Returning to the heart of Northstar
Love my neighbor…really? How can we learn to love the guy next door with the barking dog, especially when he is hard to like? Everybody has that person in their life that is hard to like let alone love. But loving them is not as hard as it looks on the surface. Perhaps the secret is to recognize that our neighbor, whether it’s the guy next door, the cashier at the local grocery store, or the person sitting next to you at church, is someone worthy of God’s love. It means respecting others and regarding their needs and desires as highly as we regard our own.
Something To Talk About:
- Love God with everything you are: How can we love God with everything we’ve got? How can we move toward the Psalmist’s declaration, “My soul longs, indeed it faints for the courts of the Lord; my heart and my flesh sing for joy to the living God.” (Psalm 84:2) We can begin to love God with everything we’ve got when we realize with our mind, heart, soul, and strength that God loves us with everything God has got. The entire Gospel story is the narrative of how much Jesus loved us and continues to love us today. How do we reciprocate? It starts with a wholehearted, life-encompassing, community-impacting, exclusive commitment to our God. There needs to be an authentic love for God that starts with God-oriented affections, desires, and thoughts, that permeate our speaking and behavior, how we view people and then influence the way we live. Whether we’re eating or singing, jogging or blogging, texting or drawing, love for God is to be seen in our words and our actions.
- Love others like Jesus: Loving like Jesus is the best way to live. When we love like Him, we can step outside ourselves and clearly see the needs around us. We can shed layers of selfishness, resentment, anxiety, pettiness, and entitlement. When it comes to love, Jesus raised the bar astronomically. He teaches us to love our enemies, turn the other cheek, and walk the extra mile. To our human minds, that sounds completely outrageous–but that’s the point. If we want to love like Jesus, we have to open our hearts and our minds. Because opening your heart allows love to change your mind. When Jesus touches your heart, your mind can follow suit and be completely transformed. Allowing your heart into the conversation will revolutionize your thinking. We believe that’s what Paul meant when he said, “You’ll be changed from the inside out.” (Romans 12:1) If you’re in search of reasonable love, you’ll miss out on a love that’s extraordinary–on the opportunity to find a love you didn’t realize you had. Jesus’s ideal model of love can rub off on our imperfect lives.
- Teach others to love God and love others.: The goal of our church is to love God, love people, and make disciples. To encourage everyone’s next step toward Jesus Christ, help families grow together in faith, and actively serve our community. In Ephesians 4:12, Paul explains the role of the church is “their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ.” The case is clear that the “church” is called to organically develop and grow other members within the body of Christ. But disciple-making doesn’t just happen. It’s an intentional process that takes a relational and spiritual commitment to provide the necessary elements that will both prosper the individual, as well as the body of Christ. And it starts with love. The most loving thing we can do for others is to love God more than we love them. For if we love God most, we will love others best. Jesus clearly summed up all the commandments of the law and all the preaching of the prophets with a small but powerful word — love. He identified love for God and love for people as the Greatest Commandments, hence making love a priority.
- If love is to be the defining mark of believers, how would you assess where you are as a believer? Are we a “display window” for the supernatural love of Christ?
- What does it mean to you to reflect God’s love to others? What are some practical ways for you to give others a taste of what the love of God is like?
- Is loving others loving like God loves even practical?
- Why do you think we often come up with ways of limiting Jesus’ command to love our neighbors?
- What are some truths we need to be reminded of in order to love others?
- When you think about who might be in your “inner circle”, or classed as “strangers” or “enemies,” which group do you have the most trouble loving?
- Why are we compelled to love our neighbors? What does “as yourself” actually mean? How difficult is this standard?
- What’s one change you can make in your life to put more love into action?
- What did you think or find interesting about today’s message? Did anything that was said in the message particularly speak to you or surprise you? What is your biggest takeaway from the message?
- In this message, what truths landed on you that you need to share with others in your life? How can you share these truths? Devote it to prayer!
Take one thing home with you:
It’s a common misperception that loving like Jesus means that you must become a doormat, a weak wimp, or a spoilsport. Some people believe that loving like Jesus means we have to deny ourselves everything, miss out on all the fun, and smother our joy. But that’s not true.
According to research, having the ability to practice love in our daily relationships–marriage, friends, family, and otherwise–is actually the defining mark of human happiness. God designed us to want happiness because He wants us to be happy. But we seldom realize that the things we think will bring us happiness actually won’t. The things we chase after actually hinder our ability to truly enjoy life. We get used to pleasures that only last for a moment–and we miss out on the deepest enjoyment life has to offer.
Learning to love like Jesus isn’t elusive, out of reach, or pie-in-the-sky theology. It’s available to you and me right now. At times, we will fail–but each time we dust ourselves off and start again, we’ll learn a little more. It’s not easy, but it can be done.