daily Broadcast

Teddy Bear Hugs from Above

From the series He Holds Me Forever

Teddy bears are only for kids, right? Wrong. No matter how old, or how tough we are, there’s a secret place in our soul that longs to love and be loved, just for who we are. Theresa Ingram talks about reflecting the heart of God as we reach out and love one another.

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Message Transcript

What this lesson is about, is loving one another.

And I was trying to come up with a title for this message. And all I could think of, every time I was thinking of loving one another was teddy bears. That’s the only picture that kept coming to my mind. And I don’t know if you have all come up here and walked past all these teddy bears, but they are just adorable. You have to come up and look at all of them. And I have just never outgrown my love for stuffed animals. I love them. And anytime I pass them in the store, when I see a teddy bear, I always have to go and look at it. And Chip thinks I’m nuts, because I stop at every stuffed animal that I pass, because I have to touch it, because they look so cuddly and so inviting. And you know, when a child is sick or when they are sad, many times they are given a teddy bear. There’s just something about how cuddly they are that brings comfort and helps a child feel loved. And so, I thought a teddy bear would be a good picture for us to remember of loving one another.

We reflect the heart of God when we love one another. It’s a reflection of His heart. And in the book of 1 John, we find out what it means to love one another as children of God. The book of 1 John tells us how it happens. How does it work? Why are we to love one another?

John the apostle wrote this book and he walked with Christ and he saw Christ. He knew Him intimately and he saw how He lived, he saw how He taught, he saw how He cared and how He sacrificed for people. And John experienced that love in his own life. And he wrote this epistle of 1 John to help believers come to have an assurance of their salvation. How they knew for sure that they belonged to Him, to the family of God. And he wrote this book in very simple words.

And so, we are going to look just briefly at the book of 1 John and make observations about: what does it teach us about loving one another? And so, the first thing that we see here is that we are commanded to love one another. It’s a command given to us by God. In 1 John 2:7 and 8, he says, “Dear friends, I am not writing a new commandment for it is an old one you have always had right from the beginning. This commandment to love one another is the same message you heard before, yet, it is also new. This commandment is true in Christ and is true among you, because the darkness is disappearing, and the true light is already shining.”

Now, in the Old Testament, in Leviticus 19:18, we find the commandment to love one another that was given by God to Moses for the people of Israel. And it says, “Never seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD.” It was the command given a long time ago by Moses to the people of Israel. And so, John is saying here it’s an old commandment. It’s one that you have always had. And, yet, it is new. It is new because Jesus has now come as an example of what true love really is, of what it looks like. He is an example of what it looks like to love others. And it’s a love that goes beyond just loving those who love you.

It’s a love like Christ’s love. It’s a love that is self-sacrificing. It’s a love that is self-giving. It’s a servanthood kind of love. It’s the kind of love that reaches out to our enemies and loves those who even persecute us.

And Jesus says in Matthew 5:43 to 48, “You have heard that the law of Moses says, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say, love your enemies; pray for those who persecute you. In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For He gives His sunlight to both the evil and the good and He sends rain on the just and on the unjust too. If you love only those who love you, what good is that? Even corrupt tax collectors do that much. If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else? Even pagans do that. But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect.”

And you see, it’s that radical kind of love. It’s not the kind of love that we can stir up within ourselves, but it’s that divine kind of love that comes about as Christ is at home in our hearts. And God says to us that we are to love one another. It’s a commandment that He has given us. It’s not an option.

The second thing is our love for one another is proof that we belong to Him, that we belong to Christ. If we say we belong to Christ and we continually hate someone else, then we need to do some real soul searching to see if we are really in the family of God or not.

In 1 John 2:9 through 11 it says, “Anyone who says, ‘I am in the light,’ but rejects another Christian is still in darkness. But anyone who loves other Christians is walking in the light and does not cause anyone to stumble. Those who reject other Christians are wandering in spiritual darkness and don’t know where they are going, for the darkness has made them blind.”

And then 1 John 3:10, “So now, we can tell who are children of God and who are children of the devil. Anyone who does not obey God’s commands and does not love other Christians does not belong to God.”

1 John 3:14, “If we love other Christians, it proves that we have passed from death to eternal life. But a person who doesn’t love them is still dead.” You see, the love that we have for our brothers and sisters in Christ is evidence, it’s proof that we belong to God. It’s proof! It shows that we have eternal life.

The love expressed through the body of Christ is the greatest testimony of the reality of Jesus that we will ever have in our lives. Jesus says that, “By this shall all men know that you are My disciples when you have love for one another.”

And this is not saying, though, even though we are to love other believers, we are to love one another, it’s not saying that we never get angry with someone. Because we do! And it’s not saying that we never dislike the way a person acts.

And it’s not saying that we have to put up with things that are wrong or damaging to the body of Christ that someone is doing. And it’s not saying that we feel connection with everybody, with every person that we meet, because we won’t. Or we like being around everybody, because I don’t know about you, but I don’t! I don’t connect with every person.

But what it is saying here is that this love is an attitude of the heart and that we have the ability to love others because of this new life that is in us, that has been given to us when we invited Christ into our lives, when the Holy Spirit comes at that moment of salvation and dwells within us, He takes up residence in us for the rest of our earthly lives. And then we begin to take on the nature of God. We become like Christ. And then we allow the Spirit to have control and we begin to love other people with that radical love, with that God-empowered love that is different than the world has to give.

It’s the kind of love that enables us to love our enemies. You know, it enables us to love the people who persecute us. It allows us to forgive the people who mistreat us. It allows us to love others and not expect anything in return. And it’s a love that wants what is best for other people, not matter what the cost may be.

The next thing here is that God’s love is poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit. 1 John 4:7 to 13, “Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is born of God and knows God. But anyone who does not, love does not know God, for God is love. God showed how much He loved us by sending His only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through Him. This is real love: it is not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins. Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other. No one has ever seen God; but if we love each other, God lives in us and His love has been brought to full expression through us and God has given us His Spirit as proof that we live in Him and He in us.” His Spirit is proof and He pours out His love through the indwelling of His Holy Spirit in our lives.

In Romans 5:5 it says, “For we know how dearly God loves us, because He has given us His Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with His love.

Now, the Holy Spirit fills us and this means, in other words, that He floods our hearts. He floods us with His love. And as we surrender our lives to the Holy Spirit’s control, we will begin to experience that love and to know and understand it more and understand more the greatness of God’s love for us.

And the Scripture says that we are flooded with it. When God’s love is poured out in our hearts, when our hearts are flooded with the love of God, you can’t help but love other people. That’s just the way it is, because the force is so strong that it changes the way things look and it changes how we look at people.

It’s a powerful thing. And it changes other people’s lives as we love them that way. God is the source of our love. We can’t make it happen on our own, but it happens as we grow and spend time with God and His Word and we have fellowship with Him.

Well, next, we are to love others as Christ loved us. 1 John 3:16, “We know what real love is because Christ gave up His life for us and so we ought also to give up our lives for our Christian friends.”

Now, one thing I felt was really wonderful about Jesus’ life is that He modeled for us how to practically love people. He did it in a very practical way. And He gave us such a wonderful example to follow.

He loved sacrificially, but His love was always looking out what was best for other people. And He was turning water into wine at a wedding ceremony. His love was practical. It was looking out for what is best. It was maybe healing a blind man or taking time to hold a child on His lap. Or having concern over the people that were following Him and listening to His teaching, that they were hungry. And He took time to feed them. His love was practical. And it always reached out and it always touched other people’s lives where they needed it the most.

Well, love for others is expressed by actions, not just by words. 1 John 3:17 and 18, “But if one of you has enough money to live well and sees a brother or sister in need and refuses to help, how can God’s love be in that person? Dear children, let us stop just saying we love each other, let us really show it by our actions.” Let us really show it.

Love is a verb. It’s an action word.

It responds to others’ needs when we have the resources to do so. The Scripture says, “Love not in word, neither in tongue but in deed and in truth.” It’s an action word.

D.L. Moody who is the founder of Moody Bible Institute used to say that every Bible should be bound in shoe-leather. And I thought that was a really wonderful thing to think about, because it’s easy to say we love others. It’s easy to say how concerned we are and to talk about it. But it’s when we actually put shoe leather to it that God’s love is truly expressed through our lives.

My mom had a heart attack and that was followed by open-heart surgery. And so, she was in the hospital clear on the other side of the country and my dad was there with her and they don’t have a lot of family and friends around them to be supportive of them. And she was in critical condition, but she was stable at the time. And my dad was staying there at the hospital and sleeping in a chair for two weeks, because he was so far away from home and he didn’t have any place to go.

And so, it was a difficult situation for them and at the same time, I was really overwhelmed with things that were going on in my own life. And we, right when that happened, we had a trip planned to Atlanta and we were supposed to meet the people at Walk Thru and supposed to look for a house. And we just had all these things going on. And I was preparing for the retreat. And just so many things happening in my life.

And so, I was struggling with, What do I do? How do I respond in this situation? And every day, I would call my dad and I would talk to him and I would tell him that I loved him. And I did this for a few days, but after a week, I just realized that those words felt so empty to me. They just didn’t feel like real love anymore. And so, I prayed, and I asked the Lord what He wanted me to do and He showed me that I needed to go.

And so, I talked that over with Chip and we were in Atlanta and I left Atlanta and went to see my mom and dad. And I put shoe-leather to God’s truth, to my love for them. And I was so amazed at what God did. I let go of all the things that I needed to do, I didn’t find a house, and I didn’t do a lot of other things that I was supposed to do. But I did what God wanted me to do. And that was to love as He would love them. And God opened all kinds of doors.

And I got to share with my parents and open up the Scriptures with them like I never have in my life. And so, I put shoe-leather to my love. And God did a great work.
And so, how do we love by our actions? Well, when we tell someone that we are going to pray for them, we really pray. We don’t just say we are going to do it and walk off and forget what they said. We really pray. I have a suggestion, if you have a lot of people ask you to do that, like I do. Pray for them as you walk away. And then you don’t forget!

How do we love by our actions? We take time to listen to people instead of always having to tell our story. Instead of always having to talk about us. When we send a note of encouragement to someone. When we take a meal. When we help with their children. When we show hospitality. When we give a hug! Just give a hug! Or pat someone on the shoulder.

And God is not asking us to meet everyone’s needs and to give away what we don’t have. He’s not asking us to do that. But He is asking us to love with our actions, to put shoe-leather to our words, and people will see Christ. They will see Christ in our lives.

Well, love for others is a choice that we make. It’s not always a feeling. 1 John 3:23 says, “And this is His commandment: we must believe in the name of His Son, Jesus Christ, and love one another just as He commanded us.” Because it’s a commandment, then it’s a choice that we have to make.

There’s no condition in this passage of the “who”, of the “who” we are to show love to. It just says, “One another.” It doesn’t say to love those who are always kind to us, and it doesn’t say to love those who you like to be with, or to love those who do things just the way you want them to do it, or to love when that love is reciprocated. But it says, “Love one another.” It’s a command.

And anytime God gives us a command, we always know that He gives us all that we need to be able to obey it. So, if we choose to love then God will help us love other people.

I remember a neighbor that I had once who was very, very hard to love. She just about drove me nuts. And she complained all the time. And she borrowed things all the time. And she would drop by my house just so frequently to use something. And I got so irritated with this lady. And I thought, She is just so robbing me of my privacy. And I didn’t know what to do. She was right next door. I was supposed to be a Christian. Supposed to be loving people!

So, first, I did the spiritual thing. I prayed. I prayed that she would move. I really did. And then I did the human thing. The selfish thing. I planted a great big hedge between my house and her house. And I thought if I couldn’t get rid of her, at least I didn’t have to look at her all the time.

See, Chip really does think I’m nuts sometimes. He sees, he sees the real me. You just see, you see that soft-spoken, you know, those things you say.

Well, but then I did the Christlike thing. And I baked her some cookies and I went to see her, and I took an interest in her kids and I listened to her struggles and there came a time when God gave me the opportunity, in love, to be able to confront her with some of the issues that were causing our relationship to be so hard. And God changed her heart.

And it was amazing to me. We became such good friends. And we are to this day. And so, God will change our hearts when we make that choice to begin to love others the way Christ loves us. And it’s a choice we make to choose to show respect and love for anyone that God brings into our lives, even if we don’t feel a lot of affection for that person.

And God’s desire is so great that we love one another, that He gives us, in 1 Corinthians 13, a very clear definition of what it looks like to be lived out in our lives every day.

1 Corinthians 13 defines divine love, agape love, and how it should be expressed in lives of believers. And so, what we are going to do is I am going to read these passages that you have here and I’m going to define them, and ask you a few questions. And then I’d like you to do just a personal inventory and just open your hearts and ask God to show you how you’re doing in this area. How are you doing? Are we loving others as Christ loves us? Is there a person in your life that God would want you to make the choice to love, even though you don’t feel like loving that person?

Is there any way that you need to put shoe-leather to your words and love other people? Are you living in fellowship with God so His Spirit can freely pour out God’s love through your life so you can love others in the way that He wants you to?

1 Corinthians 13. The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience. It’s a fruit of the Holy Spirit. The Greek word for patience in this passage means taking a long time to boil. And so, we need to ask ourselves: are we patient with others when they irritate us? Or do we quickly express our anger to them?

Well, God’s love acts kindly. Ephesians 4:32 says, “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ has forgiven you.” Love acts kindly because God has shown His unfailing kindness to us. That’s how He has treated us.

In Nehemiah 9:17 it says, “Thou art a God of forgiveness, gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness.” He shows His kindness to us. Well, do I graciously reach out to others, even if there is a possibility or I’m afraid that my offer might be rejected? Do I reach out to others? Do I have an eye out for the needs of others? Take the initiative to help them?

Okay, love does not act jealously. Proverbs 14:30 says, “A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones.” A definition for envy is feelings of discontent and ill will because of another’s advantages or possessions. But love, on the other hand, rejoices when God blesses another person’s life.

Love does not act boastful or proud. Philippians 2:5 to 8 says, “Your attitude should be the same that Christ Jesus had. Though He was God, He did not demand and cling to His rights as God. He made Himself nothing. He took the humble position of a slave and appeared in human form, and in human form He obediently humbled Himself, even further by dying a criminal’s death on the cross.”

You see, love is not focused on making sure that everyone notices how much I know, how spiritual I am, how important I am, and all the sacrifices I made. You see, love is not focused on itself. It doesn’t brag about itself, but it looks to build up others. It looks at others.

Well, love does not act rudely. Matthew 5:16, “Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and praise your Father who is in heaven.” To be rude means to tear apart. It means to act discourteously, to act unmannerly. And God says that we should act in such a way that people will see Christ. That they should be drawn to Him through our actions.

Love does not demand its own way. Philippians 2:3 and 4, “Don’t be selfish, don’t live to make a good impression on others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourself. Don’t think only about your own affairs, but be interested in others too and what they are doing.”

So, do I take time when I am involved in something to think about others’ needs, or am I too busy and focused on myself and making sure that everything works out in a way that is just best for me?

Love is not easily angered. James 1:19, “But let everyone be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger.” See, anger, anger is a God-given emotion that we experience when something doesn’t go the way we want it to.

Love takes the emotion of anger, which is a good thing in some instances but it takes it and instead of flying off the handle with the situation, as we do sometimes, it runs to God to find help. And it runs to God to deal with the situation.

Love forgives over and over and over again and never stops forgiving. Has someone hurt you? Has someone disappointed you? Have you forgiven them?

Love keeps no record of when it has been wronged. Isaiah 43:25, “I, even I, am the one who wipes out your transgressions for My own sake and I will not remember your sins.”

God doesn’t keep a big scoreboard in heaven on you, and all the things that you have done to mess up. Because He says when we confess our sins, that He forgives us totally. And then He says He remembers them no more.

Is there any person in your life that you keep reminding them of how they blew it? Love keeps no record of wrongs.

Love is never glad about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Psalm 119:128, “Therefore, I esteem right all thy precepts concerning everything. I hate every false way.”

You see, love never takes pleasure when somebody else falls. Love never asks somebody to do something that’s wrong. Love never causes a brother or sister to stumble. Love always wants others to follow Christ, to follow God’s truth in their life.

And so, are we living in such a way that our life builds up others in God’s truth and influences them to do what is right?

Love never gives up. “We urge you brethren, admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with all men.” Love never gives up on people. God never gives up on us. And He never will. Love keeps on praying. It keeps on encouraging. It keeps on sharing the truth. It keeps on doing whatever is necessary to help others come to know the Lord. To help others want to be like Christ. Love enables a person to grow. It doesn’t disable a person.

Love never loses faith in others. “Do not judge, lest you be judged yourself. For in the way you judge, you will be judged and by your standard of measure, it shall be measured to you. And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own.” You see, love thinks the best of others. It gives them the benefit of the doubt. It doesn’t judge other people’s motives. It doesn’t speak in a judgmental way about other people. Am I quick to judge others?

And love is always hopeful. 2 Corinthians 1:3 and 4 said, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort who comforts us in all our affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.”

You see, love instills hope into other people’s lives. Have you experienced difficulty in your life in some area and God has helped you through that? Well, love will take that comfort that you have received from God and instill hope in someone else’s life who is going through the same thing.

And the last thing here in 1 Corinthians 13:7, “Love endures through every circumstance.” Hebrews 10:36, “For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what was promised.” Love endures and it holds on, no matter what difficult circumstances it faces, because of our faith in God and His promises for our life. It holds on.

So, do you have a love that is made in heaven? I hope we are all growing in that way.

And you see, I think that’s what God wants to happen to us, that as we spend time with Him, He fills us, He floods us with that love for other people and it becomes a sweet smelling sacrifice to Him as we love others and it fills the room and people experience it. And they will see the difference. They will see it in us. And their lives will change.