Atcross · Most Important Sermon

The following transcript is a sermon preached by Timothy Williams.
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THE MOST IMPORTANT SERMON

This is the most important sermon because it’s the foundational sermon for everything. Everything we look at today will be what we build upon as a foundation for this body. So, if you ever get lost in all the different issues and all the different things that are happening, you can go back to this and just listen to it over and over again. This is what it’s all about.

Let’s pray first before we get started.

Father, we just come before You and hold up this body that You are seeking to form. We ask, Father, that You cleanse our hearts and purify our lives that Your name might be glorified. That in every way, Father, Your word would be exalted and Your glory lifted up. We pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.

By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as an expert builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should be careful how he builds. (1 Corinthians 3:10)

Today’s discussion is the foundation of the church, and we have to be experts when we build upon this foundation. Because often people start new churches or ministries, but they either fizzle out or turn out to be destructive. Or they don’t turn out to reflect the glory of God at all because of the way they are being built—the foundation is wrong. As we begin, we want to get the foundation exactly right.

Since this is the Lord’s church there will be a lot that God wants to deal with in each of us.

This is what the Lord says to the men of Judah and to Jerusalem: “Break up your unplowed ground and do not sow among thorns.” (Jeremiah 4:3)

There will be a lot of areas that God will lead us in that we have never even looked at before. The ground has never even been plowed up. We will examine difficult things. Not bizarre things, but difficult things in the Lord to live and apply. Peter wrote about Paul and said, “He writes things that are difficult to understand which the unstable distort to their own destruction.” We will look at a lot of things that are difficult to understand, so we must have the foundation correct so we can understand exactly what God wants to lead us into. We are going to plow up new ground, but we are not going to sow among thorns. People will come out of a certain group or church and then form another church, but they bring along the thorns from their old church. It may be their opinions or a certain doctrine, and they build while holding onto these old things. So they sow good seed among thorns, which leads to trouble because everything isn’t cleaned out. Everything isn’t leveled down. We are not singing today because we want to seek the Lord first on what singing should be like in Him. We want God to appoint our song leader, and show us what to sing and how we should approach Him. So everything will be stripped down, which is really a very positive thing. How many times do we get an opportunity like that to start from the ground level and work up? Plus, if it fails, we have no one else to blame but ourselves. If we seek the Lord, He is sure to do it.

In John Chapter 15, Jesus tells us that many times in our life He’s going to come along and strip us totally bare. We will look at ourselves and see absolutely no fruit in our lives. We are going to be drawn back so far that we will wonder, “Am I a Christian? Because I don’t see anything good in my life.”

I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. (John 15:1–2)

When a gardener goes in to prune these types of vines, he strips them down to the nubs, so there is nothing left. God so often tries to do that in our lives, and we fight Him on it. We either blame the Devil or we try to find some peace or joy somewhere else. Instead of letting the Gardener come along and prune away everything in our life to strip us clean so He can bear more fruit through us, we fight Him on the whole process. We need to humble ourselves before the Lord, and get very quiet so He can arrange this body as He sees fit and glorify His name in the way He chooses. So whether we have thorns that need to be stripped away, whether we have land that hasn’t been plowed up, or whether we have some good fruit in the Lord, guess what, it all has to go. It must all be stripped clean. I find it to be the most refreshing thing that can happen to have everything stripped and start all over again. We can begin fresh and new.



Okay, let’s look at the one foundation passage for everything else we will do. This church will not be about denying self, though there will be plenty to deny ourselves in. This church will not be about hating our own lives, though there will be plenty cause to hate our own lives. This church will not be about special words of knowledge, but at times that will take place. There’s only one thing that matters in a church. It is the foundation. It’s the thing we build upon. It’s the thing that we never let go of. But men get caught up in all kinds of other things. We like the special spiritual gifts over here, or we like to do this ministry work over here, and we lose sight of exactly what we are supposed to grow in.

For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. (Galatians 5:6)

Any outward thing really doesn’t have any value. We can be called to do all kinds of things in Jesus Christ, whether it’s circumcision or uncircumcision, a word of knowledge or no word of knowledge, spiritual gifts or no spiritual gifts. None of those things have any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love. So, love may demand of me that I lay down my life. Love may demand that I lose my life. Love may demand that I hate my own life, but the goal here is not to hate our own lives. Our goal is not to deny ourselves anything. Our goal isn’t to do any of these outward things. Our goal is to let God’s love be in us and that will manifest itself as He sees fit. But when we start to get certain rules and concepts down and lay down principles, then men start worshipping causes. When that happens, the church becomes a source of idolatry because love isn’t the only thing that counts.

Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love. (Ephesians 5:1–2)

I do not deny myself because Jesus Christ said to deny myself. I deny myself because His love compels me to do so. In order to love somebody else, I must deny myself. I don’t hate my own life because Jesus Christ said it’s a commandment that I must hate my own life to go to heaven. I hate my own life because He works His love within me which then shows me all the ways that I must hate my own life.

Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love. (Ephesians 5:1–2)

I make myself a servant of all, not because I want some blessing in Jesus Christ, or I want to go to heaven and be saved so therefore I serve everyone. I make myself the servant of all because His love compels me. I build myself up in His love and therefore I become more and more a servant of all.

…just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. (Ephesians 5:2)

What are we called to do? To be like Jesus Christ. He simply gave Himself to God. Because of that act, what did He do? He denied Himself, hated His own life, and served others. Love is the foundation and the starting point that we build upon. This is how we live and what we are to be rooted up in.

If we miss this, we miss everything. We like words of knowledge, we like tongues, we like spiritual gifts and wisdom because they build us up. But how many people focus on all kinds of outward circumcision or uncircumcision issues? They debate all kinds of topics, but never step back from all the doctrines and activity and ask if there’s really love that comes from Him.

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. (1 Corinthians 13:1–2)

I have seen many men with faith who have moved mountains, but they don’t have love.

If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing. (1 Corinthians 13:3)

I can deny myself everything that I can think of to deny. I can hate my life in every way possible. But if I do not have His love in me compelling me, I gain absolutely nothing. That’s why this church will not be about hating our own lives. It’s not about denying self in a million different ways. It’s about being rooted up in His love and that being manifested in many different ways.

We could just sit around and say, “Denying ourselves and hating our own lives is exactly what we should do.” We could come up with a list of ideas or principles to deny ourselves in all kinds of ways. It will not change us or make us any different, if it is not His Spirit and His love moving in us.

Since you died with Christ to the basic principles of this world, why, as though you still belonged to it, do you submit to its rules: (Colossians 2:20)

What are the basic principles of this world?

“Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!” These are all destined to perish with use, because they are based on human commands and teachings. (Colossians 2:21)

The problem with this kind of Christianity is that it looks wise, important, and spiritual.

Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence. (Colossians 2:23)

The five, ten, or fifteen steps to salvation that churches teach have an appearance of wisdom. But love does not have fifteen steps for dealing with people, love just has love. It sits down with each individual in love and knows exactly what to say to that particular individual at a particular time. There are no ten principles. How do you know which person is a Pharisee that needs to have tables overturned or which person you need to sit down at the well with and talk to over a drink of water while leading the person to life? There are no principles to people, there is only love. Jesus Christ didn’t come down here and say, “Okay, I’m going to apply the ten principles of heaven to Steve and see how it works out.” He came down and love manifested itself among us, and He knew how to respond to each person with rich wisdom because He acted from love.

Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship (Colossians 2:23)

Self-imposed worship comes along and says, “This is the way we will worship God.” Why do you think you can go into all kinds of churches and they all worship in their particular way? The Assembly of God worships in one fashion and the Baptist in another, but it is basically the same because it is self-imposed. It’s of their own design and wisdom, what they like and feel comfortable with.

…with their self-imposed worship, their false humility… (Colossians 2:23)

“Oh, I’m just denying myself for Jesus Christ.” The same terms come out. “I’m hating my own life. Yes, this is exactly what we teach.”

…and their harsh treatment of the body… (Colossians 2:23)

Again, we do not come up with all kinds of codes and regulations. We will not say, “Okay, let’s think of a million different ways that we can deny ourselves in Jesus Christ.” We will not impose anything upon ourselves. We will let God impose that upon us. As we pick up the cross each of us has been given by His hand to carry in our own life, love will manifest itself.

…they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence. (Colossians 2:23)

You see this in the world. A person in the world tries to give up smoking, but the sin comes out in some other form. In many churches people deny themselves in certain areas, (that is what they are known for), however, they indulge a lot in other areas because self is really not being put to death. It’s just shifting focus.

While we are going to strive for correct doctrine, this church is not about correct doctrine.

As I urged you when I went into Macedonia, stay there in Ephesus so that you may command certain men not to teach false doctrines any longer nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies. These promote controversies rather than God’s work—which is by faith. (1 Timothy 1:3–4)

This passage sounds exactly the opposite of what I just said. The difference is, love will work sound doctrine within me, but sound doctrine does not necessarily work love. The correctness of my logic does not necessarily produce love. But love will compel me to have correct doctrine. When I’m fellowshipping with other people, I don’t want correct doctrine so that I can be correct. That’s why most men want correct doctrine. They want to stand up and say, “Our church is correct, and we have the correct doctrine. What do you believe?” Then it becomes a contest of who believes what. But love will compel me when I’m talking or fellowshipping with a man to say what is correct. I want the truth. One is a self-righteous thing that lifts a man up, the other is love trying to bless somebody else.

The goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. (1 Timothy 1:5)

The goal is not to have sound doctrine. When we begin to build and understand sound doctrine, we strive for the love that gives us the truth. We should not fool ourselves by thinking we logically have sound doctrine, and therefore we must have love and truth. But if we have His love, if we will die to ourselves and let Him manifest His love among us, then doctrine will become sound. The goal of sound doctrine is that we might have love. This love only comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. So first, let’s work on these things, not logic. We have to work on getting a pure heart. You can’t go to Bible College and get a pure heart. Who of us can say right now, “I have a pure heart; therefore I have correct doctrine?” Most of us try to get correct doctrine because getting a pure heart is much more difficult to obtain. If we want sound doctrine in a church, then we have to go back and ask the Lord to purify our hearts first. Then we have to get a good conscience and a sincere faith.

Some have wandered away from these and turned to meaningless talk. (1 Timothy 1:6)

You can talk all day long about all kinds of different doctrines. And indeed, that is what usually goes on, one debate after another debate, but it’s meaningless talk. It doesn’t produce work or labor from love. It’s not His love manifested. It’s Pharisee against Sadducee. It’s one person debating with another person. Nobody ever walks away from the conversation with a purer heart than when they started. Two people can debate till Jesus Christ returns, but it never purifies their hearts. The faith never becomes more sincere.

Knowledge is easy to obtain. If that’s all we’re after, and all that we want is some new concept about hating for Jesus or denying ourselves or some new aspect to live that’s easy enough to get. It’s easy enough to become excited about outward things.

Now about food sacrificed to idols: We know that we all possess knowledge. Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up. (1 Corinthians 8:1)

You can walk into any group of people and bring some new thing for them to learn and they will get puffed up very quickly. If that’s what we start with, we will grow extremely fast because knowledge is a quick and easy thing. Anybody can get it, repeat it, regurgitate it, quote it, and mock it, but to get love as a building stone step by step by step is harder. How do we lay down our lives for one another? Isn’t that much more difficult to actually do than to study the concept? We can talk all day long about denying ourselves and laying down our lives for each other, but that is a slow hard process. Flesh doesn’t die easily. But we can sure talk about it, make books about it, and have seminars about it. However, getting to a place where we live it is a whole different matter. Knowledge just puffs up. It’s easy to obtain.

The man who thinks he knows something does not yet know as he ought to know. (1 Corinthians 8:2)

The man who says, “Oh, I understand about denying self, and I have it down,” doesn’t understand it. The man who says, “I know how to walk in the holiness of God,” doesn’t understand it yet. This is about a relationship and not about a bunch of head knowledge. You may have sound doctrine, but that’s not the goal or the foundation.

But the man who loves God is known by God. (1 Corinthians 8:3)

We are talking about a relationship.

Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law. The commandments, “Do not commit adultery,” “Do not murder,” “Do not steal,” “Do not covet,” and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this one rule: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law. (Romans 13:8–10)

I will not state fifteen different commandments for denying self, hating one’s own life, or other issues. There will be some guidelines that God establishes, but that’s not the goal or purpose. It’s just really a matter of love. That is the beginning and the end. What is heaven, after all? What is God trying to prepare here with a lot of sound doctrine? A place where everyone just agrees with everything but hates each other’s guts? I don’t think so. He’s just preparing for heaven where everybody lays down their lives and they don’t even know it. If I have to come along and say, “Okay, you must lay down your life. You have to do this or that thing,” that’s not love. People who require that would consider heaven to be hell.

All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had. (Acts 4:32)

The first church had everything in common, and they were one in heart and mind. I have every intention of living that and have lived it for many years. But I have no intention of laying down a rule that says everyone who comes to this church must be one in heart and mind and must have everything in common with everyone else. Some men read these passages and decide to do it, therefore they make communes or have rules requiring the group to have everything in common. Setting rule like that immediately destroys the heart of the Scripture. If I have to go to my wife and say, “Carla, you will love me because that’s the rule of this house,” I have lost her. That’s not love.

All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had. With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and much grace was upon them all. (Acts 4:32–33)

This is love manifested—not just rules being put forth. The believers did this on their own because God’s spirit moved in their lives since they surrendered everything to God. This is our goal, and we will not set down any rules for this. If someone chooses not to live this, that is their choice, but they can’t claim to be spiritual.

Now a man named Ananias, together with his wife Sapphira, also sold a piece of property. With his wife’s full knowledge he kept back part of the money for himself, but brought the rest and put it at the apostles’ feet. Then Peter said, “Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land?” (Acts 5:1–3)

This is where most people stop with the issue. It looks like Peter is saying, “Look, the rule and the principle of this body is that we have all things in common. Don’t you understand that, Ananias?” But notice what he said in the very next passage.

Didn’t it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn’t the money at your disposal? (Acts 5:4)

It’s your money to do with as you see fit. If you don’t want to have all things in common, nobody will force you. No one will lay a law down for that to happen. People just come together who have decided they will love one another and learn about the love of heaven right here on earth. They are fully prepared to find heaven to be a joy when they get to be with Jesus Christ. Do you understand that? If you want to hang on to your things, that is really your choice. Why would we want to force anybody to live like this anyway? Ananias’ problem was that he wanted to sacrifice everything without giving up everything. He wanted to appear spiritual without doing it. Now we can’t excuse that. If Ananias chooses not to give the money, that’s his choice, just don’t lie about it. And there’s the catch. I can’t help it if you don’t appear as spiritual as you would like to appear before everybody else. Do you see how the church works? We will not set up a rule in this body and say, “Everything will be given to the church.” That defeats the whole purpose of heaven. God doesn’t say to people when they die and go to heaven, “Okay, now you have to give up everything and that’s the rule. Do you want to come in?” It’s an issue of the heart. It’s an issue of surrender and of love.

And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God. (Philippians 1:9–11)

My prayer is that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, not that your mind might have more wisdom and be puffed up with all kinds of spiritual things, but that your love may have knowledge. That out of love you may know what to do with one another and how to serve. Not in terms of logic and a cold kind of communication, but laying down your life for others.

And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight. (Philippians 1:9–11)

Love knows what to do in every circumstance.

…so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, (Philippians 1:10)

How do we become pure? How do we become blameless? What should we build upon? Simply possessing the love of Jesus Christ in each one of us. We can debate topics and doctrine all day long, but if we never achieve laying down our lives and finding that to be our supreme joy in Jesus Christ, we have gained nothing. We are resounding gongs. We can have gifts, tongues, and miraculous powers of all kinds, but where is the love that comes from Him that makes it alive and real? How much harm takes place in the body of Jesus Christ because people have miraculous powers to heal others, but there is no love behind their actions, so they destroy people in the process.

…so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ. (Philippians 1:10)

We always want to know what’s right and wrong, not what’s best. Best is harder. Is it right or wrong to do this? I don’t know, but is it best to do? Will it benefit someone else? We always want to know, “Can I do this list of things? Is it okay in the Lord?” But to ask the question, “Is it best that I do these things for others or myself?” is a different matter altogether. Love motivates me to control my life. That’s why Paul said, “If I eat meat and it offends my brother, I’ll no longer eat meat.” It no longer becomes an issue of what I can do in Jesus Christ; it becomes an issue of what is best for the kingdom of God, what is best for the person next to me. Do I have a sincere love that does the best thing for them? If I rebuke you sharply, is that best for you? If I answer you gently, is that best for you? Instead, in the body of Jesus Christ we rebuke sharply because of anger and a desire to justify our position. So, we put forth all of our wisdom to win an argument. But asking what is best means sometimes I don’t answer a person and what they’re objecting to. Other times I sharply rebuke. It depends what is best for the other individual, not for myself.

And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God. (Philippians 1:9–11)

If we want to be filled with his righteousness and have that fruit within us, then we must begin to live a life of love. Now this sounds good up until this point, until we consider the fact that people killed Jesus Christ for the kind of love He showed. This kind of love the world and the worldly hate. It’s grand to us. Those who love Jesus Christ and know how to lay down their lives for Him know there is nothing else like it. It’s what heaven is about. We get a very small taste of that love right here. They crucified Jesus Christ because of this kind of love. The world and the worldly will thoroughly detest us if we begin to love them.

Here the power of the cross comes into play. In order for me to know how to love somebody else I have to go to the cross to be crucified and put to death.

Now about brotherly love we do not need to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love each other. (1 Thessalonians 4:9)

Would you like this to be written about you? About brotherly love, I don’t have to write to you or comment because you have been taught by God to love each other. Oh, we have our opinions about how we should love one another. The church has its ideas about how we should show love to one another. Each group has its own little codes and if you step outside that code, then you’re not loving each other. God will literally come down into each one of our lives and teach us how to love each other. You will have to hate your own life, fall to the ground, and die. God will come along and say, “You want to love in your own way and manner, but that’s not of Me. You want to love in this power and fashion by your own strength, but that has to go. It has to be Me. You’re really trying to get something from this person so you’re clouding it over with words that sound like love, but we’re going to deal with that.”

God’s love is the complete opposite of the ways of the world and the worldly. In other words, the way that you loved in the past will be totally put to death. Your motives for loving someone will be one of the first things put to death. Because men will show kindness to other men in order to get kindness. We’re talking about a selfless love that none of us has ever possessed in our entire life unless Jesus Christ is in us. The old saying, “Oh, you’d make a good Christian,” is a complete and absolute lie. Nobody is ever born that would make a good Christian. We are not born with that kind of love in ourselves.

You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. They are from the world and therefore speak from the viewpoint of the world, and the world listens to them. (1 John 4:4)

The world’s idea of gentleness differs from God’s idea of gentleness. The world listens to worldly people. It makes sense; they give their attention and allegiance to them. At first your flesh will run from this kind of love. Even Peter, when Jesus was about to wash his feet objected by saying, “No, don’t touch me. I don’t want a part of that kind of love.” Jesus said if you don’t allow Him to serve you in this way, you don’t have a part of Him. It’s a different kind of love than we have ever experienced. It’s alive, exciting, in the light and holy, but it’s completely different than what we have ever lived or experienced in our entire life. Indeed, for many of us, our religion has gotten in the way of us getting to this point.

We are from God, and whoever knows God listens to us; but whoever is not from God does not listen to us. This is how we recognize the Spirit of truth and the spirit of falsehood. (1 John 4:6)

Do you notice the subtlety of what he said? John didn’t say, “We’re from God and whoever agrees with our basic tenets of belief is also from God.” He said, “If they listen and fellowship with us, they are from God.” It all comes down to relationships with one another, not cold, dead doctrine and not all kinds of debates. Sure, I debate all the time with men about different doctrines, but the point is to get to the love. The goal of this command is love. Is that really our goal when we debate with other people? Or do we just want to win the argument and establish our position, logic, or doctrine in Jesus Christ? When was the last time we walked away from a fiery debate with someone and said, “I lost because I didn’t get this man to see that he needs to grow in love”? No, if we win the argument, we think we won something for the Lord. Love forms the foundation upon which everything is built and grows.

Ask yourself if you are willing to be crucified enough to self so God’s love can be manifested in you. Jesus is preparing a people to worship Him and love one another in heaven. That’s what it’s all about.

God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus. (Philippians 1:8)

How many of us can say, “I call God as my witness that I love others with the affection of Jesus Christ”? The affection and love we show one another is based on our own strength, wisdom, and ideas of what is right and wrong. It’s the viewpoint of the world. We cannot call God as our witness and say, “I love you by the love and grace of God in everything that I do.” Paul can actually say that God Himself testifies that he loves others.

God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus. (Philippians 1:8)

Remember what we read in verse nine earlier. “And this is my prayer that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight.” Paul wanted people to have the same love that he had. What is heaven but everyone loving each other with God’s love in them? What is the church supposed to be? Everybody loving each other according to God’s love manifested in each part of the body.

We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you. (Colossians 1:3)

Oh, that we might have a body like that. Most people grumble and complain about their church. Let’s ask God to form a body completely so that when finished, when we have surrendered and hated our own lives, we will kneel humbly before God and praise Him for what He worked.

…because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all the saints—the faith and love that spring from the hope that is stored up for you in heaven… (Colossians 1:4–5)

Where does our love come from? It’s supposed to come from the love stored up in heaven. God has a storehouse called love and He’s waiting to work and manifest it in our lives if we would surrender and die and let Him do it. God has this whole jar full of love called servanthood that He wants to put in each of our lives so that we may lay down our lives for one another. We can possess this kind of love if we would do but one thing, surrender before Him and let Him do the cleansing work. When love manifests itself, servanthood naturally follows.

…the faith and love that spring from the hope that is stored up for you in heaven and that you have already heard about in the word of truth, the gospel that has come to you. All over the world this gospel is bearing fruit and growing, just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and understood God’s grace in all its truth. You learned it from Epaphras, our dear fellow servant, who is a faithful minister of Christ on our behalf, and who also told us of your love in the Spirit. (Colossians 1:5–8)

This love comes from heaven and is stored up there. This love comes only from the Holy Spirit. You really don’t want my love. You would not want me to love you by my own strength. You would not want me to give you counsel by my own love, wisdom, and knowledge. Of what benefit is that to you? That’s complete darkness anyway. And yet we’re happy to flatter each other and puff one another up. We’re happy to study all kinds of doctrine and hold on to our own opinions about the way things should or shouldn’t be done. We are completely content in our darkness, running around talking to each other. We need to surrender and hate our own lives so that His love may be manifested and arranged in this body as He sees fit, working it in all the ways that He wants to work it.

…and who also told us of your love in the Spirit. (Colossians 1:8)

Remember they were taught by God to love one another. When was the last time that you got up out of a quiet time and went throughout the day and by the end of the day you could say, “God, you taught me literally how to love people today. I could feel the power, the sincerity, and the truth that comes from heaven working through me.” Instead, we want to come back with grand stories. “Oh, God showed me this special revelation,” with a long dissertation about what God worked. Or “God did this miracle in my life.” When was the last time someone turned to you and said, “I was out walking with the Lord today, and I could feel His power just teaching me to love somebody”? First of all, we don’t want to humble ourselves and admit we don’t know how to love people. That would be humbling ourselves a little too much. It’s not very exciting either. The church gets all puffed up with different stories of what people experience and what they feel instead of just saying that the believers simply learned to love one another. The most exciting thing I can think of is a whole church that has all things in common and is one in heart and mind completely. Who has seen such a thing?

…and who also told us of your love in the Spirit. (Colossians 1:8)

If we pray and ask God for anything, let us not ask for miracles or spiritual gifts. Let us not ask for special revelations, knowledge, or anything else like that. Let us just kneel and ask the Father this:

For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. 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 (Ephesians 3:14–17)

“Established in love.” Rooted in it. Not moved from it. Not taken in by all kinds of other things, ideas, and concepts. Love is where our feet are planted, where our heart stays, and what we grow in. We will not be moved from it. What is Satan’s tactic? To get people excited about a movement or project so they move away from love. Do you remember what Jesus Christ told the disciples when they came back from casting out demons and healing the sick? He said, “Do not rejoice in that.” That’s a commandment. Do not rejoice that those things happened. Rejoice that your name is written in the Book of Life. If we’re excited about anything, we should be excited that the love of God manifests itself in each one of our lives. When was the last time you saw love advertised? Why should I come to your church? Because we love each other. Instead, everybody promotes miracles or all kinds of exciting events. Nobody just simply says, “The love of God is manifested in our church.” It doesn’t mean anything because we haven’t surrendered nor hated our lives enough to work it.

…may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, (Ephesians 3:18)

Notice that the whole concept here for the family of God is fellowship. “Together with all the saints,” means that all of us together would feel His love and have it manifest among us. When we look at a commandment that Jesus Christ says to obey, we should obey it out of love. Instead, everyone wants to debate exactly how to live the commandment. When was the last time it was said, “This is what we are supposed to do in Jesus Christ,” and you are able to leave it at that? Everybody just runs out to obey it. Most “Christians” quantify and qualify it, tear it apart, get this down, check the Hebrew, get the Greek, and want to know exactly how it applies. That’s not love! That’s not a relationship!

…may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ… (Ephesians 3:18)

It will require divine power to grasp this love. I cannot communicate it. No book can possibly write about the living love of God manifest in the church. It will take divine power to grasp it, to understand it, to know where we are headed, and know what God will work. We cannot even work it.

…and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. (Ephesians 3:19)

This is what we are asking God to do. When we begin to ask God to form a church body, what do we mean? All we are asking God is something pretty simple, that we will know the height, the depth, and the width of his love.

For this reason I kneel before the Father… (Ephesians 3:14)

Does not the very call of what we are looking at cause us to hit our knees?

The only job of a pastor or teacher is to build you up in this love because if you have this love then eventually you will no longer be tossed back and forth by every wind of teaching and doctrine and movement that takes place in the church. You will be rooted and established so no one can move you. Possessing correct doctrine is not the issue. If someone is being taken in by the Mormon Church, what do we normally give them? We give them a book against Mormons, as if logic will convince them. We don’t build or root them up in the love of Jesus Christ. We don’t know how to do it. We haven’t experienced it so how are we going to show it to someone else?

Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. (Ephesians 4:14)

How can we escape these men? How can we become a people not tossed this way one day and that way the next day? How can we become so strong and powerful that no man can move us from the truth? Through gaining knowledge? No, knowledge puffs up. Knowledge will toss us back and forth all the time. What do we need?

Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work. (Ephesians 4:15–16)

Growing and building itself up in doctrine, knowledge, and wisdom? No, in love! If we want leadership so strong that no one can come in to disrupt the body, then we need leadership that knows how to love. If we want to protect the body and help it stay strong and able to preach the gospel with great power, what did the book of Acts direct? To have all things in common. That’s how they spoke with great effectiveness and great power.

Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. (Ephesians 4:15)

There is no way that I can arrange this body the way God wants it to be. You wouldn’t want me to do it anyway. If God said, “Okay, Tim, arrange it however you see fit,” I can guarantee it would be disaster.

From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work. (Ephesians 4:16)

This says we need each other. One person will not have all the wisdom. A leg can’t run just by itself. It must be joined to the body. God will have to arrange and work His gifts and His wisdom as He sees fit. But what is the goal? Not gifts, not manifestations, not miracles, but love. Look, when we get to heaven, miracles will be the everyday thing. You won’t run up to somebody in heaven and say, “Look at what I just did. I just did a miracle.” They will say, “…and your point?” That’s daily life there.

From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work. (Ephesians 4:16)

We each have work to do, but it’s a work of love. It’s a labor of love. We will experience a lot of hard times. There will be a lot of things to work through, and a lot of personality differences, but that’s why Scripture says love covers over a multitude of sins. I’ve made lots of mistakes. Indeed, the only way I seem to learn is by making mistakes. So, if you want perfection in people, you might as well go somewhere else where you can find some people you think are perfect. Which may be in your living room by yourself.

Asking for this is almost harder than raising the dead because we are asking God to work his love through each one of us. I guarantee you that He can probably raise the dead easier than He can crucify our flesh. Do we really want to give up all of our time? Do we really want to pour out all our strength and comfort for other people? Do we really find that to be our joy? Our flesh will kick up and not want to do it. We’ll get tired and reach the end of our rope. God will demand of us to die more to self. Why? Not because the goal is to die to self but because when we stop dying to self, love ceases. If I ever get to the point where Tim lives and I will not serve you, love has stopped. If I have an opinion that I have to be right on, love has ceased. If I have to prove a point and have my way on an issue, then love no longer exists. We are asking God to come to each one of us and say, “I’m going to put you to death.” We must give Him permission to do that.

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us. (Romans 5:1–5)

We will experience many sufferings and many things that call for perseverance. Even if we don’t have persecution on the horizon, just learning to love one another can produce a lot of suffering. Just get a group of people together that are still in their flesh and let God tell them to start loving one another. Watch what happens. Learning to lay down our lives for one another, giving up our flesh, and purifying each another is difficult. It takes work to know when to correct, when not to correct and how to correct. Learning how to be dead to our own flesh is an extremely difficult work to participate in. If we want a body where people love one another, it will require hard work.

This love is a grand love. We have just barely skimmed the surface of what this means. We talk about people in the body laying down their lives for one other and having all things in common. We’ve experienced that, and we know what that’s about. We know some pitfalls too. But this love is a grand love. It’s the very essence of heaven. Jesus Christ came down to earth to bring this love and to die for us so some of us can go to heaven. It’s a thrill to think about being in heaven and loving other people who I know will never say anything false to me. We can put our arms around each other and know that no secret motive, deception, or selfish heart exists. I long to be there. I long to be the kind of individual who loves other people with a pure love. I want there to be no shadow within me, and nothing secretive. He has called us to the grandest kind of love. As we look around the world and see how the world loves one another, God offers us a love that is pure, holy, and totally sincere.

I, Paul, write this greeting in my own hand. If anyone does not love the Lord—a curse be on him. Come, O Lord! (1 Corinthians 16:21–22)

This love is so holy and so grand that Paul says, “I write this with my own hand. Anyone who doesn’t love the Lord—a curse be on him.” This is the kind of love that God calls us to. It’s a supreme and holy kind of love, not token love. Not “church” love that calls and checks in with each other on a Sunday or maybe once during the middle of the week. These are people who I will call my brother and who I will die for. Everything else we will look at in the future will be from this position of love. Every sermon, every time we meet together, every time we come to pray, we will be rooted in and built up in love. It will never cease because God is love and He is eternal. It is an eternal love and no man can ever get it down because it is the Lord. It is not a concept. It is a person.

LET’S PRAY:

Father, we plead with You to fix our hearts on this love that our flesh and men would never move us from this. Root us in this every hour and begin, Father, to build up within us Your love. Father, we give You permission to crucify our flesh and we come willingly, Father, to fall to the ground and die that we might have a pure love for You and have Your love for others. May Your name be exceedingly glorified, Father. Amen.

The following transcript was a sermon preached by Timothy Williams.
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