In John, chapter thirteen the part that I wanted to focus on is at the beginning there in verse thirty-four, where the Bible reads, "A new commandment I give unto you that you love one another. As I have loved you, that you, also, love one another. By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, if you have love one to another." That what I want to preach about this morning is loving one another. What does that mean? What exactly does that mean when we put that into practice in our lives? What does that look like when we love one another?
If you want to flip over to John, chapter fifteen. I want to show you, first of all, that when we love one another, that means that we're putting other people before ourselves. If I love somebody, that means I'm going to put them first before myself.
It says in John 15:12, "This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love hath no man than this that a man lay down his life for his friends." You're my friends if you do whatever I command you.
In this verse, Jesus Christ is saying that our love for others, our love for the brethren, for our brothers and sisters in Christ, should be similar to his love for us, and he said, "Greater love hath no man than this, and that a man lay down his life for his friend." Now, that is the ultimate sacrifice of yourself, because you're just completely destroying yourself for the benefit of someone else. Jesus Christ said, "This is my body, which is broken for you." Love is best exemplified by Jesus Christ dying for us, because it was the ultimate selfless act of Him dying so that we might live.
Flip over to John, chapter three. John, chapter number three, verse twenty-nine. While you're turning there, I'll read for you from Philippians 2. The Bible reads in Philippians 2:2, "Fulfill ye my joy that ye be like minded, having the same love." Being of one accord, of one mind. "Let nothing be done through strife or vain glory. But in lowliness of mind, let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man, also, on the things of others. Let this mind be in you, which was, also, in Christ Jesus, who being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God, but made himself of no reputation and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men."
Here, when it says that we have the same love as Christ, it says we're not looking on our own things. We're looking on the things of others. We've become a servant. It's unselfishness. That's what it means to love someone biblically.
Look at John 3:29. It says, "He that hath the bride is the bridegroom, but the friend of the bridegroom, which standeth and heareth him, rejoiceth greatly because of the bridegroom's voice. This my joy, therefore, is fulfilled. He must increase, but I must decrease." Love finds joy in other people's happiness, in other's people success. It puts other people first and gives them priority.
Romans 12:10 says this, "Be kindly affectionated, one to another, with brotherly love, in honor, preferring one another," meaning putting others first is what it means to have love.
What would a loving church be? A loving church is where people care about the other people in the church, not just care about themselves. You've known some people probably that are very self-absorbed. They're just always wrapped up in themselves. They're not really interested in what's going on in other people's lives. They're not really interested in what they can do to help other people. It's more just about what they can get for themselves. Usually that's money. Usually that's just coveting possessions and things. People who are very materialistic are very selfish people.
When you think about a loving church, a church that loves people, one of the main things I would think of is soul winning. If you think about it, soul winning is a selfless act, because when you go out soul winning, there's really nothing in it for you. It's about other people. It's about the people that you're giving the gospel to. As a church, when we invest a lot of our time, and energy, and effort into soul winning, that is an unselfish thing to do, because of the fact that, frankly, soul winning does not build the church.
If you look around our church, there are people who've come through soul winning, and soul winning does bring people in to the church, but if you look at the amount of hours put into it, and if you think about it in that regard, you think about just thousands and thousands and thousands of man hours put into it, knocking doors, giving the gospel, inviting literally hundreds of thousands of people to our church, for the amount of effort that you put into it, you get very little out of it as a church financially, or just numerically, but that is the reason why we're going to keep on doing it, because it's not about what we can get, or what we can receive. It's about what we can give. It's more blessed to give than to receive, and a church that has love, a church member that has love, isn't just thinking, "Well, okay, if we do soul winning, what's going to be the return on our investment?" No. It's about loving the people out there that are not saved, that need to hear the gospel, and getting saved. It's not about us.
You say, "How does soul winning help our church?" No. How does our church help other people who are not saved to hear the gospel? That's what we ought to ask ourselves, and I'll tell you why soul winning is going by the wayside today. In America, amongst Baptists, there are few churches anymore that knock doors and do a lot of real soul winning, and I'll tell you exactly why. It's because they don't have the right love. They've lost their first love, and that's why they've left the first works. The first works being the main works that Jesus gave us to do when he left this earth, when he said, "Go ye therefore into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature," and they've gotten away from that, because of self-love. They just love themselves, and they love their church, and they don't love the lost. That's the problem.
What happens is churches will look at soul winning as just a way to grow the church, and then if it's not working, they're just going to move onto something else, whether that's a mailer or a flyer, or they'll just say, "Well, let's just go out and invite a lot of people, and hand out really nice advertisements, and we can bring in the most people that way, and really grow our church."
No. Let's get people saved for their sake, and if they never come to our church, and if they never say thank you, and if they never darken the door of this building, we will see them in heaven, because salvation is through faith in Christ alone. An unselfish church, a loving church says we'll drive thirty, forty minutes away and knock on all those doors. We know those people are never going to make that trip. It's too far. We'll go to the ghetto, where people probably don't have a ride. They might not have the character to get themselves to church, but we're doing it for them. It's not for us. It's for them, and it's for the Lord Jesus Christ. It's not for us.
That's how you can tell an unselfish church, one that's doing the soul winning, because a church that's not doing any soul winning, it's probably just selfishness, because there's not a lot in it for you when you go out soul winning. You don't really get anything in return, but you're laying up treasure in heaven, and the Lord Jesus Christ is glorified, but, most importantly, people are being saved.
It should grieve you in your heart to think about the lost people that are on their way to hell. That should grieve you, and that should cause you to be motivated to giving the gospel, to bringing the good news of salvation through Jesus Christ.
Number one, love is exemplified by putting other people before yourself. If you're a child and at meal times you just always want to just shove everybody out of the way, and make sure you get the best piece, and nobody else ... You know what? That shows that you're being selfish. You always want to get the best toys. You need to start as a child now developing love in your heart, where you look at other people and it makes you happy when they get what they want, and it makes you happy when they achieve something, not just what you can do for yourself. Number one, love is putting other people before yourself and being unselfish, caring about other people, and worrying about what's good for them, not just always what's best for yourself.
Number two, go to Second John, verse five. Second John, verse five. A lot of scriptures about loving one another are found in books of John and First and Second John. Those are probably the three main books that deal with this subject.
Look at Second John, verse five. The Bible reads, "And now I beseech thee, lady, not as though I wrote a new commandment unto thee, but that which we had from the beginning that we love one another," and this is love, that we walk after His commandments. "This is the commandment that as ye have heard from the beginning, ye should walk in it."
Not only is love defined as self-sacrifice, and being unselfish, giving of your time, giving of your energy, giving of your resources for someone else, instead of just caring about yourself alone. Love is, also, defined in the Bible as the keeping of God's commandments. That's how we can best act out our love. It says here, "This is love, that we walk after his commandments."
Flip back one page in your Bible to First John 5. First John, chapter five, probably just one page to the left. It says in verse one, "Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ, is born of God, and everyone that loveth him that begat, loveth him also that is begotten of him." Now, who is he that begat? That's God, and him that is begotten of him are brothers and sisters in Christ, because the Bible says that we, as believers, have been begotten again unto a lively hope. The Bible says of his own will, begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a first fruits of his creatures.
He says if you love God, if you love him that begat, you will love him, also, that is begotten of him. That's your brother or sister in Christ. That's proven in the next verse when it says, "By this we know that we love," who? The children of God when we love God and keep his commandments. "For this is the love of God that we keep his commandments, and his commandments are not grievous."
Flip back to First John, chapter four, right there. It might even be on the same page. Look at verse twenty. It says, "If a man say I love God and hateth his brother, he is a liar, for he that loveth not his brother whom it hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen, and this commandment have we from him that he who loveth God love his brother, also." Here, the Bible is saying, not only should we love God, but we should, also, love our brothers and sisters in Christ, and the Bible says that if we say that we love God and we don't love our brothers and sisters in Christ, we're lying.
Our love for God can be measured by how much we love our brothers and sisters in Christ. How much we love the children. The Bible says, "By this we know that we love the children of God. When we love God and keep his commandments." Jesus said, "If you love me, keep my commandments." The Bible says love one another, and this is love that we walk after his commandments.
About three or four times, God really drives in the point that loving our neighbor, loving our brother, loving God, all of these things are done when we love God and keep his commandments. Keeping the commandments is part of loving the brethren.
Look at Romans 13, and let me show you why that is, because you say, "Well, what does keeping God's commandments have to do with loving one another in the local church, or loving the members of my family, or loving fellow Christians? What does that have to do with keeping God's commandments?"
The Bible says in Romans 13, verse eight, "Owe no man anything but to love one another, for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law. For this, thou shalt not command adultery, thou shalt not kill, thou shalt not steal, thou shalt not bear false witness, thou shalt not covet, and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. Love worketh no ill to his neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfilling of the law."
Part of me loving you is me being unselfish and putting you first, and wanting what's best for you, and not just wanting what's best for myself, but doing things that are going to benefit you, even if it hurts me. That's first of all, but, second of all, if I love you, I'm not going to do any ill to you. Part of love is not harming you, and the Bible says, "Love worketh no ill to his neighbor. Therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law." That's why the Bible says that we should love one another, and this is love, that we keep God's commandments. Why? Because if we keep God's commandments, we're not harming one another, but if we break God's commandments, that is harmful to each other.
There are many ways that me breaking God's commandments could be harmful to you. Number one, if I'm stealing from you, obviously that harms you. If I'm actually directing my crimes toward you, if I kill you or someone you love, or if I steal from you, or if I commit adultery, that's harmful to my wife. That's harmful to whoever I'm committing adultery with. All of these sins that the Bible lists in the Ten Commandments, and if there be any other commandment, they usually involve some victim. If I'm lying to you, that means I don't love. The Bible says, "A lying tongue hateth those who are afflicted by it." The Bible says that we should speak the truth in love.
Part of love is just keeping God's commandments in the sense that I'm not going to do any harm or ill to you, but, not only that, when I break God's commandments, I could, also, be indirectly harming you by setting a bad example. Even if I commit a sin that doesn't have anything to do with you, and a lot of people will justify sin and say, "Well, I'm not really hurting anybody. This isn't really a sin that hurts someone, like stealing, or killing, or committing adultery. This is not anything that hurts anybody else. It's my life," but, yet, you are hurting others, because you're setting a bad example many times, and you're, also, incurring God's wrath, and that can harm the people around you.
When you look at people in the Bible who fell into sin, they always harmed people around them. We could just go down the list of any example you want of a sin that was committed in the Bible, someone else was always harmed by it. For example, you look at Lot. What was Lot's sin? He coveted the well water plain of Sodom, and his whole family ends up getting messed up, because he moves his family into Sodom, and they get all exposed to all the garbage in there.
You look at somebody like David. He commits adultery with Bathsheba. Well, he definitely harmed Uriah, but not only that, he, also, harmed Bathsheba, but, not only that, the Bible says that he gave occasion to the enemies of the Lord, [inaudible 00:15:09], and, in reality, he ended up hurting the whole nation, because the whole nation started going down a different path, and the kingdom of God ended up being taken away from his son, Solomon's descendants, and just all kinds of bad things were set in motion. A lot of battles were set in motion, where people died and lost their lives as a result of David's sin, because remember David's sin is part of why the whole Absalom and Amnon ... It's just all the bad things that came from that and snowballed out from that show you that when we commit sin, we're harming people.
If we want to be a person who can truly say that we love God, and we love the members of our church, we love our brothers and sisters in Christ, we love the brotherhood, we would say, number one, I'm going to be unselfish. I'm going to think about other people and care about them, but, number two, I'm going to live as godly and righteous, and as holy of a life as I can, because that is going to benefit everyone around me. The more godly I am, the more righteous I am, the less sin I have in my life, the better off the whole church is going to be, because I can be that good example, and I can be a person who is filled with the spirit, that can be a blessing to the people around me, and not be harmful or a curse unto them.
If you love your wife, you're not going to commit adultery. If you love your husband, you're not going to commit adultery, and, by the way, that, also, includes committing adultery in your heart, because the Bible says, "Whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her, has committed adultery already with her in his heart." If you love your wife, you're going to say, "I'm not going to look upon and lust after another woman in my heart."
That's a major temptation today amongst men, because of the fact that our society has become so promiscuous and so suggestive, that literally you go through your day, and almost can't get through the day without seeing a lot of scantily clad women, just because our society has gone that route. That makes it harder for people to obey this commandment when it's just being shoved down your throat on every billboard, every magazine rack, every advertisement, and even just walking down the street or just at a store, woman are provocatively dressed, and if that's you that dressed that way, shame on you. You need to stop flaunting your body. If it's not for sale, then take down the for sale sign, and you need to be a woman who dresses with dignity and modesty, like the Bible commands you to.
As a man, if you're married and this is something that you struggle with, and you see women that are scantily clad, you know what you should immediately do? Whenever I see something that is inappropriate like that, I just think about how much I love my wife, and I think about how beautiful my wife is, and how happy I am to be married to her, and then that just instantly just ... I'm not worried about that anymore.
I'm telling you, you need to understand that love involves keeping God's commandments, and worldly, ungodly people, they're married, and they look at other women. Even though they're married, they lust after other women in their heart, and you know what I say? I say they don't love their wife like they should, and they can sit there and make all the excuses, "Oh, I'm just looking. Oh, just because I've ordered doesn't mean I can't look at the menu." Hey, idiot, every restaurant I've ever been to, they take the menu away from you when you're done ordering. You say, "Can I take that please," and they take the menu away.
This macho thing of "Oh, I'm just looking," no. You need to love your wife in your heart, and you need to stop looking around and committing adultery in your heart, because that is a lack of love right there. Love is when you keep God's commandments, and God has commanded us to keep a pure mind and a pure heart, and to keep ourselves only unto her so long as we both shall live.
Listen. It goes for the ladies, too. There are ladies who could covet another husband. Maybe he has a better job, or maybe he is just more macho, or whatever. But you need to love your husband, and you need to be content with your husband, and love him, and not be covetous of someone else in your heart.
Love is when we keep God's commandments. Love is when we're unselfish, but, not only that, turn if you would to First John, chapter three. First John, chapter three. While you're turning there, I'll read for you Galatians 5:14. It pretty much says the same thing. It says, "For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this, thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself." The whole law is fulfilled in that one word.
John 15:9 says this ... You're turning to First John 3. "As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you. Continue ye in my love. If you keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love. Even as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in His love, these things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full." Again, reiterating that keeping God's commandments is part of love.
You can say, "Oh, yeah, I love so and so," as you lie to them, as you rip them off. You say you love your wife, you love your husband, but you're not being faithful to them. It's a lie. You're lying. The more righteous, and godly, and pure you are, the more love you have.
By the way, in Matthew 24, it says, "Because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold." Did you get that? The more sin, the more iniquity, the more transgressions of God's laws in your life, the more your love is going to wax cold, and you're not going to love like you should.
Not only that, look at First John 3:16. It says, "Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren, but, who so have this world's good, and see his brother have need, and shuteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him? My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue, but in deed and in truth."
Number one, not only is love unselfishness, number two, not only does it involve keeping God's commandments, but, number three, it involves helping those that are in need. This ties in with being unselfish, and taking an interest in the lives of other people, caring about what's going on in the lives of other people, and wanting to do something to help them when they're in need. The Bible says that if we see our brother have need, and shut up our bowels of compassion from him, how can the love of God dwell in us? If we look at people that are struggling, and suffering, and need something, and we have what they need, and we don't give it to them, we don't love them. That's what the Bible says. You might have a fond feeling in your heart, but you don't love them unless you're willing to love in deed, not just in word.
This reminds me of what John the Baptist preached when he said, "Let him that have two coats, impart to him that have none." You have one person that has no coat. They're freezing. They're cold. Somebody else has two. Maybe even a whole closet full of coats that they're not even using. Somebody else is going cold. The Bible says that when we see our brother or sister in Christ have need, we shouldn't just say, "Depart in peace. Be ye warmed and filled," we should give them those things that are needful to the body. We should help them get food, or clothes, or whatever they need. Other people might have other types of needs in the church. We should pay attention to that, and try to help people that are in need, and care about other people, and think about other people, not to just be so focused on ourselves all the time.
By the way, when you're focused on yourself, you end up living a miserable life in many ways. There's not a lot of joy in a life that's self-absorbed. You look at people that are really selfish, really covetous people, and they're not living a happy life, because it's more blessed to give than to receive. A lot of times when we're going through the hardest times ourselves, when we're suffering the most, that's when we become selfish, because we're suffering, and we have a lot of bad things going on, so we just don't care about what's going on in anybody else's life. "You don't know what I'm going through," and then we turn inward, and start just caring about ourselves a lot, and then what happens? We get more miserable.
When you're going through a bad time, when life is not going your way, one of the best things that you could do is start thinking about other people, because if your situation's depressing, you can start thinking about other people, and you can get a lot of joy out of helping someone else succeed. Maybe you're failing to help someone else succeed. You can help someone else be blessed, and so when we're going through bad times is one of the most important times to make sure that we're still paying attention to other people's needs, or how we could help other people, and that could even help us to have more joy in our lives through some of the dark days and the trials.
Galatians 4:13, you don't have to turn there. Turn if you would to Second Corinthians 8. Go to Second Corinthians 8. I'll read for you from Galatians 5:13. It says, "For brethren, ye have been called onto liberty. Only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love, serve one another." First of all, he said that we should love in deed and in truth. We should love by helping our brother that has need, and giving unto our brother that has need. Greater love hath no man than this, than a man lay down his life for his friends. Thanks be to God for His unspeakable gift.
Then in Galatians 5:13, he said that by love we should serve one another. Again, helping people in need. That's what love is. Not just talk, not just feeling, but in deed and in truth. When we actually reach into our wallet or just take of our time or our energy, and just help somebody out that needs help.
Second Corinthians 8, verse one, says this: "Moreover, brethren we do you we do you to wit of the grace of God, bestowed on the churches of Macedonia, have been in a great trial of affection, the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded unto the riches of their liberality." This is exactly what I was just talking about. They're going through a bad time. Do you see verse two there? It says how that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded unto the riches of their liberality. That's a big, complicated sentence, but if we look at that sentence, what he's basically saying is that these people are going through trials. They're going through tribulation. Affliction and tribulation are used interchangeably in the Bible. They're going through very difficult times, and they're in deep poverty. They're going through trials. They're struggling. They don't have a lot, because they're in deep poverty, but, yet, they have joy.
How do they have joy as they're going through affliction, as they're going through tribulation, as they're living in deep poverty? Where is the joy coming from? Because they, also, have an abundance of liberality. Liberality means that you're giving. You're very free with what you have.
The word liberal comes from ... If you look at the first few syllables of that, what does it remind you of? Liberty. Right? Someone who is liberal is someone who is very free with what they have. It means that they give things away. They're very generous. When we see the word liberal in the Bible, it actually means today what we would call generous. The Bible says the liberal soul shall be made fat, because the Bible says give and it shall be given unto you, so the liberal soul shall be made fat. You give out a lot, you're going to receive a lot, because whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he, also, reap.
But, today, unfortunately, people are called liberals just when they just hate God, or when they just want to steal from everybody and turn it into a communist regime. That's liberalism. There is something liberal about the godless politicians in our country, who want to turn our country into some kind of a communistic, atheistic, socialistic, whatever you want to call it, utopia. That's not liberal. That's not biblical liberalism. I want to be liberal according to the Bible's definition. I want to be somebody who is not really just tightfisted and hanging onto everything I've got. I want to be somebody who is liberal, who is giving and generous.
But, see, today's so called liberal, he's really good at giving away other people's stuff. What we call a liberal today is somebody who wants to steal from one person and give it to someone else, and when we talk about a liberal church, you know what it means? It means they want to be really loose and free with what the Bible says, and take a really loose interpretation of everything, and just go free style when it comes to what the Bible teaches.
No. We need to take a strict interpretation of what the Bible says. Whatever the Bible says, we need to just take it for what it says, take it literally, so we don't want to get liberal with other people's money. We don't want to get liberal with our interpretation of the Bible. We don't want to get liberal politically, but you know what we do want to be liberal with is what belongs to us. That's what we should be liberal with, and we should be loose with what we have, and not be tightfisted and just wanting to hoard everything, and keep everything for ourselves.
This so called liberalism ... Let me just stop right there for a minute and talk about this. Some idiot raised his hand at some Obama rally, and said, "Can I please pay more taxes?" Everybody's like, "Oh, it's so wonderful," because he's some wealthy guy who says, "I want to pay more. Can I please pay more?" Listen. That lying devil, whenever he wants to, can pull out his checkbook and make out a check to the United States Treasury for whatever amount he wants, and send it to them, and say to them, "This is just to pay off the national debt," or, "This is just extra that I'm sending." You think they're going to return the money to him? "No, you can't pay extra." He can just put, "This is a gift, my gift to the IRS." Hopefully, it will be tax deductible.
Anyway, make a gift unto the IRS anytime he wants to, but he's a lying devil. What he's really saying is, "Can you please force other people to pay more taxes?" I mean, "Can I please pay more?" He could pay more whenever he wants, but what he wants is for everyone else to be forced to pay more, so that we can all participate in all the godlessness and filth of our government, all the abortions, and gender reassignment surgeries that everybody needs to get paid for by the government and whatever, all the stupidity of our nation. Let's just all give more, and I want to force you to give more to that. That guy's not a liberal. That guy's just a God hating devil.
Look. You say, "I don't believe he hates God." How could he love homosexuality, abortion, and everything that God hates if he doesn't hate the God who condemns all that stuff?
What I'm saying is we need to be ... If we're a loving church, if we're a loving Christian, it means that we're liberal by a biblical definition. It means that we give unto others, and that we don't just be a selfish person.
Obviously, we should help those who are in need, but we don't believe that that's the government's job. We believe that's the job of the Christian. That's the job of the individual to help those in need. Not to extort money, because let me just explain ... And I know I'm on a little anti-government rant, but forgive me. I'm dealing with the IRS this week, so just give me a break. Cut me some slack.
When you think about this whole concept of helping those in need, just keep one thing in mind. The government messes up anything that they do. No matter what they do, they mess it up. They do it wrong. If it's helping people, they mess that up. Basically, very little of the money actually gets to the people who need it. It all gets lost in the translation of the bureaucracy, and it just goes to a bunch of a fraud, and waste, and abuse, and everything. Very little of it gets there.
What ought to happen is just that people just help each other out locally, and I don't know about you. I remember Garrett preached a sermon on this in the preaching class a while back about giving money to poor people, and giving money to homeless people. We don't just blindly give away our money, because we worked hard for it, and so we want to give it to people who we know it's actually going to help.
Somebody calls our church virtually every single day asking for money. I don't know if you know that. Virtually every single day, someone calls Faith Forward Baptist Church asking for money, and people walk up to our church all the time and ask for money. We don't just blindly give money to everyone who asks us for money, because a lot of the people who are asking for money are just thieves. They're frauds. They don't really need help, but rather, they just are lazy. They're just not working. They are just trying to just get something for free dishonestly, and they'll tell all kinds of lies to get it, and sometimes when you try to dig a little deeper with them, all of a sudden, you realize what they're saying is a lie, what they're saying is not really true.
When you are personally helping people, you're more discriminating about who you help, because you make sure it's going to people who really need it. Whenever people call and ask for money, I always just tell them, "Well, where did you go to church last Sunday?" If they name a church, I say, "Well, that's the church that you need to go ask for help then." If they say, "I didn't go to church," I just say, "That's why your life is not going right, because you're disobeying God. Get in church and your life will go better."
Our church does help people, but we help people who actually come to church. Why would we help people who we don't even know, we don't even know if it's legit, what they need, but a lot of people in our church have gone through hard times, and have needed help, and we've helped people because we knew them, and we knew their situation. That's what's wrong with our government, three thousand miles away just helping people. It just all goes to the wrong people.
But, we as Christians, and a lot of times though ... Think about this now. A lot of times because of the political liberalism, some of us might have gotten a little burned, and then we just don't want to help anybody, and that's wrong, too, because we think to ourselves, "I'm so sick of all this money being taken from me and given to someone else," but we don't want to start to justify greed, because you'll hear a lot of conservative, political conservatives, then they'll try to justify why greediness is okay, because they're trying to react to that phony liberalism of the government giving people money and redistributing wealth, but, we as God's people, we still should be generous people. We shouldn't start to justify Wall Street, and justify greed, and justify people who are just very self-centered and self-absorbed and keeping their money. That is not a Christian thing to do with your life, to just lay up wealth and treasure for yourself.
We, as the individual, and we as a church, should want to help people, and be open handed, and generous, and liberal with people, and it will help us to be more joyful when we love other people, and one of the ways that we love other people is by being generous, and helping people that are in need.
By the way, when the Bible says, "When thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what they right hand doeth, that then alms may be in secret. Thy Father would see it in secret, and himself shall award thee openly." That's the other thing about the government. They like to brag about all the good deeds that they do with other people's money. But when we do good deeds for people, we should not brag about it. We should not even do it publicly. We shouldn't get out name on a plaque somewhere. It's better when we can just give quietly, and just help people and nobody knows about it, and then our Father which is in heaven will reward us openly.
It says here, "Moreover, brethren," verse one, "We do you to wit of the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia. Having a great trial of affliction, the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded unto the riches of their liberality, for to their power I bear record. Ye and beyond their power, they were willing of themselves, praying as with much entreaty that we would receive the gift, and take upon us the fellowship of the ministering to the saints."
Here, we can tell from this scripture that Paul was even telling these people ... These people were trying to give to the poor saints in Jerusalem, and Paul is basically telling them they needed to just keep their money, because they're so poor, because, notice, it says that they prayed him with much entreaty, verse four. That makes it sound like Paul's probably saying ... If they had to give him much entreaty, it makes him sound like Paul was saying, "Guys, you don't have to do this. I mean this is too much. You're poor. You're struggling. Save it," and they basically had to entreat him saying, "No, please, take this. We want you to have this." This was a very liberal group of people. These were very generous people.
It says in verse five, "And this they did not as we hoped, but first gave their own selves to the Lord, and unto us by the will of God, insomuch that we desired Titus, that as he had begun, so he would, also, finish in you the same grace, also. Therefore, as ye abound in everything, in faith, in utterance, and knowledge, and in all diligence and in your love to us, see that ye abound in this grace, also. I speak not by commandment, but by occasion of the forwardness of others, and to prove," this is the key. Are you listening? "And to prove the sincerity of your love, for you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake, he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich."
See, Jesus Christ, he was up in heaven. He's rich. I mean he owns the cattle on a thousand hills, the wealth in every mine. The streets are paved with gold. He had everything, and, yet, he made himself poor for our sake, so that we could be rich, so that we could inherit all things, so we could go to heaven. He came to this earth. He was not a wealthy man while he lived on this earth. He said the foxes have holes and the birds of the air has nests, but the son of man hath not where to lay his head, and Jesus Christ was a man who lived on very modest means. He was a humble man. He was not wealthy. He did not wear fancy clothing, or eat fancy meals, or live in a fancy house, or drive a fancy car. I realize they didn't have cars back then. But I'm saying that he was a poor man, and his poverty was what he went through in order to make us rich.
The Bible says in verse eight, "I speak not by command, but by occasion of the forwardness of others, and to prove the sincerity of your love." When we are willing to give to others, and help others in need, and actually put our money where our mouth is, and actually put our actions where our words are, that proves the sincerity of our love, because a lot of people's love is not sincere. It's fake. A lot of people say a lot of loving things, but when the rubber meets the road, there's no love there. When we're willing to give, and when we're willing to give quietly and even anonymously, or even just privately between us and them, and we're not going around sounding a trumpet like the Pharisees and the hypocrites do, "Look at me. Look how much I gave." The Bible says that proves the sincerity of our love.
Number one, love is unselfishness, caring about other people, loving other people, not being absorbed in ourselves. Number two, love is keeping God's commandments. We've got to be living a righteous and clean life in order to be loving like we should. Number three, love is when we help those in need, and help those around us, and we actually do good deeds for them, and maybe even give food, or money, or whatever they need.
Then, number four is this. Go to First Peter, chapter three. Lastly, if we're defining what it means to love one another, then, lastly, it says that being a forgiving person is what it means, also, to love one another.
This is a pretty important sermon, because the Bible says, "By this shall all men know that you're my disciples, if you have love one to another." The Bible says that the greatest commandment is to love the Lord, thy God, with all your heart and soul, mind, strength, and the second is to love your neighbor as yourself. This is an important concept. If we're going to be a great Christian, we need to be a loving person, and if we're going to be a loving person, these are the four things that we're going to see in our lives. I mean if we're going to be a loving person, we're unselfish. If we're a loving person, we're not breaking God's commandments constantly, and living a very loose lifestyle.
By the way, a lot of people will look at a church that preaches hard on sin, and say that it's not a loving church. Who has heard somebody say something like that? "Oh, man, you don't have any love." You'll hear somebody preach hard on sin, and they'll say, "Wow, that's not a loving preacher. You need to get some love," but, in reality, preaching hard on sin is loving, because it means that you actually care about people enough to tell them truth, and you understand that you can't have love without keeping God's commandments, and a church that goes soft on sin, while on the outside it may seem very loving, because it's very gooey, and squishy, and furry, and lovable on the outside, it's not a loving church, because if you go to a church ... Just think about this. If you go to a church that is not preaching hard on sin, they're doing that for one reason. Okay, two reasons. There could be two reasons.
Number one, they're just living in complete sin, so they're not comfortable preaching against sin. That's often the case. But here's the main reason. It's because they want to be popular, and they don't want to make people mad. Think about it. If a preacher wants to be popular and doesn't want to make people mad, so, therefore, he doesn't preach on sin, does he love the church members, or does he love himself, because it sounds like he loves himself, because he wants people to like him, and he wants to be popular, and he wants to have a really big church, and he wants to be a big name, and he wants to drive a big car, and he wants to live in a big house. That is not love. That's selfishness. That's not love, because he's not keeping God's commandments when God said to preach the whole word.
But, see, when you go to a church where there's hard preaching on sin, that shows that the pastor wants what's best for the congregation, because, let's face it, hard preaching works. It works. You go a church for this hard preaching, and people's lives are the way they need to be, because I need hard preaching. You need hard preaching, to keep us on the right path, because we have a tendency to wander from God's commandments, don't we? We have a tendency to start to backslide, and to start to go off into the wrong things, but when we hear hard preaching, it slaps upside the head, and gets us back on track the way we need to be.
Let me tell you something. I've been to churches that don't preach hard on sin for many years as a teenager, and I'll tell you something. They are just cesspools of sin. I mean if you don't have a lot of hard preaching, you'll just have all kinds of fornication going on in the church, just openly, just fornication going on, drunkenness, drugs, pornography, just all kinds ... Especially in the youth group, because that's where I was. I was in the youth group. I was a teenager. When you don't have hard preaching on sin, it's just a cesspool of iniquity. It's just filth.
I know this. I do preach hard on sin, but I can remember times when sometimes I'd get in a phase, even in just the last eight years of preaching. I'd get in a phase where maybe I was just teaching a lot of doctrine, and maybe I was just really preaching a lot on other things, and I'd go through a phase where I wasn't really hitting hard on sin much. Not because I was trying to leave out that part of the message, but you're preaching other things. You just get on another kick. I get on different kicks. I was preaching a lot of Bible prophesy for a while, or I'm preaching a lot of other doctrines for a while, and I would get on some kicks. You'll notice sin will start entering into the church, and I'm like, "Wow, man." You got to really hit hard on sin as a preacher a lot for everybody's benefit, just to keep us all living clean and living righteous, we need that hard preaching.
But the preacher who doesn't preach hard like that, he doesn't love you. He really loves his bank account, and he really loves the status of pastoring a big church, and he's not really as concerned about the members of the congregation. He's not willing to decrease that they might increase, and that's what it comes down to. That's really the best way to define love.
This isn't in my notes, but I thought of Hebrews 10:25, where it says, "Let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together as the manner of some is, but exhorting one another and so much the more, as you see today approaching." Did you hear that? The Bible says, "Consider one another to provoke unto love and good works." What is love? Considering one another, thinking about other people, and trying to motivate ourselves and motivate each other to be loving and to do good works.
The best thing that we can do to be a loving Christian is to, first of all, go to church, because you can't ... Can you think of a more selfish thing than not coming to church? How are you helping anybody if you don't even come? How can you fulfill all the commandments that tell you to help out the saints, and love the saints, and love the brotherhood? How do you love one another if it's just you? You're not even in a church. How do you love one another? Church is a place where you go, and it's not just about you receiving. It's about you giving. It's the place where you go, and you meet people that you can help, and that you can love, and sometimes that's just praying for people. That's a form of love, because you're doing something for them, something unselfish for them. Instead of just praying for yourself, you're praying for them.
If you don't attend church, you're not even close to fulfilling these commandments. You're not even joining up with God's people. The Bible says, "Don't forsake the assembling of ourselves together," because we need to assemble, so that we can provoke unto love and to good works. How do we consider one another if we're not even there? We're not even present, and people say, "Oh, I just listen to the sermon on the internet." That's a one way transfer. That's a download. That's not an upload. I'm trying to speak computer language. You're downloading a lot of sermons. What have you uploaded?
Preaching is just a one way thing, but when you come to church and you sing, you're praising God. You're encouraging the people around you. You say, "Well, I don't really have much to offer." Just by showing up and being here, you're contributing something. I don't care if you don't put a dime in the plate. I don't care if you do nothing. Just by being here, you've at least contributed something, because at least you're encouraging other people, because, look, if a bunch of people show up and we have a full house, that encourages me. Who likes it when our church has a really full Sunday? See, people are encouraged just by your body being here. We just like to see a full house. It encourages us.
You know what? When you show up and you just greet people, and you say hi to people, and you shake their hand, and especially greet visitors, people that are new, show them some love, you're doing something for other people, not just for yourself. That's a loving thing to do. To show up at church, greet other people, be friendly, get to know other people, get to know what they need, pray for them, love them, care about them, know their names, know what they're going through in their lives, this is what it means to be a loving church. These are things that we need to focus on.
But, not only that, forgiveness. Let me just quickly touch on this. This is a part of love as well. First Peter 3:8 says this: "Finally, be all of one mind, having compassion, one of another. Love as brethren. Be pitiful. Be courteous, not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing, but contrary wise, blessing, knowing that ye are therefore caLled, that ye should inherit a blessing." In verse eight, it tells us to love as brethren, and in verse nine, he tells us how to do that. That means when people rail on us, or people do evil to us, what do we do? We turn around and bless them. That's a loving thing to do. That's loving our enemies. The Bible says, "Love your enemies. Bless them that curse you. Do good to them that hate you, and pray for them that spitefully use you and persecute you."
How do we apply this in the local church when it comes to loving our brethren and loving our sisters in Christ? That means that when somebody does you wrong at church, you let it go. That means that you love people, and if you're a person where you're still mad about what that person did a month ago, or a week ago, or six months ago, or even yesterday, and you just brood on that, and you want to get back at them, or you just say, "I'm just never going to talk to that person again. I just don't like them." That's not loving, because you're not forgiving, and part of loving is that you don't render evil for evil, railing for railing, and the Bible says, for example, in Colassians 3:19, "Husbands, love your wives and be not bitter against them," but that can go for more than just marriage. If you love people, you're not getting bitter against them when they do you wrong no matter who they are.
Ephesians 4:2 says, "With all lowliness and meekness, with long suffering, forbearing one another in love." What does forbearing one another mean? Putting up with one another, so part of love is putting up with people that do things that you don't like. Does everyone in this church always do everything that I like? Does everybody always treat you exactly the way that you want to be treated? Of course not, but you know what? I'm willing to put up with a lot from the people that I love, because that's what love is. When you love your children, you put up with all the messes. You put up with all the dumb shenanigans that they pull. Why? Because you love them. If you don't love them, you're just going to just flip out about everything, and you're not going to let things go. You're going to be bitter. You're going to be angry. You're going to be upset, and this can go for marriage, children, church members. We need to forbear once another in love. That's part of love, forgiving.
The Bible says in Leviticus 19:17, "Thou shall not hate their brother in thy heart. Thou shalt not in any way rebuke thy neighbor and not suffer sin upon him. Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. I am the Lord." I would say that love thy neighbor as thyself is a pretty famous phrase from the Bible, right? Wouldn't you say that's one of the most famous phrases from the Bible, love thy neighbor as thyself? In fact, it's a very quoted phrase in the New Testament. The New Testament quotes it a lot, love thy neighbor as thyself, but where does it come from originally? Leviticus 19. If we get the context of where that famous, famous quote, love thy neighbor as thyself, came from, it came from the context of thou shalt not avenge nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shall love thy neighbor as thyself. I am the Lord.
The context of thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself is not holding a grudge. That is the original context. What better way to be a loving person than to be a forgiving person, who does not hold a grudge? That means when people do dumb things or say dumb ... Look, there are going to be people who say things to you in the church that are just rude, and you shouldn't be rude. We should all strive not to be rude, but, all of us, are from time to time are going to stick our foot in our mouth, right, and say the wrong thing. Sometimes people say things that are very insensitive, or maybe somebody will hurt your feelings, and say something rude or insulting, and you know what? A lot of times, people didn't really mean it that way. Sometimes you misunderstand people.
I'm not trying to say that men are not guilty of this, but sometimes women can be real sensitive to things like this. "She didn't say hi to me." "She's avoiding me." "She didn't react right. I gave bad news and she smiled. She must delight in my calamity," or, "I gave her good news, and she didn't seem happy." These are the type of things that can make people offended. It's going to happen, but if we're a loving church, you know what we do? We just say, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." You just don't worry about it.
By the way, in a church like ours, there are all different kinds of people. Doesn't our church have a diversity of people? We have people of all nationalities in our church, red and yellow, black and white, this morning in church, but we, also, have people of different education levels in our church. We have some that are more educated than others. We have some that are more wealthy than others, some that are poor. We have very young people. We have older people. We have all different types of people. We have people that are very refined, and polite, and use good etiquette, and then we have people that are a little more barbaric. I'm debtor both to the Jew and to the Greek, the barbarian, the wise, the unwise.
We have a lot of different kinds of people in our church, so there are going to be some people in our church that are a little more uncouth, and maybe their manners are not as good. Other people have very good manners, but shouldn't we just love everybody in our church? Shouldn't we come to church ... Look, again, a lot of people misunderstand this as love everybody on the planet. Now, I don't love Charles Manson. Who here just loves Charles Manson? Anybody? Okay. Me neither.
What I'm saying is a lot of people try to twist this. "You need to love child molesters, and rapists, and pedophiles." That's not what we're saying, but you know what? You know who we should love? For sure, our brothers and sisters in Christ. I don't care how bad somebody is. I don't care what kind of a jerk they are. If they are saved, we must love that person. We must love our brothers and sisters in Christ, and we should love the lost, because ninety some percent of unsaved people are not Charles Mansons and Adolph Hilters and pedophiles, right? I don't want to say ninety-nine percent, because our country is getting so wicked. It's probably not ninety-nine percent anymore, but ninety some percent of people out there, we should love them, and do good unto them, and bless them that persecute us, except they be reprobate, which is more rare.
What I'm saying is that all the people in our church, there are going to be some people that are really easy to love, because you have a lot in common with them. They're similar to you. They're very polite, nice, good people. Other people in our church might be a little harder for you to love, but if you're going to be a godly person, if you're going to love God with all your heart, you must love all of God's people, and forgive them, and not be bitter against them when they do you wrong.
It's one thing to just get up and say, "Love one another. Let's pray and go home." Today I wanted to explain a little bit of just how this works practically. How do I love one another? How do I love my brothers and sisters in Christ? You do things for them. You care about them. You talk to them. You listen to them. You pray for them. You be a good example to them. You keep God's commandments. You pray for them, and, of course, when they do foolish things or things that you think are foolish, you let it go. You forgive them. You forbear a lot, and you put up with a lot of things.
Even the famous chapter of First Corinthians 13, charity. "Beareth all things, but leaveth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things." Part of love is putting up with a lot, and just loving people in spite of their faults and weaknesses.
Let's bow our heads and have a word of prayer. Father, we thank you so much for your word, and we thank you so much for the love that you have for us, which obviously we could never hope to attain, but, Lord, help us to do our best to follow your example to love one another, to love the brotherhood, to love the household of faith. Help us to, also, love the lost enough to go out soul winning and win them to Christ, but especially help us to love one another, and put these concrete pieces of advice into practice, Lord, that you've given us in your word. In Jesus' name, we pray. Amen.