This sermon is number 7 in a series of 7
Life As God Intends For His People - Part 7
"Life Of Love"
by David Legge | Copyright © 2011 | All Rights Reserved | www.preachtheword.com
We've been looking this week at 'Life As God Intends For His People'. We started last Sunday evening looking at 'Life Eternal'. Monday night was 'Life Empowered By The Spirit'. Tuesday night was a 'Life Of Grace Not Law'. Wednesday night, a 'Life Of Hearing God'. Thursday night and Friday night were double barrel, a 'Life Free From The Enemy' - on Thursday night we looked at a life free from oppression, demonic oppression, and unforgiveness; and on Friday night we looked at a life free from fear and anxiety. Tonight we're looking at a 'Life Of Love', and for that we're turning to John's Gospel and chapter 13, John chapter 13.
While you're turning to that, let me just say that some of our prayer letters, I think, are still left at the table at the back. I'll probably take most of them away, I can use them again, but if you didn't get one during the week or last Sunday please do avail yourself of those. John chapter 13 and just two verses for the moment anyway, verses 34 and 35 - and of course these are the words of our Lord. Jesus said: "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another".
Let us pray together, and I've asked you each night to come with me and pray to God - sometimes we let the fellow at the front do all the praying - I want you to join me in praying that God will speak very definitely tonight to our hearts, irrespective of what He has been doing. We give Him praise and thanks, but we want to meet Him tonight. I believe that this is a very important message, I believe it's a very strategic message for the church of Jesus Christ in the day and age in which we live in our land. So I want us to open our hearts to the Lord. Maybe you're not even a Christian, well, the message won't be primarily to you, but there will be enough in it for you to get the message that you need Christ, and you need to experience His love. So why not even open your heart night, and say: 'Lord, I want You to speak to me, and I want to experience an encounter with You'. That's what it's all about - we've seen this week that the Christian experience is a relationship with God. What good is it to come to church - and I sincerely mean this - what good is it to come to meetings, and not meet God? So let's meet Him, and seek Him now as we come in prayer.
Father, we thank You for Your holy word. We thank You, Lord - and we've even heard it another context today - greater love has no man than this, but that a man lays down his life for his friends. We have remembered many who have laid down their lives today, and we thank You for that, for the sacrifice of love. We thank You most of all for the greatest love of all, the love of God in the Lord Jesus Christ when He demonstrated His love toward us in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. We thank You for the love of God that is shed abroad in our hearts by the instrumentality of the Holy Spirit through faith in Jesus. We thank You, Lord, for that love that can outflow from us, as we seek to share Christ with others. Lord, we pray tonight that You will open heaven, as it were, and that You will pour out Your divine love - Joy of heaven to earth come down. Lord, we pray that You will come and make Your abode with us with divine love. Lord, we pray - and this is a prayer just coming now from the depths of my heart to You, Father - that You would even do something tonight that will spark a flame for revival in our land. Our land needs a great many things, Lord, but one thing is definite: it needs love. We pray, Lord, that we, as the church, might be Your instrument to show the love of God to men and women around us. Even if there is one here who has never experienced that love through salvation, that tonight they would be born-again. Lord, we commit ourselves to You, we give You all the glory for what has gone before, and we give You glory in anticipation of what You're going to do tonight and in all of our lives, as we trust You and look to You and the power of the Holy Spirit. In Jesus' name we pray, Amen.
Jesus said: 'By this all will know that you are My disciples, that you love one another'. By stating that, the Lord Jesus was saying that the distinguishing mark of being a Christian is that you love your fellow brothers and sisters in Christ - that is the distinguishing mark of true believers in the Lord: we love one another. Do you remember the lawyer who came to the Lord Jesus and asked Him: 'What is the greatest commandment?'. His reply pleased the lawyer, for Jesus said: 'The greatest commandment is this: that you love the Lord your God with all your soul, with all your heart, with all your mind, with all your strength; and the second greatest commandment is like that, that you love your neighbour as yourself'. In these two commandments is a summary, Jesus said, of all the law and the prophets. Basically what the Lord Jesus was establishing there was: love is the highest of all spiritual virtues.
Now, I hope you understand this. He said it was the sum total of the law of God, the first five books of the Bible - Genesis to Deuteronomy - and the prophets, the Old Testament prophets. But if I could put that into modern speak for us tonight, so that we can really understand the import of what Jesus is saying; effectively the Lord was announcing that this is what the Bible is all about - that's what He's saying! Love is what the Bible is all about. So, if you haven't got love, you haven't got the point. Indeed, you have missed the whole plot of Holy Scripture. Love is the mark of the fellowship of true believers, and all other criteria are strictly secondary to the fellowship of love that we ought to share with one another if we are in Christ.
Now, I told you last Sunday night that this John in John's Gospel is the same John who wrote the 1st, 2nd and 3rd epistle of John, and the book of Revelation. John elaborates in the first epistle of John about this brotherly love that we ought to have. He said: 'One who loves his brother abides in the light'. I told you last Sunday night that this little epistle, 1 John, is all about fellowship with God and communion with God. We established last Sunday night that this is what eternal life is all about, the Christian experience, John 17:3: 'To know Thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent'. So we can see a mark of a man or a woman who is in touch with God in that they love their brother and sister. He goes on to say: 'If you love your brother, God abides in you' - it's a mark of someone who is filled with the fullness of God. But then he goes on to talk about the opposite: 'One who doesn't love his brother cannot love God, and he is certainly not abiding in that fellowship of the perfect love of the Godhead - Father, Son, and Holy Spirit'.
A man by the name of Gayle D. Erwin wrote a book called 'The Jesus Style'. I was reading it not that long ago, and this was a striking statement in it that is very applicable to our subject tonight - he said this: 'I was shocked to find that such a statement was missing from the great doctrinal statements of denominations'. The statement he's referring to is: 'Love one another, by this shall all men know that you are My disciples'. He was shocked that this great doctrinal statement was not found in the creeds, if you like, and doctrinal statements of denominations. 'It's missing', he goes on, 'from the great systematic theologies, missing from the creedal statements and, most unfortunate, missing from our daily lives'. Just as Paul said in 1 Corinthians 13, we are nothing without love. Calvin said: 'Whatever is devoid of love is of no account in the sight of God'. Do you understand this tonight? Furthermore, what the Lord is saying in these verses is that love is what the world must see to identify us as belonging to Christ.
Francis Schaeffer said: 'Only with this mark', love, 'may the world know that Christians are, indeed, Christians'. He goes on to say a very insightful thing: 'By love alone, that's the only way they will know that Jesus was sent by the Father'. Did you know that? It is our love amongst each other that shows that Jesus came in the flesh. You might say: 'I've never heard that before!'. Well, turn with me to 1 John chapter 4 please, for a moment, till I show you this. Remember the context of this book, fellowship and brotherly love and communion with God. First John chapter 4 and verse 12, John says: 'No one has seen God at any time' - now that's a given, we accept that - 'If we love one another, God abides in us, and His love has been perfected in us'. Now I would vouch to say that most of you have read that verse before, but you've never really got the point. Read it again: what is the connection between the beginning of this verse, 'No one has seen God at any time', and the latter part of this verse, 'If we love one another, God abides in us, and His love has been perfected in us'? Have you missed it? What John is saying is: people can't see God because God is invisible. They saw Him when He came manifest in human flesh, but the Lord Jesus has now, having risen, ascended to heaven. The Holy Spirit has come, but you cannot see the Holy Spirit, for He is spirit, as God is spirit - but the way they will see the invisible God, John says, is when we love one another.
I wonder how much of God people are seeing in us? It was evident of the first Christians that they loved one another. Describing first century Christians to the Roman Emperor Hadrian, Aristides said, I'm quoting him: 'They love one another. They never fail to help widows, they save orphans from those who will hurt them. If they have something, they give freely to the man who has nothing. If they see a stranger, they take him home and are happy as though he were a real brother. They don't consider themselves brothers and sisters in the usual sense, but brothers instead through the Spirit in God'. Tertullian, the church father, writes of the early Christians that people said of them: 'How those Christians love one another!'. It was working back there in the first century, but is it working now? The question begs: what does the world see in us today, and what do the world say about us in the church today? Now, I'm not being funny now, but I imagine most of them say: 'How those Christians hate one another!'. Is that too strong? Well, maybe as a generalisation it is, but as a characterisation it is true because there is so much fighting, bickering, bigotry, sectarianism, and party spirit within the body of Christ.
Do you remember in 1 Corinthians, Paul had this problem. He said: 'There are factions among you, schisms'. Some said 'I am of Paul', he was the forensic mind, the intelligent boffin, and the people that had a few brain cells knocking together, well, they thought, 'We'll follow Paul'. Some said 'I am of Apollos', he was a great orator, he could communicate to the masses, and folk who liked that, they followed him. Others said 'I am of Cephas', which was Peter of course, and he was a man of the people, he was the real personality and folk were naturally warmed to him - so he had the common people following him. Then there was the spiritual crowd, and they said, 'Oh, we don't follow men, we're of Christ'. You might have thought they were the right crowd - they were not the right crowd, do you know why? Because they used their adherence to Christ as a basis to separate from their brothers and sisters, and you're not allowed to do that! You can't use the Lord Jesus Christ to separate from those who He has put you with in the body. Paul says: 'This ought not to be so, we are all one in Christ!'.
You can go back further than that and appeal to the Lord Jesus. You remember in Mark chapter 9 and verse 38, John - incidentally this same man John, who wrote this gospel and these epistles - he came to the Lord and he said: 'Teacher, we saw someone who does not follow us casting out demons in Your name, and we forbade him because he does not follow us'. The Lord Jesus said to him: 'He who is not against us is on our side'. Now friends, I know that this would be very unpopular preaching in many circles - and don't misunderstand what I'm saying, I'm not talking about some kind of false ecumenism, I'm not calling for uniformity - for unity is not uniformity. We will disagree, you will disagree with me and I will disagree with you, I can be absolutely sure - because half the time I disagree with myself and I don't even realise it! But the fact of the matter is: it's not that we disagree, it's how we disagree. Did you hear that? How we disagree speaks volumes of our understanding of this love of God, the grace of God we were talking about on Tuesday night. You remember we said: if we operate with God on a performance-based level of trying to earn tick with God and get His favour by our efforts, we will relate to other people on that basis - they will have to measure up to our standards before we will accept them. That's not what we're called to do. We're accepted by God through grace, and we are to accept our brothers and sisters in Christ by grace - full stop - and love them.
Augustine put it well when he said: 'In essentials there is to be unity, in nonessentials liberty, and in all things charity'. The Lord Jesus said in His prayer in John 17, He prayed for His people, listen: 'That they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us', and here's the purpose, 'that the world may believe that You sent Me'. Didn't we say that from 1 John 4? This is how the world will see God, and see the power and love of Christ: by the unity of the love between believers. Now I've heard people, and they're coming against ecumenism, and they're trying to say: 'Well, that verse really is speaking about the invisible church, and the Lord was praying that the church would be one'. Well, is that not absolute foolishness: to be praying for something that is already the case? For the church, the body, is one - but more than that, the text rebuts that, because if you look at this, He says: 'The purpose for which there is to be unity in the church is that the world may believe that You sent Me'. Do you think the world can see the church invisible? Of course they can't!
What am I canvassing for here tonight? Well, I'll tell you what I'm canvassing for: unity in the body of Christ. Now I am not a denominational animal, I never have been and probably never will be - but I am not foolish enough not to recognise that they exist, and I don't think they're going to go away tomorrow. But here's the thing, and I want to ask you a very pertinent question: when God looks down on Ballymoney tonight, do you think He sees one church or a few dozen? Now, I am being blunt, but I'm being direct and serious, because we need to be, because our land is in dire straits. Do you think God is into denominations? Do you really? We need to get real with God, and get real with His word, and we also need to realise that when God came in mighty power - as far as I can see, in historic situations (I have to say that recently I've been looking into revivals that have been going on in our world within the last 10 to 20 years. You mightn't realise there have been, you'd think here in Ulster that the 1859 one was the last one, and God has gone to sleep since then. God has been moving ever since then! He has been moving in this last decade in places you would not imagine). But do you know what one of the major common denominators of those moves of God is? The church put aside their differences - they still had the differences, some had different views on the second coming, some had different views on baptism, some had different views on the gifts of the Spirit, but they realised that their community was on its way to hell, and they realised that with all their differences they knew Christ as Saviour and Lord, and they had the answer. They got together and, as the Psalmist says in 133, when brethren dwell together in unity, there God commands the blessing.
Now, we have got to rediscover this. If this is going against your grain, can I tell you very gently: you've got the problem! You've got it. You sort it out before God, it's your problem! I'm not saying, don't believe what you believe, and say that you believe everything else that somebody else believes - I'm not going to do that! But we've got to understand the detrimental consequences of our fighting and our disagreement, and how we disagree. A renowned Bible teacher said: 'If there's anything that would keep me away from Christ if I was lost, it would be the attitude of Christians toward one another', and I say 'Amen' to that. I despair at times.
Before Andrew Jackson became President of the United States, he was a general in the Tennessee Militia - some of you may have been reading about this even today in your daily readings. During the War of 1812, his troops started fighting and bickering among themselves. He called them together, and this is what he said: 'Gentlemen, let's remember that the enemy is over there'. We are not enemies with one another, and the enemy that we wrestle with is not flesh and blood. We wrestle with principalities and powers, we're meant to be wrestling in the spiritual - and so many of us are in the flesh and carnal.
Another problem is: because we as Christians are so opposed to so much immorality in the world, and so much false doctrine in the church - and there's bucketloads of it - we can come across as angry. Now listen, don't misunderstand what I'm saying: we ought to be angry with the injustices of our world, but the Bible says 'Be angry and sin not'. We ought to value sound doctrine, but the Bible says we are to speak the truth in love. We are not to be known by our anger, we're not to be defined by our anger. Jesus said: 'By this shall all men know that you are My disciples, by your love'. Someone said: 'God is light. God is love. That which professes to be light, yet lacks love, is not of God'. Richard Sibbes, the puritan, said: 'We are as we love, not as we know' - that's the measure of the man, the woman in Christ, their love! We've got to realise the real hindrance to blessing this is - there, perhaps, isn't a bigger one.
I'm sure you've heard of Mahatma Gandhi, he was a Hindu. Though he was a Hindu, he admired the Lord Jesus. He often read the Bible and quoted from the Sermon on the Mount. Once there was a missionary, some of you may have heard of him, by the name of E. Stanley Jones, and he met with Gandhi on one occasion. He asked him: 'Mr Gandhi, though you quote the words of Christ often, why is it that you appear to so adamantly reject becoming His follower?'. Gandhi replied: 'Oh, I don't reject your Christ, I love your Christ, it's just that so many of you Christians are so unlike your Christ'. Oh, please let that sink in tonight: so many of you Christians are so unlike your Christ! Jesus said: 'You are the salt of the earth' - and that means many things, salt is a conservative, a preservative, but do you know what else salt does? It makes you thirsty - and we're meant to make people thirsty for Jesus. How? Jesus said: 'Your love for one another, by this shall all men know that you are My disciples'.
So the first thing I want to leave with you tonight is: love for the brothers and sisters, manifest in serving each other, is an evidence and a witness to those around us. Love for the brothers and sisters, manifest in serving. Look at verse 34 of chapter 13: 'A new commandment', Jesus says, 'I give to you'. Now, how is this a new commandment? Well, the ancient Greek here for 'new' doesn't mean this commandment was just invented. What it means is: this is a commandment being presented in a new, fresh way, like never before. Here's the punchline to it: 'Here's the new commandment that I give to you, that you love one another' - here's the emphasis - 'as I have loved you' - that you also love one another as I have loved you. You see, this wasn't new in a sense, because the Old Testament had commanded you to love your neighbour as yourself - but this was a new law in the extent of that love that we're meant to express toward one another. What Jesus is teaching is: you're to love your neighbour better than yourself, in fact you're even to go to the extent of dying for them if it is required!
So the command to love wasn't new, but the extent of love was new. It was being displayed here by the Son of God Himself: 'I want you to love one another just as I have loved you'. Of course, chapter 13 of John is in the last week of the life of our Lord, some call it 'Passion Week', it's the countdown to Calvary. He's going to die on the cross to display His love for us, and just before He does that He gives these disciples an object lesson at the beginning of chapter 13, look at it. Verses 1 to 5: 'Before the feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that His hour had come that He should depart from this world to the Father, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end. And supper being ended, the devil having already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon's son, to betray Him, Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come from God and was going to God, rose from supper and laid aside His garments, took a towel and girded Himself. After that, He poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples' feet, and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded'.
His earthly ministry was almost over. In 24 hours He would be hanging on a cross. Though the cross is not mentioned in this incident, it casts a shadow over every word. Look at it, look at verse 4: Jesus 'rose from supper', He's rising from a place of rest, a place of comfort, just like He rose from the right hand of the Majesty on high in heaven, from the throne of God, a place of rest, a place of comfort. Look at what it says in verse 4: He 'laid aside His garments'. He took off His covering, just as He laid aside the glory that covered Him before He came as a little babe in flesh in Bethlehem's manger. He took off His heavily covering - He remained God, but it was clouded and shrouded in human flesh. Look at the verse: He 'took a towel and girded Himself' ready to do this work - just as He took the form of a servant, and came ready to work on this earth. Look at what verse 5 says: 'He poured water into a basin', ready to clean the disciples' feet - just as, at Calvary, having adorned a human body, He poured out His blood to cleanse us from the guilt and penalty of sin. Then we read later on in verse 12: 'He sat down again' after washing their feet - and after shedding His blood, He rose from the grave, He ascended to heaven and sat down at the right hand of God the Father, having cleansed us and made one sacrifice for sins forever. Do you see what He was doing? He was pointing them to Calvary.
In verse 1 we read: 'He loved them', at the end of verse 1, 'He loved them unto the end' - it means unto the uttermost, to infinite degrees He loved them. This object lesson of Him washing the disciples' feet was such an illustration of how He was going to the cross, and He was going to give Himself completely for His disciples. You see, let's face it, He could have taken a wet flannel and wiped the disciples' feet clean, but He didn't. He gave Himself completely to the task, unclothing Himself, girding Himself with a towel, pouring out water into a basin, washing their feet, and sitting down. We see what this means redemptively, and I hope everyone here understands what Jesus Christ did for you because He loves you. Is there someone here and you're not converted, you're not born-again, you're not a Christian, a true Christian? You've never experienced repentance of sin and believed in a Saviour who loved you enough to come all the way from heaven and bleed and die on a cross, bearing your sin and shame, because He loves you and He wants to save you, and He gave Himself completely to the task that you might be born-again - and you're here and you're not redeemed, you're not ready to meet God.
We understand that redemptively, but the Lord Jesus really meant this practically. If you look at verse 15, He says: 'For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you', look at verse 17, 'If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them'. Now let's picture this in our minds: the Lord Jesus has got the disciples to reserve an upper room to eat the Passover, at which He will institute the Lord's Supper. So it's an upstairs room, so they have to go up the stairs, and it was the custom that there would have been a basin there at the bottom or the top of the stairs, and the disciples - who all, in those days of course, wore sandals walking around the dusty hills of Judaea - would have had very, very dirty, dry feet. It would have been a menial task for the lowest servant of the house to take that basin and wash the feet of all the guests - but I want you to see: one by one the twelve disciples walk past the basin. That means they ate with dirty feet, because it says the Lord rose from supper to wash their feet. They didn't sit in armchairs at tables like we do, dining sets - you may have seen it in pictures, they had low U-shaped tables, and they reclined at them on their elbow. So that means, as they were lying down, their dirty feet would have been very near the next person eating beside them - that's why it was imperative that they washed their feet.
Here they are all with dirty feet, and you ask the question: 'Why did none of the disciples wash their feet? Why did none of them do this first? Why was the Lord Jesus left to do it?'. Well, very simply, I believe any of them would have washed the Saviour's feet - but if they had washed His feet, they would have had to wash everybody else's, and so nobody got their feet washed. In fact, in Luke 22, we know in the sequence of events chronologically that it wasn't long after this event that they were arguing with themselves, only minutes later, who was the greatest among them! You see, there's a great principle here, it's found in verses 6 to 8. The Lord came to Simon Peter: 'And Peter said to Him, 'Lord, are You washing my feet?'. Jesus answered and said to him, 'What I am doing you do not understand now, but you will know after this'. Peter said to Him, 'You shall never'' - and that's an emphatic negative, never, ever - ''wash my feet!'. Jesus answered him, 'If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me''. Now listen carefully to this principle: it is only those who are humble enough to be served, to be served by Christ, by His grace - not try and achieve, but be served by grace - and also it is only the one humble enough to be served by their brothers and sisters, that are qualified to serve their Master.
Some of us are too proud to be served. You know the way we get on. You know, if you're invited for supper, you go and you have a good feed - but you have to invite them back, don't you? Your Pavlova has to be bigger than their Pavlova, and all the rest! You know what it's like: you can't often take a gift free gratis - gratuitously let the body minister to you. We've got a problem with this, Scots-Irish people in particular, self-sufficient, independent - and we need to learn what it is to be ministered to by the body, because it's only those who know how to be ministered to by Jesus and His body, which is the church, who are qualified to minister for Him and to give on His behalf. We haven't got time to look at it, but we've got to allow ourselves to be bathed, washed in the grace of God. Jesus said to Peter: 'I've got to wash you, bath you from head to toe to make you clean, or you can have nothing in Me'. Are you washed tonight, and cleansed completely?
Not only that, Jesus then went on to talk about how we need our feet washed continually. Though we are bathed once and for all at salvation, regeneration; to have communion with God, to receive from Christ and give on His behalf, we have to have our feet washed - because, as we walk through this world, we get dirty, we pick up germs and sin, and we need to be cleansed. We need to have the bathing, we need to have the basin - that's the communing with the Lord, but do you know what the problem is? I include myself here: sometimes we are too big for God to use. We know too much, we've too much experience.
These disciples got the message eventually - I have to say, I believe it was really after Pentecost that the penny dropped. We read in Peter's first epistle, chapter 5 verse 5, listen: 'All of you be submissive to one another', listen to this statement, 'and be clothed with humility'. Most believe, including myself, that he is alluding there to the Lord Jesus Christ girding Himself with the towel to wash the disciples' feet. Gird yourself with humility, 'for 'God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble''. This is the most staggering aspect of this event in John 13 to me: Jesus washed Judas' feet. Does that not bowl you over? Washing the feet of a traitor! I wonder is there a person here tonight, and someone has hurt you, someone has been treacherous toward you? Maybe there is a bitterness in your heart - the Lord, knowing that the devil had already entered into Judas Iscariot, imagine this! The Romans, in their culture, had no use for humility. The Greeks despised manual labour, but here the Lord Jesus exalts the virtues of service to the highest place. What He's saying is: the highest rank in the kingdom of God, in the power structure of His kingdom, is to be a servant - the highest rank!
Warren Weirsbe said: 'The world asks how many people work for you, but the Lord Jesus asks: for how many people do you work?'. You see, true love rolls up its sleeves, and more than that: it's where true blessedness is found. Look at verse 17, Jesus said: 'If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them'. Some might translate 'blessed', 'happy' - it's not the complete idea of the word, but it's part of it. Everybody wants happiness, don't they? But we often strive after happiness through selfishness, but what the Lord is saying here is: true happiness comes from humble service. You cannot be happy, I believe, unless you are holy - but you cannot be holy unless you are humble. So the order in God's economy is: humbleness, then holiness, then happiness.
Now we haven't got time tonight to look at this doctrine of love - I mean, it's just throughout the whole book. We're meant to love our family: 'Fathers, love their children, do not provoke them to wrath', 'Husbands love their wives, as Christ loved the church and gave Himself for it', 'Wives obey, in love, your husbands, in the Lord'. 'Any man that does not provide for his home', 1 Timothy 5 verse 8, and that's not just financially, you need to provide love. You could give your body to be burned, be running around the province serving the Lord - this is what I have to watch - and forget your own wee family that God has given you. 'If you don't provide for your own, you're no different than an infidel'. You're to love your neighbour, you're to love your brother - and this is a whole subject on it's own: you're to love your enemy. Corrie Ten Boom, I've mentioned her several times, was in a concentration camp, a Nazi concentration camp, and she said this about loving your enemy: 'You never so touch the ocean of God's love as when you forgive and love your enemies'.
The church in Ulster has a lot to learn here. Love for brothers and sisters is to be manifest in how we serve one another, and let others serve us. But here's something else: love for the lost is to be manifest in soul winning. Turn with me to Romans 9 verses 2 and 3 - we're almost finished - Romans 9 verses 2 and 3, here's the burden of the great apostle, showing his love for the lost that was manifest in his soul winning. He said in verse 2: 'That I have great sorrow and continual grief in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my countrymen according to the flesh'. I think it was Martin Luther who said: 'This is hard to understand, that a man could wish to be damned, that the damned might be saved' - that's basically what he's saying here. It was as if the heart of Christ dwelt in Paul, the heart of this love. Having this heart of Christ, he had this compassion toward lost people that transforms all human relationships. Do you have a passion for the lost, or is it a lost passion?
It places love on a supernatural plain, that's exactly where it is - because this love that we're talking about is not something you crank up within yourself to try and love people you don't even like, or you disagree with in any shape or form, morally, politically, religiously. No! This is a supernatural love, this is the agape love of God - this is a fruit of the Spirit that enables us to love the unlovely, to love the unthankful and the indifferent, and we need it if we're going to conquer Ireland for Christ! It is the missing ingredient that they are not seeing, because they don't even see the love that we ought to have for one another when we're at one another's throats! Remember what Paul said in Galatians: 'You bite and devour one another'. We need a renewed love for the lost.
John Henry Jowett said: 'We can never heal the needs we do not feel. Tearless hearts can never be heralds of the passion. We must pity if we would redeem, we must bleed if we would be ministers of the saving blood. The disciple's prayer must be stricken with much crying and many tears. The ministers of Calvary must supplicate in bloody sweat, and their intercession must often touch the point of agony. True intercession', he says, 'is a sacrifice, a bleeding sacrifice'. All that is is the heart of Christ in the believer! We've been talking about relationship with Christ, that's what the Christian life is - and, just like in marriage relationship, when you become intimate with your husband or your wife, we said on other nights: we can read the signs and signals how they communicate with us, but we can also feel their emotions at times. In a very unusual way we are heart-to-heart with them, we say, and that's exactly what happens when you become close to Jesus, when you become intimate with Him - you feel His broken heart for lost souls! Sometimes you wives and husbands can second guess one another. There is a hymn I learned many years ago when I was involved in a national Young Life campaign, and the chorus of it goes like this:
'Let me look at the crowd as my Saviour did,
Till my eyes with tears grow dim,
Let me look and pity the wandering sheep,
And love them for love of Him'.
It's seeing the lost with Jesus' eyes, it's loving the lost with Jesus' heart, it's touching the lost with Jesus' hands. Let me sum up this love as we close this meeting and close this series - we're really summing up the life that God intended. I want you to turn, as we come to a close, to 1 Corinthians chapter 13, and we're going to read this great purple passage on love. Verse 4 through to the beginning of verse 8: 'Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails'.
I want you to do something. Look at verse 4 again, and I want you now to replace the word 'love' with the word 'Jesus', look at it: 'Jesus suffers long. Jesus is kind; Jesus does not envy; Jesus does not parade Himself, is not puffed up; Jesus does not behave rudely, Jesus does not seek His own, is not provoked, Jesus thinks no evil; Jesus does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; Jesus bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Jesus never fails'. This love is the life of Jesus! Now, do something else for me, come back to verse 4: 'David Legge suffers long and is kind' - I have to stop there, for I can't go on. Even what I have said is not always true - but, you see, what the Lord wants me to do is die with Him. I have died with Him, the Bible says, and I have to reckon it such, and I have to allow Him to live through me - that is what the Spirit wants to make you. Listen to me tonight: this is the life that God intends for His people, it's the very life of Jesus lived through the Spirit in me. He wants to reproduce the characteristics and the attributes of the Son of God in you and me! The love of Christ, the character of Jesus!
'If of Jesus Christ their only view may be
What they see of Him in you,
My soul, what do they see?'.
What do they see? Robert C Chapman, one of the early pioneer brethren missionaries, said that his great aim was, I'm quoting him: 'Seeing so many preach Christ, and so few live Christ, I will aim to live Christ'. Later J.N. Darby of the brethren said of R.C. Chapman: 'He lives what I teach'. I'm sure most of you know of Robert Murray M'Cheyne, that great Scots minister, and it was said of him by an onlooker, a friend: 'Oh, he is the most Jesus-like man I ever knew'. What an epitaph! There was once a professor who wrote a very learned thesis on the subject of love - the only defect was, the professor had never been in love. When he took the manuscript to the typist to prepare for the publisher, the typist turned out to be a very lovely young lady. When their eyes met, something happened to the professor which was not in his book - he was happier in five minutes with love in his heart, than he had been 30 years with it in his head. Something like that needs to happen to the church in Ulster: we need to get the love out of our heads and into our hearts, and onto our hands.
It's the fruit of the Spirit, I believe it's the fruit that bears all the other fruits from it. It's commanded here - not only that, but the Lord says He empowers us to obey this command. The love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Ghost who is given to us. 'By this shall all men know that you are My disciples, if you love one another' - if you love your brothers and sisters through serving, and you love the lost through soul winning. Can I ask you tonight: how is our love? Thomas Fuller once said, listen to this, this is profound, I really want you to get this - and I'm closing now, listen: 'If God should have no more mercy on us than we have charity one to another, what would become of us?'. Let me repeat that: 'If God should have no more mercy on us than we have charity one to another, what would become of us?'. In other words, if we were left to look after one another in love without the help of God, what would happen?
Let us pray. Now we're going to sing in a minute and close the meeting in prayer. I'm conscious now that this has been a strong word, it's not my desire to come across in a condemning way - but, you know, these things are so serious. Our land needs revival, desperately needs revival, Ireland needs revival - Ireland needs revival, not just Ulster, it's Ireland. The British Isles needs revival, and they need to see Christ in us. They need to see the love of Jesus for them in us. Now there are people here tonight need to repent. There are seven letters to seven churches at the beginning of Revelation, and five of the churches are told to repent. Do you need to repent tonight for a lack of love towards your brother or sister, despising them because of their church? God forgive us!
Father, I hardly know what to say. I know there's great opposition to this message that I have preached. I don't mean here, Lord, but in the spiritual realm, where the flesh is concerned - people kick out against this, because they have their little prejudices, their little idols, whether it's of doctrine or practice that may be true, but that they have put above the law of love, and that they have not surrendered to Your Lordship. Oh God, I pray, as Jesus prayed, that we may be one, even as Father and Son are one in the Fellowship of the Holy Spirit; and, Lord, that You would be pleased to see brethren dwell together in unity, and command the blessing - even life, this life - forevermore. Amen.
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This sermon was delivered at Leaney Mission Hall in Ballymoney, Northern Ireland, by David Legge. It was transcribed from the seventh recording in his 'Life As God Intends For His People' series, entitled "Life Of Love" - Transcribed by Andrew Watkins, Preach The Word.
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