Intro: Today is the start of a new year. This is a time we usually make a list of resolutions what to change or improve over what we have done or failed to do in 2011? If you reflect farther back to the year before last how did you fulfill the resolutions you made? In the business world they do an inventory of how they made out this past year. Of course their goal is to know how much profit they made. We also as a church have to make an inventory how much progress we have attained of the purposes from the inspired word of the apostle Paul that he is also pursuing. “I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.” Phil. 3:10-11.
Has Paul attained his goal for his life? He was quick to answer himself with this, “Not that I have already obtained all this, or already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” Phil. 3:12-14.
What is that which Christ took hold of Paul, of you and of me? I believe this is what Jesus took hold of Paul and us, to bring to perfection God’s love for you and me. The reason God sent Jesus into the world was to impart God’s love to the objects of His love. Is the whole world the object of His love? Not according to what He said in His Word. The Lord appeared to us in the past, saying: I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness.” Jer. 31:3
Who was the “us” that the Lord appeared to as revealed through His prophet? Way back in the time of Moses, God revealed to him who were the objects of His love. “The Lord did not set his affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples. But it was because the Lord loved you and kept the oath he swore to your forefathers that he brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the land of slavery, from the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt. Know therefore, that the Lord your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commands.” Deut. 7:7-9
Did the Israelites, descendants of Abraham loved God that God should love them in return? No. This is the truth of this as revealed to us by John the beloved, “We love because He first loved us.” 1 John 4:19
Again who are the “us” that the Lord God loved today? Those who have put their faith in Christ and received the love of God and who love God in return. This is who we are now just as those whom God has chosen in the past. “For you are a people holy to the Lord your God. The Lord your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on the face of the earth to be his people, his treasured possession.” Deut. 7:6
Aren’t those who have been chosen and loved by God the most blessed of all the people in the world? But have we fully understood this love of God that is beyond words and human comprehension? This is why Paul had to pray this to those whom God has already saved in Ephesus. “And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge – that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” Eph. 3:17b-19
This was also the prayer of Jesus to us who are already saved by Him. “I have made you known to them and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself will be in them.” John 17:26
So then, if there is a resolution that matters to God, I believe this is the question we ought to ask ourselves, how was my love relationship with God last year? What am I going to do about it in 2012? May this be our goal for 2012.
“To Grow More in Love with God in 2012?”
“Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.” Eph. 5:25b-27
I had a very strange experience last Thursday. Gina needed to buy one item from Wal-Mart so I decided to just wait in the car. A well-dressed teenage girl was putting envelopes on the windshield of some cars. She put one on my windshield and she probably did not notice I was there. Here’s the red envelope with a decent card that surely have cost something. It says love but no mention of God or where it came from. This is the first strange promotion I ever got.
But what good is love without God? Anyone can love but no one can really love with the love that is produced by God. For husbands to be able to love their wives as Christ loved His church is only possible if they have received the love of God through His Son and that love is produced by the Holy Spirit. Loving God and loving one’s spouse and loving each other will take a lifetime to grow into. It does not come automatically after one is saved. That’s the reason Paul prayed for the Christians in Ephesus and in other places that we grasp the love of God for us. This love that we cannot produce ourselves because it is divine love. We can only grow in our love for God as we know and experience how much He loved us. Gina and I have been married now for forty five years and I cannot claim that I love her as Christ loved the church. Everyone whom Christ has saved is combined by God with other believers to be the church and each one a part of the body of Christ. For this is where we exercise and put into practice the love of God for God, by loving His people. “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:34-35
Who are those whom Christ has commanded believers to love? Other believers Christ has loved. Where are they to be found? They are all over the world. But can we know all of them? Impossible. That’s why God has put together a body of Christ, the local church like ours so we can know everyone and love them in obedience to Christ’s command. This is not just for husbands and wives to love each other but loving brothers and d sisters in Christ who are members of the body of Christ. And what’s the standard of that love? The love that Christ has for each one He has saved. He loved us by giving himself up for her, His church. Husbands are to love as Christ loved His church and every one belonging in His body are to love one another with the same love. Loving as Christ loved is possible because of the Holy Spirit who is in us. He produces that love, first for God and out of obedience we obey Christ commands for husbands to love their wives, wives to love their husbands and each member in His body to love one another. We show our love for God and Christ by obedience to all His commands. “If you love me, you will obey my command.” John 14:15
Why not commands? Command means every command that Christ reveals to us through the Word by His Spirit as we read His Word every day. On the other hand, this is sad and true for those who do not love the Lord. “If anyone does not love the Lord – a curse be on him. Come, O Lord!” 1 Cor. 15:22
But we have confidence that God loved us. “And so we know and rely on the love of God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like him.” 1 John 4:16-17
We will continue next Sunday to expound the message from the rest of the text. We will now remember the love covenant that He invited us to observe. The new covenant by His blood in the Lord’s Supper as the Lord has commanded us to do.