The Power of Love
Pastor David Cannistraci – October, 2013
If you take a look at God’s word, Matthew Chapter 22, the words of Jesus. An expert in the law tested Jesus with this question, “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” And Jesus replies, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your soul and all your mind, this is the first and greatest commandment and the 2nd is like it, Love your neighbor as yourself.” All the law and the prophets hang on these two commandments. Let’s talk about that verse of scripture. My thought in a nutshell for us goes like this; the love of God is moving us. The love of God is moving us to be a church that makes an eternal impact on our community. God’s love is gripping us and moving us to a place of focus and commitment where we are not a church that just goes unnoticed in our community but a church that exists for a reason, a church that matters, a church that is relevant, a church that is connecting with the community and making a huge difference. I want to share with you 3 things that I’d like you to know about the power of love in that regard.
Number 1: Love is the main thing. At least if you ask God, you say, “God, what’s the main thing? What should we be like? Jesus said it’s LOVE.An expert in the Mosaic Law, some of the translations say a lawyer asked Jesus this question and he was a lawyer but he was a lawyer of the Old Testament Law. In other words he was a theologian, he was an intellectual and we think that he was asking Jesus this question kind of poking fun at him, this untrained theologian, this carpenter from Galilee coming to the big city of Jerusalem, teaching. So we have some questions for you Mr. Galilee Bible Teacher! We’d like to know, “What’s the most important thing about the law to you? Tithing? The offerings that we bring to the temple? The sacrifices that we give? Give us your opinion Jesus, tell us what’s more important and then we’ll all have a good laugh.
And Jesus took that Pharisee to school. And he said it’s not any of these things that you say. He gave the most brilliant answer, he taught them this; that love is the primary point of everything that was written in the law and the prophets. The MOST important truth of Moses, of Jeremiah, of Isaiah, of all the Lord, all the prophets, the whole point was about LOVE. And it makes sense, you know why? Because even though we’re supposed to be holy, we’ll never be holy until we love God. Because we won’t even try, we won’t bring our offerings to him if we don’t love him and if we don’t love our neighbor we’ll cheat with his wife, we’ll steal his animals and we’ll murder him.
So while all of the laws are important the thing that holds it all together and makes sense out of it all is love. Jesus said, just forget about 600 laws in the Old Testament you only have to remember 2 things, love God and love people. And that’s what shut that Pharisee’s mouth because he had never heard anything like this before. I mean that was the brilliance of Jesus as a teacher as a master to boil down all these laws and all these rules of the Old Testament. To side step the trap that this guy tried to set for him and bring it down to two simple things; love God and love people.
There was a Pharisee that got that, he understood that and it became a big part of his life his name was The Apostle Paul. You might have heard of him, he wrote a famous chapter on love called the Love Chapter and right after that he gave us a commandment and it really says that love is the main thing. He said let love be your highest goal. Wow!
There’s kind of a humorous dialog in churches about which ministry is the most superb ministry. People in the youth ministry predictably feel that the most important ministry in the church is the youth. That’s the church of tomorrow. People in the prayer ministry feel prayer is the most important ministry because without prayer everything falls apart. People in the worship ministry think… yeah, you get the idea, right? And you know, those things could be argued and they’re all true on one level or another but Paul says here’s your number 1 goal; LOVE. Because when you have that in its right place when you have that in a church when you have it in a family when you have it in a community then everything else comes into its right place and right perspective.
Living for God, and really I hope we can get this today, that living for God really requires us to keep the main thing the main thing. That’s what churches need to do. Churches need to keep the main thing, the main thing. And what is the main thing everybody? LOVE. Wow! And when you get that everything else falls into its proper place. It’s so easy to make serving complicated you know, do this and don’t do that make sure you don’t forget this and there’s so many vital things to do. We should be doing outreach we should be doing prayer we should be doing scripture memorization we should be doing children’s ministry we should be feeding the poor and on and on and on and on and on it goes and it can get very overwhelming and very confusing. Jesus says, “Hey! Don’t get overwhelmed! Keep it simple. Keep the main the main thing. If you’re loving God and you’re loving people you are fulfilling the will of God for your life.
How many like it when it’s simple? That’s what Jesus says, “Keep it simple. Keep the main thing the main thing.” When he said that the 2nd commandment, that’s what we’re talking about loving our neighbors. The 1st commandment is loving God. The 2nd one love you neighbor that that is only 2nd to the idea of loving God. So that’s a pretty high commandment. Who’s our neighbor? What does it mean neighbor? Does that mean the person that lives right next to you? A neighbor is anybody that you encounter in this world. It’s your fellow man. It’s your fellow human being. It could be somebody that you’ve known for 40 years, could be a person in your family, you wife your husband your child could be your neighbor. Or it could be a total stranger, the guy that cuts your grass or the guy that accepts your mail at the post office. It doesn’t really matter, it’s any human being that you encounter at any level and the command is to care!
That’s what love really is. Say what is love? Love is making another person’s needs a priority. Love is not this; “Somebody needs to do something about that! You know, our church should really, you know our government should really, you know somebody ought to really… love is making it a personal priority to care for people in your life. Now of course we’re limited in what that can mean and what that can look like but there’s no excusing us in any way from that commandment to love God with all our heart and then to love our neighbor as ourselves. In other words to treat other people the way that we want to be treated is another way that Jesus taught us.
Parents love and so they meet the needs of their children. Husbands love so they meet the needs of their spouse, their wife. God loves so he meets our needs. Thank God he does. And he is love the bible teaches. He sacrificed his own son to meet our need of forgiveness. His love by the way is unconditional. Aren’t you glad for that? In other words we don’t have to earn his love we don’t have to perform in order to merit his love. He just loves us the way we are. Thank God.
1Corrinthians 13:3; Paul the Apostle said, “No matter what I say (this is the Message translation) No matter what I say, whatever I believe, no matter what I do, I’m bankrupt about love. Love is the main thing.”
Number 2: The power of Love: Love has the power to move us. Love is the most motivating force on earth. You will start moving if you love. You will do things that you never thought you would do. You can do things that you never dreamed that you could do once you find love. Love will move you. It motivates you.
There’s a great pastor in the Hawaiian Islands, Pastor Wayne Cordeiro, and he talks about how when he was learning to run. He’s a cross country runner and he asked his coach how can I be a great cross country runner? And he said, “It’s simple! Love running! If you love to run you’ll be a great runner but if you’re doing it just because I’m forcing you to do it or if you’re doing it to because you want to get into shape or you’re doing it because it’s the right thing to do or you’re doing it because somebody else is doing it and told you it’s great. But if you don’t love it yourself you will never be a great runner. You’ve got to love running!” Because if you love running you will run and run and run and run! And when other people are going to the beach, you’ll run! And when other people are doing what they do and they say, “Come along with us and do that.” And if you have a choice you’d say, “I’d rather run!” And that’s how you become a great runner.
The point is simple! Whatever you love, that’s what moves you.
Genesis 29:20, even the bible teaches this; Jacob worked 7 years for Rachel but ohhhh how the time passed. Why? Because he loved her! Un-convicted – We need more love. Who needs more love? Don’t look at me like you don’t need love. I said who needs love? Don’t leave me hanging out here! LOL. Now, what if serving God could be that fun? What if ministry could be that fun!? That we love God so much; where did the time go!? Instead of, “Alllllright, I’ll go to church, alllllright, alright, sure I’ll serve on the sound crew, alright, alright, alright leave me alone! I’ll do it for you! What if life could be that enjoyable it’s like this; where did the time go? Where did all these years I’ve been serving the Lord, it’s like a dream that has passed so quickly.
What’s the difference? The difference is love. If you’re playing your guitar for love there’s joy in it. There’s peace in it, there’s fulfillment in it.
Here’s the last piece of this… Number 3: We’re talking about the power of love. Love is what transforms people. That’s powerful. Love is something that will change you. It’s what changed me. When I really knew and believed in my heart the love that God has for me, when I first got saved, when I really understood that God saw me and he loved me and that he was for me, I mean that love just broke all kinds of stuff. That’s what changed me. And my response to that kind of love was; Lord, whatever you want. I’ll give you my life. I’ll do whatever you want. That LOVE of God is what transformed ME. It made me stronger it made me more willing it made me hungry it brought all kinds of change into my life. That’s the power of love.
I think about our city and I think about how are we going to change thousands of people’s lives? How could we possibly do it? Are we just going to have like better websites? Is that how we’re going to do it? Are we going to make a mark on this community because we have a better ad slogan or what’s really going to reach people in our community? Keeping the main thing the main thing! It’s going to be love. Love is what changed you and love is what’s going to change our neighbor. That’s what everybody’s hungry for. That’s what everybody needs. It’s what changes people. Love is our message. We don’t have a message of condemnation and judgment. What’s our message? Our message is love.
John 3:16; God loved the people of this world so much that he gave his only son. That’s our message, so that whoever believes in him, whoever has faith in him will have eternal life and never really die. That’s something we can share. We don’t have to make people feel ashamed. They already understand shame. What we need to do is say, “There’s an answer for the shame, there’s a healing for the hurt.” And draw people to that love that gives.
There’s a lot of talk, even among ministers, it’s kind of shocking to me, is the church going to make it? Is the church relevant? The church is on its way out. You can go to the Christian book store and you’ll read hundreds of books about how Jesus is failing miserably right now in building the church. I think it might be flavored by American Christianity. I can tell you, as a person who has gone all over the world, the church is far from dying! The church is as alive as it’s ever been. It’s vital, the Holy Spirit is moving. And you’re a part of something great. You’re not a part of something that’s about ready to fail. Trust God enough. I think he knows, he hasn’t read your book, but I think he knows what he’s doing. Is the church relevant to our culture? Those are interesting questions. Here’s what I think; a church full of love is never irrelevant. A church that loves people a church that actually cares about its community and is connecting, a church that’s fulfilling the love your neighbor thing, a church that’s loving God and loving people can never be irrelevant because love is the most relevant force on earth. Love can bring a biker and a grandma together! Love can transform any person’s life. Love can bring friendship and connection between the worst of enemies, love is the greatest force. So, if we’re a church operating in love then there really is no limit to what we can get done. We can get amazing things done in our community if we get that engine and we get that heart that God has for us of love. It’s our message.
I want you to just bow your heads and read this prayer right where you are. I’m going to ask God to just put a challenge in your heart, not duty not obligation. I want you to run because you love it. I don’t want you to minister because you need to or you should, I want you to run because you love it.
PRAYER: Father I pray that you would just touch each and every one of our hearts Lord, we’re relieved on one hand that all we’ve got to do is love but on the other hand we’re convicted because now we have to love. And we need your love Lord. We ask Lord that you would just fill our hearts. Holy Spirit let the love of God be shed abroad in our hearts by your great power. Help us to move from duty into desire. Help us to move out of obligation and into outreach Lord because of love. I pray that you’ll stretch our hearts out just a little bit further than ever before. Help us Lord to make a difference as a church in our community whether that’s on formal levels or informal, Lord just help us to do things that matter. Fill us with the Holy Spirit and passion and fresh love. I pray for leaders in our church, they’re working hard. It’s easy to lose love. I pray that you’ll restore our love for you Lord. I pray for parents and business people and people that are struggling just to make it. Lord, refresh us and fill us with love. I pray for people in this room that don’t know your love that today they will encounter your love as never before. You break down all the walls of rejection and hurt and wounding and religion and fill every heart with love Lord. Let this be Lord by the power of your Spirit and I praise you for it. In Christ’s name and everyone who agrees says Amen. Amen.