Best Sermon Ever!

YouTube player

1 John 4:7-11, 19-21 || May 5, 2024

There’s an old legend, I guess, about the Apostle John. He spent his last days in the city of Ephesus, and he got to the point where he was an old man, and he really couldn’t handle being the full pastor anymore. But because he was so beloved, towards the very end of his life, they asked him to come in and preach several sermons. They didn’t mind if they were short or whatever, that was fine, but will you come in and preach for us? And so John said, okay. Well, he was so weak they had to carry him in on a stretcher and kind of prop him up on his side or kind of in a sitting-up position. And he said to the people, “Beloved, love one another.” And that was it, he stopped. And it was clear the sermon was over, and y’all are thinking, “Man, I wish John was preaching today.” The people were surprised, they kind of were expecting more, expecting it to go on or whatever, but as they thought about it, they’re like, “Wow, so succinct, so profound, so amazing, “and just great, best sermon ever.” Well, next week they bring John in on the stretcher and they prop him up again, and it’s time for him to preach, and he says, “Beloved, love one another.” And again, he stopped. And the people were perhaps even a bit more surprised because it was the same thing as last time, but yet still so succinct, still so profound, still so amazing, okay. Third week, same thing. Fourth week, same thing. After the fourth week, a few of the people said, “You know, you kind of have said the same thing “four weeks in a row. “Maybe it’s time to say something else.” And John’s reply was, “When we can wrap our minds around this, “then we can go on.” I think our probably knee-jerk response to that, or reaction to that, is to think that John was saying, we human beings just do not do a good job of loving each other. That we just aren’t as zealous as that as we could be, or as eager to do that as we could be to love one another. And that’s probably true, but may I suggest it’s actually the first part that is the more astounding? Beloved. Beloved by who? Beloved by God. Just stop and think about that for a moment. The almighty God, the one who rules the entire universe, the one who could say, “Light there be light, and there it was. The one who could walk on water, the one who could turn water into wine, the one who could rise from the dead, the one who could make the sun stand still, loves you. Loves you. And me. And that’s just nuts. That’s just nuts. Usually, when we love something or someone, there’s a reason for it. I love my wife. There are all kinds of reasons I love my wife. She’s beautiful, she’s kind, she’s patient. She puts up with me. There’s all kinds of reasons. I love pizza. Why? I love pepperoni and I love the cheese and I love the sauce and I love the thin crust. There’s something in the object of our love that causes us to love them. Make sense? Not so with you and me when it comes to God. What is God’s standard? It’s perfection. And as God looks at you and me, what does he see? Failure. I’ve failed to love God with all my heart, all my soul, all my strength. I have failed to love my neighbor as myself. I have failed to be patient and kind, at least perfectly so. I’ve been really good at being proud and boastful and rude and self-seeking and selfish and crude and… There’s nothing. Nothing. In you and me that would lead God to want to love us. And so God’s love is just totally unique. That God’s love goes so totally beyond any kind of love that you and I could ever really fully, completely understand or experience. Because our love for others is always tinged somehow, somewhat by selfishness. If I love that person, they’ll love me back. If I love that person, I can get something out of them. If I love that person, there’ll be some sort of pleasantness for me that will improve from that. There’s always a selfishness. God’s love for you, just the opposite. Totally patient, totally kind, totally loving. And giving, oh my! What was God willing to give for you? His son. Can you imagine that God the Father loved you so much that he was willing to sacrifice his real son so that you and I could really become his sons and daughters? Can you and I even begin to fathom what that all means? Can you and I even begin to fathom what it means that you and I are beloved by God? It’s mind-blowing, isn’t it? And it has a result. Beloved, love one another. Well, of course I need to love one another because just as I am beloved by God, so every other human being is beloved by God. Some know it, some don’t. But every human being is beloved by God. So does it not make total and complete sense that you and I would love one another? It does, doesn’t it? It makes total sense that we would treat each other with patience and kindness and trust and forgiveness because that’s the way God has treated us. And God kind of ramps things up a little bit in this text as he talks about these things. Whoever does not love does not know God. If we are refusing to show love to others, we’re saying we really don’t understand who God is and what he’s like. Oh my, that hits me right across the chin. You too? Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. If you and I are refusing to treat people with patience and kindness, if we are refusing to reflect the love of God to our fellow human beings, then we’re liars. And which of us can say that we have done this perfectly? I can’t. Liar, liar pants on fire. That’s not the written sermon. Whoever does not love their brother or sister whom they have seen cannot love God whom they have not seen. It is absolutely impossible for a person to say, yeah, I love God, but then not to show love to their fellow human beings. If we refuse to show love to our fellow human beings, then we are really saying we don’t love God at all. Wow. As I was studying this text this week when I read through those verses, they just flattened me. It was like, oh my goodness, how thoroughly and completely and totally I have failed. And if you’re not feeling a bit flattened right now, pinch yourself. But what does it do, my brothers and sisters? It drives us right back to the cross of Jesus, doesn’t it? God doesn’t say, I loved you because you were so lovable. God doesn’t say, I loved you because you love me. God simply says, I loved you. And how much did I love you? I loved you so much that I was willing to send my son for you. That’s the truth. And oh yeah, I knew how you’re gonna struggle with this. I knew how you’re gonna struggle to show love to one another. And no, that’s not okay that you’re struggling, but I love you anyway. I love you 100%. I love you with all my heart. In fact, I’ve loved you since before time ever began. And in the course of time, I showed the depth of my love for you by sending Jesus to live, die, and rise for you. And I showed you my love in the course of your time because I make sure that you were brought to my font so that I could claim you as my child. I made sure that you heard my word and how much I love you. I bring you to my table so you can feast on my very body and my very blood.I love you, God says. And then with a smile on his face and with wonderful gentleness, he says to you and to me, now, my beloved, love one another. Show patience and kindness. Forgive, be gentle, and patient. Love, even as I have loved you. And having some sort of barely understanding of how much God does love us, we do our best to do exactly what God says, to love one another as he has loved us. Beloved, love one another. I don’t know if the story about John is true or if it’s merely a great legend. Does it matter? Nope. Because the principle of what was said there is absolutely the truth. So succinct, but also profound. Beloved, love one another. Amen? Amen.