Last week at The Lantern Church I was preaching on 1 John 3:16-18 for both the Harvest Services to an All-age congregation suitable for both children and adults.
What a great opportunity we have at Harvest time to remember all that the Lord has done and be grateful for it.
What kind of things are we thankful to God for?
Our families, enough food and water, making the world, Jesus.
That’s right, we have so much to be thankful for, and I think most importantly, something that is amazing, is just how much God loves us.
I’ve got a piece of paper here, and today, kids, youth and adults, I want you to all pay attention to this...
In the beginning, God created heaven and earth and everything in it. The highlight of his creation was mankind. Man and God had a perfect relationship. But man was deceived and wanted to made his own master. He turned away from God (fold 1). After this step of disobedience man could no longer live with God (fold 2).
Man felt emptiness in his heart and tried to fill it with many things (fold 3 & 4), Money, reputation, drugs, friends, friends, pleasure. But nothing helped fill the emptiness and their relationship could not be restored. The sin in man separated him from God.
Man’s life was in pieces. He could not help himself out of this mess.
But God can. He did that through his son Jesus Christ (unfold) who died on the cross for us, taking the punishment for our sin, and restoring our ability to have a relationship with God again and filling again that emptiness in man’s heart.
That’s right, this story shows how God loves us, but God’s love for us is not based on anything, it’s unconditional.
In 1 John 4:9-10 we read that:
“This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.”
In the Zone this week we learnt about Sin, that because of the wrong things we’ve done, because we’ve turned away from God and chosen to do our own thing, we deserve to be punished.
This morning’s passage I want us to look at is 1 John 3:16-18.
“This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.”
At the very hard of Christianity, we believe just as it says in John 3:16 that, for God so loved the whole world and all of us in it, that he sent his son Jesus to pay the price for the wrong things, the sins that we have done, so that if we believe in him, we will have everlasting life with him in heaven.
Romans 6:23 - “The payment for sin is death, but the gift that God freely gives is everlasting life found in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Isn’t that incredible?
“This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us.”
Isn’t that a reason to be thankful?
Because he has saved us from sin, because Jesus has laid down his life for us so that we could spend forever with him!
So our first point for this morning is:
Because of God’s love, be thankful
Friendship story – Whilst I was at University, I came to realise how important the friendships we have around us are, and Jesus knew the full importance of having friendships and loving them that he said, in John 15:13:
“Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends”
I sometimes think that we can become so familiar with passages like this that it loses its great impact on us.
Oh, how much does God love you!
All I have to do is look at the cross and see how much.
Jesus Christ loved us so much that he laid down his life for us, he gave his life up by dying on the cross to save us and let us live with him in relationship with him forever.
So today, let’s be thankful!
At the start of September, as some of you might know, I was involved in working in the Logos Hope ship as part of Operation Mobilisation which at the time was docked in the Dominican Republic.
As you can see from the picture here, I got my hands dirty doing everything from cleaning the toilets to working in the garbage management room, and painting the deck.
One of the things I took away from this incredible mission opportunity to share the gospel and give up time for the locals, was the crew’s attitude towards their work and joy in service. They had completely given up, for most, at least the next two years of their life to clean toilets all day, or sort books, giving up home comforts, family and friends, all for the common purpose of sharing the good news and being a service for others. This also involved going onshore from time to time to meet the locals in the town to treat them medically and help them in any way they could.
In the next part of the passage it says:
“And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters”, so our next point is:
Because of God’s Love, love others
Because of God’s love for us, that he sent his one and only son to earth to die for us, so that we could be with him forever, we should then be ready to do the same, to lay down our lives for others.
Other translations say, that you should not look out only for your own interests, but for the interests of others.
What does it mean to lay down your life for someone/others?
This may not necessarily mean die for them, but in every area of life, it may be giving up your time to serve them, or being sacrificial for the sake of another just like the crew on the ship.
Jesus was the perfect example of how to lay down one’s life for others, not only did he end up dying for those he loved, but his life was a testament to how we should live in our servant-heartedness to others. Peter says in 1 Peter 2:21:
“To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps”
And in John 13:14-17 Jesus said:
“Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.”
If there is one thing that the gospel teaches it is that we should not be self-centred.
But I think that self-centeredness is one of the most popular sins in the church and in society.
How few are willing to genuinely put themselves out for others.
We are surely a me first society, a hedonistic culture.
But in terms of loving others, Christ was always our example.
Ephesians 5:1-2 – “Be imitators of God, therefore, as beloved children, and walk in love, just as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us as a fragrant sacrificial offering to God.”
Jesus is our example in self-sacrificing, "So we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters."
Romans 12:10 – “Be devoted to one another in love. Honour one another above yourselves.”
We can hear this and try to work to it, but to put it into practice is often something quite different.
Next, in the passage, it says:
“If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person?”
What a challenge!
Another translation says, whoever has the goods of the world and sees a brother or sister in need, but closes his heart of compassion for them, how can God’s love dwell inside of them?
Because the love of God is in you, If you have material possessions and see a brother or sister in need, have pity on them, have compassion for them, help them, be generous to them.
If you have the capacity to help them and refuse to do so, how can you say that you love them?
So our last point is:
Because of God’s love, have compassion.
We know that God loves us, because he sent his son to die for our sins, and Jesus laid down his life for us, God didn't just say, "I love you." He proved His love by His deeds.
But how can other people know that we love them?
Not by just verbally affirming it.
Love can be expressed in words, but the proof is in the deeds.
In this service today, as well as being thankful, we are being generous and helping those in need by giving our possessions out of our compassion for them.
In Deuteronomy 15:7-11, it was expected at the time that:
“If anyone is poor among your fellow Israelites in any of the towns of the land the Lord your God is giving you, do not be hard-hearted or tight-fisted toward them. Rather, be openhanded and freely lend them whatever they need…. Give generously to them and do so without a grudging heart; … There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your fellow Israelites who are poor and needy in your land.”
So what’s changed since then?..
What are we going to do about it?
In the last part of the passage we read:
“Let us not love with words or speech, but with actions and in truth”
We’ve heard the call, but how now should we act?
In James 2:15-17 we read:
“Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.”
For us today, we can take away that, in the same way, we should love in action and in truth.
But what does that mean practically?
Being thankful, loving others and having compassion, how do we actually do that?
Maybe donating to food banks, as part of our giving, today we are sending food and tins to Wimborne food bank, and to Routes to Roots we’re sending sleeping bags and clothes.
Maybe loving others in action could be as simple as just being a friend to someone who needs one, or being generous with however much money you have.
Kids, I’m sure there are others around you, at school or in your lives who needs someone to spend some time with them, or just want some help, you can be that friend, just as Jesus is to us!
Are we aware of others needs?
Are there people in our community who need food, or transport?
How can we help?
So, because God loves us and has given us this free gift of grace, we aught to love others in the same way and be generous to them, as he has to us.
- Be thankful that God has saved us from sin by sending his son to die on the cross for us.
- Love others in return being ready to lay down our lives for them as Jesus did for us.
- Have compassion for those in need, being generous with our possessions and helping them.
In light of the passage, we should, because of God’s love, be thankful, love others, and have compassion for those in need and be active about it, in every part of our lives.
In response now, lets take some time to think about someone in our lives or a group of people who we would like to bless this week.
There are baskets coming around and I’d like you to take a heart and write on it who you’re thinking of and how you plan on blessing them or helping them this week.
Holding these hearts together, let’s pray:
Dear Father God,
Thank you that you have saved us from sin by sending your son to die on the cross for us, sorry for the things we’ve done that have hurt you, please help us to love others in return being ready to lay down our lives for them as Jesus did for us, and help us to have compassion for those in need, being generous with our possessions and helping them in any way we can. With those who we have written down, help us to bless them this week and magnify what we do in your name. Help us this week to, because of your love, be thankful, love others and have compassion.
In Jesus’ Name.