Pat Mesiti was a powerful preacher.
As a integral part of the famous Hillsong church in Sydney's North West,
Mesiti was one of the church's movers and shakers.
Alongside the head pastor, Brian Houston,
and the gifted Songwriter Geoff Bullock,
Mesiti was a powerful and influential man for many Christians in Sydney
and throughout Australia.
But recently, it was reported in the Sydney Morning Herald that Mesiti's ministry had been suspended at Hillsong.
The reason? He admitted to visiting prostitutes,
and had been doing so for some time.
The fact that this event was taken up and reported so gleefully by the non-Christian media speaks volumes not only about how high-profile Mesiti was,
but how much the media loves to expose immoral behaviour amongst those who promote God.
Mesiti is not alone in his sin.
Back in the 1980s American Televangelist Jimmy Swaggert was also exposed as a visitor of prostitutes,
while another Televangelist, Jim Bakker, was put into gaol for financial fraud.
Only last week (May 2003) a Baptist Missionary was sent home from the Phillippines to face court for child sex crimes
- crimes which he admitted carrying out.
Now what are we to make of this?
We need to learn that our worship of God is something that occurs in both our private and our public lives.
When we come here to church every week we gather together to worship God
- and there is nothing at all wrong with that.
It is wrong, however, to assume that somehow God only requires that from us.
In The Simpsons, Marge tells Homer that God only requires one hour per week,
to which Homer replies
"Well he should've made the week an hour longer".
There are 168 hours per week.
How many hours does God require per week?
168 of them.
You see, attending church, while vitally important, is only one part of worship.
What we do in the other 167 hours is just as important.
We do not forget God, nor do we forget what he has done for us,
nor do we forget what we should be doing for him.
And of course, how are we to fill those 167 hours in loving God?
How do we do it?
What should we be aiming to achieve?
Is it possible to love God every hour of every day?
In this morning's talk I'm going to be looking at two points.
The first point examines verse 9 and 10 of 1 John 4, and focuses upon God's love for us.
The second point examines verses 7-8 and 11-12, and focuses upon our love for others.
1. 4.9-10 God's love for us brings us to worship.
The last time I was up here I spoke about how we should worship God when we met together as a church.
And I pointed out that the most important thing we need to focus on in our worship is not our expression of love towards God,
but upon our recognition and understanding of God's love for us.
In other words, Worship is not focused on God,
it is focused on God and his love for us.
We cannot understand God nor love God without understanding his love and his grace.
And the point is that God and God's grace is the starting point for our worship.
Let me read to you again verses 9 and 10 of 1 John 4:
This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.
There are four major themes in these two verses that need to be explained:
The first theme is that God loves us.
It's hard to imagine but the God of all creation,
the God who has made billions upon billions of human beings,
knows us better than we know ourselves.
And more than that - he loves us, regardless of the sin we have committed.
God is the great judge -
he hates sin and he will punish those who rebel against him.
But at the same time he allows people the chance to repent.
The simple fact that God does not destroy us all right now is because he loves us.
But God shows his love for us all in many other ways too.
We experience the beauty of nature,
the fellowship of friends,
the satisfaction of a good meal and a good wine.
We experience the relief of a cool swim in summer
and a warm bed in winter.
We are living in a society in which many diseases and physical conditions have been cured.
Our infant mortality rate is low and getting lower
- less babies are dying than before
- while at the same time our average age of death is high and getting higher
- people are living longer than they have ever before.
And this is not because we please God.
God is not blessing Australia or America or Western Europe because we have pleased him.
No. God is blessing us despite our sin and despite our society's rejection of him.
And God's love is radical.
His love is beyond our wildest comprehension.
Yes he loves us, but he also loves those we refuse to deal with.
He loves the drug addict;
he loves the homeless person;
he loves the family struggling to survive in Bangladesh;
he loves the alcoholic;
he loves the AIDS sufferer.
But God's love is so radical, that he loves the terrorist;
he loves the child rapist;
he loves the serial killer;
he loves the Company director who swindles his investors;
he loves the homosexual;
he loves the brutal dictator.
But what is the content of God's love?
Yes he loves us all by providing this world to enjoy.
But that will not last forever.
You see God loves us in a personal way.
He loves us through a person.
The second theme of verse 9-10 is that God loved us by sending us Jesus.
Jesus is not just the expression of God's love
- he is God, and he acts to love us and to love the world.
People often want God to appear to them or to prove that he loves them.
God has appeared - he appeared when Christ walked the earth.
What proof do we have the God loves us?
God so loved the world that he sent his one and only Son.
The very coming of Jesus into our world was a fundamental part of God's love for us.
By walking among us,
talking to us,
Jesus was expressing the love of God to us.
But of course someone might say
"well that was then, what about now?
What doesn't God send Jesus to me now?".
All I can say to that is that it is an absurd request
- as though God should be expected to provide anyone who wants their own personal, physical Jesus to turn up.
There is, however, a grain of truth in this.
When we hear God, we experience God
- we experience his presence.
The same applies to Jesus.
When we hear about Jesus
- what he has taught, the reason for his coming, his death and resurrection
- we experience him.
It is hard to understand,
but the message of Christ and the person of Christ are somehow linked.
Jesus is, after all, the living Word - the Word of God.
Whenever we open God's word - the Bible - we are naturally drawn into the person and work of Christ.
The Word of God is Jesus.
The Word of God is the Gospel we preach and accept.
The Word of God is the Bible we read and believe in.
Whenever we read the scriptures or hear them taught,
we experience the power and presence of Jesus through the work of the Holy Spirit.
But it is more than just God sending his Son into the world.
It is more than Jesus just coming down and walking around.
The third theme of verses 9-10 is that God loved us by sending Jesus to die for us, so that our sins may be forgiven.
God loves us, but he hates our sin.
God is willing to forgive, but he cannot let sin go unpunished.
On the one hand, God loves us with a passion and intensity that no one can understand.
On the other hand, God is so repulsed by our sin and so angry at our rebellion that he,
the perfect judge,
will judge fairly, honestly and with total impartiality.
God may love us deeply,
but he hates our sin and rebellion deeply too.
But God cannot go back on his word.
He does love us and is willing to forgive.
But he also hates sin so much that he will cast sinners into the fires of hell forever.
What are we to make of such a God?
When Jesus died, he was the fullest expression of God's love and God's judgement.
In verse 10, John says that Jesus was "an atoning sacrifice for our sins".
When Jesus died upon the cross he suffered the death and punishment that should have been borne by us.
God decided to punish his own Son rather than us.
Why? Because he loves us, and because he cannot let sins go unpunished.
Jesus didn't deserve his death
- he was perfect in every way.
He was the perfect sacrifice.
As a man he was able to die for men.
As God, he was able to die for the whole world.
The Cross is the means by which God loves us.
The Cross is the means by which God deals with our sin.
No religion or belief that claims to be Christian can be true without this understanding of the Cross.
The fourth theme of verses 9-10 is that through the work of Jesus, we have life.
"That we might live through him" says John.
One of the barriers to the Christian faith is the question of suffering and death.
How can a good God allow such things?
If God is truly God, can't he get rid of them?
Of course God can.
And of course God does.
He does so through the resurrection of Christ.
When Jesus rose from the dead he proved that he was God,
and he proved that death itself had been defeated.
Jesus died for our sins,
and he rose again so we may have new life.
Sin has affected every part of the universe we live in
- not just in our lives but in the very nature of existence.
Sin cuts us off from God and causes God to be angry with us
- this is the spiritual reality that everyone faces.
But sin also causes us to suffer and die.
Sickness - both in the body and in the mind - is the natural result of our rebellion against God.
And because everyone sins, everyone is mortal and everyone has the mark of death upon them.
Sin destroys our spiritual life,
and sin destroys our physical life.
I'm not saying that one particular sin will lead to a particular form of suffering
- the Bible never says that.
What I am saying is that sickness and suffering are the result of our general rebellion against God,
not any specific behaviour or action on our part.
But when Jesus died he took away our sin.
And when he rose from the dead he took away the power of death.
As a result we have spiritual life, and we have the promise of physical life.
What I'm saying is that when Jesus comes again with his angels to judge the world,
we who are his followers,
we who have been forgiven,
will be taken by him into a new creation.
We will have new bodies
- physical bodies -
that will never get sick or suffer.
All this is clear in 1 Corinthians chapter 15.
We do not have the promise of these new bodies now
- we will continue to get sick, suffer and die as long as this world lasts because the world we live in is tainted by sin.
God loves us so much that he gave us the promise of eternal life.
Eternal life is something we already have,
but it is also something we are yet to experience.
2. 4.7-8, 11-12 Our love for others is practical worship
So God and God's grace are the focus of our worship.
Because God doesn't stop loving us for 167 hours per week,
it means that we should not forget God or his grace for those 167 hours.
The one hour we spend here every Sunday is vitally important in how we act in those other 167 hours
before we meet here again the following week.
There are many ways we can express our worship to God throughout the week.
We can read the Bible,
we can pray that we be made more aware and more appreciative of his grace to us,
we can give of our time in learning the Bible
and understanding more deeply the message of the cross.
These are wonderful things,
but John focuses upon an equally important area
- the fact that Christians should love and care for one another.
Let me read to you verses 7-8 and then verses 11-12
Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.
and verses 11-12
Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.
Let me just say simply what John is saying here.
It is not saying that if we love one another then we love God.
It is saying that if we love God, we will love one another.
John is saying that love is one of the distinguishing characteristics of the true Christian life.
If a person is not displaying love then that person cannot be a Christian.
If a person is displaying love, then it means that that person could be a Christian.
Love is not the only distinguishing characteristic
- other things are very important too
- but what it does is give you one characteristic that,
indicates a lack of true faith.
A person who claims to be a Christian but does not love cannot be a Christian.
So if God loves us, how should we love others?
When we were looking at verses 9-10 earlier, I mentioned different themes.
Verse 9 says that God showed his love among us.
This means that God loves everyone.
For us, it means that we should love everyone.
John naturally is aiming at Christians in these verses,
but love is something we express to all people, not just Christians.
But it is also true that the church should be a priority over the rest of the world.
What divides our world?
Politics, racism, sexism, class and money and so on.
None of these should divide the Christian from others.
A Christian who is rich must not look down upon the Christian who is poor.
The Christian who is white should not look down upon the Christian who is black.
The Christian who votes for the Labor party should not look down upon the Christian who votes for the Liberal Party.
More than that, the Christian should not look down upon anyone.
As Paul says in Philippians 2.3 - we should in humility consider others better than ourselves.
This doesn't mean we become Christian doormats,
but it does mean that we always seek the good of other people.
It also means that we are to love those who we find unlovable because of their sin against us and others.
Should we love Saddam Hussein
or Osama Bin Laden?
Well God does.
So should we.
We are called to love the child abuser,
the Christopher Skases of the world
- even when their sin has affected us personally.
Do you find that an easy concept?
I certainly don't.
I find it much easier to wish revenge and pain upon these people
- especially upon those who have sinned greatly against me and hurt me.
Last week we saw the beginning of the Bali bombing trial.
Amrosi sat there facing the judges while families of those who died sat there looking at the person who had murdered their loved ones.
An Australian man expressed his desire for revenge, wanting no less than the death penalty for this person.
Is it right to love Amrosi?
Is it right to forgive him?
Is it right for one of the family members whose loved one has died to forgive him?
Yes it is.
More than that, for us as followers of Christ we are commanded to.
But then God wouldn't command us to do things we find easy to do would he?
I have a number of people who have hurt me considerably in the past.
All of these people claim to be Christians,
but by their actions towards me and the total lack of love they have shown I cannot for one minute believe that they are true Christians.
Part of me wants them to suffer the consequences of their actions.
Part of me wants revenge for the sins they have committed.
Part of me wants them to burn in the fires of hell.
But this is not what a Christian should think and feel.
In the end I want these people to share eternal life with me.
I want them to at least repent before God and be saved from eternal death.
Lately my feelings toward them have been helped whenever I pray for them.
I pray that God will show them their sin,
and he will move them to repentance through the work of the Spirit,
that they may find salvation and be saved from destruction.
"Love your enemies" Jesus says in Matthew 5
"pray for those who persecute you".
This command is impossible to follow,
but God will give us the strength to do it
for he is the God who can do the impossible.
If we love God, then we will love others
- even those we find impossible to love.
Verse 9 says that God showed his love among us by sending Jesus.
For us, it means that our love for others should reflect Jesus and Jesus' mission.
Jesus' mission was to preach the good news and to die upon the cross for our sins.
Along the way, Jesus had compassion upon many with needs.
He healed the sick,
he brought back at least two people from death,
he fed those who were hungry.
Jesus didn't ignore these needs and nor should we.
If we love God we will love others in a practical and selfless manner.
We should use whatever means we have to comfort and heal others.
Again we should focus firstly upon the church,
but we should never ignore those outside the church.
It is good and right for us as Christians to wish for peace, justice and prosperity throughout the world.
Many of those in the 19th century who exposed the unjust treatment of people in factories and mines were Christian activists.
Christians have been active in parliaments and governments throughout the world in convincing people of the need for fair treatment of people
and the provision of welfare for those who cannot look after themselves.
As Christians it is right for us to argue and lobby for a fair go for everyone,
to ensure that our society is one of peace and justice.
And it is also right for us to be involved directly in these fields.
But while on earth Jesus' mission was to preach the good news
and die upon the cross for our sins.
His ministry of healing was secondary
- while it was miraculous, it served his primary mission.
What good is it for us to love people without having a focus on Jesus' work?
What good is it to labour in a world that is passing away?
Our labours should have an eternal focus.
We should be building up treasures in heaven, not treasures on earth.
Let me give you an example.
I heard the story of a missionary in South America who worked among the slums and the poor in a particular South American city.
Unfortunately the poor were so poor that they many were starving to death.
What was this missionary to do?
If they focused upon food and clothing they would not get very far at all.
Instead this missionary preached the gospel.
Instead of getting bread, these starving people were given the bread of life.
Before dying of starvation, many of these people heard about the eternal hope they could have in Christ.
This missionary was not being cruel,
he just knew that the circumstances they were in was so grave that he had to preach to them the gospel of life.
Maybe if he had access to lots of food for these people things may have been better
- but he didn't, and he made the right choice.
What good is it to love people if not to express the salvation we have?
We love people in the Church because we will be with them in eternal life forever.
We love those outside the church because we want them to be with us in eternal life forever.
I started this morning talking about the Charismatic preacher Pat Mesiti.
Pat Mesiti failed in his ministry and in his faith by failing to love others properly.
By paying for prostitutes he failed to love them the way Christ loved prostitutes.
By hiding his sin he failed to love those close to him
- his friends and family.
By committing this sin he failed to love those he was trying to reach as a pastor and evangelist.
By committing this sin he failed to worship God with his whole life.
Pat's sin could easily be committed by anyone.
None of us are perfect
- all of us have it within ourselves to give in to the temptations of the world.
Fortunately John reminds us in chapter one
that if we confess our sin, God is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins
and purify us from all unrighteousness.
This does not excuse our sins,
but it does give us an understanding of God's grace.
It is God's grace that guides us and enables us to worship him.
By acknowledging that God loves us by sending us Jesus to die for us, we have the promise of eternal life.
This fact is not useless theology
- it is the reason for our being,
the reason for our actions.
We love others because God first loved us.
We love others because it is the natural result of people loved by God.
Pat Mesiti is a good example for us to take note of.
His sin shows us that we should be careful to love God and others properly.
But there is one thing I didn't mention about him.
Pat repented of his sin.
While he had hidden his sin for a time he eventually repented of it.
While this public exposure was not good for Pat or the image of the church,
it was good for his soul -
the fact that he turned from his sin shows that he does have faith in Christ,
and a love for God and for others.
In the end, we are no better than Pat Mesiti
- all of us have sinned,
but if we have repented then we serve Jesus and we love God and others.
Worshipping God is a something we do 168 hours per week.
Our worship of God is an expression of our love for God.
Our love for God is expressed in our love for other people.
We love people and we love God because God loved us first.
And God loved us first by sending us his Son,
that those who believe in him will be forgiven from their sins
and inherit eternal life.
Heavenly Father, you are the source of all wisdom and knowledge. You know our sins and you know that we have failed to love you and love each other properly. Yet we know that you have loved us first through Christ, and for this we are thankful and praise your Holy name. Give us the strength to love you and to love others in every hour of our life. Help us to love people properly, not taking advantage of them or ignoring them. Help us to love our enemies and forgive those who have hurt us. Without your Spirit working in us this would be impossible, so work in our hearts and change us to have the same attitude of your Son, who prayed that you might forgive those who were executing him. Always keep our minds focused on those around us and always keep our hearts focused on heaven. Amen.
From the Kerygmatic Department
© 2005 Neil McKenzie Cameron, http://one-salient-oversight.blogspot.com/
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 2.5 License.