February 14, 2016
Text: Deuteronomy 26:1-11
Psalm 91:1-2, 9-16
Happy Commitment Day
Guys, do you know what day today is? And no- it’s not the first Sunday after Super Bowl. Of course, it’s Valentine’s Day- a day we show our loved ones that we love them by doing special things for them.
What do you love? I love a lot of things. I love chocolate. I love pizza. I love cherry coke. I love hamburgers and picnics. I love playing the guitar. I love farming and planting corn. I love preaching and being a pastor. I love my grandkids. I love my children. I love my wife. I love Jesus. I may not do it perfectly, but I love them.
We say we love a lot of things- but what we really mean is that we like them. Most people would admit there is a huge difference between liking something or someone and loving them. Some people say: “that cake is to die for”. Not me. I would not die for cake. But I would like to think and hope that I would die for people I love. My grandkids, my children- my wife- my God. Love the bible talks about and what we yearn to have- is more than liking something or someone- it is a commitment. Pray.
Love is not a feeling that comes and goes. Love is not an emotion that we can fall in and out of. Love is not just a simple reaction to someone’s behavior. Love is a person- God is love. God’s love for us is the pure, undefiled definition of love. We love because Christ first loved us.
And if we want to know what love is- we need to know Jesus- to see what he does and listen to what He says. The good news of the gospel is that God is committed to loving us and is not depended on what we do. Conditional love says: “I will love you if… If God’s love was conditional- we would never be good enough to be loved by a holy and righteous God. But thankfully- by the grace and mercy of God, we are loved by God unconditionally- regardless of what we have done or not done. It is impossible to make God love us more, and impossible to make God love us less. It is not up to us whether God loves us or not- it is totally up to God.
That doesn’t meant that God’s love and grace condones our sins or make light of it. Sin is serious- it separates us from the love of God and can only result in eternal death. The central theme of Lent is the fact that God was willing to sacrifice all to save us from our sins because of His love. By this we know true love- that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for the ungodly.
God’s display of love on the cross did not depend on whether we felt thankful at the time- in fact what we felt and did to him was just the opposite- anger, hate, disgraceful mocking, brutal flogging and beating, and torturous murder.
We love because- and only because God first loved us. Our love is a response to love first given and shown to us. Jesus told us the commandments are summarized in two things- love God and love people in response to His love. But the world tempts us to love things and use people.
Immediately after being baptized, Jesus was led into the wilderness by the Spirit to be tempted by Satan. His temptations were real temptations for Jesus the man. They were the temptation to love things more than His father God. After 40 days of fasting- Jesus the man was hungry- and Jesus would have “loved” to have something to eat. And so Satan saw an opportunity to test Jesus while he was hungry and vulnerable. Saying: “if you are the son of God-show me that you are-(meaning- show me on my terms)- and turn these stones into bread. But Jesus’ love for His father was greater than His longing for a full stomach and replied: “You cannot live by bread alone- but by every word that proceeds from God.”
Satan then showed him all the kingdoms of the world that symbolized power over people to make them do what you want them to do. But that is not how God works. God gives us a free choice of how we respond to His love- and too often we as a fallen people respond with apathy, even open rebellion. Imagine the anguish God experiences when we turn our backs on him. But again, Jesus love for God and us is not displayed by making us do what He wants us to do. Just worship me- and things will be a whole lot easier. But Jesus replied: “worship the Lord your God, and serve Him only.” The love of God was to be displayed by Jesus emptying Himself- humbling himself- even death on the cross.
Satan tried one more time to lure Jesus into loving and serving something more than his father. Jesus was led up to the top of the temple saying: “if you are the son of God, throw yourself down. After all, you know that if you do, angels will bear you up and save you.” It was the temptation to love self-sufficiency more than loving obedience to God.
It was not the last time Jesus would be tempted in the same way. When Jesus was hanging on the cross dying, people sneered at him-telling him: “if you are the son of God- come down.” But it was not the nails that kept him there, it was his love for you and I- and his obedience and surrender to His father’s will that kept him there.
Jesus showed true power and love by being obedient unto death- enduring the cross in a display of God’s love -the greatest gift the world has ever known or seen. Our love for God is a response to that gift.
On holidays such as Valentine’s day- we give gifts to show our love. And that is a good thing- even biblical. Gifts turn our hearts to the giver.
Love for our spouse is certainly a personal thing- but commitment of their love is made known publically before family and friends.
This past week, our son Josh and his wife Diann went on a vacation and renewed their wedding vows. I think that was a great thing to do- but we don’t have to go on a vacation before we can renew our vows of commitment. We can- and should- do them everyday-not just when we feel like it- but especially in the busy and stressful times of life when it maybe farthest from our minds. Because that is when we need to be assured of each other’s love and commitment the most. I’m not talking about reciting the vows we took on our wedding day- but to show each other our love and commitment by our actions- and our words. I want to encourage each of you when you get home- to assure each other of your love and commitment to each other.
The apostle Paul wrote to the Romans saying: “the word is near you, on your lips and in your heart. If you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raise him from the dead, you will be saved. For one believes with the heart and is so justified, and one confesses with the mouth and so is saved.”
Our faith and love for God is also a very personal thing- but it’s authenticity and presence is made known publically and shared. We confess our faith in the words of the Apostle’s Creed each Sunday. But our love for God needs to be confessed during the week by our actions as well as our words. We are God’s plan to convince the world of God’s love.
Love is not a feeling that comes and goes-
Love is not an emotion that we fall in and out of-
Love is not just a simple reaction to someone’s behavior-
Jesus teaches us by example that love is a commitment.
I want to invite you to close your eyes and quiet yourselves- turn your thoughts to Jesus- and confess your love for Him- and as you do- consider re-committing your life to Jesus. (time of silence and prayer)- Amen.