3-26-23 “Stay in Love with God!”
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“Stay in Love with God!”
(Membership Caring Month #4)
I want to start with something funny I found on an internet site: A kindergarten teacher was walking around observing her classroom of children while they were drawing pictures. As she got to one girl who was working diligently, she asked what the drawing was. The girl replied, “I’m drawing God.” The teacher paused and said, “But no one knows what God looks like.” Without looking up from her drawing, the girl replied, “They will know in a minute.”
We believe in God, following Jesus’ life and teachings. But, I wonder if you have ever thought about what God looks like. As I read this funny story, I also thought about how it is that we imagine what God looks like when we’ve never seen Him. According to Israelite history, they dare not see God or call God’s name. They believed if they saw God, they might die. They could write “Yahweh” or “Jehovah,” but they couldn’t say it out loud. When they read the Scripture, if they saw God’s name in it, they paused there without saying the word and skipped God’s name to read what followed. Nevertheless, they believed God was always with them. We also believe that God is with us as God promised, even though we can’t see God. Jesus told Thomas, who doubted Jesus’ resurrection, “Because you have seen me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” We are so blessed because we believe in God without seeing Him.
Keeping with membership caring month, on the first Sunday, we thought of our identity as ambassadors for Christ, who Jesus Christ sends for a specific mission. In other words, we are official representatives of the kingdom of God to be sent into the world for a specific mission to reconcile the world with God. I encouraged you, as Jesus offered himself for us, we may offer ourselves to others who don’t believe in him yet, or get hurt by the belief in Jesus. Living in the world as ambassadors for Christ, we should keep three rules; “Do no Harm,” “Do Good,” and “Stay in love with God.” These three simple rules are what the Methodist Founder John Wesley suggested. I chose these themes to discuss during Membership Caring month because we should keep these rules in order to care for our family, friends, loved ones, and all of God’s people.
For the last theme of Membership Caring month, I will talk about “Staying in Love with God.” Even though we can’t see God, we can feel God is with us through “love.” The First Letter of John says, “And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him” (3 John 4:16). How we love God and love one another is evidence we are ambassadors for Christ. Furthermore, it is evidence we belong to God and have eternal life. John says, “We know that we have passed from death to life because we love our brothers (and sisters). Anyone who does not love remains in death” (3 John 3:14).
We should be with God to love one another because love is a great gift from God. Without God’s help, we can’t love one another always. Therefore, we should stay in love with God. The way we live with God keeps our relationship with God good, vital, alive, and growing. John Wesley named it “the means of Grace,” such as Public worshiping of God, the Lord’s Supper (Communion), private and family prayer, searching the Scriptures, Bible study, and fasting as essential to a faithful life. Wesley saw these disciplines as central to any life of
faithfulness to God in Jesus Christ.
Living in the presence of, and in harmony with God, is made known in Jesus Christ and accompanies us in the Holy Spirit, to live life from the inside out. It is to find our moral direction, wisdom, courage, and strength to live faithfully from the One who authored us, called us, sustained us, and sent us into the world as ambassadors and witnesses who practice daily the way of living with Jesus. The means of grace keep us in that healing, redeeming presence and power of God that forms and transforms each of us more and more into the image of the One we seek to follow.
Today’s Scripture says, “As you, therefore, have received Christ Jesus the Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you are taught, abounding in thanksgiving.” As the Scripture says, we are rooted and built in Jesus Christ, and we should live in him continually. That’s the way we keep our life. Again, the way to keep our life in Jesus Christ is to stay in love with God. Jesus says, “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now stay in my love” (John 15:9). Jesus taught us how important it was to stay close to God, and it would be through love.
After being resurrected, Jesus met his disciples in Galilee, where they first met Jesus, to reaffirm their mission in the world. Jesus asked Peter, “Do you love me?” It was a great deal about the essentials of our relationship with God. Jesus asked him three times, “Do you love me?” and Peter answered three times in the affirmative. Staying in love with God was the primary issue of living a life of love because God will flow his goodness and love into the world. It can be no other way. Without love, we cannot keep the first and the second rules, “harm no others” and “do good,” because it is possible only by the power of love. Christian life will not be discovered, achieved, continued, and sustained without staying in love with God.
As you know, Peter denied three times that he was Jesus’ disciple. Jesus came to him again and asked him three times, “Do you love me?” Peter says, “You know I love you, but with your help.” Peter surely knew that he couldn’t love Jesus without God’s help. Even though Peter answered him, “Yes, I love you; Yes, Lord, I love you; But, Lord, you know what, I love you with your help.” And then, Jesus reaffirmed his mission in the world, “Feed lambs; take care of my sheep; Feed my sheep.” To take care of family, friends, loved ones, and our neighbors is that “feed and take care of them with love.” Therefore, while staying in love with God involves prayer, worship, study, and the Lord’s Supper, it also involves feeding the lambs, tending the sheep, and providing for the needs of others (John 21:15-16).
Sometimes we fail to love them, but don’t worry. The good news is that God gives us a second chance, as Jesus gave Peter a second chance, whose denial seemed like such an enormous failure, and to each of us, no matter what our failures may have been. The question to Peter becomes the question to each of us, “Do you love me?” When we respond in the affirmative, the response from God is always the same, “Feed my lambs, take care of my sheep.” I want to conclude the Membership Caring month series with one Scripture verse, “If anyone says, “I love God,” yet hates his brothers (and sisters), he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brothers (and sisters), who has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen” (1 John 4:20). Thanks be to God. Amen!