I’d like to extend a warm welcome to those who are here for the first time today. We are grateful that you would be willing to spend some time with us today and hope that you leave feeling it was worth your time.
Moreso we hope that we are able to express to you the joy of following Jesus. Jesus is the most compelling human being who ever lived. He was born in this tiny and seemingly insignificant country called Israel, he grew up in the home of a carpenter – lived for only thirty three years. Yet today in every part of the world there are statues and painting, songs and poems and books written about Him. He stands at the center of the civilized world and is worshipped today in almost every country in almost every language, in almost every nook and cranny of this crazy world in which we live.
Why? Because He knows best how life ought to be lived. And the invitation that he came to bring us two thousand years ago still stands for anyone who is willing – and the invitation is to be brought into the Kingdom of Heaven, the place where Jesus rules. And within this kingdom are literally billions of people on this earth who understand the invitation is to allow Jesus to govern our life. And that when we receive the invitation he begins to change us from the inside out, into people who live lives of significance and purpose, wherever we go.
This morning we are starting a four week series leading us to Easter Sunday, and we are calling the series, No Greater Love. The focus of these four weeks is love. And it makes sense to us that we roll into this considering where we have come from over these past two months.
We began the year by talking about seeing God the way He wants us to see him. And then we talked about seeing ourselves the way God wants to see us. And last week we talked about the fact that God sees us as his ambassadors. We carry within us the message of hope for a hurting world.
And I came across this great passage from the Message in Philippians 2 this week,
Go out into the world uncorrupted, a breath of fresh air in this squalid and polluted society. Provide people with a glimpse of good living and of the living God.
Isn’t that great? As ambassadors of Jesus, God has commissioned those of us who have trusted Jesus with the governance of our lives, to be salt and light wherever we go. God so loved your world, that he is sending his one and only you, into your world to live as different kinds of people.
In Matthew 5, Jesus begins his famous “Sermon on the Mount” by declaring that his followers are the Salt of the earth, and the light of the world. We are placed by God wherever we live and work, in order to be sources of blessings to other people.
And now we are going to learn that the way we are to bless the world is by loving the people who are inhabiting it. In John 13:34,35, Jesus told his followers, Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. 35 Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.”
Love is the defining character trait of a follower of Jesus. And of course, I’m not talking about romantic love. I’m not talking about I love you, and you love me, sitting in a tree.
I remember sitting on a bus in second grade hearing that song sung about me. Phil and Kim Latka sitting in a tree. Kissing. First comes love, then comes marriage, well, you know the rest. And the reason I remember it so clearly is that I was the one singing it. Me and Kim Latka. But that never panned out. By fourth grade we had drifted apart – living in two different worlds, living two different lives.
Romantic love is sweet – but incomplete. Obviously, God’s kind of love has to make it’s way into a marriage, or else there will be trouble to pay -romantic love burns hot but fast – there needs to be a greater love than that.
And we will find that there is no greater love than God’s kind of love.
So, being Salt and Light means being people who are so transformed by God’s love, that we can’t help but have it spill out of us into the world where we live and move and have our being. We carry within us a divine kind of love that is markedly different that how the world normally operates.
And that’s good news. Because this world in which we live, sin has made it an ugly place. There’s alot of ugliness in the world, isn’t there? I’d like to spend the first half of our sermon today painting a picture for you of the ugliness of the world – by carefully noting what Jesus would consider two fundamental contributors to the ugliness of the world.
And that is anger, and contempt. There is alot of ugliness in the world, and much of it stems from broken souls who are filled, marked, and radiate from our core, anger and contempt for other human beings.
Anger and contempt are the Anti-love. You’ve heard of the anti-Christ? Anger and contempt are the anti-love. And they are everywhere around us. Anger and contempt have left their ugly mark in so many people and so many places that it is one of the first topics Jesus addresses in his sermon on the mount.
If you were to open up to the Sermon on the Mount, found in Matthew chapter 5, you will see that Jesus begins with the beatitudes – which is a list of all the kinds of people who are blessable in the kingdom of heaven. Even people the rest of the world have little regard for – they are able to be welcome and blessed in the Kingdom of Heaven.
And so now notice the very first topic Jesus is going to address. Anger. If he is going to create a new kind of human, then he is going to have to teach us how to be people who can live apart from anger.
If anger and contempt are the anti-love, then Jesus is going to have to eradicate it from the hearts and minds of his followers. We cannot be known for our love if we don’t take Jesus seriously about his desire that we be the kinds of people who don’t have to degrade other human beings in our thoughts and words and actions.
The world we live in, is mad with rage. And I need to go no further than mention the republican primaries as evidence. But anger is not new. It’s been around for a very long time.
The first murder in the Bible occurs between brothers Cain and Abel – and it’s Cain’s anger that leads him to murder his brother.
Now anger doesn’t always lead to murder. But certainly almost every murder starts with anger, right?
Let’s be honest – how much sin in the world is born from an angry heart?
Jesus knows that for us to become people of love, he must work to eliminate anger from the hearts of those who follow him. Not stifle it. Not bottle it up. Not push it down. Pushing down anger is like packing gunpowder. It’s just a matter of time before it blows up.
Jesus actually wants us to be the kind of people who can live without anger and contempt.
So what is anger? Anger is, fundamentally, a feeling that occurs when our will is crossed. When someone insults my kingdom. It is a feeling to alert me to the blocking of my will. Someone is not doing as I expect them to do. And this feeling arises in me, right? And there are varying degrees based on just how seriously I am offended, I can range from mildly annoyed to losing my ever-loving mind.
We had these parents up here – and I should tell you that kids will help you get in touch with anger in your heart you never knew existed before you had kids.
Why am I angry? My kids are not living in my kingdom in a way that pleases me!
Why is anger so destructive?
One of the reasons anger is so deadly is because 1. Anger is always justified in the moment. It always feels righteous. There’s always a good reason we are angry. In the moment, you anger always feels justified. So that’s when it’s time to be very careful. The Bible warns us…
Ephesians 4:26 And “don’t sin by letting anger control you.”
But in the moment – anger always feel right. And there is nothing more dangerous than anger we declare to be righteous anger. Look out! Because our self proclaimed righteous anger can cause us to say some pretty mean things…
Which is the second reason anger is so destructive. 2. Anger makes us want the offender to pay! And this is why anger is anti-love. Anger is to will injury to the person we are angry with.
Maybe not physical injury – but we are ready and poised to hurt the one who has offended us. Anger alone is an injury to another. When I discover that you are angry with me, it hurts me. I am already wounded. But anger is rarely satisfied with just an acknowledgement. Anger usually lashes out. And anger usually lashes back.
It doesn’t matter how you display your anger – whether you are a stewer or a spewer – so long as others understand you are right, and they have done a terrible wrong in your sight. And you are ready to make them pay.
3. Anger is usually met with more anger. Anger is usually met with more anger, right? If you are mad at me, the first thing I might say is, why you mad at me? What’s your issue? I get angry in return. And anger escalates.
The other day I was pulling out of my neighborhood and I saw a car coming up the road and it had it’s blinker on letting me know it was going to pull into my neighborhood. Knowing that he was going to have to slow down, I saw my chance to get on out and on my way. So I pull out in front of him.
Only to quickly discover he wasn’t making a left turn. He was just driving with his blinker on. Hey everyone look at me, I’m a moron, driving around with my blinker on.
And what is he thinking? Right now that guy is probably a pastor of another church telling the same story – hey everyone I’m a moron pulling out in front of cars and stuff. And so he is glaring at me as he drives by and I’m like, “You’re blinker, it’s on, you fool.” And he is like, “You are number one” and what not.
Now that might be humorous now. But you know what, this same kind of scenario repeated day after day in homes between spouses who once stood in front of each other and announced to the world that they would love one another for a lifetime?
Now if we look at this cycle, we can see how many a marriage has sustained serious damage by this cycle. But where the damage really comes in is when our anger metastasizes into contempt.
4. Unresolved anger turns into contempt.
Unresolved anger turns into contempt very quickly. This is why, by the way, the bible instructs husbands and wives not to go to bed angry with one another.
Ephesians 4:26 Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry, 27 for anger gives a foothold to the devil.
Anger is bad, but anger is a feeling – it becomes far worse when we decide to hold onto our anger and internalize it – because then our anger turns into contempt.
And contempt is even worse. Contempt looks at another human being as worthless, or at least worth less than me. It is a studied degradation of another human being. Where we look at someone with disdain. We view them condescendingly. We make someone less human. Less respectable.
We begin to see someone as deserving terrible things.
About a month ago there was a terrible story in the news about an obviously mentally ill man named Mark Heureux who had barricaded himself in his house in Omaha with a gun when the police came to bring him to a psychiatric facility. And the police department sent a police dog in and the man shot and killed the dog.
He was arrested and sent to jail. And while in custody, the man died in jail.
When it was reported in the Omaha World Herald that this obviously mentally ill man, who had shot a police dog, had died in jail, I couldn’t help but read the comments from people, which included these kinds of comments…
Gee. That’s too bad. –
Late Christmas Present – Yay!
Thought Today was lacking in good news.
That’s just a crying shame. I’ll need a moment to get over it. OK, I’m good.
Or there’s this from a woman named Janet – I cried when I heard about Kobus. Not for the scumbag who killed him. Wish I could have killed him myself.
Of course there were responses like this one – “Celebrating a mentally ill man’s death – Aren’t we are better than that?”
And I think the answer is, no we really aren’t. It’s indicative of what sin has done to our souls. Sin has stained us in such a way that all too often we become the kind of people who would kill someone if we could get away with it. Or at least wish I could have killed them myself.
And so we vilify anyone with an differing opinion or view from our own. We troll them in our hearts and thoughts. So it’s not that so and so is believes differently than I do – it’s those stupid morons believe this. Those lazy so and so’s.
And so some people have embraced anger to such a degree that it becomes part of their overall disposition – part of their character. They aren’t just people who deal with anger from time too time, they are anger.
And if we aren’t careful, we might wake up one day to realize that we embody a smoldering, contemptuous spirit. Poised to lash out at every perceived slight. We become quite refined at expressing our contempt for people – we know how to hurt people without having to even say something – we can hurt with a look, or by not looking.
See, sin has so stained our world. It is marked, – not by love – but by anti-love – anger and contempt and the studied degradation of other human beings.
And into this anti-loving world steps Jesus. And no greater love came with him. John 1:17 … God’s unfailing love and faithfulness came through Jesus Christ.
So what is love? Well, if anger and contempt is the studied degradation of another – then love is the studied elevation of another.
Love is to will good upon another – to desire that God’s blessing be upon people.
We already mentioned that love is not a feeling – it’s more than that. But love is also more than a verb. It’s more than just actions.
The point of the first few verses of 1 Corinthians 13 is that it is not enough to act loving. Or to do loving things. It’s possible to act loving and not have love.
If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing. 3 If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing.
It’s possible to do alot of amazing things and not have love.
So what is love then? Love is a disposition. It’s a disposition of the soul – and it is an all encompassing. God wants to turn your soul, all of you, he wants to give you love, fill you with love, so that it overflows out of you into this angry ugly world.
God wants to transform you into an ambassador of God’s kind of love. He wants to pressure treat us with ove so that love permeates every aspect of our being – our will, our mind, our thoughts and feelings – the way we treat others and speak about others, love love love!
Like Jesus. God is love, you know. Jesus was love. And so this is why Jesus, when he is being beaten and nails are being driven through his hands, and he is being crucified – it is because Jesus was love that he prayed, “Father, forgive them. They know not what they do.”
He didn’t have to muster up the will power to love them at that moment. Jesus prayed that because love keeps no record of wrongs – Jesus loved those soldiers who were killing him.
And Jesus has it in his plan to turn us into people who love others with the Love of God. We love others, because He first loved us.
As we close our time this morning, I want us to see these next three weeks as opportunities for us to grow in our understanding of Love, but more importantly that whatever we learn about love actually goes to the heart of the matter – the transformation of our hearts – that our disposition becomes one of love.
Did you know that the goal of instruction is love?
1 Tim 1:5 The purpose of my instruction is that all believers would be filled with love that comes from a pure heart, a clear conscience, and genuine faith.
And so can I just share three things that can help us be prepared for some internal changes as we walk these next weeks to Easter?
First – would you ask God to help you elevate your view of other human beings – and begin to elevate them to the place they belong according to God’s plan.
For me – God began to challenge me to look at other people as – See people as fellow Human beings, created and loved by God himself, who have an eternal destiny at stake.
Let’s start by I elevating people to the proper place, which is neither below me nor above me, but with me, created and loved by God. We elevate people to the place God does. God shows tremendous respect and dignity – because God is love, and love is patient and kind.
So I am asking God to help me see people, even hard headed, wrong, stubborn, driving with their blinker on people, as worthy of my respect and love.
2. Ask God to show you any areas where you are running a low grade anger fever.
This is not a small thing to pray, but if you are interested in living God’s kind of life, it’s worth it.
A couple of years ago I remember I was out taking a walk – and I realized that as I was walking I had my fists balled up and my jaw a bit set. Like I was ready for a fight. And then I began to realize I was walking like that almost all day long.
It wasn’t until I came to terms with the reality of my low grade anger fever that I could begin to walk through the transformation process.
Lastly, would you begin to read through 1 Corinthians 13. And try to read through it once a day. If you are looking for a great next larger piece of scripture to memorize, this would be a good place to go to next. It will fill our head with what love looks like. And give us a picture of what God is seeking to transform us into.
As we turn our attention now to the Lord’s table. We see at the table that there is no greater love than this kind of love. Jesus laid down his life for us because he loved us.
John 15:13 There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.