Teddy Bear Hugs from Above, Part 1
From the series He Holds Me Forever
One of the things we know about Jesus, He was practical. He told the disciples to feed a crowd and then provided the food. He taught about grace and then rescued a woman caught in adultery. He taught about serving one another, and then died on the cross, as the ultimate sacrifice. Practical love is powerful. In this program, Theresa Ingram brings a message about the practical love of Christ that meets you right where you are - when you need it the most.
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About this series
He Holds Me Forever
Do you ever wish that you could experience love and relationships at a deeper level? For most of us, giving and receiving love in a healthy, God-honoring, and others-centered way does not come easily or naturally. Theresa Ingram shares her journey through broken relationships and a painful past that drove her to discover the truth about love and relationships, and how that discovery has set her free to love others and herself.More from this series
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 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?
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.
There was a little poem that I read, a short, little thing. It said, “He drew a circle that shut me out – heretic rebel, a thing to flout. But love and I had the wit to win: we drew a circle that took Him in!” You see, it’s a radical kind of love.
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 and have you ever seen a flood? Well, where I grew up in West Virginia, there was a large creek that ran right in front of our house. And it was also beside the main road that went by. And every spring, nearly every spring when the storms would come, this stream would begin to rise. And we would watch it as it would many times come to the place that it was overflowing its banks and was in the street. And sometimes even a part of the little town of Smithville was under water.
But the flood as we watched it, it’s a powerful thing. It’s a powerful flow. It’s a strong force. And we would just watch in fascination at all the things that would go down the road that were taken in the force of this flood. Every tree limb, every piece of loose debris that was laying around anywhere floated down the road in front of our house.
And so, we stood there with excitement and watched what was going to float down the road in front of our house. But the force of a flood is a powerful thing. It impacts its surroundings. It changes the way things look. And you can’t stop it, it’s so powerful.
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.
And if we ever have a decision to make, if we are thinking about whether I should love that person and how could I do it? We need to ask the question: how would Jesus love that person? And I think it’ll become really clear how we are to love them.
And we aren’t called upon much, as this passage says, to give up our lives for someone else. We don’t do that much today. But we love as Jesus loved when we sacrifice our time, when we give of our energy, when we share our possessions, when we use our abilities to serve other people, when we reach out to others in need then we are giving our lives for our friends.
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.
I’m not the kind of person that gets on an airplane and shares my faith. Chip does that all the time. I get so upset with him. Every time he comes home, he has this wild story about how he shared his faith and led someone to Christ on the airplane. Those things never happen to me. And I kind of like to get on the plane and get out my book and that’s not Christ like though.
But this time of all times, I was sitting with this young man and he was in the Navy. And he was very friendly, and we got to talk and we talked the whole way. And the more I talked, the more he wanted to know about the Lord. And I was amazed. I couldn’t believe it. And I would say a few words and he would ask me another question. And then I would say a few more and he would ask me something else. And I just recently mailed him some material. He wanted to know more. And it was the most exciting thing.
And we just had the neatest time. But if I hadn’t responded to the Lord and loved the way He wanted me to, that would never have happened.
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 God did a great work.