TRANSCRIPTION | Sunday, February 14, 2021 | The Most Important Word in the Bible

 

 

Pastor Eric Gilbert

You know, I believe that love is the most used and abused sentiment in the entire world. There are a lot of hearts that have been healed by the usage of that word. But there are also a lot of hearts that have been broken by the usage of that word. And when you pick up a Bible, you need to understand that, that Bible is about one thing primarily, it is about Jesus, It is all about Jesus, and it will always be about Jesus. Everything in the Bible either points to Jesus or points back to Jesus. It's all about Jesus. But as you come to that understanding, you also begin to realize that the Bible is a love story. And love is the central theme of the Bible. It encompasses everything even about Jesus. When you begin to go through the Bible, you discover that the very definition of God is given in the context of love. It's 1 John chapter four verse 8. This was the first Bible verse that I ever memorized in children's church, my mama taught it to me. 1 John 4:8, “He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.” That definition of God is love. If you want to know who God is, then you must understand what love is. God is love. You move forward into the Bible, and you realize that not only is God Himself love, but you also discover that the greatest commandments in the entire Bible are based on love. They are recorded in the book of Matthew chapter 22, they are spoken by Jesus Himself. It begins in verse 37, “And Jesus said to him, you shall love the Lord your God, with all your heart with all your soul, and with all your mind, this is the first and the great commandment. And the second is that you would love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments, hang all the other law and prophets.” In other words, all the rest of the Bible hangs on the concept of love; first, that you would love God and then secondly, that you would love people. And what God says to us in 1 John, is that if you do not love God, and you do not love people, then you don't know him. So loving God and loving people is a direct result of knowing God. 

 

Pastor Eric Gilbert

Another thing that Scripture tells us is that we love because he first loved us. It's that revelation of what he has done for us that causes us to fall in love with him, and then be willing to exemplify that love in the earth, through our own lives to other people. If there were to be an anchor text for the entire Bible, the thing that anchors all of Scripture, it would be John chapter three, verse 16. Many of you can probably quote that verse. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, that whosoever believes in him would not perish but have everlasting life.” Aren't you glad that God loves us so much that he was willing to pay the price for us to be saved, and have freedom? So, it's all about love. God is love, we are commanded to love, and the reason God has the right to give us that command is because he has exemplified love to the point that he would give his son so that you and I could have everlasting life. That is the message of the Bible. And God wants that love, clearly through his commands, duplicated in the earth, exemplified in the earth, modeled in the earth, expressed in the earth. But in Matthew chapter 24, verse 12, Jesus gives a prophetic statement, he gives us a warning, and he tells us that there is going to be something negative happen in the realm of sharing love. Matthew 24:12, Jesus said, “And because sin, or lawlessness, will abound, the love of many will grow cold.” One translation says, “The love of many will wax cold.” 

 

Pastor Eric Gilbert

When you think about a candle, the candle is lit, and then the wax is liquefied. But when you blow out the fire, the candle will begin to once again harden, and it doesn't take place immediately, it's something that takes place over a progressive timeframe, that when you blow out the fire, it might be liquid to start with, but then when you go back after a period of time, that candle is once again going to be hardened. And so that's the imagery that Jesus wants to give you about what is going to happen to love in society and in culture when sin begins to abound. That sin will begin to abound, lawlessness will be in the streets, the society will be overrun with sinful attitudes and he says, you're going to need to be cautious in that moment because what happens is love starts waxing cold. It starts growing cold. People start being calloused in their hearts. People start being hardened in their hearts. People stop expressing love the way that they could or the way that they should. 

 

Pastor Eric Gilbert

That takes us back to the text that we have been evaluating over the last couple of weeks. Revelation chapter two, verse number one. I want you to see this. Revelation chapter two, verse number one, “Write this Letter to the angel of the church in Ephesus. You have patiently suffered for me without quitting.” Look at somebody and tell them don't quit. So, God affirms them, they didn't quit. He is glad for them that they didn't quit. But then notice what happens next. “But I have this complaint against you.” Jesus Himself is about to file a complaint with the Church. Not an individual, but with a church as a whole. “You don't love me or each other as you did at first.” Something's happened to your love. Here's the thing about Ephesus, we talked about this a little bit last week, that Ephesus was not a place where that the average choirboy could do business. In fact, Paul said when he went there, it was a place where he had to battle the beast, whether it was figurative, or it was literal, there were evil things that were happening in Ephesus. It was a place of great sinfulness. It was a place where the streets were filled with people who were behaving in obnoxious and sinful ways. And what happened is this church, even though they didn't quit, they kept showing up, they kept doing that thing in regards to being a part of the Church. Jesus said, I have a complaint, you've lost something. You consider it enough to just not quit. When in truth, your love is a waxing cold. Your love is growing cold. It didn't happen overnight, it didn't happen instantaneously, But over the course of time, something about the way you express love at the beginning is not the way you are expressing love now. And he says this is not only regards to your love for God, but it's also exemplified through your love for other people. 

 

Pastor Eric Gilbert

When you look at the Bible, Genesis to Revelation, the Old Testament is written in Hebrew, originally, the New Testament is written primarily in Greek. That's important. Because when we talk about love, we're talking about just one word. Like, we describe love in so many different ways. We love pizza, but we also love our spouse. We love our dog, but we also love our kids. Just one word. But for the Hebrews, they had multiple words that we now translate as one word. For instance, the Hebrew people had multiple words for love. For instance, there would be one word used to describe how a parent loves a child. But there would be an entirely different word used to describe how a child loves a parent. And if you are a parent who now has a child, and you were once a child who had a parent, you know very well it is two different types of love. So the Hebrew language was intentional to describe those differences through terminology. But also how brothers and siblings love a word for that. How spouses love one another, a word for that. The list goes on. How friends love one another, a word for that specifically. But when you read it in your Bible, it's just love. You come into the New Testament, there's at least three words for love. One is a friendly love, one is a sexual love, but then another is a godly kind of love. And what you need to notice is that in the book of Revelation, chapter two, when Jesus says to them, you didn't quit, and I affirm you for that. However, I have a complaint against you, you have lost your first love. He is talking about the God kind of love. That day was a way they used to express love to one another that was godly in nature. God is love. And he's looking for us to exemplify his kind of love in the earth, not only to him, but to other people. And so what you need to understand about that is that the God kind of love is not just a commitment. The God kind of love is not just a contract, because you can break a commitment, and you can break a contract. The God kind of love is a covenant and you can't break a covenant. In Scripture, if you broke a covenant, somebody had to die. It's not a commitment. It's not a contract. It is a covenant. 

 

Pastor Eric Gilbert

Some of you may have had moments on your phone, where you're about to get a software update, and it tells you that the only way you can get that update is you have to agree to the Terms of Service, or to the Terms of Agreement. And you just check that box, you don't really read the fine print, just give me what I'm waiting for, let me have it. Do you understand the terms of agreement for the God kind of love? They're actually listed in Scripture. They are laid out very, very clearly. And it's probably time for some of us to read the fine print, because it's listed in 1 Corinthians chapter 13, verse four, this is speaking specifically of the God kind of love. This is the terms of agreement. “Love suffers long and is kind. Love does not envy, love does not parade itself, love is not puffed up, love does not behave rudely. Godly Love does not seek its own. It is not provoked. It does not think evil. It does not rejoice in iniquity, but it rejoices in truth. It bears all things, it believes all things, it hopes all things, it endures all things. Love never fails.” God is love. So you literally can read 1 Corinthians 13 as God suffers long, and God is kind. God does not envy. God does not parade himself. God is not puffed up. God does not behave rudely. God does not seek his own. God is not provoked. God thinks no evil. God does not rejoice in iniquity. God rejoices in truth, God bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. God never fails. God never fails. God is love. And yet he has commanded us to love him and love others. And he shows up, and he tells the church at Ephesus, like I get it sins the bounding. You're suffering because the sin is abounding. Like there's a lot of negative stuff that's happening in your society, happening in your culture, happening in your zip code. And you didn't quit, praise God. But, I have a complaint, you've broken the covenant. 

 

Pastor Eric Gilbert

I wonder if I could read the covenant. Eric suffers long. Eric is kind. Eric does not envy. Eric doesn't parade himself. Eric's not puffed up. And Eric doesn't behave rudely. And Eric's not provoked. I didn't get very far did you? It's more than a commitment. It's more than a contract. It's a covenant. He takes it serious when we break it. To the point that he says something absolutely profound. Revelation chapter two verse one, “I write this letter to the church at Ephesus, the place where sin is abounding. The place where the beasts are raging and roaring. You have suffered patiently for me without quitting. But I have this complaint against you. You don't love me or each other as you did at first. Look how far you fall in, turn back to me and do the works which you did at first.” Have you ever contemplated that love is work? I love my kids, but sometimes it's work. I think Mandy loves me, but I'm sure she would tell you sometimes it's work.

 

Pastor Eric Gilbert

 Let me give you some theology. The Bible says this, faith without works is, y'all been reading your Bible, that's awesome. James said that, faith without works is dead. But then Paul had something to say in Galatians. He said faith works by, one person has been doing their devotion, praise God. I’m gonna keep preaching. I feel like a successful pastor. Faith works by love. So, Faith without works is dead, but faith works by love. But then Jesus went to the Church at Revelation, and he said you didn't quit. I'm excited about the fact that you didn't quit, but we need to evaluate something. You need to redo your first works in order to get back to your first love. I wonder if there's something about the way that we used to exemplify love that in some way, shape, form or fashion is no longer transpiring because our hearts have waxed cold. I wonder if there's a part of us that if we were honest, we don't suffer like we once did. Even with our spouse, we're not as kind as we once were. That with our neighbors, we envy. We feel like there's this need to parade. You do realize that's what most of just social media is, right? Just a parade of oneself. It's not puffed up, doesn't behave rudely. It doesn't seek its own. It's not provoked. It doesn't think evil. It doesn't rejoice in iniquity. It rejoices in truth, it bears all things, it believes all things, it hopes all things, it endures all things. Love never fails. And what Jesus said to us is if you are in a place where that this covenant is being broken in your life, this is what he says, he said, I want you to look, I want you to look, I want you to look at how far you’ve fallen. He's like, the way you used to love me and the way you used to love other people. I need you to take the blinders off, I need you to get honest with yourself for a minute, and I need you to look at how far you’ve fallen from that first expression of love. He said, now that you've looked and you realize how far you've fallen, I want you to turn back and redo your first works. I want you to go back, and I want you to start doing some stuff that you used to do. And here's what he says next. If you don't repent, I will take your lamp stand. This is New Testament, not Old Testament. This is not to an individual, this is to a church. He says if you don't repent for the fact that you settled just to not quit and yet chose to no longer love me or love other people in a purified way. If you don't repent, he said I will take your lamp stand and I will remove it. What's he saying? 

 

Pastor Eric Gilbert

When the book of Revelation starts, it shows us that there are seven lampstands, and it shows us that Jesus is walking through those seven lampstands. Tell your neighbor, seven lampstands so we're about to see something metaphorical unfold. Jesus is walking through these seven lampstands. Then, we discover that Jesus is actually talking to seven churches. And we realize that those lamp stands represent a church's light shining, a church's influence shining into a community, into a region, into the area with which they've been given charge. And Jesus says to the church that Ephesus, like you are battling a lot of sin, and you are battling a lot of mess, and I am affirming you for the fact you didn't quit in the middle of that sin and you didn't quit in the middle of that mess. But if you don't get back to loving people and repent for every day you've spent not loving people, I will take your lamp stand and I will move it. I will get rid of your influence. He said I would rather you not even have influence. I would rather you not even have the lamp stand, then for you to keep on doing this and not loving people. Think about that for a minute. That what Jesus is saying to you and me is I don't want you to quit, but I also want you to love people. 

 

Pastor Eric Gilbert

Have you ever noticed how many people serve faithfully offended? Oh, I'm about to preach. I mean they will get in their post. They will get in their spot come hell or high water, they will be there. It can be rain, it can be sleet, it can be snow, but they are going to be there. They are the epitome of faithful, but they look like they've been sipping on dill pickle soup. Mean, hateful bite your head off; look at you cross eyed, funny; snarky; snappy; treat people... But they faithful. But man oh man, the way they used to love people versus the way they love people now, they didn't quit. But they don't realize that the light of their lampstand is being scarred and damaged by the fact that they're not loving or doing the work of love. He's saying to him, I don't want you to quit, but while you're not quitting, I want you to be kind. And I don't want you to quit, but while you're not quitting, I don't want you to be rude. And I don't want you to quit, but while you're not quitting, I want you to be patient and long suffering. And I want you to endure with hope and give people the benefit of the doubt. And I don't want you to fail folks by not loving them. You know what the world is desperate for, love. The world needs to see people who are faithful but loving. Because you can be faithful and you can get in your post, and you can stay in there and prove the point that you're in your post. But you're going to need to love while you're in that post. It's not enough to just say, I'm a Christian, or I go to church, it's I love you. And when I say it, I mean it. And I exemplify it, and I practice it. 

 

Pastor Eric Gilbert

I was thinking about how he says, you need to look how far you have fallen. You need to turn back to me and do the first works over again. It implies a path. He's implying that there's some kind of path that you've strayed from. And I was thinking about, my wife, she has just two horses. And every morning, she gives them a biscuit. And they tend to spend the night over on one side of the field, but they know when the biscuit is coming. They know that's the place where they're fed. They know that's where they experience an expression of love. And they, they just wear a path out. There's also two dogs in that field. They sleep in the horse's hay. And they also get a little cookie. My wife, she takes those dogs and those horses a cookie, a biscuit, every morning. I don't, I don't get a cookie or a biscuit, but I do get coffee. She told me I didn't look like I needed a cookie or a biscuit. Yes, Lord. Love is work.

 

Pastor Eric Gilbert

I've noticed another path developing at our place, It's from our back porch out to our garage. I got a little shop there, and I go out there and light a fire and put on the worship music and just... I've had some real God moments. And it's become this place that I'm excited about, I'm enthusiastic about, it’s just where II feel like I can hear God right now. I can go out there and just do manly things, you know, play with fire and God speaks, it's wonderful. It reminds me of a story I heard. In Central America, many people, many tribes there, heard the Gospel and had a born again experience. The only problem was they didn't have a church building or the means to create one. So what they did is they went out in the middle of the jungle and they cleared a space where that all of these new Christians could come and pray. And what they began to notice is that as they would stand in this central place that had been created for prayer, there were these pathways that began to develop. You could see Bob's path, the ground was beginning to be worn out. You could see John's path, You could see Susie's path. All directions, these paths began to develop. But then when someone's enthusiasm would wane, and when someone's first love was no longer being expressed in the way that it previously had been, they noticed something else, grass would begin to grow over the path. So they developed a word of encouragement for one another when this began to transpire. Brother, Sister, grass is growing over your path. And they realized something's happening to my first love. 

 

Pastor Eric Gilbert

I wonder if you were to be honest. Are there places in your life where that grass is growing over your path? That place where that you used to have that private relationship with the Lord. That place where that you used to truly express love to your spouse. Is grass growing over your path? That place where you used to invest time into your children, is grass growing over your path to where you want served other people, but now somehow it's just kind of become a mentality of waiting to be served. You see, I've learned that there's some questions we can begin to ask ourselves, about the grass growing over our path about the waxing cold of our first love. We can ask ourselves, am I kind? Like, am I truly kind? Yeah, I'm faithful, but am I kind? Like, am I biting people's head off? Am I treating people mean? Am I being rude? Am I operating in like borderline fits of rage? Or am I kind? Because if I used to be kind, but I'm not kind now, my first love is waxing cold? Am I generous? I used to be generous, but am I generous now. Like, like, do I really honor God? Do I put him first because after all, where my treasure is there my heart will be also. Is grass growing over my path? Like, am enduring well? Yeah, I'm going through some stuff, but am I enduring well? like, am I giving people the benefit of the doubt? Or, am I always suspicious of everybody's motive, and always think somebody is out to get me, and always looking for a way to be vindictive, or get my own vengeance? Or am I giving people the benefit of the doubt? Those are all things that speak to the terms of agreement for 1 Corinthians chapter 13. And if there's any of those quick questions that we can be honest about, and we really begin to recognize, wait a second, there's something going on with my heart, there's something going on with my expression of love, then today might be a good day for you to look how far you fallen, for me to look how far I've fallen, for us to then turn back and redo the first works and get that grass off of that path and repent that our lampstand would be standing at the end of time. And our influence would still be accomplishing what God wants to accomplish in the earth, that the light and the flame of his presence and his love would be burning bright.