Bethel Baptist Church
Worship Service @ Home
7 June 2020
Service available on Youtube, or as text (below), or for audio see the Podcasts page.
Thanks to Mo for this word!
Having gone through a year of treatment for cancer, Mo has come through unscathed (“Praise the Lord” – PTL! Mo was praising the Lord throughout her testimony! PTL!). She had her last scan in February and has been discharged and given the all clear by Christie’s who are very pleased with her. Christie’s are also shocked that Mo never once had any side-effects, having gone through a year of Radium and Chemo treatment. Mo has continually told them that it is because the Lord has been with her. She has also testified to this, that the Lord is with her, when staff have asked her why she looks so happy.
Let’s continue to remember Mo in our prayers as she goes to Macc. Hospital for check-ups every 3 months this year, and every 6 months next year and over the next 5 years. Mo says she is so looking forward to coming back to Church! Also, to going back to work in the Eye Society and volunteering at East Cheshire Hospice. She is also still encouraging her Chemo Group on the phone offering them that hope of someone who has come through it all! PTL and thank you Mo!
(thanks also to Mo)
And this is His command: to believe in the name of His Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as He commanded us1 John 3:23
We sometimes hear it said that “Christians don’t have a monopoly on love” – the answer to this is that Jesus Christ does and He has redefined the whole meaning of love – He has stretched it’s boundaries out eternally, infinitely, immeasurably. And it is required of every believer to love as Christ loved us, and loves us. Every believer who imitates Christ in this respect, has that exclusive possession in their hearts, the love of Christ. It might be that we have it but we don’t always do it, as Christ does it! “The new thing that Christianity brought into the world was that ‘you must love one another’ just as Jesus loved us … The cross reveals the heart of God as well as that of Christ” (Morris).
John was writing to the House Churches in Ephesus over which he had a pastoral oversight. There were serious difficulties amongst them and without going into too much details there were those true believers who were very much one with John and his balanced teaching. Then there were those who thought of Jesus as less than God, and others who thought of Jesus as less than human. John teaches us that Jesus is fully human:
That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched – this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us. We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ.1 John 1:1-3
cf. 1 John 4:2-3. And that Jesus is fully God:
We know also that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true. And we are in him who is true by being in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life.1 John 5:20
cf. John 10:30, John 10:38.
Such led to friction amongst them, with some leaving the fellowship. cf.
They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us.1 John 2:19
Wrong belief leads to unethical behaviour of one kind or another. John having focussed on God’s character as Father (1 John 3:1-3), highlights love as a condition for living as God’s children – Be Loving (1 John 4:7-5:4);
See 4 other conditions noted by Smalley –
- Renounce sin (1 John 3:4-9);
- Be obedient (1 John 3:10-24);
- Reject Worldliness (1 John 4:1-6);
- Keep the Faith (1 John 5:5-13).
As mentioned last week, fulfilling these conditions, living in this world like Jesus (1 John 4:17), leads to ‘Confidence’ which John concludes with in 1 John 5:14-21.
There is a need for us believers to be continually checking our hearts. It is something to avoid, a cold legalism in which we carry out the commands but from stone cold, rock hard hearts. This was Jesus’ indictment of the religious leaders: “but I know you. I know that you do not have the love of God in your hearts” (John 5:42). The encouragement is that, even from this group, mighty transformation can result upon meeting Jesus, as one of them later wrote about, e.g. doing things for God but not with the love of God in our hearts:
“If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.”1 Corinthians 13:1-3
This love was so important to Jesus that He had no intention of condemning Peter, (for denying Him three times), after He had risen from the dead, but rather made a beeline to Peter’s heart with these immortal words:
‘Simon son of John do you love me more than these?’ ‘Yes, Lord,’ he said, ‘you know that I love you.’ Jesus said, ‘Feed my lambs.’ Again Jesus said, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me?’ He answered, ‘Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.’ Jesus said, ‘Take care of my sheep.’ The third time He said to him, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me?’ Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, ‘Do you love me?’ He said, ‘Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.’ Jesus said, ‘Feed my sheep’.John 21:15-17
Let us pray right now before continuing and ask the Lord to search our hearts as He did Simon Peter and see if there is anything / anyone there before Him:
“Lord search my heart and show me if there is anything / anyone there before You. Help me to love You first and foremost more than anything else and anyone else, and help me to put that love into practice by loving others as You love us, in Jesus Christ, Amen”
As mentioned previously, John includes the word love 46 times in this short letter of 105 verses (did you find them all?). There is a tradition to the effect that when John was a very old man he had to be helped to the front of the church and could not muster the energy to say many words but what he did say week in week out was these words: “Little Children, love one another.”
Some of those in attendance, a little annoyed at the same words week in, week out, eventually asked him: “Teacher, why do you always say this?” John’s reply: “Because it is the Lord’s commandment and if it alone is kept, it is sufficient.”
And how has Jesus commanded us to love?
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
The standard is no longer how we love ourselves: “… love your neighbour as yourself …” (Leviticus 19:18), but as Jesus loves us! This is further explained:
My command is this: love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.John 15:12-13
When I was about 14 years old, and my younger brother 13, we used to go everywhere together.
One day we were out swimming in the sea having great fun, when, all of a sudden, the tide started to turn and there was a very powerful current taking the sea back out including all of us who were swimming. After some time of really trying to get back in, I started to panic thinking I’m not going to be able to get back to the shore. However, suddenly, I found myself past this current pushing me out and was able to finally get back to the shore and I just slumped on the sand feeling exhausted. It was then my heart sank as I saw my younger brother still struggling to get back in. As much as I wanted to I couldn’t summon the courage or energy to go and rescue him. Until then I thought I would have died to save my younger brother, as I used to protect him from others in school, as you do. But here was the harsh reality of the depth of my love for him. Thankfully, and shortly afterwards, he made that breakthrough, and was able to make his way safely to the shore.
I think of this when I read this passage of Jesus questioning Peter. Prior to his denying Jesus, Peter had been quite bold insisting in effect that he loved Jesus more than the rest and would never deny Him:
‘You will all fall away,’ Jesus told them, Peter declared, ‘Even if all fall away, I will not.’ ‘Truly I tell you,’ Jesus answered, ‘today – yes, tonight – before the cock crows twice you yourself will disown me three times.’ But Peter insisted emphatically, ‘Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you’.Mark 14:27-31
After Jesus questioned Peter about his love Peter has lost a lot of self-confidence, but has more confidence in Jesus, which is a good thing, for he starts his answer not about himself first and what he will do, but about his Lord: “Lord You know all things; You know that I love You” (John 21:17). Peter was reinstated, Jesus was satisfied: “The one thing about which Jesus questioned Peter prior to commissioning him to tend the flock was love. This is the basic qualification for Christian service … other qualities may be desirable, but love is completely indispensable (cf. 1 Cor. 13:1-3)” (Morris). It’s not for us to say the great things we will, or will not do for God. But it is for us to humbly trust in the Lord to enable us to do the things He requires of us, especially in the matter of loving one another as Christ loves us. (P.S. Peter eventually went on to be martyred for Christ!)
In the process of looking for a Youth Worker, as well as a Children and Families’ Worker, we have been in touch with GEM regarding them supplying a Youth Worker. They have sent me a pack in which there is a statement of their values e.g. “In matters of sexuality, some within the Christian community have denigrated and abused those who struggle with their sexuality outside the cultural and scriptural bounds. Rather than reaching out to these people with compassion and an offer of hope, some people within the Christian community have vilified such people and portrayed them as the “enemy”. This has been wrong. Sexual sin is sin and must be taken very seriously, but those committing it remain people for whom Christ has gone to the ultimate length to provide a way of restoration: “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make Him out to be a liar and His word is not in us.” (1 John 1:8-10). These matters are of great consequence for everyone. However, for those who step forward to lead others in discipleship and faith, they are especially crucial. Moreover, for anyone who voluntarily joins an organization dedicated to proclaiming and enacting the kingdom of God in both grace and truth, and declaring the hope of redemption and life with God, these things are essential, Amen!”
Heavenly Father, you certainly practice what You preach. You didn’t just shout down from heaven that You so love us, You demonstrated it with the ultimate act of love, the giving of Your only beloved Son. Now You call us to imitate You. Lord, humanly speaking, it is impossible for us to love like this, but You have poured out Your love into our hearts through the Holy Spirit whom You have given to each one of us who believe in Your Son. Help us to let this love out in blessings to those we meet, those who visit Bethel, those of our brothers and sisters we are in fellowship with daily, that people might know we are Your disciples, in and through Jesus Christ, Amen!