Picture of Pastor Gettys

Sermon delivered April 2, 2005 by Pastor Donald J. Gettys

McDonald Road Seventh-day Adventist Church

McDonald, Tennessee

Biblical quotations are from the New International Version NIV unless otherwise noted. Divine pronouns and titles are capitalized.

Tombstone Love

(RealAudio Version available)

Somebody asked a newly married couple a question. He asked the man, "How's everything going? Are you and your wife getting along all right?" The man said, "Well, my wife loves me about like a tombstone." The questioner seemed sorry for that answer. He had thought that the newly married couple were getting along just fine. He said: "So, she loves you like a tombstone, I'm sorry about that." The first man said, "Well, actually that's good, because a tombstone stands up for you when you are down and out. In bad times or good times, it's always there for you. My wife is always there for me."

You know, as we begin today, we're beginning a series. Today is the first of a series of sermons on "One another." Do you realize how many times in the Bible it says "something one another?" You're going to find out a lot. Next week is about adjudicating. Today you're going to find out about some loving relationships.

Love was so lacking in Jesus' day that He had to give them what is called a "new" commandment. Some people call it the eleventh commandment, if you please. It is issued by the same Person who wrote the original commandments. The same finger that wrote those ten laws on the two tables of stone back on Mount Sinai points to the heavens with an addition, or better yet, a summarization of those ten commandments. Look in John 13:34, "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you love one another." So, here Jesus mentions it twice: "one another." That's our series, this "one another" verses in the bible.

God wants loving and lovable Christians. God want us to love one another. There's nothing wrong with that, is there.

There was a big lightning and thunder storm. Frightened by the clamor of thunder in the middle of the night, a little girl came out of her bedroom into her daddy's bedroom and cried, "Daddy, can I get in bed with you?" Holding her securely in his arms and explained that she needn't fear. "God is going to take care of you because you are one of His children. He loves you. He won't let anything hurt you. You can go back to bed. She said, "I know God is going to care for me, and He loves me, but right now, Daddy, I want somebody with skin on." I will tell you, friends, that we, as Christians, are to be God's love with skin on. That's what we are to be. Representatives of the love of Jesus Christ.

Do we really love each other as Jesus wants us to love each other? We ought to. James Dobson reports seeing a sign on a convent where the nuns live in southern California. The sign read: Absolutely No Trespassing Violators Will Be Prosecuted to the Full Extent of the Law. Signed, "The Sisters of Mercy." Is that brotherly love, or sisterly love?

Look back in John 13:35. It says, By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. That is how you know if you are a disciple and that is how everyone else knows if you are a disciple or not. If you love one another.

I enjoy attending old Steam Engine and tractor shows. It's kind of exciting for me. And each one of those big steam engines has a boiler, and inside of that boiler there is water. Now boilers explode when they get low on water. But it is impossible to look inside the boiler to see how much water it contains. But mounted on the side of the boiler is a tiny glass tube. As the water stands in the boiler, so, the water stands in that glass tube. When the tube almost full, the boiler is almost full. And when the tube is almost empty, you had better run! Because that boiler is going to explode. That's what happened up there in Medina, Ohio, a few years ago.

The Christian also has a little gauge on the side. Do you know how good a Christian you are? You know how much we love God? Well, look at the gauge. Your love for your brother, your love for your sister is the yardstick of your love for God. You can't look inside your heart, but look at that little gauge. How much you love your brother, how much you love your sister. That tells you how much you love God.

I have an old wagon wheel at my house. The spokes rotted out of it a long time ago and all I have left is the iron hoop. But as the spokes in a wagon wheel approach the hub, each spoke gets closer to the next spoke. And when people come closer to Jesus Christ, who is the hub, the center of life and hope. They are drawn towards each other in brotherly, loving relationship, as they are journeying toward heaven, toward Jesus.

Look at John 15:12. Jesus says, My commandment is this: Love each another, as I have loved you. How did Jesus love His disciples? He died for them. That's the quantity of love we are to have for each other. So that is His commandment. That is the kind of love that Jesus wants to see in the home, in the church, and in the world. That's true love.

Now how does God love us? God loves us with an unconditional love. Look at Romans 5:8. This may be shocking for a person to read this for the first time. Here is how God loves us. It says, But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. While we were still sinners, He died for us! He didn't wait for us to become good. He loved us even when we were bad! That is unconditional love.

A small boy questioned his daddy, "How much does God love us?" The father said: "God loves us with an unconditional love." The little boy said, "What is that?" The daddy said: "Well, unconditional love. Do you remember when the neighbor boys got a new puppy last Christmas?" "Yeah, I remember that." "Do you remember how they used to tease that puppy? They would even throw sticks and even small rocks at it. Do you remember that?" Yes." Do you recollect how the puppy would always greet them with his tail wagging and try to lick their faces?" "Yes." "Those contemptible boys did not deserve that puppy's love but the dog loved them anyway. That is unconditional love." That is how God loves us. Jesus came to this world. Men threw sticks at Him. They threw rocks at Him. They hit Him with sticks. They even killed Him, but Jesus loved them anyway. That is unconditional love. Isn't that great!

That is how we ought to love one another. As God has loved us. In a sense, Jesus' new commandment that He talks about here is mostly copied. Look back in Leviticus 19:18. Do not seek revenge, or bear a grudge against one of your people, but love thy neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord. That is not really a new commandment. I suppose some nit-picker could say that Jesus plagiarized and then claimed that it was His own new commandment. Let's think about what Jesus says, because Jesus is the author of the law in the Old Testament, and he reiterates in the New Testament.

Jesus tells us to love our neighbors. And somewhere else in the Bible, Jesus also tells us to love our enemies. Probably because our neighbors and our enemies are often the same people. - G.K. Chesterton Shame on us. We ought to be friends with our neighbors. Love your neighbors and they won't be your enemies. Do you know that the problem with our modern world is that we have become a neighborhood without becoming a brotherhood. - B. Graham We build our houses within feet of each other; some house ten feet or twenty feet apart. There's the next house. We're close together with our houses but we are worlds apart with our hearts. Shame on us! Jesus did not say to respect one another, but to love one another. A porcupine has to be handled with some pretty thick gloves. We respect the porcupine, but we don't love and cuddle him. There is a difference between respect and love. (Even a porcupine will respond to the love and care you give him. I once took care of a porcupine for a youth camp. I found out that I could pet him in both directions, with the spike and against the spikes and he never stuck me. bb.)

Look at John 15:9-13. This was our scripture reading. "As the Father has loved Me, so have I loved you. Now remain in My love. If you obey My commandments, you will remain in My love; just as I have obeyed My Father's commandments, and remain in His love. I have told you this so that My joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. That is a beautiful section of the Bible, right there.

You know, we have a lot of new members that come into the McDonald Road Church. They walk in the front doors of our church. Do you know why many of them keep coming back? It is probably not because of doctrinal issues. It is probably not because of the beautiful timbers here in the sanctuary. It is because they find genuine love here. They find the love of Jesus here. They find the love of God's people here. Not doctrinal debates, but love. And conversely, more folk walk out the back doors of the church because of the coldness of so called Christians who should be loving each other rather than some theological controversy.

John 15:13 . Greater love has no one than this, that a he lay down his life for his friends. and verse 17, This is My commandment: Love each another.

Rita Snowden tells a story of World War II. During one skirmish in France, many people were getting killed and the Germans were attacking. A Frenchman was killed and the soldiers brought his body to the Roman Catholic Church and they contacted the priest in charge. "Could we bury this soldier in your cemetery?" The priest said, "Certainly, but I am required to ask you one question first: Has this person been baptized into the Roman Catholic Church?" "Well, we don't really know that." The priest said, "Well, then he can't be buried here in this cemetery."

Well, they didn't know what to do. They had the body there. So they took their shovels and dug a hole just outside the fence of the cemetery and they buried their comrade, knowing that he would not have an honorable burial.

The next day they came back to check if the grave was all right and to their astonishment they could not find it. Search as they might they could find no trace of the freshly dug soil. As they were about to leave in bewilderment the priest came up and he said, "You know, last night I got to thinking. I was troubled because I had refused to allow you to bury your dead comrade here in the church lot. And so, I rose up early in the morning and I came out here and with my own hands I moved the fence to include your friend." That is brotherly love. - William Barclay, Commentary on Ephesians

There's another verse in Romans 12 that amplifies the meaning of Jesus' text on love. Romans 12:10 KJV Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honor preferring one another. That loving kindness. That is what is languishing here in this world. We need more kindness toward each other. More love toward each other.

And what type of love does He want?

Romans 13:8 says Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law. For he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law. I think that is very special. We need to love one another.

An incident is told about two soldiers who had been released from a Siberian prison camp following World War II. "We did our best," said an officer, "to repatriate the men as fast as possible, but many were still there when winter threatened to close up the port." Only a limited number could board the last small boat. Among those waiting to be transported were two who had been chums all through the war. One of them was selected, but the other seemed doomed to remain behind. An order was given that those who were leaving could take only one piece of luggage with them. All other luggage would have to stay. So the two bade each other goodbye. And the one of them said, "You know, I am emptying my suitcase." So he emptied his duffle bag of his prized souvenirs and his personal belongings and told his friend to "hop in my bag." Then he carefully lifted the bag on his shoulders, and boarded the boat with his friend as his single, most precious possession. This man truly loved his neighbor as himself. Would you do that for your friend?

Look at 1 Peter 1:22 in your Bible. Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply, from the heart.

I was especially busy this past week. I had to drop by the office one evening after supper and my little granddaughter asked if she could go with me. "Sure" I said, "Let's go". When we arrived at the church several others were also here working. As I was talking with a parishioner I noticed little Candace go into my office and a moment later she went out into the church complex. A few minutes later she came again and went into my office and a few seconds later went back into the church. I became curious. What is she doing in my office? I looked and she had her hand in my candy jar! I thought, that little girl is squirreling away some candy! And here she came again. I thought, of all things, for her to do that! She hadn't even asked! So I followed her. She was taking candy and giving it to the people who were working here in the church. Sharing. Bestowing her love on somebody else. I think that is pretty neat. Those that were volunteering here at the church were the recipients of her love. She was demonstrating her love for them.

Come over here to 1 John 4:7,8. It says, Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. Isn't that a beautiful verse?

We need to love as God loves us. Love is the distinguishing characteristic of a true Christian, the trademark of our brotherhood. We need to honor one another. Romans 12:10 says, Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. Above yourselves. That is the qualifying trademark of the true Christian.

You have heard of the fable of the wolves and the dogs. It seems that the wolves were afraid of the dogs because there were so many dogs. So the wolves sent out a spy to observe the dogs. The returning scout said, "It is true that the dogs are numerous and some are very big. I know they all hate us wolves, but as they came marching by, I observed that they were all snapping at each other. Every dog hates every other dog with all his heart. So don't fear the dogs one for minute because they hate each other." The Bible applies the truth of that allegory to Christians. Galatians 5:14, 15 says, The entire law is summed up in a single command: "Love your neighbor as yourself." If you keep biting and devouring each other, watch out or you willd be destroying each other. The wolves and the dogs. Are you afraid of the dogs? Are you a dog, always biting at our neighbors?

1 John 4:11, 12 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. That is so neat.

I want to read a text in 1 Thessalonians. I hope this will be the watchword of this congregation. 1 Thessalonians 3:12 says, May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other...

And now a final verse. Look in Zephaniah 3:17. The Lord your God is with you, He is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, He will quiet you with his love, He will rejoice over you with singing. When you get to heaven, they are going to rejoice over you with singing. Isn't that great! And He is going to quite you with His love. Like a tombstone, God always stands for you when you are down. His love is always there for you, and I hope you will always have love for your family, your neighbor and your church.

Hymn of Praise: #227, Jesus Shall Reign
Scripture: John 15:9-12
Hymn of Response: #579, Tis Love that Makes Us Happy

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