May 31, 2015
Stetson Memorial United Methodist Church
Sermon Last in Sermon Series
“Five Marks of a Christian”
Adapted from: “Five Marks of a Methodist”
By Steve Harper
1 Corinthians 13:4-8a NIV
Matthew 5:44-46 NIV
John 15:12-17 NIV
Romans 13:8-10 NIV
Ephesians 4:1-3, 29-32 NIV
Love, Love Me Do!
Prayer for God’s word to be heard through me or in spite of me…
Have you ever said anything that you were sorry for? I know I have. After the words get out you sort of go darn it…I did not mean for that to come out…that was supposed to stay in my head. And of course the other person is now mad at us. And try as we might, we may never have the same relationship with that person.
How about when others say something that upsets you? Sometimes on purpose and most times they too have that “should have stayed in my head” experience. It can be hard sometimes to rebuild that relationship that has now been broken… It took God thousands of years and the cost of his Son to rebuild the relationship that was broken in the Garden of Eden… We may not want to ever have anything to do with person ever again. I mean there are even times when someone is mad at you and you don’t have a clue why…How could they treat me like that? Who do they think they are? Well I am done with them and I am going to just ignore them whenever they are around me. That will fix them…
We have come to the end of our journey of looking at the five things…five ways…that we can see that we are “being changed by the story” of Easter. I have adapted this Sermon Series from a book written by Steve Harper that is titled “Five Marks of a Methodist: The Fruit of a Living Faith.” But this book is not just for “Methodist”, it is for all who follow Christ. It gives five distinct ways to tell…to visually see…that you are being “changed by the story”, not just reading it.
The five ways are as follows:
A “Christian” not just Methodist:
1. Loves God
2. Rejoices in God
3. Gives Thanks
4. Prays Constantly
5. Loves Others
We have talked about the fact that “we love God” and that it is not just a fleeting love but a love that encompasses all that we have, all that we are, and all that we will be. It is what drives us in our relationship with Him. The more we are in love with Him the more we want to know Him. And the more we know Him the more we want of Him in our lives.
We have discovered that not only do we love God but we rejoice in Him. Not just simply rejoice in Him but rejoice in Him from the bottom of our feet to the tops of our heads. How can we not…look at all that He has given us in our lives…look at all that He has done in our lives and the lives of others. Now that’s reason to truly rejoice.
Giving thanks to God is another way to tell we are living the Easter life. Giving thanks is so important because as we do, we don’t forget that it is God who gives us all that we have. It is God who grows us. It is God who has given us our talents so that we can use them to further His kingdom here on earth.
We have talked about how a Christian prays continually. There are many ways to pray. We pray by words. We pray by actions. We pray by dance. Some pray with beads while others may walk around their community praying. I don’t think it matters how you pray. The important thing is to pray…
We have now come to the last of the five ways of knowing you are being changed by the story. Now this one is a hard one at times. The last is a Christian loves others. Now there are those time when we really don’t feel so loving towards certain people but we are called to love others…What Pastor Ruth…you mean I have to love others even if they don’t love me…Yup!
In the bible, especially in the New Testament, there are many pieces of scripture that tells us that we are relational people and we are to love others. Ok…to prove my point, I want us to look at some of them this morning. I invite you to take out you bibles and take a tour with me through some of these scriptures so that you can read them for yourself and know where they are. Sometimes seeing is believing…
Let’s begin with John 15:12-17.
“12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command. 15 I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. 17 This is my command: Love each other.”
We are commanded to love one another not as ourselves but as Jesus loved and still loves us. Jesus loved humanity so much that He came from heaven and died so that we could have life. We were chosen from the foundation of the earth by God. We are friends of God and Jesus as we love one another…even with our flaws…even with our mistakes…even with our addictions…even with…you fill in the blank.
Next, let’s go to Matthew 5:44-46 to see what else Jesus said about loving others.
“44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that?”
It is so easy to love others when they love us. The difficult part is loving others when they don’t love us…when they may have done something that has upset us… God is love and He loves even those who are “unlovable” around us. The One thing we need to remember is that we too were unlovable until through Jesus we were made righteous before God…
Our next stop on the tour is one of our favorite places, 1 Corinthians 13. We will be looking at verses 4 through 8a. Let’s see what Paul had to say about what love is and is not.
1 Corinthians 13:4-8a New International Version (NIV)
“4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.8 Love never fails.”
In this scripture we see true love…not just a superficial love but a deep down in your soul love of others. As we love others with this type of love, how can we not want to pray for them…how could we not want to reach out to them…how could we not be the love of God to and for them. See…I wasn’t kidding about that whole love others no matter what thing.
The next piece is found in a letter to the Romans. Romans 13 verses 8 through 10.
“Love Fulfills the Law
8 Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law. 9 The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not covet,” and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.”
As we love others we will not do anything against them. As we love others we fulfill all the commandments. It is kind of hard to covet or steal from someone that we love with all that we are…all that we have…all that we can give…
And the final place on our tour is the letter to the Ephesians. Ephesians 4 verses 1 through 3 and 29 through 32. This has to do with the body of Christ the church and how we are to act towards each other…
“Unity and Maturity in the Body of Christ
4 As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. 2 Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. 3 Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.
29 Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. 32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”
This may be one of the hardest things to do…to love no matter what. There are so many churches that just don’t get this right. They have become a social club for the elite instead of a hospital for sinners. There are some Christians who are awesome on Sunday with all their Churchliness and on Monday they are gossiping about this one and that one. Can you believe what Betty was wearing at church yesterday? I can’t believe that Janet was sitting next to that homeless guy…how could she stand the smell…? There are some who cause strife in the church to just watch the fireworks. We really do need to get this one right. The state of the church is relying on it. How will someone come to know the saving grace of God unless they are allowed to come…unless they see it in the ambassadors of Christ?
Loving others is not easy. We are all human and we hurt other and others hurt us. It is what we do with that hurt that matters. We all want to belong but it can be hard sometimes to want to include those who we may not know or who are different than who we are. But… we are called to… (Everyone…)
OK this is how I look at it:
1. If we love God we have the love of God in us…remember it’s relational…
2. As we love God we rejoice in Him…we see Him everywhere and in everything. It is truly an amazing thing when we see God in and through everything!
3. As we rejoice in God we will give thanks to God for all He has done and is doing.
4. As we give thanks to God and we have a relationship with Him we will be in constant conversation with Him through prayer…however that may look for us.
5. As we are in constant conversation through prayer we will have that relationship with God and we begin to open our hearts with the love of God to others as that relationship grows…
It really is that simple…