Six Steps to a Closer Walk with Jesus
MATURE: Reaching out in love
Ephesians 5:1-21

“Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” (Ephesians 5:1-2)

Yesterday was the anniversary of the event that sparked a revolution of love that founded the Church of England. In 1534 King Henry 8th had made himself head of the Church in England although he remained loyal to Catholic doctrine.


The Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Cranmer was however a Protestant and he appointed Hugh Latimer as royal chaplain and Nicholas Ridley as his personal chaplain. Together, they set about reforming the Church in England and returning it to its biblical roots. In the late 1530’s Henry 8th unknowingly authorised the publishing of William Tyndale’s translation of the Bible into English but in 1547 Henry died and the Reformation in England faltered. Henry’s young son Edward became king at the age of nine and although a committed Christian he only lived for 6 more years.


He was succeeded by Mary Tudor, his half sister, who was a devout Roman Catholic. Crowned Queen Mary 1st, she soon earned the nickname “Bloody Mary”, imprisoning Cranmer, Latimer and Ridley. She had them tried for heresy and condemned to death. On 16th October 1555, Latimer and Ridley were led out of prison to be burned at the stake. As the fire was lit, Latimer said to Ridley, “Be of good comfort, Master Ridley, and play the man. We shall this day light such a candle by God’s grace in England as I trust shall never be put out.” Thomas Cranmer, whose English Prayer Book, we use every Sunday, was executed soon after.


But the deaths of Cranmer, Latimer and Ridley however, did indeed, light a candle that has never been put out.


What motivated them? “Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love.” (Ephesians 5:1). The love of Christ had captured their hearts. Compelled by thankfulness. Compelled by gratefulness for all Jesus had done for them.  Cranmer, Latimer and Ridley were compelled by love to make Jesus known, what ever the cost.


Yesterday I met one of the people God used to inspire me to enter full-time Christian ministry 30 years ago. Brother Andrew is now in his 80’s but back in the late 1960’s his first book, God’s Smuggler, described how the Lord provided an open door through the Iron Curtain enabling Western Christians to sustain and equip the suffering Church in Eastern Europe to withstand the onslaught of atheistic Communism.


Eventually, however, he became too well known, a marked man. With the gradual demise of Communism, Brother Andrew was led to focus his ministry on supporting another persecuted Church, this time in the Middle East, caught between Jewish Zionism and Islamic fundamentalism.


His new book, Light Force, chronicles Brother Andrew’s ministry to the persecuted Church, interspersed with the moving and sometimes harrowing stories of indigenous Christians, like Bishara Awad, Principal of Bethlehem Bible College, who have lost their homes and possessions, sometimes more than once in the last 50 years.


With courage and integrity, Brother Andrew has reached out in love as an ambassador of Jesus Christ, even to those branded ‘terrorists’ such as the leaders of Hamas and other Islamic nationalist groups in Lebanon, the West Bank and Gaza.  He describes, for example, his private meeting with Hamas founder, Sheikh Ahmad Yassin, in 1997 at his home in Gaza, before he was assassinated by the Israeli military earlier this year. Brother Andrew has also developed a friendship with Yassir Arafat, chairman of the Palestinian Authority. Wrongly accused of being anti-Israel, Brother Andrew replies, “The best way I can help Israel is by leading her enemies to Jesus Christ.” He shows that genuine dialogue is possible based on our common humanity and through the cross of Jesus.


Open Doors International, which Brother Andrew’s founded, now ministers to the 200 million persecuted Christians in some 60 countries around the world. In 2005, Brother Andrew will have been serving the persecuted church for 50 years.

What has motivated him for half a century? What still motivates him today? “Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love.”

(Ephesians 5:1).


The love of Christ has captured his heart. He is compelled by love. Compelled by thankfulness. Compelled by gratefulness for all Jesus has done for him. Brother Andrew is compelled by love to make Christ known, what ever the cost.  


What motivates you? What motivates you to get up in the morning?

What motivates you to have a quiet time? What motivates you in your marriage? What motivates you in your work? What motivates you to talk to others about Jesus? What motivates you to serve in our church family? What motivates you?


The apostle Paul instructs us,

“Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” (Ephesians 5:1-2)

These Sunday mornings we are thinking about what it means to be mature. Today we want to think about reaching out in love. I want us to consider the source of love, the cost of love and then dwell on the motivation for love.


The Source of Love

“Be imitators of God.” (Ephesians 5:1) God is love. The fruit of the Spirit is love. Because God is love, the most important lesson he wants us to learn on earth is how to love. Why? Because it is in loving that we become most like him. That is why love is the foundation of every command he has given us. “Love the Lord your God with all your heart.” (Matthew 22:37). With all your heart. That means everything else we do must be motivated by love.  The source of love.


The Cost of Love

“as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” (Ephesians 5:1) Jesus gave his life for you. He gave his life to take away our sin. To bring us back to God. That’s how much he loves you. That’s why he owns you. That’s why he calls you to follow him. That’s why you are not your own. You’ve been bought with a price. Until you understand that the cross of Christ expresses God’s love for you, you will never be able to respond in love. Your motive will be fear or works. The Pharisee who invited Jesus to supper did not understand this so Jesus has to tell him a story about two debtors.


"Two men owed money to a certain money-lender. One owed him five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he cancelled the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?"  Simon replied, "I suppose the one who had the bigger debt cancelled." "You have judged correctly," Jesus said.

Then he turned towards the woman and said to Simon, "Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—for she loved much. But he who has been forgiven little loves little." (Luke 7:36-50)


Until you realise you are more sinful than you ever realised but more loved than you could ever imagine, you will identify more with the Pharisee than with the woman. Until you recognise how much it cost Jesus to save you, you will not respond as this woman did with extravagant love.  The source of love is God himself.  The cost of love was paid by Jesus. This is the motivation for love.


The Motivation for Love

“dearly loved children … live a life of love.” (Ephesians 5:2) Because we are dearly loved, we are to live a life of love, not loving episodes but a life of love. Why does God insist we live a life of love? Three reasons.


1. The best use of life is love

Rick Warren says, “Love should be your top priority, primary objective, and greatest ambition. Love is not a good part of your life; it’s the most important part.” The reason for this is because life without love is really worthless. This is how Eugene Peterson puts it in the Message.


“If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don’t love, I’m nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate.

If I speak God’s Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, “Jump,” and it jumps, but I don’t love, I’m nothing.

If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.” (1 Corinthians 13:1-3 The Message)


Maybe you are on one of the serving teams. Maybe you are a Sunday School or Youth leader. Maybe you are on one of our Action Teams. Maybe you are even on the PCC.  What motivates you to serve at Christ Church? Is it obligation? Is it duty? Is it to please God? Is it the expectation of others?  Then please stop. Without love its worthless. Its useless. If we do not have love we are wasting our time. If we are not motivated by love we just leave a bad smell behind. 


If you are not motivated by love then stop what ever you are doing. Repent. And let the love of Christ cleanse you and captivate your heart again. Then come and serve out of thankfulness. Serve out of gratefulness.  A fortnight ago we held the Fresher’s Tea and we got to know some of the international students. Some of them were very interested to come along to Christ Church. But before they had even come they were asking about how they could volunteer. They wanted to serve.I believe that if we truly understood the love of Jesus Christ, if we were truly experiencing the love of Christ, like the woman in our gospel reading, we would not have any unfilled roles, we would not need to put requests on the news sheet each week. Instead, we would have waiting lists of people volunteering for the privilege of serving Jesus through his church.


Remember the best use of life is love. “Relationships, not achievements or the acquisition of things, are what matters most in life. So why do we allow our relationships to get the short end of the stick? Because we cease to recognise that the best use of life is love. When our schedules become overloaded, we start skimming relationally, cutting back on giving the time, energy, and attention that loving relationships require. What’s most important to God is displaced by what’s urgent. Busyness is a great enemy of relationships. We become reoccupied with making a living, doing our work, paying bills, and accomplishing goals as if these tasks are the point of life. They are not. The point of life is learning to love - God and people. Life minus love equals zero…  How you treated other people, not your wealth or accomplishments, is the most enduring impact you can leave on earth and the basis upon which we will be evaluated. 


This is sobering - “One of the ways God measures spiritual maturity is by the quality of your relationships.” That is why Paul goes on to list the kind of behaviour that destroys relationships in verses 3-7, and states plainly:


“No immoral, impure or greedy person … has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things, God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient.” (Ephesians 5:5-6)


He goes on to acknowledge that this is how we used to live, but should do so no longer.


For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord. (Ephesians 5:8-10)


You know what saddens me most? What causes me the most pain in a typical week? Its receiving an ungracious email or letter or phone call, not from a seeker but from a believer. Like bad breath, they tell me a lot about the state of spiritual health of my brothers and sisters. Jesus says the way to please God is to love his family and care for their practical needs. “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.” (Matthew 25:40).


Rick Warren says, “Knowing this, I suggest that when you wake up every morning, you kneel by your bed, or sit on the edge of it, and pray this”:


Dear Father, “whether I get anything else done today, I want to make sure that I spend time loving you and loving other people - because that’s what life is all about. I don’t want to waste today.”


Want some motivation? “why should God give you another day if you’re going to waste it? The best use of life is love.


2. The best expression of love is time

“The importance of things can be measured by how much time we are willing to invest in them. The more time you give to something, the more you reveal the importance and value to you. If you want to know a person’s priorities, just look at how they use their time. Time is your most precious gift because you only have a set amount of it. You can make more money but you cannot make more time. When you give someone your time, you are giving them a portion of your life that you’ll never get back. Your time is your life. That is why the greatest gift you can give someone is your time.  The best way to spell love is TIME. The essence of love is not what we think or do or provide for others, but how much we give of ourselves.”


Rick Warren points out, “Men in particular, often don’t understand this.” I often hear men say, “I don’t understand my wife and kids. I provide everything they need. What more could they want? They want you! Your eyes, your ears, your time, your attention, your presence, your focus - your time. Nothing can take the place of that.” Is that right wives?


“The most desired gift of love is not diamonds or roses or chocolate. It is focussed attention. Love concentrates so intently on another that you forget yourself at that moment. Attention says, “I value you enough to give you my most precious asset - my time.” And when you give of your time you are making a sacrifice, and sacrifice is the essence of love.


The Living Bible translates verse 2 this way,


“Be full of love for others, following the example of Christ who loved you and gave himself to God as a sacrifice to take away your sins. And God was pleased, for Christ's love for you was like sweet perfume to him.” (Ephesians 5:2)


Rick Warren says “You can give without loving, but you cannot love without giving.” “God so loved the world that he gave…” Love means giving up - yielding up my preferences, my comforts, my goals, my security, my money, my energy, and placing them at the foot of the cross. The best use of life is love. The best expression of love is time.


3. The best time to love is now

 “Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.” (Ephesians 5:15-16).


Why is the best time to love now? Because you may not have a tomorrow. You may not get another opportunity. Proverbs says, “Whenever you possibly can, do good to those who need it. Never tell your neighbour to wait until tomorrow if you can help them now.” (Proverbs 3:27). Why?


“Circumstances change. People die. Children grow up - fast. You have no guarantee of tomorrow. If you want to express love, you had better do it now. Knowing that one day you will have to stand before God, here are some questions you need to consider: How will you explain those times when projects or things were more important to you than people? Who do you need to start spending more time with? What do you need to cut out of your schedule to make that possible? What sacrifices do you need to make?”     


The source of love. The cost of love. The motivation for love.

The best use of life is love. The best expression of love is time.

The best time to love is now.


Is Jesus asking you to do something for him today?  Something in and through his family here, right now?   Has he so captured your heart that you’re willing to say I’ll do anything for Jesus? I’ll go anywhere for Jesus?


Let me end with a song by John Stoddart and lets make it our prayer.  


How do I get close to you when you seem so far away?

What I wouldn’t give to talk to you, face to face.

I have to keep believing, that it won’t be very long.

Till the day I look up, and it won’t be a dream.


Chains breaking all around me, I can finally be free.

So if you are wondering what you mean to me.

You’ve changed my whole reality.

And nothing in this world can take my heart, because,


I’ll do anything, anything for you.

I’ll do anything, if you only ask me to.

I’ll do anything, anything just to be with you.   


How do I keep getting up, every time I fall down?

Such a strange kind of walking, with my feet up off the ground.

I’m not giving up, till I make it back home.

Where I know you’ll be waiting, with your arms open wide.


What a day for reunions, when we meet up in the sky.

Somehow I know it will be worth it all.

These tears I cry, the times I fall.

Because you’ve made yourself so very real to me.


I’ll do anything, anything for you.

I’ll do anything, if you only ask me to.

I’ll do anything, anything just to be with you.   


I’m waiting for the day, when we can fly away.

Promise me you’ll live inside my heart, my heart.


I’ll do anything, anything for you.

I’ll do anything, if you only ask me to.

I’ll do anything, anything just to be with you.


I’ll go anywhere, if I can be right by your side.

And I’ll give up everything, everything,

just to look into your eyes.

I’ll do anything, anything.




Can you say that to Jesus?


I’ll do anything, anything for you.

I’ll do anything, if you only ask me to.

I’ll do anything, anything just to be with you.

I’ll go anywhere, if I can be right by your side.

And I’ll give up everything, just to look into your eyes.

I’ll do anything, anything.


Can you? Will you?



This sermon was inspired by and draws on Rick Warren’s book, The Purpose Driven Life and John Stoddart's song 'Anything'.