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"It’s All About Love"

40 Days of Love – Finale (adapted with permission from Rick Warren)

Nov.5 2017 at LWCF - 1Jn.4:7-12,19-21

Welcome to our final message in our “40 Days of Love” series. Speaking of completions – how would you complete this sentence? “My number one goal in life is…” What word, what phrase would you use?

      Would you say, my number one goal in life is to be happy? To be loved? To succeed at my career? Is it - comfort or have fun or retire or get married and raise a family? To be well known, popular? How would you answer? How you answer that question is what we might call your “dominant life principle”. Everybody’s got a dominant life principle: it’s the most important value in your life. Every time you make a decision, you access the database in your brain and you decide what you’re going to do based on your dominant life value.

      If my dominant life value is safety, then I’m going to tend to make every decision in life based on what’s the safest choice. If my dominant life style is to be approved, to be affirmed, to be applauded, then I’m going to tend to choose things in life where I get the most affirmation. o it’s extremely important that you think through what is going to be the most important value in your life.

      What does God have to say about this, what should be our dominant goal? In 1Corinthians 14:1 God says, “Let love be your greatest aim.” Not status, success, possessions, power or privilege or prestige, not comfort or money. God says you should make LOVE your number one aim in life. Why? Because God is love and he wants you to be like him.

      God created everything in the universe out of love, in order to love it. Because God is love. He created you as an object of his love. And God wants you to be like him. You were put on this planet to learn how to love.

      Once a guy came up to Jesus and asked, “Lord, what’s the most important command?” Jesus replied to the effect, “I can summarize the entire Bible for you in two sentences. If you get these two things, you get what life is all about.” It’s called the Great Commandment. Mark 12:30f, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and all your soul, and all your mind and all your strength. And love your neighbour as yourself. There are no commands more important than these.”

      Jesus is saying nothing in the Bible is more important than these two things. Learn to love God with all your heart and learn to love everybody else. If you get those two things, you’ve got what I put you on this planet to do. Life is all about learning to love. Everything else is secondary. Make love your highest aim.

      That’s why you’re alive. If you go all through life it doesn’t matter how much you acquire or achieve or how famous you become. One day you’re going to stand before God and he’s going to ask, “Did you learn to love Me? That’s why I sent Jesus, so you could learn to love Me.And did you learn, by the way, to love other people? Because that’s what I put you on earth to do.It’s all about love.

      1 Corinthians 16:14 “Everything you do must be done with love.” Question: What does that include? How about… everything. Does that mean writing emails? Yes. Some of you need to tape this verse to your computer and before you ever write an email you need to think, “Everything I write must be done with love.”

      Ordering fast food when you can’t understand the speaker? Finding a parking spot when three other people want it? Responding to people who attack you for your faith? Yes. “Everything you do must be done with love.”

      So – what is “love”? Today let’s examine the basics of love. Five things the Bible says about love.

1) We love because God loves us. 1John 4:7-8, “Love comes from God...for God is love.” It doesn’t say that God has love: it says God is love. It’s his character, his essence. He wants us to be like him: God is the source of all love. 1John 4:19 “We love because God first loved us.” God first loved you: and he showed that love by creating you, and by sending Jesus Christ to earth to die for you. Everything you have in life is a gift of God’s love. We love because God first loved us.

      Some people feel they’re not measuring up, that they don’t love or serve God enough. If that’s you, your problem may be you don’t realize how much he loves you. If you realized how much God loves you – extravagant, irresistible, unconditional love – you would have to love him back. You could not not love God if you understood how much he loves you. You would automatically be attracted to him. The reason you don’t love God, you don’t serve God, is you don’t understand or feel how much he loves you.

      When you feel that unconditional love you’re going to start cutting people a lot of slack. You’re not going to be as angry as you’ve been. You’re going to be more patient, more forgiving, more merciful. You’re going give other people grace.

      People who are judgmental, sarcastic, mean spirited, angry, self righteous, always putting other people down do that because they don’t feel good about themselves, they don’t feel loved or forgiven; they don’t feel grace. They feel bad about themselves. And if I feel bad about myself, I certainly don’t want you feeling good about you!

      You probably need to get some healing in your heart because you’ve been hurt in life, by parents or peers in school or partners. Maybe some of you have been abused misused / rejected / abandoned: you’ve got some scabs on your heart that need some gentle surgery because you can’t love others until you feel loved. You cannot give to others what you have not received yourself. Hurt people hurt people.

      1 John 4:16, “We know and we rely on the love that God has for us.” Do you know the love of God? Do you rely on the love of God for you? If you don’t, you have a hard time loving other people. You can’t love people who are difficult or irritable until you have God’s love coming through you. Love happens when we consciously experience being loved by God.

2) The second thing that the Bible teaches us is that love is a choice and a commitment. You choose to love or you choose not to love. It is a choice. Love doesn’t ‘just kind of happen’ to you. No: love is a choice and a commitment. In marriage vows a couple says to each other, “I choose you above everybody else in the world. And I give myself to you for the rest of my life.” That’s a choice, a commitment. Deuteronomy 30:20, “Choose to love the Lord your God and commit yourself to him.” You must choose to love God: God isn’t going to force you to love him; you can thumb your nose at God and go a totally different way. You can destroy your life if you want to. God won’t force you to love him, because love can’t be forced. Love is a choice.

      When people say, “I just don’t love her any more,” as if you don’t have any choice – No! Just be a man; own up to it. You’re choosing not to love her any more. Given the right circumstance any two people could “fall in love”. But love is a choice. And you can choose to love anybody; or not to. When you say, “I don’t love him/her anymore,” that’s your choice but don’t blame it on circumstances; you are choosing not to love.

3) Love is an action not just emotion.   It’s more than attraction or arousal or sentimentality. Love is an action, something you do; love is a behavior. Love can cause emotion, but it itself is not an emotion. Because in the Bible we are commanded by God to love each other, and you cannot command an emotion. Love is something you do. 1John 3:18 “Let us love not with words or tongue [in other words, just talk about it] but with action and in truth.” Do you really love people? Let’s see how you act toward them.

      Acting in love when you don’t feel it is the highest form of love. It’s actually a more mature love when you act loving toward a person when they’re not responding to you or you don’t feel it. It’s easy to love somebody who loves you. That’s nothing. It takes nothing at all. But real love acts and does the loving thing when they don’t deserve it, when they don’t respond or when you don’t feel it.

      Anybody who’s had children know that when they’re little babies and you get up five or six times in the night to take care of that little baby you don’t do it because you feel like it. “I think I’ll get up again; I’ve had too much sleep...I think I’ll just get up again and go check on that baby!” No, you do it because it’s the loving thing to do.

      Anytime you’ve held a sick pan for a loved one who was nauseated, you didn’t feel like doing that. But it’s what they needed and you were being loving when they were sick. You were giving them what they needed, not what you felt like doing. That is the ultimate form of love.

      Love is an action more than an emotion. James the brother of Jesus says you do all this big talk about love and all this talk about faith but if you don’t follow it up with actions, it’s worthless.

      Another thing about love as action is that it is always easier to act your way into a feeling than it is to feel your way into an action. In a marriage where the flame has gone out, how do you rekindle that romance? You act your way into a feeling. If you start acting in love, the feelings follow. Because feelings follow behaviour.

      Sometimes God lets the feelings go away. Then you have to love by faith and live by faith. When you love somebody and do the loving thing even when they’re not responding, and even maybe when they’re retaliating, you are loving by faith. That’s an action. You act your way into a feeling, not vice-versa.

4) The Bible says that love is a skill. It’s something you can get good at. God wants you to become a skilled lover. 1John 4:7 “Dear friends, let us practice loving each other...” The only way you get skilled at something is you practice it. You do it over and over. The more you do it, you get better and better at it. Let us practice loving each other. [John continues] “… for love comes from God.Those who are loving and kind show that they are the children of God and they’re getting to know him better.” He said it’s proof that you’re really a believer, that you’re in the family of God, that you’re saved. The proof is that you love other people. He says, let us practice this skill.

      Practice is essential. 1Timothy 4:15 “Practice these things and devote yourself to them in order that your progress may be seen by all.” You will become a more loving man or woman. Your character will be transformed and you will see your progress. But in order to see that progress you’ve got to practice and you’ve got to devote. You’ve got to make the commitment to do it and then you have to practice it.

5) Love is a habit. You can’t claim to be a loving person unless you are habitually loving. Basically your character is the sum of your habits. If you only love off and on like a light switch, you’re not a loving person. Real love happens when you love the unlovely. Jesus said in Luke 6:32, “If you only love those who love you, what credit is that to you?” In other words, big deal! Big whooppee! Suppose you think, “I’m a loving person because I love those who love me; I love my family.” That’s not being a loving person. Being a loving person means you love the unlovely, people who don’t love you, who irritate you, when you love people who back-bite you and gossip about you. Anybody can love people who love them – that’s takes no character at all! God says love must become a habit.

      If I said to my wife, “Honey, I will be faithful to you six days a week...” That partial faithfulness is unfaithfulness. I can’t say I’m honest if I say, “I’ll tell you the truth ninety percent of the time” – that’s dishonesty. You cannot say, “I’m a loving person,” if you’re only loving to certain kinds of people. It’s a skill to learn and it is a habit.

      Love has to become a lifestyle. Hebrews 13:1 “Continue to love each other with true Christian love.” “Continue” means make a habit of it; do it all the time. Don’t make it a light switch that goes on and off.

      A mom felt overwhelmed by her children, her schedule, her responsibilities, the busyness of her home. She wrote to her church: “All I seemed to do was nag and bark at and scold my kids incessantly. When I looked at myself I honestly saw a shrew. In my tears I cried out to God.” She was reading 1 Corinthians 13. “In reading that,” she said, “five words leaped out at me. Without love I am nothing.” So she wrote those words and put them on her refrigerator and her car and on her mirror, where she could see them all the time. She said, “I realized that the single most important thing I could do was to love my family. So I began to live my life by the love of Jesus. I began to run my home on love power. It was as transforming as when I accepted Christ into my life. Focusing on love brought the happiness back into my life and my home.”

      Before Jesus went to the cross, giving His disciples last minute instructions, He said in John 13:35: “By this shall all men know that you are my followers [that you’re my disciples], if you have love one to another.” The mark of a true believer is love. He didn’t say, by this shall all men know you’re a Christian: if you have a bumper sticker on your car. No. The symbol of a follower of Jesus is not a cross, it’s not a fish, it’s not a dove, it’s not a crown. The symbol of a genuine follower of Jesus is love. Do people know you’re a follower of Jesus because you’re the most loving person they know?

      Loving has to become your dominant life value. You have to decide right now today that the most important thing in your life for the rest of your life is I’m going to learn how to love.

      At Judgment Day, the question will be: Did you learn to love God with all your heart? And did you learn to love your neighbour as yourself? That has to take precedence over everything else. Life is not about achievements, accomplishments, or acquisitions: it’s about relationships. It’s why God put you on this planet! Love is the main thing.

      How do you become great at relationships, a better lover of even the unlovely? Five things.

1) To become great at relationships I must commit to growing. You don’t become a great lover accidentally: it’s intentional. You’re going to have to make a commitment. You devote yourself to it. You dedicate yourself. You commit.

2) I learn how Jesus did it. Jesus is the model of perfection in relationships. He was the Son of God. He was perfect. He was the only one who knew how to handle relationships perfectly. To learn best, you need to get in a small group: that’s where it gets personal.

3) Practice the skills. You cannot become great at relationships if you’re a hermit. Get out with people. If you need to seek reconciliation, there’s help available for that. And share God’s love with others. This is what makes Christianity different from every other faith. Christianity is a love-based faith: not a law-based love, but a love-based faith. The holiest people in many religions are the people who have no contact with others. Jesus taught the opposite: the way you grow spiritually is by getting with other people. By practicing love – in the marketplace, in the business, at the party, at the wedding. Why? Because life is all about love. Loving God and loving other people. And you can’t do that unless you’re around other people. A small group is a laboratory for love. You cannot learn love without being in relationships.

4) Develop the habits. Learning new habits of the heart is going to change your life.

5) You need to trust God to help. Trust God to help you and make you more loving. Trying doesn’t work. It’s not a matter of trying; it’s a matter if trusting. Jesus said, “You are to love others as I have loved you.” You say, “I can’t do that!” You’re right. You can’t; you’ll fail. The key to love is not you trying harder to be more loving: the key to love is letting Jesus Christ love through you. It’s experiencing the love of God in your heart. Feel love, feel forgiven, feel grace. Then all of a sudden it just bubbles out of you. It’s letting Jesus Himself love through you. So it starts with getting him in your heart.

      Philippians 1:9 “This is my prayer for you, that your love will grow more and more and that you will have knowledge and understanding with your love,” not an immature love, but an insightful love. May church folk become known as people that love. What the world needs is not more theology, more oratory, or more programs. What the world needs are people who genuinely love. It’s all about love.

      Let’s pray. “Dear Jesus, I want to be more loving. I want to work on my relationships. I want to learn to love you with all of my heart. I want to be known as the most loving person people know. So I’m going to make it my number one goal to learn to love you and to learn to love other people because it’s all about love. Lord, I’ve got a lot of hurts in my heart that need to be healed. I need to be filled with your love. I can’t give to others what I don’t feel. I need to feel forgiven; to experience your grace; I need to know your love so it can overflow out of my life into others. Replace my fears with your love, my hurts with your peace. I want to learn to know you and love you, Jesus, and I want to be a loving person. In your name I pray. Amen.”