Christ's Love is Life
Recently theHeart spent three weeks walking through our mission statement line by line. Being reconciled to God. Being reconciled to each other. Through Christ's Love. Simple. Pastor Josh Anderson shares more about how the love of Christ can be experienced in our own death, life, and resurrection.
If you were able to join us for our Sunday gatherings at Watauga High School on September 22, you know that I decided to ditch my teaching script and simply speak from my heart about Christ's Love. For someone who is nervous about public speaking and scared to say the "wrong" thing, this was an incredibly vulnerable moment for me.
And yet my leap of faith was met with such amazing grace and love. The hugs, handshakes, and words of encouragement I received after teaching from my heart are a cherished and holy reminder of how real God truly is. I will always remember how people moved towards me, both physically and with their hearts.
I wanted to take this opportunity to share with you what I actually wrote about Christ's Love. And how the simplicity of it, I believe, can be found in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. You can read my message below. I've also included audio files of all three messages about The Heart of theHeart.
Today we're going to finish up our short teaching series called "The Heart of theHeart."
If you've been with us over the past couple of weeks, you know we’ve been going through our mission statement, which is…Reconciling people to God and each other through Christ’s Love. Simple.
And we’ve been looking closer at each line.
—Reconciled to God—Jason talked about how we are invited to move towards God, who is always moving towards us.
—Reconciled to each other—Graham talked about how we are invited to move towards one another in the difficult and joy-filled moments of life.
This morning I’ll be sharing on the last line of our mission statement:
—Through Christ’s Love. Simple.
Essentially, our mission at theHeart is a focus on 3 basic disciplines: Follow God, Share Life, Love People.
But for us to do this well, we cannot rely on our own strength or our own abilities. It can only be done well when we understand the fullness of Christ’s Love.
How do we do that?
Paul writes this in Ephesians 5:1-2:
"Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God."
Some translations of the Bible say, "Be imitators of God..."
Sounds simple enough.
But is it easy?
Paul is instructing us to follow the example of Christ’s life, death, and resurrection.
When we talk about “through Christ’s Love” we are talking about following Christ in every way.
Let me explain how I think we can experience reconciliation when we commit ourselves to our own death, resurrection, and life in Christ.
Let’s start with death. Yay.
Death is Personal
Through Christ’s Love, we are invited to die to ourselves.
We are invited to be made new.
And yet dying to our old selves can be the most difficult proposition. The most difficult step. Because it is the most personal.
"We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin."—Romans 6:6
For many of us, years of hurt, heartache, and hopelessness build up in our lives. And for some reason, we hold on to these things as though they are priceless to us.
We cherish these things. We hold tightly to them.
We won’t let go of the old regrets and mistakes because we believe these things are who we truly are.
Maybe someone convinced us of this lie. Or perhaps we’ve come to this awful misconception because of our circumstances.
We are enslaved by our shame, guilt, insecurity, and despair.
Death through Christ’s Love is personal because as Paul writes in Romans 6:6, we are brought to nothing.
Death is Costly
Death through Christ’s Love is also costly.
Paul writes in Galatians 5:24:
"Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires."
We are invited to throw off the shackles of our own selfish desires. Not because they are necessarily bad in and of themselves. But because the promise of Christ’s Love offers us so much more.
The trappings of this temporary world can distract us from the glory of God. And they continue our enslavement to an unfulfilled existence.
"The terrible thing, the almost impossible thing, is to hand over your whole self—all your wishes and precautions—to Christ.”—C.S. Lewis
That is because death through Christ’s Love costs us everything.
Death is Liberating
And yet, death through Christ’s Love is liberating.
The cross means we no longer have to crucify ourselves because Christ was crucified in our place.
Again in Galatians 2:20, Paul writes these incredible words of freedom in Christ:
"I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me."
Our dreams and desires are no longer ours alone. They are all driven by the love of Christ.
We can let go of the resentments and regrets that have built up in our lives.
We can lay the past to rest. Not because we bury it but because we have been liberated from the lies and deception. And we can move beyond all of it.
Death through Christ’s love is personal, it’s costly, and it is liberating.
After death is our resurrection through Christ’s Love.
Resurrection is Renewal
Resurrection is renewal.
And renewal is to be a way of life; not a one time, or once in a while, event.
Directing our love toward Christ, moving with Him in obedience to His voice, and clinging to Him. This is how we give up our life and receive the life of Christ. This kind of relationship with God brings constant renewal and revival into our lives.
Colossians 3:1 says,
"Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God."
We no longer look down into a grave of death. Through Christ’s Love, we can lift our heads high and see the eternal glory of God. And we are reminded that love and life go together.
"Where there is life there is love and where there is love there is life."—Pastor Josh
Being vitally connected to Jesus as our source of life is also our connection with love.
In this holy connection of life and love, we see that obedience and sacrifice must be motivated by love.
Sacrifice without love is faith built on works alone and will ultimately fail.
Sacrifice and obedience which are motivated by love are a work of God’s grace in us. They are an overflow of our love for Christ.
The difference is between operating in our strength, which is “works”, and operating in God’s power, which is “grace”.
Through Christ’s Love, God desires us to be His friend, not His slave.
Resurrection power is in you through Christ’s Love.
Jesus is the source of a resurrected life filled with constant renewal and revival.
“I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”—John 11:25-26
We are given new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Christ from the dead.
Life is Love
Through Christ, His love is our life. And our life is His love.
By focusing on that alone, we don’t have to succumb to the pressures and expectations and brokenness of this world.
"Since you died with Christ to the elemental spiritual forces of this world, why, as though you still belonged to the world, do you submit to its rules..."—Colossians 2:20
Through Christ, we are no longer governed by fear and doubt. We are no longer held back by past mistakes.
Instead, we are governed by hope and faith. And we move forward in Christ’s Love.
Every day, we can focus on the singular purpose of identifying with the life, death, and resurrection of Christ.
Through Christ, you and I have the opportunity to make all things new.
If we’ve been hurt, we can commit ourselves to heal through Christ’s Love.
If we’ve been shamed, we can commit ourselves to redemption through Christ’s Love.
If we’ve been broken, we can commit ourselves to make things whole through Christ’s Love.
In 2 Corinthians 5:18-19, we read:
"All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation."
Reconciliation comes when we move towards God and when we move towards one another through Christ’s Love.
When we get closer to one another. When we see one another. When we know one another. When we listen to one another.
It’s personal. It’s costly. And it’s liberating. And it can be that simple. Really.
"Community does not necessarily mean living face-to-face with others; rather, it means never losing the awareness that we are connected to each other. It is not about the presence of other people—it is about being fully open to the reality of relationship, whether or not we are alone."—Parker J. Palmer, author
We tend to complicate things instead of simply imitating Christ’s life and love.
Jesus followed God wherever He was called.
Jesus shared His life with those around him.
And He was always finding ways to move towards people and love them, especially those who were feared and forgotten.
We are called to do the same.
To move towards people who find themselves on the margins and edges. Those who struggle to connect.
I understand the desire for healthy boundaries, but let’s not use them to create a life with impenetrable barriers.
I understand the desire for strong convictions, but let’s not use them to convict people before we even get to know them.
I understand the desire for discipline, but let’s not use it to punish ourselves by pushing people away.
It is through Christ’s Love that we are compelled to follow God, share life, and love people.
Over time, the fullness of a Christ-centered life isn’t about doing each of these things perfectly or in the right order or of the right amount.
Instead, the Love of Christ governs everything we say, and do, and pursue in life. And eventually, all aspects of our life blend beautifully together.
Because through Christ’s Love, we are called to be reconciled to God and each other.
It's that simple.