Divine Love – Worship @ Home Sunday, 14 February 2021

The Salvation Army, Prestonpans Corps
Major Elizabeth Turner

Song: Love Divine, all loves excelling

Love divine, all loves excelling,
Joy of Heaven, to earth come down,
Fix in us thy humble dwelling,
All thy faithful mercies crown.
Jesus, thou art all compassion,
Pure, unbounded love thou art;
Visit us with thy salvation,
Enter every longing heart.

Come, almighty to deliver,
Let us all thy grace receive;
Suddenly return, and never,
Never more thy temples leave.
Thee we would be always blessing,
Serve thee as thy hosts above;
Pray and praise thee without ceasing,
Glory in thy perfect love.

Finish then thy new creation,
Pure and spotless let us be;
Let us see thy great salvation,
Perfectly restored in thee.
Changed from glory into glory,
Till in Heaven we take our place,
Till we cast our crowns before thee,
Lost in wonder, love and praise.

Charles Wesley (1707-88)

The Lord’s Prayer

Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
Your Kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as in heaven.

Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins,
as we forgive those who sin against us.

Lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.

For the kingdom, the power and the glory are yours.
Now and for ever.
Amen

Bible Reading

11 Delightfully loved ones, if he loved us with such tremendous love, then “loving one another” should be our way of life! 12 No one has ever gazed upon the fullness of God’s splendour. But if we love one another, God makes his permanent home in us, and we make our permanent home in him, and his love is brought to its full expression in us. 13 And he has given us his Spirit within us so that we can have the assurance that he lives in us and that we live in him.

14 Moreover, we have seen with our own eyes and can testify to the truth that Father God has sent his Son to be the Saviour of the world. 15 Those who give thanks that Jesus is the Son of God live in God, and God lives in them. 16 We have come into an intimate experience with God’s love, and we trust in the love he has for us.

God is love! Those who are living in love are living in God, and God lives through them. 17 By living in God, love has been brought to its full expression in us so that we may fearlessly face the day of judgment, because all that Jesus now is, so are we in this world. 18 Love never brings fear, for fear is always related to punishment. But love’s perfection drives the fear of punishment far from our hearts. Whoever walks constantly afraid of punishment has not reached love’s perfection. 19 Our love for others is our grateful response to the love God first demonstrated to us.

20 Anyone can say, “I love God,” yet have hatred toward another believer. This makes him a phony, because if you don’t love a brother or sister, whom you can see, how can you truly love God, whom you can’t see? 21 For he has given us this command: whoever loves God must also demonstrate love to others.

1 John 4:11-21 The Passion Translation

Song: Praise is rising

Praise is rising, eyes are turning to You, we turn to You
Hope is stirring, hearts are yearning for You, we long for You
‘Cause when we see You, we find strength to face the day
In Your Presence all our fears are washed away, washed away

Hosanna, hosanna
You are the God Who saves us,
worthy of all our praises
Hosanna, hosanna
Come have Your way among us
We welcome You here, Lord Jesus

Hear the sound of hearts returning to You, we turn to You
In Your Kingdom broken lives are made new, You make us new
‘Cause when we see You, we find strength to face the day
In Your Presence all our fears are washed away, washed away

Hosanna, hosanna
You are the God Who saves us,
worthy of all our praises
Hosanna, hosanna
Come have Your way among us
We welcome You here, Lord Jesus

Divine Love

On Valentine’s Day we are reminded of the special gift of love, not just between those who become life partners. We remember with thankfulness the love that we know and share with others in a wider context. Some friends once told us how they exchanged cards and a small gift for each other at the breakfast table one Valentine’s Day.

Suddenly, their small daughter blurted out, ‘Where’s mine?’ ‘What do you mean?’ one of the parents asked, bemused. ‘My Valentine’s card and present,’ the child insisted, bursting into tears as she exclaimed, ’don’t you love me?!’

The love that we share in relationship with our family members and friends is truly special and life enhancing. If we didn’t fully appreciate this before, we certainly do so now, a year into a global pandemic that has kept loved ones apart from each other!

As Christians, we are blessed with still richer circles of love, as we accept and receive God’s unconditional love. We are loved, guarded and guided by a triune God who, as Father, Son and Spirit, is ever-present and attentive to our hearts’ cry. We are his family, and other Christians, by their devotion to God, become family to us also. This brings as many challenges in relationships as in any natural family.

Even so, if we are to live by the values of God’s Kingdom and help others understand this better, more wholesome society we belong to, they must be modelled and demonstrated by those who are members of God’s family. Regardless of status, ethnicity, age or denomination, we are all brothers and sisters in Christ, and are committed to loving one another in actuality and not hypothetically. It isn’t easy and is work that will take a lifetime to perfect. Still, loving each other is God’s imperative for us. If we are serious about loving and living for God, loving people we feel the least inclined to love or even like, just as well as those we are most inclined to love, is what we must do.

You may have read 1 John 4:11-21 many times over the years. Its rallying call to love God and to love others, which we will focus on in our message today, is unlikely to be new. So, it helps to read familiar passages of the Bible in different translations. 

I like the following description The Passion Translation makes in our Bible passage for today. In the synergy of wholly loving God and loving others, we are told that ‘love has been brought to its full expression in us’ (v.12 & 17). What a beautiful state that would be for the one who would give themselves over to such a way of living; for that person would know great joy, harmony, fearlessness and peace.

This would be because God would be able to live fully in that person. Since God himself is love, and since he loves everybody unconditionally, our loving without reserve allows more of his spirit to dwell in us: ‘if we love one another, God makes his permanent home in us’ (v.12).

When we are contemptuous, suspicious or uncaring of others, we open the door to the likes of disrespect, resentment, or fear. With the presence of these attitudes in our lives, the Spirit of God is squeezed; so, with less of him inside us, we cannot know the harmony, joy, fearlessness and deep peace we were meant to be filled with, much less love others as we ought. With God fully resident in us, such wellness and state of being is possible, whatever is going on in our world or our lives.

That doesn’t mean that we glide around in a bubble, as it were, unconcerned for those around us, grinning bizarrely with a superior ‘I’m okay Jack!’ attitude. No! With God dwelling fully in us, we cannot help but care for and be moved for those who are suffering and struggling in the world around us. God loves them just as surely as he loves us. 

We must offer what we can in the way of help, from practical support to prayer, and patiently, lovingly introduce them to Jesus, who alone can meet all of their needs. With God dwelling fully in us, we can operate from a position of poise and power, unruffled by life’s potholes, because we are leaning on and depending on Jesus, who enables us to move forward with him in confidence.

Our Bible reading makes it clear that the quality of our loving others correlates with our love for God. Were we to show little regard, love or concern for another, or offer minimalist support, when in fact we have the resources to do so much more, God would receive that as the extent of our love for him. Is that really what you want him to receive from you? Or would you want your love for him to be more finely expressed? Perhaps you would, but the way to do this is by loving others: ‘Our love for others is our grateful response to the love God first demonstrated to us’ (1 John  4:19). This truth is clearly expressed in the parable that Jesus told about the sheep and the goats in Matthew 25:31-46.

1 Cor. 13:4 reminds us that

‘Love is large and incredibly patient. Love is gentle and consistently kind to all.’ (TPT)

This way of loving is divine, Godly love. It is only possible for us to offer this love in so far as we allow God’s Spirit to dwell fully in us and operate through us, permeating our mind, heart and attitudes so that we show God just what he means to us by the way that we love and care for others. 

Prayer

Our Loving Heavenly Father, on this day when love is being reiterated and celebrated in many places, we want to Thank You for the special loves that we have known, shared and still have today. Whether that love is for life partners, children, grandchildren, parents, nieces, nephews, other family members or friends; we thank you Lord for them all.

Even within these good relationships, there are times of upset and falling out. For the most part, we are able to come together again, committed in our relationship to loving them as we should.

Where rifts still mar our family connections, Lord, give us the will to address these matters, so that we, as your children, may obey you in being committed to reconciliation, as you are with all people.

Father, you call us to love more broadly, beyond the borders and bounds of our natural family to loving our brothers and sisters in Christ, and still further to loving our neighbours and those we find it a challenge to love.

Father, we recognise that of ourselves we cannot love as well as we ought. We need you to dwell fully in us, to condition us to loving as you love, and thereby showing our great love for you. Would you come and help us to begin to love you and others just as we should and do want to.

I thank you Father God, Lord Jesus Christ and Blessed Holy Spirit. Amen. 

Song: Loved with everlasting love.

Loved with everlasting love,
Led by grace that love to know;
Spirit, breathing from above,
Thou hast taught me this is so.
O this full and perfect peace!
O this transport all divine!
In a love which cannot cease
I am his and he is mine.

Heaven above is softer blue,
Earth around is sweeter green;
Something lives in every hue,
Christless eyes have never seen;
Birds with gladder songs o’erflow,
Flowers with deeper beauties shine,
Since I know, as now I know,
I am his and he is mine.

His for ever, only his;
Who the Lord and me shall part?
Ah with what a rest of bliss
Christ can fill the loving heart.
Heaven and earth may fade and flee,
First-born light in gloom decline,
But, throughout eternity,
I am his and he is mine.

George Wade Robinson (1838-77)

Benediction

May God’s blessing surround you each day,
As you trust Him and walk in His way.
May His presence within guard and keep you from sin.
Go in peace, go in joy, go in love.

About prophetable

My wife Elizabeth and I were commissioned as Officers (ministers) in The Salvation Army in 1997, and have served in appointments in England and Scotland. Since July 2016 I have been working in The Salvation Army's Scotland Office as combined parliamentary and ecumenical representative.
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