Posts Tagged ‘Love’

She Loved With All Her Mite

Sunday, January 3rd, 2010

Pastor Brian Henderson, Trinity Lutheran Church-San Diego
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 Grace, Mercy and Peace are yours, from God our Father and for the sake of our Savior Jesus Christ!  AMEN

“They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything–all she had to live on.”  Thus far our text.

 The story is told of a very wealthy man who had never been known for his generosity to the church. The church was involved in a big financial program and they resolved to pay him a visit. When the committee met with the man one afternoon, they said that in view of his considerable resources they were sure that he would like to make a substantial contribution to this program.

“I see,” he said, “so you have it all figured out have you? In the course of your investigation did you discover that I have a widowed mother who has no other means of support but me?” No, they responded, they did not know that.  “Did you know that I have a sister who was left by a drunken husband with five children and no means to provide for them?” No, they said, we did not know that either. “Well, gentlemen, did you know also that I have a brother who is crippled due to an automobile accident and can never work another day to support his wife and family?” Embarrassingly, they responded, no sir, we did not know that either. “Well,” he thundered triumphantly, “I’ve never given any of them a cent so why should I give anything to you?”

Giving is easier for some than others.  Some give liberally but others seem to be challenged and even overcome with the worries and demands of life. 

For a few moments this morning I do not want to talk about dollar amounts that are given to the church but instead let’s talk about motivation. Why do we do what we do? What is the motivation behind our giving?

Our gospel reading has been called the story of the widow’s mite. Many of you are familiar with this event in the life of our Lord.  It’s about an incident where a widow gave all the money she had in a Temple offering and through her giving she received praise from God himself. The gospel lesson is generally perceived to be one about giving and clearly that element is there. In terms of the actual amount that she gave it was a mere pittance—less than one penny in today’s money. The extravagance in it was that it represented all the money she had.  But there is another element to this story that maybe we fail to see.  Let me explain.

 Jesus had just been watching the Pharisees in their giving practices. Now, we are talking big bucks. And they were very open about their giving. Everyone knew their giving record; in fact, they made it a point to ensure that everyone could see and acknowledge how generous they were!   It was in the light of this, that Jesus pointed out the widow.

Picture Jesus is sitting now with the leaders of the temple—the Sadducees, and observing the people as they came in, watching their donations. There’s no paper money so it all makes a terrible noise as it rolls down this long horn shaped object and then it falls into the pool of coins. So here comes this little old lady and she has two small coins and she drops them in. They barely make a noise. You can almost see the Temple leaders as they roll their eyes and hope for better results with the next person who walks in the door. Then Jesus calls his Disciples over and says, “This poor widow has put more in to the treasury than all the others.” To the Sadducees this woman is a waste of time but to Jesus she is the stuff that Kingdoms are built by. So, at its heart, the widow’s mite is not a story about giving, but rather it is a story about motivation. Why do we do what we do? What do we hope to achieve by our giving? The Pharisees and Sadducees gave to receive peer recognition. And, Jesus said that they had already received their reward. People praised them. The woman, on the other hand, she gave out of love for God. According to Jesus, she also received her reward, peace with God.

What can we learn from this?  Jesus watches us from a location opposite of where we place our attention.  He sees what others cann’t; specifically He sees into our hearts.   He notices the rich and the poor; the important and the simple.  Jesus pays special attention to those things that are most important to us, because they are what motivates every thing else that we do in this life.  While I do not know everything that Jesus sees within my own heart, I do know what he hopes to find in all of our hearts.  He hopes to find a heart that is like the widow’s; a heart that seeks to find and maintain a relationship of trustful dependency on Him.  That is a relationship he desires to bless and develop.  This relationship is sustained by faith, but it is born in love.

Love is what led the widow to give all that she had to the Lord.  Love is the natural response of a forgiven sinner.  And love is what naturally motivates us to give our time, talent, and yes even our money to the Lord.  Now, these words may have made you a bit uncomfortable, because they don’t address what we all really want to know, “How much of my time, talent and treasure, should I give?”  Well, the Gospel’s advice is that ‘We should give according to the dictates of our own hearts,’ and that brings me back on topic.

 Do you remember when Jesus asked St. Peter shortly before He ascended into heaven, “Simon son of John, do you truly love me more than these?”  And Peter answered, “Yes, Lord,” you know that I love you.” What did Jesus say next?  “Feed my sheep.”  Did you ever wonder why Jesus asked him three times?  Well, how many times did Peter deny knowing Jesus?  Three times; so Jesus was telling Peter that His forgiveness was complete—lacking nothing; as deep seated as Peter’s sin was, God’s forgiveness goes even deeper.  But, I submit to you that He also asked the question three times in order to change Peter’s heart and our hearts!  In this question and in the story of the Widow’s mite, Jesus is asking us to look within our own hearts and discover what things are really most important to us, and if His forgiveness and love for us aren’t our first priority, then He wants to change our hearts!  And once our hearts have been changed friends, He asks us to respond with our actions by “Feeding His Sheep.” 

 Friends, do you hear Him in your heart speaking to you this morning: ‘Dear Saints at Trinity, do you love me?  Do you trust me?  Do you realize that your church is really my Church?  Then feed my sheep.  My sheep are fed the Words of eternal life right here at Trinity, and they are right outside your doors in the communities of Encanto, Jamacha, Lemmon Grove and Spring Valley.  Friend, do you love me?  Do you understand that my sheep through Holy Baptism have been given assurance that a seat has been reserved for them at my Father’s table, just as has been done for you?  Then feed my sheep.  Friend, do you truly love me?  Then you must know that my sheep are sustained by my very body and blood at my table right here in this church, just as you are.  Feed my sheep.’ 

Friends, since we love God, then it only makes sense that we will love the place where he faithfully meets us in Word and Sacrament.  Since Jesus has truly saved us from our sin and eternal separation from God, then it is only natural that we will love Him who first loved us! 

In the next year, a lot of exciting ministries will be starting here at Trinity.  Each one of these ministries will have God’s Word as its central power.  These ministries will present many opportunities for you to demonstrate your love for God as you feed His sheep through your time, talent, and treasure.  Pray and ask God to show you how you can become a part of His love which flows from His Holy Word and Sacraments to you, and out to your neighbor.  Pray, and ask this always in Jesus name, AMEN!

  Now may this love and peace that surpasses all understanding be yours, through Christ Jesus our Lord!  AMEN

A Pastor’s Prayer

Sunday, December 6th, 2009

Second Sunday of Advent, December 6, 2009
Rev. Brian Henderson-Pastor, Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA
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 Grace, mercy, and peace to you friends from God our Father and our Savior Jesus Christ!  Our text this morning is verses 9 and 10 from our Epistle lesson: “And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.” [Philippians 1:3-11]

Our epistle lesson is a letter from God to the church in Philippi, through their Pastor—Pastor Paul, the apostle.  Now I ask you in advance to forgive the first person nature of the sermon this morning, but it can’t be helped.  Because you see, through it God has put me in Paul’s place, and all of us in the place of the Philippians.  This morning we will be talking about prayer—prayer that calls out to God because of love, joy, and concern. 

 You may have had Friends tell you that they’ve been thinking of you, and usually that will warm your hearts.  But an even greater encouragement comes when someone tells you that they’ve been praying for you.  This is what St. Paul is telling the Philippians and this is what I would like to tell you this morning.

 Some of you know that I try to start each day of ministry right here in this sanctuary with prayer.  I always begin my prayer by thanking God for bringing me here to Trinity.  I ask Him to let His love for this church and for all of you be my love.  I don’t ask that He help me to love you more, but instead, I actually pray that He will love you through me! 

 I. He does this by helping me remember how He has demonstrated His love to this congregation in the past.  He does this by helping me remember that it was God who began the good work in this church and within each of your hearts, and it will be Him who will complete that work when Christ comes again.

As I pray, I remember how God first started this congregation as a mission way back in 1890.  And as I thank God for His good beginning I remember the Pastors that He worked through.  I remember Pastors Leimbrock, Scherf, Knippenburg, Theiss, Hilgendorf Sr., Brink, Sorenson, Hilgendorf Jr., Robibnson, Lueker, Beyer, Cluver, Gunter, and Harms.  Each of them in their own way certainly prayed a prayer similar to what I am praying.  And this is what I pray: “Lord love and lead these people through me!”  And how does the Lord respond?  He tells me, “I have and I will!”

II. As I continue to pray, I also remember the joy that this ministry has brought to so many people.  And God did this by taking a tiny mission congregation that met in downtown San Diego, just a few like minded German Lutherans, and He turned it into the very first Lutheran church in San Diego.  And from that start little old Trinity went on to help plant one church after another in San Diego County.  And one of those new churches that Trinity helped plant was another little missionary church, perhaps you’ve heard of it?  Of course I am talking about Messiah Lutheran Church.  Again, God took something small, a group that started out with just a few kids in a Sunday School and He built the very first black Lutheran congregation in San Diego.  God did what no man ever could on his own… In both cases he took a little group of sinners and turned them into a vibrant and growing congregating of saints.  Yes friends, I thank my God in all remembrance of you!  From the beginning to the last day when Christ shall return, indeed, God must be glorified!

 Oh I can hardly wait to hear our Lord speak to us all as we enter into His glory.  I can just hear him now in my mind’s eye: “Saints of Trinity and Messiah… Well done my good and faithful servants!”  Friends, when we hear those words, we will know beyond all doubt that it was indeed He who began this good work within our congregation who completed it.  Yes, there is a lot to be thankful for and a lot to be filled with joy over.  Praise the Lord for the great things He has done!

 III. But my prayer doesn’t stop with joy and praise.  No you see while I celebrate God’s continued care for this church, I am also filled with concern.  I am concerned with those of you who are still here in this sinful world just trying to survive this thing we call the Christian life.  I am concerned for those of you who are just waiting to take your place alongside of all those other saints of our dear church who have gone home to be with the Lord.  I am concerned that many of you have grown tired and maybe somewhat cold in your love for the Lord, the one who first loved you!  I am concerned that you now look at your baptism as simply a “ticket to heaven” instead of an invitation to go deeper and deeper into a relationship of love with Jesus.  I am concerned that you no longer place your desire to know and please God as the most important priority in your life.  And finally, I am concerned that you may have let things like pride and comfort elbow out your need to receive and to give love and forgiveness, so I pray even harder for you.  And like St. Paul, this is what I pray…

 IV. May God fill you also with the love of Christ!  Friends, I pray that through His love within you, you will learn to love this little church with His love.  What I mean by that is that you would be so filled with His love that you will come to see this church as He sees it; as shining city on a Hill that represent both His presence and His love for you and the people within our community.  I pray that through Christ’s love within your hearts you will know that He is truly present here, filling you with even more love; and that through His Word spoken, taught, and preached here you will value this place above all others with exception to your own homes.  And in response to His love within you, I pray that you would care for and maintain this place of worship with the best of your time, talent, and treasure.

 But as I pray friends, God moves me even deeper into His love for you by leading me to pray that through Christ’s love and forgiveness you would learn to love and forgive each other just as He has forgiven you.  I pray that through Christ’s love you might learn how to praise, thank, and encourage one another as you serve together within your respective ministries here.  I also pray that through the same love of Christ, God would also give you a great love and concern for your Christian brothers and sisters so that when you see them straying from the truth or stumbling in their walk of faith you will want to warn them and then in love help them return.

 And finally friends, it is always my prayer that as you grow in the affections of Christ and your joy for His church and each other, that you would also have a burden in your heart for the lost… those dying without a love relationship with Jesus Christ.  I continually ask God to help each one of us to see our neighbors, those who live outside this church in these neighborhoods as Trinity’s mission field; I pray that Christ’s compassion for those poor souls would be our compassion; that His passion and zeal for them would also be ours.

CONCLUSION: Dear friends, I know that God hears my prayer each morning just as He has heard the prayers of the Pastors who have gone before me.  How do I know this?  Well, because it is self evident—you are still here!  Trinity Lutheran Church is still here.  Even now while I am proclaiming this message He is filling us with the fruits of righteousness; He is working within your hearts the desire to serve Him, each other, and our neighbors.  And as He continues to fill us and work through us we will walk as a congregation that has been changed, because we have!  We have been changed and we will continue to be changed because we are a people of faith who are growing and becoming more like our Lord every day.  And that is the message we take out to our community.  We tell them together as a congregation and alone as saved sinners, “Come and see a God who loves me and you just as we are.  But because He loves us He won’t leave us that way—He wants to change us by living in us.  Neighbor, God says to each of us, “Return to me and I will return to you.””

 Now it’s true, life is hard, there’s no denying that.  But God is good and He walks with us as our Savior and our friend.  So out of the love of Christ, which dwells richly within us, together we press on towards the day of Jesus Christ.  And as we do, we do it all to the glory and praise of God through Christ Jesus! 

Friends, Jesus is coming….He is coming indeed!  Maranatha…come Lord come quickly!  AMEN!!

Love One Another… or Else!

Sunday, May 17th, 2009

Pastor Brian Henderson, Trinity Lutheran Church-San Diego, CA
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“These things I command you, so that you will love one another.” [Jn. 15:9-17]

INTRODUCTION: These Words of Jesus may be hard Words for some here this morning.  In fact, you may find it easier to relate to this little ditty: “To live above with saints we love, that will be joy and glory; to live below with saints we know, now that’s a different story.” Sometimes, people can just be hard… no, they can be impossible to love.  And yet, that is exactly what we are commanded to do—love one another. 

I. If our gospel lesson is the first of a one-two punch, then the epistle gives us the knock-out blow.  Listen: “For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments.” [1 Jn. 5:3]  That’s God’s love?  Keep His commandments?  OK.  Do you think you can do it? Before you answer, let me put a little light on the challenge.  Luther sums up the fulfillment of the first three commandments this way: “We are to fear, love, and trust God above all things.”  And in regards to our neighbor, Jesus says that we should love our neighbor as we love our selves.”  Friends, within these Words we find the terrifying hammer of God; a hammer that smashes all of our “good deeds” along with our sinful behavior into an eternity of suffering, our suffering which can be the only payment for our sins.

In God’s commandments He demands far more from us than just doing our best or living a life that this world might judge as good and decent.  He demands perfection, which is something we all fall short of, and God’s Word makes sure that we know this, (for) it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” [Romans 3:10-12]We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.” [Isaiah 64:6]  Now do you understand how hopelessly lost we are if we think we can keep God’s commandments?

II. In our reading this morning from the Book of Acts, we join up with Peter and his companions who were directed by God to look for a Roman citizen in Caesarea named Cornelius.  He was a man who we would call a seeker of the true religion…he wanted peace with God.  He was studying the Jewish religion, with a desire to know the true God.  In a dream, he was told that Peter would come to him and help him discover this very thing.  Now Peter also had a dream, and within his dream God told him three times to kill and eat unclean animals, and each time Peter argued with God and said that he would not eat food that was unclean.  But God put an end to Peter’s protests by declaring  that he should not declare unclean what God had declared clean.  Now while Peter was trying to make sense of this dream, a servant of Cornelius arrived at the home where Peter was staying and asked Peter to come and speak to his master.  Now under normal circumstances, a devout Jew like Peter would never enter the home of an unclean gentile.  But these were not normal circumstances and Peter was not about to argue with God again over what is clean and unclean.  So off Peter went, because he wanted to do the right thing…He wanted to go where God was sending him.  You see, even Peter had trouble obeying God.  Even Peter on his own could not do good.

Something that has become clear in our message so far this morning is that doing good is not the simple matter that many people like to make it. Let’s look at Cornelius! If his honest convictions to live a good life were all he needed to please God, then why was he seeking the true religion? If the Jewish religion had been enough, why was Peter sent to his home? No, God had made it clear to Cornelius that simply following a few moral rules of life apart from knowing the true God was a hopeless tragedy.  God was about to make it clear to Cornelius that He had to know the true God, He had to know Jesus, the Redeemer in order to find peace.

So that was Peter’s task to preach peace with God…he must preach the gospel.  Peter was to be the mouth of God.  He was to preach the good news.  The preacher is to preach only what he is ordered, no more, no less, and without alteration. And this remains the preacher’s task to this day.  Pastors are never allowed to preach their own ideas. Only one message has the Lord’s approval. Any change to that message, any substitution for it, is not only empty but, when it pretends to be the Lord’s true message, it makes the preacher who proclaims it a liar, a false prophet.  What is that message?  It is Law and Gospel.  First, in regards to the law, Peter declared that Jesus has been appointed to be the judge of the world.  All men, women, and children, living and dead will be judge.  They must stand before a perfect judge and be perfect themselves.  But this is only half of the message, for you see according to God’s love Jesus is also the savior of all those who now stand before God as being unclean and worthless.  Just as it was Peter’s privilege to declare the gospel to Cornelius, it is my privilege today to announce to you “that everyone who believes in Jesus receives forgiveness of sins through his name.” [Acts 10:43] Every one of you that believes that Jesus suffered and died for you, and every one of you that believes that He is YOUR Savior and your God, are forgiven and you like Cornelius truly have peace with God!  Without the name of Jesus, there can be no forgiveness of sins… there can be no peace with God, but through faith in his name, your heart is able to cling to Jesus and rely upon Him in life and in death.

Dear friends, it is the gospel that has brought you to God through Jesus who is your saving and loving Lord. His “gospel of peace” [Eph. 6:15], now rules your heart in a way that allows you to really enjoy the fullness of this peace. And it is the gospel that will carry you through for the rest of your days, moving you to trust in God’s kind heart.  Now we see that apart from Jesus and His name, there is indeed no one righteous, not even one, but by faith in the name of Jesus, through faith in God’s saving gospel, a miracle has happened in your heart… a sinner is made righteous.  Because of your faith in the gospel God declares you to be pleasing to Him, and because you please Him, He moves your heart to sorrowfully confess your sins and then turn to Him through Jesus for forgiveness.  Friends, we are pleasing to God and saved from our sins because we believe and accept His forgiveness through Christ.  And every day God miraculously renews our faith, over and over again!  And this is guaranteed to us as long as we abide in the love of Christ.  And how do we abide in His love?  By keeping His commandments! [Jn. 15:9-10] Will you fall short?  Yes!  But when you do you have friend in God who sees the sorrow in your heart, hears your confession, and forgives you because you have faith in the name of Jesus! 

III. Friends, God is looking for your love.  Love for Him and love for your neighbor.  It isn’t easy; in fact Jesus calls it the narrow or the hard way.  Maybe God will test you as He tested Peter.  Maybe right now God is asking you to love someone that is different from you; someone who makes you uncomfortable because of their race, color, creed, or social behavior.  Maybe He is asking you to forgive and love someone who has hurt you deeply.  If so, remember that He has said that we must not declare unclean what He has declared to be clean.  Remember that “God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” [John 3:16] 

Listen friend, God knows it’s hard for us to love the unlovable… and yet He loves us and He calls us to walk with Him by faith.  Today, He wants you to confess your lack of love for Him and your neighbor and then to simply trust that because of your faith in Jesus God loves and forgives you.  But He won’t let it end right there, because you see,   He wants to change you.  He wants you to ask Him to change your heart and then let Him lead and guide you where He wants you to go, and to love who He wants you to love, just as He led Peter.  You see, this is love…that we keep His commandments.  It’s our love for Him demonstrated as we let Him change our hearts, and its His love for us when we turn to Him for forgiveness when we fail.  He forgives us and says ok, let’s try it again.  Follow me!  Maybe He will lead you right to the person or persons you can’t seem to love; if He does, it will be alright, because He will be with you and He will be working through you.  What work will He be doing?  Why He’ll be calling more sinners just like you into a saving relationship with Him—people who will receive forgiveness of sins because they too believe in the name of Jesus Christ.  This is how God’s church grows, and this is how we become more and more dependent on His love and forgiveness in our lives.  This is how we become people who love our neighbor, by letting God seek the lost through us.  When we do this as individuals we become more like Jesus.  When we do this as a congregation, we become a healthy church.  And a healthy church is a missionary church whose whole purpose is to impart the love of God and the joy of salvation to as many people as possible.  May God help us to do this through the name of Jesus Christ…AMEN!

The Power of God’s Love!

Sunday, August 31st, 2008

Sixteenth Sunday in Pentecost, August 31st, 2008

Pastor Brian Henderson-Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA
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“Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.
” [Romans 12:12]

 

INTRODUCTION: Why would anyone set out to suffer and die?  Why would anyone choose humiliation over triumph?  To the world this is a ridiculous concept!  That’s why in our gospel reading, when Jesus said that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed Peter answered, “Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you.”  The other disciples must have been thinking, “Good for you Peter!  This can’t happen to the one we love.  How can a suffering, humiliated, or worse yet, a dead Mesiah save us!”  But to this, Jesus says, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”

Poor Peter, just days before this our Lord had praised him as being the model confessor of the church, because he confessed Jesus as “the Christ, the Son of the living God.”  How could someone who seemed to have everything so right, now be so terribly wrong?  Our Lord answers that question so that we can see the error: “You aren’t looking at things from God’s plan, but from the plans of men!”  Well what’s the difference?  Both ways of thinking identify Jesus as the Savior, right?  Well yes, but the difference is in the kind of Savior!  Peter and the others wanted to glory in victory now!  They wanted a majestic conqueror—one that would by the power and might of man make all things right in the world.  They were appalled when Jesus said it was necessary for him to suffer and die.  They were so appalled that they missed the part that came next—the gospel!  “On the third day I will be raised from the dead!” 

 

The truth is friends, God’s love is always demonstrated as sacrificial love, and that is why Jesus said that “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.”  Without the self-sacrifice of Jesus, there would be no victory over sin death and the devil; without self sacrifice there can be no power in love.  And for us, if we want to truly live a life transformed by the “Power of God’s love” we must pick up our cross, and follow Jesus in the way of sacrificial love.  This is the truth that we will explore this morning in our Epistle lesson.  Please take out your Bibles and turn with me to Romans Chapter 12.

 

(Vs. 9) “Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good.”    Right from the beginning of our Epistle lesson this morning, Paul is making it clear to us that everything that follows is centered in love.  But this kind of love is not your run of the mill, here today gone tomorrow kind of love; you know the kind I mean don’t you?  The kind of love that is ablaze with passion on the wedding day, but cold as ice on the 5th anniversary of that wedding night.  No this is the kind of love that is the ultimate fruit of God’s love for us.  It is the kind of love that gives you faith to believe that Jesus is your Lord and Savior because “God so loved the world that He gave His only Son on the cross so that you would be saved!”  This isn’t the fake kind of Hollywood love, no this is the giving kind of love.  It gives everything it has so that the person receiving it knows they are loved.  With this kind of love, God chose to love you a sinner, and with this kind of love, as we will see latter, we are enabled to choose to love our enemies.  This is real love.  This love isn’t just words, but its action and truth! [1 Jn. 3:18]  So how do we demonstrate this genuine kind of love? “Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good.”  Hate everything evil and sinful and be permanently stuck to everything that’s good!

 

ILLUS: Perhaps the best way to demonstrate this truth is to illustrate its opposite.  Within our own community, just a couple miles down Imperial Avenue, you will be in neighborhoods that are plagued by drugs of all kinds, including the worst drug of all, Crystal Methamphetamine.  Hundreds of our neighbors are addicted to a drug that contains, phosphorus, methylamine, acetone, chloroform, iodine, ammonia, hydrogen chloride, lithium, ether, and muriatic acid.   When all of this is mixed together and cooked, it creates a crude version of Methamphetamine, and when smoked or snorted it produces an intoxicating euphoria that causes one to feel that everything is good and right in the world.  Friends, the truth is for these poor souls, nothing is right!  Any one of those ingredients alone can cause death.  These poor people have learned to love the very thing that is killing them, and they hate anyone that comes between them and their drug.  How many families have been destroyed because of this drug?  How many lives have been lost?  Yet these poor souls have become addicted to it!  They are living out the opposite mindset that Paul is asking us to live out.  When Paul says that we should hold fast to what is good, he means that we should be permanently stuck to it!  We should be addicted to what is good, and we know that there is no one or nothing good but God Himself!  Friends, we hate illegal drugs because they are evil and because we love God!  Now because we love God, we find ourselves hating anything and everything that separates anyone from the love of God which is ours in Christ Jesus!  Now Paul will show us how this type of love will work in our church.

(Vs.10-13)Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, and serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.” Be devoted to one another with warm family affection and brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves.  These words sound good; everyone wants that kind of love in our lives and in our church.  To Paul, this family-type devotion to one another is much more than friendship. It’s the type of love that involves commitment like that experienced in a good family.  When one person in a family is hurting, sick, or in trouble, all of the other family members rally around that person and help in any way possible.  This type of sacrificial, self giving love then is the fulfillment of “Honoring one another above ourselves”. When one of us is in trouble all of us respond.  But the truth is, this type of love can be a real inconvenient; it can even intrude into our personal lives at the worst moment, but this is God’s way, the way of sacrificial love.  It is God’s will that if one of us is in a time of testing, due to financial crisis, sickness, sorrow, or pain, rather than try to hide our tribulation, we should rather embrace the love and support of our church family,  and pray, waiting on God to supply our needs.  It is precisely during these moments when Christ’s church becomes the model of true love to the whole world.  This kind of love is a radical concept to the unbelieving world, but it is the only kind of love that matters to the church.  Paul says that the only way we can demonstrate this kind of love is if we are “fervent in spirit”. 

 

The actual Greek word that is translated fervent means “seething—be seething in spirit.”  Just as water and steam  violently bubbles and seeths out of a covered pot of boiling water, so too we are to be seething in the Spirit.  If you find yourself lacking that fervent, seething spirit,  Paul has just the way to obtain it—“Be constant in prayer!”  Through God’s Word we are given faith and empowered by a relationship of love that allows us to call our God and Creator, Father!  And because of this loving relationship, we are not only encouraged to bring to Him all of our own needs but the needs of others as well!    When we pray for a Christian brother or sister, God’s Spirit is active in our own hearts causing us to be seething in the spirit, so that He may love and care for that person through us, and when God is working through us it is not a chore to love someone, instead it becomes a blessing. 

 

ILLUS: Some years ago a Lutheran church in Oklahoma, divided. The split was so bad that one faction began a lawsuit to dispossess the other and claim the property for itself. The local newspapers picked up the story, and the locals followed what was happening with a lot of interest. The judge decided that it wouldn’t be a matter for the civil courts until the church authorities had made a ruling. After much discussion, the church authorities awarded the property to one of the two factions, and the losers withdrew and formed another church in the area.  Think about how different things would have been had those in that church followed Paul’s call to mutual commitment: Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.   Be seething in the spirit!”  Now that we have an idea of what our love should look like inside of the Church, Paul brings everything together into one picture.  Here now comes the type of love we are to have everywhere.

 

(Vs. 14-16) “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them.  Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.  Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight.”  Do these words sound familiar?  They should, because they are a paraphrase of Jesus’ own Words: “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,” and “bless those who curse you” )Matt. 5:44; Luke 6:27-28).  Think of Jesus last words upon the cross before he died, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34).  “Well He was the Son of God, of course He could bless and forgive.  No man could do that could they?”  Well what about Stephen, who opened his mouth in a blessing upon those who were stoning him to death?  Do you remember the last words that he uttered? “Lord, do not hold this sin against them” (Acts 7:60)

 

Friends, the way of the world says that we should curse those who are unjustly persecuting us, but the Christian prays for bullies and tormentors.  Why?  So that they might repent, so that God might forgive them.  Bless, Paul says, and do not curse them, don’t speak evil against them behind their back, because it is never right to both bless and to curse at the same time.  No, instead, we Christians must model the same love that Jesus has loved us with.  When we follow the way of our Lord, we learn to “live in harmony with one another”. Oh yes, and Paul adds something else, “Do not be haughty, (that is prideful and stuck-up), but associate with the lowly.  Never be wise in your own sight.”  Just as you don’t like to be bullied or persecuted, be sure that you aren’t doing the same thing to others—by way of neglect or preferential treatment.

 

ILLUS: Have you ever heard of Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes. When he was appointed the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court by President Herbert Hoover in 1930 he moved to Washington, and transferred his church membership to a church there. It was the custom in that church to have all new members come forward during the morning service and be introduced to the congregation. On this particular day the first to be called was a Chinese laundryman named Ah Sing, who had moved to Washington from San Francisco and kept a laundry near the church. He stood at the far side of the pulpit. As others were called, they took positions at the extreme opposite side. When a dozen people had gathered, Ah Sing stood painfully alone. Then Chief Justice Hughes was called, and he significantly stood right next to the laundryman.  Friends, we are Christians, and we are to associate with everyone—the ordinary people, the unimportant, even the outcasts of society; even those who are being persecuted. If we can’t get along with one another, if we can’t be the champions for the oppressed in our own church, how can we ever face our enemies?  And that is precisely where Paul is taking us next…

 

(Vs. 17-20) “Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all.  If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.  Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”  To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.”  Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”  There is no question that the man who does us evil ought to be paid back with the exact proportion. This is God’s own principle, and Paul isn’t ignoring that. But if God applied only that principle to us, where would we be?  And that is the point, without God’s grace through Jesus Christ we would be damned along with our worst enemy.  Friends, it is God’s work alone that saved us, and we should do everything to glorify Him and bring honor to His presence in our lives by living a life that demonstrates same grace.  Nothing that we do or say, should ever bring shame to our Lord and His gospel, and that is why Paul says, “give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all”. To that same end, Paul tells us, “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” That would include peace with believers and nonbelievers, those in the church and outside of the church. You know friends, it takes two to fight, and if you as a believer aren’t seeking revenge, then there should be no long-lasting disruption of peace that involves you.

 

But what about justice?  To this Paul answers, “Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”  Here is Paul’s answer. A juster hand than yours and mine is in control, and He will hand out the most perfect justice that is due to every unrepentant sinner. Friends, by choosing to not avenge ourselves, we aren’t abandoning justice, but rather we have chosen to trust God with the whole matter.  Remember friends, God saved you, and he doesn’t want anyone else to perish either.  So God is restraining his punishment with hope that your enemy will become you brother. So we wait; but while we wait, we aren’t just patiently endure mistreatment, no instead God wants us to seek to change our enemy, if possible, to bring him to repentance.  How?  By feeding him when he is hungry and giving him drink when he is thirsty!  These are only two of many possible examples, but they are good ones.  But why must we be nice to our enemy?  Paul answers that this way, “for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.”  Or we could say that by being nice to him, we allow God’s Law to work within his heart, causing him shame, which will then hopefully cause him to repent of his sin and turn to the same source of love that saved us, Jesus Christ!

 

CONCLUSION: Dear friends, the summary of all of this can be found in Paul’s won words: “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” God demonstrated this principle for us long ago, when He sent His only Son to die for you upon the cross.  While we were still sinners, Christ died for us!  Just as Jesus prayed for us long ago upon the cross, “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing” so too, we must pray for those who hurt us.  We need to pray and ask God for love as we try to show kindness to our enemies. Will they take advantage of us? Will they hate us even more? Only the Lord knows. Our task is not to protect ourselves but to obey the Lord and leave the results with Him.  Friends, even if our enemy refuses God’s love, we will still have experienced the love of God in our own hearts and we will grow in His grace.