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Showing posts with label Sermons. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Sermons. Show all posts

Monday, March 19, 2018

As Sheep Among Wolves, part 3 - Vindicated vs. Ungodly

Introduction
            My family jokes we live at "Mullis Farm".  This is partially due to the fact we live way out in the country around a bunch of other farms and we have had (or still have) a number of farm animals as pets--chickens, goats, pigs, and turkeys.  It's also because we have so many other animals--three dogs, four cats, and some pet fish! It's quite the farm at "Mullis Farm."
            One of the animals at Mullis Farm is a big black dog we call Cookie.  Cookie showed up on our doorstep as a stray puppy needing a home.  We took her in and she grew to 70 pounds!  She has a deep, scary bark, but she's a harmless scaredee-cat most of the time.  That is, most of the time...
            We usually keep our chickens locked up in a pen to keep them safe from the wild predators that roam around Cohutta like coyotes, owls, and hawks.  We have to keep the chickens safe, because they are more like pets to us than farm animals.  However, we do like to let the chickens out to scratch around for bugs on pretty days when we can keep an eye on them. 
            The first summer we had chickens, we made a grizzly discovery one afternoon while the chickens were out grazing.  Cookie grabbed one and carried it off to the bushes!  We found her chewing on it's dead carcass!  We were devastated.  Since our pets are like family, it was as if on of our family members murdered another family member! 
            Over the years, we've learned Cookie cannot control herself when it comes to the chickens.  If she has the opportunity, she will kill.  When she sees a chicken wandering around the yard, she will even look at us with mournful eyes as if to say, "Please help me!  I don't want to kill that chicken, but if you don't do something to stop me, I know I will."  It's not all Cookie's fault if a chicken dies.  As a natural predator, she has an instinct to kill that she can't overcome.  In the wild that instinct would help her survive, but as a house pet it's a real weakness.  So, when the chickens are out roaming the yard, we either put Cookie in the house or hook her to a chain so she can't get the chickens.  And as long as we do, the chickens are safe.

Matthew 10:16-20 16 “Look, I am sending you out as sheep among wolves. So be as shrewd as snakes and harmless as doves. 17 But beware! For you will be handed over to the courts and will be flogged with whips in the synagogues. 18 You will stand trial before governors and kings because you are my followers. But this will be your opportunity to tell the rulers and other unbelievers about me.[a] 19 When you are arrested, don’t worry about how to respond or what to say. God will give you the right words at the right time. 20 For it is not you who will be speaking—it will be the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.

Key Verse – Matthew 10:16 - 16 “Look, I am sending you out as sheep among wolves.
            We haven't had sheep at Mullis Farm (yet!).  However, we’ve had goats.  Baby goats are so cute and innocent.  The first time a held a baby goat, I was struck by the difference between baby goats and puppies or kittens.  Puppies and kittens are cute too--little fur balls who love to play.  If you've ever see one, you know what I mean.  They will chase a ball or wrestle or bat around a wad of paper and it's a joy to behold.  What they are really doing, though, is practicing.  As puppies and kittens chase and pounce, they are honing the hunting and killing skills of a predator.  Puppies and kittens have fangs and claws--tools designed for catching and killing other animals.  That's just a fact of nature.  That's the way they were designed. 
            Now contrast that to a baby goat (and this would be true of a lamb too).  Goats aren't predators; they're omnivores and eat only grass or leaves.  They have no claws, no fangs.  Their simple teeth are designed only for chewing vegetation.  A baby goat or lamb is the most harmless animal.  When it plays, it's full of joy!  It jumps and bounds and runs and prances as playfully as any puppy or kitten.  The difference is it has no predatory instincts at all.  It doesn't grab you or wrestle  or bite.  Those behaviors aren't part of their psychology at all.  They will never grow up to hunt or kill another animal.  That's just the way sheep and goats are designed.
            Now, do you think sheep are good because they never kill?  No.  Sheep are neither good nor bad.  They are merely sheep.  They are just living out the design God gave them.  Do you think wolves are bad because they kill?  No.  Wolves are neither good nor bad.  They are merely wolves.  They're just living out the design God gave them.  You can't really fault these different types of animals for acting on they're natural design.  It's just who they are.
            In Matthew 10:16-20, Jesus uses sheep and wolves as symbols to describe two kinds of people in our world.  The sheep are Christ’s godly followers who go out into the world and face the ungodly people (the wolves) of the world—governors, kings, rulers, and other unbelievers.  The sheep aren't going out to fight the wolves, but to tell them about Jesus.  
            The "sheep" are not necessarily good people; they are godly people because they follow God and have been forgiven and justified by God.  Godly people, saints, are just sinners who’ve been saved by God’s amazing grace and love.  The "wolves" of our world are not necessarily bad people; some of them may be really good people.  They are only ungodly because they don’t yet follow God, but they’re not necessarily bad people.  It’s important to know good people can be ungodly and someone you think is particularly bad might just be one of God’s chosen people.
            Proverbs shares a lot of wisdom about both godly and ungodly people.  As I've been paraphrasing Proverbs, (putting the scriptures in my own words), I came up with the following: Pastor Chris’ Paraphrase of Proverbs 4:18-19 - "Those who are vindicated by God walk a path with a beautiful sunrise--full of hope for the future and increasing each moment until it’s fully realized.  Ungodly people walk blindly down a dark, dark path and don’t even know what trips them up."

Ungodly - Râšâ' - רָשָׁע

            The Hebrew word in Proverbs 4:19 that scholars translate as wicked or evil is rasa.  It means morally wrong, criminal, guilty of sin, and condemned.   Ultimately, it means ungodly and ungodly literally means "without God".  According to Christian doctrine, anyone who is without God is guilty and condemned.  Now Hebrews 13:5 tells us God will never leave us or forsake us.  And since God never leaves us, if we are without God, it is because we walked away from God.  This is the condition of humanity.  We have walked away from God.
             The primary thing that makes a wicked person evil isn’t the bad things they’ve done. The primary thing that makes a person evil is living without God.  Remember, a wolf isn’t good or bad because it kills a lamb.  That’s just what wolves do.  And an ungodly person isn’t good or bad because of the bad things they do.  They’re just living out their nature.  An ungodly person is evil because they are without God. 

Vindicated - Saḏiyq - צַדִּיק
             The Hebrew word in Proverbs 4:18 for vindicated is sadiyq.  It means just, lawful, righteous.  You might look at a person who always does the right thing, a “law-abiding citizen”, and say they righteous.  However, sadiyq means a person is righteousness because of what God says.  God has justified or vindicated someone who is sadiyq.  There can be no question of the goodness of their character because God is the one who said they are righteous.  (And who’s gonna argue with God?)
            So, it is God who makes a person righteous.  We see this in Abraham, the father of the Jewish and Christian faiths.  Abraham was considered righteous because he trusted God.  Genesis 15:6, "[Abraham] believed the Lord, and the Lord counted him as righteous because of his faith."  The idea that people's faith makes them righteous is confirmed in the New Testament.  Romans 4:5, "People are counted as righteous, not because of their work, but because of their faith in God who forgives sinners."  So, even though we have all sinned (Romans 3:23) and the consequences of sin is death (Romans 6:23), we are saved for eternal life and made righteous when we believe in Jesus Christ.
            Godly people will do good things, but that's not what makes them righteous.  They do good because God did such great things for them.  God loved us even though we didn't deserve it and saved humanity from sin.  Godly people love God because God first loved them.  And if they love God, they will also love the people God loves; and God loves everyone.  Therefore, godly people love even those who seem the most unlovable because it is a a way to love and honor God.


The Fate of Godly vs. Ungodly People
            Proverbs makes quite a lot of distinctions between godly and ungodly people.  Here are a few examples:
·       Proverbs 10:7 – Godly people are remembered fondly as a blessing, but the ungodly fade into oblivion.
·       Proverbs 10:11 – Godly people say things that give life to everyone, but ungodly people lie to cover up the bad things they’ve done.
·       Proverbs 10:20 – The things a godly person says are worth more than silver.  Even the ideas of the ungodly are worthless.
·       Proverbs 11:7 – An ungodly person’s hope is lost when they finally die; their lives come to nothing.
·       Proverbs 14:19 – Evil people are ashamed in the presence of the good.  The ungodly are locked outside and long for the goodness of those who live right.
·       Proverbs 14:32 – The ungodly are cast out because of their own crimes, but those who live right trust God even in death.

            It’s pretty clear from Proverbs that godly people have a much better fate than the ungodly.  Jesus is even more explicit in the Gospels.  He warned that when he comes to judge the world, everyone who ever lived will be brought before him and he will separate the godly from the ungodly.  Then he will say to the godly:  “Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world.”  And he will say to the ungodly:  “Away with you, you cursed ones, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his demons.”  (Matthew 25:31-46)

How Can I Be Godly?
            A wise person would take these warnings to heart.  You need to be sure you are in the godly category as opposed to ungodly.  So, how do you ensure you are counted among the godly and not the ungodly?  Here's how. 

First, repent of your sin and turn to God. 
            You have to recognize you have sinned and ask for forgiveness.  Even if you’ve never done anything that might be considered “really bad”, you have still sinned.  Surely you can see you have not always trusted Jesus completely, not lived your life completely for God, done some things you shouldn’t have done, and not done some things you should have done.  Have you ever told lie (even a small one)? Have you ever stolen something (maybe taken a pen home from work)? Have you ever lusted in your heart? Have you ever wanted what someone else had (that's called coveting and it's one of the attitudes prohibited by the ten commandments)?  If you've broken any rule or made any mistake, you have sinned and need to ask God for forgiveness.  The good news is, God will forgive you for every sin--even if it's too terrible to mention--because of what Jesus Christ has done for us.
            John 3:16 tells us, "God loved the world so much that he sent his son, Jesus, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have everlasting life."  Christ came to earth and lived as one of us.  He lived a perfect and holy life.  He was innocent, but he was arrested and put to death to pay for price for our sins.  He was willing to make this sacrifice because he loves us so much.  And if you trust what Jesus did for you, God will forgive you and vindicate you and call you righteous.  You will be numbered among the godly.  So ask for forgiveness and choose to follow Jesus from this day forward. 

Second, live a godly life.
            If you have real faith in Jesus, you will trust him and do the things he asks you to do.  Faith is not a light thing.  It is serious and it changes everything about your life.  Once there was a man hiking on a beautiful but isolated mountain trail.  As he was admiring a breathtaking overlook, he slipped and fell from the precipice.  However as he fell, he managed to grasp a small branch growing from the side of the cliff.  There he clung for dear life as he desperately called for help.  No one answered and he was unable to pull himself to safety.  The man began to pray, "Lord!  Save me!  I don't want to die!"  To his surprise, God answered--not from above but from below.  And the Lord said, "I am here, even though you can't see me.  Just let go of the branch and I will catch you."  And the man said... "Is there anyone else who can help me?"
            Jesus wants you to let go of the things you were clinging to before for meaning, happiness, and value.  He wants you to cling to him instead.  He is your only hope, but do you really trust him?  When you trust Jesus, you will let go of the past (even if it’s frightening) and trust him to lead you into a better future.  When you really trust Jesus, you will obey his teachings in the Bible, you will let him guide you day by day, and allow his Holy Spirit to gradually change the attitudes and behaviors in you that do not properly reflect the love of Christ.  So truly trust Christ and you will begin to actually live a godly life. 

Last, persevere to the end.             The Christian life is a marathon not a sprint.  Although none of us know how much time we have to live this life, most people will become a Christian and then live another forty to eighty years.  The time after you first become a Christian can be exciting and energetic.  It's like falling in love, but what do you do when the "newness" wears off and the "honeymoon" is over.  Will you continue to be faithful and follow Jesus?  There will be times of excitement and renewed passion, but there will also be times of trials and difficulties.  Sometimes the journey of a disciple is easy and other times it feels like it's all uphill.  Don't give up!  Persevere.  God uses the journey to shape you and build your faith.  Never go back to the ungodly person you were before.  You've chosen to be godly so stay on the path Jesus set before you.
            It has been said that every person has two wolves living inside them--one is evil and one is good.  The bad and good wolf are locked in a vicious battle--biting and clawing, wrestling and rolling in a bloody fight to the death. The wolf that wins the fight for your soul will be the one you feed the most.

Monday, March 12, 2018

As Sheep Among Wolves, part 2 - Gullible vs. Prudent

Introduction
            Do you think most people are honest?  Could you trust them?  I watched a YouTube video this week about a guy who tested people's honesty.  He pretended to be blind, wearing dark sunglasses and carrying a can, and went up to complete strangers on the street and asked them if they could make change for a five dollar bill.  Only, he handed them a $50 instead of $5.  A hidden camera captured how they responded.  A few were honest--telling him he'd made a mistake and handed them the wrong amount.  More surprising, were the ones who took advantage of the "blind" man--trading him five one dollar bill for his fifty dollar bill.  One man apparently didn't have the change, so he simply walked away stealing the man's $50 without even saying anything.  You can see the video here.
            There are a lot of people in this world who would take advantage of you if they could.  The world can be a dangerous place.  We need wisdom to survive.  I need more wisdom.  That's why I've been studying Proverbs since last summer.  Each morning, I read a few verses and really try to understand their meaning.  I even look at the original Hebrew words for deeper insight.  Then, I paraphrase the verses in my own words, trying to capture the meaning the best I can.  (You can read some of my paraphrases here in my past blogs or follow me on Facebook where I usually post a paraphrased verse each morning.) 
            In this series, I am sharing some of the ideas I've picked up.  I hope you will join me each week for my blogs on wisdom. 

Matthew 10:16-20 16 “Look, I am sending you out as sheep among wolves. So be as shrewd as snakes and harmless as doves. 17 But beware! For you will be handed over to the courts and will be flogged with whips in the synagogues. 18 You will stand trial before governors and kings because you are my followers. But this will be your opportunity to tell the rulers and other unbelievers about me.[a] 19 When you are arrested, don’t worry about how to respond or what to say. God will give you the right words at the right time. 20 For it is not you who will be speaking—it will be the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.

A Dangerous World
            The key verse is Matthew 10:16 where it says, “...be as shrewd as snakes and harmless as doves…”  In other words, don’t be gullible, but don’t be cynical either.  There are people in this world who will try to take advantage of you.  These days, we are inundated with telemarketers, spam email, pushy salesmen, and politicians who want our votes.  (I got an email from a Saudi Prince wh died and left me a million dollars!  All I have to do to claim it is email my social security number so they can deposit it in my bank account...)
            I learned and interesting and disturbing fact this week.  Do you know what is the leading cause of fire in churches?  Maybe you would guess faulty wiring in old buildings or grease fires in the kitchen.  If you guessed those, you would be wrong.  According to Church Mutual Insurance, the leading cause of fire in the church is arson!  This checks out from my own experience.  In 2016, someone set fire to our brand new church van and the fires spread to our church building.  It was determined to be arson.  Who would have thought?  You would think people would be more respectful and not lash out at a sacred place of worship.  You would be wrong.  It is a dangerous world.
            Well, if we are sheep (as Jesus said--harmless, gentle, defenseless), how can we survive out there among the wolves?  How can we navigate this crazy world with so many people waiting to prey on us?  We need wisdom.

Pastor Chris' Paraphrase of Proverbs 22:3
A wise person senses trouble before it happens and steers clear; the naïve walk right into it and learn a hard lesson.

Naïve – Pethiy - פֶּתִי             The Hebrew word in Proverbs 22:3 we translate “naive” is pethiy.   Pethiy can mean naïve, simple, silly, or childish.  It basically means someone is so inexperienced they are easily misled.  It's like a little toddler came skipping up to her mommy very excited carrying a cat turd in her fist.  “Mommy! Mommy!  I found a tootsie roll on the floor!”  (The mother was horrified as she dove for the child before it could shove the "tootsie roll" in it's mouth!)  That child was naïve, simple, silly, childish.  It didn't know any better.  Thankfully the mother was watching out for her.
            Jesus warned us so we wouldn’t be naïve.  If you don’t heed his warning then you are not naïve, but gullible. There’s a subtle difference between being naïve and gullible.   Did you know that?  A naïve person is someone who is so inexperienced they are easily fooled.  A gullible person is someone who has experience but doesn’t let it guide them and so they are easily fooled.  Don’t be naïve and don’t be gullible.

Prudent - 'Ârûm - עָרוּם
            Now the opposite of naïve in the Proverb is the Hebrew word arum, which means “prudent”.  Whenever I hear the word prudent, I immediately think back to my childhood when George H. W. Bush was president.  He once said, “I'm not gonna do it.  It wouldn’t be prudent.”  (SNL even started poking fun of Bush for his phrase.)  Prudent describes someone who is cautious and can see trouble coming before it happens. A prudent person is shrewd and hard to fool.  You’re more likely to be fooled by them than you are to fool them.  We need to be prudent.
            Jesus said, "...be as innocent as doves...", but there is a type of innocence that walks around carelessly over-trusting everyone and everything so as to be easily duped.  We can’t afford to be like that because Jesus said there are wolves all around.  That’s why Jesus also said, "...be as wise as snakes."  Snakes have to be careful because nobody likes them and they could get killed just by someone stepping on them.
            On the other hand, we must take care not to become paranoid either.  When you are hurt or fooled, there is the danger you will never trust or open yourself up to anyone ever again.  And that’s not healthy and it’s not what Jesus wants for us either.  It’s better to learn from your mistakes and gain wisdom.  A wise person doesn’t blame the sins of one person on everyone else.  A wise person knows every individual is different and each person is responsible only for their own transgressions.  A wise person doesn’t blame everyone else for the bad things one person did.
            We must be diligent and prudent.  The stakes are too high for us to be lazy.  A gullible person is too lazy to investigate and think carefully about people and situations.  They take the easy road and just trust everyone.  An overprotective skepticism is lazy too.  Proverbs 22:13 (PCP) says, "A lazy person claims, “There’s a lion out there! I’ll get killed if I go out!”"  Someone who won't trust anyone is lazy because they assume everyone is bad and won't put forth the effort to even consider whether someone one might be trustworthy or not.  Don’t let fear be an excuse to be lazy.
            A prudent person learns to discern between people and distinguish between those who are godly and those who are ungodly, those who can be trusted and those who can’t.  Wisdom also knows the difference between a bad person who sometimes does good things and a good person who made a bad mistake.  We need wisdom and prudence.

Practical Application
            Let me leave you with some practical things you can do to be prudent and not gullible. 

            First, learn from your mistakes. We all make mistakes, but we don’t all learn from our mistakes.  (Some people have to make the same mistakes five or six time just to make sure.  Some never learn!  Don’t let that be you!)  You can learn better from your mistakes if you take some time afterward to analyze what went wrong.  Don’t beat yourself up.  Try to set your disappointment and emotions aside for a moment and just ask some basic questions:
  • What went wrong?
  • How did I get into this predicament?
  • What (if anything) was going on inside me that helped lead me to make the decisions I did that lead me to this trouble?
  • How could I avoid this in the future? 
            Second, if you're gonna be wise and not gullible, pay attention to what’s really going on. The context of any situation can completely change the meaning.  There's a funny State Farm Commercial that's been airing.  It shows to completely different situations: one where a young girl just got a new car and one where a man just had his car stripped in a bad neighborhood.  It's funny, because it shows the people in both situations saying the same exact words, but the in the two different contexts they mean absolutely different things.
            If you're going to be prudent, you have to look beyond what's happening on the surface.  What is the situation? Ask:  Where am I?  What’s the context? What’s motive of those talking to me?  How does this affect the situation and how I respond?  Are you leaving the church after dark and get approached by a stranger?  that's totally different from leaving church in the middle of the day in a crowd of people.  Are you checking your email when a window pops up on your screen and says “You just won a million dollars!  Click here to claim it!”  If it's too good to be true, it probably is. 
            Pay attention to people's body language. It’s not just what people say, it’s how they say it.  I had a guy stop by the church with his young son and he was asking if we could help him pay his power bill.  (Now we get these kinds of request all the time and you never know if people are telling the truth).  As I talked with the man, he made it obvious he'd brought he son along because he wanted me to think he cared about his son and didn't want his poor, little boy to go without.  But as I talked with him and watched his body language and how he interacted with his son, it became quite clear the man was using his son to manipulate me into feeling sympathy for him so I would give him some money.  Now, as I noticed this, it told a very different story than what the man was saying with his words.  Using your son to manipulate others is despicable thing to do.  That's not caring for your son.  That's using your son. 
           
            Third, take your time and don’t rush in. Rushing doesn’t give you time to think things through and leads to poor decisions and bad mistakes.  Don’t let people pressure you.  Manipulators (wolves) know what you want to hear and what will make you feel pressured to act before you think.  They bait you until they snag you with the hook.  Then they reel you in and it gets harder and harder to get away.  So take your time.  Don't jump before you weigh things out properly.
            Pray about it.  Ask God to guide you.  This also allows you more time to think.  And as you prayer, listen for God's answer.  If something doesn’t feel right, it may be God’s warning.  We often want to give people the benefit of the doubt even when our instinct is saying something’s wrong.  Listen for the Holy Spirit's guidance.
            Ask a Christian friend you trust and you know will tell you the truth (even if you don't want to hear it).  Sometimes God speaks to us through His people.  A friend you trust will be see more clearly as a third party who doesn't have a dog in the fight.  Listen to them.  Every trusting, optimistic person needs a wary, pessimistic friend they can ask for advice.  And every wary, pessimistic person needs an optimistic friend they can ask for advice.  These two different personalities can help each other find the truth which usually lies somewhere in the middle.

Do the Prudent Thing
            The most prudent thing you can do in this life is take Christ seriously.  You see, the world is a dangerous place.  We are like sheep among wolves.  But we don't have to be afraid if we trust in Christ, because then God is on our side.  Even if Christians make mistakes or are taken advantage of, mistreated, used, or abused, God will take care of His children.  God will use everything to build His faithful ones up and show us His love.  God will repay those who mistreat His children.  And even if a Christian falls seven times, they will get back up again because God strength lifts them.  So the most prudent thing you can do is put your whole faith in Jesus Christ.
            Ask yourself:  Is Jesus really who he said he was—the Son of God, Lord, Savior of the world?  Will you really do what he said you should do—repent (stop doing wrong and start living as Jesus said), believe, love God, love your neighbor, and tell others about Jesus?  The decision is yours.  I hope and pray you will do the prudent thing, the wise thing and chose to follow Jesus today.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Silly Love Songs Part 2 - Revealed in Christ

1 John 3:16
We know what real love is because Jesus gave up his life for us. So we also ought to give up our lives for our brothers and sisters.

Introduction
            We all want to feel loved and we want to love others.  Love is programed is in our human code.  Maybe that’s why we are so infatuated with love songs.  One study showed that about 60% of the most popular songs from the last 50 years are about romantic love.[i]  In 2009, a study claimed that 92% of the top selling songs contained themes of romance, sexual appeal, or attraction.[ii]  As I was preparing for this message series about a month ago, I pasted on Facebook, asking for suggestions of cheesy love songs.  I was surprised and overwhelmed with a flood of suggestions.  It’s been a month and people are still adding song suggestions to the post!  The playlist I made from all the suggestions is over and hour and a half long!  (You can see the suggestions on my Facebook page here.) Apparently, we love our silly love songs!

The World’s View of Love
            One of the first silly love songs many children sing is:  Kelly and Chris, sittin’ in a tree.  K-I-S-S-I-N-G.  First comes love. Then comes marriage. Here comes Kelly with a baby carriage!  What a silly song!  Sadly, it is a fairly accurate description of the world’s childish view of love.  The popular conception of love is that two people see each other and it is Love at First Sight.  According to the way I define love--real love--there's no such thing as love at first sight.  There may be attraction at first sight, but that's not the same as love.  Love is something deeper that flows from a relationship that develops over time.
            The popular notion of love stories in our culture says two people meet and they Fall in Love.  In this way of thinking, falling in love is as accidental as falling in a ditch!  You have no control over it.  Again, you may certainly be caught off guard and be accidentally attracted to someone.  That is why it may be important to be careful who you hang around with.  It might not be wise for a woman and a man who are not married or in a committed relationship to hang out alone together.  Men and women are designed to develop attractions to each other and it can happen quite by accident.  That's why you have to be careful.  Again, I must point out that attraction is not the same as love.  Attraction sometimes leads to a relationship of  love, but authentic love is a choice.  We have the power to choose it or reject it.  Love does not happen by accident.  You don't fall into love by accident.  You choose it or you don't.
            In the popular imagination, people fall in love because they’ve found their One True Love.  And people often have this terrible fear they might miss out on meeting the one.  There is this notion that the is just one person out there who is meant to be your soul mate.  People feel a tremendous pressure to find their one true love.  Friends, life is not a Disney fairytale.  You don’t just have one true love out there.  There are lots of fish in the sea (as a more realistic expression goes).  There's not just one but plenty of people out there who could all qualify as your "one true love".  certainly, there are those out there who are more or less compatible with you, but there are plenty to choose from.  And your “One True Love” is the one person you choose to love and who chooses to love you for the rest of your lives.
 
The Bible and Love
            We often accept these unrealistic notions about romantic love as the gospel truth with out even thinking about it.  However, if we really want to know the truth about love, we need to search the timeless truths in the Bible.  When the Bible talks about love, it is not primarily talking about romantic love.  Remember what Jesus said?  He said the first and greatest commandment was to love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.  And the second greatest commandment was not love your wife.  It was love your neighbor as yourself. (Mark 12:30)
            One of the most common scriptures to read at a wedding is 1 Corinthians 13 (known as the love chapter).  It reads: "Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance."  This really is wonderful advice to give to a couple as they tie the knot, but that's not why Paul wrote it in the first century.  Paul gave that advice to the people of his church to instruct them on how to getting along each other in church.  It was not about romantic love.
            When we here the word love, we often jump directly to romantic love, but that is not the primary focus of the Scriptures.  The very first time the Bible uses the word love is in Genesis 22:2 and it’s talking about the way Abraham loves his son Isaac.  Ephesians 5:25 does give advice about the love between a husband and wife, but it says, “Husbands, love your wives," (not by giving them a heart shaped box of chocolates, or flowers, or by writing them a sonnet, but love them) "just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.”  
          Love comes in many forms and it’s not just about (or even primarily about) romantic love.  1 John 3:16 tells us what real love is.  It says, We know what real love is because Jesus gave up his life for us. So we also ought to give up our lives for our brothers and sisters.”            Wouldn’t you agree: the most precious gift anyone can give is their life?  We admire firefighters and others who risk there life and sometimes even lose their lives trying to save others.  That is how Jesus loves us.            Romans 5:7-8 says, "Now, most people would not be willing to die for an upright person, though someone might perhaps be willing to die for a person who is especially good. But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners."  Jesus died for some good people.  (And I would argue that many of those people were good or did good things because they felt loved by how Jesus died for them.)  However, Jesus also died for some very bad people.  He died to offer forgiveness and grace and love to some people who've done some very evil things.  Maybe even some people who know one would have died for.  Jesus even died for the yong man who killed all those students at the school in Florida last week.  And Jesus died for all those who were killed.  That is the great love of Jesus. 


Dang It, Prince!
            I had planned to sprinkle some silly love song lyrics through this message like last week to drive home some of my points.  The song that came to mind for this section was Prince's song, "I Would Die For You.”  I never really listen to all the lyrics before as a child when the song was popular (and their kind of hard to understand when Prince is singing).  So I thought I better look up the lyrics so I could get them right.  I was very surprised by what I found.  These are some very spiritual lyrics that are could speak to us today!  Not the kind of thing you would expect from a pop icon famous for his sex appeal and provocative dancing and lyrics.  But listen to what he sings:
I'm not a woman.  I'm not a man.  I am something that you'll never understand.
[You see, the deepest love is not about romantic love.  It's about Christ's love for you.]
I'll never beat you.  I'll never lie.  And if you're evil I'll forgive you by and by.
[As Prince sings, he emphasizes the word "you" each time he sings this]
'Cause you, I would die for you, yeah; Darling if you want me to.
You, I would die for you


[And the song continues...]
I'm not your lover.  I'm not your friend.  I am something that you'll never comprehend.
No need to worry.  No need to cry.  I'm your messiah and you're the reason why.
'Cause you, I would die for you, yeah. Darling if you want me to.
You, I would die for you

[Listen to the song here]

            Do you realize the love you need doesn’t come from a man or a woman?  Until you realize it and find the love of God that fulfills your soul, you’re not really ready to be in a deep romantic relationship with someone.  Otherwise, you’ll constantly be expecting them to fill the God-shaped whole in your soul.  And they can’t.  At best, they’ll just leave you feeling unsatisfied.  They’ll be unhappy.  You’ll be unhappy.  In more severe cases, you’ll reach out for anyone to be in a relationship with in a desperate attempt to fill the void.  And you’ll do it again and again even if people keep using and abusing you. 
            The love you need doesn’t come from your kids or your parents or your friends.  Sure, we all need our parents to love us.  We all want our kids to love us.  And we all need friends who love us.  But if you’re looking to your parents, your kids, or friends to fill your need for God’s love, you’re setting yourself up for failure and disappointment.  If you have the love of God, you can get by without the love of these others; but if you don't have the love of God, none of these others will do.
            The love we need is found in Jesus.  He already died for you.  For you!  You are loved with the most deep and desperate and unlimited love!  Jesus suffered the most unimaginable pain and agony and death for you!  Let that sink in.  Let that encourage you.  Let that fill you from the bottoms of your feet to top of your heard and to the very depths of your soul.

Loving Others
            1 John 3:16 says, We know what real love is because Jesus gave up his life for us. So we also ought to give up our lives for our brothers and sisters.”  We love others, because Jesus first loved us.  We are called to love the way Jesus loved us--by giving up our lives for them.  Giving up our lives doesn't necessarily mean dying.  More often, it means living selflessly with sacrificial love.  Because of what Christ did for us, we can join in with Prince as we sing to the world:  “I would die for you!  For our spouse – “I would die for you!”  For our children – “I would die for you!”  For our parents – “I would die for you!”  For our friends – “I would die for you!”  For our enemies – “I would die for you!”  For everyone – “I would die for you!”

Invitation
            I would like to invite you to receive the love of Jesus.  He died for you. Receive his love.  Accept it.  Become his dearly beloved child.  Not because you deserve it.  But because He did it for you!  If you've never done so, please pray to accept his love today.  And start living your life for him as he died for you.
            I would also like to invite everyone to be filled with the love of Jesus.  He died for you.  Now he calls you to love others sacrificially.  We can’t do that on our own.  We need to be filled with Jesus’ love in order to love others the way Jesus loves us.  So pray and ask Jesus to fill you today. 




[i] http://news.ufl.edu/archive/2007/05/love-still-dominates-pop-song-lyrics-but-with-raunchier-language.html
[ii] https://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2011/09/92-top-ten-billboard-songs-are-about-sex/337242/