The Main Thing: God is love

These are Mark’s notes of Nick Swanson’s sermon from the Morning Service of 23rd June. Please note that it isn’t a transcript of the sermon – just the main headings and relevant verses and soundbites.

As one gets older one realises that less and less become more important.  There is a book by Stephen Covey that has the well-known phrase “keep the main thing the main thing” and that is God is love.

You are loved by God .. this much.

The first thing to know as a Christian is that you are loved by God.   We know how much God has loved us and we put our trust in Him.

John’s description of himself in his gospel is “the disciple loved by Jesus.”  John defined himself by knowing he was loved by Him.  One of the big questions a Baptist pastor called Mollie Boot asked was “who am I?”  We can define ourselves by our jobs or the things we do in life. What defines me most is that I am beloved by God. If it’s anything other than that it is likely to change because our situation in life changes.   We are loved by God and we have no reason to doubt it.   The indicator of this is that God sent his one and only Son that we might have eternal life (1 John 4:7-9).  Are we living as he beloved of God? 

We need to grasp how wide and deep the love of God is.  There are some who think the love of God is too good to be true. It is like the story of a dog who ate crumbs thrown at him from his master’s table, but when offered the whole joint wouldn’t eat it because he thought it was too good to be true.  Are we living on crumbs from God rather than the whole joint?   We should know and understand how much God loves us. 

So love Him with all that you are.  

We love because he first loved us (1 John 4:10).  The first commandment in the reading from Matthew was familiar to all Jewish people of that time and was known as the Shema and found in Deuteronomy 6:4-5. They understood that they should love the God that had rescued Israel from Egypt because he loved them.   The same is for us as we consider who Jesus was and what he did for us.   As we consider what he did for us we see that we should love back.  Not just love him in worship on a Sunday morning, but love Him when you go to work, when you go shopping and all the other things you do in your daily lives. 

Jesus also changed the wording of the Shema from loving God with heart, soul, and might, to loving God with heart, soul and mind.   How much time in a day do we take to reflect on the love God has for us?

Here is the response from When I survey the wondrous cross. 

Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were a present far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all.

And, keep on Loving one another.

Love comes from God so love one another.  By faith Jesus pours the love of God in our heart.  We love with the love that God has given to us. And that love should flow out of us into all creation.   Knowing we are loved leads to love flowing from us into others. How do we measure the success of a church?  What is God’s measure of success?  Love.  Love gives the church a tick of authenticity.

Love is the way.   Love one another is a phrase that runs off the tongue but agape is a sacrificial love.  It describes act of Jesus giving himself up for us so we may have an eternal relationship with him.   Agape is the way we should love one another.  It gets us way from sentimental love and opens up taking responsibility for those who behave in an obnoxious way!   The quality of the love is the testimony of the presence of the living God.

Are we keeping the main thing the main thing?  The main thing is simply love.  We recognise disciples by how they love one another : 11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.

For Reflection and Discussion

Read Matthew Matthew 22:34-40 and 1 John 4 v 7-21

1. “As one gets older one realises that less and less become more important.”  This was Nick’s opening statement.  What things do you consider the most important in life?  How do they compare to what was important 20 years ago?   Is loving God really the “main thing” in terms of what is important in life?

2. “We should know and understand how much God loves us.”   How do we do that?

3. “Jesus changed the wording of the Shema from loving God with heart, soul, and might, to loving God with heart, soul and mind.  What do you think may be the difference between loving God with all our mind rather than all our might?

4. Jesus loves all of us irrespective of who we are or what we’re like.   Why do we have problems loving others so unconditionally?  How may 1 John 4:7-21 help us?   How may the concept of agape help us in bringing Jesus to people with whom we fundamentally disagree or object to?  Think of possible examples.