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Sunday, July 24, 2016

"Love Is All We Need" - A Sermon Delivered to Christ Church Los Angeles

This is the manuscript of a sermon I preached at Christ Church, Los Angeles, CA on July 24, 2016. The sermon was taken from a bible study that I lead at The Church of Divine Guidance, Los Angeles on July 12, 2016. The Holy Spirit lead me to deliver this sermon to this very diversified congregation located in the Koreatown area of Los Angeles.

Love Your Enemies Too
The events of the past few months, in fact of the last few years, have really pointed out the divisions that exist between us here in this country and throughout  the world.  Divisions of race, gender, religion, politics, nation against nation, I could go on and on.  
In The Sermon on the Mount  which, is in chapters 5-7, of Matthew, Jesus said that we should agree with our advisory.

Matthew 5:25-26 (NKJV)25  Agree with your adversary quickly, while you are on the way with him, lest your adversary deliver you to the judge, the judge hand you over to the officer, and you be thrown into prison.26  Assuredly, I say to you, you will by no means get out of there till you have paid the last penny.

What Jesus is talking about was what to do in the event you have a dispute about property or money.  The adversary here was a creditor, who demands and insists upon payment.  Jesus said agree before you go to court because if you lose and can’t pay the judgement you could be put in prison until it was paid.   

Later in this same sermon Jesus said that not only should you agree with your adversary, but that you should also love your enemy.

Matthew 5:44 (NKJV)44  But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you,

He was even more specific than that at another time.    When was asked what the greatest commandment was;

Matthew 22:37-38 (NKJV)37  Jesus said to him, "'You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.'38  This is the first and great commandment.

Matthew 22:39 (NKJV)39  And the second is like it: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'

To make it plain He went on to describe, with a parable, exactly who that neighbor we are to love is.  In His parable that neighbor actually turns out to be an enemy.  We all know the parable of the Good Samaritan.  I’m not going to read it because we’re familiar with it.  If you want to read it it’s in Luke 10:30-36.  To summarize;

There was this Jewish guy who got beat up and robbed and was laying on the side of the road in bad shape.  A couple of Jewish men, in fact a couple of religious leaders, a priest and a Levite, passed by,  saw that he was in bad shape, looked at him, and even crossed to the other side of the road as to not come close to him.   Then a Samaritan came by.  Now if you look at the history of the Jews after their return from exile in Babylon, you’ll see that the Jews and Samaritans were mortal enemies.  It was a lot like the animosity today between Christians and Muslims, Jews and Muslims, or the feeling of some in our communities about the police or someone of a different race.   It was that way between Jews and Samaritans.    So this Samaritan, an enemy, somebody who was supposed to hate Jews, is the one who stopped to help, even to the extent of spending his own money to see that he was taken care of.  

What Jesus was saying through this parable is that we are to show love everybody, friends, enemies, everybody, no matter who they are.  
What does love have to do with solving the problems that we have here in this country and in the world?  I may be naive but, if we love each other then we can talk to each other, if we love each other we can admit that we all have problems, if we love each other we can agree to seek help to solve our problems.  But if we are going to sustain that kind of love,    we have to love like God loves.        

1 John 4:7-8 (NKJV)7  Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.8  He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.

That scripture tells us  that not only is love an attribute of God but love is what God is.   That scripture says that if we are born of God, and once you accept Jesus as your Savior and Lord, you are born of God, we should, like God…... actually be love.

It’s funny that we don’t talk a lot about love for each other until something bad happens.  There has been a lot of talk about love lately.  White folks, black folks, red folks, yellow folks, all loving each other no matter their color, gays and straights loving each other regardless of their sexual orientation, everybody loving law enforcement.  There have been prayers about love, speeches about love, blogs about love, editorials about love.  Love, love, love.  Like the song written by Paul McCartney and John Lennon, everybody is saying, “All You Need Is Love”.
Love is a wonderful thing and if  we all really start to love each other there will be big changes, not only here in America, but throughout the world.  But it is going to take more than just talking about it. It’s going to take the kind of love that Jesus taught when He walked the earth.  It’s going to take the kind of love that God has for us to make the kinds of changes in us that will heal all these divisions between us.
Yes, love is really all we need, but that means that many of us are going to have to open ourselves up to what it really means to love like God loves.  His love is unconditional.   The fact that you are a human being is all that’s needed for God to show His love for you.  He did that in sending His son to die for you.  There are no conditions on that love.That’s the kind of love that we need before we can begin to solve the problems between us.

The Greek word that was translated love in the New Testament is agape. Agape is not the natural kind of love that we have for a friend, or relative, or spouse.   It is the kind of love that God has for us, the kind of love we don’t deserve and can never earn.
That is the kind of love that caused Him to give His Son for our salvation and to give us eternal life when we were sinners and His enemies;
Romans 5:8-10 (NKJV)8  But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.9  Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him.10  For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.  
Agape is the kind of love that  Jesus showed as He offered Himself as the sacrifice for the sins of all mankind.  The scripture that I just read said that it was through the death of God’s Son that we are reconciled.  Jesus loved us so much that He gave His life for us while we were enemies.  That’s real love and the kind of love that we should have for each other and our enemies.   
John 15:12-13 (NKJV)12  This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.13  Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one's life for his friends.
1 John 3:16 (NKJV)16  By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.
That doesn’t mean that we always agree with each other  but it does mean that we should love each other enough to talk.  That’s what you do when you agree with your adversary quickly.  You have to talk to each other in order to start to agree.  
The psychiatrist R. D. Laing says that "we are effectively destroying ourselves by violence masquerading as love."
The most abused phrase in the English language may be "I love you."   Instead of communicating unselfish caring, it often expresses enlightened self-interest, manipulative affection or sheer lust.
So what does agape, the God kind of love, look like.  Let’s go to;  
1 Corinthians 13:4-8 (NKJV)4  Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up;5  does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil;6  does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth;7  bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.8  Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away.
This description of love was part of a letter that Paul wrote to the church at Corinth.  He was writing to Christians not unbelievers.  The Corinthian church had problems  There were those who thought they were more important than others, there were those who were following one leader versus another leader and taking sides, there were wealthy people there that were taking advantage of the poor, the church was divided on many issues. Sound kind of like the world today doesn’t it ?  
The first part of verse 4 tells us what love is like.  It’s patient and kind. That’s the attitude that God has toward us.  
Romans 2:4 (NKJV)4  Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance?
2 Peter 3:9 (NKJV)9  The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.
That’s the way we should be with each other and with our enemies.  Be patient make your point, state your case and then wait.  Give God a chance to work on your enemy, and on you.
The rest of verse 4 through verse 7 tells us what people with agape, the God kind of love, do not do.  
1 Corinthians 13:4b-7 (NKJV)4  love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up;5  does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil;6  does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth;7  bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
  • People with agape don’t envy others they are not jealous.  The kind of jealousy I’m talking about is the destructive kind.  The kind that is suspicious of someone or their achievements and advantages.

  • People with agape are not boastful.  People boast to make others notice them.  It’s not possible to be boastful and love at the same time.  Remember the Pharisee that Jesus talked about in Luke 18:9-14, who in his prayer thanked God that he wasn’t like other people especially  the tax collector who was also praying at the same time.  It was the tax collector, who was humble, who went home justified not the boastful Pharisee.  

Luke 18:9-14 (NKJV)9  Also He spoke this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others:10  "Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.11  The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, 'God, I thank You that I am not like other men--extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector.12  I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.'13  And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, 'God, be merciful to me a sinner!'14  I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted."
  • People with agape are not puffed up or proud.  A proud person thinks too much about his own importance. A person with agape is humble.

Proverbs 3:34 (NKJV)34  Surely He scorns the scornful, But gives grace to the humble.
Romans 12:3 (NKJV)3  For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith.
The point here is that you are saved through God’s grace not because of anything you did or because of who you are.  
  • People with agape don’t behave rudely or badly or act inappropriately. That means more than just being polite.  It means to think about others above yourself.  

  • People with agape don’t seek their own first.  They don’t look out for their own interest before considering others.

1 Corinthians 10:24 (NKJV)24  Let no one seek his own, but each one the other's well-being.
Philippians 2:3 (NKJV)3  Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself.  

  • People with agape are not easily provoked.  They do not easily become angry. Paul started this description by saying that love is patient.  One kind of patience is to be able to keep calm when other people are angry. Agape doesn’t answer insults with anger.  It’s alright to be angry at times but love is patient even in anger.  

Ephesians 4:26-27 (NKJV)26  "Be angry, and do not sin": do not let the sun go down on your wrath,27  nor give place to the devil.

  • People with agape don’t take pleasure in evil things, they don’t rejoice in iniquity, the fact that someone has fallen into sin, has made a mistake, and is now suffering the consequences.  

Proverbs 24:17 (NKJV)17  Do not rejoice when your enemy falls, And do not let your heart be glad when he stumbles;

It is a sad fact that people like to hear about the failures of other people. Newspapers, television and radio often encourage an interest in other people’s sins. A loving Christian doesn’t try to find fault in other people.

  • People with agape don’t keep a record of how people have hurt them. God in Christ does not keep a record of our sins once we’re saved so if we have agape we shouldn’t keep  remembering an action or insult against us.  

Matthew 6:14 (NKJV) "For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.  

Ephesians 4:32 (NKJV)32  And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God in Christ forgave you.  

Some people say, ‘I will forgive but I will not forget.’ This statement means that the person has not really forgiven.  If we are honest we have to admit that we really never forget what happened, and we should learn from it, but to truly forgive, we should treat the person as though what happened never happened.  Now we can’t do that on our own but I’ll tell you how you can do in a couple of  minutes.   

This kind of love I’ve been talking about is permanent.  
1 Corinthians 13:8-13 (NKJV)8  Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away.9  For we know in part and we prophesy in part.10  But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away.11  When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things.12  For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known.13  And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
There are three things that are essential in the life of a Christian, and really all people, they are faith, hope and love.  Faith that God will forgive us because of Jesus’ sacrifice, hope for the future because of Jesus’ resurrection and His love.  When Jesus returns on the clouds with a shout there will be no more reason for faith or hope but love will last through eternity because God Himself is love.  
Everything that I’ve said about agape sounds great doesn’t it,  and if everybody had that kind of love there would be no problems in the world.  However the presence of sin in the world prevents us from having agape all the time.  Sin is really rebellion against the authority of God as the Creator of all things.  He told Adam and Eve that there was only one thing they couldn’t do and that was to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil they disobeyed, and rebelled and sin entered the world that God created.  Since all mankind inherited that sin nature it became impossible for sinful man to have agape for everybody, even though Jesus told us to have it.  He said we must love not only our Christian brothers and sisters but our enemies too.

John 13:35 (NKJV)35  By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another."

Matthew 5:44 (NKJV)44  But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you,

The only way that we can obey the commandment to love everybody, to have agape, no matter who they are is through the Holy Spirit who lives in us.  

John 14:26 (NKJV)26  But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you.

Galatians 5:22-23 (NKJV)22  But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,23  gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.

We have seen some glimpses of this kind of love.  We always see it in the aftermath of tragedies.  The response of people to the need after natural disasters like earthquakes, tornadoes, floods, typhoons, etc,. Police officers risking their lives for people different from them, white officers trying to save blacks, Latinos, and Asians, black officers trying to save white, Latinos and Asians, and Asian officers doing the same.  Straight cops risking their lives for gay folk, and gay cops risking their lives for straight folk.  I could go on and on.  So we  see what can happen if we all do what Jesus taught:

Matthew 7:12 (NKJV)12  Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.

Let’s start looking at these tragic events as opportunity.  I like to think of them as God working them for good, so that they are used for His purpose for us.

Romans 8:28-29 (NKJV)28  And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.29  For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.

God’s purpose for us to conform us to the image of His Son Jesus,  who is the embodiment of LOVE.

What matters to God is our love for Him and our love for each other. Wealth, power and status count for nothing in the kingdom of God. When we truly love our neighbors, we do our part to make the world a better place, and we find our own fulfillment in life.

Scripture tells us to love one another, bear our brothers' burdens, and confess our sins to fellow believers.

John 13:34 (NKJV)  A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another.
Galatians 6:2 (NKJV)  Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.

James 5:16 (NKJV)  Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.

Rev Tony Evans of Oak Cliff Bible Church, a very large church in Dallas, said in his sermon on July 17th; “God is not calling any of us to give up how he made us. He is not expecting us to use how He made us to relate inappropriately to people he has made different than us. God is not asking you to be anything other than what he’s made you, as long as you submit to how he has made you, to how you relate to other people who he has made different than you…”

The scriptures that I read today were written for and to Christians.  In other words, we're to give ourselves away to others and receive from them in return. That's how church members can stimulate one another to Christlikeness and when others see our love for each other and for them it’s an opportunity for the Holy Spirit to show them through us how much God loves them and wants to save them.  

These times are an opportunity for us to let our lights shine.  To take our lamps from under the bushel, to be that lighthouse to show the world what agape is and lead them to Christ.

If you're here today and want to experience the agape that God has for you it's simple.  All you have to do is to accept the work that Jesus has already done on your behalf paying the price for all your sins.  Here’s what the Bible says;

Romans 10:8-10 (NKJV)8  But what does it say? "The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart" (that is, the word of faith which we preach):9  that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.10  For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.

Is there anyone here today that has not accepted Jesus as your Savior come now.

Let’s pray.

Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost.  Romans 15:13