Love the Greatest Christian Discipline

1 John 4:7-11

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love. In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. NKJV

Living the Christian life is a complex pattern of worship, obedience and self denial. But there is one main guiding light. Love is the greatest, Paul says. Love is the greatest because it will change everything else about you. From the nominal Christian to the most depraved individual, a proper love is what is lacking. Lack of love will make you a lousy husband, wife, child, or parent. Love of only one's self will make you miserable along with everyone else around you. But the lie of Satan is that you cannot be happy unless you have what it is you want out of life, even at the expense of all other relationships.

Our world is quickly becoming a world that is concerned only about love for self. 2 Tim 3:1-2 But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: 2 For men will be lovers of themselves NKJV We see it in the corporate executives at Enron. We see it in the politician who steals from everyone only to pad his own pockets. We see it in the child molester, the sexual deviant. But we also see it in the Christian who has allowed the logic of the world to bring him to the standard of a dog eat dog world.

But God has called us away from all of that. He has called us by His love, to know Him and His love for us. He has called us by His love to love one another as He has loved us. Then why is it so difficult. Why is it so hard for us to let go of our own desires for pleasure and to seek out the welfare of others.

It is so hard to get children to share. And as adults we think how silly it is. We know that children who horde everything for themselves will after all be the most miserable. And we try to tell them that if they share they will have more fun.

But then when it comes to us, we act just the opposite. We grab and cling to everything we can get our hands on. But we are not all that happier for it. Our problem is we love ourselves to the exclusion of others that God means for us to love.

This morning I want to help us, us. Help us to love more like Jesus would want. It is the key to everything. It is the key to good marriages. It is the key to good parenting. It is the key to church growth and health.

Now there will be a tendency on your part to think I am talking to someone else, your neighbor or the person across the room. But I am not. I am talking to you.

As we consider this subject today I want to look at a couple of things.

We need to know ourselves, and we need to know God.

  1. We need to know ourselves.
    1. We need to know that we are nat naturally lovers of others.
      1. From a child we look out for our own.
      2. We may have been a perfect child and never did anything bad to others, but neither did we joyfully sacrifice for others.
      3. When someone comes along who is willing to sacrifice all that are for others it is so grand that they write books about it or make movies about it.
      4. The greed and avarice that fills our world is a part of our sinful nature.
      5. The desire to have what we have coming to us and who cares about the other guy is the blackest cancerous sore on humanity.
      6. And let us not think for a minute that we are beyond all that.
    2. We came into this world with a bent toward satisfying only ourselves.
      1. The extreme of this is seen in the out right thief who would still from orphans and widows.
      2. But it is there in all of us.
      3. Now satisfying ourselves is not wrong until it is the main goal in life.
      4. When we are the center of our lives, God is not and we have surely set up an idol in the place of God.
    3. That even once we are a Christian we will struggle with loving ourselves vs sacrificing for the benefit of others.
      1. Throughout the Bible God warns His people of covetousness, an inordinate desire for more.
  2. We need to know God.
    1. We first need to understand God's love for us.
      1. From eternity He loved us in spite of our sin and our failings.
        1. Although He knew all about us with all of our sins, yet He set His love upon us and set out to redeems us and bring us to Himself.
        2. While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
      2. Although we were rebels against Him.
        1. We were all children of the devil.
        2. We were all sinners.
        3. Even today the thoughts of our hearts are filled with envy and pride.
        4. We promise God and then we do not deliver, we are failures in our own strength.
      3. But yet He loves us.
      4. He never gives up on us.
      5. Oh He does chasten when we go astray but He does not forsake us.
    2. The conclusion of God's love for us is Jesus' death on the cross.
      1. Beginning on the 25 of the month, the movie The Passion of Christ will be in the theaters.
      2. I do not believe I have ever asked this congregation to go to the movies, but I am this time.
      3. If you want to understand the depth of God's love for you go see what Jesus was willing to endure gladly for you.
      4. Heb 12:1-2 let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. NKJV
    3. Knowing God means God living through us, doing His will, rather than our own.
      1. When we really know God, we have eternal life.
        1. John 17:3 And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent. NKJV
      2. His life flows through us.
        1. Galatians 2:20 "I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. NKJ
        2. Living Bible Galatians 2:20 I have been crucified with Christ: and I myself no longer live, but Christ lives in me. And the real life I now have within this body is a result of my trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
      3. The life we live is the life of Christ.
        1. Eph 3:17-19 17 And I pray that Christ will be more and more at home in your hearts as you trust in him. May your roots go down deep into the soil of God's marvelous love. 18 And may you have the power to understand, as all God's people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love really is. 19 May you experience the love of Christ, though it is so great you will never fully understand it. Then you will be filled with the fullness of life and power that comes from God. NLT

Love is the greatest Christian Discipline. God commands us to love one another, to love our enemies. Yet we aren't bothered a great deal when we fail. Do we pray and ask God's forgiveness for the hatred in our hearts toward others. Do we chastize ourselves for the way we act and talk toward some people, you know what people I mean.

I pray that God would break our hearts, our stone hard hearts that we might have love and compassion on others.

You can read your Bibles everyday and that is good.

You can pray at meals and say our bedtime prayers, but until our hearts are broken by a world that is literally going to hell without Jesus Christ, we have not learned the discipline of His love.

God grant us a love that will force us from our comfort zone to a place where we can reach out with the love of Jesus to pull sinners from the filth of this world and see them reborn by the power of God's Spirit.

God grant us a love that will drive us to give up our time and our own pleasures in order to see people saved by the power of Jesus Christ.

God give us a love that conquers our fear of rejection and ridicule, a love which makes us more concerned about eternal souls than our own self and our egos.

A love that can step up beside a fellow believer and forgive them for all they have ever done to us. And God grant us a love that wipes the slate clean and keeps us from keeping score of our hurts.

God grant us a love that helps us each look out more for the welfare of the person across the room than for our own.

Philippians 2:4 Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.

Eph 3:17-19

And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge-that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. NIV 

 This message was preached at FBC Toulon,

by Albert Harmon. See it at http://toulonbaptist.com