I want you to lean back in your seat, and I want you to think about what will come into your mind as I say, “God loves you.” What thoughts come? What emotions? Honestly.
For some it’s, like, peace… comfort… reassurance. For others, it’s a fact. I intellectually believe it. But I don’t feel it very much. Or down deep I don’t think He could really love me. I’m unlovable.
For others, it’s like this sentence, this truth but it’s nebulous. It’s not concrete. You can’t get your arms around it. It’s, “Okay, He loves me but I want to experience it.”
And then there’s some of you that every time you hear, “God loves you,” there’s a response instantaneously of warmth, and strength, and power, and a sense of fortitude that, “I can face whatever comes my way, whenever it comes my way, whomever comes my way, circumstances and relationships because God loves me and is for me. Who could be against me?” That’s what I long for in my life but I think we’re all on a journey there.
Sometimes, we think that it’s just an intellectual issue but often we experience His love the most when we need it the most. King David writes about his experience of God’s love.
This is a man who was promised to be king and finds himself dodging spears, hiding in caves, and having his life threatened. This is a man that had more opportunity with God but in a weak moment commits adultery and then gets a contract murder set up and lives with that shame hidden for over a year.
But when David wants to talk about what his experience of God’s love is, it’s not vague, it’s not nebulous, he writes in Psalm 103, “The Lord is compassionate. He’s gracious. The Lord is slow to anger. He’s abounding, multiplying and steadfast, loyal love.”
And he would say, in the midst of his failure, “He doesn’t deal with us according to our sins, and doesn’t reward us according to our iniquities, for as high as the heavens are above the earth so great is God’s steadfast, loyal, immovable love toward those who fear Him.”
The apostle John, when he was putting his arms around what it means to be loved by God, the last of the apostles, on an island in Patmos. All the others had been martyred, life’s been hard, persecution has been real. His life threatened. And he would write in I John 4, “There is no fear in love because perfect love casts out fear. We love because He first loved us.”
When I try and get my arms around, “God loves Chip,” here’s the statement that I go over in my mind. “God loves you, His love is constant, unconditional, infinite, undeserved, and always seeking your highest and best interests.”
I personalized that, “God’s love for me.” It’s constant. God never has a bad day. He’s never moody. It’s unconditional. He loves you when you’ve blown it, He loves you when you’re doing great. It’s infinite. For reasons, totally apart from anything you’ve ever done, or ever will do, He has chosen you and you’re the object of His affection. You’re precious to Him.
And He wants to express and always give you the very highest and best.
Often, He gives us commands we don’t like, and asks us to do things that are hard, and surrender in ways that are difficult, out of His love - to make sure we get the best in relationships, to make sure we get the best for the future. Because He’s a Father, you’re His child, and you matter.
God’s love isn’t just passive, though, it turns into traction and action. When you really love someone you gotta do something and so the love of God, His love forgives our sin. His love removes our shame. His love heals our wounds and births new life.
Out of God’s love He provides strength for today and out of His love there’s hope for tomorrow. Out of His love He gives you power to change and break addictions and make radical changes because you know you’re secure.
Because He cares. Because He won’t let you down. And He gives peace to your soul.
Sharing the love begins with experiencing it first-hand. At this very moment, God deeply, passionately loves and wants to help everyone you know. The God that I just described, the God that forgave David of adultery and murder, the God who John would say, in the midst of all of life, perfect love casts out fear. That God deeply, passionately loves every person you know. Every person in your family, every person in your neighborhood, every person at work, He loves them.
It’s not if. It’s at this very moment. So ask yourself, “How will they know He loves them? Who will show them? Who will tell them?”
II Corinthians chapter 5, we’ll pick it up in verse 17 because that’s where most of us have lived. Something radical has happened. We’re in Christ. So in verse 17 it says, “Therefore if anyone is in Christ he is a new creation. The old has passed away, the new has come. All this is from God who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation.
“Namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting men’s trespasses against them. And He’s committed to us this message, this message of reconciliation. We are, therefore, Christ’s ambassadors,” we’re His representatives; we’re the bridge between His unfailing, unconditional, steadfast, loyal love and the people that we know. With all the hurts that they have, just like us.
“We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you for Christ’s sake: Be reconciled to God. God made Him, Jesus, who knew no sin, to be sin,” or a sin offering, “so that we in Him might become the very righteousness of God.”
I want to help everyone in this room discover what I call your spiritual love language. What I can tell you, historically, and what I can tell you in terms of America is only about one out of ten or two out of ten Christians, followers of Christ actively, intentionally, and regularly share the love of God with other people.
And I think there’s a reason for that. I think some of us think there’s only one way you can do it. The Bible doesn’t give us just one way. I’m going to give you six ways from Scripture. There’s six different love languages. And there’s none that are better than the others.
But what I want you to know is there’s, imagine, if you will, like six different kinds of shoes and your foot will fit into a different kind of shoe. There is a natural, normal way that God has made you and prepared for you to share His love with other people.
Number one is what I call “Peter’s direct approach.” This approach is for those who personally have the spiritual gift of evangelism or often an outgoing, bold personality. They can clearly articulate the message of who Jesus is. And you can often do this with people that you’ve never met. You can boldly, clearly, share the gospel, answer questions, do it in a caring and non-pushy way, with gentleness and respect. And it just seems natural to you.
This is Acts chapter 2. Peter, despite his personal fears, all these people are now speaking in unknown languages declaring the glory of God and the people say, “These people are drunk!” And Peter says, “No! It’s nine o’clock in the morning!” And he steps up and does what he never dreamed he could do.
And he says, “This one whom you crucified is both Lord and Christ.” And the Scripture says, “They were pierced to the heart, ‘What shall we do?’ He says, ‘Repent and believe in the name of Jesus.’” And three thousand people come to Christ.
I don’t think Peter ever saw himself doing that but in that moment it’s a direct approach. It’s not just with large groups. Remember Philip? Philip was walking, God said, “I want you to go.” And there’s this Ethiopian and the chariot. And he’s just listening. And he says, “Do you understand what you’re saying?” And he goes, “No, how can I?” He gets up, he’s never met him before, clearly, directly explains Isaiah 53, 4, 55. The man trusts Christ, and a few miles down the road he’s baptized in a pool.
There’s some of you that are just gifted to clearly, boldly, talk to people, some that you’ve never known and sometimes it’s an outgoing personality, sometimes it’s a spiritual gift of evangelism, and sometimes you’re an introvert with an unexplained ability and a love in your heart to share directly with people.
Unfortunately this, I think, has been sold as, “The Way.” Everyone needs to be able to do this. I don’t think everyone is made to do that. I think this is one very important way but if we, most of us, if we think that’s how you have to do it, we think, “You know what? I don’t think that’s for me.”
As someone wisely, or at least astutely, observed, there’s one thing that those who don’t follow Christ, and those who do follow Christ, have in common. They’re both uncomfortable with evangelism.
The strengths of this approach are it communicates the gospel directly, concisely, often to lots of people. The weakness is if not done with sensitivity it can come off pushy and uncaring. There’s some people that kind of have this zeal. You’ve probably met one or two of them where they’re just pushy and over the top and, “Jesus loves you.” And you’re thinking, “He may but boy I don’t like you.” Right? Been there?
So, could that be you? On a scale of one to ten, okay, every time I want you to actually write down a number. And don’t write down number five.
Spiritual love language number two. It’s Paul intellectual approach. This is an approach for those who like giving logical, and reasonable presentations of the faith. They lay out sound explanation, you like to work with concepts and ideas, present a case, often somewhat like a lawyer would.
You allow the other person to ask questions. You supply them with answers through your relationship. You tend to like to study science, archaeology, prophecy, and you find yourself reading books on apologetics.
This is Acts 17. The apostle Paul actually is waiting for some of his friends to meet him and, early in the book, we find out he’s getting kind of discouraged. And so he’s kind of lonely, and he’s walking around Athens, and there’s idols everywhere.
I mean, they got gods for everyone, everywhere. And here’s a god, it says, “To the unknown God.” It was kind of like, “In case we miss one, here’s an unknown one.” And so he goes where the intellectuals hang out, to Mars Hill, the stoics are there, and the epicureans are there, and Paul, just out of compassion says, “Could I have a word?” And, “Yes.” He goes, “You know, I noticed you have this monument to the unknown God. I actually know Him, personally.” “Oh, really?” “Yeah, would you like me to tell you about Him?”
And as you read there in Acts 17, he talks about the God who created all that there is and the God in whom we move and live and have our being and the God who can’t be contained by anything, who is infinite and all-knowing and he begins to deal with and give rational answers to the intellectuals of his day. He even starts to quote some of their own poetry.
There’s some of you, you are made to answer the questions that honest, genuine people with questions about, “Could you actually not have to throw your brains in the trash and be a follower of Jesus?” And your answer is, “Yes.”
And the strength of this is you give people hope, and you can talk to people in ways that a lot of us never could. The weakness on this one is that some people get so excited about the answers they become a mini lawyer.
I’ve been in places where people say, “Oh man! I had this amazing conversation with this guy, he was an antagonist, and kind of an atheist and, man, we had this debate, and I said this, and he said that, and I answered with this, and he said this, and I answered with that. It’s kind of like, wow. I really beat him up. I showed him how right I was.”
And I’m thinking, “I don’t think that’s the goal.” I think the goal is, with love and gentleness, to let him know how much you care, and in humility to say, “I think you have some very difficult questions that deserve clear answers shared in humility.” That’s what you all do. Could that be you?
A one? “I could never imagine doing that.” A ten! “That’s me.” Which, write down a number. Like, don’t do five. At least do four. Don’t do five, at least do six.
Because what I want to do is I want to give you six snapshots so you can begin to think, “You know what? Maybe that’s not my love language, spiritually, but God has this infinite love and He wants to share it with these people and He’s going to use me to build a bridge. He’s going to, I’m going to be a conduit, so I want to discover the way that He’s made me to do it.”
The third love language is the blind man’s testimonial approach. This is an approach that is natural for people who like to share how God has changed their life. It’s just down to earth, honestly telling someone, “This is what God did in me, this is how my life is currently changing, here’s some of the honest struggles.” You’re willing to be vulnerable.
This is what Theresa did last week in our message. She just shared her testimony. She just shared, “This is where I’ve been, this is how God gave me strength, this is how God sustained me, this is how He changed my life.”
It’s just sharing what you’ve seen, what you’ve heard, and what you’ve experienced. I get this from John 9. The story is about Jesus and the disciples, and they’re walking along, and as they’re walking along there is a man who has been blind from birth, and the disciples, with their presuppositions and faulty theology, say, “Jesus, could you tell us. Is this man blind because of his sin or the sin of his parents?”
Presuming that anytime something bad happens to someone it must be because of their sin and Jesus goes, “Wrong presupposition. Neither. God actually has a plan for this man for His glory.” And you can read the story. It’s one I don’t hardly want to, it’s like a great movie I don’t want to spoil it for you. But he takes mud and puts it on his eyes, and tells him to go wash in the pool of Siloam.
And this guy, this is great. Non-educated, beggar speaking to the intellects of his day, “All I know, sirs, is I was blind but now I see.” Whether he’s a sinner or not, I don’t know. It just would seem to me that no one could give eyes and seeing to the blind unless God was with him.
You know what? Your testimony is irrefutable. No one can tell you you have not had the experiences that you’ve had. And just to say to people, you know, you don’t have to have all the apologetics, you don’t have to be able to articulate everything. But in a short conversation, in a medium conversation, you can just share, “This is my story.”
I got a lady who sent me an email this week. It was so encouraging. She sent it to Theresa and myself. And she said, “I have good friendships, but I’ve honestly never really taken the step to communicate Christ’s love.”
And so she decided, “I prayed after last week’s message, I’m really going to do this.” And so one of the people that she knew she decided they were having dinner. And so at dinner she just asked a number of very specific questions, and heard this lady’s story.
She goes, “I heard things I just, I had no idea about her life.” And guess what the lady did? She turned and said, “Well, what’s your story?” She said, “I found myself telling her about my life and what Christ had done and who Jesus is.” And as this lady in our church just shared her story, the lady said, “I have never heard anything like this in my life.”
How many people in your relational network that you pass by, or you work with, or you see as you take a walk with the dog, or, you know, when you’re sitting there while the kids are playing baseball or soccer, or you’re on the elliptical or something at the gym, and you’ve kind of built a relationship.
How many of them have never, ever heard of the Jesus who you know, who saved you, and loved you, and has forgiven you and… Maybe the testimonial approach is how you could share it.
One, “I could never imagine myself telling anyone my story.” Ten, “You know, there’s a lot of things I can’t do but I could probably do this one.” You got it? Write down a number.