- “But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God.” Romans 2:29
- “Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts: and then shall every man have praise of God.” 1 Corinthians 4:5
Last night, I met with my friend, and the person who is going to be walking with me through our church’s Discipleship Track. There was one thing that was on his heart to share the most is something that should be on all of our hearts who love Jesus, who desire to serve Jesus, and call Jesus Lord. What was that thing? The LOVE of God.
You see…friends…God’s motive for everything is always love. Why? Because God IS love. Love isn’t just the character and nature of God. Love is what God is. Love originated with God. The Alpha and Omega of God is love. Love is the very being of God…not just His nature…not just a characteristic…it is who He is. Love is what God is.
The Bible says that if we love God, but don’t love others…then God is not in us. If we do all kinds of wonderful things like prophecy, speaking in tongues, and doing all these wonderful volunteer jobs…but do it without love…those things we do are worthless. The Bible talks about the three greatest things being faith, hope, and love…but the greatest of them is what? LOVE.
There’s an entire chapter in the Bible devoted to the description of God’s Agape Love in 1 Corinthians 13, and no matter what you try to do…you cannot escape the fact that the Bible is really a love letter from God to us. The whole reason He sacrificed His life on the Cross was because He loved us so much that He wanted to do whatever He could to restore the broken fellowship between Him and us…and so He laid down His Kingdom, He laid down His throne, and He stepped into time as Jesus Christ…and died upon the Cross so that you and I could be reconciled to Him.
That is why we now have the mandate to preach the “Ministry of Reconciliation.” What is the Ministry of Reconciliation? I’m glad you asked…it’s here in 2 Corinthians 5:17-21.
17 Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.18 And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation;19 To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation.20 Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God.21 For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him. 2 Corinthians 5:17-21 KJV
Oh my…this is just the introduction! Well…since the introduction has gone this long…I can only imagine what the Lord is going to have to say to us through this message today. So…without dragging the introduction on any longer…let’s get into: HOPE FOR MORE THAN UNCONDITIONAL LOVE
Friends…I believe that the word is tired of Christians who are always looking down their noses preaching the do’s and do not’s. The finger-pointing, the angry scowl as we condemn them for their mistakes, and preach that they’re going to help if they don’t accept the Jesus that we serve. The question is…when you minister to people that way…why would they want the God you have? When you point at the speck in their eye, and you tell them that unless they repent they’re going to hell because their sins are separating them from God…and they need to confess Christ as their Lord and Savior or they’ll spend eternity in hell.
Don’t tell me you don’t evangelize people like that. I see you. I’ve had you attempt to minister to me that way. Can I tell you that my only thought when you minister to me like that is: why would I want the God you serve?
The Ministry of Reconciliation is something that we’re called to preach, and we’re called to bring to the world…but most Christians would rather preach hell fire, brimstone, and condemnation. The would rather guilt people into the Body of Christ…than love them in. That’s what the Ministry of Reconciliation is all about…it’s LOVING people into the Body of Christ.
This isn’t even part of the message today, but I just felt a need to share this with you. I feel a need to share that our minds need to be renewed to the fact that we have the LOVE OF GOD shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit, and that’s what we’re to share with the world. Friends…if we were meant to minister to people any other way…Paul wouldn’t have told us that as Ambassador’s for Christ we’re to preach this ministry of reconciliation. I didn’t say it…Paul did by inspiration of the Holy Ghost. If you need to be reminded of it…here it is again.
18 And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation;19 To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation. 2 Corinthians 5:18-19
This is how we are to be reaching the lost and dying world that doesn’t know Jesus. This is how we love people into the Kingdom. People need to be told and helped to understand that they are ALL sons and daughters of God…and that He loves them so much that He sent His Son to die for their sins. He made Jesus to be sin, and He punished ALL sin at one time on the Cross. Therefore…He’s no longer counting their sins against them. ALL of their sins have been forgiven except for one…whether or not they chose to believe in their hearts that what God did through Jesus Christ was for them…and that they would confess with their mouths that they are a “whosoever” and they’re calling upon the name of the Lord to be saved…and once they believe in their hearts and confess Jesus Christ as Lord…they’re instantly transformed from the kingdom of darkness…into the Kingdom of Light…and they are then the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus…and that when God sees them He no longer sees them…but He sees the shed blood of Jesus covering them…
That friends is the way to love people into the Kingdom…and that’s the way we are to win the lost. Not by beating them over the head with their sin, and how they are living such horribly wrong lives. None of that matters…God will take care of that for them just like He did for us…but what we need to do is stop being judges…and start being the Ambassador’s for Christ we’ve been called to be. We need to stop acting like we’re better than the people we’re ministering to, and remember that we were once like them…in need of a Savior who loves them enough to die for their sins so that they can be reconciled to God.
My goodness…I suppose we ought to get back to the message…but I just feel so strongly that we need to stop looking down our noses at a lost and dying world…because that way of evangelism isn’t working…and get back to doing it the way Paul taught us to…by sharing the love of God that’s shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost…and letting them know that there’s a God who loves them…and they can be reconciled to Him if they would just believe in what Jesus did and confess Him as Lord and Savior…and let God do the work in them…like He did in and is still doing in our lives…Amen!?! Did anyone receive that? I sure hope so.
Okay…now we can move on the today’s message…
If you only hope for unconditional love from God, your hope is great, but too small.
Unconditional love from God is not the sweetest experience of his love. The sweetest experience is when his love says: “I have made you so much like my Son that I delight to see you and be with you. You are a pleasure to me, because you are so radiant with my glory.”
This sweetest experience is conditional on our transformation into the kind of people whose emotions and choices and actions please God.
Oh…friends. Don’t you see that if we’re made in the image of God then we ought to display for the world what He looks like? That’s why we had to take this long side journey about love because that’s who and what God is. He is love…and since the Bible says that we are all created in His image…we too are love…and that’s what we’re to share with the world.
I don’t know about anyone else, but I want to be just what God says I can be. I want to be so much like God’s Son that He delights to see me and be with me. I want to be radiant with His glory…and the only way that I can do that is to share the love of God that’s been shed abroad in my heart by the Holy Ghost.
Can we be honest? I’m not very good at doing that, and my meeting last night with my friend reminded me that I need to be sharing God’s love with people. I need to be more willing to be in the line of that Wal-Mart cashier who has their life on their face…and just say to them that they’re awesome and that God loves them. Not for any other reason than they need to know God loves them, and that they’re valuable to Him. I need to remember that when I’m in a restaurant I need to be a good tipper of the wait staff, and treat them with kindness and love. I need to reach out to more of the people around me instead of being silent…and watching them pass me by.
Friends…I think we all need to put God’s love on display for all the world to see even more. I think that the more we do that…the more of that radiance of His glory will show on our faces, and that our entire countenance will change. Christians ought to be the nicest people in the world, but the ugly truth is that many of us are the meanest, nastiest, and rudest people you’ll ever come across. 1 Corinthians 13 tells us that love isn’t rude, but that it’s kind…so why aren’t more of us like that? I know I’m challenged in my heart right now at this very moment.
Listen…I say this a lot, and it bears repeating once again. I’m not just writing these messages to you…I am also writing them for my own benefit. I learn a lot from going back and re-reading my own messages…and this is one of those that I’m thinking I may need to read over and over until even I get the revelation that I need to be more willing to share the love of God with people. How about you?
Unconditional love is the source and foundation of the human transformation that makes the sweetness of conditional love possible. If God did not love us unconditionally, he would not penetrate our unattractive lives, bring us to faith, unite us to Christ, give us his Spirit, and make us progressively like Jesus.
But when he unconditionally chooses us, and sends Christ to die for us, and regenerates us, he puts in motion an unstoppable process of transformation that makes us glorious. He gives us a splendor to match his favorite kind.
Pastor Cass Hill of New Life Christian Centerhas given me a new perspective on God’s love because we’ve always been told and taught that God’s love is unconditional. But the truth is that God’s love is absolutely perfect. He loves us with a perfect love. Yes, it is true that there are no conditions or strings attached to His love…but it goes deeper than that. It goes much deeper. It goes to a depth that is beyond our natural mind’s ability to understand, fathom, or even comprehend. If it was easier to comprehend then why does Paul spend so much time praying that we would be able to know the height, width, length, and depth of the love of God? Seriously…take some time to look up the prayers of Paul and see how many of them are that God would reveal His love for us.
The most depth of love that we as humans can express is unconditional love, but that doesn’t change the fact that we still have God’s perfect love shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit…Amen!?!
We see this in Ephesians 5:25–26.
“Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her [unconditional love], that he might sanctify her . . . and present the church to himself in splendor” — the condition in which he delights.
This is also the way we’re to love our spouses. See, our human love is limited to our emotions and our feelings and our decisions. Love is a choice. Love is a decision. We are to love others and our spouses without condition. What does that mean? That means when our spouse looks at us and asks why we love them, and we reply “I love you because…” you need to stop there. Why? After you say “because” is where the conditions start.
Let me explain. Let’s say your spouse has just asked you the “why do you love me?” question, and you’re getting ready to reply. You say something like: “I love you because you’re beautiful, because you’re caring, because you’re a great cook, and because you give really good backrubs.” So…then let me ask you this. What happens when you’re getting a little older, and there’s a few more grey hairs, and things aren’t quite as perky as they were? What happens when your spouse burns dinner one too many times?
You see. I believe the reason so many marriages end in divorce is because the love in those marriages are based in and upon our human capacity to love…that selfish and self-seeking love that’s full of reasons and conditions.
I love my wife because I choose to. There isn’t always the goose bumps and such, but what there is between us is a love that is without condition. It’s not romantic, but the truth is…I love my wife because I do. I love my wife for who she is, and for who and how I am since I’ve been with her. I love her because she’s a great encourager, and helps me to see myself the way God sees me. I love her because God spoke to my heart that she was the one He’d chosen for me. I love my wife because it’s a choice…it’s a decision…and it’s also a covenant before God that I take very seriously.
Love is a choice…not a feeling…and if it is based upon a feeling…when the feeling fades…then the love will fade also. That’s the difference between love that’s full of conditions and reasons and feelings…and unconditional love that is made out of a decision and a choice of free will. When you love people that way…then it’s freeing to them. Why? Because when you take the conditions off of love then there’s not such a burden upon people trying to “earn” it. Love is much better when it’s freely given because they you can freely receive it…and that is what true unconditional love is…love that is given and received freely…Amen!?!
It is unspeakably wonderful that God would unconditionally set his favor on us while we are still unbelieving sinners. The ultimate reason this is wonderful is that this unconditional love brings us into the everlasting enjoyment of his glorious presence. But the apex of that enjoyment is that we not only see his glory, but also reflect it. “The name of our Lord Jesus will be glorified in you, and you in him” (2 Thessalonians 1:12).
And now we tie in the side journey I started this message with. This love that we receive from God is the love that we’re to share with a lost and dying world that’s going to hell. The more we share His love the more it will be imprinted upon us, and the more we will sound and look like His disciples. What did Jesus say to His disciples? He said: “The world will KNOW my disciples by the LOVE they have for one another.” He said that by love all the world would know who His disciples were.
Let me ask you a serious question…How does the world know you? Does the world know you as a rude, obnoxious jerk or do they know you as someone who is beaming with the love of God? I have met one person in my life who just radiated God’s love…and I remember what a joy it was to be around him because he truly did love everyone. Even the people who hated him and constantly gossiped and talked about him behind his back…he still loved them. He greeted everyone with a warm hug, a smile, and he was just full of the glory of God…and I’m ashamed to admit that I wish I was more like him.
That’s how we’re to desire to be though my friends. The kind of person that the world looks at and desires what we have. Here’s another serious question. When the world looks at you do they desire what you have or are they turned off by your arrogance? Are you the kind of friend a friend would like to have…or are you the kind of person that most people would like to avoid being around at all costs? I would like to suggest that if you’re the kind of person that people would like to avoid that you maybe take a look at why that is…because that’s not the way we’re to be towards the world. If we’re ever truly to become Christlike…then we need to be like Christ.
Children, sinners, and the like they all flocked to Jesus. Why? Because He loved them…and they knew it.
This glory that we have in the last day is profoundly pleasing to God. This will not be unconditional love. This will be God’s response to us when he has finished making us “worthy of his calling and fulfilled every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power” (2 Thessalonians 1:11). Then we will receive praise from God (Romans 2:29; 1 Corinthians 4:5).
So put your hope in the unconditional, electing love of God for sure. But don’t stop there. Let that glorious news catapult you into the greater hope that this very love will make you worthy of his calling, glorify you, and fit you to receive the praise of God.
And don’t stop there. Once you understand that you have receive the love of God, and that it’s shed abroad in your heart by the Holy Ghost…begin to share it with a world full of broken-hearted people who need Jesus.
I’ll close this message by including in it a video by Steven Curtis Chapman reminding us that It’s All About Love…Amen!?!
Conclusion & Prayer:
What a powerful message today friends. It’s all about love. God’s love. The way we’re to love and reach a lost and dying world for Jesus. I don’t know about you…but I want to be the kind of person that I talked about in this message. The kind of person that the love of God just oozes from, and other people cannot help but to feel it because it’s so contagious. I want to be contagious with the love of God…how about you?
Oh Lord…how can I clam to love You when I have so much work to do with sharing the love You’ve placed in my heart by the Holy Spirit for the world. I am challenged in my heart to realize that I need to be more loving and share Your love with more people. Lord…forgive me for the times that I am unloving and unkind…and don’t share Your love…but Lord…help me to share it…to show it…and to ooze Your love. I want to be that person that radiates Your love…and I ask this in Jesus’ name…Amen & Amen