In this third week of Preparing for Advent we are going to take a look at Love. To have any understanding of or to prepare ourselves in any way for the Advent of Christ we must understand and practice love. Love is the foundational cause of the Advent of Christ. “For God so Loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son. . .” God’s love towards us is the reason for Advent.
Love is also emotional; it involves our feelings towards people and things. We could spend years talking about what causes us to have the feelings of love and how they affect us and how we can try to control those feelings and emotions. But there is a very practical side of Love in how it is expressed that I want us to look at. How I want to look at love today may be best explained this way:
“Pullin' out my big black book
Cause when I need a word defined that's where I look
So I move to the L's quick, fast, in a hurry
Threw on my specs, thought my vision was blurry
I looked again but to my dismay
It was black and white with no room for grey
Ya see, a big "V" stood beyond my word
And yo that's when it hit me, that luv is a verb
Back in the day there was a man
Who stepped out of Heaven and he walked the land
He delivered to the people an eternal choice
With a heart full of luv and the truth in His voice
Gave up His life so that we may live
How much more luv could the Son of God give?
Here is the example that we oughtta be matchin'
Cause luv is a word that requires some action.”
Of course, that was DC Talk and their song “Luv is a Verb.” God used that song to help me understand that I was making the concept of “Love” far too complicated and mystical in my way of thinking. God expressed His love in a very practical way that has very complicated and mystical repercussions that we don’t fully understand, but all we have to do is take His word for it and the benefits are ours.
So, lets take a look at some of the practical ways that God has said we ought to express our love towards one another and if we do this, we are preparing ourselves for His Advent.
I. Love is Expressed in Service
Mark 10:45 (NKJ) "For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many."
Jesus’ life was the great example of service. God’s only Son, seated at the right hand of the Father in heaven, humbling himself and coming to Earth as a mere man. Not to be praised and glorified as was His right, but to serve. Walking among us, teaching, healing and serving. Even on the night He was betrayed, he knelt down to wash his Disciples feet as one last object lesson on service.
In Matthew 25: 35-40 (NLT) Jesus taught, “For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. 36 I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.' 37 "Then these righteous ones will reply, 'Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing? 39 When did we ever see you sick or in prison, and visit you?' 40 And the King will tell them, 'I assure you, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!'
Love expressed in service is simple. Helping someone who is without by providing some of what you have to meet a basic need like food, shelter and clothing. This is Love. This is Service.
Another way that love can be expressed in service is found in Ephesians 6:5 (NLT), “Slaves, obey your earthly masters with deep respect and fear. Serve them sincerely as you would serve Christ.”
One of the things that we talk about here at Reunion is that not all of the Bible verses are about us but they are all for us. This is one of those verses. I am not calling any of us who have jobs ‘slaves!’ Just relax. What God is telling us in this verse is that how we conduct ourselves while we are at work is a reflection of what is inside of us. And if we belong to God, then we ought to conduct ourselves on our jobs as though we are doing it for Him. This again reveals humility and it turn service and in turn love.
Another example of service can be found in the attitude of this missionary mother. Her story goes like this:
“A missions director once met with the mother of two of his agency’s missionaries and spent some time getting to know her. She prepared tea for the director in her parlor and as they drank the tea, she explained to him the difficulty of having a daughter on the mission field of China and a son as a missionary in Sudan. She loved and missed them dearly, but as she explained, her love for God allowed her to let them follow His will for their lives. The mother went on to describe the burden her son had for the Sudanese people. Her relay of his description of the people brought her to tears several times during the conversation. The mission’s director left her house with a deeper appreciation for the parents of missionaries and a greater burden for the country of Sudan.
A few months later the mission’s director got word that a missionary in Sudan had been killed—it was the Scottish lady’s son. Feeling he should be the one to break the news to her, he once again visited the mother in her home. After telling her the tragic news, the mother looked down, and in a few moments of composure she said, “Sir, I would rather have my son die in the middle of Sudan, alone, than to have him living here with me, disobeying God’s will.”
What a powerful example of service. A mother surrendering her will to the will of God for the lives of her children.
Let us move on now to the next practical expression of Love. . .
II. Love is Expressed in Sacrifice.
John 15:13 (NIV) “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.”
The ultimate expression of sacrifice was given by Jesus Himself when He laid down His life so that we may have forgiveness of our sins. God’s word tells us that the payment for sin is death and Jesus paid that price for us so that we don’t have to die in our sins but that we might live and have our sins forgiven. Thank God for His plan of Salvation! This is the greatest expression of love that we have ever been given.
Another example of love through sacrifice is found in the life of Ruth. To set the stage for this act of sacrifice let’s look at Ruth 1:1-17 (NLT), “In the days when the judges ruled in Israel, a man from Bethlehem in Judah left the country because of a severe famine. He took his wife and two sons and went to live in the country of Moab. 2 The man's name was Elimelech, and his wife was Naomi. Their two sons were Mahlon and Kilion. They were Ephrathites from Bethlehem in the land of Judah. During their stay in Moab, 3 Elimelech died and Naomi was left with her two sons. 4 The two sons married Moabite women. One married a woman named Orpah, and the other a woman named Ruth. But about ten years later, 5 both Mahlon and Kilion died. This left Naomi alone, without her husband or sons. 6 Then Naomi heard in Moab that the LORD had blessed his people in Judah by giving them good crops again. So Naomi and her daughters-in-law got ready to leave Moab to return to her homeland. 7 With her two daughters-in-law she set out from the place where she had been living, and they took the road that would lead them back to Judah. 8 But on the way, Naomi said to her two daughters-in-law, "Go back to your mothers' homes instead of coming with me. And may the LORD reward you for your kindness to your husbands and to me. 9 May the LORD bless you with the security of another marriage." Then she kissed them good-bye, and they all broke down and wept. 10 "No," they said. "We want to go with you to your people." 11 But Naomi replied, "Why should you go on with me? Can I still give birth to other sons who could grow up to be your husbands? 12 No, my daughters, return to your parents' homes, for I am too old to marry again. And even if it were possible, and I were to get married tonight and bear sons, then what? 13 Would you wait for them to grow up and refuse to marry someone else? No, of course not, my daughters! Things are far more bitter for me than for you, because the LORD himself has caused me to suffer." 14 And again they wept together, and Orpah kissed her mother-in-law good-bye. But Ruth insisted on staying with Naomi. 15 "See," Naomi said to her, "your sister-in-law has gone back to her people and to her gods. You should do the same." 16 But Ruth replied, "Don't ask me to leave you and turn back. I will go wherever you go and live wherever you live. Your people will be my people, and your God will be my God. 17 I will die where you die and will be buried there. May the LORD punish me severely if I allow anything but death to separate us!"
So, the story goes on in Ruth chapter 2 that they arrive at the land of a relative of Naomi’s late husband, a man named Boaz. There Ruth began to follow after the shearers and pick of the scraps of grain to provide for her and Naomi. When Boaz hears about this, he makes sure that his workers leave plenty for them. One day Boaz speaks to Ruth and says (Ruth 2:8-12 NLT), "Listen, my daughter. Stay right here with us when you gather grain; don't go to any other fields. Stay right behind the women working in my field. 9 See which part of the field they are harvesting, and then follow them. I have warned the young men not to bother you. And when you are thirsty, help yourself to the water they have drawn from the well." 10 Ruth fell at his feet and thanked him warmly. "Why are you being so kind to me?" she asked. "I am only a foreigner." 11 "Yes, I know," Boaz replied. "But I also know about the love and kindness you have shown your mother-in-law since the death of your husband. I have heard how you left your father and mother and your own land to live here among complete strangers. 12 May the LORD, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge, reward you fully."
The story goes on that Boaz and Ruth marry and have a son named Obed, who becomes the grandfather of King David. So, Ruth was the Great-Grandmother of King David.
And this is the point to this story, Ruth sacrificed her land, her people, her way of life to provide for and take care of her mother-in-law Naomi. She felt that this was thing that she ought to do. She had no idea what the plan was that God had in place for her. But her willingness to sacrifice for what was right put her in the place that God wanted her to be. In this, Ruth becomes a great example of love through sacrifice.
Loving through Sacrifice is about more than a willingness lay down our life for another it is also about our willingness to lay down our will for the benefit of another.
The third way that we can practically show Love is:
III. Love is Expressed Though Obedience
Jesus taught us very directly on this, In John 14:15 (NLT) He says, "If you love me, obey my commandments.”
One of the traits of a Christian is obedience to the teachings of Christ. Jesus said that the student would become like the master and that only happens when student obeys what the master says. The very term Christian means to be Christ-like. This of course requires obedience. In Matthew Jesus also says this about obedience, (Matthew 7:21 NKV), " Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.” There is an expectation of obedience by those who call on the name of Jesus.
In the Biblical account of Abraham and Isaac we have an excellent and extreme example of how love is expressed through obedience.
Genesis 22:1-13 (NLT), “Later on God tested Abraham's faith and obedience. "Abraham!" God called. "Yes," he replied. "Here I am." 2 "Take your son, your only son-- yes, Isaac, whom you love so much-- and go to the land of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains, which I will point out to you." 3 The next morning Abraham got up early. He saddled his donkey and took two of his servants with him, along with his son Isaac. Then he chopped wood to build a fire for a burnt offering and set out for the place where God had told him to go. 4 On the third day of the journey, Abraham saw the place in the distance. 5 "Stay here with the donkey," Abraham told the young men. "The boy and I will travel a little farther. We will worship there, and then we will come right back." 6 Abraham placed the wood for the burnt offering on Isaac's shoulders, while he himself carried the knife and the fire. As the two of them went on together, 7 Isaac said, "Father?" "Yes, my son," Abraham replied. "We have the wood and the fire," said the boy, "but where is the lamb for the sacrifice?" 8 "God will provide himself a lamb, my son," Abraham answered. And they both went on together. 9 When they arrived at the place where God had told Abraham to go, he built an altar and placed the wood on it. Then he tied Isaac up and laid him on the altar over the wood. 10 And Abraham took the knife and lifted it up to kill his son as a sacrifice to the LORD. 11 At that moment the angel of the LORD shouted to him from heaven, "Abraham! Abraham!" "Yes," he answered. "I'm listening." 12 "Lay down the knife," the angel said. "Do not hurt the boy in any way, for now I know that you truly fear God. You have not withheld even your beloved son from me. 13 Then Abraham looked up and saw a ram caught by its horns in a bush. So, he took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering on the altar in place of his son."
In this account we have God asking Isaac to something very extreme, to sacrifice his only son on an altar in a test of obedience. Abraham’s response to this extreme request was extreme obedience. What is amazing to me about Abraham in this account is His confidence in God. Abraham tells his servants to stay put while he and Isaac go on a little further, there they will worship and after a little while we will come back. Abraham had complete confidence that God would provide a sacrifice and that he and Isaac would return. The question for us is not whether we would be willing to sacrifice one of our children to God, but rather are we willing to be obedient to God whatever it may be that He is asking for us to do?
In this study we have looked at how Love can be expressed through Service, Sacrifice and Obedience. There are dozens other practical ways that we could look at how love can be expressed with dozens of examples for each one. We could go on for months and months on this topic, but let’s just take a moment and ask ourselves how are we doing in these three areas in expressing our love.
How have I been expressing my love through Service recently?
How have I been expressing my love through Sacrifice recently?
How have I been expressing my love through Obedience recently?
In closing let’s take a little quiz based on 1 Corinthians 13. There are several ways that are listed in this chapter that show us more ways that love is practical. I have summarized them below in these statements:
Love is Patient.
Love is Kind.
Love is not Boastful, Jealous, Proud or Rude.
Love does not demand its own way.
Love is not irritable.
Love does not keep score.
Love does not delight in evil but rejoices in truth.
Love Protects, Hopes, Trusts and Perseveres.
Now on this list replace the word “Love” with your name. Now how many of these statements could still be said to be true? What statements would be true most of the time? What statements would rarely be true? This week, take a moment to thank God for the ones that are true most of the time and ask Him for His help on the ones that are rarely true.
“Dear God, during this Advent Season help us to prepare by looking at how we have been showing love in our lives through Service, Sacrifice and Obedience. Lord, help us to do better. We need your help in showing love in practical ways. Fill us with Your love Lord in such a way that it reaches those around us and causes them to think about You. Let our love for one another be a witness to those who do not know You. In Jesus name, Amen.”
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