Last fall when things were gearing up around the church as everyone got back into the swing of things having enjoyed another pacific northwest summer, I found myself cleaning up the man cave here at the church. The men would be gathering that evening, and I wanted to make sure the room was presentable. No, not perfect. But guys don’t seem to care that much about that sort of thing. But cleanliness is important. 

So, I put things away, moved out some of the clutter and then got the vacuum cleaner. I started vacuuming, but noticed that nothing was getting picked up. In fact, I was pretty sure there was more debris on the floor than when I started. The vacuum was clogged. There’s nothing I love more than tearing apart a vacuum cleaner, (he said with a snarky tone). I’m actually allergic to dust mites, and the doctor told me the worst thing I could do is vacuum. I’m not even supposed to be in a room for 30 minutes after someone else has vacuumed. 

That didn’t stop me. I tore the thing apart. And man was that thing clogged. Every hose was clogged. And not just a little. There was probably a gallon paint can worth of junk in the hoses. Of course it was September and there is no AC in that room. The sweat was literally dripping off my face into the carpet. But they say that churches are built on blood, sweat and tears. I’ve done all of those things. I put it back together and it worked great. Amazing how things work better when they’re working like they’re supposed to work. 

We talked at church yesterday how vacuum cleaners work on the principle of flow. If either the intake or the exhaust is blocked, the vacuum doesn’t work. Flow is a universal principle. Much or our physical, mental and spiritual world works on the principle of flow. When something doesn’t flow it can create problems. Lakes and ponds that don’t have an inlet or outlet, start growing poisonous bacteria and algae. 

Love is also a flow. God is love and every way we experience love in this life is because that love is flowing from God into us and our world. Last week, we talked about the difference between God’s love and the worlds love. God’s love gives where the world’s love takes. We are born into a world that thinks of love as something you take for yourself. In God’s economy, the beginning of becoming love is unbecoming ourselves. 

Because the taking and hoarding love mentality is what we’re born into and what we are surrounded with on a minute by minute basis, it sounds and feels incredibly counter-intuitive to say that the way to experience love is to give it away. But that’s how it works, because love is a flow. 

We don’t feel God’s love when we seek to hoard it for ourselves. Why? Because that’s not God’s love. That’s trying to take God’s love and do something other than what the giver intended. The giver of love intends us to experience it by giving it. Don’t believe me? Let’s look at 1 John 4 to see. 

1 Jn 4:11 –  “Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” Yeah, okay, but that doesn’t say that love flows. It just says that we ought to love. So what? You’re right. It doesn’t say that love is a flow. But let’s ask some questions. First, how did God love us? We get the answer in the preceding verse: “In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” (1 Jn 4:10) The way God loves us was by sending His son to be a sacrifice for our sins. In other words, God doesn’t show His love for us by feeling good loving feelings of love for us up in heaven. God showed or demonstrated his love for us by sending his Son from heaven to become one of us. When God loves, he gives. 

1 Jn 4:16 – “God is love, and the one who abides in loveabides in God, and God abides in him.” That word abide means to dwell, remain, live or reside. It’s an ongoing concept. To always keep on abiding, living, residing in God’s love. The one who always keeps on dwelling in love always keeps on dwelling in God and God always keeps on dwelling in him. Dwelling, abiding, living, residing in love keeps us in the flow of God’s love. 

You might ask: But I still don’t see how love is a flow. Why is love something I have to give to experience? That’s a good question. to get the answer we’re going to go to one of Jesus’ teaching that John would have had in mind when he was writing these verses about abiding, John 15. 

“Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love.” (Jn 15:9-10)

Did you see it there? Look at the way Jesus loves us. “Just as the Father has loved me, I have also loved you.” The love of Jesus was love that He received from the Father that He was passing on to us. That’s flow. The reason you and I are able to experience God’s amazing love is because Jesus let the Love of God flow through him to the point of giving his life on a cruel cross. Two verses later, Jesus would say: “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” The greatest form of love is sacrificing yourself for someone else. 
You could almost think of that as being wrecked by love. Loving someone so much that you give absolutely everything you have so they can experience love. It’s the opposite of the worlds taking kind of love. The world’s love takes from everyone in the hopes that it will feel love. The world’s love makes us leeches that suck the life out of everyone around us for our own personal benefit. When we’ve sucked the life out of one person, we go looking for a new host to leech on to so we can get back that loving feeling. But that’s not God’s love. God’s love sacrifices itself for the betterment of someone else. Instead of sucking the life out of someone for our own personal benefit, we freely offer our lives to others. As Jesus said: “Freely you have received; freely give.” (Matt 10:8) 

This week we’re going to be looking some of the ways we need to move beyond the elemental teachings about love that we have all grown up with and embraced to start looking at the way God designed love. The overarching principle for this week is to move beyond personal possession to being a person of provision. That we have to move beyond simply receiving God’s love poured out for us on the cross to giving the love of the cross to one another. 
And it starts with how we love one another. That’s what Jesus said: “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34-35) How did Jesus love us? By laying down his life for us. How did Jesus love us? By laying down his rights and position as creator of all things and become a created thing. The way Jesus loved us was not by taking. Even though He would have been well within His rights to come and take the world back for Himself, He didn’t. He came to give. He loved his disciples to the end: “Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.” (Jn 13:1) 

As believers, as Jesus’ disciples, we are supposed to love one another in this same way. We’re supposed to love to the point of sacrificing our rights, our wants, our desires, our possessions, our ambitions and even our very lives for one another. This goes beyond a casual handshake or the covid-19 elbow bump. More on that later this week. 

It’s not enough to receive God’s love, we had to obey God’s son. It’s not enough to take the gift of God’s love, we have to give it. We can’t simply receive salvation for our sins and hoard God’s grace. If we’re not willing to obey God’s son, we haven’t yet fully received God’s gift of love. Jesus’ said: “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.” (Jn 15:12) 

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. 7 If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.” (Jn 15:5-8)

Even most explanations of abiding in Christ and in the vine so that we may produce fruit focus primarily on how we can get more out of God through our abiding. That’s the world’s love. Yes, it is incredibly important to dwell in God’s presence as an individual. But, like a vacuum cleaner, we can only take in so much before we’re full. It’s not until we start giving out God’s love that we actually start to abide, living in that love. 

If the sap doesn’t flow the fruit won’t grow. Plain and simple, If we try to hoard the sap of God’s love flowing into us through the vine for our own personal benefit, we keep it from flowing through our lives to produce the fruit of God’s love. 

Books have been written about how to abide. As I said, most of them talking about how we need to spend more time with God. Maybe someone should write a book about abiding in Christ that focuses on how Jesus said to abide. As any good communicator would do, Jesus makes the case for the importance of abiding from verse 1-8 of Jn 15. But then, as any good teacher would do, he tells us how to abide. It’s not through Bible study or prayer, worship services, listening to sermons, going to Bible college or becoming a full-time pastor. 

What did Jesus say: “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.” (Jn 15:9-12)

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