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By Rev Charles Seet

Preached at Life BPC 67th Anniversary service, 2017-10-15

Text: Matthew 5:43-48

These verses should provoke us to examine ourselves – Yes, we may have been showing love to people by greeting them warmly, and we may have been nice to people (all these are well within our comfort zone) – but have we done enough? Jesus says that we may be doing just as much as the publicans (tax-collectors), and these are the people who were despised by society for their greed and dishonesty. We may be no better than them, because they are capable of showing just as much love, kindness and care to each other. Have we done more than what they have done?

Look carefully at the world and you will realise that unbelievers do a lot of good to one another, and make great sacrifices for one another. In fact sometimes they seem to be doing a lot more good works than Christians! But someone may say, Yes, they are zealous for good works, but what is the motive for their works? Aren’t they doing these good works to earn their salvation? Aren’t they actually doing all that they do for the wrong reasons? It is true that much of the time, people do these things merely to ‘ease’ their conscience, or fulfil their obligations. What they have then is not love since, as 1 Corinthians 13:5 tells us – Real love is not self-seeking.

But what about us? Have we not often fallen into the same trap ourselves? Have we not also done many of the things we ought to do merely to ‘ease’ our conscience, or to fulfil our obligation as Christians? If the Holy Spirit convicts you that this is true of you, then please take heed to what the Lord Jesus says to you in this passage. He says that you need to go the extra mile. And you need to do all these things out of pure selfless love, a love that is superior to the love that the world has. This love that God expects us to have is defined by three imperatives.

  1. We Must Have a Universal Love (vv. 43, 44)

This imperative is found in v.43. We are commanded to love our neighbour. And the word ‘neighbour’ here is not restricted to any class of people. We know this because on one occasion, when Jesus was asked the question, “Who is my neighbour?” He replied by relating the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37). He related how no one else except the Samaritan (whom the Jews despised) was willing to render help to the Jew who was injured. Therefore anyone who is in need is my neighbour, regardless of his background.

The love required of us is therefore a universal love. It is a love that embraces the broadest scope. We should not judge people around us according to their abilities, outward appearance, or social position. We must regard every person, whether rich or poor, old or young, weak or strong, as someone who deserves to be loved and cared for. We should not regard anyone as being unworthy of our time and attention.

One problem that exists everywhere, even among Bible-believing Christians is the problem of discrimination. There is a tendency to limit the showing of kindness, love and concern only to those we prefer to be with. But this passage in Christ’s Sermon on the Mount reminds us that our love should not discriminate against anyone. Our Lord Jesus once said, “When thou makest a dinner or a supper, call not thy friends, nor thy brethren, neither thy kinsmen, nor thy rich neighbours; lest they also bid thee again, and a recompence be made thee.  But when thou makest a feast, call the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind: And thou shalt be blessed; for they cannot recompense thee...” (Luke 14:12-14)

The kind of love that Christ expects from you is not limited to only certain groups of people. It must embrace the broadest scope. We are to show love not only to our friends and neighbours, but even to strangers as well. And more than that, we are to show love even to those who hate us and those who are our enemies. The Jews who heard Jesus saying this would have reacted and said, “How can You say that we must love our enemies? Are we not told ‘Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy’?”

Actually the Word of God never says that at all. The commandment as God gave it in the scriptures in Leviticus 19:18 only reads, “…thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself: I am the LORD.” The clause ‘and hate thine enemy’ was never found in God’s Word. Notice that v.43 begins with the clause, “Ye have heard that it hath been said…” Jesus did not say,“It is written”. That is because He was not citing the teachings of the Scriptures, but the distorted interpretation of this commandment that were given to it by some ancient teachers of Israel.

Jesus then gives the correct interpretation of the commandment to love in v.44 – “But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you”. How do we love our enemies? 

One outstanding example is found in the life of David at the time when King Saul was pursuing him with the intention of killing him. David and his men were hiding inside a cave. Saul went into that cave to ease himself not knowing that David was hiding in there. David and his men were hidden by the darkness of the cave and could have easily have taken advantage of this situation by taking Saul’s life. But he refused. He said in 1 Samuel 24:6 – “The LORD forbid that I should do this thing unto my master, the LORD’S anointed, to stretch forth mine hand against him, seeing he is the anointed of the LORD.”

The same thing happened again later on. This time Saul and 3,000 men came again after David. And God caused the whole camp of Saul to fall asleep at night – even the guards –so that David and one of his men were able to come right up to the sleeping king. Once again David had his golden opportunity to take his enemy’s life. But he did not, saying,“The LORD forbid that I should stretch forth mine hand against the LORD’S anointed.” (1 Samuel 26:11). When King Saul eventually died on the battlefield, David could have rejoiced that his enemy was dead. But instead, he mourned the death of Saul and composed one of the most moving eulogies about Saul and Jonathan his son which is recorded in 2 Samuel chapter 1.

These responses of David to Saul exemplify the selfless love that was taught by our Lord Jesus Christ in Matthew 5:44 – “But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.”

Perhaps there may be someone who has done things against you which you consider to be unforgiveable. You feel that his wrongdoing is so great that there is really no possibility of demonstrating love by way of forgiving him. The scriptures however command us to forgive those who have sinned against us. Forgiveness is not an option. It is a command that we must obey, since God has forgiven us of all our sins. We are now constrained to love and forgive our enemies because God Himself loved and forgave us when we were His enemies. This brings us now to the second imperative concerning the kind of love God wants us to have:

  1. We Must Have a Supernatural Love (v. 45)

Let us look at v.45 – “That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven…” Children will bear some resemblance to their father. If you are truly a child of God His resemblance will be seen in you. And though we can never attain the full likeness of God in this life, we should keep striving to be like Him, as our Lord Jesus has said in v.48 – “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.”

Therefore our love must be a supernatural love, a love which embodies the highest standard of all – which is God’s supernatural love for mankind! Ephesians 5:1,2 gives us the same imperative – “Be ye therefore followers [or imitators] of God, as dear children; And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us...”

What kind of love does God have? The latter part of v.45 tells us “…for He maketh His sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.”This means that God bestows good things on all people impartially, whether they are good or evil. God can simply condemn all people because of His justice. But instead of doing this, He shows repeated and prolonged favour on all. It is out of this love that He offers salvation freely to all people, and He takes no delight in seeing them suffering eternal death in Hell.He is not coldly indifferent to their plight. But as a loving heavenly Father, He mourns over them, and is grieved at their loss. No loving father could ever bear to be indifferent to the plight of his dying child. No loving father ever takes delight in watching his child sink deeper and deeper into deadly peril. So God takes no delight in seeing sinners sinking into death.

Listen to what God says in Ezekiel 33:11, “As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live.” We realise even more how much God loves sinners when we hear what Christ says in Luke 15:10 – “There is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth.” AndRomans 5:8 tells us, “But God commendeth His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” One more verse that shows how greatly God loves sinners is 2 Peter 3:9 – “The Lord is not slack concerning His promises, as some men count slackness: but is longsuffering to usward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.”

This then is the standard of love that God expects us, His dear children, to have. Since God loves sinners and longs for them to have eternal life, we too should love people around us with this selfless kind of love. And this also means that we should love them enough to bring them the Gospel of salvation, which is the only thing that can save them from eternal death. This love should be the motivation or mainspring which drives all our evangelistic efforts.

Here is a true story about loving people enough to give them the gospel. The year was 1952. The place was Lansdowne Baptist Church in England. It was time of sharing testimonies during a church meeting. A man named Peter stood up and asked, “Pastor, can I share a little testimony?” The church pastor, named Francis Dixon, allowed him to speak.

Peter said, “I just moved into this area, I came from Sydney, Australia. Just a few months back I was walking down George Street when a strange man stepped out of a shop doorway, put a pamphlet in my hand and said, ‘Excuse me sir, are you saved? If you died tonight, are you going to heaven?’ I was astounded by those words. Nobody had ever told me that. I thanked him courteously, and all the way back to Heathrow this puzzled me. I called a Christian friend and he led me to Christ. And now I’m a Christian.”

Pastor Francis Dixon flew to Adelaide the next week. A woman came to him for counseling, and he asked her where she stood with Christ. And she said, “I used to live in Sydney. A couple of months back, I was doing some last minute shopping down George Street, and a strange man offered me a pamphlet and said, ‘Excuse me ma’am, are you saved? If you died tonight, are you going to heaven?’ She said, “I was disturbed by those words. When I got back to Adelaide, I sought out a pastor, and he led me to Christ. So sir, I am a Christian.”

This made Francis Dixon very puzzled. Twice he had heard the same testimony. He then flew westward to preach at the Mount Pleasant Baptist Church in Perth. When his teaching series was over, the senior elder took him out for a meal. And Pastor Dixon asked him how he became a Christian. He said, “I grew up in this church through Boys Brigade. Never made a commitment to Jesus, just hopped on the bandwagon like everybody else. I was on business in Sydney, and an obnoxious man offered me a religious pamphlet, and accosted me with a question, ‘Excuse me sir, Are you saved? If you died tonight are you going to heaven?’

“I tried to tell him I that was an Elder. He wouldn’t listen to me. I was seething with anger all the way to Perth. I told my pastor, thinking he would sympathize, but my pastor agreed with the man! He had been disturbed for years, knowing that I didn’t have a relationship with Jesus – and he was right. And my pastor led me to Jesus just three years ago.”

Later on, Pastor Dixon spoke at a convention to over a thousand navy chaplains. The Chaplain General took him out for a meal and the pastor asked him how he had become a Christian. The chaplain replied, “I was living a sinful life on a US Battleship. We were doing exercises in the South Pacific, and we docked in Sydney Harbour. We hit King’s Cross. I got blind drunk. I got on the wrong bus at George Street. As I got off the bus, a man jumped in front of me, pushed a pamphlet into my hands and said, ‘Sailor, are you saved? If you died tonight, are you going to heaven?’ The fear of God hit me immediately. I was shocked sober, and ran back to the battleship, sought out the chaplain, the chaplain led me to Christ and I soon began to prepare for the ministry under his guidance. And here I am in charge of over a thousand chaplains and we’re bent on soul-winning today.”

Six months later, Pastor Dixon spoke at a convention for 5,000 missionaries in north-eastern India. The host who was a former Hindu took him home for a simple meal. The Pastor asked him, “How did you come to Christ?” He said, “I worked for the Indian diplomatic mission. One bout of diplomatic service took me to Sydney. I was doing last-minute shopping down George Street, when a man stepped out in front of me, offered me a pamphlet, and said, ‘Excuse me sir, are you saved? If you died tonight are you going to heaven?’ I thanked him very much, but this disturbed me. I got back to my town, I sought out the Hindu priest. He told me to go and talk to a missionary to satisfy my curiosity. That day the missionary led me to Christ. I quit Hinduism immediately, and began to study for the ministry.”

Eight months later, Pastor Dixon had an opportunity to minister in Sydney, and he was determined to meet the man behind all these testimonies. He related the stories to a Christian worker named Alec Gilchrist and asked him if he knew who this man was. Gilchrist replied, “I know him well. His name is Frank Jenner.” Two nights later, they went around to his humble apartment to meet him. He made them some tea. Pastor Dixon then told him all these accounts.

Frank Jenner spoke with tears running down. “My story goes like this. I was a sailor on an Australian warship and I lived a wild life, and was addicted to gambling. And in a crisis, my colleague led me to Jesus and I was so grateful to God that I promised I would share Jesus in a simple witness with at least ten people a day– as God gave me strength. Sometimes, I was ill but I made up for it at other times. I have done this for 16 years, and the best place was on George Street. There were hundreds of people. But I’ve never heard of one single person coming to Jesus until today.”

It is estimated that he had given the same question to more than 100,000 people, and many who responded to it with faith in Christ went on to become evangelists, church leaders and missionaries throughout the world. Frank Jenner’s life is a wonderful testimony of how God can use the loving efforts of one man to bring so many people to Christ for salvation. Think of how God can use us, if we all were to love people enough to give them the Gospel of Christ! The love that God commands us to have must be nothing less than a universal and supernatural love.

And now we come to the third and final imperative concerning the kind of love God wants us to have. This imperative is implied in the words of v.47, “…what do ye more than others?” The key word here is the word ‘more’. This love will demand “more” from us – more of our time, more of our resources, and more of ourselves. The love we have must therefore be a sacrificial love.

  1. We Must Have a Sacrificial Love (vv. 46-48)

It is a love that brings forth the deepest sacrifice from us for others! But such love is getting harder and harder to find these days. One of the things that is so common in society is a sense of apathy. Most people tend to be interested only in their own concerns. The only ones they love are those who would love them back, as Jesus said in v.46 – “For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? Do not even the publicans the same?”  This tendency confines us to our own needs and concerns most of the time. It makes us think along these lines: “As long as my own needs are being met, my own rights are not being violated, and I am getting along comfortably with everyone, there is nothing else that I need to be too concerned about.”

This attitude also exists within our own church. The majority of us here are contented to be spectators. We think that we have done enough by just attending the worship service here on Sundays. We want to be served rather than to serve, and we say, “Let those who have the time and energy to serve the Lord and His people do all the work of serving.” And we thank God that there are church members who are willing to sacrifice their time and energy for others. We have seen some who are willing to go a second mile and even a third mile to serve and minister to the needs of other members. But the reality is that they are a small minority. They are bearing a heavier load than they can bear, because many of us are plagued by a sense of apathy.

Please ask yourself if you too are plagued with a sense of apathy or lack of love for others. That apathy is abnormal. It is a symptom of a spiritually sick life. This is stated very clearly in 1 John 3:10 – “In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil: whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God, neither he that loveth not his brother.For this is the message that ye heard from the beginning, that we should love one another.”

It is mentioned again in 1 John 4:7,8 which says, “Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He thatloveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.” Please take careful note that when John speaks in these verses of the person that “loveth not” he is not referring to one who hates or despises others. He is referring to one who has no love toward others, i.e. apathy. This is why we cannot be comfortable with having no love for one another. If there is no love in our hearts for others, we must do something about it. We must have a genuine love for others.

But how can we do this? Well we can start by developing a genuine interest in others. God’s Word in Philippians 2:4 commands us – “Look not every man on his own things,but every man also on the things of others.” Let us make a serious effort to develop a healthy interest in others, especially in church which is God’s family. Lift up your eyes and look beyond yourself. Look beyond your own little world that you have built around you. And then you will begin to see vast opportunities to love the people around you sacrificially, and to make a difference in their lives.

Our missionary in Cambodia, sister Chan Pui Meng has been doing that. She has been living with the people in Le Village and loving them with a sacrificial love for almost two years. And her efforts in teaching God’s Word to them have not been in vain. Souls have been delivered from the darkness of sin, from idolatry and from futility. And now there are at least 15 people from that remote village who have professed faith in Christ through Pui Meng’s ministry.

Last Monday I received an email from her with this short message: “As our church is celebrating the 67th Church Anniversary we would like to rejoice with all of you for this special occasion… One of our students has drawn a nice picture for the church. Please see the attachment.”  The student who drew this picture is an 11-year old girl named Wie. She has never seen Life Church before, and yet she is interested enough in us to draw and colour a nice picture for our church anniversary! Doesn’t this show how blessed it is to be in Christ and to be bound together with others in faraway lands by His love?

Let us develop a healthy interest in others. Then we will be prepared to do more for them, to go the second mile for them, and also to love them the way that God commands us to love: with a love without limits, a love which is Universal, Supernatural and Sacrificial. This is not easy to do, and very often we have to struggle with our old sinful nature to love like this. I must admit that I have failed many times to love without limits, and I need to keep surrendering my own selfish will to God so that His love can flow through me. And our comfort is that God will enable us to love as we should, because it is His will for us who are His children to be like Him. May the Lord give us all this kind of love for all His people, as well as for those who have yet to become His people!

 

Vision & Mission

 

To build a united church family that is committed to making disciples through Salvation, Sanctification and Service, to the glory of God.

Verse for the Week

January 21 & 28 - The Power of Prayer

Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much. James 5:16