Love for God. Love for people. These are the two main things that Gospel City Church wants to be known for. But how do we actually do it? When it comes to loving God and loving people, it is often a case of “easier said than done.” In this message, we'll learn some truths that help make this kind of love possible.
What if I told you that a college basketball tournament could teach us something about love? The biggest basketball championship tournaments in the world takes place in the United States once every year is called March Madness. Sixty four teams, single round knockout, meaning that if you win your game, you move on. But if you lose, you are going home. The tournament goes on for weeks until there are only two teams left to play against each other in the final four, the national championship.
And the winner of that last game is the champ. Get a picture in your mind, does a basic one of how the March Madness tournament works, because if you do believe it or not, you can use that picture as a tool to help you discover what a person loves most in their life. Here's how it works. And you can try this out on yourself. You can think of the top 64 things that you love in your life that would be hard to do all at once.
But later you could do that if you have the time. And this could be anything. People, places, things and line them up in your tournament bracket of love. When they're all paired up, you begin to play one game at a time and the winner of each game is determined by the thing that you love the most. Between the two, the loser is out of the tourney while the winner moves on to the next bracket here. Here's an example that would be in my bracket.
If football and basketball were paired together playing against each other, then football would be the winner. Because I love football more than I love basketball. And when you go through all the rounds, you get to the final two things that you love the most in your life. And the one thing that you love the most between those last two things is your champ. The last person, place or thing left standing is the thing that you love the most in your life, that makes sense.
You know what, our champion is at Gospel City Church. Yeah, yeah, he is. We love Jesus, we love Jesus. And our runner up is that we love people. We love people. One another. Here's your first fill in on your outline if you have those handy, we love Jesus more than anything else. We love Jesus more than anything else. We love Jesus more than our stuff, more than our money, more than our houses, more than our cars, more than our clothes, more than our collectibles or our hobbies or our dreams or our successes or our comforts.
We love Jesus more than our family and friends, more than our spouse. If we have one, more than our kids, if we have any more than our parents, if they're still with us, more than our friends, we love Jesus more than food, more than water, more than the very air we breathe. We love Jesus more than our very own life. And I can say this with the utmost conviction, because if you're a Christian, you are one because you love Jesus.
This way, Jesus says we need to love him this way to be his followers. Listen to the words he told his disciples recorded for us in Matthew's Gospel. Matthew Chapter ten verses thirty four to thirty nine. Jesus said, Do not think that I've come to bring peace to the Earth. I've not come to bring peace, but a sword for I've come to set a man against his father and a daughter against her mother and a daughter in law against her mother in law.
And a person's enemies will be those of his own household. Whoever loves father or mother more than me, it's not worthy of me. And whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. If that sounds intense because it is intense, it sounds like Jesus is telling us not to love our family so that we can love him instead.
Is that what he's saying? Know what Jesus is telling his disciples in this passage is that if or when push came to shove and they were ever forced to choose between loving Jesus or giving allegiance to their family, instead they would need to choose Jesus over them if they were going to be his disciples. This scenario would only come up with the family, laid down an ultimatum, choose Jesus or us. In that case, with tears and a broken heart, they would have chosen Christ.
See, we are we are to love our families. The Bible is emphatic on that point. We just aren't supposed to love them more than we love Jesus. Why not? What? Because we're not supposed to love anything more than we love Jesus. But why is that why do we love Jesus more than anything, the next fill in on your outline? Jesus is the most valuable treasure in the universe. Jesus is the most valuable treasure in the universe.
Everything that you intuitively desire in your heart has this ultimate fulfillment in Jesus Christ alone. Jesus is the treasure and the pearl of great value in Matthew 13, that you would be more than happy to sell everything you have in your life in order to acquire these that valuable, you'd give up everything to have him. Jesus is the embodiment of the fruit of the spirit found in Galatians Chapter five verses twenty two to twenty three, where it says The fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness and gentleness and self control.
If you are a human being, then you want to personally experience these realities in your own life. You long for these things, whether you realize it or not. And Jesus is each one of these things in an infinite kind of way. Jesus is the very substance of life itself, he says. So he said in John fourteen six, I am the way I am the truth and I am the life. If you have Jesus, you have life.
But if you don't have Jesus, you don't have life. You might have oxygen in your in your lungs. You might have blood pumping through your veins. But that is not life. According to the Bible. Jesus is life. And anything that we think would make us ultimately happy in this life is only about a shadow that points to the true substance of total fulfillment, which is Christ himself. If we have him, we get a taste of the glory of Jesus in this life now and later we will get the full meal deal forever, unbroken in eternity.
But Jesus is the most valuable treasure in the universe, or in other words, Jesus is the loveliest thing anyone can love. So then why don't more people love them? If Jesus is so great, then why do so many people in the world right now love way more things, way more than they love Jesus? There are a couple of different angles to this question that we could discuss, but I want to focus on one angle specifically, and by focusing on what I really mean is that I'm just going to scratch the surface of this idea with you here and here.
It is. One of the biggest reasons people don't love Jesus with a supreme kind of love is because they have never had a personal, supernatural experience with the living Christ. Let me try and explain what I mean, which might prove to be challenging, because I'm going to try and describe what happens in a person the moment that they become a Christian. I'm going to try and articulate one of the greatest mysteries in the universe. So please give me some slack.
I'm not sure if you're aware of this, but people don't love Jesus, naturally, nobody just wakes up one morning and while they're enjoying their bowl of corn flakes, they say to themselves, self, you know what? I think starting today I'm going to love Jesus more than anything else I love in my life. No one just comes to that conclusion on their own, out of nowhere, randomly, we don't come to love Jesus by natural means.
A supernatural transaction has to take place before anyone loves Jesus as their ultimate treasure. So what happens to a person that changes their heart toward him, it's important to understand there are actually two ways that you can experience Jesus in your life. One way won't change you at all and one way will change you forever. Let me give you an illustration to show you what I mean. There are two different ways that you can experience a warm, sunny day on a beach in the Bahamas.
Two different ways. Here's the first experience. Picture this, OK, you're in prison. Surrounded by six feet, by eight feet of concrete, there's a small barred window, a court and a place to use the bathroom when you need to. It's cold physically, mentally and emotionally. But get this, you have a postcard and on that postcard, you have a picture of a beach in the Bahamas and you can see it all on the postcard.
You can see the sky and the sun and the beach and the ocean. You try to imagine what it's like, but it's hard to imagine because you've never been to the Bahamas before. You haven't been anywhere before because you've been in the style your whole life. But you have a postcard that you can look at every day. And it seems quite lovely. This is the first way that you or I could experience a warm, sunny day on the beach in the Bahamas.
But there's a second way that you can experience that same scene. Here it is. You're there. You step out of a straw thatched hut that's stationed right on the beach, you can see the ocean for miles and you can hear the waves gently lapping up against the shore. There's not a cloud in the sky and the temperature is perfect and a gentle breeze washes over you. Your feet glide across the white sand and the tiny grains trickle down in between your toes and all the colors and all the sounds and all the feelings of the beach tantalize every single one of your senses.
Can you imagine that experience? You're there, you're soaking it all in. You're experiencing the full weight of the reality of it all. That's a second way you can experience a warm, sunny day on a beach in the Bahamas. Now, in which of those two scenarios would you say a person would be truly able to experience the full richness of a warm, sunny day on a beach in the Bahamas? What the postcard. Do the trick. It wouldn't.
Not even close. You would need to experience the Bahamas for yourself to know how awesome it truly is. And these two examples show us the two different ways a person can experience Jesus. You can be given a postcard of him, not a physical picture, but someone could paint a picture of him using words. Someone could tell you what he's like by how he's revealed to us in the Bible. But would that be enough for you? Would we call that description experiencing him?
I don't think so. And I think that's a key reason why so many people in our world today don't love Jesus in the radical supreme, all encompassing way that we've been talking about in this message. They don't love him above everything else because they haven't personally experienced him before in a way that would lead them to that kind of love. They don't actually know firsthand what he's like. I wouldn't love Jesus more than anything else if I only had people tell me stories about him, I only love Jesus the way that I do because I've personally experienced him.
I felt the sensation of heavenly sand between my toes. I've heard the sound of spiritual waves lapping up against my heart. I've had the eyes of my heart enlightened to see the eternal glory of the Lamb of God. I felt the crushing weight of my own sin deep down in my spirit. And I've been overcome by the forgiveness that the finished work of his cross personally secured for me. I've experienced the reality of Jesus Christ, and he is the loveliest thing that anyone could possibly love.
But there are no words or colors or ways that I could put that experience onto a postcard for someone else, for them to truly know what I'm trying to tell them, you have to experience them for yourself before you can love him above anything else. And when you do experience him, you will finally know what all your weirdo Christian friends have been talking to you about all this time. Now, I want to be really clear about something really clear, but what I'm saying about the Bible, I'm not saying that the words of the Bible are not powerful.
You remember from last week one of the claims of the Bible that we believe is that it is powerful. I'm saying that there's a difference between the experience of someone who reads or hears the powerful words of the Bible with those words producing no effect in them at all. And the Holy Spirit taking those same words and making them come supernaturally alive in the hearts and the minds of those who hear them in a way that allows them to have a personal experience with the Jesus that the Bible is describing.
Now, it may sound subtle, but you see the difference that I'm talking about here for some of the gospel message is just received as empty, lifeless words like a postcard. But for others, the same gospel message supernaturally transports them in their spirits from a jail cell to the beach. Your next fill in on your outline. We need a supernatural experience with Jesus before we can love him supremely, we need a supernatural experience with Jesus before we can love him supremely.
Let's look at some words from the apostle John that shed some light on this truth could turn your attention to at first drawn Chapter four verses seven to 14 on your outline Verse is seven and eight. Read like this 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. God is love. He doesn't just display acts of love better than anybody else.
He is the very source of love. Whatever you think about God know that at the very core of His nature, he is love. A love needs an object of its affection. Love doesn't just float aimlessly, it lands on something. And God has always had this in himself. The Bible reveals that God is a trinity, meaning that he's only one God, but that he is eternal existence. Three coequal coey eternal persons in the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
From Eternity past God has experienced perfect love in himself. The Father loves the Son and He loves the spirit. The Spirit loves the father and he loves the son. And the son loves the father and the spirit. And they have loved each other perfectly forever. God didn't create the universe because he was lonely or because he needed people to love and to have them love him back. We don't serve a needy God. God created everything as an overflow of the perfect love he already experienced in himself, because he is love.
Verse is, nine to 10. 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've loved God, but that he loved us and sent his son to be the propitiation for our sins. John says, we didn't love God first. He loved us first. He loved us before we ever loved him back. And how did he love us?
Well, the son of God gave himself as a substitute to pay for our sins on the cross in our place. God gave up everything for us so that we could be forgiven and have eternal life. That's how God has loved us. Verse is, 11 to 14, 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 is perfect and his love story is perfected in us.
By this, we know that we abide in him and he and us because he has given us of his spirit. And we have seen and testify that the father has sent the son to be the savior of the world. Verse is, 12, says that no one has ever seen God. That's with our natural eyes. But John goes on to say that God abides in us. God is inside the life of every single believer. Verse 13 says that the believers have received his spirit.
That's how God is in us by the Holy Spirit that fills us. And verse 14 says that we've seen and testified that the father has sent the son. Well, how did the disciples see Jesus? They saw him with their physical eyes. But how do we see him? Not with these with these eyes, but with these eyes, with the eyes of our hearts. And when the Holy Spirit comes to live inside of a person, they are no longer in the jail cell looking at a postcard when the Holy Spirit is in the person, they are on the beach and they are having a genuine experience with the God who is love.
It is hard to explain because it's such a real supernatural reality when a sinner hears the gospel, the good news of the life and the death and the resurrection of Christ for them, and they believe it. They confess and repent and turn their life over to Christ in faith. They only do that because in that moment, Jesus is revealing himself to that person in a way that they are actually experiencing him. The spiritual light bulb turns on and now they can see that he is more desirable than anything they are asked to give up for him.
Sinners don't become born again without this experience. They don't turn their entire life over to him because they look at a postcard. Sinners give up everything to follow Jesus because God gives them a taste of the beach. And if you're a Christian, that this has taken place in your life in some way. Jesus loves us. Is the radical love of Jesus in us that enables us to love him back, but it's the same love of Jesus that enables us to love other people the way that we should.
I think everybody that believes, God knows, that God wants us to love everyone that he's placed in our life, but I don't think that means it's easy. It's hard to love people sometimes, isn't it? I think it can be very frustrating at times because we know we're supposed to love other people. But often it seems like an impossible task. Like we don't have what it takes to love people the way that we know we should. You want to know why it seems impossible at times to love people the way that we should?
Well, one of the reasons is because we often try to love people in our own strength according to our own abilities. And it's impossible to love people the way that we should when we only use our resources to do so. So here's another illustration for you. You and a bunch of people around you, all dying of thirst, dying of thirst, and all you have is an empty cup. You have no water in the cup for yourself and you have no water in the cup to give to anyone else, but you notice there's a hole in the bottom of the cup and there is a hose you could fit to the bottom of that cup.
And that hose is connected to a giant funnel attached at the other end. And that big funnel was placed right underneath. Niagara Falls, if you attach the hose to your cup, you would have all of Niagara Falls supplying water directly to it and you'd have enough water to satisfy your thirst and you would have enough to give away to anyone who was thirsty many times over. This is what the love of Jesus is like. Without Jesus. We do not have the love of God in us.
We have nothing in our cup. We are spiritually thirsty to death ourselves. We have no love to satisfy our own needs. And we definitely don't have any to give away to the people around us who need love to. But when we come to Jesus, when we repent of our sins and receive his finished work on the cross on our behalf, he not only forgives us, which is amazing on its own, the Bible says that he pours his love into us.
Romans five five. God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. It's the Niagara Falls of Love. When the eternal god of love is in us, we have all the love we need for ourselves and we have all the love we need to give away to others, the rivers of living water that begin to flow out from within us will never run dry. It's this love from Jesus that not only enables us to love him back in a way that we love him more than anything else in our life.
It provides the love we need in order to love people in our life the way that we should love them. God's love in us enables us to love God. But here's your next fill in. God's love in us enables us to love people. God's love in us enables us to love people the way that we should see if I don't love Jesus first and foremost. And his love is not the driving force behind my love for other people, then what else am I relying on to help me love others?
I guess I'd have to rely on my own love that I have to muster up in my own strength. And that would be gross, to be honest with you, because I don't have rivers of living water in me on my own apart from Jesus to give away to someone else, I give sludge. That's what comes out of me naturally, spiritually speaking, because of sin, I'm naturally bent on loving myself over and above, loving God and loving others, even at their expense.
And you are prone naturally to do the same thing to. If I don't love Jesus first, then I'm starving for love and any kind of relationship. I'm in marriage, parenting, dating, friendship, work, whatever I'm in it, needing them to satisfy my need for love. I'm in it for what I can get from them, I'm in it for what I can get, not what I can give away freely, I want them to give me only what God can give me.
I want them to love me the way God loves me. And if both parties are trying to get satisfied by what the other can give them or do for them, then that is a recipe for disaster because you will be perpetually dissatisfied and let down by them because we can't truly satisfy one another. The only way the eternal god of love can. It's a practical question next, why do Christians have such a hard time when it comes to experiencing the love of Jesus in this life?
We know it's going to be awesome in heaven, but can we have any of it now? Yeah, I hope so. I hope so. If God is in us, then why is love so hard most of the time? Because it's not just lovey dovey roses and sunshine all the time. Is it Christian? No. Good at them all alone. Why isn't it? Is your next film loving God is challenged by both internal and external strife loving God is challenged by both internal and external strife.
We have to deal with internal strife. Galatians, five 16 to 17, says. But I say walk by the spirit and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh for the desires of the flesh or against the spirit and the desires of the spirit or against the flesh from these are opposed to each other to keep you from doing the things you want to do. There is a war going on inside the life of every single Christian, without exception.
It's a fight between our new spiritual life that we have in Jesus and our old dead sinful life. And they both vie for our affections in an ongoing kind of way. The old dead US like a zombie version of us, is still kind of there, spiritually speaking, trying to pull us into all dead patterns of dead living and into our old dead habits that do not produce a life of love. And then there's the Holy Spirit in us, leading the new US in a new direction into a new way to live with new patterns and new habits.
Sometimes we choose the spirit. Sometimes we choose Christ over and above anything else that would try to lure us away from him. And it's so amazing when we do. But sometimes the old life wins out. Sometimes our zombie verse is ourselves is stronger than us in that moment, and sometimes we give in to temptation. Sometimes we choose to sin and it sucks when we do. And we won't be able to be done away with the old dead life completely until we get to heaven.
So there's a war taking place on the inside of us. There's a tension that's there, but there's a battle raging on the outside, too. There's external strife. First, Peter says, be sober minded, be watchful. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around the roaring lion seeking to be your friend. No, no, no. It's a seeking someone to devour. The devil is seeking to destroy us, but he isn't overpowering us, making us do the things that we regret puppeteering us, no, we can't ever use the line as Christians.
The devil made me do it out of bounds for us. He can't force you to do anything you don't want to do, but he can certainly entice you to do those things. James one 14 to 15 says, but each person is tempted when he's lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire, when it has conceived, gives birth to sin and sin when it's fully grown, brings forth death. The enemy will attempt to arouse old desires and old passions in US passions that will lead us away from intimacy with Jesus and away from experiencing his love in a life transforming way.
So there's strife on the inside and there's strife on the outside, too. So what do we do, if anything? If anything, is there hope? What do we do to maximize the experience we can have of God's love in our lives as Christians today? Because that's what we want, isn't it? Can I assume that if you're a Christian, you want to personally experience more of God's love in your life than you already do, that's safe to assume?
OK, good. God's presence in us is what changes everything. The initial experience of his presence is what leads us to becoming born again. But experiencing his presence on a regular basis is what will enable us to continue to love him and others for the long haul and a steady and growing way. How do we do it? How can we grow in our experience of the love of Jesus for ourselves and for others? Is your final in Christianity is a love relationship with Jesus?
Christianity is a love relationship with Jesus. It's been almost 14 years since I tricked Jessica into marrying me. Now, she wouldn't have said yes if I proposed to her like this 14 years ago. Imagine me getting down on one knee and saying this to her, baby, I love you so much. I want to love you forever. The stars in your eyes, OK? I want to love you forever. If you will marry me, I promise you that for the rest of my life, I will set aside about an hour and a half every single Sunday just for you, unless it's raining or there's a football game on or if I'm tired happening to you.
That's how much I love you. And because I love you so much, there's more. I'll even spend an extra couple of hours on Wednesday every week with some friends, and we'll look at a postcard of you and talk about you, and there's more. Whenever I get into any kind of trouble, big or small, I will call you and ask you for help in a pressin and an emotional way. But don't worry, I only reach out to you when I'm in a really tough bind.
Other than that, I'll leave you alone. How does that sound, babe? Will you marry me? Any woman would be a fool to accept that kind of marriage proposal. And yet. If we're being honest, I just describe for you what a relationship with Jesus looks like for many Christians today. This isn't guilt trip time, OK, this isn't a heaping shame on people time. This is simply a time to throw all of our cards on the table and see what's going on in our life.
So hear me, I'm not saying that we can manipulate God to move in sweet and powerful ways in our life if we just spend more time with them, we don't have a timer. And when that timer hits a certain number of minutes or hours spent with God, we can sit back and watch him do something miraculous in our hearts, hold his feet to the flames. There's no scale. It's not spend this amount of time with God and then you'll net this amount of love that you experience from him.
We don't have a barter arrangement with him. We can't twist God's arm into making him show us his love. We don't have to twist his arm. He wants to move in our life in personal and amazing ways. What I'm saying is this. If God is the ultimate treasure in our lives, then we need to align our lives in a way that enables us the opportunity to experience him in a personal and ongoing and life changing way. This is what Christianity can be boiled down to.
Just spend quality time with Jesus in a love relationship with him. That's simple. Jesus said these words to his disciples in John, 15, 15, four to five, abidin me and I in you as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine. Neither can you unless you abide in me. I am the vine. You are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit for a part for me.
You can do some things ok. No. Oh no. It says for apart are for me you can do nothing. Nothing of any spiritual eternal weight or significance you can't do apart from me, abide in Jesus, rest in Jesus, spend time with Jesus, wait on Jesus, enjoy the risen real person of Jesus. Set aside time each day, get this just to be with him. Don't squeeze him into an already busy schedule, make room for him.
Of course, you could and should talk with him throughout the day, meditate on him and his word all day long. I'm not saying to choose one way of relating to him over another. We are allowed both, believe it or not, special, set apart time just to be with him with no distractions and constantly thinking about him, praying to him while you accomplish your tasks throughout the day. But we usually do the one instead of the other.
We tag him on the rest of the stuff we do and we rarely give them set apart time that he deserves and that we desperately need to think about the best human relationships that you know of. All of them are a byproduct of quality time spent with the other person, good marriages built through quality time together. Good relationships with our kids is built through quality time with them. Good friendships are built through quality time spent together, and good relationship with God is not different.
Good relationship with God is built by spending quality time with him. There's no other way carve out time each day, either in the morning or in the evening just to be with God. No ulterior motives. Have your Bible open and with you. If you don't know what to say to him in prayer in these times, try something like this. God, I'm here right now and this is the first time for me. I don't know what I'm doing.
I just know that you love me and I've tasted and seen that you're good and I need you. And I want you. And I want to experience your love right now in this moment. Lord, help me do that. I'm here. Just help me do something that I can't do on my own. Let me know you better. Will you help me know your love in a more real way? I haven't had a personal conversation with God to know.
To say thus. Say it the Lord. But I can only imagine God smiles is one of his kids ever comes to him with a request like that. Jesus, all I want right now in this moment is to know you better. That's all I want. Help me do that. I can imagine the smiling, beaming ear to ear with one of his kids coming to him like that. Now, we don't do this to get God to love us more.
We don't do these things to earn his love in any kind of measure. His love is already constantly pouring over us and into us like a waterfall. Spending time with God positions the funnel of our life right side up right under the waterfall of his love in a way that we can be filled up more regularly by what is already freely available to every single one of us. We will be changed when we commune with the living God who is love. This is what fills our cup to overflowing.
So God is love. We have a supernatural encounter with the living God, which leads to our being born again. God pours His love into our hearts and only then can we love him back. And only then do we have what we need to love other people the way that we should. And this isn't a one time transaction of love with God. We don't do a spiritual one night stand with Jesus. We're married to him. So we give ourselves to a love relationship with him and this ongoing love relationship is what changes everything in our lives.
Let's pray. Father. I'm going to do what I recommend to your church to do is this come ask you for help. I pray we pray collectively, Lord, as your body, the saying that. Lord, we don't. We don't want a postcard version of we want the real thing, and I pray, Lord, that as your word went out, your spirit, minister, to the hearts of your people in a way that their their affections were were stimulated.
They their thoughts were heightened for you, their hunger grew deeper for you, they remember times where they walked with you so intimately and some of us might be in a season of life right now where we're in a spiritual desert and dry land and we're resonating. Lord, I'm so thirsty right now. Pour yourself out of me right now, either for the first time or for the first time in a long time. But Jesus, I'm realizing in this moment that you're all my heart longs for and desires.
So just give me you. Take everything away, Lord, and sometimes, I mean asking what this problem I might call the white knuckle the hand, sometimes I hold on to things in this world there are killing me slowly and keeping me from experiencing you rip those things out. Just don't let anything stop me from tasting and seeing how good you are just to have you. I pray you do that for us as a church lord, that we would be known not just as a church that talks about you, but the we know you because we've walked on the beach.