Today Pastor Choi talks about growing in Christlikeness: love. After we commit ourselves to Christ as our Savior and Lord, we begin to grow in faith. As we grow in faith, one thing we will demonstrate in our lives and one thing that people will notice from us is love. It is Christ’s command to love one another as He has loved us. Pastor Choi exhorts the congregation to start small in their homes and workplaces putting into practice Christ-like love for one another.
Following is a summary of the sermon:
Grow in Christ’s Likeness (1): Love John 13:34-35, 1 John 3:18
John 13:34-35 New International Version (NIV)
34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
- John 3:18 New International Version (NIV)
18 Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.
I am starting a new sermon series today: Grow in Christlikeness. There will be six sermons altogether. Today is series number one: love. When we have committed ourselves to Jesus as our Savior and Lord, the Bible calls it spiritual rebirth or “born again.” From then on, as a new born baby in Christ, we begin to grow in faith. As we grow in Christ-likeness, the first thing we will demonstrate in our life and the first thing people will notice from us is love. Not the love for self but the love for others, because Christ in us gradually transforms us from a self-centered person to a Christ-centered person.
My sermon is not about love itself or quick tips on “how to love,” or that sort of self-help tips on love. Rather, it is about Christ. It is about growing into Christ-like character; it is about “how to be like Jesus” and partaking in His character. This is how I see it.
When we become like Christ, Christ’s attributes such as love, grace, gentleness, kindness, truth, justice, and mercy will form in our character and naturally flow out from us in our daily lives. E.g. In John 15, Jesus says He is the vine and we are the branches. Being in Christ and attached to Him, we will learn, draw strength from Him, and naturally demonstrate or bear fruits of His character and attributes.
Once again, my goal this morning is to help all of us to imitate Christ in every aspect so that we may become “little Christs” (C. S. Lewis). Let’s dive into today’s topic: love.
Let’s look at the first text again: John 13:34-35. 34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
First of all, to love one another is not an option or suggestion. It is a commandment, isn’t it? Therefore, we can’t be choosy to love or not love depending on our moods and circumstances like we can’t be choosy with the Ten Commandments. Christ commands us to love one another. Period.
Next, let’s ponder the meaning of “love one another as I have loved you.” Just as Christ has loved us, we are to love each other. That means; unless we know His love and unless we have experienced His love for us first-hand, we cannot fully love one another as Christ has loved us. We can read or hear about Christ’s love and try to understand intellectually how Christ has loved us, but it’s not the same as, in fact, far inferior to the first-hand experience of Christ’s love. E.g. You can read all the books in the world about love between man and woman, but all those information cannot trump (or even come close to) your own experience of falling in love with your sweetheart.
I told you that the first-hand experience of Christ’s love is the key to love one another with Christ’s love. So, as I prepared my sermon, I asked a question for myself: O.K. I am going to talk about Christ’s love for us, and do I know what I am talking about? That question led me to three more questions: how Jesus loved His disciples back then; how Jesus loved me now; and what the Bible says about His love for us all.
First question, “How did Jesus love His disciples 2000 years ago?” Here’s how He did. He loved them as God loved Him. Jesus experienced God’s love first hand and then passed the same love onto His disciples. He loved them with truth and grace. He loved them through His examples. He also loved them with grace and forgiveness (E.g. forgiving Peter’s denial three times, John 8—not condemning the adulterous woman). He loved them with humility washing their feet—John 13. Jesus loved them by laying down His own life on the cross. He died on their behalf. That’s how Jesus loved them.
Next question, “How did Jesus love me?” Have I experienced Christ’s love in my life personally? Can I testify and explain to anyone how Jesus loved me? So, one day, I asked the Lord, “How did you love me, Lord?” Then, I took time recalling every single incident that I remember when Christ appeared and demonstrated His love for me.
Here are some examples: Jesus patiently tolerated my foolishness when I gave Him a silly ultimatum of 2 hours demanding His answer right away for my question. Numerous times, He put up with my stubbornness of heart. He forgave my sins over and over again. He would answer my questions in ways that I understand (E.g. Daniel 1:5, dialogue style answers in prayer). He was there for me in moments of anxiety, fears, and confusion. He kept His promise of providing my daily needs. He gave me life and health every day. He granted me wisdom and courage in crises. He gave me a free gift of eternal life and the hope of resurrection. He protected me from the Evil one. In a nut shell, Jesus loved me in the same way a loving parent loves his/her child. He was there for me, kept His promises, provided my needs, protected me from any harms, and guided me with truth and grace through my life.
Thirdly, I checked out the Word of God to discover how Christ has loved us all. In a nutshell, He loved us sacrificially and unconditionally. Remember John 3:16? God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son and whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life (John 3:16). God loved you and me that He gave His only Son to us. Christ, the sinless, died on the cross and paid the penalty of our sins on our behalf. He died in our place as the Lamb of God, that’s why His love is sacrificial. In fact, His love is great because He loved us even when we didn’t deserve His grace. He loved the undeserving and unlovable. What amazing about His love is that He didn’t wait until all of us became lovable (that moment perhaps would never come). His love doesn’t depend on how we have been good or bad. His love, like the Sun, shines on the evil and the good. His love, like rain, comes down on the righteous and on the unrighteous (Matthew 5:45). He is gracious to all—both good and bad. He even loved Judas Iscariot till the end (John 13:1). Aren’t we glad that His love is not based on our goodness or on His own mood? Rather, it is absolutely based on His will to obey God no matter what. That’s how He went to the cross. That’s why the Bible says Jesus loves us unconditionally and sacrificially.
Into the practice of such great love of Christ, God calls us. His call is for us to imitate Christ and to practice His love for one another. He wants us to live out our faith with the same love as He has demonstrated for us. I am sure all of us are overwhelmed with such a tall call or high expectation from God. Remember, though, God would not command us to do something impossible. Of course, with our own might, we cannot love each other with Christ’s love. However, we can do it with the help of the Holy Spirit. That’s why obedience to the Lord is essential. We also can love others with Christ’s love when God pours His love into our hearts through the Holy Spirit (Romans 5:5). E.g. Mr. Ho, a Christian parent, whose son was murdered by gang members on the streets of Philadelphia asked the judge to pardon the perpetrators. When you love one another as I have loved you, Christ says, all the people will know that you are My followers. By your love, He says, they will know that you are My disciples.
Of course, the real question is where do we start? How do we put Christ’s love into daily practice?
As much as we admire Mr. Ho and his Christian love, let’s not begin with big things like that. Let’s not even think of loving everyone in the world at this point. Rather, let’s begin small in our daily lives and in the places where God has planted us. E.g. During WWII there was a young man (Mr. Yong-ki Kim) who wanted to liberate Korea from the Japanese occupation. He wanted to join the Liberation Army to fight the tyranny of colonialism. He went to his mentor one last time for advice. The wise mentor asked him if he truly loved his country. Kim said yes. Then, he gave him a huge piece of bread and asked him to finish the whole thing in one bite. Of course, Kim couldn’t do it. He had to eat the bread one bite at a time. The mentor said to Kim, “Go home instead and start with small things that matter to the community. One day at a time.” The lesson was clear: begin small from where you are and with what you can.
So, how about being like Jesus in your home first? Begin with your thoughts and words you say. Start with small actions and interactions with your family members. I don’t have to reiterate how many homes and families today are dysfunctional or broken. I can say that had Christ-like love been practiced in our homes, the problems would have been far less than what we have today. So, let’s start loving our family members as Christ has loved us, sacrificially and unconditionally. Let’s restore our homes and heal our wounds with Christ’s love. Let’s ask the question of “What would Jesus do?” Let’s serve others as Christ has served us. Let’s lay down our lives for our loved ones as Christ did.
Three action points:
Write your own statement of “How Jesus loved me.”
Pray that the Holy Spirit would pour out God’s love in your heart.
Start loving others with Christ’s love.