OPEN FOR MORNING WORSHIP ON SUNDAY 18 APRIL AT 10:30AM
OPEN FOR MORNING WORSHIP
SUNDAY 18 APRIL AT 10:30AM

Sharing Our Faith Together

Morning Worship for Sunday 25 October 2020

by Peter Goddard 25 October 2020
Welcome to Worship, I’m so sorry I can’t be with you in person this Sunday as planned; this is just to let you know that you are all very much in my thoughts and prayers at this extraordinary and very difficult time!

Hymn: 10,000 Reasons (Bless the Lord)

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Prayer: 

Father, although we cannot meet together to worship you, we take this opportunity to bless you from our own homes, for you are our God and the source of all that is good in our lives now and in the future. From you came the love we experienced in days gone by and from you comes the love we receive today. Whatever our circumstances now and whatever lies before us, we pray that by the power of you Spirit, you will enable us to ‘sing your praise unending’, for we know that ‘in all things you work for the good of those who love you’. Be glorified in our lives and in this time of worship we pray, for we ask it in the name of Jesus. Amen


Lord’s Prayer

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Readings: 

Matthew 22:34-40

1 John 4:15-21

Hymn: Who You Say I Am

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This is the Sunday before All Saints Day and the Gospel Lectionary Reading for today contains one of the best known passages in the Bible: “‘Teacher,’ he asked, ‘which is the greatest commandment in the Law?’

Jesus answered, ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the most important commandment. The second most important commandment is like it: Love your neighbour as you love yourself.’” (Matthew 22: 36-39)

Often Christians have seen these as two separate commandments, which has led to all sorts of trouble! For example, an over-emphasis on the first of these commandments can lead to the sort of religious fundamentalism which completely disregards the feelings of our neighbours. At the moment this is most clearly displayed by Muslim terrorists, but in the past some Christians have committed equally heinous crimes in the name of their faith, claiming obedience to God as their justification.

On the other hand an over-emphasis on the second of these commandments can lead to Christians practicing a ‘social gospel’ which pays little of no regard to our neighbour’s spiritual state or to their eternal salvation.

Actually however, this passage contains not two but three commandments: ‘Love God; love your neighbour and love yourself!’ And the most important thing to note is that you can’t do any of these properly without also doing the other two!

In our second reading the Apostle John says: “If we say we love God, but hate others, we are liars, for we cannot love God, whom we have not seen, if we do not love others, whom we have seen. The command that Christ has given us is this: ‘whoever loves God must love others also’.” (1 John 4:20-21)

So you cannot love God unless you also love your neighbour and equally, you cannot love your neighbour unless you also love yourself!

Sometimes however, people approach this truism the wrong way round. They try to love themselves; then they try to love their neighbour, then, if they have the time and inclination, they try to love God. In fact, as we see from the emphasis which Jesus gives these commandments, it actually works the other way round! If we truly love God, we will also love our neighbour and if we love our neighbours we will also love ourselves. 

Everything begins with God, because He is the source of all love; as 1 John 4:7-8 says: “Dear friends, let us love one another, because love comes from God. Whoever loves is a child of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love.”

So what does it mean to ‘love God’? Sometimes Christians make the mistake of suggesting that loving God begins with loving your neighbour, but this cannot be right for that is the second’ commandment. No; as with anyone else, to truly love God you must know Him and have a relationship with Him. But to know God in this way is difficult for us, because He is holy and glorious beyond our imagination and comprehension; which is why He sent Jesus to us!

In 2 Corinthians 4:6 the Apostle Paul tells us that: “‘The God who said, “Out of darkness the light shall shine!’ is the same God who made his light shine in our hearts, to bring us the knowledge of God's glory shining in the face of Christ.”

One of the reasons that Jesus came to earth, was to reveal to us all we can currently know and understand of the personal love of God. So loving God begins with getting to know Christ and this we can do, by reading of His life and teachings in the Bible; by meeting with is Spirit in prayer and worship and by talking to those of His Disciples who have known and loved Him for many years.

As we get to know Jesus, so shall we grow to love God; and as we love God, so shall we grow to love our neighbours; and as we love our neighbours, so shall we grow to love ourselves – simple! Well, yes in theory, but it’s seldom so simple for Christians in practice – and here’s why:

The Bible tells us that we ‘deserve nothing’; it’s quite clear about that! Isaiah 64:6 says: “All of us have been sinful; even our best actions are filthy through and through.” Romans 3:10 tells us that: “There is no one who is truly righteous.” And in Romans 5:8 Paul reminds us that: “It was while we were still sinners that Christ died for us!” It’s difficult to love yourself when you deserve nothing and even your best efforts are tainted by a degree of self-interest. And if we don’t love ourselves, we can’t love our neighbour; and if we don’t love our neighbour, we can’t love God!

Again however, we’re looking at the problem the wrong way round. We get so engrossed in ourselves, in our problems and failures, that we have a false perspective about who we really are!

Remember, ‘everything begins with God’, so who does God think we are? Well firstly, whatever we think of ourselves, God loves us enough to send His only Son to die for us! Jesus died on the cross to pay the penalty for the sins of everyone in the world! “He paid a debt He didn’t owe, because we owed a debt we couldn’t pay!”

As John 3:16 famously tells us: “God loves the world so much that He gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him shall not die but will have eternal life.” God loves us as we are, but hates the sin within us and His great desire is for us to receive His forgiveness and gain new life in union with Christ, a new life we receive when we repent of our sins and put our trust in Jesus as our only Lord and Saviour.

When we do this God loves us anew because of who we have become – His Children. As John 1:12 tells us: “Some (people) did receive (Jesus) and believed in Him; so He gave them the right to become children of God.”            

But there is more; in union with Christ:

We are greatly loved by God (Romans 1:7; Ephesians 2:4; Colossians 3:12; 1 Thessalonians 1:4).

We are forgiven for all our sins (Ephesians 1:7).

We are holy and without blame before God (Ephesians 1:4; 1 Peter 1:16).

We are born again (I Peter 1:23)

We are a new creations (2 Corinthians 5:17)

We are free from sin and death (Romans 8:2; Romans 6:23).

We are a spirit beings - alive to God (Romans 6:11; 1 Thessalonians 5:23).

We are delivered from the power of darkness and transferred into God’s kingdom (Colossians 1:13).

We are part of a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation (1 Peter 2:9).

We are a citizen of heaven (Philippians 3:20)

And many other wonderful things. 

These are our true identity in union with Christ. Understanding these things helps us to see ourselves as God sees us and to love ourselves as God loves us.

It’s important to remember however, that this awareness is not the object of our faith. The object of our faith, as the Westminster Shorter Catechism says, is to “glorify God, and to enjoy Him forever.” Our faith begins and ends with God

Jesus said: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind; this is the greatest and the most important commandment. The second most important commandment is like it: Love your neighbour as you love yourself.’” So as we grow to know and to love God, so shall we grow to love our neighbours and so shall we grow to love ourselves; which in turn cause us to love God more! This is the virtuous circle of true Christian faith! Amen


Prayer:

Help us Lord Jesus, by the power of your Spirit, to love God; to love our neighbours and to love ourselves, so that all we say and do might bring glory to you. We pray also that you will heal your people throughout the world today, and that you will confirm and strengthen our faith in you, so that whatever happens to us during this life, we will know your love and support. We pray this especially for those known to us who are struggling with illness; isolation; loneliness; fear; grief or any other affliction. We pray that you will guide the governments of the world in the decisions they make about how to contain the pandemic and preserve their economies.

We thank you Lord that you came to reveal to us the love God has for each and every one of us and we pray that we might grow ever more aware of this love as we learn day by day to fix our attention on you, for you alone bring true light, life and love into our lives. Thank you Lord Jesus; be glorified in us we pray

Amen.


Hymn: What a Beautiful Name

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May God’s peace and blessing be with you all, now and forevermore, Amen

Peter