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  • Writer's pictureRev. Gerald (Jerry) Reiter, Emeritus

“Love Reaches Out (And Hangs On)”

Sixth Sunday of Easter


“If you love me, keep my commands. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever — the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them.”

John 14:15-21


Suppose there was only one Christian in the whole world. And suppose that he was a believer who loved one other person so much that he shared his faith with him, and within a year the Holy Spirit was able to persuade him to become a Christian.


Then suppose the next year that these 2 Christians loved 2 other people, and shared their faith with them so that those 2 became Christians too. At the end of the second year there would be 4 Christians.


Let’s keep supposing. If the same thing happened the next year there would be 8; at the end of the next year there would be 16, and then 32, and then 64. Keep on. Do you know how many years it would take, with each Christian bringing just one person to the Lord each year, for the entire world of 5 billion people to be won for Christ? Just about 32 years! From the time of Jesus until now, we would have converted more than 5 dozen worlds like ours.


Then why haven’t we? How do we justify our failure to proclaim the Good News of salvation in Jesus Christ? When we have something good to share with people, it’s pretty selfish to keep it to ourselves. It’s also pretty un-Christian! We can’t be serious disciples of Christ without sharing our faith because Jesus takes it for granted that this is the one thing, above all other things, we’ll do!


In Jesus’ great pastoral prayer in the 17th chapter of the Gospel of John, Jesus prays, “I pray also for those who will believe in Me through their message.” (John 17:20) Whatever Jesus has told His disciples, He expects them to pass on to others so that the whole world might believe in Him and have eternal life. Jesus knows that He has been sent by the Father so that people may know the love of God and receive eternal life through the Son. In His prayer, Jesus teaches us that love reaches out – and it hangs on, too.


Love reaches out. In Christian circles we call that “evangelism.” It literally means proclaiming the Good News, or Gospel, of Jesus Christ. The Church’s evangelism program was born in the heart of God, who couldn’t stand to see men and women in darkness and sin, so He sent His only begotten Son Jesus on a rescue mission, to save as many as would believe in Him.


The saving work He began and personally completed through His death on the cross, He commissioned His disciples to carry on until the whole world should turn to God. (Matt. 28:18-20) The object of the Church’s mission is the object of Christ’s, with one major difference: salvation was purchased by Christ, it is to be communicated by us!


Leroy Lawson put it this way: “When you’ve been knocked over by a torrent, it’s not hard to communicate a reaction! When you’ve actually received the love of God in your life, you have to talk about it. You can’t keep the torrent confined – it flows through.”


The famous London preacher of a century ago, Charles Spurgeon, used another metaphor. When he was asked how he could communicate the way he did, he answered, “It’s very simple. Pour some kerosene over you, light a match, and people will come to watch you burn.” He was on fire with the love of the Lord.


When we love the Lord, and love the Lord’s world, we’ll do everything we can to see that as many people as possible learn of, and experience, the love of God in Christ. God’s love is a torrent that can’t be stopped. A fire that can’t be extinguished. It spreads from the heart of God, through the sacrifice of Christ, through the ministry of Christians.


The Lord of love planted our church in this community, at this time, so that we can be a society of organized love that reaches out to as many people as the Lord gives us strength to serve. We know, because His Word teaches us, that the Church of Jesus Christ can never become self-satisfied or self-serving. The Church exists primarily for the sake of those people who don’t yet belong to it! Let me repeat that. The Church exists primarily for the sake of those people who don’t yet belong to it! So, our love must reach out! It must reach out with the Gospel of Jesus!


It's interesting to read of people in the Bible who were so gripped by the Gospel of God’s love that their love then reached out to others.


The Gospel so gripped Barnabas, a conservative landowner, that he sold his farm, gave up his money to the cause, and wore himself out in the service of his Lord and Savior.


The Gospel so gripped Philip, a businessman from Caesarea, that he first turned into a church administrator and then discovered he had a gift for evangelism, reaching out to people like Samaritans whom nobody else would go near.


The Gospel so gripped Peter that his up-and-down character was changed into a rock-like devotion. His prejudices of a lifetime melted away as he shared the Good News of his Savior with people he’d been brought up to despise.


The Gospel so gripped Saul of Tarsus that he gave up his security, his intellectual arrogance, his status, and his finances in order to be a lifelong evangelist, missionary, and finally a martyr.


Why did they all bother? Why do we bother?


We bother because of God’s love. God so loved the world that He gave His only Son. He only had one Son, and that Son was a missionary. And besides that, with God’s love in our hearts, we share His love with others.


We bother because of Jesus’ command. In Jesus’ farewell words He assures His disciples that He has all power in Heaven and Earth. He promises to be with them – and us – and then gives His parting instructions: Go into all the world and make disciples. We treat the last wishes of those we love very seriously.


We bother because sharing the Gospel is a great privilege. It’s an amazing thing that God should make His appeal through the likes of us. But He does. The Heavenly Father takes us into His family and gives us a share of the family business. It’s a job from which we’ll never be fired and never need to retire. God has determined that He will only speak through reconciled sinners to reach unreconciled sinners. What a privilege!


We bother because of other people’s need. According to Ephesians 2:1, people without Christ are dead – their sin has cut them off from the life of God as sure as death cuts a person off from the life of his friends. Though mentally, physically, and emotionally alive, people without Christ are spiritually dead.


According to Jesus’ own words, society has lost its way, and man has an identity crisis. He doesn’t know who he is, where he’s going, or what there is to live for. Now Jesus came to seek and to save the lost. But people don’t realize this. They think Christianity is about rules and church-going and obligations – and have no idea that Jesus can meet their deepest needs.


The New Testament talks of two realms: darkness and light.

  • It talks of two powers: the power of Satan and of God.

  • It talks of two rulers: the God of this world and Almighty God.

  • It talks about two ways: the broad way which leads to destruction and the narrow way which leads to life.

  • It talks about two choices: for Christ or against Him.

  • It talks about two groupings: wheat and tares, wise and foolish, in or out of the great supper, with Christ or without Christ.

Note that there is no middle ground! That’s what drove Paul and the other early missionaries into such untiring service. They had a clear recognition of the great need of those who were out of touch with God.


Once you’ve been gripped by the need of those who don’t know your Lord Jesus Christ, you don’t need any other motivation to spread the Good News to those in your corner of the world.


Yet there is another motivation for bothering with sharing the Gospel: it brings great joy! In fact, there’s no other joy equal to it! The Apostle John wrote, “I have no greater joy than to know that my children walk in the truth.” And that is the truth. John was right. There’s no joy like being used by the Holy Spirit to help bring someone to faith in Jesus Christ!


Our Lord has commissioned us to reach out in love to serve and win the world for Him. He even prayed that we would hang on to each other so that we can effectively evangelize. Our mission is evangelism! Our motive is love!


Love reaches out and takes hold of others for Christ. Love hangs on to those it holds, so that they in turn can reach out in love. And so it goes until the whole world is included in the embrace of God’s love.


May we, as individuals and as a congregation, do our part to reach out in love.


Amen

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