Below is an excerpt from a sermon manuscript that I wrote as a final exam grade at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. I hope that it would encourage you and help you to grow deeper in your love for Jesus Christ. – Pilgrim
Good morning! Let’s open to the letter of Second John, in between First John and Third John and we will begin our reading of the Scriptures in chapter one verses 4-6. “It has given me great joy to find some of your children walking in the truth, just as the Father commanded us. And now, dear lady, I am not writing you a new command but one we have had from the beginning. I ask that we love one another. And this is love: that we walk in obedience to his commands. As you have heard from the beginning, his command is that you walk in love.”
What is love? A question we can all answer in our own special way. A question posed by one of the most popular international songs of the 90’s by the artist Haddaway saying, “What is love? Baby, don’t hurt me. Don’t hurt me no more.” Many of us by the age of 18 have experienced heartbreak in what we felt was love or something like it. Many of us by the age of 25 have lost a loved one and it grieved us deeply. Many of us by the age of 40 have married and invested in a loving relationship only to see it collapse under the weight of divorce or disease or a variety of other factors. And yet there are those of us who do not know what love is at all. Our hearts are cold and numb to the idea of caring for someone or being cared for by someone else. And this is a tragic thing. Is love a feeling or an action some may ask. As we dig into John’s letter today we will see that the answer is “Yes!”; it is both emotion and action. We will see that love is knowing God and that knowing God is following his commands in the Scriptures.
In the letter John writes to a Christian woman most likely because of her name in Greek. Some say that it may be a nickname for a church body, but most likely he is writing to a person who is connected to a church body. He starts in verse 4 saying that he is joyful to hear about the young ones growing in their faith and walking in the truth. In our community today we have major access to the truth and many of you here have your children in our kids’ classes learning more and more about the truth. You even take time out of your day to train and disciple your children. Wow, what a blessing to have a parent that spends time training and developing their children! You see John knew God’s command was to walk in the truth, so he welcomes this news with joy.
As we look at this verse today we too must ask ourselves, “Am I walking in the truth?” I want to clarify that the truth is Jesus whom we proclaim today. So really we are asking, “Am I walking with Jesus?” I want to clarify that the teachings of the Bible are truthful and the more we study it the more our lives are covered in it. Walking in the truth of the Scripture and walking with Jesus is like stepping in a rain puddle and splashing around. Except you are excited about it like a kid again! You choose to step in it and immerse yourself in it because instead of muddying you up it actually cleanses you and refreshes your mind. It noticeably changes you from head to toe and people around you wonder where it all came from. The benefit of this is that our lives begin to change and we are filled with joy because the deeper we know Jesus the more we can impact the world around us for him. You see it enables us to understand and follow God’s commands which in the end fill us with joy and peace and life.
Looking at verse 5 we see that John introduces the command to love one another, but he emphasizes that it was not new or different from before. Jesus once said that the two greatest commandments are to love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and secondly to love your neighbor as yourself. So how do we do that? These verses do not carry much weight with us if we do not answer the question, “So what?”. First we must start with God and see that he loved us first before we could ever love him. The song “Jesus Loves Me” is so accurate and so theologically profound that every child should grow up learning it no matter how simple it is. As we go out with this knowledge of God loving us from the very beginning of creation, from the days of the Israelites and the days of Jesus to the days of the early Christians to the days of the medieval Christians to the days of the Protestant Christians to the days of Christians fifty years ago and up to now God has been showing his love towards us by patiently saving us each and everyday from the judgment to come! So what do we do with that knowledge? We begin to live our lives centered around serving Christ by serving other people, but let me stress that this does not mean that you let yourself decay because you do not rest and your family decay because of your absence or neglect. No this means that whenever possible and with sound judgment you step out of your way to sacrifice time, money, talents, etc. to make a difference for the kingdom of God!
A photo I saw recently by a Christian artist named Andy Mineo had a quote in it that said, “A friend once told me, ‘Here’s how I know humanity is fallen. The things that shouldn’t surprise us do (sin, failure, people’s mistakes). And the thing that SHOULD surprise us every time we think about it often doesn’t(God’s love for us in spite of our failures).’” What I mean by that is that true “agape” love does not come naturally, and our recognition of God’s love is only because we are awakened to see it when we are saved from sin. When we start to see God and know God we are able to help a stranger in need. We are able to bring people back to life from their darkest moments. When they are caught up in adultery or pornography we forgive them and counsel them on how to flee from lust. When they are verbally abusive to their husbands or wives we are able to counsel them on self-control and anger management. When we ourselves hold regrets deep in our hearts and cannot seem to forget our mistakes of the past we are able to confess them and be free from them. We are able to look past people’s mistakes and drop our grudges. WE ARE ABLE TO FORGIVE WHAT SEEMS UNFORGIVABLE! God’s love is the motivator then for our obedience.
As we come to the last verse we see that John emphasized that love is obedience and obedience is love. This seems quizzical, but it makes you think about how we express love towards God. He’s not here in human form. You cannot hug him or hold him physically. You cannot smell him or touch him physically. But you can speak to him. You can listen to him. You can read what he says in the Scriptures. You can be like Jesus was towards the Father and obey him. In First John 4:10 it says, “This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” What a statement! It does not contradict the previous statement in verse 6 because what God did was send an obedient Son to love us by following God’s command to go to the cross and die as the atoning sacrifice for our sins! That was how God said, “I love you!”.
Saying “I love you” is a big step in most relationships. It is a horrible thing for your words and your actions to be out of sync. No healthy person says, “I love you” and then abuses the one they love. A healthy person says, “I love you” and then proceeds to act upon those words as their infinite bond. They pick you up when you are sick at work. They stay with you in the hospital. They hold your hand when you are scared. They tuck you in at night showing their affection towards you. They play ball with you and befriend you. They defend you and brag about you. Unfortunately sin is what disconnects us from the truth of love. What can we do to love God more and love people more? Think on these three simple tasks this week and keep track of them daily for seven days. See how it makes you feel and how the people around you feel because of it. Watch how it changes your actions and your thoughts. Do not just live haphazardly. Live a life of love on purpose! These are the three ways to love God and love people more: 1. Study Scriptures. 2. Develop a prayer life with God. 3. Humbly serve others in need around you.
In the end what is love? It is both an action and a feeling. It is what God did for us on the cross through his sacrificial act. It is the emotion we feel when we realize that God’s grace was meant for us! It is the action we take to better others around us. It is the emotion we feel when we have a deep sense of appreciation towards others. “Agape” love is sacrificial love first from God towards us and then from us towards God. This is a beautiful thing and the way life was meant to be originally. Lastly, loving God is obeying God. You must obey God in your response to his love. It is not an obligatory dreadful thing to love Him. It is something you must rejoice in even when times are hard and God seems far away. So this week I want you to try those three things and see how far it will take you. You won’t regret it. Let’s pray.
Father, please allow us to experience this love afresh each day. Let us show up to work and remember that people are hurting. Let us remember that you experienced hurt for us so that we wouldn’t have to anymore. Thank you Father God for showing us the way to love like no one else. In Jesus’ name, Amen.