November 19, 2017
Norwalk First United Methodist Church
Transformed by Grace, Faith and Love
24th Sunday after Pentecost
Transformed by Love
1 John 4
Today is the last week of our stewardship emphasis “Transformed by Grace, Faith, and Love.” For this week, our focus is on stewards transformed by love.
Six-year-old Johnnie comes home from first grade, and he asks his mother, “Mom where do I come from?” His mother thought, oh dear, I wish his father was here to answer the question. She had hoped the question would not have come up for a few more years. After she had slowly and carefully explained the anatomy of males and females, she asked Johnny, “Why did you ask?” He said, “My friend Bobby came from Chicago, so I was wondering where I came from.”
There is also some misunderstanding when we talk about God’s love, so I would like to make three points that we need to understand about God’s love for us. But first, would you pray with me?
In our epistle lesson for today, we find our first point which is “love begins with God.” Verse seven of our scripture says, “Beloved, let us love one another for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.” By ourselves, we are incapable of loving. But many people consider love to have originated with themselves. If we were to love, it would be a very selfish and self-centered kind of love.
Christians know that God is the origin of love. God first loved us, and he enables us to share that love with others. God is not only the origin of love, but verse eight tells us that “God is love.” The very nature of God is love. Everything that God does and says originates from his love for us.
He created us in love, and, when we fell into sin, instead of giving up on us or destroying us, he set about to redeem us. He showed his love for us as he sent his Son to pay the sacrifice for sins. He sent his Son into the world to die on the Cross as the propitiation or appeasement for our sins. In verse ten, we see that propitiation means that he was the atoning sacrifice for our sins. A sacrifice had to be made for our sins. Jesus was the perfect lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world, and he does that so that we might live through him. Because of God’s love and forgiveness, we have eternal life in his name. So we see, “Love begins with God.”
The second major point is that “God’s love has a dramatic effect on us.” Verse seven says that we are born of God. Through Holy Baptism, we are born again of water and the Spirit and become children of God. Our old natural birth has been superseded by a new supernatural birth. We have been transformed or changed. We are no longer the same persons we once were because of that transformation.
We all know about the metamorphosis that takes place in a caterpillar as it become a butterfly. As great as the transformation is from a caterpillar to a butterfly, the transformation that occurs in our lives is much greater than that, because at one time we were lost, and now we are found. At one time, we were dead, and now we are made alive. At one time, we were enemies of God, and Scripture says that now we are considered his dear friends and dear children.
Not only are we born of God, we know God. We possess knowledge of God that unbelievers do not have. We do not just know about God intellectually, but we know God personally and intimately, because we are the recipients of his love as sons and daughters. At home, little boys and girls often call their father “daddy.” In much the same way, because of our intimate relationship with God, we can refer to our heavenly Father as “Daddy,” because we are his children.
And we also love others because God first loved us. This is one of the effects God’s love has on us. It enables us to love others as he first loved us. Our love for one another is in response to God’s infinite love for each and every one of us. When we show that same kind of selfless, sacrificial love toward others, we are witnessing to the love of God in Christ Jesus.
The Apostle John says it very well: “Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” You see, love that is of God is dynamic and explosive. It cannot be and just remain between God and me. Its presence in our lives is shown by the way that it reaches out to others. Love originates with God, and God’s love has a dramatic effect upon us.
Third, “Love becomes the distinguishing mark of Christ’s followers.” After Jesus had washed his disciples’ feet, as we read in the Gospel of John, Chapter 13, he tells his disciples: “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 have love for one another.” Unbelievers recognized Jesus’ disciples by their love. Believers gave evidence to being disciples by their love for one another. When the early church was just getting started, those outside the church would watch how people inside the church treated one another and they responded by saying, “My, how they love on another.”
You see, friends, they will truly know we are Christians by our love. Our standard for loving is Christ’s love for us. He loves us unconditionally without setting any limits. He loves us sacrificially. However, our love is not always like that because we put conditions on our love. Sometimes, we say, “I will love you if you do this, this, and this.” Or we say, I’ll love you until you do something that upsets me or bothers me that keeps me from loving.” No matter how much we love, we are under obligation to keep on loving. To love is one debt that is never paid off. St. Paul tells us in Romans 13:8, “Owe no one anything except to love each other.” You see, Jesus was a living example of God’s love so we are to be living examples of Jesus’ love.
Whenever we talk about love, we must remember that love is more than simple warm feelings. Love is an attitude that reveals itself in action. Love is really more a verb than a noun. Read the great love chapter in First Corinthians 13 sometime and see how Paul describes love. He says, “Love is patient, love does not envy or boast, it does not insist on its own way, it is not irritable or resentful.” Paul then says, “Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”
So as we think about love, love that originated from God, love that changes us and transforms us, we have to ask ourselves, “How can we love others as Jesus loves us? How can we prove that our love is real?” There are many ways, but I want to share five different ways today.
- One way we can show our love is by helping others when it is not convenient. It is easy to help others when it is convenient in our schedule. If we have to change our schedules, are we going to be willing to help?
- Another way to show our love is devoting our time and energy to another person’s welfare rather than our own. Time is precious that so often we don’t want to give up time that we reserve for ourselves. Sometimes we draw a line, thinking we’ve given up too much. God says he’s given us plenty of time to do what he calls us to do.
- We can prove that our love is real when we love those we don’t even like. Is there someone who gets under your skin or irritates you so much? Do you know anyone like that? Even if we don’t like someone, God expects us to love them.
- We can prove our love when we are hurt by others and we don’t seek revenge or fight back, but instead we forgive them. By nature, when we are hurt, we want to retaliate or seek revenge. The proof of our love is that we are forgiving. Because we are loved and forgiven by God, our response can be to be forgiving of people.
- We can prove our love by giving generously, cheerfully, and sacrificially. Giving until it hurts; that’s what sacrificial giving really is. This kind of giving is what proves the genuineness of our love. When St. Paul was writing to the Corinthians about the Macedonians who gave so generously to the Christians in Jerusalem, Paul said that you can “Prove by the earnestness of others that your love also is genuine.” The way they gave would prove their genuineness. You see, love changes our giving from an obligation to a privilege. We are not giving to a budget or giving to anything. We are giving from the heart and from what God has first given to us.
These thing that I’ve mentioned are not easy to do. People notice when we do them. Please know we are empowered by a supernatural power. Jesus was calling for something far greater than we can accomplish on our own. Only in Christ can we truly be stewards transformed by grace, faith, and love.
In a few moments, you are going to have the opportunity to give your financial commitments and pledges for next year. Perhaps some of you are not ready to make a financial commitment today. That’s okay. Maybe you want to take the commitment card home and talk and pray about it with your spouse. Please do so and remember this is also a commitment of our time, our commitment to being in worship services, Bible studies, and prayer.
Whether you are turning your commitment card in now or next week, I would like to pray because God wants us to be good stewards of all that he has entrusted to us. Let’s pray.
Almighty God, we know that you are the giver of all good gifts and all that we have comes from you. In fact, you are not only the giver of our gifts, you are the owner. You’ve entrusted to us our time, talents, and treasures. As we soon will be making a commitment to you, we pray that the commitments we make on this card will reflect the fact that we are stewards transformed by your grace, faith, and love. And we pray that our commitment will be pleasing to you and helpful for the growth and edification of your church in this place and throughout the world. We ask this in Jesus’ name. Amen.