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Rev. Carl H. Kemp, Pastor

(Affections, Commitment, Compassion)

October 2, 2005


How does the Bible describe God’s love?


KEY BIBLE VERSE: Well, in the same way heaven will be happier over one lost sinner who returns to God than over ninety-nine others who haven’t strayed away! (Luke 15:7tlb)

God’s love is forgiving. We may be able to understand a God who would forgive sinners who come to him for mercy. But a God who tenderly searches for sinners and then joyfully forgives them must possess an extraordinary love! This is the kind of love that prompted Jesus to come to earth to search for lost people and save them. This is the kind of extraordinary love that God has for you. If you feel far from God, don’t despair. He is searching for you.

BIBLE READINGRomans 8:28-39

KEY BIBLE VERSE: For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39niv)

God’s love is beyond measure. These words were written to a church that would soon undergo terrible persecution. In just a few years, Paul’s hypothetical situations would turn into painful realities. This passage reaffirms God’s profound love for his people. No matter what happens to us, no matter where we are, we can never be lost to his love. Suffering should not drive us away from God; it should help us to identify with him further and allow his love to reach us and heal us.

God’s love is eternal. These verses contain one of the most comforting promises in all Scripture. Believers have always had to face hardships in many forms: persecution, illness, imprisonment, even death. These could cause them to fear that they have been abandoned by Christ. But Paul exclaims that it is impossible to be separated from Christ. His death for us is proof of his unconquerable love. Nothing can stop Christ’s constant presence with us. God tells us how great his love is so that we will feel totally secure in him. If we believe these overwhelming assurances, we will not be afraid. 


KEY BIBLE VERSE: For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16niv)

God’s love is sacrificial. The entire gospel comes to a focus in this verse. God’s love is not static or self-centered; it reaches out and draws others in. Here God sets the pattern of true love, the basis for all love relationships—when you love someone dearly, you are willing to pay dearly for that person’s responsive love. God paid dearly with the life of his Son, the highest price he could pay. Jesus accepted our punishment, paid the price for our sins, and then offered us the new life that he had bought for us. When we share the gospel with others, our love must be like Jesus’. We must be willing to give up our own comfort and security so that others might join us in receiving God’s love. 

BIBLE READINGPsalm 136:1-26

KEY BIBLE VERSE: Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good. His love endures forever. (Psalm 136:1niv)

God’s love is inexhaustible. Repeated throughout this psalm is the phrase, “His love endures forever.” This psalm may have been a responsive reading, with the congregation saying these words in unison after each sentence. The repetition made this important lesson sink in. God’s love includes aspects of love, kindness, mercy, and faithfulness. We never have to worry that God will run out of love, because it flows from a well that will never run dry.




What are the biblical guidelines for human love?

BIBLE READING1 Corinthians 13:1-13

KEY BIBLE VERSE: Love is very patient and kind, never jealous or envious, never boastful or proud, never haughty or selfish or rude. Love does not demand its own way. It is not irritable or touchy. It does not hold grudges and will hardly even notice when others do it wrong. It is never glad about injustice, but rejoices whenever truth wins out. If you love someone you will be loyal to him no matter what the cost. You will always believe in him, always expect the best of him, and always stand your ground in defending him. (1 Corinthians 13:4-7tlb)

Love is more important than spiritual gifts. In chapter 12 Paul gave evidence of the Corinthians’ lack of love in the utilization of spiritual gifts; chapter 13 defines real love; and chapter 14 shows how love works. Love is more important than all the spiritual gifts exercised in the church body. Great faith, acts of dedication or sacrifice, and miracle-working power produce very little without love. Love makes our actions and gifts useful. Although people have different gifts, love is available to everyone.

Love benefits others. Our society confuses love and lust. Unlike lust, God’s kind of love is directed outward toward others, not inward toward ourselves. It is utterly unselfish. This kind of love goes against our natural inclinations. It is possible to practice this love only if God helps us set aside our own desires and instincts, so that we can give love while expecting nothing in return. Thus the more we become like Christ, the more love we will show to others. 

BIBLE READING1 John 2:1-11

KEY BIBLE VERSE: Dear brothers, I am not writing out a new rule for you to obey, for it is an old one you have always had, right from the start. You have heard it all before. Yet it is always new, and works for you just as it did for Christ; and as we obey this commandment, to love one another, the darkness in our lives disappears and the new light of life in Christ shines in. (1 John 2:7-8tlb)

Love is a command. The commandment to love others is both old and new. It is old because it comes from the Old Testament (Leviticus 19:18). It is new because Jesus interpreted it in a radically new way (John 13:34-35). In the Christian church, love is not only expressed by showing respect; it is also expressed through self-sacrifice and servanthood (John 15:13). In fact, it can be defined as “selfless giving,” reaching beyond friends to enemies and persecutors (Matthew 5:43-48). Love should be the unifying force and the identifying mark of the Christian community. Love is the key to walking in the light, because we cannot grow spiritually while we hate others. Our growing relationship with God will result in growing relationships with others.  

Love is a choice. Does this mean that if you dislike someone you aren’t a Christian? These verses are not talking about disliking a disagreeable Christian brother or sister. There will always be people we will not like as well as others. John’s words focus on the attitude that causes us to ignore or despise others, to treat them as irritants, competitors, or enemies. Christian love is not a feeling, but a choice. We can choose to be concerned with people’s well-being and treat them with respect, whether or not we feel affection toward them. If we choose to love others, God will help us express our love.

BIBLE READINGMatthew 5:38-48

KEY BIBLE VERSE: There is a saying, “Love your friends and hate your enemies.” But I say: Love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! (Matthew 5:43tlb)

Love chooses forgiveness rather than revenge. When we are wronged, often our first reaction is to get even. Instead, Jesus said we should do good to those who wrong us! Our desire should not be to keep score, but to love and forgive. This is not natural—it is supernatural. Only God can give us the strength to love as he does. Instead of planning vengeance, pray for those who hurt you.




How can we love God?

BIBLE READINGMark 12:28-34

KEY BIBLE VERSE: “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:29-31niv)

Loving God is the greatest human act. God’s laws are not burdensome. They can be reduced to two simple principles: love God and love others. These commands are from the Old Testament (Deuteronomy 6:5Leviticus 19:18). When you love God completely and care for others as you care for yourself, then you have fulfilled the intent of the Ten Commandments and the other Old Testament laws. According to Jesus, these two commandments summarize all of God’s laws. Let them rule your thoughts, decisions, and actions. When you are uncertain about what to do, ask yourself which course of action best demonstrates love for God and love for others.

BIBLE READINGJohn 21:15-25

KEY BIBLE VERSE: Once more he asked him, “Simon, son of John, are you even my friend?” Peter was grieved at the way Jesus asked the question this third time. “Lord, you know my heart; you know I am,” he said. Jesus said, “Then feed my little sheep.” (John 21:17tlb)

Loving God means serving him. In this beach scene, Jesus led Peter through an experience that would remove the cloud of his denial. Peter had disowned Jesus three times. Three times Jesus asked Peter if he loved him. When Peter answered yes, Jesus told him to feed his sheep. It is one thing to say you love Jesus, but the real test is willingness to serve him. Peter had repented, and here Jesus was asking him to commit his life. Peter’s life changed when he finally realized who Jesus was. His occupation changed from fisherman to evangelist; his identity changed from impetuous to “rock”; and his relationship to Jesus changed—he was forgiven, and he finally understood the significance of Jesus’ words about his death and resurrection.

Loving God requires everything we have and are. Jesus asked Peter three times if he loved him. The first time Jesus said, “Do you truly love [Greek agape: volitional, self-sacrificial love] me more than these?” The second time, Jesus focused on Peter alone and still used the word translated from the Greek word agape. The third time, Jesus used the word translated from the Greek word phileo (signifying affection, affinity, or brotherly love) and asked, in effect, “Are you even my friend?” Each time Peter responded with the word translated into Greek as phileo. Jesus doesn’t settle for quick, superficial answers. He has a way of getting to the heart of the matter. Peter had to face his true feelings and motives when Jesus confronted him. How would you respond if Jesus asked you, “Do you truly love me?” Do you really love Jesus? Are you even his friend?

BIBLE READINGRevelation 2:1-7

KEY BIBLE VERSE: Yet there is one thing wrong; you don’t love me as at first! Think about those times of your first love (how different now!) and turn back to me again and work as you did before; or else I will come and remove your candlestick from its place among the churches. (Revelation 2:4-5tlb)

Loving God must guide everything else we do. Christ commended the church at Ephesus for (1) working hard, (2) persevering, (3) resisting sin, (4) critically examining the claims of false apostles, and (5) enduring hardships without becoming weary. Every church should have these characteristics. But these good efforts should spring from our love for Jesus Christ. Both Jesus and John stressed love for one another as an authentic proof of the gospel (John 13:341 John 3:18-19). In the battle to maintain sound teaching and moral and doctrinal purity, it is possible to lose a charitable spirit. Prolonged conflict can weaken or destroy our patience and affection. In defending the faith, guard against any structure or rigidity that weakens love.



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