Thought for the Week - 26th MayPastor Gareth Watkins
Today I want to write about the love of God.
The love I’m talking about is not necessarily the frothy, hugging, exterior demonstration of love. It’s a gut-felt love, where that love is inside you. It’s a decision of your mind and your being. This is a love that drives you. It’s an act of fellowship and obedience. That is the love that I’m writing about.
In the verse above, Jesus tells us to love on another. Is it possible to love one another in a natural sense? No. I don’t think that unless a person is saved, filled with the spirit and going on with God, that it’s possible to have love for one another. Unless a person is changed inwardly and a mind renewed by the Holy Spirit, I think that’s an impossible ask. You can only love in the way Christ has calling you to love one another – so that the world can be impacted – if you’ve received that love from God and you have that love coming up and through you like the Holy Spirit commanded.
That is a different type of love than the superficial love we often see. There are different types and depths of love. This love doesn’t depend on your personality, your thoughts, on the sort of person you are. This is a command of love that we should love one another. And by doing so we will impact our family, community, and others.
It continues beyond the emotional commitment. People commit to things, but this is a type of love that takes you way beyond the time when the commitment was made, unto a commitment under God Himself where you will love out of loyalty, desire to serve God and obedience to that commandment. It is only possible if you have that flowing of the Holy Spirit.
If we look at the Bible, cover to cover it is about the love of God. From Genesis through to Revelation, the people who wrote the scriptures are full of the love of God and record it for us to know. The examples are there from people’s lives, in parables and in stories; all recorded to show us the love of God has for us, and for us to impart that love to our family, friends and communities that we are asked to be witnesses to.
Is it a slushy feeling of love? It can be sometimes. But I think of greater examples of love, where Jesus wept over Jerusalem. That’s a type of love of greater nature. He cried over the whole city; He is weeping before God – His heart is breaking because these people are lost. This is a different type of love. Jesus could have refused to do anything, He could have said it didn’t suit Him. This is a love that pulls out of you every bit of emotion and all your feelings. It has a far higher cost than people can first imagine.
It starts off with stories like this, where Christ says “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you”. How did He love you? He loved you even to the point of His death! That’s a different level love than perhaps we’ve seen examples of. In our day we don’t see examples of this nature anymore. We see different types of people. We often see weak people who love to a point but then give in, turn or get bough off. This is a love that goes on in its commitment and its dedication and its perseverance. All the way unto God Himself. That is what God wants from us.
Consider how much of the love of God do you actually have in you.
This is for everybody. It’s not gauged according to the world’s standards in some magazine. This is according to God’s standards. And the standard is “as I have loved you”. It starts with you and it starts with me, making a commitment and dedication to God.
This type of love is hard. We’ve had a pastor visiting our church from Glasgow multiple times each year for over twenty years. No doubt on a personal level it doesn’t suit her, but she comes out of love for God, her service to God, and her obedience to God. It motivates her to do things when in and of herself she doesn’t want to do them. She does things out of love. You and I do things out of love. That is something the world doesn’t see. It’s hard. The question is, could we do better? Yes we could. We could all do a bit better. Individually we’ve done so much but could do better.
What do you do out of love for Christ?
We could all improve. We’re a sinful people and we’re all a work in process. None of us are the finished article. He’s called us out of sin and He’s refining us into better people. This is a commandment that we love one another. This is an example of being unselfish, self-giving, and following His example.
If we are going to have an impact on society, so that people know we’re His disciples, we have to carry on. We can’t be an inward looking, self-absorbed club of people. If we’re to come His disciples and other people will know, then we have to loving in such a way that it touches other people’s lives outside the church.
Christ talks about laying down our lives. It might be easy to lay down your life for someone you want to do it for – for example for your family and your friends. But what about those people you don’t like, or those you are frightened of, etc. There are people and circumstances and times where we will need to do this out of love for Christ, and there’s no other reason. It may not suit you, do anything for you, or give you anything back. The love of Christ is a commandment. That we love one another as He has loved us. It can be tough.
Most people in churches these days don’t think this way. The people who look on churches and those within them, don’t look at it as a place with a sense of love within at the heart of it. They see it as a place for religious people to go on a Sunday. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a church where, in the centre of it, the outsiders who are looking will see that it’s based on the love of God? It’s not just about us. It’s the love of God spilling out of us and the church, and touching all around.
What we do touches others. What do we and our church stand for in the mind of others? I would like it to stand for the love of God. Not a man, not a denomination, but God’s church. And out of that church, the love of God flows. It does something. Are we a religious people, or are we a people who love Christ and out of that it affects people? I would like to think that as time goes on that we’d impact our immediate world with the love of Christ.
Jesus didn’t use idle words. It’s recorded for us to know it’s a commandment. It’s not a chance comment. It’s recorded as spoken by Christ. He wanted us to take note of it. We had the Ten Commandments, but now we have this new one. Jesus said this because if we adhere to this new commandment, we’ll automatically by default, adhere to the other ten.
Jesus knew what He was saying. It’s the perfect law, a kingly law. It’s a law that no earthly power can stop. This love of God that comes out of the people is a perfect law. It’s a law of liberty and freedom. If you ask someone if they want to be free, they’ll say yes. The freedom comes by loving God. To love one another as He has loved us we need to be Christian filled by the spirit. Out of you comes this love. If you want to be free, learn to love in the way God wants us to love.
In Mark 1:40 -42 we read:
40 Now a leper came to Him, imploring Him, kneeling down to Him and saying to Him, “If You are willing, You can make me clean.”
41 Then Jesus, moved with compassion, stretched out His hand and touched him, and said to him, “I am willing; be cleansed.”
42 As soon as He had spoken, immediately the leprosy left him, and he was cleansed.
This is the well-known story of Jesus healing a leper. Can you imagine a leper coming up to you like that and crying out to you? We read that Jesus was moved with compassion. It shows to me the love of Christ, not just in a mental way but in a way that comes up and out of Him. You can feel that love from Him in your stomach. Christ felt this man’s position. He felt love, compassion, a hatred against the illness. As you read, you can feel Christ feeling love for this man. He didn’t walk away or cast Him away, He stretched out to Him. Jesus loved him and that love stretched out from Him with compassion. This is an example of the love that Christ had for people, and has for you and me.
We have to change our thinking about our compassion for one another. It’s easy to love yourself and your family. But what about the person who’s not very nice, the person who’s new, the person who’s struggling? We are called to love. We have to be wise, but we’re called to love. Christ is our example. And in this example, He is loving this very ill man who may have been smelly and dirty. But He had compassion. The man cried out, and the love came up and out of Christ. He touched him and he was cleansed.
Is it just a story like you read in a magazine? Reading this, I can feel that love of God inside of Him. It speaks to you of the love that we should have for people. And yet for us it’s easy to pass circumstances and other people by.
What moves you to love? What moves you into action? Love makes a way. Things happen because of love.
Do you feel the pain for lost people? So you feel the pain of sin in a community? Do you feel the pain in people’s families? Where does this love take you? We can be loving in the place where we find ourselves. It might not always be suitable, but we’re still called to love. Our love has to be a deeper and greater love than the frothy love we find in a magazine.
In 1 John 4: 7-8 we read:
7 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.
8 He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.
In 1 Peter 1: 21-23 we read:
21 who through Him believe in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.
22 Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit in sincere love of the brethren, love one another fervently with a pure heart,
23 having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever
In Psalm 18: 1 we read:
1 I will love You, O Lord, my strength.
David is saying that despite all that is going on, he’s going to love God. David messed up in so many ways, yet he cries out he’s going to love God despite what he’s done and despite his sins and his guilt. He’s decided to love God. God brings that into being.
He made love between us and Himself. It’s not something we do out of our own mind. He’s made the love relationship available for us, but we have to choose. Do we choose to love God? David decided to love God. John is saying that if we’re born again we’ll love, we will choose to love and will want to love. Out of that incorruptible seed comes love. John says it, Peter says it and Paul says it.
Are we feeling the desire to love God not just in a mental way, but in a deeper way that comes up and out of us? The perfect law.
This strips everything back. Is this you walking in this life, loving God and loving one another like He loves you? It’s about following after Christ. It’s for everyone who is born of God.
In 1 Corinthians 13:13 Paul says that there is faith, hope and love. Strip everything back and love remains. Love will last unto eternity
Will it hurt you? Yes. Will it be costly for you? Yes. Will you have to die to self? Yes. But this love is eternal. And that blessing will stay with you – or not – for eternity. What Christ did for that man is in our bible, and lasts him into eternity. What we do or what we don’t do, will last us unto eternity as well.
We should love.