Author: Gareth Russell Date: Sunday, May 18, 2014 Campus:

This week we continued our series on the culture of the church and focused on what it means to be loving. The transcript is below.

Who We Are: Loving
Grand Union Vineyard Church
7th September 2014

Love changes everything.
We were created in love.
We were created to love.

Love is who we are.
Love is why we exist.
Love is how God shows the world who He is.

You are loved.
And because you are loved, you can love.

You might tell me you don’t feel loved.
You don’t even love yourself. I get that. I understand that.

But let me tell you respectfully, thinking you are not loved is simply not true. It is a lie.

You might know no one here this morning.
You might feel you don’t have anyone in the world.
You might feel alone, unworthy, and unloved.

You are not. You are loved.

For God so loved you that He sent Jesus. Jesus was His only son, but despite that God sent Jesus to die for us. Our sin had a price. That price was death. Jesus died in our place.

And whoever believes in Jesus will not die, but be given eternal life.

That’s how much God loves you.

God died for you. Jesus went to Hell and back for you.

You are loved.

We cannot love others until we love ourselves.

Jesus says, “love others as you love yourself”.

If you don’t love yourself. You’re not going to have the capacity to love others.

Understand this, God loves you. You are loved. You are precious to Him.

Psalm 72:12-14

For he will deliver the needy who cry out,
the afflicted who have no one to help.
He will take pity on the weak and the needy
and save the needy from death.
He will rescue them from oppression and violence,
for precious is their blood in his sight.

You are precious to him. You are loved.
Feeling needy? He will provide for you.
Feeling weak? He will give you strength.
Feeling lost? He will guide you.
Feeling hopeless? He will give you hope.
Feeling unloved, unnoticed, unnecessary? God loves you.

Now go love.

The moment we recognise just how much God loves us, we are then motivated to do what He asked us to do.

Jesus said to his disciples, “if you love me, then you will obey my commands.”

Now this is not a case of brain washing so Jesus can get his own way. This is not God trying to create an army of robotic clones blindly doing things for Him on earth.

If Jesus commands were to kill, steal, or do meaningless tasks, there might be a problem.

But Jesus command is this – love God with all your heart, your mind, your soul and your body. And love others as you love yourself.

To love Jesus is to obey his commands. His command is to love. So to love Jesus is to love God and love others.

Our mission is love. Our purpose is love.

But as a preacher it can be difficult to communicate what love is and how good we are at it.

What is love?

We are saying that we want love to be woven within the cultural fabric of us as individuals and collectively as a church.

But what does that look like?

We we talk about love so much, how do we objectively assess if we love enough or if what we believe love to be is what God intended it to be?

The Bible says this in 1 Corinthians 13, I have added a few bits for context…

“If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere.

If I come to church on Sundays and do not love, if I serve on a team or if I give clothes to the MK Storehouse but do not love, if I get involved in the Big Weekend but do not love, if I say I love but do not love, I’ve gotten nowhere.

So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.

Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.
Love doesn’t strut,
Doesn’t have a swelled head,
Doesn’t force itself on others,
Isn’t always “me first,”
Doesn’t fly off the handle,
Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,
Doesn’t revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Puts up with anything,
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end.

Love never dies. Inspired speech will be over some day; praying in tongues will end; understanding will reach its limit. We know only a portion of the truth, and what we say about God is always incomplete. But when the Complete arrives, our incompletes will be cancelled.”

So, what is love?

Love it tenacious. It is strong. It keeps going.
You’ve hurt me. But I will choose to love you.
You’ve disowned me. I will choose to love you.

Peter disowned Jesus three times when Jesus was in his darkest moment. Jesus was being flogged. Mocked. Spat upon. Beaten.

Peter was asked if he was a friend of Jesus. In that moment, he said no. I’ve never heard of this man.

But Jesus chose to forgive. He chose to forget. He chose to love.

Albert Tomei is a justice of the New York State Supreme Court. A young defendant was convicted in Judge Tomei’s court of gunning down another person execution style. The murderer had a bad record, was no stranger to the system, and only stared in anger as the jury returned its guilty verdict.

The victim’s family had attended every day of the two-week trial. On the day of sentencing, the victim’s mother and grandmother addressed the court. When they spoke, neither addressed the jury. Both spoke directly to the murderer. They both forgave him.

“You broke the Golden Rule—loving God with all your heart, soul, and mind. You broke the law—loving your neighbour as yourself. I am your neighbour,” the older of the two women told him, “so you have my address. If you want to write, I’ll write you back. I sat in this trial for two weeks, and for the last sixteen months I tried to hate you. But you know what? I could not hate you. I feel sorry for you because you made a wrong choice.”

Judge Tomei writes: “For the first time since the trial began, the defendant’s eyes lost their laser force and appeared to surrender to a life force that only a mother can generate: nurturing, unconditional love. After the grandmother finished, I looked at the defendant. His head was hanging low. There was no more swagger, no more stare. The destructive and evil forces within him collapsed helplessly before this remarkable display of humaneness.”

Forgiveness breaks the bondage of bitterness.

Forgiveness release the opportunity to love.

If you need to forgive someone, give that some real thought today, because the longer you hold on to unforgiveness, the longer you miss the opportunity to love.
Love is selfless. It takes the focus from me to those around me.

I know we focus a lot on serving those around us. I believe it is what God has called us to do.

But some of you might be thinking, yes this is all great loving our community and serving our neighbours, but what about me? I need support. I need love.

That’s exactly right. And that’s the beauty of selflessness. If everyone in this church were to commit themselves to selfless love. Loving those around them in this place, then everyone would be loved. It is a self sustaining community of selflessness.

I believe it would give us a glimpse of what Heaven might look like.

Shane Claiborne, who spent a summer in the slums of Calcutta with Mother Teresa, wrote the following about one of his experiences there:

People often ask me what Mother Teresa was like. Sometimes it’s like they wonder if she glowed in the dark or had a halo. She was short, wrinkled, and precious, maybe even a little ornery—like a beautiful, wise old granny. But there is one thing I will never forget—her feet. Her feet were deformed. Each morning in Mass, I would stare at them. I wondered if she had contracted leprosy. But I wasn’t going to ask, of course. “Hey Mother, what’s wrong with your feet?”

One day a sister said to us, “Have you noticed her feet?” We nodded, curious. She said: “Her feet are deformed because we get just enough donated shoes for everyone, and Mother does not want anyone to get stuck with the worst pair, so she digs through and finds them. And years of doing that have deformed her feet.” Years of loving her neighbour as herself deformed her feet.

This is the kind of fasting that creates the divine longing for justice, where our feet become deformed by a love that places our neighbours above ourselves.

In worldly terms we look at these feet and think how disformed and ugly they are. But I am convinced that God looks at these feet and loves them. Why? Because they show the cost of love.

The decision to love cost something. It is uncomfortable, it means others benefited.

But it doesn’t have to be a big gesture.

I would love for us to continue to show love as a church by just showing that we are thinking of others.

We have had people in the church leave an apple crumble on our doorstep with a note of encouragement.

I cannot tell you how much this goes to making us feel we are loved.

Wouldn’t it be great if we were a church who were always looking to show small and sometimes random acts of kindness to those in the church and outside the church. Maybe buying a coffee, writing a card, baking a cake, or sending an encouraging text message.

Maybe you are in the drive through at McD’s and you say to the guy at the till, I’ll pay for the guy behind too.

It doesn’t have to cost something financially, it could just be a hug, a facebook message or an offer to help someone else with their gardening.

Jesus says in the book of Luke, “Do to others as you would have them do to you”. This has become a phrase of warning about behaviour rather than what it was intended to be, which is a release of love and joy and goodness.

I would love to open my front door and find a crumble or a stew or a reminder that someone has been thinking of me. So therefore, I should do it!

I love to receive an encouraging email or text message. So therefore I should do it!

I would love someone to help me with my garden, so I should offer to help someone else!

Encouragement and love are daily habits. The Bible says to encourage one another daily.

Are we?

Are we encouraging one another daily? Are we showing kindness daily?

We love because we were created to love.

We love because the more we love, the more we become like Jesus.

We love because, the more we love the deeper we go in our relationship with God.

This church should be a beacon of love.

A people dedicated to kindness. A people actively seeking opportunities to love. A people determined to trust God and overcome bitterness and unresolved hurt.

As a church, those who visit should sense this is a place of love. We are welcoming, but we go beyond that. We see you, we value you, but we also love you.

We will not put our own agenda before the agenda of those around us.

Every fourth Sunday, we don’t meet here as a church but go out into the community to love our city. This is an opportunity to love. It’s not us doing a favour to MK. It’s not just another programme from a church.

It is a commitment that we will love our city. Now, hear this.

The Big Weekend is not intended to limit our expression of love to one week in the month, this is a statement that we as a church prioritise loving those around us and our church schedule reflects that – however as a leadership team, our hope is that The Big Weekend would simply be a catalyst for relationships, opportunities and expressions of love to happen every day of every month.

Because God has not called us to a church programme. God has called us to a holistic life that shows love in every moment. God has called us to be people of love, not programmes of love. if we are people of love, we will see this in our every day.

It will shape our character. Our motives. Our words. Our thoughts. Our actions.

We will be known in our families, our communities, our workplaces, as people who choose love and choose to generously show love in the life of others.

Love trusts God always. Love always looks for the best. Love never looks back, but keeps going to the end. Let’s be a people of love.


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