Loving our neighbors

(The following is a summary of the message that was preached by Michael Larsen on Jan 3, 2021.)

One of the most important theme verses in the book of James is found in James 1:22, which says:

Don't fall into self-deception by merely listening to God's Word and thinking you've got it. No. Do what it says. Be a doer of the word.

He said if you hear the word of God and you don't do anything about it, you're just kidding yourself that your faith is real. If you really believe, then you will put God's Word into practice. You have to act on it if you're gonna get any benefit or any good out of this book. Your beliefs, if they are real, must be turned into behavior. Your convictions must be converted into conduct in order for you to be blessed by the Bible.

The other important theme verse that we will look at in detail is James 2:14 and it says this in the New Living Translation:

Dear brothers and sisters, what's the use of saying you have faith if you don't prove it by your actions?

James says that kind of faith can't save anybody. In other words, he says what you profess you believe you must practice in your life for your faith to have any effect.

So today's message is gonna be filled with practical suggestions on how to do what God tells us to do. The verse in is James 1:8 and here's what it says:

This royal law is found in the scriptures. ‘Love your neighbor as you love yourself.’ If you obey this law, you're doing right.

James is quoting what's called the Great Commandment of Jesus. It’s found in Mark 12:28-31.

One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”

“The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.

Jesus says there's no greater commandment than these. The two go together. You can't love God with all your heart and soul if you don't also love your neighbor as yourself. You can't love your neighbor as yourself if you don't first love God with all your heart, soul, and mind. So love God with all your heart and love your neighbor as yourself.

God says love is a choice. Colossians 3:14 tells us to “put on love.” It's just like getting dressed. You have a choice what shirt or pants or a dress or whatever you put on in the morning. Love is a choice. You choose to love some people and you choose not to love other people. It’s an action you do.

Today I want to suggest five ways that you can love your neighbor as yourself.

1. Get to know our neighbors.

         You have to start being friendly with them.

2. Encourage our neighbors.

         The Bible was written to encourage human beings, so find a way to share it.

3. Serve your neighbors.

         That means meet both their spiritual needs and their practical needs. Sometimes we should ask for their help because sometimes, it's just as encouraging to let someone feel needed as it is to meet a need.

4. Invite our neighbors to church.

         God wants a full house at church. How we can fill this church with our friends and neighbors is our challenge.

5. Share our faith in Jesus Christ with our neighbors.

         I goal is to find a way to explain to our neighbor how they can become friends with Jesus. The greatest gift you can give your neighbor is introduce them to the God who loves them. God loves everybody and he wants everybody to know Jesus. God has never made a person that he doesn't love, and we must care because God cares. Everybody needs Jesus’ love. To love your neighbor as yourself means you do everything possible so that they go to heaven and not hell.

          1 Peter 3:15 says “But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.”

         2 Corinthians 5:14 says that Christ's love compels us. We love because Jesus first loved us, and when you are loved by Jesus and you feel his love, you can't help but love other people.

         Ephesians 3:16-19 “I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all 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.”