Love – Psalm 33

Love – Psalm 33

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Well, let me give you my own welcome tonight. What a wonderful topic we have tonight. It has thrilled me and it has scared me in equal measure.

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And I just want to pray as we look at this big topic. I’ve had to come to peace that I’m, but I would love you to embrace it and to know it and for it to grip your heart. So let’s pray tonight.

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Lord, thank you that you are a God of love. Your word is full of it and it speaks to us and it tells us that you want to be known as a God of love. And even as we scratch the surface tonight, would you come and be here and be the God of love to us so that your love touches our hearts because that’s the way you operate.

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May we know you a bit better as a result of tonight and know your heart for we ask it in Jesus’ name, amen. So tonight we are starting a new series on the attributes of God. And some people call these communicable attributes.

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So there are lots of aspects of God that are mysterious to us and that we could never emulate, but there are some aspects of God’s character that we can reflect at least in part. So these communicable attributes that we’re gonna look at over the next few weeks are God is love, God is holy, God is faithful, God is glorious, God is just, God is patient, and God is wise. That promises to be a fascinating series, hugely beneficial and I hope you will be with us and enjoy learning.

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But there’s a warning with that. Be prepared that this is no mere academic exercise. We wanna learn so that we can apply and change and reflect some of that in our lives.

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Isn’t that an amazing thing? We are exhorted to imitate God’s. Humans are made in the image of God and particularly Christians who’ve been given the Holy Spirit have the capacity to reflect the character of the Lord in who we are and in what we do. So maybe a good verse for us as we look at the start of this series is Ephesians 1 chapter five.

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I’m gonna touch on a lot of verses tonight. You might struggle to keep up with them. If there’s any you missed, come and speak to me afterwards.

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But Ephesians 5 verse one simply says, follow God’s example 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. So there you have it. The God of love expects us to be people of love.

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Follow his example, no mere academic exercise. The Bible is full of references to love. Many of them you will know well.

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We even have the text God is love up there on the wall behind us. We could spend the next 30 minutes picking up verses throughout the Bible. I don’t wanna do that though.

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My prayer as I’ve already prayed is that we will be thrilled by the character of God. And I wanna just bring out some aspects, multifaceted aspects, multidimensional aspects of the life, the love of God. And I’m actually gonna take us into the Old Testament so that we can have a look at that wonderful, generous love.

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And we’re gonna look at Psalm 33. We’re gonna look under a number of topics. So we’ll look and think about God’s providential love.

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We’ll think about his inviting love. We’ll think about his elective love, his covenantal love, his Trinitarian love, and his responsive love, our part in responding to him. So turn with me to Psalm 33, page 560.

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You might think this is an odd chapter to go to, but the psalmist here rejoices in a love that is seen across the world. So let’s read together. Sing joyfully to the Lord, you righteous.

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It’s fitting for the upright to praise him. Praise the Lord with a harp. Make music to him on the 10-stringed lyre.

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Sing to him a new song. Play skillfully and shout for joy. For the word of the Lord is right and true.

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He is faithful in all he does. The Lord loves righteousness and justice. The earth is full of his unfailing love.

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By the word of the Lord, the heavens were made. Their starry host by the breath of his mouth. He gathers the waters of the sea into jars.

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He puts the deep into storehouses. Let all the earth fear the Lord. Let all people of the world revere him.

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For he spoke and it came to be. He commanded and it stood firm. The Lord foils the plans of the nations.

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He thwarts the purposes of the peoples. But the plans of the Lord stand firm forever. The purposes of his heart through all generations.

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Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord. The people he chose for his inheritance. From heaven the Lord looks down and sees all mankind.

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From his dwelling place he watches all who live on the earth. He who forms the hearts of all who considers everything they do. No king is saved by the size of his army.

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No warrior escaped by his great strength. A horse is a vain hope for deliverance despite all its great strength it cannot save. But the eyes of the Lord are on those who fear him.

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On those whose hope is in his unfailing love. To deliver them from death and keep them alive in famine. We wait in hope for the Lord.

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He is our help and our shield. In him our hearts rejoice. For we trust in his holy name.

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And then for the third time he says, may your unfailing love be with us Lord. Even as we put our hope in you. So let’s see what this psalm beautifully illustrates for us about God and his love.

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Now the psalm is essentially a song of praise celebrating the character of God and his positive attributes. The first thing we notice is that God is praiseworthy by the upright, the righteous. It’s fitting for them in particular to praise him as the ultimate source of goodness and righteousness.

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The human heart wants to see good character, doesn’t it? We are quick to spot inconsistency and failures, especially in our leaders. And sadly good character is a rare trait these days. But the psalmist is pointing out a God who is to whom the most upright look to.

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The upright look and they admire the most upright God if you like. And they rejoice because he is praiseworthy. He is right and true says the psalmist.

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Faithful in all he does, verse four. And he loves righteousness and justice. All of this says the psalmist is a demonstration of his unfailing love.

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The earth is full of his unfailing love says verse five. Commenting on this, Jonathan Parnell says God’s faithfulness is a palatable expression of his love. It’s his love tasted and seen in our history.

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It’s the mechanics of his love wired to fulfill his promises for our good. In fact, God’s faithfulness and his steadfast love are so closely intertwined that in Psalm 33, they’re basically the same. So much of God’s character is linked together and at the heart of it is his love.

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Carson describes this evidence of God’s love in the world expressed in the creation that the psalmist talks about as his providential love. That’s the first of our topics that we’ll think about as we think about God is love. His providential love.

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The unconditional love of the creator who spoke the world into being. And we get a beautiful description of it in the Psalms. Of course, we’re in the genre of Psalms and poetry.

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So beautifully expressed by the word of the Lord, the heavens were made their starry host by the breath of his mouth. He gathers the waters of the sea into jars. He puts them in storehouses.

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You get a sense of his power, his capability, but also his care for this world. A good world that we are able to enjoy. So many of us have enjoyed the good weather this weekend.

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A world that is predominantly suited to the human race and is sustained by a loving creator. Sunshine and the rain are sent on all, regardless to the righteous and then the unrighteous, Jesus says in Matthew 5. Psalm 104, where all creatures look to their creator who sends food at the proper time. God is love is first and foremost expressed in a providential love to all and to all of his creation.

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We see that, don’t we, in many aspects of life. Most notably, maybe in family love. Where across creation and especially in the human race, even people who have no regard for God have that common grace of love expressed in their lives.

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Most instinctively to their young children. I’ve just come from recent time in the maternity ward in a hospital and there is love on display there, isn’t there, between mothers and caring staff. That’s not by chance that love is on display in our worlds.

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It could easily have been otherwise, couldn’t it? But the great God who made the heavens in awesome power is also the God who the psalmist says fills the earth with his unfailing love. Notice it. So before we rush to think about all the ways God has expressed himself to us, let’s just take time to thank God for his love.

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He is a God of love. The psalmist rejoices in the display of his love across the world and tells the musicians to do their best in praising God for what’s on display. If you like a modern day equivalent to Mike and to Alistair would be to the musicians, play it with all your heart, give it loudly, praise this great creator who is the God of love.

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He is a providential, loving God. God is love. So as well as his providential love, there is an inviting love.

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This almighty and generous God is not distant. He didn’t just pour love into our world and walk away. That would hardly be loving, would it? He invites us humans to respond to him.

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We see that touched on in verse eight. Let all the earth fear the Lord. Let all people in the world revere him.

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And we’ve seen he is someone who welcomes our praise. God invites humans to respond to him. It’s inviting love.

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But sadly we see in this Psalm too that not all the earth wants to do that. We see that in our own lives. The human heart doesn’t instinctively reach out to this loving creator.

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Verse 10, sadly we too have our own plans and purposes that are opposed to him, but in love. He won’t stand by indefinitely without a care for that. The ultimate conclusion of his love towards his people is that if they oppose him, he will thwart them in their plans.

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We see the contrast. It’s God’s plans that stand firm. The purposes of his heart.

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Do you see that? God’s purposes are driven by his heart. Verse 11, it is love behind his power and his wisdom. And he’s a God who looks into human hearts.

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Verse 14, beautiful poetry. He who forms the hearts of all considers everything they do. So this God watches and he weighs up.

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He’s interested in whether we respond to his invitation, whether we revere him or go our own way. Even tonight, let that sink into your heart. He who made the human heart assesses our hearts.

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Which direction is your heart going in? The God of love wants our hearts to be responsive to him. He’s concerned for our safety because he knows that if we continue to rebel him against him, we’ll ultimately face his judgment. He wants our safety.

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He wants our salvation. Opposing him is a dangerous place to be. And the psalmist notes that no matter how much we might gather up or assume where our strength might be, it is folly to assume that anything else than God can save us.

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And throughout the Bible, we can see God’s invitation to respond to him in so many ways. Let me give you just a few of them. Hear the words of Jesus say, come to me, all you who are weary.

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Hear the verse of John 3, 16. God so loved the world, he sent his one and only son that whosoever believes shall not perish, but have everlasting life. Hear the words of Isaiah.

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Look to me, turn to me and be saved, all you ends of the earth. Our God of love is an inviting love. He has inviting love.

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In love he invites rebellious people like us to come to him. Don’t put that off. Hear God inviting you tonight.

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So we also want to think about God’s elective love. So he’s providential love to all people. He’s got inviting love to all.

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But this psalmist also brings out another aspect of God’s love, elective love. His decision to choose a particular people to be in relationship to him. Verse 12.

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Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord, the people he chose for his inheritance. Incredibly, despite all that this God sees and knows and he knows it all, we learn that God chooses such a people to call his own. Human love is driven by attraction generally, isn’t it? At one point I got a phone call from a future son-in-law that said, I love your daughter very much.

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And he then proceeded to tell me the things that I knew about her, of course, but that he appreciated about her, that drew him to her. Her character, her abilities, her attractiveness to him. That’s how our love tends to work, isn’t it? Can you imagine my response if he had said, I love your daughter, there’s not much attractive about her.

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She’s pretty hopeless in fact, but I love her and I will stick with her despite all of that. You can imagine my response. But doesn’t that illustrate God’s love to us? He knows all about us, he knows all of our feelings.

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There’s nothing in us that attracts us to him. He spells that out to this chosen people in Deuteronomy chapter seven. The Lord did not set his affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples.

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Why did he love them? It was because the Lord loved them. The Lord loved you, kept the oath he swore to his ancestors. He chose us and he loved us simply because he loves us.

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Quite a different kind of love altogether. It’s the God that we meet in the Bible, a God who is love and chooses us. A God that in the New Testament we learn that Abraham chose the church because he loved her.

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A God who demonstrates his love in that while we were still sinners, still sinners, Christ died for us. And having chosen the church, and we as members of that described as his bride. Again, the language of love tells husbands to love their wives just as Christ loved the church and gave himself for her.

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Ephesians five, Jesus tells his disciples, you did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit, fruit that will last. And so that whatever you ask in my name, the Father will give you. This is my command that you love one another.

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Let’s pause to consider. If you’re a believer tonight, it’s not that we chose God. Surely in his goodness he helped us to respond to him, but he chose us.

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He chose me. God is love. Without his acting to present his truth and his love to us, helping us to see it, moving our hearts to respond, we too would be those whose purposes are against his and destined for destruction.

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And while we’ve focused most of tonight’s talk in Psalm 33 in the Old Testament, as we go into the New Testament, we learn even more about God’s love, don’t we? In Jesus, we get a glimpse into the heart of God. Of what existed long before the world began. We learn of a three-person God where love is central, where God is and always has been.

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Love. Let me just touch on three verses briefly. Matthew 3, 17, a voice from heaven said, God the Father speaking, this is my son whom I love.

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With him I am well pleased. Jesus saying about his love for the Father, John 14, 31. So that the world may learn that I love the Father and do exactly what my Father has commanded me.

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John 15, nine, the Father loves the Son as the Father has loved me. So I have loved you. Now remain in my love.

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We learn that God was happy in himself but chose to love us. Love for us arises out of that very essence of love that has existed for eternity past and stretches out way into the eternity in the future, never to end. In his book, Knowing God, Packer says that, makes this observation.

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God was happy without humans before they were made. He would have continued happy had he simply destroyed them after they were made. had he simply destroyed them after they had sinned.

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But as it is, he has set his heart upon particular sinners. And this means that by his own free voluntary choice, he will not know perfect and unmixed happiness again until he has brought every one of them to heaven. He has in effect resolved that henceforth, for all eternity, his happiness shall be conditionable, conditional upon ours.

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God is love. I struggle to get my head around that. And God doesn’t ask me to do that.

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He asks me to accept it and to embrace it. We’re covering a lot tonight and I just wanted to touch briefly upon questions that might arise and we’ll not go into this in detail, but simply to say that there are times when we wonder about the love of God and the power of God in the midst of suffering. It’s a question all Christians will wrestle with sooner or later.

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Many people have thought about that, wrestled with that. And I just wanted to give you a sense from a book, A Great and Terrible Love, A Spiritual Journey into the Attributes of God that Mark Galley wrote when he said, “‘Where is God when it hurts?’ I find these words helpful. Well, he shows up as a helpless, vulnerable baby, as a common laborer sharing the struggles of all those who make their living by the sweat of their brow.

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He shows up as one who weeps with those who weep, like the time he broke down at the death of his friend Lazarus. He shows up as the one who prays the night before his execution, praying not like some Greek God, some heroic mythical figure who defies fate with bravado, but as one who sweats blood and begs to be saved. He shows up on a cross as one who knows there are times when suffering is so excruciating and so unjust that it feels like we are on the other side of the chasm from God.

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We discover Christ. We discover in Christ that he asks that question, he asks the question himself, except he puts it this way. My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Where is the God of love when it hurts? He’s at the center of the cross.

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He is to be found in the midst of pain and in the healing and forgiveness that can attend it. We’ve thought about a lot of aspects of God’s love, but I want to, in conclusion, come back to where that leaves us. I don’t know about you, but I’m grateful that I’ve been born into a world that was created and overseen by a God who is love.

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And whose love is on display all over the place. I’m grateful that he didn’t start the world spinning and walk away. I’m grateful that he invites us, even chooses us to be in relationship with him.

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The God of love invites us to share his heart of love. He even welcomes us to join the family of love, to joy in a celebration that will last forever. God is love.

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What a wonderful subject. We’ve only scratched the surface. I hope we’ve unearthed some gems.

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I hope you’ve taken some things away, perhaps expanded your view of the breadth, width of God’s love. One of the hymn writers said, it’s an ocean full of blessing, vast, unmeasured, boundless, free. I hope that even in these few words, you’ve been sparked to go deeper.

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You can go as deep as you want into the love of God. Returning briefly to Psalm 33 in verse 22, his closing prayer was, may your unfailing love be with us, Lord. Even as we put our hope in you.

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That Psalmist didn’t know a fraction of what we know, but that prayer was gloriously answered in ways that the Psalmist could never have imagined. That that unfailing love would be shared with us and we would be brought so close. Paul in Ephesians 3 prays, and that would be our prayer for all of us tonight, is that Christ may dwell in our hearts through faith.

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And that us being rooted and established in love may have power with all of the Lord’s holy people to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ. And to know this love that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. We noted the expectation at the beginning that we should imitate God’s character and attributes.

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That this love that we’ve been thinking a little bit about tonight should be seen in us, on display in our lives. And it would be strange if after being touched by love, we didn’t reciprocate that love in any sort of ways. Let’s think just lastly about responsive love.

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Our response in our love should, of course, be to God himself. That’s why Christians describe themselves not just as believers, but as those who love the Lord. And out of love we live to please him, to know him better, to grow in confidence in our trust of him.

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And that in all of our circumstances, he knows best. That seems a challenge, doesn’t it? But the great news is that the loving God makes that possible. He has poured his love into our hearts.

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That’s what Romans 5 tells us, through the Holy Spirit. So we have that sense of that God of love, his love being poured into our lives and then overflowing, keeping being filled. So he helps us to respond to God, helps us in our expression of gratitude and of love back to him.

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And of course, we will do that as part of responding to what he’s asked us to do as we remember him tonight. And as that love fills our hearts and overflows, of course it flows to one another. It would be strange if we have learned about God’s love but don’t love our brothers and sisters.

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That’s what John tells us in his epistle when he tells us about God’s love. So let’s be people who are overflowing with God’s love in our lives. Let’s be people who our daily prayer is that he would fill us with his love.

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And let some of that great love of our God overflow from our lives. It’s not conditional love, but generous, overflowing love. Let’s get less upset with the small stuff, holding back in whatever relationship or responding in a harsh way because he or she did this or that.

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In our relationships, with our fellow Christians, with our neighbors, with our colleagues, with the stranger, how is God’s love gonna flow out of our lives? We are in the business of being reflectors of God’s love. That challenges me and I’m sure you will feel that too. But in God’s strength and with his spirit, let’s do that.

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We are most likely to win people by our love rather than our arguments. Isn’t that the way that God has used to attract us to him? Isn’t that God’s way? Because he is love and wonderfully, he invites us to be that way too. Let’s thank him for his goodness and for his love.

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Father, we thank you that you are love. You’ve always been love. You always will be.

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And we don’t fully understand it, but we grasp aspects of it, just even in a small way. And we ask that even tonight, we would enjoy your love. We’d get to know you a bit better and your love even better.

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I thank you that it’s so infinite that we will be able to enjoy it and go on getting to know it forever. I thank you for expressing your love to us and drawing us close and doing it in Jesus, in whose name we pray, amen.