A Reflection of Love
Does the way you love people look more like a reflection of the world or a reflection of Jesus?
Morning. David Sorn. Lead Pastor here at Renovation Church.
Happy Valentine’s Day!
You’re familiar with the original St. Valentine, correct?
He was the guy with the bow and arrow who flew around, right?
What do we actually know about the origins of Valentine’s Day?
Valentine’s Day…was originally a Christian Day of remembrance for two different men, both named Valentine, who were killed for their faith in Jesus.
Which we now celebrate accordingly by going out on dates and giving roses each other. J
You can’t solely blame hallmark for this either.
The British started getting out of control with their celebration of Valentine’s Day a couple hundred years ago…as they first started giving keys out to each other…symbolizing a key to my heart.
But then, factories were born…and valentines cards began to be mass produced…
Candy and chocolates were added, and the rest is history.
Kind of incredible, right?
Not all that different from many other holidays.
For example, 2,000 years ago Jesus resurrects from the the dead, and today, America celebrates his victory over death by eating hollow chocolate bunnies.
HOW THE WORLD LOVES
And what’s happening here…with Valentine’s Day?
Sure, the world, the culture, is taking something inherently Christian, and putting a secular, non-religious spin to it.
But they’re also writing a different version of love.
And one of the things I want to talk about this morning is that the world’s version of love is really different.
And how is it different exactly?
Valentine’s Day is a pretty good summary of worldly love.
Worldly love is heavily based in feeling.
When the world or the culture thinks about being in love…they tend to think of Nicholas Sparks
What the world thinks of love is more like “romance” than it is love.
Or even infatuation…rather than love.
It’s roses, and creative dates, and epic poems on valentine’s day cards.
It’s closer to what kids see…like you saw in the video.
But there were some good things in there, right?
Like being together forever…that’s great!
But love, real love, is much deeper than emotional love.
There comes a point when love HAS to go deeper than emotion.
Christian author Gary Thomas says that emotional love (or infatuation) is like an hourglass.
As soon as you start dating someone, flip the hourglass over.
And usually around 12-18 months into the relationship (it can be as long as 2 years), infatuation runs out.
And sure, in the first couple years of marriage, sometimes we get a few more doses of it.
It’s exciting to be together in marriage, and start your life together.
And you get a feelings kick again.
But, the statistics tells us that the divorce rate spikes in years 4-7 of marriage.
It’s because the “emotional love” hourglass has completely run out of sand by that point.
Many have added in kids, sleepless nights, blowout diapers, and suddenly when your kid has thrown up mac & cheese all over you, neither of you look all that attractive anymore.
And so you hear couples say all the time: “I just don’t FEEL in love anymore”
What does that mean?
I don’t feel the emotional part of love anymore.
I don’t feel that, you know, “Valentine’s Love” anymore.
We live in a world where love is defined by “what have you done for me lately?”
And if it’s been a rough year…or two years…and you don’t feel in love in your marriage, our culture says: “Well, then it’s time to move on”
HOW GOD LOVES
But what if love is deeper than that?
What if we could define it differently?
And find different examples than romantic comedies and the Bachelor?
And what really is the greatest example of love?
The greatest example of love is God.
(1 John 4:7) – NIV
Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.
And God shows us the greatest demonstration of love in sending his own Son…to die on the cross for our sins.
(1 John 3:16) – NIV
This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.
And think about this:
This is a love that looks nothing like our worldly love.
No part whatsoever of God’s love is based in the “what have you done for me lately” philosophy.
In a verse that we read hear so often, Paul writes:
(Romans 5:8) – NIV
But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
That is not “what have you done for me lately?”
That is not “Lately, you’ve been making me happy, so I’ll love you”
That’s, God sees someone like David Sorn’s life…and there he is as a teenager, mocking my followers… “I’ll sacrifice my own son’s life for him”
This is a revolutionary kind of love.
He loved us first.
And on top of that…he loves us still!
A year ago or so, I read the story of a 15-year old gang member named Rigo.
Rigo was getting ready for a special worship service for incarcerated youth when a chaplain (who recounted this story) casually asked if Rigo's father would be coming.
"No," Rigo said, "He's a heroin addict and never been in my life. Used to always beat me."
Rigo then recalled a moment from 4th grade:
He said, ‘One day, I got sent home in the middle of the day … . When I got home, my dad says, 'Why did they send you home?'
And cuz my dad always beat me, I said, 'If I tell you, promise you won't hit me?' He just said, 'I'm your father. Course I'm not gonna hit you.' So I told him."
Rigo began to cry, and in a moment he started wailing and rocking back and forth. The chaplain put his arm around him until he slowly calmed down. When Rigo could finally speak again, he spoke quietly, still in a state of shock: "He beat me with a pipe … with … a pipe."
After Rigo composed himself, the chaplain asked about his mom.
Rigo pointed to a small woman and said, "That's her over there … . There's no one like her."
Then Rigo paused and said, "I've been locked up for a year and half. She comes to see me every Sunday. You know how many buses she takes every Sunday [to see me]?"
Rigo started sobbing with the same ferocity as before. After catching his breath, he gasped through the sobs, "Seven buses. She takes … seven … buses. Imagine."
God…is like Rigo’s mother in the story…the world much like his father.
The world says, “If you’re failing me now…in our marriage, in our friendship…as my sibling…then I’m done with you”
God says, “No matter where you go…no matter what you do…I’ll love you”
We have a steadfast God…a God who takes seven buses…just to get to us…even when we’ve done our best to run away from Him.
It’s a love that will never leave us:
(Romans 8:38-39) – NIV
38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,[k] neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Isn’t that amazing?!
In fact, on your way out today, we’re going to give you a valentine (w/ a chocolate for fun)…but a valentine from God to you.
Take it...and put it somewhere…to remind yourself of his love for you.
Because his love is not only different from our American Valentine’s Love…it’s different from every other religion.
C.S. Lewis is a hero of mine…someone we quote often here.
And I recently read a story of him as recounted by the Christian author Philip Yancey.
During a British conference on comparative religions, experts from around the world debated what belief was unique to the Christian faith.
Was it God coming to earth?
No, other religions had different versions of where the gods could appear in human form?
Was it the resurrection?
Not completely anyway…because there were certainly stories of people coming back to life in other religions.
The debate went on for some time until C.S. Lewis wandered into the room.
"What's the rumpus about?" he asked, and heard in reply that his colleagues were discussing Christianity's unique contribution among world religions.
Lewis responded, "Oh, that's easy. It's grace." After some discussion, the experts had to agree.
Yancey concludes, “The notion of God's love coming to us free of charge, no strings attached, seems to go against every instinct of humanity.
It’s completely contrary to the Buddhist eight-fold path, the Hindu doctrine of Karma (what goes around comes around), the Jewish covenant, and the Muslim code of law—each of these offers a way to earn approval.
Only Christianity dares to make God's love unconditional.
HOW WE SHOULD LOVE
And this is powerful stuff, and it pray it hits your heart as you ponder what your God thinks of you.
But for today…my prayer is that it also influences your actions.
The love of Christ is uniquely different, and thus how we love as as Christians, should be uniquely different.
Our love…should look like his love.
We ought to reflect his love.
(John 13:34-35) – NIV
34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
This is how the world will know us.
By our love.
They will know that we are like Jesus…that we are different…when we reflect his love.
So, they’ll know…that when everyone says, “You just leave him…you should just leave her…get divorced. It hasn’t been working for years…”
And you say, “No. I won’t. I won’t give up. To me love is more than a feeling. It’s a commitment”
We get so wrapped up in the world’s definitions of love that we rarely even think about what we said in our wedding vows.
When we promise, “For better or worse, in sickness and in health, for richer or poorer…till death to us part”
You know what’s interesting about those classic vows?
They say nothing about us being loved back.
There’s no clause that says, “I’ll do all of this stuff for you…AS LONG AS…you love me too”
It just says, “I’ll do all this for you”
Because that’s what a reflection of Godly love is.
It’s commitment even if emotion has temporarily run dry.
And you might even be thinking, “Why would we do that? Stay committed like that in a marriage?”
Because that’s how he loved us.
There are times in my life where I haven’t given God any reason whatsoever to love me with me…and yet He continually does.
And because of THAT love, I come back to Him.
I want you to just ask yourself on this Valentine’s Day where has your love started to reflect the world…and not Jesus?
Maybe it is your marriage.
Maybe on your Valentine’s Day date tonight…maybe you just love your spouse by saying something like, “I’m sorry for creating a list of conditions. “
An “ I’ll love you more if you do the dishes list…or if you clean the garage list…or if you stop doing this list…then…based on those conditions…I’ll feel in love…or give love. ”
“I just love you”
Live this next year not waiting for them to love you first…
Just LOVE them. Because.
Reflect Jesus…who FIRST loved us.
And this isn’t just something that applies just to marriage
Let me go back to 1 John 3 again, but let’s broaden the context:
(1 John 3:16-18) – NIV
This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. 17 If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? 18 Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.
I love that last part.
As Christians, we can’t just talk about love…but people better SEE it in our actions.
If the love of Christ is uniquely different, how we love as Christians, should be uniquely different.
People ought to see us laying down our lives for other people.
Putting others first.
So think of the people many of you work with.
You have opportunities every week…to love them…show them grace…put them first.
And I bet you work with a whole bunch of people who don’t deserve your kindness and love….they haven’t earned it.
But it’s time we start reflecting our maker, and give it to them anyway.
Not just in words, but in actions like John says.
I’m not sure we have that good of grip anymore on how revolutionary Jesus’ love really is.
We hear stuff like this, and we say:
“Yeah, but you don’t know the person who sits next to my cubicle
Or you don’t know how my sibling betrayed our family.
Or how badly my parents messed up my childhood.
But again…that’s just a love that’s given only on “what have you done for me lately”
It’s earned love. Not grace.
The words of Jesus are almost too familiar to some of us…too familiar that we don’t hear just how challenging they really are:
The love of God looks so different from this world.
(Matthew 5:43-44) – NIV
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor[i] and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,
Can we do this?
Do we do this?
Do we reflect him in our love?
That doesn’t mean you blindly forget everything bad that ever happened to you…or pretend that it didn’t have consequences…but it means that we start to forgive
You start to let go
And admit, that they too, are human…just like you
And they too…are in need or love…just like you.
But most of us struggle with this.
We’re caught in in the momentary, “what have you done for me lately” Valentine’s sort of love.
But it’s time to go “ol school” on Valentine’s Day.
Back to the real historical Valentines.
The guys…who went way past their feelings of the moment.
The believers who went way past just putting themselves first
Those Valentine martyrs were willing to love and forgive the people who were killing them.
Willing to love and follow after their God…even it meant their death.
Because they were merely reflecting what He did for them.
And I wonder…do you all know that love?
Because maybe, as we were talking about God’s love this morning, you were thinking, “Sure, I guess I could have told you that God is loving, but I don’t personally know him like that”
Like, you wouldn’t say you have a relationship with God or anything.
And I want to tell you this morning, he’s been pursuing you your whole life…out of love…whether you’ve noticed it or not.
In fact, before you were even born, out of love for you, he gave his son’s life for you.
Why did he even have to do that for you?
Because if He doesn’t, He’s going to lose you forever.
We all sin.
And if we really think about it, God is Holy/Just, and so for our sin, there must be justice/punishment.
You and I will never be good enough to make it to heaven on our own.
There’s nothing in us deserving of an eternity in heaven next to a holy and perfect God.
We’re not perfect.
But God, in His love for you, sends His own son Jesus…to die on the cross for you.
To take our punishment. To take our place.
But it’s not a forgiveness that’s automatically granted to us.
The Bible says that we must believe in FAITH that Jesus Christ did this for us.
That we must turn over our lives to His.
Which is the greatest decision you can ever make.
Not just for your future eternal life, but for your life in the present.
And I want you to know that your whole life, God has been pursuing you…trying to show you his love.
Whether you’ve seen it yet or not.
Clovis Chappell, a great pastor from 100 years ago, once told a story of a young man who lived in Chicago in the early 1900’s.
The young man went down to the bluegrass regions of Kentucky where he met and fell in love with a young woman who he ultimately brought back to Chicago as his bride.
They enjoyed three lovely years of marriage, and then one day in the midst of a sickness in a seizure of pain the young woman lost her mind.
I mean when she was at her best she was a bit demented.
At her worst she would scream so loud that the neighbors complained because the screams cut the air
And so the young businessman left his home in the middle of Chicago, went out to one of the western suburbs, built a house, determined that there he would try to nurse his wife back to health and sanity again.
But it didn’t work.
One day the family physician suggested that perhaps if he were to take his wife back to her Kentucky home that something in those familiar surroundings would help her restore her sanity, and so they went back to the old homestead.
Hand in hand they walked through the old house where memories hung on every corner.
But after several days nothing seemed to happen.
So, defeated and discouraged, the young man put his wife back in the car, and they headed back to Chicago.
When they got close to the house he looked over and discovered that his wife was asleep.
It was the first deep, restful sleep she had had in many weeks.
When he got to the house he lifted her from the car, took her inside, placed her on the bed and realized she wanted to sleep some more.
So he placed a cover over her and then just sat by her side and watched her through the midnight hour, watched her until the first rays of the sun reached through the curtain and touched her face. The young woman awoke…finally well, and she saw her husband seated by her side.
She said, "I seem to have been on a long journey. Where have you been?"
And that man, speaking out of days and weeks and months of patient waiting and watching said, "My sweetheart, I've been right here waiting for you all this time."
God is like that young man…he’s been with you all this time…whether you’ve seen it or not.
And I believe he’s brought you to this very place on this very day.
And He’s right with you…waiting.
Waiting for you to respond to His love…with love back for Him.
The Bible says that you can be forgiven, you can start this relationship with Him through faith.
(Romans 10:9) – NIV
If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
And so this morning, I want to give you an opportunity to respond to that love.
In fact, let’s just have everyone bow their heads and close their eyes as I want this to be a special moment between you and God.
If you want to do this …in just a moment, if you’re ready to believe in Jesus Christ…to give your life to him for the first time…I’m actually going to ask you to respond by quietly standing up right where you are.
It’s a symbolic way to say to God, “Here I am. I know you’ve been leading me here. And I want to tell you that now, I believe.”
“If your love is that amazing, I want it in my life. I want to be forgiven”
NO ONE will be looking at you…no one (don’t even think about that!). This is about you and God.
This is just a way for you to symbolically say, “I believe. I’m putting my faith in Jesus.
“From this moment onward, to the best of my ability, I will be a follower of this amazing JESUS.
So wherever you are, all across this room right now.. If you’d like to become a follower of Christ, to enter into a relationship with Him, and accept his gift of forgiveness, I want you to stand up wherever you are.
If God is nudging your heart in this…that means He’s real. That means…it’s TIME. If you feel it in your pulse…in your heart…that’s God. Accept His forgiveness. Start a new life with Him. It’s amazing!
If you’re standing up, would you pray this prayer with me?
It’s not a magic prayer…but just a prayer to tell God where you’re at… the Bible says, we 1) believe in our hearts and 2) confess with our mouths.
So I want you to say it out loud with me. Repeat after me
IN fact, there are a lot of other believers already in the room, and this is what we believe.
So, let’s all say it together with these new believers.
Repeat after me
I confess to you, that I have sinned against you.
But God I believe, that you sent your Son Jesus, to take my place
And God I thank you, for forgiving my sins.
And now I commit, to following you, with my life.
(you can keep your eyes closed)
If you are standing, I need you to do one more thing for me.
It will only take 2 minutes, but it’s 2 of the most important minutes of your life.
In just a second, I’m going to pray, and right as I begin praying, I need you quietly sneak out of your row, and go to the back of the room
Our follow-up team is back there by the blue rectangle to give you some extremely important resources to get started on the most important journey in your life.
So head back there…it’ll only take 2 minutes…and you’ll be able to sneak back to your seat.
Let me pray (You can go back)
Copyright: David Sorn
Renovation Church in Blaine, MN
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