Rev. Toh Nee Lim | On 29, Sep 2015
Scripture Reading: I John 4:20-21; Luke 6:27
I John 4:20-21 “If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, cannot love God whom he hath not seen. And this commandment have we from him, that he who loveth God love his brother also.”
Luke 6:27 “But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you.’
Who is my brother? Well I have earthly brother. I have three in my family and I should say that if I look at my heart today concerning my earthly brother, I believe it is love. I have no hard feeling for them. I want the best for them. I remember just last year, I gave a lift to my brother, my sister-in-law and my two nephews (their children). I was so excited that his elder son got into a respectable college and I was encouraging him and telling him that it was a very good college. I can say I love my brother. Of course the brother here includes sisters. I have three other sisters. Of course I love them too. My sister love my daughter. Often when Jan is back they would invite her out for a meal. Then I have my church brothers; this is the hard part because we are in contact with one another constantly and I have to make sure that at the end of the day I still love you. Of course there is bound to be conflict but there are not be settled hatred in my heart for my brothers. Pastor Lily was telling me that we have to love our church brothers and sisters as my own children. There must be unconditional love. This is a commandment from God. Then there is brothers outside the church and who have left the church; my dealing with them have to be love. How about brothers who hurt you, harm you and even became an enemy to you? How about your superior, those above who have done things that are totally wrong towards you.
Love has its origin in God as we are told in 1 John 4:8 that ‘God is love’. We are never nearer to God than when we love. Man is made in the image and likeness of God. Therefore to be like God and be what he was meant to be, man must also love.
It is by love that God is known. We cannot see God, because He is spirit; what we can see is his effect. We cannot see the wind, but we can see what it can do. Look at the effect of the Air-conditioner. We cannot see the air in the Air-conditioner. But we cannot deny its effect. We cannot see electricity, but we can see the effect it produces. Look at the lights emitting from the bulb. We cannot see electricity but we can see the effect, which is light. Likewise the effect of God through man is love. It is when God comes into a man that he is clothed with the love of God and the love of men. We were very ministered by the message last Sunday. It caused me to recall how I first came into contact with God. I remember the first effect upon me was the tremendous love I felt from God and then that love is emitted through me to other man. The hardest person for me to love at that time was definitely my dad, but the Love of God is emitted through me to my Dad. I was able to love him, which I couldn’t in the past. God is known by his effect on that man. It has been said, “A saint is a man in whom Christ lives again” and the best demonstration of God comes not from argument but from a life of love. I have to be very honest. That first love I felt from God was no more the same love I felt today. One of the effect of last week message was I realized how far I have gone from that love of God. It was what Galatian says ‘Ye did run well, what did hinder you?’ It was what Jesus chided the Ephesian church, ‘Ye have left your first love.’ The 29 years of service, I, admit had taken its toll on me. Whether it is people, the unrelenting testing, circumstances, disappointment, disillusionment, I realize how far I have gotten away from God. I started my Christian life with love and God knows I need to end my Christian life with love too.
It is said that there are three test of a true Christian:
a. Theological truth
b. Lifestyle love
Of course we know theological truth to be concerning the person and work of Jesus Christ. Christianity is a person and that person is Jesus Christ. This is also matched in 1 John and James with lifestyle love. Our lifestyle love clearly reveals whether we are Christians or not. It is not possible to say ‘I love God, and hates his brother. You simply cannot say that you love God and that you are a child of God when you hate the brethren down here. Of course conflict in this area is unavoidable but to have an unsettled hatred, unforgiving permanent dwelling of hatred is not. We must not allow conflict to bring us to an unsettled state of hatred, as part of our lifestyle. Love must become your lifestyle, the habit of your life. Love is the non-counterfeitable evidence of a true believer. Hate on the other hand is the evidence of a child of the evil one. Christianity is a body of truth. We are the body of truth. This body of truth is love. The third test of a true Christian is obedience. What is obedience? It is God’s call to me to reach the world. God sets the agenda and give me the call of evangelism and mission. This morning we just want to concentrate on lifestyle love. Now why did God demands lifestyle love? Well, God took the initiative to love me and call me and reach out to me. Please remember that many of us are quite unlovable. If we have to be honest, we are very difficult people to deal with, to live with. Yet God took the initiative to love us. And He provides a covenantal structure of God’s relationship with me. And the most amazing part, in spite of everything, God’s love for me till today is still a continual love. In the Day of Judgment, because He is (love), so also are we (with love) in this world. Christians are to love as Jesus loved. We may be rejected and persecuted as He (Jesus was), but also we are loved and sustained by the Father and the Spirit as He was. One day all humans will give an account to God for the gift of life and Judgement Day holds no fear for those in Christ who loves. That is what the bible mean by perfect love cast out fear. There is no fear of punishment when we face God. That we may have boldness in the Day of Judgment. If today I love God, love the Lord Jesus, and love one another as brothers and sisters in the faith, then that will give us boldness in the faith and will not have any fear in the Day of Judgment.
God’s love is demonstrated in Jesus Christ (1 John 4:9). When we look at Jesus we see two things about the love of God. (a) It is a love which holds nothing back. God was prepared to give his only Son and make a sacrifice beyond which no sacrifice can possibly go in his love for men. (b) It is a totally undeserved love. It would be no wonder if we loved God, when we remember all the gifts he has given to us, even apart from Jesus Christ; the wonder is that he loves poor and disobedient creatures like us. What can we learn about God’s love?
1. God’s love is totally different from Man’s love
I realized people did not know anything about our Saviour, and that if Christ is not in a heart, it is natural to be cruel. It is natural to be sadistic, evil, and hard.
On April 18, 1942, crewmen in 16 Army Air Forces B-25 bombers, commanded by Lt. Col. James H. Doolittle, flew from the carrier Hornet on a daylight bombing raid that brought the war home to Japan for the first time since the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour. Corporal DeShazer, a native of Oregon and the son of a Church of God minister, was among a five-member crew and the last bomber to depart the carrier Hornet. His plane dropped incendiary bombs on an oil installation and a factory in Nagoya but it ran out of fuel and landed at a Japanese-occupied territory and all were quickly captured. In October 1942, a Japanese firing squad executed the pilot, the engineer-gunner. Corporal DeShazer and the other surviving crewmen from his plane, were starved, beaten and tortured at prisons in Japan and China — spending most of their time in solitary confinement — until their liberation a few days after Japan’s surrender in August 1945. Amid his misery, Corporal DeShazer had one source of solace.
“I begged my captors to get a Bible for me,” At last, in the month of May 1944, a guard brought me the book, but told me I could have it only for three weeks. I eagerly began to read its pages. I discovered that God had given me new spiritual eyes and that when I looked at the enemy officers and guards who had starved and beaten my companions and me so cruelly, I found my bitter hatred for them changed to loving pity. I realized that these people did not know anything about my Saviour and that if Christ is not in a heart, it is natural to be cruel.”
So when we deal with people that don’t have Jesus, we must understand that they don’t know what love is? It is natural for them to be cruel, evil, scheming, and vengeful. It is natural for them to be a thief, a fraud a traitor.
2. When God commands us to love, He gives the love itself
Corrie ten Boom shared this story after surviving the Nazi Concentration Camp and became a preacher of the Word all over Germany. She said, ‘It was at a church service in Munich that I saw him, a former S.S (Secret Service) man who had stood guard at the shower room door in the processing centre at Ravensbruck. He was the first of our actual jailers that I had seen since that time. And suddenly it was all there – the roomful of mocking men, the heaps of clothing, Betsie’s (Corrie’s sister who died in the concentration camp) pain-blanched face. He came up to me as the church was emptying, beaming and bowing. “How grateful I am for your message, Fraulein.” He said. “To think that, as you say, He has washed my sins away!” His hand was thrust out to shake mine. And I, who had preached so often to the people in Bloemendaal the need to forgive, kept my hand at my side. Even as the angry, vengeful thoughts boiled through me, I saw the sin of them. Jesus Christ had died for this man; was I going to ask for more? Lord Jesus, I prayed, forgive me and help me to forgive him. I tried to smile, I struggled to raise my hand. I could not. I felt nothing, not the slightest spark of warmth or charity. And so again I breathed a silent prayer. Jesus, I prayed, I cannot forgive him. Give me Your forgiveness. As I took his hand the most incredible thing happened. From my shoulder along my arm and through my hand a current seemed to pass from me to him, while into my heart sprang a love for this stranger that almost overwhelmed me. And so I discovered that it is not on our forgiveness it is not our goodness anymore that will heal the world, but on His. When He tells us to love our enemies, when God commands us to love, He gives us the love itself.
3. God uses his saints to demonstrate the LOVE OF GOD
Josh McDowell the former staunch skeptic of religion who could not disprove Christianity intellectually shared this. ‘My father was the town alcoholic. I hardly ever knew my father when he was not drunk. My friends in school would make jokes about my father making a fool of himself. I lived on a farm and I’d go out to the barn and see my mother lying in the gutter in the manure – the bathroom of the cows – beaten so badly by my father, my mother couldn’t get up and walk. We would have friends over. I’d take my father, tie him up in the bam, and park the car up around the side, and tell my friends he had to go on an important business trip, so I wouldn’t be embarrassed. I’d take him into the barn where the cows would have their little calves. I’d put his arms through the boards, and tie them. I’d put a rope around his neck and pull his head all the way over the backboard, and tie it around the feet, so if he shuffled his feet, he would kill himself. One evening, two months before I graduated from high school, I came home from a date. When I went into the house, I heard my mother crying profusely. And I said, “What’s wrong?” She said, “Your father has broken my heart. And all I want to do is live until you graduate, then I just want to die.” Do you know, two months later, I graduated. And the next Friday, the 13th, my mother died. Don’t tell me that you can’t die of a broken heart. My mother did, and my father broke it. There was no one I could have hated more. But men and women, when I came into this relationship with God Yahweh, through His Eternal Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, after a short period of time, the love of God took control of my life, and He took that hatred and turned it upside down. So much so, I was able to look my father square in the eyes and say: “Dad, I love you.” And the neatest thing is, I really meant it! I transferred to another varsity or university. I was in a serious car accident with my legs, arm and neck in traction. I was taken home. My father came into my room. He was very sober because he thought I was almost dead. He asked me this question: “How can you love a father such as I?” I said, “Dad, six months ago, I despised you. I hated you.” Then I shared with him how I’d come to the conclusion seen so clearly, that God Yahweh, the Father, had manifested Himself to us, humanity through the Eternal Word, His Son. And then He had died for our sins, that’s the anguish He went through. And I said, “Dad, I asked Christ to forgive me. I asked Him to come into my life as Savior and Lord.” I said, “Dad, as the result of that, I have found the capacity to love and accept not only you, but other people just the way they are.” And my father finally just said, “Son, if your God can do in my life what I have seen Him do in your life, then I want to know Him personally.” Right there, my father just prayed something like this: “God, if you’re God, and Christ is the Eternal Word, Your Son, if you can forgive me and come into my life and change me, then I want to know you personally.” His life was changed right before my eyes. It was like somebody reached out and turned on a light bulb. Do you know, he only touched whiskey once after that? He got it to his lips, and that was it. He didn’t need it anymore. Fourteen months later, he died. Because three-fourths of his stomach had to be removed, as a result of 40-some years of drinking. But do you know, in that 14-month period, scores of businessmen in my home town and the surrounding area committed their lives to the living God, through the Eternal Word, Jesus Christ, because of the changed life of one of the town’s drunks.
Well you may say, God, you simply don’t understand. You know what people have done to me. I completely agree with you. What they did to you was unforgivable. They totally deserve the greatest punishment and judgment from God. But how did God responds to such people? I think the best example is Jesus, concerning Judas. The incredible love that Jesus had for Judas. Just read the scripture, John 13:21-30 ‘After he said these things, Jesus became visibly upset, and then he told them why. “One of you is going to betray me.” The disciples looked around at one another, wondering who on earth he was talking about. One of the disciples, the one Jesus love dearly, was reclining against him, his head on his shoulder. Peter motioned to him to ask who Jesus might be talking about. So, being the closest, he said, “Master who?’ Jesus said, “The one to whom I give this crust of bread after I’ve dipped it.” Then he dipped the crust and gave it to Judas, son of Simon the Iscariot. As soon as the bread was in his hand, Satan entered him, “What you must do,” said Jesus, “Do it and get it over with’ No one around the supper table knew why he said this to him. Some thought that since Judas was their treasurer, Jesus was telling him to buy what they needed for the Feast, or that he should give something to the poor.’ Judas with the piece of bread left. It was night.’
Jesus would not ask us to do something in which He has not done. Also he has empowered us with the ability to love. Look at the situation. Jesus know what Judas was planning against him. For many of us we are foolish enough not to know what our enemy are planning against us. But Jesus know. Remember it is not that God planned for Judas to play the role of betrayal because God has given us a choice. Rather that even in the betrayal it is part of God’s plan. Yet Jesus handled Judas in a discreet and intimate way. Jesus avoided humiliating him in public. That is why the rest of the disciples couldn’t understand it was Judas. Because Jesus only wanted Judas to hear what he needed to hear. Jesus fed him with bread that night. It was one of the most intimate actions imaginable; feeding your enemy. Of course we see Judas willingness to betray him; we see the forces of darkness take control and launch an assault against Jesus through Judas. I believe we will experience Judas in our life: The book of Psalms say this.
Even my close friend whom I trust
He who shared bread with me
Has lifted up his heel against me
The betrayer is a close friend
The betrayer feign intimacy – by the kiss
Judas has always called Jesus Rabbi
I believe Jesus has demonstrated how we are to love the unlovable people in our life. Judas was a satanically influenced thief, fraud and traitor. Yet Jesus included him in His inner circle of friends. He treated him with dignity. He served him. Did Judas respond well to our Lord’s grace? Obviously not. Did Judas’ subsequent betrayal surprise Jesus? Absolutely not. Then why would Jesus squander His love on Judas? Because it HONORED HIS HEAVENLY FATHER. The way Jesus treat Judas, honoured the heavenly Father, display the character of YHWH. Remember one of the true test of a Christian is lifestyle love.
I end with this story.
Just weeks before his death, Reverend Ernest Gordon sat in a darkened theatre watching a private screening of the long-anticipated movie about his life. His story illumines the power of forgiveness. Gordon was serving as a captain in the British army during the Second World War when he was captured by the Japanese and marched with other prisoners into the Southeast Asian jungles. The prison camp, which was constructing a railroad bridge over the river Kwai, would eventually claim the lives of 80,000 men. The prisoners were forced to work for hours in scorching temperatures, chopping their way through tangled jungles. Those who paused out of exhaustion were beaten to death by the guards. Treated like animals, the men themselves became like beasts trying to survive. Theft was as rampant as hunger and disease among them. Life was met with indifference, deceit, and hatred—by captive and captor alike. Yet, Gordon lived to tell of hope and transformation in the valley of the river Kwai. In his widely acclaimed book, he gives a first-hand account of the story behind the “death railroad” and the spiritual resurrection of the camp.
“Death was still with us,” writes Gordon. “But we were slowly being freed from its destructive grip. We were seeing for ourselves the sharp contrast between the forces that made for life and those that made for death. Selfishness, hatred, envy, jealousy, greed, self-indulgence, laziness and pride were all anti-life. Love, heroism, self-sacrifice, sympathy, mercy, integrity and creative faith, on the other hand, were the essence of life, turning mere existence into living in its truest sense. These were the gifts of God to men. True, there was hatred. But there was also love. There was death. But there was also life. God had not left us. He was with us, calling us to live the divine life in fellowship.” In the valley of the shadow of death, Christ had risen.
There were also incidences of great sacrifice that unfolded. Once, after a work detail, a Japanese guard believed a shovel missing. He told the men that unless someone stepped forward to accept responsibility, all the men would be killed. A soldier stepped up and stood at attention. The guard beat him to death. Later it was discovered the missing shovel was the result of a mistaken inventory count by the guard. Another time Dusty fainted. The doctor believed him to be close to death. Others reported that Dusty had not been eating. All his meagre rations were going to Ernest. Two weeks before the end of the war, Dusty was nailed to a tree and disembowelled by a Japanese guard that was flustered because Dusty would never break, and never anger. This made the Japanese guard “lose face”. God had reconciled their lifeless estates to Himself, such that they found themselves unable to respond to others without a similar inexplicable grace. So complete was the transformation of the men, so real the presence of Christ among them that they were able to reach out even to their captors with the love that had taken hold of them.
After the surrender of the Japanese, while still in the hands of their enemies, a train carrying Gordon and several others came alongside another boxcar at a stop in Burma. The entire car was filled with gravely wounded Japanese soldiers. They were left alone, without medical attention or company, as if abandoned refuse of war. “They were in a shocking state,” Gordon recalls. “The wounded looked at us forlornly as they sat with their heads resting against the carriages waiting fatalistically for death…. These were our enemy.” Without a word, many of the officers unbuckled their packs, took out part of their rations and a few rags, and with their canteens went over to the Japanese train. The guards tried to prevent them, but they pressed through, kneeling by the side of the injured men with food and water, cleaning their wounds.
Gordon explains, “We had experienced a moment of grace, there in the bloodstained railway cars. God had broken through the barriers of our prejudice and had given us the will to obey his command, ‘Thou shalt love.’”
Ernest Gordon left his three years of brutal imprisonment with an unexpected turn in his own story. Among suffering and enemies, God had spoken. Now Gordon could not remain silent. He returned to Scotland to attend seminary, eventually becoming the dean of the chapel of Princeton University where he remained until his death in 2002. Among a valley of dry bones, God had breathed men to life. In the trenches of despair and hatred, the inexplicable love of Christ called enemies—and men—to hope and forgiveness.
I have always prided myself as an easily forgiving person. I was considered a good man by many in my early Christian life. I find it easy to forgive and love. I remember in my army days, I really had to forgive a colleague. It was hard and I know unforgiveness was wrong. Finally God broke through me and I was able to love him just as he is. God had taught me well. Recently I have entered another chapter dealing with love. It has become hard. For whatever reason, I am no more the soft, forgiving person that I once was. And it is changing me, for the worse. When I heard the message last Sunday, I realize how far I had gone away. I realize that God has always wanted my life to be a lifestyle love. I found out that God’s love is different from man’s love. I realize that I was losing God’s love and gaining man’s love. When I have man’s love, it is natural to be cruel. It is natural to be sadistic, evil, and hard. Today I also discovered that God no only give me the command to love, but he has given me love itself. And I am reminded that God uses his saints to demonstrate the LOVE OF GOD. This morning God wants to set people free. The only way is to love.