Last Sunday our youth pastor, Joe Nelson, gave such a powerful message, I asked him if I could share it here. He started with the song, How He Loves, which just happens to be one of my favorite songs. Apparently, it’s one of his, as well. (Below is a shortened version of the original message. To listen to the message in its entirety, click on the link following this article.)
~ ~ ~
In the picture: Joe Nelson and his family
I absolutely love that song, it has to be one of my favorites. I think we often forget how God loves us, and that is where I think we should we start this morning. When I sing this song and think about how He loves me, I can’t help but swell up with emotion. What if we lived every moment of our lives like that? My favorite part of the song is when verse two ends and we return to the chorus. We sang, “I don’t have time to maintain these regrets when I think about the way He loves.” I don’t focus on my mistakes, I am consumed by His love.
I have a hard time grasping the extent of God’s love. This is something I have been wrestling with a lot this summer. I was reading in my quiet time this week and I came upon these verses, maybe not new verses for many of us, but they really spoke to me. Ephesians 3:17-19 ”so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” (NIV)
I think we lose sight of the love God has for us. We forget the height, depth, and width of His love. We take it for granted. In the Ephesians passage, Paul is praying for the early church, that they would be able to fully comprehend God’s love. And this is where God has me right now. I need to pray this very thing for myself and for our church daily. And honestly, I have never even thought to pray like that.
You know how I know we are missing it? If we fully understood or appreciated the Love God has for us, our lives would be radically different than they are.
Listen to what James says in James 2:14-20 “What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, ‘Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. But someone will say, ‘You have faith; I have deeds. Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do. You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder. You foolish man, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless?”
Some may say that James’ teaching here contradicts the teachings of Paul that we are saved through faith alone, not by works, but that’s not the case. There were essentially two pendulums to the faith/works debate and both men where trying to argue against each side. When Paul talked about works, he was addressing legalism. James is referring to the works that are a natural outpour of faith in Christ. Some people were twisting faith in Christ to say that no expression of works was necessary. I think many Christians in our culture would swing to this side of the pendulum, which is why I’m addressing it.
We are quick to argue that salvation comes through faith alone, and usually want to stop right there. But as James points out, faith alone, without outward expression, is dead, useless, and incomplete. Love and action work together.
As I prepared this sermon, I thought of a little friend we made this year in Mexico. Her name is Emily, and we think she has bad allergies and maybe asthma. She has had trouble breathing and has even passed out a couple of times. One time for several minutes. While visiting with her and her family, they showed us the medicine they needed to get for her. It’s Singulair, but they didn’t have the money. They knew their little girl could pass out one of day and never wake up. But there was nothing they could do. If Renee and I had said, “We hope you find the money,” we would have been useless.
Jesus told us to love others as we love ourselves, and if it had been our children in need of medicine, we would do whatever it took to get it for them. We knew what we needed to do. It meant we would have less cash to buy junk at the market. We gave them the money the next morning and that afternoon they brought us the receipt and showed us the medicine. Before we left, our entire team had pitched in and Emily had four months worth of life-saving medicine.
This is love followed by action. It is useful; it is helpful.
If our team would have known about the need, had the power to help, and not helped it would have been useless right? So is our faith without deeds–when people say they have faith but don’t back it up with their action. Is that you? Are you guilty of claiming to have Christ in your life, but not really living it?
Click here to listen to the sermon in its entirety.
Joe Nelson holds a B.A. in psychology from Southwest Baptist and a Masters in Counseling from Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He currently serves as youth pastor at Northland Baptist Church in Kansas City, MO.