Apr 22, 2018

Learn to Love

Topical by Pastor Dan Walker
Jesus commanded His followers to love God and their neighbor as themselves. The only way that we can obey that command is by accepted God's unconditional love for us through Jesus. Only then can we learn to unconditionally love all those God brings into our lives.
Duration:28 mins 14 secs

Today we’re continuing our message series called “Relationships” with a message entitled “Learn to Love.” When you hear the word “love” what do you think about? In our culture, many of us would tend to associate the word “love” with a feeling, a feeling that you have little control over. We talk about falling in love and falling out of love, with reference to those feelings. Love that is based on feelings is a conditional love where we love those who love us.

On the other hand, the Bible speaks of love as a choice, a choice to act in another’s person’s best interests. The best interests of every person is to have a growing relationship with Jesus Christ. The main word used for love in the New Testament is agape. Agape love is the unconditional love that God has for us and that God commands us to have for others. Love is a choice to do what’s best for another person whether you feel like it or not, that’s why agape love is unconditional love. Agape love originates with God, we can’t have agape love without God’s help.

1 John 4:19 (ESV)  We love because he first loved us.

God initiated this unconditional agape love, by loving us and sending Jesus to save us. In return, we are to love Him back and so enter into a relationship with God. If we love God in this way, we must also love others with the same agape love.

1 John 4:20-21 (ESV)  If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.  And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.

So, the fruit of truly loving God with agape love is that the person will love his brothers and sisters in his church family. The concept of a person being a believer in Jesus and not being part of a local church family and loving his brothers and sisters is not in the Bible. Jesus put it this way in Luke 10:27 which if often called the Great Commandment.

Luke 10:27 (ESV)  And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.”

So, a believer who loves God must also love his neighbor as himself with agape love. Now, after Jesus gave this command to his disciples, a man asked Jesus “who is my neighbor.” To answer his question, Jesus told a story which explains who our neighbors are and how we are to love them. As we’ll see, we are to love not only our brothers and sisters in our church family, we are to love everyone we come into contact with, even our enemies.

The man who asked Jesus “who is my neighbor” was looking for exceptions to Jesus’ command to love. However, as we study God’s Word, we find that there are no exceptions to Jesus’ command for us to love. So, today, we’re going to look at God’s Word to better learn to love.

Love by caring

The first choice that agape love makes it to care about somebody else. That’s not an easy choice. Our natural tendency is to care only about ourselves. Yet God cares about you and you are to care about others as you …

Open up your heart

The story that Jesus told to answer the question “who is my neighbor” is commonly called the story of the Good Samaritan. In this story, a Jewish man was traveling when he was attacked by a band of robbers. The robbers took his possessions, beat him and left him for dead on the road. Several travelers on the road saw the injured man but passed him by, they didn’t want to get involved. Finally, a Samaritan came past the injured man on the road.

Luke 10:33 (ESV)  But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion.

Normally, Samaritans did not have dealings with Jews, but this Samaritan had compassion on the wounded man, he opened up his heart to him to care about him. As we’ll see, this compassion was more than a feeling, it would move the Samaritan to taking action, to demonstrating agape love. Jesus also shows us by example how to love by caring. We can learn to …

Care as Jesus cared

Mark 6:34a (ESV)  When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd.

Here we see that word compassion again, it means that Jesus deeply cared for this crowd. Why? Because he perceived that they were like sheep without a shepherd. What are sheep without a shepherd like? They are helpless, they have no idea where to go to eat and drink. They are defenseless against thieves or wolves. Yet Jesus was not disgusted with the sinners in the crowd, he felt compassion for them, he cared about them and wanted to help them.

So the first step in learning to love begins in our hearts. When you see someone with a need in their life, what is your heart’s response? Is it to pass by on the other side of the road and close your heart to them? Or is it to care about the other person and have compassion on them? Jesus’ story taught us that our neighbor, whom we are to love, is whoever God puts into our life. Your neighbor today could be members of your own family, your spouse, children or grandchildren. Your neighbor could be someone else in the church family, in your small group, on your street or at your job. Do you have compassion on them with the difficulties they are facing? Or are you only interested in your own problems? Ask God to help you care about and have compassion on others that God has placed in your life. Not only do we learn to love by caring, we can learn to …

Love by going

Luke 10:34a (ESV)  He went to him …

The good Samaritan is Jesus’ story not only cared about the wounded man, he stopped on his journey and went to him. He took a risk to help the man in need. Perhaps the robbers were still lurking nearby, yet he didn’t let that deter him. He didn’t know how badly the man was injured, Yet he took action by …

Take the first step

Love takes the initiative, it doesn’t wait to be asked. Love is bold, love is strong. In any type of relationship, if you always wait for the other person to initiate things, you’re going to be disappointed. God wants you to take the first step to meeting the need of the other person.    

1 John 3:18 (ESV)  Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.

John is saying that if our love is only in our words, it is deficient. Love begins in our hearts with caring, it continues with our words and moves toward the other person by taking the first step of action. Taking the first step takes courage, courage to put another person’s needs ahead of your own wants. As you take that first step, you can trust that Jesus will be there to help you.

Go as Jesus went

Philippians 2:4-7 (ESV)  Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.  Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,  who … emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.

The good Samaritan is a type of Jesus. Before Jesus came to earth, He was in heaven, a perfect and beautiful place. Jesus made a choice to have compassion on sinners, like you and me. He took action to leave heaven and to be born as a baby and ultimately die for us. He emptied Himself and put our interests above His own. He came to earth because He love us. He gave us an example of what it means to love by going. 

To love by going is to make the first move towards another person. It means to move out of your comfort zone and pay attention to the needs of others. In our church family, it’s easy to hang out with people who our friends and who we know well on a Sunday morning. But let’s not ignore the new guests that we have every Sunday. Let’s take the time to make the first move to getting to know them, to making a new friend and adding them to our circle of friends here at Life Church. 

How about on the job? There are people around you every day that have serious needs. Some of their needs are emotional, some may be physical and many have spiritual needs. Statistics tell us that the majority of people around you on your job are not Christians, although they may think they are. If you care about them, the next step in loving them is to take the first step to meeting their spiritual need. It may begin by offering to pray for them about some difficulty in their life. Later, it may involve telling them about Life Church and inviting them to attend. It may involve starting a Bible study in your office. I did for many years when I was working at Monsanto. Learn to love by taking the first step.

Love by giving

Luke 10:34 (ESV)  He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him.

So, the good Samaritan had compassion on the wounded man, took the first step by going to him and finally taking action to give to him. He gave of his time, disregarding his own appointments and schedule. He gave of his resources and he gave of his money. He gave to …

Meet the need

Once you have taken the first step to go to the person and spent time with them, you have a much better idea of their needs. Then you have another choice to make, will I take steps to meet the need or not? Each step in the process of caring, going and finally giving requires more of us as we learn to love as Jesus loves.

Proverbs 3:27 (ESV)  Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to do it.

In other words, don’t procrastinate, don’t put it off for another day. If the good Samaritan had put off helping the wounded man, he would probably have died. Notice that this verse in Proverbs says to not withhold good “when it is in your power to do it.” None of us can meet every need, we may not have the time, strength, resources or money to meet every need. But God has a way of putting people with needs into our lives where we do have the power to meet there need. In fact, often times, we can’t meet all the need, but we can meet some of it. Then we may be able to find someone else who can meet more of the need, especially in our church family.

Give as Jesus gave

1 John 3:16 (ESV)  By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.

Jesus came to this earth because He loved us. He came not just to live, but to die on the cross so that our sins could be forgiven. Jesus gave his life for each one of us. John here writes that in the same way, we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. Now, this doesn’t usually mean laying down our physical lives as Jesus did, but it does mean laying down the aspects of our lives, like time, resources and money to help others. The verse is directed to laying down our lives for our brothers and sisters in the church family. That’s how important a church family is. But it can also mean laying down your life for an unbeliever, so that they are saved and become a brother or sister in the Lord. The final step in learning to love is through giving.

Now it’s easiest to love those who love us back and who are “nice” people just like us. Yet, Jesus taught us that even sinners love those who love them back. As believers, we are to love everyone, no exceptions. We are to even love our enemies, who are trying to hurt or persecute us. Yet, sometimes, we even have trouble showing love to other believers in our church family. Why? Because none of us are perfect, we are all sinners. Each of us are struggling with various sins, some of which are more visible than others. We must seek to show love and help one another to grow in the Lord. Now, our church is not just a place for believers, we also encourage and invite unbelievers to join us, so they can hear the good news about Jesus. And we’re going to need some extra grace to love unbelievers, because they’re not going to act and talk like believers. God wants to help us to learn to love bother believers and unbelievers in our lives and church.

Today, we’ve looked at the story of the Good Samaritan to learn to love as Jesus does. We love by caring, going and giving. Remember it all begins with thinking about the needs of others, not just your own. Then ask God to help you care about that other person’s need. Care enough to go to them, engage them and see how you can help meet the need. Oftentimes, we may not even know another person’s need until we take the first step to get to know them. Then we can show our love by seeking to meet that need. Jesus said that his disciples would be known by their love. May our church family be known by our love, a love without exceptions.