My family loved jigsaw puzzles.
I remember we used to do puzzles that were upwards of 1000 pieces. (That’s a lot of pieces.) Now to do a puzzle with that many pieces requires a lot of patience and hard work. You’ve got to go through the painstaking work of putting all of the straight edges to one side, then the inside pieces in another pile. Afterwards, it’s helpful to separate them into pile according to color. Finally, it takes the work of constantly shifting, checking and trying to make the pieces fit. Until finally – 3 months later – it’s done!
Puzzle putting together is hard work.
That’s why what happens next makes very little sense to me. At the end of the hours and hours of sweat and blood of putting that puzzle together…you take it apart. All that work to box it up and put it away. It’s why sometimes you just want to let it sit – and sit – and sit – until eventually mom says, “OK. We will need that table to eat dinner on again.”
No one goes into a jigsaw puzzle saying: “Goodness, I can’t wait to get this puzzle together so that we can take it a part.”
It is the same things with families.
No one goes through the hard work of putting a family together because they can’t wait to destroy it.
No one gets down on one knee and says, Marry me? Because I think we’ll probably fail miserably at being a family.
No one adopts children because I really hope this doesn’t work out.
No one says at their wedding reception: This day was cool, but what will be cooler? The day we sign divorce papers.
People want families to last.
But since over 50% of today’s marriages end in divorce…
And hundreds of children are displaced.
And many more families refuse to talk to one another.
How is it that we make families last?
Today we’re going to examine Scripture and see that God’s everlasting love is key to everlasting love in a family. Before we begin, a prayer: O Lord, strengthen us by the truth; your Word is the truth. Open our eyes to see what you want us to see; open our ears to hear what you want us to hear; open our hearts to believe what you would have us believe. Amen.
I. Why God is the Key to Love that Lasts
The lesson comes from the book of 1 John. It is a letter written by one of Jesus’ very close followers named John. He was an apostle, meaning that he learned directly from Jesus for 3 years, saw him rise from the dead and was called by Jesus to bring his teachings out into the world. And in this particular section he explains why true love – true lasting love – is intricately tied to God. He gives three reasons. Take a look:
1. God Embodies Real Love
Verse 16 says this: God is love. Zero in on the verb “is.” It’s a simple one. It’s only two letters in English. But it is a very important verb. It means: “to be.” The verb indicates that the subject is intricately tied to the predicate. In other words, the subject embodies the object and vice versa.
In this case?
The subject is God and the object is love.
Love is embodied by God.
God is embodied by love.
And vice versa.
This is important to take note of. Because the kind of love we are talking about is not the world’s definition of love. It’s something we said earlier in our sermon series, but it bears repeating here:
Romantic chemistry is not love.
She looks “hot” is not love.
Butterflies in the tummy is not love.
The warm feeling you get at Christmas when your kid says, “Thanks, Mommy” is not love.
Those are feelings.
They might be good feelings.
But they are still feeling and not love.
The Biblical definition of love is this: Love is an action done for the sake of others in spite of others.
That means love is not just a feeling.
It acts in spite of feeling.
It acts in spite of feeling pretty upset with someone.
That’s exactly what God did for us.
We were sinners and God was pretty upset with us.
We were sinners and God was angry with us.
We were sinners and God ought to have destroyed us.
But He didn’t.
We were sinners and God died for to save us.
Since God is the embodiment of true Biblical love, a connection with God is a prerequisite to showing true Biblical love. John continues: God is love. Whoever lives in love, live in God and God in them. Notice it’s a conditional statement. When thing A is true then thing B is automatically true, too.
It’s like saying 60 inches is 5 feet and whoever is 5 feet tall is 60 inches.
Or 16 cups of coffee are a gallon of coffee and whoever drinks a gallon of coffee drank 16 cups.
Or a half marathon is way too long for me to run and if I ever ran a half marathon, it would be way too long for me to run.
It's the same with God and love. TRUTH: God embodies love.
If you are connected to God, then you will show true Biblical love.
If you are showing true Biblical love, then you are connected to God.
And if you aren’t connected to God, then…you can’t.
2. God’s Love Drive Out Fear
1 John 4:18 says, “This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment…There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment.”
This is important. Because fear doesn’t usually lead to love.
For instance, if your brother dressed up as a ghost for Halloween and hid in a closet, then, waited until it was dark for you to come home and jumped out with a “BOO!” That probably won’t lead to love. It’ll only lead to screaming, running away or hitting him in the face.
Isn’t that how it tends to be in families? When we fear, we act out. This is sociological thing, a psychiatrist thing, but before any of that it’s a Bible thing. Fear does not lead to action love; fear leads to acting out!
I fear rejection. So, I act out and snap at my husband any time I see him talking with a woman at a party.
I fear failure. So, I act out and describe my wife’s failures to her any time she gives me constructive criticism.
I fear imperfection. So, I act out and hold my son to impossibly perfect standards which, when they aren’t met, leads to yelling and screaming and his own headcase because of fear of imperfection.
There is no fear in love…Only sadness, despair and sin.
But perfect love drives out fear. And perfect love is found in God.
And the perfect love of God drives out the fear that drives me away from love.
Because as awful as the fear of being rejected by your family member is there is nothing like the fear of disappointing God.
God is holy.
God has higher standards.
God is eternal.
Your spouse might leave you in this life, but God could leave you for eternity.
Your parents might disown you for a couple of years, but God could disown you forever.
Your kids might say, “I hate you,” but there’s no words worse than God calling you: Not Mine.
And that’s what we deserve because of our sins!
But God’s love. God’s perfect love. God’s perfect action love on the cross…for us…in spite of us…drives out fear.
God’s love on the cross says: I will not leave you.
God’s love on the cross says: You will always be mine.
God’s love on the cross says: You are mine. Forever.
Those words drive out my fear.
I pray those words drive out your fears.
Those words have the power to drive out the fears that prevent us from truly loving.
3. God’s Love Fuels Our Love
Action love is tiring.
Like working on a 10,000-piece puzzle – showing action love to others in your family in spite of others in your family is tiring.
Because action love involves pouring yourself out.
It’s forgiving without holding a grudge, submitting yourself to your family’s needs, being patient when you feel impatient, kind when you want to be unkind, and not boastful when all you want to do is boast.
We need fuel.
Which is another reason we need God.
Look at verse 19: We love because God first loved us.
Imagine that this cup represents my love. Julianna has had a hard day and is in need of my love. When my love is full, I have plenty to spare. I pour it out and help her. Then, my dog Clay (since I don’t have kids) needs some love too. I still have some. There’s even a bit left for Frankie.
But the next day – when Julianna goes to school and pours out some love to the preschoolers and comes home at the end of the day and needs some love to be replenished. Guess what?
And I need her to refuel me.
But she’s out.
Where do we go?
This is another reason we need to be connected to God’s love.
Because if it’s solely dependent on others – we will run out of fuel and so will they.
But God? God is always fully fueled with love.
He has enough for me.
He has enough for Julianna.
And if we both are full – then guess what? We’re more concerning with sharing this love than we are with getting it.
And this pitcher is big. It’ll take a while to fill up all these cups.
But God’s pitcher of love is endless.
It’s never going to run out.
II. What Now?
Today’s what now is pretty simple: Stay connected to Jesus.
Because if you missed all the other sermons in this series,
If you forgot all of the other guidance in God’s Word,
If you can’t remember a single word of Pastor’s awesome alliteration…
But you stayed connected to Jesus…
Your love will last.
Because God’s love will last.
Jesus said this, “I am the Vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me, you will bear much fruit but apart from me you can do nothing.” Because if the pumpkin plant remains connected to the pumpkin vine it will keep growing. Maybe it will even grow to Pumpkin Championship status. If you keep your pumpkin connected to the vine, it might grow large enough that you are called the PUMPKING!
But if the vine tears…
If the pumpkin gets separated…
If your preschooler comes by and picks it sometime around July…you won’t be the pump-king but the pump chump.
Pumpkin puns aside, it’s the same with Jesus.
The single most important thing for you to do, for how to share God’s love, is to stay connected to Jesus.
Think about how you do that. (I tell you to do that a lot. Now’s a chance for you to really think about it.)
Can you start a new Bible reading schedule?
Can you start a new Bible study?
Can you join a new Bible group?
Can you commit to making it here every week no matter what?
And if you are thinking you are too connected to Jesus – let me ask you this:
Are you ever rude?
Are you ever kinda mean?
Do you ever sin?
If so, that’s not love.
And you don’t have perfect love.
And you still need Jesus.
You need to stay connected to Jesus.
His perfect love covers our sins.
His perfect love empowers us.
His perfect love leads us to show love to others.
Make your base, make your foundation, make the source of your family's love, a love that lasts...make it God's love. Because God's love is eternal. Amen.