"SHINE: Embracing, Connecting, Engaging, Transforming"
Pastor John Montgomery's Weekly Sermons:
Sunday, March 14, 2021
Morning Worship Service 10:15 am
Dear Church Family,
Since the Governor of the State of Florida has removed many of the restrictions regarding the Covid-19 virus, for the safety of our members,
Cedar Creek Baptist Church will maintain the following guidelines:
1. Sit 6 feet apart from one another.
2. Refrain from the practice of handshaking and hugging.
3. No more than 2 people in the bathroom at a time.
4. Sanitize your hands as you enter the worship center.
Wearing a mask is optional.
Dr. John Montgomery, Pastor
May 16, 2020
“Whatever it Takes to Love Others.”
Series, ““Growing Together in Spiritual Growth”
John W. Montgomery, D.D.
Two weeks ago, we have talked about doing “whatever it takes” in our relationship with God. For the next three weeks, we are going to discover how to do “whatever it takes” in our relationships with others. This morning we will begin by talking about doing whatever it takes to love others. That is fellowship.
Fellowship is so much more than dinners. It is more than a game night that we have scheduled in June or even the “fellowship” time that we used to include in our worship service each Sunday morning. Those things may all be part of the process, but they are not fellowship in and of themselves. This week, I looked at a number of different passages that could be used to help us learn more about fellowship. I certainly could have used the passage which begins in Acts 2:42 that described the fellowship in the early church. In fact, I would suggest that you go back and read that passage again this week. And there are a number of Old Testament and New Testament passages that give us some insight into doing whatever it takes to love others. But to me, the essence of fellowship is summed up by Jesus in just two verses – two verses that are probably very familiar to most of us.
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples if you love one another.” John 13:34-35 (NIV)
When I began to look at this passage this week, the first question that came into my mind was “Why does Jesus call this a new command?” After all, I can go all the way back to Leviticus 19 and find God’s command to love my neighbor as myself. And Jesus had frequently taught his disciples the need to love others. Much of the Sermon on the Mount dealt with the idea of loving others, even our enemies. In what sense is this a new command?
Remember the context here. Jesus has just finished washing the feet of disciples to show them the “full extent of his love”. And after this humble act of love, he gives his disciples a new standard for the way they are to love others. Jesus tells his disciples to love in a new way – in the way he had demonstrated his love for them. That is why Jesus said this was a “new command.”
Loving others the way Jesus loves us, that is the essence of true fellowship. There is not nearly enough time this morning to discuss all the aspects of Jesus’ love for us. I have chosen just 5 aspects of Christ’s love for us that I think can help us do whatever it takes to love others in that same way.
I love others like Christ loves me when…
1. I Am Honest about Who I Am
Different people wanted Jesus to be different things. Some people were looking for Him to be a political leader who could come and lead them out from under the oppression of the Roman government. Some people came to Jesus merely out of a sense of curiosity or because they thought that Jesus could give them something they wanted. Some people thought he was a lunatic. The religious leaders saw Jesus as a threat to their influence and power. But Jesus was never swayed by what other people thought of Him or what other people wanted Him to be. And even though some of those who were the very closest to Jesus did not fully understand who He was, Jesus was always honest about who He was and why He had come into the world.
He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priest’s, and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again. He spoke plainly about this, and Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. But when Jesus turned and looked at his disciples, he rebuked Peter. "Get behind me, Satan!" he said. "You do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men." Mark 8:31-33 (NIV)
Jesus was particularly critical of the religious leaders of the day who were not the same people on the outside as they were on the inside: "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but, on the inside, you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness. Matthew 23:27, 28 (NIV)
These religious leaders put on a pretty good show. By all outside appearances, they seemed to be righteous, but Jesus knew their hypocrisy. The Greek word which we translate “hypocrite” came from the Greek theater and it meant to put on a mask. That is exactly what a hypocrite is – someone who puts on a mask so that they appear to be someone they are not.
I am convinced that hypocrisy is one of the greatest barriers to real fellowship. I am convinced that many of us come to church with a mask on every week. We are afraid to let people see us like we really are. We are afraid to let people know that we are hurting or that we are struggling with some issues in our lives. We are afraid to let people really get to know us and what we are really like, because we are afraid of what people will think of us. As a result, our relationships are so superficial that we do not experience the kind of intimate fellowship God desires for us to have with each other.
Unfortunately, a lot of us treat fellowship in the church a lot like dating. Someone once said: “Dating is when you pretend, you are someone you are not, to impress somebody you do not even know.”
It is really hard these days with all the personal ads and online dating services. Not surprisingly, most people are not very honest when they place those personal ads. They are hypocrites, putting on a mask because they are afraid what people will think if they are honest about who they are.
The first step in developing true fellowship is that we all need to be more transparent and real. We need to be willing to open up and let people get to know the real us – warts and all.
2. I Love Unilaterally
“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8 (NIV)
Aren’t you glad that God’s love for us is unilateral? In other words, God did not wait until we loved Him or until we lived our lives in a way that merited His love. And that is a good thing, because frankly none of us could possibly ever live a life that is good enough to earn the love of a perfect, holy God.
But to be honest, most of us have a hard time loving that way, don’t we? We can love those people who are a lot like us, those who love us and treat us with kindness and respect. But how about those people who are different than us, or those who have hurt us? What about the people who have talked badly about us behind our backs or have offended us in some way? That is a lot harder. But Jesus made it really clear that if we want to love like Jesus, we have to choose to love those people, too.
“If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?” Matthew 5:46, 47 (NIV)
Jesus said, it is easy to love those who love us. Anyone, even the pagans, can do that. But he has called us to a higher standard. We are to love the unlovable, too. One of the reasons that it is hard for us to do that is because we have some misconceptions about what unilateral love is all about.
First, unilateral does not mean unconditional acceptance.
Although Jesus loved the unlovable, He never accepted their sinful behavior. When He talked to the woman at the well, he pointed out her marital infidelity. When the people were about to stone the woman caught in adultery, He told her to go and sin no more. When Peter tried to keep Jesus from going to the cross, Jesus rebuked him.
Love does not mean we have to accept or condone sinful behavior. I know it is a cliché, but we really do need to love the sinner, without loving the sin.
Secondly, God’s love is not some emotional feeling.
It is an act of the will that chooses to put the best interests of the other person ahead of my own – the kind of self-giving love that Paul describes in 1 Corinthians 13. In other words, I can choose to love someone, even if I do not like them, even if I do not feel like loving them. Isn’t that exactly what Jesus did for us?
Perhaps we can get a better perspective on how to love like that by listening to some interesting descriptions of love from children who are able to capture the essence of unilateral love.
"Love is like a little old woman and a little old man who are still friends even after they know each other so well." Tommy-age 6
"Love is when mummy sees daddy smelly and sweaty and still says he’s handsomer than Robert Redford." Chris-age 7
"When my grandmother got arthritis, she couldn’t bend over and paint her toenails anymore. So, my grandfather does it for her all the time, even when his hands got arthritis too. That’s love" Rebecca-age 8.
3. I Sacrifice my Rights
We live in a world today that is so focused on our rights. Just pick up a newspaper or turn on the TV news and you are sure to hear about human rights, abortion rights, rights for homosexuals, women’s rights, privacy rights, and civil rights. And while there may be some merit to some of those issues, this overall idea that I have my rights seems to me to be so self-centered that it tends to fracture our relationships rather than enhance them.
But once again, we can look to the example of Jesus and see how he willingly gave up his rights in order to enhance His relationship with us.
Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: “Who, being in the very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death - even death on a cross!” Philippians 2:5-8 (NIV)
Jesus willingly gave up when he put on a body and came here to earth. Although he was still fully God, Jesus was willing to sacrifice the rights and privileges of his deity so that he could provide a permanent way for us to be made right with God and have an intimate, personal relationship with Him.
Even in the church, one of the biggest barriers to good fellowship is that we choose to hang on to our rights:
• My right to sit in “my seat” during the worship service
• My right to distract those around me in worship, by talking or having my cell phone ring or passing notes.
• My right to sing the songs I want to sing in worship
• My right to be angry at someone who has wronged me
Right before he described how Jesus sacrificed His rights on our behalf, Paul gives us some instruction about sacrificing our own rights: “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.” Philippians 2:3-4 (NIV)
If I truly want to promote the fellowship of my church, I have to quit focusing so much on my rights and begin to focus on the desires and needs of others.
4. I Forgive others
Forgiveness is the very essence of Jesus’ love for us. He came to this earth to provide a permanent solution to the problem of our sin, so that our sin could be forgiven completely. But a lot of us are like the wicked servant that Jesus describes in Matthew 18. Even though we have been relieved of a huge debt through the shed blood of Jesus Christ, we refuse to forgive the debts of others.
Paul reinforced that same point in his letter to the Colossian church: “Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” Colossians 3:13 (NIV)
Paul gives us a further description of that aspect of love in his first letter to the Corinthians: “Love…keeps no record of wrongs…” 1 Corinthians 13:4, 5 (NIV)
Because we live in a world full of sinful people, even in the church, people are going to disappoint us, they are going to hurt us, they are going to offend us. We usually cannot control that. But we certainly can control how we respond to those situations. We can either sit and stew and get bitter and feel sorry for ourselves or we can choose to forgive, even when the other person does not ask us to.
One of the reasons that forgiveness has such a positive impact on our fellowship is due, at least in part, to how forgiveness impacts our own personal lives. An increasing number of studies, most of them secular, have discovered a link between forgiveness and our physical health. People who forgive others are much more likely to be healthy and experience less stress. When we choose not to forgive others, we do not hurt them. We are actually just harming ourselves.
5. I Have a Servant’s Heart
In Mark 10, we read the account of James and John who come to Jesus and ask Him to allow them to sit at his side in positions of honor when Jesus came into His glory. And do you remember what impact that had on the fellowship of the disciples? How did the other 10 respond to the request of James and John? In verse 41; it says that they became indignant. But Jesus used that situation to teach His followers an important lesson about fellowship:
Jesus called them together and said, "You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." Mark 10:42-45 (NIV)
The way that Jesus loved was by serving, not by lording it over others. Think about that. Here is the God of the universe, who in fact had authority over all. But rather than emphasize that authority, he humbly chose to serve His followers.
That is such an essential element of fellowship in the church. Our church family has learned how to better lead our church through serving the needs of our people. It is amazing how when we get busy serving the needs of others, we just do not seem to have the time or the desire to do all the negative things that damage the fellowship of our church. When I serve the needs of others, I am not nearly as likely to complain, grumble, gossip, or to get angry or bitter.
I am really thankful that as a church, we do a lot of these things pretty well. In fact, I would say that fellowship is one of our strengths. I see a lot of loving people here who do much to maintain our fellowship. But let us keep working on loving others the same way Jesus loves us.
Message Preached at
Cedar Creek Baptist Church
Jacksonville, Florida 32205
May 16, 2021
Sermon Notes is a Ministry of the Cedar Creek Baptist Church,
1372 Lane Avenue South, Jacksonville, Florida 32205,904-781-9151 - Johnmontgomery@ccbaptist.org