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“LOVING LIKE JESUS LOVES ME: 40 Days of Love - Part 2"

(adapted with permission from Rick Warren, Saddleback Church, originally Sept. 20-21, 2008)

Sept.24, 2017 John 13:12-17,34-35

Our goal during these forty days is to develop better relationships and become experts at love. The best way to learn anything is to learn by a model. So who’s the best example for love? It’s Jesus Christ. Jesus was the only person with perfect love, with perfect understanding of relationships. John 13:34 Jesus said, “I’m giving you a new commandment, love each other in the same way that I have loved you.” Jesus says the way that I have modeled for you, the way that I have loved you I want you to pass that on to other people. Also, John 13:15 “I have given you an example to follow.Do as I have done to you.” You can’t fully understand how to love other people until first you understand how much God loves you. When you understand the incredible, audacious, indescribable love that God has for you and you feel it in your life, then you’re going to be a whole lot more loving towards other people. Today, first, we’re going to look at how much God really does love you; then second, we’re going to look at how God wants you to pass it on to other people. There are four ways that Jesus loves you.

             1) First, I must accept others the way Jesus accepts me. Followers of Jesus ought to be the most accepting people in the world. Perhaps you’ve been hurt with wounds of rejection, you’ve been put down, betrayed, belittled, or been told you’re worthless: those deep wounds of rejection really hurt! The starting point in learning to love other people is to realize how much God accepts you. How does Jesus love you? John 6:37 “The Father gives me my people.Every one of them will come to me, and I will always accept them.” “Always! – all the time. He says I will always accept you.

             Some people may feel God is always blaming you, always on your case. Often that comes from un-pleasable parents. Everybody grows up with conditional love because no parent loves unconditionally all the time. But God says, no, I just love you, period! I don’t love you because of who you are but because of who I am. Not because of what you do, but because of what I’ve done. Not because of your conduct, but because of my character.

             So we have to learn to love the way that God loves us. God says, I love you unconditionally. I will always accept you. Psalm 27:10 “Even if my mother and father forsake me the Lord will receive me.” That’s how much God loves you. He says I’m going to accept you no matter what. In fact, look at how he does it: Titus 3:7 “Jesus treated us much better than we deserve.He made us acceptable.He made us acceptable to God and he gave us the hope of eternal life.” How does he make us acceptable? By his grace. He just says, “You’re acceptable.” It’s not that you changed, or that you never sin. God through Christ declares you acceptable by His grace. It’s not based on performance.

             There’s a difference between acceptance and approval: Jesus Christ accepts you completely; that doesn’t mean he approves of everything you do. But he accepts you. You can accept someone without approving of what they do. Without approving of their lifestyle, without approving of the way they’re living.

             You don’t have to go around approving of everything that everybody does; but you do have to accept them – because that’s a mark of love. God chose to accept and declare us “righteous”, justified, acceptable to God. When God chooses you, it makes your confidence soar. God says, “I accept you.I love you.I created you.I sent Jesus to die for you.I chose you.I put my Spirit in you.You matter to me.” So it really doesn’t matter what anybody else thinks. Confidence comes, not by yearning for the approval of other people, but by listening to what God says about you.

             Now, what God does for you, he expects you to do for other people. Romans 15:7 “Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you.” You’re to do for other people what God has done for you.

             How do you do that? You listen to other people, and you look at them. The highest form of love is focused attention.

             Romans 15:2 “We must bear the burden of being considerate of the doubts and the fears of others. Husband, when your wife is afraid of something you shouldn’t go, “That’s dumb!” That means you don’t accept her. Acceptance says I listen to the fears and the doubt of others.

             Here’s our homework for week number two: practising love. The first action step says, “This week I will show acceptance to…” Write in the name of somebody specific. Somebody who really irritates you or is hard to love. Don’t elbow them! Perhaps it’s that person at work who just irritates you. They’re heavenly sandpaper. These are “EGR” people – Extra Grace Required. This week, show acceptance to somebody who really irritates you or is hard to love. Loving like Jesus means I’ve got to accept other people the way Jesus accepts me.

             2) Loving like Jesus means I must value others the way Jesus values me. How valuable are you? We’re not talking about your valuables, your ‘stuff’, your net worth: we’re talking about your self worth. How much are you worth?

             You are infinitely valuable to God. First, God created you. Second, Jesus died for you. Third, he puts his Spirit within you. Fourth, he wants you to be with him forever in eternity. Think of His investment in you! You are infinitely valuable to God. Jesus said in Luke 12:6f, “Are not five sparrows sold for two small coins? [In other words they’re not very valuable.] Yet not one of them has escaped the notice of God.[He means God even notices little birds!] “Even the hairs on your head have all been counted! Do not be afraid.You are worth far more than many sparrows.” If God thinks sparrows are valuable, how much more valuable are you because he sent his Son to die for you! In The Message paraphrase: “God pays even greater attention to you down to the last detail.Even numbering the hairs on your head.So don’t be intimidated by all this bully talk.You’re worth more than a million canaries.”

             What makes something valuable? Who made it; contrast a Picasso with my quick sketch on the back of an envelope. Who created you? God did. That means you’re inherently valuable. 1Tim.4:4 “Everything God created is good and nothing is to be rejected if it’s received with thanksgiving.” God doesn’t make junk. God created you and you’re not junk.

             Eph.2:10 “For we are God’s workmanship [that word in Greek – “workmanship” – literally means “masterpiece” - you are God’s masterpiece] created in Christ Jesus to do good works which God prepared in advance for us to do.” In other words before you were born God planned out what he wanted you to do with your life.

             So value depends on who made you – God; and second, value depends on what someone will pay. How much is your house worth? It’s worth whatever anybody will pay for it. How much would God pay to redeem you? Christ gave his life for you. 1Peter 1:19 “He [God] paid for you with the precious life blood of Christ, the sinless, spotless Lamb of God.” You want to know how much you matter to God? Look at the cross. Jesus, crucified, with arms outstretched says, “I love you this much: this is how much you matter to me. Your value, your worth, is underwritten by the Son of God on the cross. Any people who told you growing up that you didn’t matter were absolutely wrong. You are valuable because God made you and because Jesus paid for you.

             God says in Is.49:15f, “Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion for the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you. See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands!” In heaven you’ll see the scars on Jesus where he was nailed to the cross, scars that declare for all eternity, “This is how much I love you.I have engraved you on the palms of my hands. A mom might forget her baby but there’s no way I’m ever going to forget you.”

             And Jesus wants you to treat everyone else He loves with that kind of value too. Even the people you can’t stand. How do you do that? 1Peter 2:17 “Treat most people you meet with dignity….” No, I misread that! What’s it actually say? “Treat everyone you meet with dignity.” Even the people you agree with and disagree with. And like and don’t like.

             How? By looking at them and listening to them. Jesus was walking down the street and a young entrepreneur comes up to him; Mark 10:21, “Jesus looked at him and loved him.” You can’t love without looking. When people come and serve you – a waitress or salesperson behind the counter – and you don’t pay any attention to them, you’re not being very loving. Love looks and love listens. Be polite.

             Here’s your second homework assignment. “This week I will affirm the value of …” Write in the name of someone who may be plagued by low self esteem. When everybody else treats them like dirt, you treat them like they matter because they do: they matter to God.

             3) I must forgive others like Jesus forgives me. All the retribution for all the stuff you’ve done wrong, Jesus Christ took on the cross. Forgiveness takes the hit, absorbs the blow, covers the cost. You don’t have to pay for it: Jesus paid for it. And God says I want you to learn to forgive others.

             What’s God really like? There’s this idea that he’s up in heaven waiting to zap me for something I do wrong. But according to Isaiah 43:25, “I am the God who forgives your sins [not the God who is waiting to get you] and I do this because of who I am.I will not hold your sins against you.” That’s who God is: a God who forgives, that’s wrapped up in His very character, who He IS. And He’s been planning this for a long time. Ephesians 1:4 “Long ago, even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes.” Even before you were born, even before the world was made, God was already planning in Christ to forgive your sins. That’s amazing!

             Romans 8:1 “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Not ‘a little bit’ or ‘less’ condemnation: there is absolutely no condemnation because of what Jesus Christ did for us. But there was a cost: Mt 26:28 at the Last Supper Jesus said, “This is the blood of my covenant which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sin.” He gave his life so that you and I can be forgiven. What a relief that I don’t have to pay for my own sins, suffer for my sins somehow in eternity. It’s paid for by Jesus Christ.

             Once I recognize that, that he’s forgiven me, then I’m enabled to forgive other people in my life. Colossians 3:13 “You must make allowance for each other’s faults and forgive the person who offends you.Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.” Also Jesus commanded in Luke 6:37, “Do not judge and you will not be judged. Do not condemn and you will not be condemned. Forgive and you will be forgiven.”

             At the end of the story Jesus told about the unforgiving servant, the master in anger declares, Mt 18:33 “Shouldn’t you have mercy on your fellow servant just as I have had mercy on you?” Because God has given me so much mercy and forgiveness, that gives me the ability to give it to others.

             Now, the action step...Who is there this week that you could offer forgiveness to? It might be somebody who has hurt you; you go to them and say, “I’ve not talked to you for a long time.Let’s get this going again.Let’s connect again.” Or somebody who’s under a burden of guilt in their lives. You need to let them know that God has forgiven them just like he’s forgiven all of us. Write their name down then make plans this week to let them know about God’s forgiveness.

             If you’re going to become a world class lover, you have to accept people the way God accepts you, you have to value people the way God values you, you have to forgive others the way God forgives you and the fourth one…

             4) I must believe in others like Jesus believes in me. Everybody has insecurities. Studies have shown that the younger you were when you first experienced rejection, the more serious it is in your life. It’s almost like a curse when people say, “You’re not going to amount to anything. You don’t matter.” How do you reverse a curse? You start believing what Jesus says about you instead of believing what other people say about you. 1 Corinthians 13:7 in the Living Bible, “If you love someone you will be loyal to him no matter what the cost.You will always believe in him.Love believes.You will always believe in him.Always expect the best of him, and always stand your ground defending him.Love believes.When everybody else believes the worst, love believes the best.” God wants you to show love to others by believing in them.

             Jesus affirmed people around him. When Jesus looked at people, he didn’t just see what they were: He saw what they could become! He saw their potential, what God intended for them to be. He brought out the best in people not by despising them in their sin but saying, I believe you can do it. I know you can do it. John 17:18 He said, “As you, Heavenly Father, sent me into the world I have sent them into the world.” 12 fisherman – oops, make that 11 – and to them He entrusts the future of the entire world! There was no “Plan B” – it all depended on them.

             Consider the belief-value of these verses. Mt 17:20 “If you have faith as small as a mustard seed you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move.Nothing will be impossible to you.” Mark 9:23 Jesus said, “Everything is possible for him who believes.” I believe in you; you can do it. With me in your heart and God’s Spirit and power in you, you can do it.

             Mt 21:21 Jesus told them “I assure you, if you have faith and you don’t doubt you can do things like this [he’s talking about the miracles he had done.] and much, much more.” And John 14:12 Jesus says “The truth is, anyone who believes in me will do the same works I have done, and even greater works because I’m going to be with my Father.” No longer confined by a regular body to one place at one time, now Jesus can put his Spirit in me and you and millions of other people and he can be doing miracles in many places all at once!

             Jesus wants you to believe in others too. Paul writes in Romans 1:12, “...help each other with the faith that we have: your faith will help me and my faith will help you.” This is why you need to be in a small group. Sometimes you have a really tough week and you get the faith kicked out of you, kicked all the way into the D’s: and you’re doubting and you’re down and depressed and discouraged, even in despair. That’s when the other people in your small group will have faith that helps you. Biblically, we’re to believe not only in Jesus but also believe in each other. In the church, we believe in each other and we help each other through tough times and we’re a family. Hebrews 10:24 “Let us consider how we may spur one another on to love and to good deeds.” We ‘spur on’ in our small groups.

             Last Action Step: If I’m going to learn how to be a world class lover, I’ve got to show acceptance to, affirm the value of, offer forgiveness to, and demonstrate trust in – SOMEONE. Write down a person’s name. Somebody specific. Somebody you see who has the potential for growth; or somebody who’s been falsely accused of something; or somebody you’ve questioned their motives, or somebody who has potential that nobody else has seen – and you need to go to them and say, “I believe in you.”

             Psychologists tell us that your self-image is largely determined by what you think the most important person in your life thinks about you. Make Jesus Christ the most important person in your life! He says you are valuable.You are acceptable.You are lovable.You are forgivable.You are capable.Make Jesus Christ the most important person in your life and listen to what he says about you.

             You’ve had wounds in your life – wounds from rejection by peers and parents and others. But, know what? God cares.I care.Make Jesus Christ the most important person in your life and start filling your mind with what he says; that’s the starting point for love. Ephesians 3:18 “May you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep God’s love really is.” Let’s pray.