|THE LOVE OF FELLOWSHIP
1 JOHN 3:16-18
Series: The Ties That Bind - Fellowship - Part Five
Pastor Stephen Muncherian
July 9, 2000
I invite you to turn with me to 1 John 3:16-18. We are continuing our series of messages focused on developing a deeper fellowship with God and each other. Today our focus is “The Love of Fellowship.”
Last week I ran across and article in the Chronicle that reminded me of the importance of what we’ve been talking about. The article was entitled “More Americans Reporting Psychological Problems.” The article was about a study released last week in which more than 26% of adults surveyed said they had felt on the verge of a nervous breakdown. The most frequently cited causes were because of problems in relationships.
So many of the relationships that we’re involved in - even here in the church - our relationships can be empty - even dangerous. And yet, God has created us to be communal - we crave community and intimacy and fellowship. We desperately long to love and be loved.
J. Grant Howard, in his book “The Trauma of Transparency” shares this poem:
Today I met a man
That is so empty. This morning we want to look at deepening our love for each other.
1 John 3:16-18: We know love by this, that He - Jesus - laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But whoever has the world’s goods, and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him? Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth.
First, John begins with THE ILLUSTRATION OF WHAT REAL LOVE IS. He begins with God - Jesus. Verse 16: We know love by this, that He - Jesus - laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.
The greatest expression - illustration - of God’s love in our human experience is what we see in Jesus Christ.
John writes in 1 John 4:8 that God is love. None of us would love - or could love - if we weren’t in some way in contact with God who is love. All love comes from God - the love of parents for children - the love of friends for friends - the love of husbands and wives for each other - its all a gift of God to us. But, the greatest expression of God’s love is in Jesus Christ.
If we’re going to love each other - really love each other - then we need to understand the illustration - the love of Jesus Christ for us.
I encourage you to turn with me to Philippians 2:6-8. In Philippians 2, the Apostle Paul gives a description of the love that we see in Jesus Christ. As we’re reading - please notice four examples of Jesus’ love.
First example - verse 6 - Jesus - who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped.... Jesus did not “grasp” - or hang on to - His rights and privileges as God - to be worshipped as God - to exercise His power as God. He voluntarily let go of them.
Second - verse 7 - Jesus - emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant.... Jesus by an act of His own will became a servant - a slave. In the Roman world slaves were looked on with the same regard as a shovel or pick - a tool to be used. Jesus should have been worshipped - adored by people - angels - by all of creation - yet He willingly became a slave.
Third example - going on in verse 7 - and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man.... That is that Jesus didn’t come as a king - a ruler or rich person - someone insulated from the worst parts of our human condition. He became the son of a common family - in a conquered nation - born in the humility of a stable. He came and embraced us as brothers and sisters - going through what we go through.
Fourth example - verse 8 - He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
Jesus didn’t have to die. He isn’t born - as we are - with the terminal illness of sin. Jesus loved us so much that He volunteered - chose - to receive the death sentence that is really ours.
Paul writes that Jesus chose, “even death on a cross.” Jesus could have chosen to die quickly - painlessly - surrounded by His family and friends. But, He chose to die on a cross - in pain and agony - rejected and despised - executed as common criminal - in shame and disgrace. Deserted by everyone - including His Heavenly Father - He died finally - because He was unable to breathe.
Paul writes that Jesus - God - freely and lovingly chose to become a human being - to humble Himself as a servant - dying on a cross in our place - for our sins.
Jesus defines what real love is. Its sacrificial and difficult. Its to give up ourselves for someone else. He laid down His life for us. And notice this - not just for mankind in general - but for each one of us.
C.S. Lewis writes, “It is easier to be enthusiastic about Humanity than it is to love individual men and women, especially those who are uninteresting, exasperating, depraved, or otherwise unattractive.”
Jesus - loves us - individually - personally - dying for us - knowing everything about us.
John writes: We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.
That’s hard. We’re to love each other in the way that Jesus loved us.
First - John gives us the example of what real love is. Second, John gives us AN ILLUSTRATION OF WHAT REAL LOVE DOES - what real love looks like in action.
1 John 3:17: But whoever has the world’s goods, and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him? - how can this person claim to personally know Jesus Christ?
“Whoever has the world’s goods” - means that God has already given us what it takes to meet the need.
“If you see your brother in need” - means that our eyes are open and looking for ways to meet needs. In the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:30-37) - the priest and the Levite - the religious leaders of the day - went by the man beaten and left for dead on the side of the road - they’re own country man. They didn’t want to see him. They glanced at him - avoided his gaze - moved to the other side of the road - passing by as quickly as they could.
John says that we have a choice - to close or open our hearts. If we see our brother or sister in need - will we help? Will we love sacrificially?
Most of us could get by on far less than we’ve actually surrounded ourselves with. Its so easy - especially in this country - to fill our lives endlessly with diversions and things. And, to think that we need these things - that God has given us all of this for our own needs.
But, having this world’s goods and seeing our brothers and sisters in need - physical - emotional - spiritual - how can we say that we love God - that we understand Jesus’ love for us - if we don’t respond in concern and do something about it?
Please hear this: To the depth of our understanding of Jesus’ love for us will be the extent of our ability to love others. If we allow the love of Jesus to touch us deeply - we will lay down our lives for others - give up our rights - be quick to forgive wrongs - prefer another instead of ourselves - raise up others instead of taking the credit for ourselves - give up our possessions - go where there is hurt. Jesus laid down His life for us, and we ought to do the same for each other.
Verse 18 is an appeal: Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth. Don’t just give lip service to love - just singing about it - talking about it - writing checks without personal involvement - praying for God to meet needs and concerns that God has already given us the means to resolve. Brothers and sisters - be vulnerable - be humble - give everything to meeting the needs of our brothers and sisters.
That’s hard. That’s impossible. But, that’s what “The Love of Fellowship” is all about. I’m convinced that if that kind of love was left up to me - to any of us - it would never happen - could never happen.
On the morning of December 7, 1941 - Jacob DeShazer was doing K.P. duty - peeling potatoes - when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. On April 18, 1942 - Bombardier Sergeant DeShazer - full of hatred for the Japanese took off from the aircraft carrier Hornet - with Colonel Doolittle’s bomber squadron - on the first American bombing run over Tokyo.
When his bomber ran out of fuel - DeShazer was captured by the Japanese - taken to Tokyo - then Shanghai - and tortured. His bitterness and hatred toward the Japanese only increased. His hatred for his Japanese captors was so violent and so vicious that they were afraid of him and kept him in solitary confinement.
In a remarkable way he was given a copy of the Bible and he began to read through it. Reading through the Bible - in the loneliness of his cell - DeShazer came to realize the life that is in Jesus Christ and came to accept Jesus as his Savior.
DeShazer changed. His hatred of the Japanese changed completely. He began to love his captors and to show love towards them. The Japanese were astonished by what had happened to him. Instead of resentment and viciousness - he became the most cooperative prisoners and prayed for them. After the war - DeShazer’s testimony - of God’s salvation and God’s love being able to change the human heart - DeShazer’s testimony was printed in a tract and distributed in Japan.
The story doesn’t end there. On my bookshelf at home I have a book written by Mitsuo Fuchida entitled, “From Pearl Harbor To Golgotha.” Captain Mitsuo Fuchida was the man who led the Japanese air raid against Pearl Harbor - the man who gave the command to drop the bombs on December 7, 1941.
Mitsuo Fuchida was a hero in Japan after the war because of his military service - but his heart was empty. One day he was given the tract that told of DeShazer’s change of heart.
From somewhere he obtained a New Testament. He began to read it with growing interest. Finally, he came to the account of the crucifixion and the words of Jesus, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do” - Jesus praying for the soldiers who were about to thrust a spear through His side. (Luke 23:34)
Fuchida realized that this Jesus - who could love His enemies and pray for those who persecuted Him - who abused and spitefully used Him - this Jesus was showing a quality of life that no natural human being could possibly show. Fuchida’s heart broke and he accepted Jesus as his personal Savior.
Fuchida wrote to DeShazer and eventually they met in Osaka. The man who hated the Japanese - and the man who helped to put that hatred there. Now, brothers in love with the same Savior and with each other.
That’s the love that we need to have for each other - the quality of love that can only come from hearts surrendered to God’s work and power within us.
Its a radical and different picture of church then many are used to. It means that the church is not an institution or a place where a group of people get together once a week to sing and pray and go through a set of rituals. The church is a community of people who radically love each other. Who - in total openness to the work of God in their lives are willing to humbly give everything for each other - because they personally know the love that Jesus Christ has for them.