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BETHLEHEM LUTHERAN CHURCH: | Mason City, Iowa USA | Pastor Mark Lavrenz

Aug 28, 2016  SERMON ARCHIVE

Sunday Sermon - Pastor Lavrenz Stained Glass - Communion

Grace, mercy, and peace to you and from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

Today is the last week of our stewardship emphasis Stewards Transformed by Grace, Faith, and Love. For this week, our focus is on Stewards Transformed by Love. Our text is the Epistle Lesson found in 1 John 4:7-5:3. There we read these words:

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us. By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, "I love God," and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother. Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.

We begin in the name of Jesus, AMEN

Six year old Johnnie came home from first grade, and he asked his mother, "Mom where do I come from?" His mother thought, Oh dear, I wish his father was here to answer the question. She had hoped the question would not have come up for a few more years. After she had slowly and carefully explained the anatomy of males and females, she asked Johnny, "Why did you ask?" He said, "My friend Bobby came from Chicago, so I was wondering where I came from."

You know, there are often so many misunderstanding when we talk about God’s love as well. So today, I would like to make three points that you need to understand about God’s love for you.

Verse seven of the Epistle lesson says, "Beloved, let us love one another for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God."

By ones self, people are incapable of loving. But many people consider love to have originated with themselves. If you were to love, it would be a very selfish and self-centered kind of love.

Christians know that God is the origin of love. God first loved us, and He enables us to share that love with others. But God is not only the origin of love. Verse 8 says that "God is love." The very nature of God is love. Everything that God does and says originates from His love for you.

He created all mankind in love, and, when mankind fell into sin, instead of giving up on mankind or destroying us, He set about to redeem everyone. He showed His love as He sent His Son to pay the sacrifice for sins. He sent His Son into the world to die on the Cross as the propitiation for your sin and for mine.

Stained Glass Baptism Window

In verse 10, propitiation means that He was the atoning sacrifice for your sins. A sacrifice had to be made for your sins. Jesus was the perfect lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world, and He does that so that we might live through Him. Because of God’s love and forgiveness, we have eternal life in His name. So we see, "Love begins with God."

The second major point is that "God’s love has a dramatic effect on people." Verse 7 says each of you are born of God. Through Holy Baptism, you were born again of water and the Spirit and became children of God. Your old sinful birth was superseded by a new supernatural birth. You have been transformed or changed. You are no longer the same persons you once were because of that transformation.

At one time, you were dead, and now you are made alive. At one time, you were enemies of God, and Scripture says that now you are considered His dear friends and dear children.

Not only are you born of God, you know God. You do not just know about God intellectually, but you know God personally and intimately, because you are the recipients of His love as sons/daughters.

At home, little boys and girls often call their father "daddy." In much the same way, because of your intimate relationship with God, you can refer to your Heavenly Father as "Daddy," because you are His children. And you can love others because God first loved you (verse 11). This is one of the effects God’s love has on you. It enables you to love others as He first loved you.

Your love for one another is in response to God’s infinite love for each and every one of you. You can show the same kind of selfless, sacrificial love toward others thereby witnessing to the love of God in Christ Jesus.

The Apostle John says it very well: "Beloved, if God so loved us, we also out to love one another." You see, love that is of God is dynamic and explosive. It cannot be and just remain between God and you. Its presence in your lives is shown by the way that it reaches out to others. Love originates with God, and God’s love has a dramatic effect upon you.

Third "Love becomes the distinguishing mark of Christ’s followers." After Jesus had washed His disciples’ feet, we are told in John chapter 13, He told His disciples: "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are My disciples if you have love for one another." (verses 34-35).

Unbelievers recognized Jesus’ disciples by their love. Believers gave evidence to being disciples by their love for one another. When the early church was just getting started, those outside the church would watch how people inside the church treated one another and they responded by saying, "My, how they love one another."

You see, friends, they will truly know we are Christians by our love. Our standard for loving is Christ’s love for us. He loves us unconditionally without setting any limits. He loves us sacrificially.

However, if you are honest, your love is not always like that because you tend to put conditions on your love. Sometimes you say, "I will love you if you do this, this, and this." Or you say, "I’ll love you until you do something that upsets me or bothers me that keeps me from loving."

But you know what. No matter how much you love, you are under obligation to keep on loving. To love is one debt that is never paid off. St. Paul tells us in Romans 13:8, "Owe no one anything except to love each other." You see, Jesus was a living example of God’s love so you are to be living example of Jesus’ love.

Stained Glass Confirmation Window

And, whenever we talk about love, you have to remember that love is more than simple warm feelings. Love is an attitude that reveals itself in action. Love is really more a verb than a noun. Read the great love chapter 1 Corinthians 13 sometime and see how Paul describes love. He says, "Love is patient, love does not envy or boast, it does not insist on its own way, it is not irritable or resentful." Paul then says, "Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things" (verse 7).

So as you think about love, love that originated from God, love that changes you and transforms you, ask yourself a question, "How can I love others as Jesus loves me? How can I prove that my love is real?" There are many ways, but I want to share five different ways today.

1. One way you can show your love is by helping others when it is not convenient. It is easy to help others when it is convenient in your schedule. If you have to change your schedules, are you going to be willing to help?

2. Another way to show your love is devoting your time and energy to another person’s welfare rather than your own. Time is precious so you may not want to give up time that you reserve for yourselves. Sometimes you draw a line, thinking you’ve given up too much.

3. You prove that your love is real when you love those you don’t even like. Is there someone who gets under your skin or irritates you so much? Do you know anyone like that? Even if you don’t like someone, God expects you to love them.

4. You prove your love when you are hurt by others and you don’t seek revenge or fight back, but instead you forgive them. Wow, that is something different, isn’t it? Admit it. By nature when you are hurt, you want to retaliate or seek revenge. The proof of your love is that you are forgiving.

5. You prove your love by giving generously, cheerfully, and sacrificially. Giving until it hurts; that’s what sacrificial giving really is. This kind of giving is what proves the genuineness of your love.

When St. Paul was writing to the Corinthians about the Macedonians who gave so generously to the Christians in Jerusalem, Paul said that you can "Prove by the earnestness of others that your love also is genuine" (2 Corinthians 8:8). The way they gave would prove their genuineness. You see, love changes your giving from an obligation to a privilege. You are not giving to a budget or giving to anything. You are giving from the heart and from what God has first given to you.

These things that I’ve mentioned are not always easy to do. But people notice when you do them. Please know that you have been empowered by a supernatural power. Jesus was calling for something far greater than you can accomplish on your own. Only in Christ can you truly be stewards transformed by grace, faith, and love.

Next Sunday, you will all have the opportunity to bring your financial commitments up the altar. Take the commitment form home and talk and pray about it with your spouse. And remember this is also a commitment of your time, your commitment to being in worship services, Bible studies, and prayer.

And remember, Christ is risen.

Luther Rose

 

Christ Is Risen
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