Tuesday, June 12, 2007

“What Religion Is Missing”

Each one of us in this room is different. We have different interests, different skills, different tastes, etc…

But there’s one way that all of us in this room and in this world are the same. We’re all looking and searching through life for something. We’re looking for love. And we’re looking for love of all kinds: romantic love, family love, and friendship love.

In an article from Psychology Today called, “The Power Of Love” it says…

“Love is as critical for your mind and body as oxygen. It's not negotiable. The more connected you are, the healthier you will be both physically and emotionally. The less connected you are, the more you are at risk.

It is also true that the less love you have, the more depression you are likely to experience in your life. Love is probably the best antidepressant there is because one of the most common sources of depression is feeling unloved. Most depressed people don't love themselves and they do not feel loved by others. They also are very self-focused, making them less attractive to others and depriving them of opportunities to learn the skills of love.”

We all want someone we can love and someone who will love us. This desire, this need, affects many of our choices and actions in life.

Love is really the obsession of most people. They feel like Zelda Fitzgerald, the wife of F. Scott Fitzgerald, when she said, "I don't want to live - I want to love first, and live incidentally."

But there’s something about this desire for love that you might not have thought of.

This search for love is one of the few ways we can really relate and understand God. You see, God is looking for love. He desires it too. From the time when he created the first humans until now, it’s been what’s he’s been looking and hoping for.

When you love someone all you really want is for them to love you backnothing more and nothing less will satisfy you. And no one would say that’s too much for you to ask!

That’s all that God wants is for someone to return his love – someone to love him back, just for who he is, not to get something from him.

That’s why religion and ritual, in and of themselves, are useless. Great acts of service and sacrifice aren’t any better if they’re not done in love!

That;s what the Apostle Paul is talking about 1 Cor. 13:1-3 when he says…

1 If I could speak in any language in heaven or on earth F63 but didn't love others, I would only be making meaningless noise like a loud gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I knew all the mysteries of the future and knew everything about everything, but didn't love others, what good would I be? And if I had the gift of faith so that I could speak to a mountain and make it move, without love I would be no good to anybody. 3 If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; F64 but if I didn't love others, I would be of no value whatsoever.

The last couple months we’ve been focusing on some pretty simple, but powerful things:

  1. Praying for 3-4 friends who don’t know Jesus.
  2. Reading, memorizing or meditating on God’s word more.
  3. Showing the love of God to others through “random acts of kindness”.

All of this stuff is important and foundational. I really believe doing these things will cause us to grow personally and as a group of friends trying to be the church.


I really felt like today I needed to remind us that all of this we’re doing, without love for God and love for others, will be meaningless, no good to us or anyone else and have no value.

Without love it all will have no effect on you, on God, or on others! Paul goes on in
1 Cor. 13 and says…

8Love will last forever, but prophecy and speaking in unknown languages F65 and special knowledge will all disappear. 9Now we know only a little, and even the gift of prophecy reveals little! 10But when the end comes, these special gifts will all disappear.

Then Paul says,11It's like this: When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child does. But when I grew up, I put away childish things. 12Now we see things imperfectly as in a poor mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. F66 All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God knows me now.

13There are three things that will endure—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.”

In heaven we won’t need prophecy or any other gift, but one thing we’ll still need in heaven and always need is love!

We need faith, because it helps us see the possible. It helps us see the potential. It’s allows us to trust and believe God, which causes us to step out, let go and let God work in our life. Faith is important.

We need hope, because it helps us to see things in a different way. It helps us see the positive. It helps us believe there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. This changes how we see and handle the hard, dark times of life. It causes is to keep going, not give up, to see the lessons and opportunities God has hidden in the trials of life. We need hope, that comes from Jesus, in our lives. It’s important.

But the thing that we need above all this is love!

Love needs to be our motive for everything we do as Christ-followers

Dan Kennedy, a sales "guru" and author, talks about something he calls "Complexity Creep". He says, "People have an incredible tendency to complicate their lives."

I think this is a universal truth that applies to all areas of life. It applies to what I’m talking about today.

I think as Christ-followers we like to complicate what it means to serve and live for Jesus. Jesus made it pretty simple.... LOVE. When he was asked what the greatest thing God told us to do was he said…

Love God - with all your heart, soul and mind.
Love your neighbor - as you love yourself.

This sums up the rules of life and following Jesus!

I'm trying to live a more simple faith. I'm trying to help us be a more simple expression of what it means to be the church.

Simple doesn't mean easy. It just means not complicated.

We still need God’s grace and the Holy Spirit working in us and through us to do these things, but they’re not complicated.

We need to sense God’s love – for the first time or again. When we do we’ll respond in naturally, without even trying, with love towards God and others.

How do we increase our love for God?

· Spend time with Him.

· Get to know him.

· Look at and think about his attractive qualities: his mercy, his patience, his grace, his forgiveness, etc.

· Remember his love for you - his sacrifice for your sins.

We need to remember God’s love for us everyday. We need to feel it, rest in it and respond to it, live in response to it.

Brennan Manning in an article in Discipleship Journal called “Living as God’s Beloved”said this…

“As a man, I love the Jersey shore, Handel’s Messiah, hot fudge, and my wife, Roslyn. I love what I find congenial or appealing. I love someone for what I find in him or her. But God is not like that.

“The God and Father of Jesus loves men and women not for what He finds in them, but for what He finds in them of Himself. It is not because men and women are good that He loves them, nor is it only good men and women whom He loves. It’s because He is so unspeakably, unimaginably good that He loves men and women, even in their sin.

“It’s not that He detects what is congenial and appealing and He responds to us with His favor. He is the source of love. He acts; He does not react. He is love without motive.

“Does God love me because I spend time with AIDS victims and alcoholics, or because I spend an hour in prayer every day? Or because I’m rigorously faithful to my wife? If I believe that, I am a Pharisee who feels entitled to be comfortably close to Christ because of my good works.

“The gospel of grace says I am loved for one reason only and that is because God loves me…period.

Every page of Christian Scripture declares that He loves us in a way that defies human comprehension and escapes human limitation. That is why I can say with theological certainty: God loves you unconditionally as you are and not as you should be, because you are never going to be as you should be. God loves you in the morning sun and the evening rain, without caution or regret. If God ceased to be love, God would cease to be God.”

How do we show God love?

If you want to show me love, then love my children. If you want to hurt me, then hurt them.

Jesus said something similar in Matthew 25:35-40 when he said…

35For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. 36I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.'

37"Then these righteous ones will reply, 'Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing? 39When did we ever see you sick or in prison, and visit you?' 40And the King will tell them, 'I assure you, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, F143 you were doing it to me!'

There are many ways to show and tell God you love him - Jesus said we love him when we do what he told us to do (if you want to know how to love him discover what he told us to do).

But one of the most practical, tangible ways to love God, is to show love to others!

Discipleship Journal had a cool example of this in an article about Mother Teresa. I want to read you some of the highlights from this article that apply to what we’re talking about today… http://www.navpress.com/EPubs/DisplayArticle/1/1.9.13.html

It says…

”Mother Teresa willingly gave up a secure, comfortable position to serve the less fortunate. She followed the example of our Lord, who "made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant" (Philippians 2:7). A living model of what it means to be a sacrificial missionary in a foreign culture, her ministry reflects Christ's earthly mission: "Though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich" (2 Corinthians 8:9).

“By 1948 she was ready to begin the ministry she is known for today–serving the poor and abandoned people living in the slums. Her motivation was simple, as we learn in her statements quoted by Malcolm Muggeridge in Something Beautiful for God. "I wanted to serve the poor purely for the love of God. I wanted to give the poor what the rich get with money."2

Later she explains that loving people is a way of loving God.

“Our neighbors we can always see, and we can do to them what, if we saw him, we would like to do to Christ. . . . Our hearts need to be full of love for him; and since we have to express that love in action, naturally then the poorest of the poor are the means of expressing our love for God.5

The article then says, “Her example can help us express this same love in our own lives for those who are, in her words,

unwanted, unemployed, uncared for, hungry, naked, and homeless. They seem useless to the state and to society; nobody has time for them. It is you and I as Christians, worthy of the love of Christ if our love is true, who must find them, and help them; they are there for the finding.6

Mother Teresa clearly recognizes the worth of every individual.

I do not agree with the big way of doing things. To us what matters is an individual. To get to love the person we must come in close contact with him. If we wait till we get the numbers, then we will be lost in the numbers. And we will never be able to show that love and respect for the person. I believe in person to person.7

Later… Although she has focused her ministry among the poor of India, Mother Teresa's mission has responded to needs worldwide. She says,

People today are hungry for love. That is why we are able to go to countries like England and America and Australia where there is no hunger for bread. But there, people are suffering from terrible loneliness, terrible despair, terrible hatred–feeling unwanted, feeling helpless, feeling hopeless.111


Religion without love is no better than a marriage without love. The one thing God wants from you and me more than anything else is love. He loved us first, loves us today and will always love us.

I want to keep praying for your 3-4 friends, keep reading and desiring to know God’s word, keep shining God’s love on others through good deeds, but make sure that in all you do that most of all, above everything else that you’re loving God.

That will make a difference in your life, in the lives of others and to God.

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