May 6, 2018
Pastor John Hering
Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. 2 This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, 3 but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world.
4 You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. 5 They are from the world and therefore speak from the viewpoint of the world, and the world listens to them. 6 We are from God, and whoever knows God listens to us; but whoever is not from God does not listen to us. This is how we recognize the Spirit of truth and the spirit of falsehood.
7 Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.
11 From Troas we put out to sea and sailed straight for Samothrace, and the next day we went on to Neapolis. 12 From there we traveled to Philippi, a Roman colony and the leading city of that district of Macedonia. And we stayed there several days.
13 On the Sabbath we went outside the city gate to the river, where we expected to find a place of prayer. We sat down and began to speak to the women who had gathered there. 14 One of those listening was a woman from the city of Thyatira named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth. She was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message. 15 When she and the members of her household were baptized, she invited us to her home. “If you consider me a believer in the Lord,” she said, “come and stay at my house.” And she persuaded us.
1 John 4:1-11 Acts 16:11-15
It’s not easy living in this world. We have the threats of emperors ready to possess people’s property and outlaw Christian gatherings or ban the distribution of religious materials that speak against the culture of the day (http://thefederalist.com/2018/05/04/californias-lgbt-therapy-ban-would-ban-christianity-itself/ ). There are terrorist attacks on Christians losing their possessions, positions and even some landing in prison. I bet you were thinking that I was talking about our world today? Well, it isn’t much different than the world in St John’s day! St. John himself was persecuted for proclaiming Jesus in his community. We could ask the same question then and now: How can people have purpose and fulfillment in life in a world gone mad? If St. John were in this pulpit today he might encourage you to make the trip to Thyatira and look up a woman named Lydia. When you find her, ask her to tell you her story. I’d like to introduce you to her today….then you will know what it means to live with
Purpose Driven Love
1 Driven by his Forgiveness
2 Driven by his Faithfulness
So, let’s do just that. Go ahead, knock on the front door to her home. She opens the door and says, “Come on in!” to a spacious atrium. “Let’s sit over there so I can tell you my story. It all began so long ago. My husband moved his purple dye business from here to a town in Northern Greece. There was a highway running along the coast of Philippi with access to the port a few miles down the road. He thought this would make for a good location to market his products. When he passed away I continued to run the business and did rather well.”
Lydia continues, “Here’s the thing. While my husband and I were making a great living, we still sensed there was something missing in our lives. We thought there would be fulfillment by providing for the needs of our workers and their families. But we were missing the sense of wholeness and lasting fulfillment. Before we moved to Greece I had talked to a couple of my neighbors here in Thyatira. They talked lots about the fulfillment for the promise of the Messiah. But, they had questions, too, like “What does God expect from me?” and “How will the Messiah affect my life?” After we moved to Philippi I searched out more Christians (that’s was we called them, people who were following the Christ) who were seeking purpose and fulfillment in their lives like me. One day our prayers were answered. Four traveling teachers came by our meeting place along the river and my life was never the same. Let me read what Dr. Luke has written about this:
“13 On the Sabbath we went outside the city gate to the river, where we expected to find a place of prayer. We sat down and began to speak to the women who had gathered there. 14 One of those listening was a woman from the city of Thyatira named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth. She was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message.”
Lydia continued, “People have always said I had a very loving heart. As I look back I recall that as a child I wanted to be loved, and as I grew up I wanted to be in love. I loved my husband (and miss him dearly) and I loved our business and the people who worked for us. But, I didn’t learn what real love was until these four men started talking to us about Jesus. Remember – I was looking for purpose and fulfillment in my life. I’ll never forget the sermon he preached! He said, “You can have all kinds of things in your life, your closet, attic and garage. You can have lots of appointments on your calendar, and hundreds of contacts in your smart phone, but none of these things will fill the empty spot that is gnawing away inside. None of those things will give you purpose and fulfillment in your life.”
You can imagine how I was listening now. The man claimed to have the answer to my lifelong question. He continued, “Do you want fulfilling love and be motivated to love others? I mean the kind of love you need because without it your life is only on an empty road in a lost world, deserted along the desert highway that leads to hell. What we deserve from God is to be disciplined and punished for being like naughty children who have been squandering away our inheritance.” That’s the part that really go me, as if he had been following me around all week. How did he know I didn’t think hearing God’s Word was very important! It was like he was reading my mind, because I said I loved my husband, but some of those tanned sailors who got off the boat were so cute! I knew what he was saying we true. I was deserving only God’s anger. Then he said something I had never heard before. “But, we get something from God that is just the opposite!”
Then Paul opened up his brief case explained. “My good friend John, the Disciple of Jesus, has written a letter to the Christians in Ephesus. It was carefully copied and shared with Christians in Smyrna, Pergamum, here in Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea. In fact, I have a copy of it right here. I know these words by heart, but let me read it to you.” When he started to read this letter out loud I could feel every corner of my heart being filled and loved. Here’s a copy right here:
“9 This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.”
You see, I thought I had it all—family, husband, successful business, shoot! I could afford just about anything I wanted, but I couldn’t buy being loved by God. Jesus did that. Jesus paid the price. As Paul explained, “Atone means brought back together. What we owed Jesus paid.” And then I got a big smile on my face because I finally got it. Jesus paid it. I’m fully paid. Jesus died on the cross to pay my penalty for all my sins. Then he rose from the tomb that stands as the proof that I am forgiven!!! And my heart was so full of thankfulness it clicked! Now I had purpose!
I was so intrigued to learn more I offered for them to stay at my house. They humbly hesitated at first, but I agree with Luke’s assessment:
“15…. she invited us to her home. “If you consider me a believer in the Lord,” she said, “come and stay at my house.” And she persuaded us.”
You see, I was so inspired by God’s amazing love for me in Jesus Christ I had to invite them to my home. I took care of their needs, but they inspired me to worship, to be a better business woman, inspired me to take better care of my employees, and Jesus’ forgiveness drove me to move back here to Thyatira so I could reconnect with family and friends. I had a Purpose Driven Love. Driven by Jesus’ Forgiveness!”
My story isn’t so different from yours. Maybe you’re a young person in school and have come to realize that the world can be very unpleasant when you hear about other children being shot in school. Maybe you’re a young adult who now realizes just how fragile your life is when you hear about a terrorist driving over young people with a truck and killing them. Maybe you’re wrestling with direction for your life? Maybe you’re second guessing the life you’ve led and wondering what good you’ve done, or if the bad you’ve done will be forgotten by God? Then let my story about John’s words Drive Your Love! “This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” Your Purpose Driven Love is Driven by Jesus’ Forgiveness for you. Our hearts rejoice since Jesus’ forgiveness is
Driven By His Faithfulness
It was late in the afternoon as the sun was starting to set in the west, when Lydia asked, “Look, I know it’s Sunday and you’re probably wanting to get on with your plans for today, but won’t you stay for dinner?” And before I could answer she added, “I would like to finish sharing my story with you.” I agreed to stay with her as she spoke…..
“This business about finding our purpose in life is answered by Jesus with his forgiveness, but what adds a sense of wholeness and fulfillment comes from the certainty, the faithfulness of Jesus. You see, we don’t rely on fancy stories, but Jesus sent his Holy Spirit in order to inspire his apostles to write down facts. These facts haven’t changed in 2000 years! Let me read you another portion of John’s letter that Paul read to us:
“Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. 2 This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, 3 but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world.”
“This testing of the spirits is essential because they don’t just show up at the river on day and say, “Hi everybody, I’m a false teacher and what I’m about to say is spiritual poison!” On top of that there is an even more evil spirit floating around. Everyone has met this evil liar! He is the one who whispers, “You’re a good person. Don’t listen to all that church business. Since when is God contained in 4 walls anyway!?” Then Satan is the one who makes you laugh at filth and tolerate perverts. Then he tried to get you to believe that at the pearly gates God will let you in because you at least made an effort to be spiritual!”
So, do you get the picture? How can we ever maintain a Purpose Driven Love? Well, here’s is John’s answer:
“2 This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, 3 but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God.”
Our Purpose Driven Love is driven by Jesus’ faithfulness. He is the one who came from God, fulfilled God’s plan of salvation, and returned to the God as our King! It was Jesus who reminded us that his disciples are those who follow his Word! John offered another test for religious teachers so we can be sure of God’s faithfulness:
“ 6 We are from God, and whoever knows God listens to us; but whoever is not from God does not listen to us. This is how we recognize the Spirit of truth and the spirit of falsehood.”
The faithfulness of God’s truth is seen in the faithfulness of his followers. You see, our Purpose Driven Love is driven by Jesus’ faithfulness to us that inspires love and fulfillment in our life! Follow?? Look, I was reading in Solomon’s Proverbs and he had a really great quote:
Prov 16:9 “In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps!”
Follow me? Let’s see if you do: Let’s say you study very hard and get a good grade on the test. What is because you studied hard or because of God’s blessing? And the answer is: “Yes!” Try again. Your business does really well. Was it because you worked really heard or because of God’s blessing? The answer is Yes! One more: You have a great spouse. Was it because you did a great job of dating and setting your standard really high, or because of God’s blessing? Answer? Yes! You see, your purpose driven love is all about Jesus who is forming you to be a miniature version of Jesus. When you fail. Jesus forgives. When you succeed. Jesus is faithful. And what do you get? A purpose driven love for God and your neighbor.
Lydia concludes: My story is not so different from yours. Faithfulness has become a lost art. My grandma used the Tide laundry soap for 60 years. My Grandpa always drove a Buick. But, today people are different. People are always looking for new and better. Faithfulness is also becoming a lost art in the church. Will new members remain faithful to their Lord and active in the mission of his church? What about you? I don’t really care of you stick to the same laundry soap or vehicle. But, if you want to maintain a Purpose Driven Love then how about you ask me, who stood next to my husband who was being buried in the cemetery, what dried my tears. Ask me when I was lying in the hospital bed facing exploratory surgery, what gave me hope. Ask any Christian who is married but knows Jesus’ purpose driven love where they get the commitment to go on. They will tell you that their Purpose and Fulfillment in life is based on Jesus Christ and his forgiveness, eternal life, deliverance from the devil that is recorded for them in Scriptures.
Listen, I have a few words of encouragement for you before you go: “It’s not easy living in this world with the threat of world wars, terrorist attacks, disease, sickness, pain and suffering. I get that. But, if you want to have a Purpose Driven Love then I can’t say it any better than St John,
“10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.”
Dear Friends, enjoy your Purpose Driven Love that is driven by Jesus’ forgiveness and Jesus’ faithfulness. Amen!