The Greatest Love
September 1, 2019
“Jesus on the cross is the realization of God’s love in action.” Pastor Christian
water cooler conversation:
Would you rather find your true love or achieve your greatest dream?
Would you rather lose all your money and valuables or all the pictures you’ve ever taken of the people you love?
did you know…
Sanskrit has 96 different words for love
According to research by Science Daily, when an empathetic partner holds their lover's hand, their heart rates and breathing rates sync and pain subsides. Authors of the study say such 'interpersonal synchronization' could play a role in the analgesic (pain-relieving) impacts of touch.
Corrie ten Boom and her family hid Jews in a secret room in their home during the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands during World War II. When they were exposed by a spy posing as a grieving husband, the entire family was sent to prison camps, though the Jews remained hidden and safe. Because of his age, Mr. ten Boom was offered a chance at freedom if he promised to stay out of trouble. He refused, stating that if freed, he would return home and help the first person who asked. He was shipped to prison and died just ten days later. By the end of the war, Corrie was her family’s sole survivor, all the others had died in the camps or were shot for their efforts supporting the Resistance.
Theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer worked as a double agent against the Nazis, helping 14 Jews escape from Germany. Though he was safe in New York when the war broke out, Bonhoeffer became convinced that, just like Jonah ran from the call to Nineveh, he had ignored the call of God to fight the Nazis from within Germany. Bonhoeffer knew exactly what that meant, stating, “When Christ calls a man, He bids him come and die.” Bonhoeffer and his allies aided the German resistance in their goal to assassinate Hitler, and for this, he was arrested, jailed, and executed in April 1945, just weeks before the end of the war.
unpack the message:
When speaking to His followers, Jesus takes complex spiritual principles and breaks them down in ways that all the disciples, men with diverse backgrounds – doctors, tax collectors, fishermen, Pharisees, and zealots – could understand.
Jesus tells us that the greatest commandment is to love God and to love others, and the greatest love is demonstrated by laying down one’s life for one’s friends. How is this contrary to our expectations? Wouldn’t it be a greater demonstration of sacrificial love to give our lives for an enemy?
Who is your friend? Simple. Your neighbor. Someone that you love. When we show love to others, we make them a friend. Understand that the greatest love is not about who you lay your life down for, but self-sacrifice and a willingness to lay down your own life. Few of us will be asked to die for another, but God may ask us to sacrifice other things. What does that look like in real life?
The book, “Through Gates of Splendor” is the story of five American missionaries killed by the Auca Indians in an attempt to bring the gospel to this remote, primitive tribe. The men were fully aware of the risk they were taking in contacting the Auca. In the past, the tribe had killed rubber tree tappers, neighboring tribes, and Shell Oil employees, all of whom they perceived as a threat. Despite this, one of the missionaries, Jim Elliot, wrote in his journal, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.” What was Elliot trying to say? Do you agree with his statement?
Most people would describe love as an emotion, but the Bible describes it as an action. What’s the difference?
In John 15:14, Jesus says, “You are my friends if you do as I command.” Does that make our relationship with Him conditional on our obedience? Does that include our salvation?
Put John 15:14 in context. Jesus is God and He is King. We are all His subjects. The difference between slaves and friends is that slaves have no choice, no autonomy. Friends are brought in to the master’s counsel and into his confidence. Because we have free will, our friendship and love are characterized by obedience.
How does understanding your vertical identity as a “friend” of Christ help you love those around you in a horizontal relationship?
The Greatest Love is Modeled by Jesus
When we talk about the love of Christ, the first thing most people think of is the cross.
Jesus on the cross is the realization of God's love in action. His death was the penultimate example of that love. His life of service and putting others first is our model for living.
This begs the question, if God is truly a loving God, how can He send anyone to hell? Instead, the question we should ask is, if God is really God, how can anyone deserve to go to heaven? Perhaps you’re thinking, “I haven't done anything that bad.” Perhaps, compared to other people, but what about compared to a holy, almighty God? The true love of God is that He has given us a way out of the justice and punishment we deserve.
How can you cultivate sacrificial love for people?
What would need to change for you to really love the people that you dislike as well as people who hate you?
Is there anyone in your life for whom you would be willing to "take a bullet?" Who and why would you be ready to die for them?
The Greatest Love is to Spend Your Life on Another
How can we show this love to others?
Can we go as far as the cross? Before you ask that question, you have to look at what led up to the cross. Jesus laid aside his majesty so that He could meet us where we're at. He lived a life of service to others. The cross is merely the penultimate example of the life He lived. Jesus spent every last drop of His life for us.
If time is the currency that we can choose to spend how we wish, do your spending habits reflect a life of generosity or selfishness?
On a scale of Mother Teresa to Scrooge McDuck, where do you fall on the generosity spectrum?
The Greatest Love is Reciprocated by Obedience
Look at John 15:14. What does it look like for us to love God in return? If the greatest love is demonstrated by obedience, how are you showing that you love God?
“Reciprocate” means to respond to a gesture or action with a corresponding gesture or action. Jesus showed us the greatest love, and we can reciprocate that love by obeying him in following His command to love one another as He has loved us. (John 15:12)
Greatness in the kingdom of God is when we live a life for others to see them also enter the kingdom of God.
make a move:
Choose an action step based on what you’ve learned this week.
What are the ways you can love your family the way Jesus has loved you?
Spend your currency on the people you love this week. Make time to enjoy a meal together, go for coffee, go to the movies, or watch a favorite TV show, take a walk - the possibilities are endless.
Put down or turn off your smartphone, your tablet, your smartwatch, your laptop, or game controller, and have a one on one, device-free conversation with someone. Make them feel valued and loved by giving them your full attention.
Think about the people in your life that are spending their currency demonstrating Christ’s love to you. Say thank you. Write an email, make a phone call, buy a gift card, send flowers…find a tangible way to demonstrate your gratitude for their sacrifice and investment in you.
Jesus has sent us to bear fruit. Look at the fruit of your life, not as a slave giving an account of your time but with Jesus as a friend who knows intimately how you live, knows the desires of your heart and loves you anyway. Identify an area of your life, whether it’s your time or your finances where you are holding back and make a change. Ask God to show you what you’ve been hoarding and make changes.
Demonstrate God’s love in action by being intentional in your efforts to share God’s plan of salvation with someone.
Reach out to Pastor Lucas and ask about our eGroups that will soon kick off their Fall session. Do you feel led to host a group? Perhaps you don’t want to lead but are willing to facilitate by opening your home. Either way, there’s a place for you and a community of fellow believers and seekers waiting to connect with you.
Talk to Sarah and Nikko Custodio about ways you can continue to support the college students and staff we’ve connected with at George Mason.
Reach out to Travis Younger, our Director of Campus Operations, or the leader of the ministry in which you serve to find out how you can help put the finishing touches on our new Braddock Road property.
Look for tangible ways to live out this week’s talk by Pastor Christian. Looking for ways to invest in others? Check out Volunteer Fairfax to find opportunities.
Pray for those in the path of Hurricane Dorian.
This week, ask God to show you tangible ways to show the love of Christ to your family, co-workers, and even strangers.
If you’re committing to following Christ, pray this prayer: Father God, I thank You for the mercy You’ve shown me by sending your Son Jesus to lay down His life on the cross. Thank you that He modeled how I should live, spending each day laying aside my life and selfish desires for others until it becomes as natural as breathing. So often I fall short, but I am grateful for your grace and mercy that encourage me to keep trying. I ask that through the Holy Spirit’s help, you enable me to share Your unconditional love with others. In Jesus’ name I ask this, amen.
If you haven’t decided to follow Christ, what’s holding you back? Salvation is as simple as acknowledging that you are a sinner in need of a Savior. Right now, you can pray this simple prayer, believing the words not only in your mind but in your heart, and be saved. “Dear God, I know that I am a sinner, and there is nothing that I can do to save myself. I recognize that I can never be good enough to work my way into heaven on my own. I believe that there’s only one way to heaven, and that is through faith in Jesus Christ who died to save me from my sins and give me a home in heaven with Him. Right now, at this moment, I repent of my sins and ask you to forgive me. My faith now is small, but I ask You to help it grow. Thank you that your promises are true, and especially for the assurance that I am now your child. I thank you that no matter what lies ahead, you will walk with me. In Jesus’ name, amen.
If you prayed that prayer, share your decision with one of the pastors or staff who can help you with resources, and encourage your newfound faith.
Pray for your pastors by name: Christian Gaffney, Roy Dowdy, Lucas Johnson, Mike Zizolfo, and Austin Parkhurst.
Pray for the George Mason students who have been impacted by the efforts of our College and Career eGroup. Pray that God will continue to open doors for us to minister to them and that those efforts will translate into meeting their needs on both spiritual and practical levels. Pray that they’ll start attending our services now that we’ve moved to our Braddock Road campus.
Pray about your role as we launch our ministry in the new building. Ask God to show you where you can serve, what eGroup you should connect with, and who in the congregation is looking for a friend or a mentor like you.
Ask for a list of missionaries we support and commit to praying for them regularly.
Begin to pray for them by name and for God to meet their spiritual and physical needs as they live out the Great Commission overseas.
Pray for 7SF and Exponential Church, our church plants in Port St. Lucie and San Francisco, that they will continue to live out the Great Commission in their communities.
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