This is how they will know you
I’ve just come back from spending a couple weeks traveling on vacation with my wife. I love the way God speaks to me and works with me. I was all ready for this vacation because I thought that it was going to be a restful rejuvenating trip and that as a result of our rest that I was going be ready to get back to work when I got back.
You will hear me say this often. And if you spend any time around me you will hear me say this eventually. When you ask God for something, be ready. He will answer you.
I began preparing this message before I left so I’d have a good foundation when I got back but see I prayed that God would keep this lesson in my heart and on my mind while I was away so that I would be in tuned and ready to finish this up when I got back and my lord Jesus I asked and didn’t take my own advice.
We went to Las Vegas for a week and then to Los Angeles for the second week.
Two weeks straight of waiting in line in the heat. Nothing worked out quite right and I was getting upset because I was thinking, “This isn’t relaxing at all” I’m not going to go back rejuvenated my Wife isn’t going to go back rejuvenated stressful roads and people everywhere most of whom were complaining. We had to wait in line for everything, we even waited in line in our car to park for 20 or 30 minutes just to find that the lot was full when we finally got to the front of the line. I kept getting more and more frustrated until I finally realized that God had answered my prayer. I asked him to keep this lesson in my heart and on my mind.
Funny as it seems it brought to my mind a movie. This movie is not exactly a Christian movie. It’s called Evan almighty. It sort of pokes fun at the idea of a modern-day man being called upon, by God, to build an ark just as Noah was. In this film Morgan freeman plays the part of God and he has this speech that I have always found oddly wise. I don’t know if the write of this dialog was Christian but if not, they were really on that day.
“God: Let me ask you something. If someone prays for patience, you think God gives them patience? Or does he give them the opportunity to be patient? If he prayed for courage, does God give him courage, or does he give him opportunities to be courageous? If someone prayed for the family to be closer, do you think God zaps them with warm fuzzy feelings, or does he give them opportunities to love each other?”
I asked God to help me teach the lesson of loving people and he gave me the opportunity be loving, to be kind and to be peaceful in places where people we not so easy to love.
See love is just a word until you have to act on it. when everything is going well and easy when you’re getting along or when you feel perfectly comfortable its really easy to say you love things or people but that’s only because it requires no effort. Love only becomes a real thing when its tested.
And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full.
The same can be said of love. If you only love people who are going to love you, if you only helped people whom would help you back then what is the point. After all even sinners do that. It’s nice to be loved when we are being loving but it’s crucial and life giving when we are loved while we are in pieces. While we are at our lowest and when we look back and see how someone came and loved us not only while we weren’t easy to love but while we couldn’t have paid back any of it if we wanted to.
Rick Warren Said
“God teaches us to love by putting some unlovely people around us. It takes no character to love people who are lovely and loving to you.
That’s where love is truly manifest. Cause love is just a word until you prove it. When you act and show what the word means.
Hero is just a name and a word until someone is saved. Doctor is just a word until a life is saved and an illness is treated. Even Christian is just a word until we have behaved like Christ.
Love is a hard thing to talk about mainly because we have a little bit of a deficiency in our language regarding the concept.
When we talk about loving things we really talk about a multitude of things but when we hear the word love we almost always immediately connect with the feeling of love.
The truth of love is so much more than a mere feeling. This I realize is counter to what you have heard from the world. The world tells you to follow your heart, to seek the desires of your heart and to let your heart be your guide. All of this means that if you follow what makes you feel happy then you are doing the right thing, and you will be happy.
The Bible makes quick work of all this by telling us simple that our hearts are the last thing we should follow.
Jeremiah 17:9 (NIV)
9 The heart is deceitful above all things
and beyond cure.
Who can understand it?
The truth is that defining love as a feeling is as deficient a comparison as heart the shape and heart the organ. They’re not interchangeable.
One of the clearest scriptures on this topic and I know it has been brought up already in this series but the point it makes is so important that we must all really understand it.
John 13:34-35 ESV
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.
By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
Jesus tells us here two crucial things, the first is that He is the example by which we should understand what love looks like and the second is that our love should be so prevalent in our conduct that we should be known for it.
We will dig into both of these concepts. I’ll speak first about being known for our love first, even though it’s the second point in the scripture.
As I mentioned we were on vacation in Las Vegas and Los Angeles two big tourist locations and because there’s so many people from so many places all the time in these areas most of the business you walk by in these places have right out on their windows what they are known for. We make the best tacos, we have the best surf boards, the best shows, the best. This is what we are best at, people know us for this one specific thing that we do better than anyone else. It is their identity.
As a Christian person we need to be striving every day to make love our reputation, our identity our persona the thing we are known for so much so that it can’t be mistaken as average.
No one is known for being average. That what average means. Right in the middle, nothing special, nothing to talk about. Just like the majority. You will never see a restaurant that has the words “average BBQ”. No business will do well with a sign that says we do an “okay job”, we have “typical pricing”, we have a “standard selection”. You won’t be mad, but you won’t be jazzed either, ehh!.
to be known for something you have to rise above the average you have to focus and make that your specialty and always be looking for a way to do it better.
Why is it so crucial to be loving? Why as a Christian should we be always trying to be more loving?
1 John 4:7-8 ESV
Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.
I have spoken to people before who tell me that they can’t understand the idea of loving our neighbors or being loving toward people they don’t know or especially toward people whom they do know and who have hurt them. They can’t understand how God would expect them to love a person that has caused them pain. I mentioned earlier that Love was a word we misunderstand, and this is what I meant.
We associate the word love with a feeling. More than that Love is a positive feeling. A sought after feeling. Because we so commonly associate love with a feeling we subconsciously connect the idea of doing something loving with the idea that it means we need to have a positive feeling otherwise it’s not love.
I have known Christian people who feel conflicted about loving things they are doing, outreaches and ministries and thinking that because they sometimes aren’t feeling excited or feeling loving about the work they’re doing for God.
I love my wife but sometimes when we aren’t together and I’m concentrating on what I’m working on, I’m not feeling, actively the love I have for her but just because I’m not feeling it doesn’t mean that its not a fact. Last summer many of us were out on the streets giving out water and food to the homeless. Everyone of us did it because we love God and because we love his people. But when its 120 degrees and it smells and you have a line of people who are trying to lie to you so they can get extra stuff (as if they needed to we were there to give it away anyway) but yes definitely we were acting in love however, even if I’m only speaking for myself, there were definitely times when we were committed to our choice to help we certainly were always feeling like going and sweating and packing up all the cars and driving and getting bothered by the cops. That’s what the most loving part of it was though. That were chose to do what was right even though it wasn’t easy. Even though it didn’t always make us happy we knew it made God happy.
Honestly if we are waiting on love to be a feeling we will never be loving people. If we limit our love to only times when we feel happy about what we are doing, then we aren’t being Christlike at all.
We read in the word that God, though his ways are above our and his thoughts above ours that he still has feelings. He gets upset and he gets sad and he gets jealous, the overwhelming power of God’s love comes when he acts loving toward us even when we are obviously hurting him, when we have turned our backs and we have disrespected him. At a time when anyone of us here would have a tear in their eye cause their feelings were hurt that when the love, not the feeling love but the act of love is the most powerful. Because you don’t feel happy about it you don’t feel positive you are simply doing as Christ did.
Romans 5:09-11 Amplified Bible (AMP)
Therefore, since we have now been justified [declared free of the guilt of sin] by His blood, [how much more certain is it that] we will be saved from the wrath of God through Him. 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, it is much more certain, having been reconciled, that we will be saved [from the consequences of sin] by His life [that is, we will be saved because Christ lives today]. 11 Not only that, but we also rejoice in God [rejoicing in His love and perfection] through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received and enjoy our reconciliation [with God].
While we were his enemies, he gave everything for us.
The second point made in John 13, 34 and 35 was that we should love as he has loved us. Not the scripture I just mention is a big one on that point as well. But God is so good he gives us many more than one example.
Let’s dig into Gods love, how he loves us. Not just the idea that he loves us, but an example of what love looks like.
One of the very best examples of love in the bible comes from the book of Hosea. We have all heard this story its taught from often, but the lessons are deep. I will briefly explain the story.
Hosea was a prophet and a godly man, and the Lord told him to take as his wife a prostitute. An actual prostitute. This was not a woman who struggled with sin because she was not a woman who cared about her sin. She didn’t cheat on her husband once by accident, she wasn’t caught up in a moment or seduced there were no extenuating circumstances and her husband didn’t abandon her or mistreat her, none of the usual suspects no she was simply a prostitute by choice.
After a while of being married this woman ran off on Hosea. Hosea at this point had been through it all. His wife was habitually unfaithful not once or twice and it wasn’t a rumor it was a widely known fact that she had been all over town. His name and reputation were run through the mud. he had been disrespected, betrayed and he had every right to leave her to her own devices,
He had scripturally upheld reasons to leave this woman and just go on with his life. But God told him otherwise.
See Hosea was a man in tune with God, being in tune with God is both wonderful and scary.
We all speak about being spiritually in tune with God. it’s something we all claim to want very much, and we seek it but being in tune with God means not only that we hear and know his voice, but also that we listen.
Every day we spend with God is calling us to an ever-increasing level of accountability. In other words, the better you know God the more he will expect of you. Its like being the older sibling. Parents always expect more of you cause you’re the older sibling. In this case, Hosea was a Godly man and because of that relationship and that spiritual maturity God gave Hosea a very heavy assignment.
This woman who insulted you, who hated you who made a joke out of you in front of your friends and the community. Who betrayed you constantly, who mocked your faith and your values and who brought all sorts of untold hardship pain and embarrassment on you… and who after all that ran out on you… God told Hosea to sell all he had to go and buy her back from that sin.
This by the way is a mirror of the cross. Cause we too can be just as unfaithful, we too can be just a disrespectful and we too run off on God and he also gave everything he had to come and get us back from our sin. We saw that in the passage in Romans 5 a little earlier. While we were enemies while we were defying him and similar to this woman we were giving our worship to other things, other Gods, even worshiping ourselves, he died for us.
That’s the love of God. It’s not dependent upon us making him happy in fact the love of God is most evident when we are hurting him, and he still pursues us.
If all God had for us was love the feeling, Jesus never would have come because God would have been done with saving people in the garden.
Love can be a feeling and a strong one for sure, but the fact is that love is a choice and sometimes when we are struggling with loving people we need to remember that we are not acting out of feelings, but we are acting on a choice we made to be loving. And we made that commitment to God himself. To be like Christ is to love no matter what.
Remembering that we all have our moments and we are just as hard to love as anyone else.
We must be ever diligent in making Love our defining attribute because we seek to be like Christ. Jesus did everything out of Love for us. He came and lived among us and was tempted in all ways as a human being. We don’t always think of all that means. It doesn’t only mean he was tempted to indulge in the standard things but also tempted to be angry and annoyed and hateful toward people. How easy would it have been to be angry while hanging on a cross having been nailed there by the very people you came to save but Jesus on that cross said forgive them, they know not what they do.
Everything we experience in our lives, no matter how hard give us tools. each experience like a key. We walk through our lives picking up keys. Not knowing what they’re for not even knowing that we have even picked these keys up until the day comes when we meet the person who has the lock those keys open. The person we have unknowingly been specifically trained to minister to the one we had been hand selected by God to display his love.
Love doesn’t mean hugs and kisses. It doesn’t mean doodling heart shapes or candy boxes. It doesn’t even mean happy feelings. To be loving to a person means that you treat them with 3 things.
- Faithfulness: Being faithful means to be loyal. Not to the person but to God. We know how much God values each of us. To treat a person who is testing your patience, with the same value that God places on them is loyalty to God is faithfulness. Keeping in mind how God doesn’t give up on you and carrying that idea into the way you treat people. It can be very easy when a person or a situation is frustrating or isn’t making you happy for one reason or another, to just take off. To just scrap the relationship. I’m not talking about just having some distance for a bit or giving things time to cool down and sometimes people absolutely need to be at a distance. But being faithful means that they won’t have trouble seeing you are there. When we do wrong things, we act like children before God. Just like Adam and Eve, instead of facing God we run, and we hide. Sometimes, honestly, we need to do that because we need time to think about what we did and why we need to figure out how to do the right thing. All the while though God is there he does not turn away from us and when we come back he is there to receive us.
- Reflectiveness: Remember that you have been forgiven. Remember that the things a person does that you may find annoying, wrong, dumb, pointless, etc… sorry to break this to you but you probably do the some, if not all of the same things. The Bible says we have ALL fallen short. Not just some. Its hard to be loving when think of someone as being less than us. Yet sometimes believers forget their transformation and the forgiveness given them when they see new believers or even those who might become believers.
- Mercy: mercy is a term we don’t think about enough. What mercy means is that though it may be someone’s just right to expect something from us, that instead they give us mercy. God has the right to send us to hell because he made rules and we absolutely broke them no defense no excuse. Justice for a broken law is that the one who broke that law be punished, be given the appropriate consequence for their action. As sinners, justice is that we all go to hell. Without mercy that’s our fate. It’s not an insult it’s just the truth. When we start thinking of ourselves as being different than everyone else we can disconnect from the fact that we also need mercy and it’s ridiculous to want and ask for and expect mercy when we don’t give mercy.
If we can make sure we try our best to include Faithfulness, Mercy and take the time recall that we too struggle sometimes and we have ourselves fallen short and received great love and mercy in those times we needed it. If we can bring all that into our interactions with people, then are treating people lovingly.
RC Sproul said
“In the New Testament, love is more of a verb than a noun. It has more to do with acting than with feeling. The call to love is not so much a call to a certain state of feeling as it is to a quality of action”
Jesus is love and we are all trying to be like Jesus. The closer we get to him the more we will resemble love, the more we will be identified with love. Just like Jesus. “and by this we will be known, by our love”.