that that card really belongs to you by putting in a PIN code. In order for you to get into heaven, you have to validate your identity: to prove that you really are a child of God; how? The Bible says that God looks at your lifestyle and says, “Do you love? Do you love God with all your heart? Do you love your neighbor as yourself?” The Bible says, 1Jn 4:8 “Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.”

      The reason why God wants you to learn to love on earth is because he wants you to become like him. 1John 4:20, “If we say we love God, but we hate other, we’re liars. [That’s pretty blunt.] For we cannot love God, whom we have not seen, if we do not love others, whom we have seen.” Love validates my faith. It proves I really am a child of God.

      2) Love integrates my life. It becomes the dominant life principle by which everything else in my life is integrated: my social life, my financial life, my church life, my work life, my sex life, my friend life. Every other part of my life becomes integrated by love. Everybody builds their life around something - money, fame, success, sex, a hobby. But what you need is something that’s so strong at the center it’s not going to fall apart when the trials come. The Bible says the only thing strong enough to do that is love. Col 3:14 “Love is more important than anything else. It is what ties everything else together.”It integrates my life.

      3. Love compensates for my sin. When I blow it, when I make mistakes, when I sin, when I have faults and fumbles, that God says, “My first question is not, did he sin? My first question is, “Does he love me? Does he love my Son Jesus Christ? If she/he does we’re just going to cover over that sin. We’re going to compensate for it. We know he/she’s imperfect. But what matters most is, do they love me?”

      1 Peter 4:8 “Most important of all continue to show deep love for each other, for love covers a multitude of sins.” When you love Jesus Christ and he loves you it covers up all your sins that you’ve ever done. Jesus dying on the cross stretched out his hands and said, “I love you this much; I’m willing to die for you, to take the punishment for all the laws that you’ve broken. I’ll take your rap. I’ll do your time. I’ll serve your sentence. I’ll pay your debt. Jesus says because I love you everything you’ve ever done that is wrong, will be forgiven. That is good news!

      “Love covers a multitude of sins” further means once I’ve been forgiven, God gives me the power to let other people off the hook, to cut them some slack. People who are judgmental, self-righteous, critical, perfectionistic, always putting other people down, often don’t feel love themselves. When you understand how much you’ve been graced by God, you just start being more gracious with other people. When you really love somebody and they blow it, love doesn’t rub it in: love rubs it out.

      4) Love reverberates forever. It echoes into eternity. It’s the only thing in your life that’s going to last. 1Cor 13:13 “These three things continue forever. Faith, hope and love. And the greatest of these is love.” People are going to forget all your work & wealth: people are remembered, not for how much money they made, but for what they gave away; they’re remembered for their love. One day all your trophies are going to be trashed. The only thing that’s going to last is what you did in love. Life is about relationships not accomplishments.

      God’s Word says life without love is worthless, a wasted life. 1Cor 13:3 “No matter what I say or what I believe or what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.” Bankrupt! When we get busy we get preoccupied with things that are of lesser importance. When you get overloaded you start doing “relational skimming”: you say, I don’t have time to be alone with God in a quiet time; to go to a small group; I don’t have time for my wife or my husband or my kids. I’m going to just cut it back.” And you start relationally skimming. Big mistake! Life isn’t about the other stuff: it’s about the relationships.

      When you stand before God in heaven He’s not going to say, “Tell me about your career,” or your bank account, your credit report, how well you did in sports.” He’s going to ask, “Did you do what I put you on earth to do? Did you learn to love me with all your heart and my Son Jesus whom I sent? Did you learn to love everybody else? That’s why I put you there. Tell me about your relationships.”

      Law number one: the best use of life is love. Law number two: The best expression of love is time.

      You spell love T-I-M-E. 1John 3:18 “We must show love through actions. [Love is not something you feel or say: It’s something you do – Love is a VERB.] We must show love through actions. Actions that are sincere, not through empty words.”

      The most desired & priceless gift of love is focused attention – it is time. When you give your time to someone, that is the greatest gift you can give, because that’s the gift of YOURSELF. Your time is your most precious resource. When you give attention to somebody you’re saying, “You matter to me; you’re valuable, you’re worth listening to.” You’re lavishing on them a part of your life you’re never going to get back. Jesus taught that the essence of true loving relationships is how much we give of ourselves to that person – our lives: that’s love. What do our families most want from us? They want you. “Look at me, Daddy... Put the paper down and look at me honey! … Let me have your attention.” When you give your attention it shows, I’m putting your needs ahead of mine. That’s love. Nothing can compensate for time. Kids don’t need things, they need parents.

      Galatians 5:6, “The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.” Chuck Swindoll said, “Busyness destroys relationships.It substitutes shallow frenzy for deep friendship.Busyness feeds the ego but it starves those who love us.It fills the calendar but it fractures the family.”

      How do you find more time for the people you love? Rather, what parasites are stealing the time that ought rightfully to be given in priority to those you love? Assess where your spare minutes go. Turn off the TV and the computer. In 2008 an average person watched the TV screen or the computer screen six hours a day. Thirty hours a week. People will go watch reruns of Friends instead of making friends. Become a participator rather than just a spectator.

      Eph 5:2 “Live a life filled with love for others following the example of Christ, who loved you and gave himself as a sacrifice to take away your sins.” Love involves sacrifice, foregoing, giving up – setting aside my agenda for your agenda. Work can rob you of your relationships, as can hobbies and TV and activities.

      Law number one: the best use of life is love. Law number two: the best expression of love is time.

      Law number three: The best time to love is now. Not tomorrow, not later, not someday, not when I get around to it: now. Generosity is one way we express love. “Do your givin’ while you’re livin’, so you’ll be knowin’, where it’s goin’.” You get a whole lot more joy out of giving it now than after you’re dead. Gal 6:10 “Whenever we have the opportunity we should do good to everyone.” Wherever we’ve got the opportunity: as it arises – now.

      Eph 5:16 “Use every chance you have for doing good.” “Use” is present tense: now. Prov 3:27f “Whenever you possibly can, do good to those who need it.Never tell your neighbor to wait until tomorrow if you can help them now.” Never procrastinate in showing love; don’t delay – do it now.

      Question: To whom do you need to show love to today? Who do you need to go home after this service and make that phone call and share a word of encouragement and love? Or go home and write that letter? Or go home and make a visit to somebody in a nursing home or at the hospital? Who do you need to invite over to your backyard and have a barbecue with them and show some love? Who is it at your work that everybody can’t stand because they’re so obnoxious and that person needs massive doses of love and you could show love to the unlovely? God specifically puts people around your life so you can show love to them.

      You don’t know how long you’re going to have the opportunity. People die. Empty nester parents say, “Sure wish I’d spent more time with my kids before they left home.” Chuck Colson wrote: “As I think back on my life, my biggest regret is not spending more time with my kids. Making family your top priority means going against a culture where materialism and workaholism are rampant. It means realizing that you may not advance as fast in your career as others do. It means being willing to accept a lower standard of living knowing that you’re doing it for your kids. It means giving them the emotional security that they’ll draw on for the rest of their lives.”

      The title of a book about anorexia is Starving for Attention. To some degree, that’s true of everyone: Everybody is starving for attention!

      Shallow love only loves people who love you. Serious, mature love says, “I love people who are unlovely. I love people who don’t love me. I love people who irritate me. I love people who attack me. I love the way Jesus loved.” Put that into practice these next 40 days. Take some deliberate minutes every day to talk with your family members. Look them in the face and listen. You may need to apologize, or sympathize. But spend some time with the people God has put in your life. Lavish attention on the ones dearest to you! The best use of life is love. The best expression of love is time. The best time to love is now. Let’s pray.