Monday, November 21, 2016

Perfect Them in Love

Introduction
            The people of Pleasant Grove UMC are being the body of Christ.  Click here to watch Jeremy, Allie, and Sara share how Jesus is blessing them at PGUMC.  They are growing in faith, hope, and love thanks to Jesus Christ.
            1 Corinthians 13:13 says, “Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.” Faith, hope, and love are the core components of the promise we—as a congregation—make to people who become members of Pleasant Grove United Methodist Church. We promise to “...do all in our power to increase their faith, confirm their hope, and perfect them in love.”  In my previous two blogs, I talked about how we can help increase faith and confirm hope in others. Today I want to consider the greatest virtue—love.  

1 Corinthians 13:1-3
1 If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing. If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing.

The Greatest is Love
            Perhaps you remember a brash, young boxer who used to boast, "I am the greatest!" Mohamed Ali was possibly the greatest boxer of all times and his ability to boast and talk trash was even greater than his boxing ability.  However, true greatness, the greatest greatness, the only greatness that will last is love.
[Slide – Love is patient and kind…]
            Love is not a warm fuzzy feeling. The love the Bible describes is very different from the love we hear about from the world in movies and love songs. Love is what we do for one another when we act sacrificially. Love is full of patience & kindness.  love honors others.  Love protects, trusts, hopes forgives, and reconciles.  Love gives to others sacrificially.  Jesus is the greatest example of love.
            When I look at the way Jesus loved people and when I read how 1 Corinthians 13 describes love, I don't read anything about how another person makes you feel—how they give you goose bumps or make you tingle or how happy they make you feel.  The Bible teaches us love is what we do for others even if we get nothing in return.

Perfection
             John Wesley believed we could reach perfection in this lifetime. Wesley caught a lot of flack from theologians who scoffed at the idea of perfect people. People today might be skeptical of his assertion too.  Obviously, people are far from perfect. Even mature, faithful Christians—well advanced in years—still sin (if only in the sense that they occasionally make mistakes). Can we really be perfect?                         We may not be perfect in the sense that we never make mistakes, but, with God's help, we can reach the point that everything we do is perfectly motivated by love.  Perfect love does not mean we will never make mistakes. It means everything we do is motivated by love for God and love for our neighbor. Thus, even when we make a mistake, when it is motivated by love, the Holy Spirit can take our mistakes and turn them into good.
            I once gave my wife a Mother's Day gift I thought was perfect.  I was so proud of myself.  It wasn't a last minute gift.  I planned it weeks in advance.  I knew Kelly liked Tervis' insulated water cups and I found out you can make a customized Tervis.  So, I got online and designed on with a picture of our family and the message: "We Love You, Momma!"  I was so excited for Kelly to open the gift, thinking she would really love it.  When she opened it, she said, "You misspelled my name.  I spell it Mama."  Well, I felt terrible, but we had a good laugh because Kelly is a gracious, patient, loving person and she knew it was the thought that counts and that I had honestly tried out of love to honor and appreciate her.  To this day, we will occasionally have a laugh when we call Kelly Momma instead of Mama.  Even when we make a mistake, God can use it for good when it is motivate by love.
            Your goal as a Christian should be to grow in love toward perfection.  You should aim to reach perfection (in love) before you leave this world. Hope for it. Train for it. Work for it. Strive for it.

The Holy Spirit Enables Us
             The Holy Spirit empowers us to grow spiritually. When we open ourselves up to the power of the Holy Spirit, we can mature as Christians. We can grow in the fruits of the spirit—love, joy peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. We can grow in faith, hope, and love when we let the Holy Spirit work in us.
            We don’t cause the growth. It comes from God. Suppose an eight-year-old child decides they don't like being eight and want to be sixteen.  So he closes his eyes and grits his teeth and concentrates as hard as he can on being a sixteen-year-old.  Can he make himself sixteen?  Of course not.  That's absurd! Only God can make a child grow.  However, there are things a child can do to cooperate with God's power and open themselves up to the healthy growth God wants to give. They can eat their fruits and vegetables, get enough sleep at night, pay attention in school, learn to obey their parents, etc.  These are things that will help a child mature over time.
            Similarly, you cannot make yourself grow spiritually.  Only the Holy Spirit can do that. However, there are some things you can do to cooperate with the Holy Spirit and open yourself up to growth.  You can pray daily and worship with other believers every week.  You can study your Bible and learn God's ways and will for your life.  You can serve others.  You can give of your time and money.  You can celebrate Holy Communion (we share Holy Communion at Pleasant Grove UMC the first Sunday of each month).  You can look to a groups of trusted Christians friends to hold you accountable.  These are things that will open you up to the growth the Holy Spirit wants to work within you.  Over time, you will mature and grow in your faith, hope, and love.  One day, you may find everything you do is motivated perfectly by love.

Conclusion
             We perfect one another in love by loving one another. Love gives birth to love.
Jesus gave the ultimate example. You see, it is not that we loved God. God first loved us. While we were still sinners, Jesus came and died for us to forgive us our sins. His love inspires true love in us.
God reached out to us in love—even though we didn't deserve it. And because He loves us, we can love Him. We can also love one another, because He loves us all. Even the worst among us is loved by God and can be loved by us if we allow the Holy Spirit to move in us. And when we love the unlovable, it can change them.
            We perfect each other in love by loving each other. Even when your brother or sister doesn't deserve love, love them anyway. This is our promise to each other. It is also how we perfect each other in love. For your love—freely offered—is the hope that love will grow in others. Love gives birth to love.
            So, brothers and sisters, I implore you to increase one another's faith, confirm one another's hope, and perfect one another in love all for the glory of God!