Loving God and Loving Our Neighbour

Sunday, 08 September 2013
Sermon Notes:

                                   Loving God and loving our neighbours
                                     What does loving God mean?
                                  How can we love Him more?
             How can we see our neighbours coming into the Kingdom?

These two great commands were first written over three thousand years ago in the books of Moses in the Old Testament. They were reinforced by Jesus when a teacher in the law asked: “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” “What is written in the Law?” Jesus replied. “How do you read it?” He answered, “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’” “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.” But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbour?”

Loving God
Sometimes when we think of loving God it sounds so abstract. Most people don’t literally see Him, feel Him or touch Him, yet we use these expressions to describe our relationship with Him. There are exceptions in the Bible, such as Isaiah where He says “I saw the Lord sitting on a throne” or Amos who said “I saw the Lord standing by the altar”. But Jesus says: “Blessed are they who do not see and yet believe.” Also David says: “you fill me with joy of your presence”.

So how can we explain this mysterious love? The Bible’s own analogy is that of the Bride’s relationship with the bridegroom. The Song of Songs is a whole book devoted to this. John the Baptist refers to this relationship when he says: “You yourselves are my witnesses that I said, 'I am not the Christ,' but, 'I have been sent ahead of Him.' He who has the bride is the bridegroom; but the friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly because of the bridegroom's voice. So this joy of mine has been made full. He must increase, but I must decrease.….” Jesus also calls himself the bridegroom: “John's disciples and the Pharisees were fasting; and they came and said to Him, "Why do John's disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees fast, but Your disciples do not fast?" And Jesus said to them, "While the bridegroom is with them, the attendants of the bridegroom cannot fast, can they? So long as they have the bridegroom with them, they cannot fast. "But the days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast in that day.”

The analogy Jesus is using is the first honeymoon love between a man and a woman. This marriage relationship is about “forsaking all others”. The key ingredient is that two people belong to each other.

Single people have a great advantage, as Paul says, because they can “be devoted to the Lord in both body and spirit.” They can have “undivided devotion to the Lord.” This joy of love for the Lord will increase as we dedicate ourselves to maintaining our first love for Him and seeking to love Him more each day.

It is this undivided devotion that is the joy of a loving relationship. The Ten Commandments begin: “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me.” We have been brought out of the slavery of sin in order to live in undivided devotion to God. The first four relate to our loving God, and the second four to our love for mankind.

Loving neighbours
The foundation of loving God gives us the platform on which we can love our neighbour. Our neighbour’s greatest need is to find forgiveness in Jesus Christ and be born again; as we live a life of loving God so they will “ask a reason for the hope that is in us” and we also become a channel of blessing to all around us.

As Jesus says in John 3, the human being can’t see the Kingdom of God unless he is born again. So our first task is to pray for those around us, that God would be gracious to them as He was to us, that their eyes would be opened. No amount of reaching out or befriending will have any effect unless God chooses to show mercy on them.

Who is my neighbour?

While He was on earth Jesus’ healing was indiscriminate: “A large crowd followed him, and he healed all who were ill.” “The people all tried to touch him, because power was coming from him and healing them all.” “Great crowds came to him, bringing the lame, the blind, the crippled, the mute and many others, and laid them at his feet; and he healed them.”

Jesus always responded to the greatest need of those around Him. Today the greatest need is as much psychological as physical. We need to pray for the sick and also meet people’s need for friendship and acceptance.

Taking charge of our neighbourhood
Everywhere Jesus went He took charge, meeting people’s needs and teaching about the Kingdom of God. We are Jesus in this world and should take the lead. If we are born again then we have the creative Spirit of God in us and can make things happen. Just as God called light into being, so we also, by our words and deeds, can create a world full of the love of God. “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing”. This much quoted saying of uncertain 18th Century origin is also stated as “"‎Bad men need nothing more to compass their ends, than that good men should look on and do nothing." We may not consider ourselves as good, as Jesus said “No one is good, only God”, but as we see society fall apart through lack of direction, we need to step in and take charge.

Visiting widows and orphans.
James cites this as the example of “pure religion”, at the same time “keeping ourselves unstained by the world”. There are over one million fatherless households in the UK. They need citizens of the Kingdom of God to visit them. There is much work to do and we desperately need to pray for workers.

Other practical suggestions:
Jesus often ate with “publicans and sinners” to win them, and in Luke 14 he encourages us to do the same. It’s likely that many of your neighbours have never been invited to a meal by those around them. Take courage and be the first to do so!

Help in any outreach in the church. We are currently seeking to draw all of New Marston to a meal together with us, at the same time using the opportunity to develop friendships. We have 5000 flyers and 100 posters to distribute. Take as many as you can; 100 flyers each would be a start. Please see the list of streets and commit yourself to delivering to one or two of them. Pray for the event; offer to help on the day. “The harvest is great and the workers are few” The implication of Jesus’ words is that more workers we have the greater the harvest will be.

When reaching out to our neighbours it’s extremely important that we keep our focus on what it’s all about: loving God. One day, perhaps sooner than we think, the promised end will come when our love for Him will be complete: “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth… And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, "Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them,…”....The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let the one who hears say, “Come!” Let the one who is thirsty come; and let the one who wishes take the free gift of the water of life. …….He who testifies to these things says, “Yes, I am coming soon. Amen. Come, Lord Jesus. The grace of the Lord Jesus be with God’s people. Amen.”

Songs: This is how I know what love is; I will love You Lord, my God and King.

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