HOW STRONG IS OUR LOVE? HOW STRONG IS OUR FAITH?

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HOW STRONG IS OUR LOVE? HOW STRONG IS OUR FAITH?

A SERMON ORIGINALLY DELIVERED AT
THE HIGH HILL UNITED METHODIST CHURCH
AND
THE FEDERATED CHURCH OF ATHENS

9 FEBRUARY 1992

By Frank L. Hoffman, Pastor

SCRIPTURAL REFERENCES:

Psalm 138:1-8
1 Corinthians 15:1-11
1 Peter 3:7

Preparation Verse: (1 Peter 3:7)

Likewise you husbands, live considerately with your wives, bestowing honor on the woman as the weaker sex, since you are joint heirs of the grace of life, in order that your prayers may not be hindered.

This coming Friday is Valentines Day. It is a day that is to speak of love but, unfortunately, in all too many cases that is all it does.

We speak a great deal of love; yet we, as a society, don't live the words we speak.

In over 50 percent of all our marriages, we have lost the love that supposedly brought us together in the first place.

Instead of giving their former love, they resort to giving abuse.

Some people believe there is nothing wrong with trading in an old spouse for a newer model, much as we do with an automobile.

This isn't love!

These things happen because God isn't part of those relationships.

The two never became one in Christ, because one or both parties didn't bring Him into their relationship.

The relationship of the people to the church, and the church as a whole toward God, should be a relationship of love unconditional love that extends to the whole of creation; the same kind of love the Lord shows toward us.

And if the church is not based on this unconditional love, it too will begin to separate.

Others fail to come because they are afraid to reach out and accept the one missing ingredient in their lives that we all really want.

They are afraid because they don't want to be hurt any more in their lives than they have been already.

The are afraid because they don't want to change their lifestyles that unconditional love would require them to do.

Paul's relationship to the church is one of those occurrences that only could have come about with love, for it sure started off on the wrong foot.

In 1 Corinthians 15:1-11, Paul is saying to the people, and us today, how important it is for us to hold on to both our faith and our love.

Let's turn there and see what he is saying to us.

1. Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand,

2. by which also you were saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain.

What Paul is saying is that he has preached the truth of God's love to us, and he even acknowledges that we all say we believe.

But then Paul adds a curious point, a qualification, to what he has previously said:

"If you hold fast ..."

If?

Yes, if!

If we believe, then why would Paul say, "if you hold fast the word which I preached to you"?

Paul says this because as God's love and faithfulness toward us is unconditional, so must ours be the same toward Him and the whole of His creation.

God has promised all true believers that a perfect world will one day be reestablished.

And since God cannot lie, He cannot allow our unfaithfulness or our unlove to enter into that new perfect place and contaminate it.

But all who hold fast are invited in, regardless of what we may have done before.

Then Paul goes on to explain how he was accepted, in spite of what he also had done.

3. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received,

This is the overflowing of God's love that has been freely given to us.

that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures,

4. and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures,

This, too, is God's grace and love; for all things that are true of Him concerning our salvation and relationships are also confirmed in our Bible.

5. and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.

6. After that He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom remain until now, but some have fallen asleep;

7. then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles;

8. and last of all, as it were to one untimely born, He appeared to me also.

9. For I am the least of the apostles, who am not fit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.

Paul didn't plan to become an apostle; in fact, it was probably the furthest thought from his mind.

And I personally can relate to these feelings, for I never even thought about being behind a pulpit, especially in a Christian church; and there are many times when I wonder why God chose me.

But like Paul, I must answer as he does, even if not to the same extent.

10. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me did not prove vain; but I labored even more than all of them, yet not I, but the grace of God with me.

11. Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed.

It isn't important whose human words first brought someone to Christ, for ultimately, they are the words of God.

What is important, however, is that we all overflow with the love and faith that God has so graciously and freely given to us.

We usually only give Valentine cards and Christmas cards to those who give to us; we do this because we put our faith in the paper of the card, and when the paper runs out, so does our love.

What we give of ourselves in pure love, never desiring anything in return, is that which is lasting even everlasting.

If our love and our faith are going to be believable, then they must be consistent and unconditional.

In Psalm 138, in his song of thanksgiving, David writes of this relationship with God:

1. I will give Thee thanks with all my heart;
I will sing praises to Thee before the gods.

If we are truly thankful to the Lord with all our heart, if we are filled to overflowing with love and faith, then we will praise the Lord even in the presence of the ungodly.

In fact, the joy in our heart will be as a song before those who have fear and those who follow the doctrines of man and not God.

2. I will bow down toward Thy holy temple,
And give thanks to Thy name for Thy lovingkindness and Thy truth;
For Thou hast magnified Thy word according to all Thy name.

The more the name of the Lord, the more the name of Jesus Christ is before our eyes and upon our hearts, the easier it is for us to see through the ungodliness around us, and be in its midst without becoming a part of it and following its ways.

And in our firm stand we will again bring honor and respect to the Church of God, for it will no longer be seen by the world of unbelievers as a place of hypocrites, for they will see the strength of our love and faith.

3. On the day I called Thou didst answer me;
Thou didst make me bold with strength in my soul.

Do you see the two way street?

The Lord hears the prayers of those who are faithful and love Him, and all those who truly seek Him.

So, if we are not afraid to openly show our love and faith (through our deeds and not just words), if we have at least that much strength of character, then the Lord will make us even stronger even bold.

4. All the kings of the earth will give thanks to Thee, O Lord,
When they have heard the words of Thy mouth.

Unfortunately, our world leaders hear the words of the peoples' mouths, for they are the ones who keep them in office.

Some even try to close the churches, for in their hearts they really fear the word of God.

Our world leaders will not begin to collectively praise the Lord until the words of our mouths, and the ways we live, are those of the Lord's, also.

5. And they will sing of the ways of the Lord.
For great is the glory of the Lord.

This is the only way we are ever going to have a lasting peace in the world, before the Lord returns.

6. For though the Lord is exalted,
Yet He regards the lowly;
But the haughty He knows from afar.

We should all remember this piece of wisdom for ourselves, so that we don't become proud in our own sight and before others.

7. Though I walk in the midst of trouble, Thou wilt revive me;
Thou wilt stretch forth Thy hand against the wrath of my enemies,
And Thy right hand will save me.

We don't have to fight our own battles.

All we have to do is have the faith in our God, that He will do what is right in His sight.

We are just to stand firm in His unconditional love.

And, most importantly, we must be willing to allow God to work through us in whatever ways He desires.

8. The Lord will accomplish what concerns me;
Thy lovingkindness, O Lord, is everlasting;
Do not forsake the works of Thy hands.

We are the works of God's hands.

And He will never forsake His loved ones.

But love has been much abused in the world around us.

Compassion has been made to seem as a sign of weakness, particularly when it is expressed toward animals.

But we who confess the name of Jesus Christ have been entrusted with the care and nurture of God's love.

And it is our responsibility to spread it throughout the world.

So consider in your heart and mind...

How strong is our love?

How strong is our faith?

And when we have done this, we will know what the world around us will be like.

Amen.

Your Comments are welcome

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