We’re wrapping up a short, two-week series today called Uncomplicated. The fact is that Christianity is just not that complicated. Now, you would never know that if you looked at the state of the church today. Thousands of different denominations and doctrines have added a ton of complicated layers to the Christian faith. That’s what people do when they get hold of faith. They make it incredibly complex.
But Jesus simplifies things. In fact, He told us that Christianity is incredibly uncomplicated. In fact, it’s so uncomplicated that He summed it up in one word. And that’s what this series is all about.
Let me pray for us as we kick things off today.
I’m terrible at math. Like really, REALLY terrible. In fact, one of the main reasons I chose to go to Bible College is because there are no math classes. It’s why my wife is the Chief Financial Officer in our family. If I was in charge of our finances, we’d probably be in jail. My brain is just not wired for math.
I remember a day in elementary school. I was in math class, so I was automatically hating life. Then, the teacher handed out a worksheet and told us all to do all the problems on the sheet. And immediately, all the kids around me got started. And they were saying things like, “This is easy! This is SO easy!”
In fact, there were kids around me who got this whole worksheet done in no time. Meanwhile, I couldn’t even get started. I had no idea what to do, because all the problems on the worksheet were missing a math symbol. There were just numbers, but there was no plus sign, no minus sign, no multiplication sign. Just numbers. And I had no idea what I was supposed to do with these numbers.
I was already stressed out because I was in math class. And now, my stress was going through the roof because I had no idea what to do. It confirmed my worst fears. I really am a math moron. I’m going to flunk out of elementary school and become the world’s youngest hobo!
Finally, I whispered to the guy sitting next to me, “What are we supposed to do?”
And he pointed to the directions at the top of the paper. The directions consisted of one word. Subtract.
This sheet was filled with the most basic subtraction problems ever. Problems even a math moron like me could handle. But I didn’t do the most basic thing. I didn’t read the directions. And because I didn’t read the directions, what should have been so simple became incredibly complicated for me.
Some of you are automatically uncomfortable today because of where you are. You’re at church. Maybe you brought some bad past church experiences in here with you. Maybe you brought a sinful past, or even a sinful present, in here with you. For whatever reason, you’re feeling very uncomfortable because you’re here.
And then, you’re afraid that is going to get compounded by a complicated message from the pastor that you won’t understand.
Let me tell you upfront…I’m glad you’re here. And our goal is to make you feel as welcome and as at-home as possible.
And today is all about reading the directions. Jesus gave us the directions for Christianity, and it’s remarkably uncomplicated.
Check it out. Mark 12, starting in verse 28: “One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”
“The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’
The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:28-31, NIV)
It’s just not that complicated. Jesus said it’s all about love. Love for God and love for others. And that’s what this little series is all about.
Last week, we talked about what it means to love God. Today, we’re going to talk about what it means to love others.
In the book of John, Jesus said, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34-35, NIV)
This is not complicated. It’s actually really simple. But the fact that it is so simple is a problem for some people.
If you’ve been in the church for a while, you’ve probably heard someone say, “I’m just not getting fed here. I need to find another church that is deeper. I want to go deep.”
That’s what some people say, but a lot of the time, this is what they actually mean. “I want to hear messages that are so complicated that I don’t actually have to respond to it. I want my pastor to use big theological words that I don’t understand. I want him to use a lot of Hebrew and Greek. I want him to talk about things that theologians have been debating for thousands of years. Because if he preaches messages like that, I will convince myself that I’m getting fed, that I’m going deep. But in reality, I don’t understand any of it. And if I don’t understand what I hear, I’m not responsible for what I hear. I don’t have to actually do anything about it.”
When a lot of people say they want to go deep, this is what they actually mean. But that’s not the way things work here at Connect. The messages we preach are designed to be clear. Understandable. Simple. It doesn’t mean that we don’t tackle tough truths, but we will break those tough truths down into simple, understandable language.
And the reason we do that is because we actually want people to respond to the truth of God. If you understand it, that makes you responsible for it. It means that you actually have to choose what you’re going to do with it.
That makes things more uncomfortable. But it also sets the table for lives to be changed. And that’s why we do what we do.
Jesus’ command to love others is not complicated. It’s actually quite simple. And the very fact that it’s simple means that it demands a response from us.
Look again at what He said here in John 13. Key in on the words in yellow. “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34-35, NIV)
Jesus told us that the second greatest command in all of Scripture is to love others. It is second only to the command to love God.
But He also tells us that love is not some abstract, indefinable quality. In this passage, Jesus gives us the definition of love. The definition is Him. He told us to love others in the same way that he has loved us. He is the definition of what it means to love others.
So how does Jesus love us? If we want to love others the way He loves us, that’s where we have to start. How does Jesus love us? What does it mean to love others as Jesus loves us? We’re going to work through that this morning.
First of all, Jesus loves immediately. Jesus doesn’t place any qualifications or stipulations on His love for us. He just loves us immediately. We don’t have to do anything to earn it or deserve it. He doesn’t tell us, “If you do this and this and this, then I’ll love you.” There are no qualifiers. There are no prerequisites. There are no terms or conditions or red tape to work through. There is just immediate love.
The closest thing in our experience is probably a new baby. Moms and dads, remember the moment your child was born. The moment where the doctor said, “It’s a boy” or “It’s a girl.” The moment that you saw your baby for the very first time. You loved that child immediately. It is the perfect example of love at first sight.
Now, this child had done NOTHING for you. They hadn’t fulfilled any preconditions. They hadn’t checked off any prerequisites. The only thing they did was show up. And yet you loved them immediately, because this is your child.
That’s the closest human example I can think of to describe how Jesus loves us. And even that example falls incredibly short.
Jesus loves us simply because we are present. We are here. We are His children. We show up, and He immediately loves us.
That’s how Jesus loves us. And Jesus told us to love others in the same way.
So let me ask you, do people have to earn your love? What are the prerequisites? What are the terms and conditions that are attached to your love?
Do they have to have a certainly personality that agrees with your personality? Do they have to treat you a certain way before you will love them? Do they have to love you first?
Is your love conditional based on sexual preference? Is it based on political opinions? Is it based on religious affiliation? Can you love an atheist or an agnostic? A Muslim or a Jew or a Hindu?
Is your love based on a person’s status? Is it based on what this person can do for you?
If we are honest, our love has preconditions attached to it. We have all kinds of stipulations and prerequisites that make love a much more complex thing. But Jesus calls us to something that is much more uncomplicated. Just love immediately. Don’t ask questions. Don’t have preconditions. Love just because someone showed up. Love immediately.
That’s how Jesus loves us. In Romans 5, the Apostle Paul reminds us, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8, NIV)
Jesus didn’t wait for us to live up to a certain standard. He didn’t wait for us to get things right before He loved us. He loved us while we were still sinners. He gave up EVERYTHING for us even though we had done NOTHING for Him. His love for us doesn’t come with prerequisites. He loves us immediately.
And as people who are immediately loved by Jesus, we are called to live with an immediate love for others. Love meets people where they are. Not where they should be. Not where we want them to be. Love meets them immediately, right where they are.
Bob Goff said, “God’s love isn’t as complicated as our discussions about it are. Keep it simple – Love everybody. No matter what.”
In other words, love immediately. Terms and conditions and checklists and prerequisites slow things down. That’s not how Jesus loves us, and that’s not how He calls us to love others. Our love is supposed to be immediate. We have to learn to live at the speed of love.
Loving others like Jesus loves us means that we love immediately. It also means that we love sacrificially.
Love does not count the cost beforehand. Love is completely sacrificial.
That’s how Jesus loves us. A lot of people know John 3:16, but check this out. This is 1 John 3:16.
John writes, “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.” (1 John 3:16, NIV)
I love how John says this. “This is how we know what love is…” In other words, if it wasn’t for this, we would really have no idea what love is. This is what defines love for us.
“This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us.”
The cross of Jesus Christ is the definition of love. Jesus laid down His life, meaning He gave it away. The cross wasn’t forced on Jesus. He wasn’t drafted. He volunteered.
He laid down His life FOR US. It was completely sacrificial. It was 100% for our benefit, not His own.
That’s love. Love never gives a thought to self, but it is completely selfless. It is completely sacrificial.
That’s how Jesus loves us. He laid down His life for us. And then John says, “And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.”
We are called to live with the same kind of sacrificial love that Jesus gave us. If loving somebody doesn’t cost you something, then you are not truly loving them. Love doesn’t count the cost, but that doesn’t mean the cost isn’t there. When we love, there is sacrifice attached to it. It’s automatic.
Which is probably why we are often so poor at love. That’s probably why so many of us keep relationships at surface-level. Because surface-level relationships don’t cost us anything. But when a relationship is based on love, it will automatically cost us something. Relationships come with a price tag attached.
But relationships are worth it. Living in loving community is not optional for us as believers. We are called to something more than just sitting in the same room for an hour and 15 minutes on Sunday. We are called to live in community. We are supposed to live as a family.
Showing up for a service once a week doesn’t cut it, because that’s way too surface-level. Now, it’s easier. It’s safer. Surface-level relationships don’t cost you anything. But surface-level relationships also don’t live up to Jesus’ command of love.
He commands us to love others the way He loves us, which means we love immediately. We love sacrificially.
And we love offensively.
Love is offensive. In fact, if our lives of love are not offensive to someone, then we are probably not loving others as completely as we should.
Jesus offended people all the time with His love. Listen to this scene that Luke describes in his gospel. “Then Levi held a great banquet for Jesus at his house, and a large crowd of tax collectors and others were eating with them.
But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law who belonged to their sect complained to his disciples, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?”
Jesus answered them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” (Luke 5:29-32, NIV)
The Pharisees and the teachers of the law were offended that Jesus was having dinner with “sinners.” These religious elitists would never have eaten with those kinds of people. In the first century, who you shared a meal with was a really big deal. If you ate with someone, it was a sign of acceptance. It signified a relationship. It was a sign of love.
And Jesus had the audacity to eat with sinners. He offended religious people by loving sinful people.
And it’s a good thing for us that He still does the same thing today. If Jesus didn’t love sinful people, I’d be in a world of hurt. And so would you. And so would everyone else on this planet. Because in case you’re wondering, there is only one kind of people…sinful people.
And Jesus loves sinful people. And He calls us to love sinful people.
But when you love REALLY sinful people, it will offend REALLY religious people. It happened to Jesus. It will happen to us.
There is a ministry that I really believe in called xxxchurch. They minister to people who are struggling or addicted to pornography. In fact, they have accountability software that you can download. And I highly recommend that you do.
But they also have a ministry to people who work in the adult industry. Their slogan is simple…Jesus loves porn stars.
And as you can imagine, they take an unbelievable amount of criticism for this. They get criticized for going to strip clubs and porn conventions, trying to reach people who work in this industry with the love of Jesus.
“Jesus loves porn stars” is highly offensive to religious people. But stop for a minute and ask this question. Why would this be offensive? Does Jesus love porn stars? Of course He does! So why are religious people offended by it? Because it shows love to sinful people.
But that is exactly the kind of love that Jesus lived out. He loved sinful people with an offensive kind of love. And here at Connect, we are determined to be the kind of church that loves offensively.
So if you think you can never be loved by a church because of your past, because of what you’ve done, here’s my challenge to you. Give Connect a try. Just come and hang out with us for a while. You may not like everything you hear. You may not agree with everything you hear. And we’re okay with that. But one thing I can guarantee…you will be welcomed. You will be loved.
Our church is committed to offensive love. We are committed to loving sinful people, because sinful people are the only kind of people there are.
We love sinful people, because we want to see them become saved people. We love lost people because we want them to become found people.
That’s how Jesus loved. He loved immediately. He loved sacrificially. He loved offensively. And He loved missionally.
His love was attached to His mission. In fact, His love WAS His mission.
Jesus told us what His mission was in Luke 19:10. Jesus said, “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” (Luke 19:10, NIV)
Jesus’ love compelled Him to come to our world on a rescue mission. Because we were lost in our own sin, and we could never get out of that mess on our own. We could never, ever live good enough lives to work our way out of our brokenness. So Jesus came and did what we couldn’t do. He lived a perfect, sinless life. And then He became the perfect sacrifice for our sin when He died on the cross. And then He rose from the dead three days later, defeating sin and death and giving us a brand new life.
And all of it was prompted by His missional love. His love prompted His mission of redemption and rescue.
When Jesus tells us to love others the way He loves us, it means that we have a missional love. It means that we love people enough to share the gospel with them. We love them enough to care about them now, but also about their eternity.
We say it nearly every week here at Connect. Our church is all about Jesus. We’re all about the gospel. We want to see as many people as possible come to know Jesus as their Savior and Lord. We are all about loving people by giving them the good news of Jesus.
That’s why we do things like Sports Camp. Next week, we will get to share the love of Jesus with almost 300 kids, and their entire families.
But here’s the thing about those numbers. Every number has a name. Every number has a face. Every number has a story.
Here’s some of the faces from last year. While we’re absolutely pumped about a record attendance at Sports Camp this year, we’re even more excited for every individual kid and every individual family to experience the love of Jesus.
A lot of these families are struggling. A lot of them are broken. Every year, we have kids at Sports Camp who have literally never even heard the Name of Jesus. And we get to be the ones to tell them about Him. We get to be the ones to shine the light of the gospel into families from all over this county.
So next week, when you get tired…when you get irritable…when fatigue sets in and you start to get snippy with your family or with other volunteers at Sports Camp…just stop and remember what it’s all about. Yes, it’s hot. Yes, it’s exhausting. Yes, it puts a strain on your schedule for an entire week.
But love is immediate, meaning we have to be ready to give it no matter what. And love is sacrificial. It will cost you something. It’s supposed to. And love is offensive. Not everyone will approve of what we do at Sports Camp, and we don’t give a rip about that. And love is missional. It’s all about Jesus. It’s all about sharing the gospel.
That’s what Sports Camp is all about. That’s what our church is all about. Because that’s what Christianity is all about. It’s costly, but it’s not complicated. It is both difficult and simple.
But it’s worth it. It’s worth loving others like this because this is how Jesus loves us.
Dr. Tim Keller wrote, “The gospel is this: We are more sinful and flawed in ourselves than we ever dared believe, yet at the very same time we are more loved and accepted in Jesus Christ than we ever dared hope.”
That’s what we’re all about at Connect. That’s what we’re all about as followers of Jesus. And that’s the offer that we extend to you every week. Every week, you have a chance to respond to the gospel. You have a chance to respond to the One who can give you more love and acceptance than you could ever find anywhere else. His Name is Jesus. And we’d love to introduce you to Him today.