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Author:Rev. Jeremy Segstro
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Congregation:Cloverdale Canadian Reformed Church
 Surrey, BC
 cloverdalecanrc.org
 
Title:The Final One Another Commandment: Love One Another
Text:Romans 12:9-11 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Love
 
Added:2022-01-10
Updated:2022-01-22
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Call to Worship: 1 John 4:19

Reading: Romans 12:1-21

Text: Romans 12:9-11

 

THE ONE ANOTHER COMMANDMENTS: LOVE ONE ANOTHER

  1. A Possible Commandment

  2. A Heart Commandment

  3. A Church Commandment

 

  1. Psalm 122:1-3

  2. Psalm 89: 1, 6

  3. Psalm 106: 1, 2, 23

  4. Hymn 13: 1-5

  5. Psalm 138: 1, 3

  6. Hymn 84:1-4

 

Words to Listen For: naive, voila, chin, heavy, shoots

 

Questions for Understanding:

  1. How is love for a Christian like water for a fish?

  2. What 2 responses are there when we give excuses for not loving one another?

  3. What are the 3 B’s of Christianity?  What’s wrong with them?

  4. What is our divine paternity test?

  5. What is key about Romans 5?

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Jeremy Segstro, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Loved ones of Christ,

There were once two young fish swimming along, and they happen to meet an older fish, swimming the other way, who nods at them and says, “Mornin’ boys!  How’s the water?”  The two young fish swim on for a bit, and then, eventually, one of them looks over at the other and says “What’s water?”

Originally, it was David Foster Wallace who told this little story.  He did so in the now famous commencement address at Kenyon College in 2005.  And he told this story to illustrate that the most obvious and important realities are often the ones that are the hardest to talk about.

And while I could use the same story to make the same point with you this morning, I think that it would probably land rather flat, as this entire sermon series has come down to love, time after time after time.  I don’t shy away from speaking about love, and, with thankfulness, I have noticed a greater comfort in many of you with the importance of love, and saying that you love one each other.

So, instead of making the point that Foster Wallace did, I would like to make, rather the opposite point.  The two young fish don’t notice the water, not because it is obvious, not because it is important, but because it is so natural to them.  Water is all that they have known.  Their world exists exclusively in water, and so it is just assumed.  It is a given that they would be in water.

And this, beloved, should be our spiritual reality as Christians.

Good mornin’ Cloverdale, how’s the love in this church today?

How amazing, how wonderful, how awesome it would be if one day we would get so used to showing radical gospel love to one another, that we would barely understand the question.

How’s the love?

Hmm...I guess it’s how it always is!  Just so natural!

If there was no love in this church, there would be no life.  The love in this church should be just like my heart beating or my lungs breathing.  If I’m here, then they’re working!  If the church is meeting, they are loving!

And there is love in the church, whether it is strong or it is weak.  If there was no love at all, there would be no church at all.

But we must realize that we have not arrived yet.  For all the love we show, if we’re going to be honest here...there has been hurt as well.  Our love is not perfect - there are people who have been loved wrongly, or not at all.  And that’s hard to hear.  Hard to acknowledge.

And so.  At the end of this sermon series, let us, a congregation who has come far, but haven’t arrived yet...let us examine this commandment once more together:

[THE ONE ANOTHER COMMANDMENTS:] LOVE ONE ANOTHER.  We will see that it is

  1. A Possible Commandment

  2. A Heart Commandment

  3. A Church Commandment

Love One Another.  You may remember that this was the first One Another commandment that we examined together.  Love one another.

At that time, I put to you two quotations.  Two quotations about “One-Anothering,” and I would like to return to them with you now, albeit briefly.

Quotation 1The primary activity of the early church was one-anothering one another.

Now, I know we haven’t spent much time looking directly at the history of the early church, but every single one-another commandment that we examined together was found in letters to the early church.  Every single one-another commandment, love one another, show hospitality, bear burdens, forgive, encourage, pray...these were the commandments, this was the Word of God to His church as they began to grow and flourish.  The commandments are HEAVILY SPRINKLED all throughout the New Testament, and I hope, that when you read it in your personal or family devotions, you take special note of those two words when they come up.  I hope they jump off the page at you.

And secondly,

Quotation 2: When everyone is sitting in rows...you can't do any one-anothers

This, I assured you, was not my attempt to swap out pews with a circle of chairs, or swapping out the pulpit for a beanbag chair.  But rather, this quotation reminds us that church is so much more than an hour together, twice a Sunday.  It reminds us that our activity as the church, our actions...they flow out of this time we spend together, but they are not synonymous with it.  They’re not the same thing.  Church isn’t only on the weekend, it is every single day of our lives.  This building is not this church...these people, you people are the church.

And as the church...you are commanded to love.

Commanded to feel...we also addressed this at the beginning in September...but God has EVERY RIGHT to command our emotions.  And we have every responsibility to follow His commandments.

In our text this morning, we see 29 commandments.  29 commandments in the 13 verses we read.  Each and every one of these commandments is a practical outpouring of love.

Love, you see, is also an action.

But love is a feeling.  And this is where things get a little tricky.  Because you can’t approach feelings DIRECTLY.  If you try to do this you will appear to be naive and heartless.  Let me explain.

Someone will say: I’m anxious about this thing.

The direct approach is: Well, stop being anxious!  Just get over it!

THIS DOESN’T WORK!!

I’m sad

-Well that’s silly. Stop being sad and be happy instead!

But you will get nowhere with this, as your answer is silly and your answer is unloving.  But instead, we must realize that feelings are the result of something other than themselves.  They’re not just THERE, they are a result.  A reaction.  They are the result, ultimately, of understanding and thought.

And Paul recognizes this, which is why Romans 12, our chapter this morning, doesn’t just start at verse 9 with this commandment.

The Apostle Paul has been making a very comprehensive case for his instructions over the last 11 chapters.

But if you’re like us, and starting in chapter 12, Paul sums up his teaching in just 4 words in verse 1 - 11 chapter in just 4 words - the mercies of God.

Everything that came before, reminding us of our hopeless sinful state, the hope of Jesus Christ, the strength of the Holy Spirit - all of them: THE MERCIES OF GOD. 

I appeal to you therefore - BY THE MERCIES OF GOD

One preacher put it so simply and beautifully.  He said: There is so much mercy in God that Paul had to put it in the plural (x2).

It’s not just the MERCY of God, but the MERCIES.  Filled up to overflowing with mercy.

And this is the only way that the rest of this chapter is even possible.  It is through these mercies of God that it is POSSIBLE to begin to keep these 29 commandments.  These 29 commandments that are the outpouring of the first commandment.  The best commandment.  The commandment to love one another.

One commandment.  And IT IS POSSIBLE.

Now, one of you might say, “Well, I’m willing to love...but just as a response.  Why should I be the one to love first?  Why can’t the other person be the first one to act?”

  • I’m fine with saying: “I love you TOO,” but not that first I love you.
  • I’m fine with an “I’m sorry TOO,” but not saying it first.

What should you do?

2 things.  2 things that you should recognize that will then stop you in your tracks.

First of all, someone’s PERSONALITY doesn’t release you from the divine commandment to love them.  I don’t care how unlovable they might be to you...if you don’t love them, the fault lies with you.  This is not to say that they don’t have to make any changes in their life...they probably do.  But loving them has nothing to do with who they are.  Instead, it has everything to do with WHO YOU ARE.  It has to do with who you are, and what you have received.

And that’s the second thing we must recognize.

If you EVER THINK that you are the one loving first...If you EVER THINK that you are the one loving first, you are gravely mistaken, and you don’t know the gospel.  There is no possible situation where you will be loving first.  It can’t happen.  It is impossible.

At best, at BEST, you are RESPONDING FIRST.

For what words welcomed us in this morning?  What words called us into this time of worship?

We love, because He first loved us 

We are never first.  We cannot possibly ever be first.  We love because He first loved us.  And so, everything we do...each and every action, each and every thought, each and every word...is a response to the love that Jesus Christ has shown to you.

Each one of these commandments is a RESPONSE to the manifold mercies of God.

It is NECESSARY because Jesus commanded it.  And it is POSSIBLE because Jesus practiced it.

Jesus practiced this love each and every day of His life.  His conception in the womb was an act of love.  His birth in Bethlehem was an act of love.  His teaching and healing were acts of love.  And His death was the greatest act of love.  He practiced the love that He commands, and He practiced it for you.

There is no hypocrisy in our Lord, but rather, a complete one hundred percent unity between what He DID and what He SAYS.  Every commandment that He gives, He has obeyed and fulfilled Himself.  His heart and His hands were completely united, and that is what He calls us to as well.  This commandment is not only about what we DO, but about what we FEEL.  About our motivations.  About our heart.  And that’s our second point.

Let love be genuine.

Or, literally, let love be anti-hypocritical.

This commandment, like all the commandments, are not only about changing BEHAVIOUR.  The catechism makes it so clear, with each commandment, revealing the heart behind it.

This isn’t the so-called 3 B’s of Christianity: Believe, behave, belong.  The idea that if we believe all the right things, if we behave in the right way, then we will belong.

This is an outside-in look at Christainity.  Change your mind a bit, change your actions a bit, and voila, you have a Christian.

But this is not the way of the gospel of Jesus Christ.  Don’t fall for the 3 B’s for a single moment.  The 3 B’s may make you a pleasure to have in the pew, but they will also make you conspicuously absent in heaven.

Christianity is not outside-in.  Christianity is not just cleaning up a little bit, smoothing over the rough edges, fixing how you dress, how you speak.  But rather, true Christianity is INSIDE OUT.  True Christianity is a complete overhaul.  True Christianity is a transformation from DEATH TO LIFE.  To say that it is about BEHAVING is a grave insult to the gospel, and a grave insult to the Christ of the gospel.  Behaving, you see, is not only shallow, it is also temporary.  You BEHAVE when others are watching.  But when they’re not...

A little while ago, I heard a story that hurt me to my very core.  A story that hurt even more because it wasn’t shocking.  A true story.

While travelling across Canada, a young married couple found themselves hosted by some Canadian Reformed people, and one day, someone from the church rang the doorbell.  Their hostess answered the door, and with a big smile on her face, she spoke kind words to the visitor.  She accepted a loaf of bread, said goodbye, and closed the door.  And then, almost like a supervillain in a movie revealing his true nature, her smile faded from her face, and was replaced with a cruel sneer.  She began to gossip about the woman who had been at the door.

Let me tell you about this woman.

First of all, she’s divorced.  She can’t take care of her kids, they’re running amok.  From what I hear, they are low on money, and may have to pull out of the school.  She’s really not a good person.

This is classic "behavism."  When you think that all Christianity demands from you is a smile and some kind words.

This is classic hypocritical love.  Let this never be you.

And if this has been you in the past, stop what you are doing right now, and plead with God for forgiveness.  Throw yourself on His mercies.  Right now.  Just a simple prayer: God please forgive me for the evil that I have done.

Because this type of LOVE is no love at all - it is evil.  Real love doesn’t act this way.

Let love be genuine.

Let love be anti-hypocritical.

It isn’t love if it is hypocrisy.  Hypocrisy is about falsehood, concealment, deceit, misleading, hiding.  Hypocrisy is the opposite of love, for love rejoices in the truth.  What Paul is really saying here, boiled down to its very core is this: LET LOVE BE LOVE.  Let love be love.  When you “love” make sure that you are REALLY AND TRULY LOVING.

“When you love” … so, when should we love?  As the church, when and where should we love?

Well, because 1% of your week happens in these pews...1.2% technically, I looked it up...because 1.2% of your week happens in these pews, then only about 1% of loving one another actually happens in these pews.  About 1% of our obedience to this law happens in this hour we spend together.

Maybe sharing a psalmbook shows love, maybe a husband putting his arm around his wife while they listen to the sermon shows love, but almost all of our love is behind the scenes, without the pastor watching.  Without the elders looking over your shoulder.

  • Love happens in emails.
  • Love happens in phonecalls.
  • Love happens in delivering a loaf of bread to your neighbour.
  • Love happens on your knees as you lift up your brother or sister in prayer.

Love happens, primarily, in secret.  Between the 2 of you.  Or...between the 3 of you.  For God knows.  Our God knows what happens in secret, and He sees the state of your heart.

And I know, first-hand, that love is not EASY.  I know that every email is a chance to tear someone down.  Every phonecall is an opportunity to attack someone you disagree with.  Prayer is an opportunity to “forget” about those who you have determined ‘don’t deserve prayer.’  Love is anything but easy.

C.S. Lewis explained it best when he said: To love at all is to be vulnerable.  Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken.  If you want to make sure to  keep it intact, you must give your heart to no one.  Lock it up safe in the coffin of your selfishness.  But in that coffin - safe, dark, motionless, airless -  it will change.  It will not be broken, instead, it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable.  The alternative to heartbreak is damnation.

The alternative to heartbreak is damnation.

If your goal is to keep your heart from any pain, so C.S. Lewis rightly says, you will land yourself in hell.  This is harsh, but all too accurate.  We don’t WANT it to be true...because I think all of us have spent some time with our heart locked away.  But not WANTING it to be true doesn’t change its truthfulness.  We need to love.

Love is like the air that Christians breathe.  It is like the water that fish swim in.  It is ABSOLUTELY ESSENTIAL to our survival.  Love is a commandment to the church.  Our final point.

If there is a church with no love, there is no church.  It’s that SIMPLE.

If there is a Christian with no love, there is no Christian.  It’s that CRITICAL.

And lest you think that these are my words, that this is my conclusion, see what the Apostle John says in 1 John 4:7 -  Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.  Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.

What this says, in simple terms, is that LOVE functions like a divine paternity test.  Love is that crucial characteristic that sets us apart.

You may have your father’s nose, or your mother’s chin...but do you have your God’s love?

Do you LOOK like your Heavenly Father?  Is there that FAMILY RESEMBLANCE in you?

This is the most important question that you can ever ask yourself, so I will ask it again - do you look like your Heavenly Father?

Our God, beloved, is an invisible God, but His divine qualities can be made visible in you!

Where there is little love in a church, we portray a warped and twisted version of God to the world, and we weakly glorify God. 

But where there is radical, true gospel love, then something amazing happens.

It’s AMAZING.  The invisible God becomes visible.  He is SEEN in us, and the world will know Him.  Amazing!

As we near the end, of this sermon, of this series, how about some practical application?  Because love...is not obvious.

HATRED is rather straightforward...we all know what hatred looks like.  But LOVE?  Love can be a lot more ambiguous.

We have questions like…

  • How do I love like this?

  • Am I this loving?

  • Is this description of love true of me?

    • If not, why not?

  • How can I conform to what Christ commands of me?

Well, as we heard earlier, there are 29 practical commandments, all flowing out of this one, to love one another.  And I won’t go through them all, but I encourage you to read them regularly and put them into practice here.

But let me focus, just briefly, as we begin to close, on two aspects.

Firstly: Love one another with brotherly affection.

They say that blood is thicker than water...but I say to you that it is CHRIST'S BLOOD that is the thickest of them all.

There is a special kind of love when it comes to family.  Friendships come and go, but family has a special bond.  You return, year after year to see family...Christmas is coming, December is right around the corner...many of you will travel to see family, many of you will host family in your homes as they travel to see you.  And whatever apprehension, whatever anxiety you get in seeing the family again, you’re there.

You feel that draw, you feel that need.  There’s something so special about the hug of a mother and the approval of a father.

But the church is a family on it’s own level.  It is not that we share a common family history...we share a common struggle, we share a common salvation, we share a common destination!

Even if your work or personal life situations take you away from Cloverdale...we remain family.

Even, one day, in the far future, if or when I serve at another church and am not your pastor anymore, I’m still your brother in Christ, and I will still love you.

This is a love that TRANSCENDS DEATH, because this is a love that CONQUERS DEATH.

Love one another with brotherly affection.  Because of the blood of Christ that covers both of you, you can say “he ain’t heavy, he’s my brother!”  She’s not unlovable, she’s my sister!

I WILL carry the load, I WILL show honour.  I WILL show hospitality.  I WILL forgive them when they sin against me, I WILL lift them up in prayer.  They are family, and in this family, this is what we do!

That’s the first thing.

And secondly, finally, verse 11: Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord.

Let us not be lazy in how we serve our God.  Let us not be lazy in how we serve our brothers and sisters in the faith.

Do not be slothful...in zeal!

This does not simply mean WORK HARD.  Having that Dutch work ethic where you silently and stoically push your body to its breaking point each day because it is what you’re called to do...not that there’s anything wrong with getting your hands dirty, and using the strength God has given you each day...there’s something admirable and very good about that.

But do not be slothful IN ZEAL!

What does this mean?

Zeal is passion.  It is an overflowing passion, completely overcome by determination, and pushing ever onwards towards a goal.

Do not be slothful in zeal!

This means that our worship services, and our lives as the church outside of this place, should be marked by deep emotions.  One preacher puts it like this:  The message of Romans 12 is that the church have deep love, fiery passion, relentless determination, and generous care.

And granted, there is a danger of zeal without knowledge, but it is equally dangerous to have knowledge without zeal.  We must serve and live with both our head and our heart!

It is far easier to cool down a fanatic than it is to warm up a corpse.

But thanks be to our God, He can and He has, and He will continue to do both!

He does so by His Holy Spirit, and this is what we see in the final part of verse 11.

Be fervent in spirit.

Or, as some translations have it: BE AGLOW with the Spirit.

Be aglow with the Spirit.  What an amazing description this is of the Christian life.  Be so filled with the Holy Spirit that His marvellous, healing, glorious, loving light just shoots out of your eyes and your mouth and your fingertips!

As a child of God, you have become a beacon of His light.  A vessel for His glory and love to be shown in this world.  You are the image of the invisible God!

There is nothing greater than this.  Nothing more significant...nothing...more weighty

You will protest, and say...IT’S NOT POSSIBLE for me to be like this.  I don’t have it in me.  I can’t possibly show the love of God in this way...I’m weak, I’m sinful, and I’m so very tired.

But here’s the good news, beloved.  Here’s the good news.  Romans 5 is the good news.  Turn there with me.

Romans 5: Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

Specifically that last bit: God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.  What does this mean?

This means, that when you’re plugged in to Christ, when you are saved, when you are a member of God’s family, at peace with God because of the work of Jesus Christ on the cross...this means that you have an endless capacity to show love.

God has poured His love into our hearts, and this pouring out never stops.  His love for us never stops so that our love for our brothers and sisters will never stop.  We will never run dry, for His love is infinite.

We have an endless capacity to show love because we endlessly receive love from His infinite supply.

I’m weak…

    By yourself, yes.  But with God, you have never been stronger!

I’m sinful…

    By yourself, yes.  But our God has called you righteous and holy!

I’m so very tired…

    Then drink from the fountain that never runs dry and be strengthened.

 

Love is, beloved, at once the easiest and hardest thing in the world.  Love is to be so natural in the church, like the air we breathe, or the water we swim in...but love belongs to our NEW NATURE, and so it’s a fight.  But it’s not a fight that we must fight alone.  For we have...one another.

AMEN.




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Jeremy Segstro, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright, Rev. Jeremy Segstro

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