Monthly Archives: July 2012

What Do We Do With God’s Love?

Peninsula Community Church

July 29, 2012

Displaying the Life of Christ – What Do We Do with God’s Love?

Last week, we looked at love from the standpoint of what God has accomplished for us and in us. This week, we will look at how we can personalize that love so that God’s love for us is not some ethereal truth that never becomes a reality in our lives but that His love becomes a present reality in our lives. As we study 1 John, we are given the opportunity to understand God’s love in greater ways so that we can comprehend God’s love for us but we can understand that God’s love should be personalized as well. Let us look at what John says about this in our text today.

1 John 4:13-21 – 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.

One of the first truths that shine through this passage is that we can know God’s love. John says that “we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us.” Notice that we not only can know God’s love but we can also believe and trust God’s love. “Though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory” (1 Peter 1:8). The fact is we can have information about certain things but not believe.

How can we know and believe in God’s love? I suggest to you that the first way is through His Word. On more than one occasion the Bible speaks of God’s love for us and what He did by sending His son to the cross. His action of sending His son demonstrates to us the magnitude and the depth of His love for us. As John states, “We love because He first loved us.” We can understand this love only by accepting His word. These words are more than just words on a page but they define the character of God and the work of God in our lives. What an awesome moment when Christ forgives our sin and we realize in an instant that His love has come to forgive us of all our sin and has set us free from the bondage of past evil.

Secondly, we know God’s love by experience. As we accept Christ and we join with the family of God, we come to the place where we experience love in all of its magnitude. Experiencing the love of God, not just thinking about it, is something we should desire with all our hearts. Is this experience of the love of God the same for all believers? No; not at all nor in the same degree. If all believers had the same experience of the love of God, Paul would not have prayed for the Ephesians that they “be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge” (Ephesians 3:18-19). He prayed this because some were deficient in their experience of this love of God in Christ.

Thirdly, through sharing the Word and our testimonies we are reminded how awesome and real God’s love is to us. As we share our testimonies we are able to express God’s love to others and at the same time we are reminded of God’s love for us.

The second thing to be noted in this passage is that we can be secure in God’s love because perfect love casts out fear. The problem with so many earthly relationships is that they are based in fear. There is a fear of rejection, a fear of abuse, and a fear of the future. But God’s perfect love transcends all of these things because His perfect love casts all fear. The scripture tells us that He will keep him in perfect peace
whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you (Isaiah 26:3).

The fact is, human love will disappoint us and let us down. Human love will be motivated by self, pride, fear, anger and other negative emotions. How many relationships have you known that were founded in fear? Too many of us have leaved through rejection from those we thought loved us. But God will never reject us. He receives us just as we are and encourages us to grow in Him.

God’s love is not founded on the fear of abuse either. You see I grew up with the idea that if I did not toe the line that God would pull out his holy baseball bat of discipline and beat me into submission. But God does not abuse his children. He disciplines them yes, but he does not abuse us.

When we experience the love of God we do not need to fear the future. Fear of the future depresses us and causes us to either act in ways that are not pleasing to God or we hide in order to escape the consequences of the future. But when God’s love is evident in our lives, we do not have to fear judgment day because when we love God we will deal with the issues of our life. We will repent of sin immediately and we will make restitution as soon as is necessary.

The third thing that is to be noted in this passage is that we must share this love with others as a testimony of God’s love working in us. How do we do that? I believe that Paul enlightens our hearts on this subject in 1 Corinthians 13. This passage has become known as the great love chapter. As I read this passage listen to how Paul determines that we should life out this love and to show love to others:

What if I could speak all languages of humans and of angels? If I did not love others, I would be nothing more than a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. What if I could prophesy and understand all secrets and all knowledge? And what if I had faith that moved mountains? I would be nothing, unless I loved others. What if I gave away all that I owned and let myself be burned alive? I would gain nothing, unless I loved others. Love is kind and patient, never jealous, boastful, proud, or rude. Love isn’t selfish or quick tempered. It doesn’t keep a record of wrongs that others do. Love rejoices in the truth, but not in evil. Love is always supportive, loyal, hopeful, and trusting. Love never fails! Everyone who prophesies will stop, and unknown languages will no longer be spoken. All that we know will be forgotten. We don’t know everything, and our prophecies are not complete. But what is perfect will someday appear, and what isn’t perfect will then disappear. When we were children, we thought and reasoned as children do. But when we grew up, we quit our childish ways. Now all we can see of God is like a cloudy picture in a mirror. Later we will see him face to face. We don’t know everything, but then we will, just as God completely understands us. For now there are faith, hope, and love. But of these three, the greatest is love (I Corinthians 13 CEV).

 

 

 


 

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Displaying the Life of Christ – Does Anyone Know What Love Is?

Peninsula Community Church

July 22, 2012

Displaying the Life of Christ – Does Anyone Know What Love Is?

In 1984 the British rock band Foreigner had a number one hit with their song “I Wanna know What Love Is.” In the song Lou Gramm, the lead singer, popularized the concept of wanting to know “what love is?” Listen to a couple of the lines of the song:

 I gotta take a little time
A little time to think things over
I better read between the lines
In case I need it when I’m older
Aaaah woah-ah-aah

Now this mountain I must climb
Feels like a world upon my shoulders
And through the clouds I see love shine
It keeps me warm as life grows colder

In my life there’s been heartache and pain
I don’t know if I can face it again
Can’t stop now, I’ve traveled so far
To change this lonely life

I wanna know what love is
I want you to show me
I wanna feel what love is
I know you can show me
Aaaah woah-oh-ooh

Do you hear the resounding need for understanding what real and genuine love is? In this song Foreigner was referring to physical and intimate love but none-the-less there was a passionate plea to understand the depth of real love. Today, we are living in world where people seek to know and understand real and authentic love.

For us this morning, as we turn to the book of first John we see that John gives us a definition of love and what love truly and honestly can be for us. Let’s read together: 1 John 4:7-12 – 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.

If you will allow me to, let us unpack the truth that is contained in this passage so that our insight into what real, genuine love is can be enhanced and properly motivated.
 

To begin with John states that God is love. Notice that this passage is similar to the passage John writes in John 3:16. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” God’s very nature and who He is can be only understood through the fact that “God is love.”

What John is prescribing to is that everything that God does is from a perspective of love and grace. Every action that He performs is mitigated by one absolute value and that is His love for His creation. It is important to note that He doesn’t just love but He is love. In other words, if you want to understand what true love is you must look to God who exemplifies the very nature of what love is. Love pervades and influences all of his attributes. Just as much as He is holy, righteous and just He is also love.

Secondly, the greatest manifestation of this love is seen through sending His son to earth to become the sacrificial Lamb of God. This was a mission established by God and freely and willingly accepted by Christ. He chose to die for us. This is the ultimate sign of love. Listen to the Apostle Paul’s words: For one will scarcely die for a righteous person–though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die– but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:7-8).

Notice the key in this passage. There might be one or two of us that would consider dying for a righteous person or for one of our loved ones but I would dare say that none of us would even consider dying for someone as evil as Hitler or Osama Bin Ladin. He even died for James Holmes the shooter at the theater in Colorado. But Christ did. He died for them although they have rejected that gift and blessing. And, He died for us even before we committed our first sin.

It is interesting to note that there have been many stories that have come out of the tragedy in Colorado where people put themselves in harm’s way by placing their bodies over their friends and relatives. Some of these were wounded as a result. One story told of one girl who placed her hand over the wound of her friend even though she was in the line of fire.

A second key is that the sacrifice of Christ on the cross deals with a dilemma forced upon Him by His very nature. How does a just and righteous God deal with sin? How does one that cannot overlook or trivialize sin deal with the gravity of sin and the depth of the depravity of mankind? He deals with sin by sending His son to die and to take on our sin upon the cross so that every sin past, present and future will be forever dealt with as we bend our knee in humble repentance and Godly sorrow for the sin we have committed.

Thirdly John insists that we are to love one another because of God’s love expressed toward us and the fact that He sent His son to die for us upon the cross. This kind of love is characterized by unselfishness by way of considering others above ourselves and by humility and consideration of others. In fact, our love for God will be directly proportionate to our love for others. What is stated here is that we cannot carry hatred in our hearts and claim to love God with all of our hearts. This does not mean that we will not carry disappointment and concern in our heart but true love comes from God and is worked out in the way we love others.

Let me take this one step further. Because it is impossible to see God because of His glory, God devised a plan where we would be the carriers of His love. As we accept Christ as our personal Savior and we are filled with His great love, we should begin to exude love in all that we do. The fact is, we may become the only Jesus that some will see. By our actions, our words and our very lives we present Jesus to those who do not know Him.

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Don’t Believe Everything You Hear

Peninsula Community Church

July 15, 2012

Displaying the Life of Christ – Don’t Believe Everything You Hear

In the passage before us today John instructs the passionate follower of Christ to examine and test the attitudes and the messengers presenting the Gospel. Let’s read together:

1 John 4:1-6 –Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already. Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. They are from the world; therefore they speak from the world, and the world listens to them. We are from God. Whoever knows God listens to us; whoever is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error.

John’s call to the passionate follower of Christ here is to test the spirits, the attitude and the message, to see if what is being spoken is from God and whether or not the message is founded in truth or falsehood.

One of the key words used in this text is the word confess. It is legal term which means to bear witness of something or someone. It also means to come into alignment with. Our confession of the gospel is in essence our testimony. A testimony is a presentation of evidence whose purpose is to help a jury decide the truth of a claim. For those giving testimony there is an assumption and presumption that the testimony presented is both factual and truthful. The job of the lawyers is to provide appropriate questions that will test the validity of the truth that is being spoken. As passionate followers of Christ we are called to examine the testimonies and confession of those to determine the validity of their faith and their message. With that understanding in mind let me make a couple of observations about this passage.

The first observation is that it is possible to come from the place of one of two extremes in testing what is true or false.

The first of these extremes is that anything goes. The key words here are gullibility and naivety. Rather than test the truths that are being propagated, we would rather accept them solely on the basis of the presenter rather than on the factualness of their claims. The fact is we have become a gullible society in that most decisions are made not on intellectual prowess but rather on emotional intuition. We are in another political season. Over the next few months we will hear a number of messages on the local, state and federal level of candidates about their “truth.” Our goal is to not accept what is said at face value but to be educated voters who find the truth for themselves. Politicians and pastors can say many things but just because they say it does not make it true. Read the word and study it for yourself so that you can know the truth.
In preparing for this message I came across an article entitled “How Gullible Are We? ” The article talks about a freshman at Eagle Rock Junior High in Idaho who won first prize at the Greater Idaho Falls Science Fair. He was attempting to show how conditioned we have become to the alarmists practicing junk science and spreading fear of everything in our environment. In his project, he urged people to sign a petition demanding strict control or total elimination of the chemical “dihydrogen monoxide.” And he had plenty of good reasons to do so, since it can: cause excessive sweating and vomiting; it is a major component in acid rain; accidental inhalation can kill you; it contributes to erosion; it decreases effectiveness of automobile brakes; and it has been found in tumors of terminal cancer patients. He asked 150 people if they supported a ban of the chemical. One hundred forty-three said yes, six were undecided, and only one knew that the chemical was……Water! The title of his prize winning project was, “How Gullible Are We?”  

Someone has said that as strange as it may seem, the danger today is greater for the fervent Christian who is on a journey to find truth. The seeker after God’s best things is eager to hear anyone who offers a way by which he can obtain them. He longs for some new experience, some elevated view of truth, some operation of the Spirit that will raise him above the dead level of religious mediocrity he sees all around him, and for this reason he is ready to give a sympathetic ear to the new and the wonderful in religion, particularly if it is presented by someone with an attractive personality and a reputation for superior godliness. But just because it is the latest religious fad does not make it true.

The second of these extremes is that we judge and criticize everything. I can testify to this as upon graduation from Bible school I found myself to be particularly judgmental of every preacher on the radio or TV. Instead of listening with an ear to receive from the message being presented I would wait for that one nugget to criticize or judge. You see this was not some local pastor on the AM radio; I am talking about men of God like Chuck Swindoll, Charles Stanley or Jerry Farwell. The fact is my judgment would often be a small word or the inflection of the voice or some other minor issue that I could use to discredit the entire ministry of the individual I was listening to. I reached the point where I could not sit under anyone’s ministry without being critical or extremely negative in my view of their presentation. But I had to repent and change because I was becoming miserable. In fact the change came as I began to listen to some of my own tapes and I realized how imperfect my own style and presentation was.
 

The second observation is that this text does not point out the antichrist as much as it focuses on knowing the truth of the Gospel. You see we can be so captured with finding the false that we miss the truth. God will reveal his truth to us if we search for it. God’s intent is that we learn and know the truth because it is only the truth that will set us free and restore us to right relationship with Him.

The third observation is found in this passage that there are two keys to discerning the whether or not what is being spoken is truth and if the person is receiving it. The first is key is to test what people say against what they do and how they live. We must fight hypocrisy. You see we need more than mere words to express the truth of the Gospel. We need action that is aligned with what we confess, so that our confession is acceptable.
 

Too often when we look at this subject we often look at the message carrier but the second test focuses on whether or not people will allow sincere and truthful words into their hearts. We must be teachable. Too often we concentrate on what is spoken rather than on the teachability of the person. You see we must always be in the position of learning the lessons that God desires to teach us.

The fourth and final observation is that the true test of the indwelling Spirit is realized in the fact that the Spirit causes us to love which is knowledge of others and the Spirit causes us to believe which is knowledge of God.

When the Spirit of God is in us He gives us the power to love the unlovable. He gives us the ability to interact with those we never thought possible. But the Spirit also initiates the power to believe and understand God and all that He is doing. Therefore the genuineness of our love and the genuineness of our belief about Christ are the evidence of God’s work in our lives.

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How’s Your Heart?

Peninsula Community Church

July 8, 2012

Displaying Christ – How’s Your Heart

In order to assure that we are healthy, a doctor may monitor our health by running tests on the heart. The last time I was at the doctor, they ran an EKG, tested my blood for Cholesterol, measured my heart rate and took my blood pressure so that he would have a baseline to know how healthy my heart was and to determine if I needed treatment for any specific problems.

John, in this passage, is suggesting a spiritual heart check up by giving us one test available to us to determine if our spiritual heart is healthy. Let’s read:

1 John 3:19-24 By this we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our heart before him;  for whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything. Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God; and whatever we ask we receive from him, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him. And this is his commandment,  that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us. Whoever keeps his commandments abides in God, and God in him. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit whom he has given us.

One of the means to determine the health of our hearts is to look to see if we are walking in forgiveness or if we are walking in the condemnation of past or present sin. The answer to this question will determine the health of our spiritual heart. Just as much as we must control the bad cholesterol in our bodies, we also need to control the levels of condemnation in us.

The problem however is that far too many followers of Christ walk in self-condemnation. While we have forgiven others and even believe that we have been forgiven by God, we fail to forgive ourselves and believe it is possible to release the sin we have committed to God.

When we look at this subject, it behooves us to understand the difference between conviction and condemnation. I propose to you, in a simplistic way, that both of these acts of the heart come from the same basis of truth in that there is a problem or sin that must be dealt with but there is most often a difference in the way we respond to these. You see condemnation says “There is a problem but there is no hope; that is just the way things are and you will never change.” On the other hand, conviction administered by the Holy Spirit, speaks to a truth in our life but points us to the cross and forgiveness which speaks of hope and brings life to our spiritual being when we act upon the conviction brought.

Therefore, we have a choice to make. Will we walk in the condemnation of the past or will we allow the conviction of the Holy Spirit to set us free? To choose the former is to deny Christ’s finished work on the cross. To allow condemnation to have its way in us is to deny the power and the work of the cross in us. To hold onto past guilt and shame is to walk in condemnation of one’s self rather than the freedom that has been given. Paul stated it best in Galatians 5:1 For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.  If He has created us for freedom why would we return to the bondage of self-condemnation?

When we walk condemnation free, our relationship with God and with others is affected positively. We see here in this passage that when we refuse to walk in the condemnation of self that we approach God with a greater confidence and we can then ask God and we shall receive it. But notice the caveat here. His answering our prayer is subject to keeping His commandments and walking in a lifestyle that pleases Him. Let me illustrate this in this way.

If I am a poor steward of my finances and I squander what God has blessed me with, God is not obligated to provide finances for me when I ask him…. Even though He may act out of His grace and show mercy to us, He is not obligated to allow us to continue in sin, selfishness or ignorance.

When we look at this subject of condemnation, we must realize that there are several results of this heart condition. These negative results might include but are not limited to self-punishment, avoidance of God and others, a sense of unworthiness, uncertainty about the future, distorted thinking and/or a sense of powerlessness to change or see things different.

The question then is how do we forgive our self’s. I propose there are four steps to forgiveness. To begin with we must acknowledge our sin and that self-condemnation exists. I have often stated that healing and the beginning of faith to bring change is to begin at the starting point of truth. Too often we want to ignore the truth but it is “truth that sets us free.”

Secondly, once we recognize that there is sin in our heart we must then repent. Repentance is a military term which means “about face.”  In other words we turn and we go the other way. What we once believed or how we once lived is changed.

 Thirdly, believe God and reaffirm our trust in his word.  Notice here that John says that the one who keeps His commandments is the one who will abide with Christ and they will see God abide in them.

 And finally, we must choose forgiveness. In the final analysis, we must seek forgiveness and then accept God’s forgiveness given to us through the work of Christ on the cross.

In 1986 there was a popular movie that had a scene in it that clearly illustrates this issue. In the movie “The Mission,” Jeremy Irons plays a Jesuit missionary whose mission is to evangelize the natives of a village inBrazil. Along the way he encountersMendozaplayed by Robert DeNiro.Mendozawas a mercenary who was a slave trader. He was brutal to the point that he has his own brother killed because he had slept with his wife. In the movie,Mendozacomes to know Christ and converts to Christianity. Although he has converted to Christ, he continues to carry the weight of his past sins and wrongs.

At one point in the movie,Mendozawants to do penance for his sin and chooses to carry the weight of the armor he once wore roped to his back. Mendoza and Father Gabriel were on their way up the mountain to see the very tribe thatMendozahad taken slaves. For several days we seeMendozastruggling up the mountain to carry the load. He dragged the load on his back behind him at times facing great odds.

After great struggle and after several days of climbing the mountain under incredible odds, he reaches the apex where he and his group encounter the tribe he was so violent against. In that moment one of the tribesmen grabs a knife and places it on his neck. He begins to believe that his life is over. After an interchange between Father Gabriel and the tribal leader, the tribesman does something so amazing. He cuts the rope to the armor and it falls into the river and is washed away.Mendozabreaks down in that moment into uncontrollable sobs which lead to the laughter of his freedom.

Some 2000 years ago Christ climbed a mountain under incredible odds. Instead of carrying his own sin, He carried the weight of all mankind’s sin. And in an instant he died and the whole world was free from its sin. And yet we continue to carry sin’s burden although we are forgiven.

David understood this when he penned these words in Psalm 103:10-12 He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.

Because of Christ’s work on the cross we can be free from our past sin and failures. The question is “will you continue to hold onto your sin or will you release your sin and be forever set free today.” It’s your choice. Which one will you choose: bondage or freedom?

 

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