Each sermon is published in large print for use in preaching, and for easy reading by several people gathered around the computer monitor.
HOW DO I LOVE THEE?
A SERMON ORIGINALLY DELIVERED AT
THE HIGH HILL UNITED METHODIST CHURCH
THE FEDERATED CHURCH OF ATHENS
14 FEBRUARY 1988
By Frank L. Hoffman, Pastor
Psalm 19:7-8, 14
1 Corinthians 2:6-16
1 John 4:16-17
Preparation Verse: (Ephesians 5:25)
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her...
I suppose that today, all over this country, almost everyone is saying, "I love you." They may be doing it in words, or with flowers, or with candy, or with a greeting card. Some may be doing it in several of these ways.
Some may do it in a very private way. While others may shout it from the roof top or, in my case, from the pulpit by saying, "Mary, I love you! I am very thankful to have been married to you for almost 27 years (July 1988), and I pray we will have many more years together. I love you very much!"
Have you ever noticed that if you don’t work at this kind of love, it will eventually run cold?
Why does this happen? Because we are imperfect, and know only how to love in an imperfect manner.
God's love is perfect. It never fails. And He loves us even when we reject Him and His love.
He will continue to reach out to us to accept His love until we do accept it, or until the time of our death, or until He raptures the Church. After that, it's too late.
A man's and a woman's love for each other is much more fragile than that of God's love. We let the silliest things bother us. We brood over the problems with our relationships instead of reconciling them. And all too often, we just give up.
And even more fragile, is our love for God and the whole of His Creation, especially the animals, for they are the most abused and exploited living beings on the planet.
When we fail to love even the least of God's creations, we harden our hearts and souls so that we not longer feel their pain and suffering, and most importantly, their desire to live, for tens of billions of them are killed every year to satisfy human lusts with hardly a second thought.
Thus, when we harden our hearts in this way, we also diminish our ability to love others as we should, and we believe that is the root cause of why so many marriages fail.
I'm very thankful that God never gave up on me during all the time that I rejected Him. He just hung in there until I finally came to my senses and received His love when I accepted Him as Lord and Savior of my life.
Does all this mean that all we can do is accept this imperfect state that we are in and do nothing about it? No it doesn't! In fact, we should be doing something about it.
If you remember, when we were discussing the relationship of our faith and works to God’s grace and love, we reflected on Ephesians 2:10.
10. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
Now, while this verse is still fresh in your minds, I want you to also
remember back to our discussion on what we are told about loving one another and
about having God's perfect love perfected in us. Let’s take another look at 1
16. And we have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.
17. By this, love is perfected with us, that we may have confidence in the day of judgment; because as He is, so also are we in this world.
Therefore, when we are born again in the image of God, “created in Christ Jesus", then our imperfect love can become perfect love, that extends to the whole of creation.
Note that I said that our imperfect love “can” become perfect love, and not “will” become perfect love.
God sets in motion that which can make the imperfect, perfect, even here on earth. But it is we who must accept that change.
When we learn to freely and completely turn our own will over to God, then the Holy Spirit can work the miracle through us that makes the imperfect, perfect.
Remember also that it is not just our love that is made perfect, but we ourselves are "created in Christ Jesus". And, as we saw in our New Testament lesson verses for today, when we allow the Holy Spirit to work in us, "we have the mind of Christ."
That's right; each and every one of us can have the mind of Christ.
Do you know what that means? It means that we don't have to work so hard at making our love relationships work better, because we are actually changing the kind of love we feel to that of a Godly love.
This Godly love will see through the hard times. It will see beyond the outward irritations we experience with each other. It will allow us to see the other person as God desires them to be.
And hopefully, the other person will also be created in Christ Jesus, so that
they can see through our own faults and irritations.
So, how do we get ourselves to the point where we will be able to see beyond the problems and irritations before us?
We get ourselves there when we come to realize that God is in control and not we ourselves.
As we more and more learn to submit ourselves to the will of the Lord, He will reveal Himself and His desires for us through the Holy Spirit within us.
We then begin to reason and speak with a wisdom not of this age, nor of the rulers of this age, but the wisdom of God which the Holy Spirit reveals to us.
As we read in our Old Testament lesson for this morning, Psalm 19, everything around us should remind us of the glory of God. All of His creation speaks of His presence, even that of the person who may be irritating us.
There is never a time when we become irritated or angry that there isn't
something around us to remind us of God's ever presence. He wants us to turn to
Him for our peace, the peace that surpasses all understanding.
As we more and more consistently read and reread our Bibles, the Word of God becomes part of us and His will for us is made even clearer.
When we allow ourselves to become irritated, we also may find ourselves becoming somewhat foolish in our behavior and our soul is without rest. Note how Psalm 19:7-8 solves this condition:
7. The law of the Lord is perfect, restoring the soul;
The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple.
8. The precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart;
The commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes.
When our soul is restored, when our simple mindedness is turned into wisdom, when our heart is rejoicing and our eyes are bright, we cannot also be irritated, annoyed, and angry.
Therefore, our love can only be improved when it
is God centered.
Sure, it's nice to get flowers and candy or jewelry; but if we have a reverent fear of the Lord and accept His judgments as righteous altogether, then we will realize that they are even better than all of those material gifts. Yes, they are "sweeter also than honey and the drippings of the honeycomb."
Why is this true?
Because the things of God are lasting, but the things of man, all too often, are short lived.
But if the things we do and the way we express our love are also the way that God would do it, then they will also be lasting.
Therefore, the greatest valentine gift is not a heart filled with chocolates, but a heart filled with so much love that it hung on a cross for each of us.
Each of us can share in that love when we accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior of our lives, and do and say the things that He prepared beforehand for us to do and say.
Do you truly want to express your love to someone? Then pray beforehand as the psalmist did:
14. Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
Be acceptable in Thy sight,
O Lord, my rock and my Redeemer.