This is where our relationship with God starts: not with you loving Him, but with Him loving you.
January 12-13, 2019
Pastor Joe Wittwer
Getting what you really want
#3—Love: I want to love and be loved
Introduction and offering
How many of you are extroverts—you get energy from being with people? How many of you are introverts—you get energy from being alone? How many of you don’t know what type of vert you are? I have a question for the introverts. You are energized by being alone, but does that mean that you want to be alone all the time? That you don’t want anyone in your life? Of course not! Even the most introverted person wants to love and be loved.
This is one of our true desires. We want to love and be loved. We want to know that we matter deeply to someone, that we are valued, treasured and loved. We long to belong. Where does this desire come from?
It comes from God. Our true desires reflect God’s intentions for us. God created us for a relationship with Himself, and for relationships with each other. He made you to love and be loved. This true desire to love and be loved is from God—it’s the way He made us. It’s what He wants for us.
This is part 3 of our series, “True Desire: Getting What You Really Want.” The question is, “What do you really want?” We acknowledge that not everything we want is good for us. We also acknowledge that much of what we want will not satisfy our deepest longings. We want something, we get it, and soon, we want something else. So what do we really want? What are our deepest and truest desires? What are the things we want that truly satisfy? We’ve identified four things.
First, God: we want to experience Him. Not just know about Him, not just vaguely believe in Him, but really know Him, experience Him. The Bible says that God created you for Himself—for relationship. You were made for God, and so it’s no surprise that we have a true desire for God.
Second, change: we want to be better people. Like the apostle Paul, we each find ourselves doing what we don’t want, and not doing what we want. The Bible says that God’s destiny for you is that you become more like Jesus. That’s where He’s taking us. So it’s no surprise that we have a true desire for change.
Third, love: we want to love and be loved. That’s what we’re talking about today. You have to come back next week for number four! Our text for this series is found at the top of your outline.
Psalm 37:4 (p. 480) Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.
Delight in the Lord and He will give you the right desires and then bring them to pass. He will satisfy your true desires. It’s all about delighting in Him.
- True desire: I want to love and be loved.
I said that our true desires reflect God’s intentions for us. This is what He desires for us; this is how He wired us. Is this true of the desire to love and be loved? Absolutely. I want to look at this two ways: spiritually and socially.
First, we were created for God, to have a love relationship with Him. Two weeks ago, we read Colossians 1:16 that said, “all things were created through Him and for Him.” All things—that includes you—were created for Him. God made you for Himself. The creation story in Genesis 1-3 says that God made man, put him in the garden, and that God would come in the cool of the day to walk in the garden with man. Can you imagine? This was face-to-face fellowship. God and man walked together and talked. We were made for this: for a conversational relationship with God. What happened?
Of course, the first man rebelled against God, and hid from God, and human beings have been rebelling and hiding ever since. Our relationship with God was broken by our sin. But the good news (the gospel) is that the relationship is restored by Jesus! He came to forgive us, and bring us back to our Father. This is the arc of the Biblical narrative: Love shared, love lost, love regained. Creation, fall, restoration in Jesus. Please don’t miss this. Jesus didn’t come to make you more religious. He came to make you more alive. To restore your broken relationship with God. It’s not about religion and duty; it’s about a relationship of love. It’s your true desire: to love and be loved by God.
It’s why Jesus said this is the most important commandment. Matthew 22:34-40 (p. 849)
36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
37 Jesus replied: “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
Here is the most important thing you can do, your highest purpose: Love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength—love God with all you’ve got. It’s what you were made for. It’s what you truly long for. It’s your true desire.
But the creation story tells us that we are not only spiritual creatures, made for God, but social creatures, made for each other. Second, we not only need to love and be loved by God, but also by other people. Look at:
Genesis 2:18-25 (p. 2)
18 The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.”
Don’t miss this! The man is living in paradise, in unbroken love relationship with God! What else could he need? Everything is perfect! It turns out that he needed another human being. Up until this point in creation, everything has been good. At the end of every cycle in creation, God looked over what He had made and said, “It is good, it is good, it is good.” Over and over…until now: “It is not good.” What wasn’t good? For the man to be alone. He needed another human being.
ILL: We used to sing a chorus that said, “You’re all I need, you’re all I need, Jesus, you’re all I need.” I love it, and I get it. But one day I read this verse, and realized that the song wasn’t entirely true. If God was all we needed, it would still be just Adam and God in the garden. God would have never made Eve. It turns out that we need God, and we need each other. We are spiritual and we are social—and we need to love and be loved both ways.
Let’s read on:
19 Now the Lord God had formed out of the ground all the wild animals and all the birds in the sky. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. 20 So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds in the sky and all the wild animals. But for Adam no suitable helper was found.
So what’s going on here? Is this God saying to lonely Adam, “See, wouldn’t you like a nice puppy?” Well, sort of. God is helping Adam see that there is no other creature that corresponds to him. As Adam meets and names each animal, he is aware that none of them are like him. “That armadillo is cool—but I just can’t see us hanging out.” God is accentuating Adam’s loneliness, his desire to love and be loved by someone like himself. So God went to work.
21 So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs and then closed up the place with flesh. 22 Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man.
23 The man said,
“This is now bone of my bones
and flesh of my flesh;
she shall be called ‘woman,’
for she was taken out of man.”
24 That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.
25 Adam and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.
This beautiful story is not only the basis for our understanding of marriage—Jesus quotes verse 24 to explain God’s intentions for marriage—but it is also the basis for our understanding of human community. We need each other. No one is a lone ranger. No human being was ever made to live without human companionship and love. Just as we are spiritual creatures, made to love and be loved by God, we are also social creatures, meant to love and be loved by each other. This is our true desire. Which leads to the big question:
- How can I find love?
Let’s talk about finding love spiritually and socially.
- Spiritual: Love and be loved by God.
The first thing is that we need to stop looking for love in all the wrong places! We have this God-shaped hole in us, but we try to fill it with so many cheap substitutes. This is why the first of the Ten Commandments is, “You shall have no other gods before me.” Why is that first? God knows our tendency to look to other gods (small g), to delight in other things, to try to fill the hole inside us with something else. And He knows that all the other commandments, everything else He wants for us, is out of reach if we don’t have Him. So first, no other gods. Stop looking for love in all the wrong places.
What are some of those other places, other gods? Where are we looking for love? Discuss in small groups.
American gods: money, things, pleasure, comfort, amusement, adventure, achievement, sex, success, power, fame.
False religion. Did you know that the word “religion” comes from the Latin religare which means, “to bind, to restrict?” Religion is about the rules and restrictions that God places on us, what He requires of us. This is why we say that Religion is spelled D-O; Christianity is spelled D-O-N-E. Religion is about what you do for God; Christianity is about what God has done for you in Jesus. Religion is about you earning God’s love by doing all He requires; Christianity is about God freely giving you His love so that can do what He desires. Religion is about duty and obligation; Christianity is about love and relationship.
ILL: We all have duties and obligations, and of course we should keep them. But they don’t necessarily produce love. You should pay your mortgage, but that doesn’t mean you’ll love your bank. You should do your homework, but that doesn’t mean you’ll love your teacher. On the other hand, if you love your teacher, I’ll bet you do the homework.
If you think you’ll find love by becoming more religious, by keeping all the rules, you’ll end up disappointed. You’ll never be good enough. You’ll never feel like you’ve arrived and deserve to be love. You don’t earn God’s love; it’s a free gift. You don’t do the right thing so that He’ll love you. He already loves you…and that’s why we do the right thing.
So first, let’s ditch all the other gods, including religion, and let’s delight in the Lord. Focus on God and His excellencies. Receive His love for you. This is where our relationship with God starts: not with you loving Him, but with Him loving you.
1 John 3:1 (p. 1055)
See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!
The apostle John calls us to consider how God has loved us—what great love He has lavished on us, that we are called children of God. This is amazing!
ILL: Laina and I have five grown children, 2 adopted and 3 bio. People have said, “Oh you have two adopted and three of your own.” I always say, “No, we have five of our own—God just gave them to us in different ways.” I love my adopted sons every inch as much as the bio kids.
I can still remember when we picked them up as newborns. Andy was 3 days old; the sign over his basinet at Grays Harbor Hospital read “Baby X.” We called him that for months! No, we changed that immediately. The first thing we gave him was a new name: Andy Wittwer. We gave him our name, our love, our home, our attention and affection, our fortune—everything. It’s all his—all wrapped up in being our child, our son. See what great love we lavished on him, that he should be called the child of Joe and Laina!
That’s what John is saying! Look how much God loves us—He has made us His children! And if we’re His children, we are His heirs!
15 The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” 16 The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. 17 Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.
You are God’s children, His heirs. All that He has is yours! See how much the Father loves you—He has called you His children! Would you say this with me: “I am God’s dearly loved child.” Here’s the key: you need to believe that, and if you do, you can’t help but love Him back.
1 John 4:16–19 (p. 1056)
16 And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.
Look at the two verbs—what do we do? We know and we rely on. The word “rely on” is the Greek word for “believe” and it’s translated, “believe, rely on, trust in.” What do we know and rely on or believe in? God’s love for us. We know it and believe it—and that changes everything.
ILL: Let me tell you a story. Years ago, Laina and I were driving to Pendleton to see friends, and a young couple in our church asked if they could catch a ride to visit her family in the Tri-Cities. On the way home, they got into a roaring argument in the back seat—it was a screamer. Each of them was shouting, “You don’t love me. You’ve never loved me.” I pulled over at a rest stop. Doors opened and slammed. I asked the husband if they fought like this often. “All the time.” And does it end up here: “You don’t love me.” Yep. Every disagreement, every tension escalated until they doubted each other’s love, and the relationship itself was threatened.
When we resumed, I asked if I could give them some Biblical counsel, and quoted this verse: we know and believe the love God has for us. When you know and believe God loves you, then every trial or problem doesn’t shake your faith. Stuff happens, but I still know and believe that God loves me. My relationship with God isn’t threatened because of trouble or crisis, because I know and believe that He loves me. That’s settled. Period. Done.
I told them that the same could be true for their relationship. I asked each of them, “Do you love him/her?” “Yes,” they said. Then I asked, “Do you believe him/her?” Yes, they did. I did this with each of them a couple times until it sunk in. Knowing and believing that you are loved changes everything.
Do you know and believe that God loves you? Let’s go on:
God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. 17 This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. 18 There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. 19 We love because he first loved us. (Keep tab here.)
Notice that last phrase: we love because He first loved us. God loves you first. God went first! He loves you before you knew Him, before you loved Him, before you cared. He loves you first. And when you know and believe that He loves you, that’s when you love Him back. His love creates ours. God loves first!
Do you want to have a love relationship with God? Receive His love. Know and believe that He loves you, and you’ll love Him back. It doesn’t start with your love for Him, but with His love for you. He goes first.
When we know and believe God’s love for us, not only do we love Him, but we love one another too.
- Social: Love and be loved by one another.
Our true desire is not only to love and be loved by God, but to love and be loved by people. And this is where it gets dicey. God won’t fail us; people often do. It means that we have to approach our relationships with lots of grace. How many of you fail? Do you want grace when you fail? We have to be willing to give it to others when they fail.
We love God because He first loved us. And we love each other because He first loved us. Look at:
1 John 4:7-12 (p. 1056)
7 Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. We should love one another. But where does love start? It comes from God. We love because He first loved us. We often say, “Hurt people hurt people.” But the opposite is true too: “Loved people love people.”
Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. There it is again: this is love—it’s not that we love God, but that He loves us. And since He loves us, we ought to love one another. It starts with God—we love one another because He first loved us. Loved people love people—do you know and believe His love for you? And look what happens.
12 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. Do you see what John is suggesting? No one has seen God, but if we love one another, He lives in us. In other words, when we love one another, others can see God in us! The best way to make the invisible God visible is to love one another! The best apologetic is love. We’ll love far more people to Jesus than we’ll argue there. Jesus said it this way:
John 13:34–35 (p. 927)
34 “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.”
Love one another. But who went first? Jesus did. “Love one another as I have loved you.” Loved people love people—do you know and believe His love for you? And look what happens when we love one another: by this everyone will know that you are my disciples. Here is the ultimate proof that you follow Jesus. It’s not your doctrine (although that’s important). It’s not your righteousness (although doing the right things matter). It’s your love for one another.
Jesus intends us to be a community of love. He gave us one another and said, “Love one another.” Your true desire to love and be loved, to belong, to matter—here you go. Jesus meant for us to be the fulfillment of that true desire.
“But what about marriage or family? Didn’t God provide that so we could love and be loved?” Of course. Marriage and family are good gifts from God, and Genesis 2 indicates that God resolved Adam’s aloneness by giving him a spouse. But not everyone is married. Not everyone has a family. But everyone can belong to God’s family—married, single, young, old, black, white, rich, poor—you belong!
We’re to be a community of love, and if we do it well, the world will know that we belong to Jesus and that He’s real!
Do you give and receive love here? Or do you just come, consume a church service and go home? There’s a reason we push you so hard to go through Rooted, and to belong to a mission group. Christianity is a team sport. We can’t love one another and be lone rangers. We can only do this together. If you haven’t been through Rooted, take the plunge! What else are you going to do the next ten weeks? You can sign up online or at the Welcome Center.
Here’s how we’ll finish. We’re going to take a few minutes to sing, to reflect on and experience God’s love. We want you to know and believe that He loves you!