What is the Meaning of Matthew 7.12

“The Golden Rule”

Because Christ loved us, let us love one another

INTRODUCTION What is the Meaning of Matthew 7.12

Matthew 7. A distinct smell, the smell of a dew-laden rose on a crisp summer morning. A distinct sight: a glorious sunset with the blues and purples just above the rolling green hills. A distinct feel, a loved one arriving home from a long trip running up the front steps and giving you a long warm embrace. Or a distinct sound: the soft sound of snow falling after the harvest is safely in…

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The beauty of a distinct life. Matthew 7:12 12 “In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets.

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Beautiful! In chapter 7, Jesus has just taught us to ask, seek, and knock for salvation because He it is who saves! Jesus gives good gifts, especially the gift of salvation. Ask!

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Once saved and given eternal life by faith, now we’re encouraged to live distinctly: “…treat people the same way you want them to treat you….”

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It is interesting to note what Jesus does not teach here…

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Jesus does not say, “treat others in a way to get them to treat you like that.” As if Jesus is teaching us to live selfishly: treat other people well so that they will treat you well. Jesus is not teaching that.

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Jesus is not teaching, “treat others how they want you to treat them.” Because if you are talking to lost people especially, they do not want you to talk to them about their need for a Savior from sin. So Jesus does not teach, “treat others how they want you to treat them.” Jesus focuses on “you.” “Treat people the same way you want them to treat you.” More on that in a moment.

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Jesus does not even teach here, “don’t do to others what you don’t want them to do to you.” No, Jesus states it positively, “treat people the same way you want them to treat you.”

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But before Jesus’ earthly ministry, before He came to earth, the world had that negative focus, “do not do to others what you do not want them to do to you.”

Whatever bad thing that you thought of to do to somebody, don’t do that if you don’t want them to do that to you. That’s fine and good, but that’s not what Jesus is saying.

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However, this was the teaching of Zoraster (500’s BC), Plato (300s BC), and Rabbi Hillel (just a few years before Jesus came). Up until the famed Rabbi Hillel, the focus was on the negative and on inaction “don’t do to others what you don’t want them to do to you.”

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But when Jesus the Lord comes to earth and teaches, He teaches it in the positive and that we are to take action. “Do to others what you want them to do to you.”

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If you lived in a monastery, you could fulfill the negative command, “do not do to others what you do not want them to do to you.” If you live in a monastery, no one is around you and you would never do anything to anyone else.

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But Jesus’ teaching “Do to others what you want them to do to you” demands that you actively love and care for others. “Treat people how you would want them to treat you.” That takes action and it takes getting out of your monastery.

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So…

1. First, we’ll see you are to treat others like this because this sums up the whole OT, the law and prophets.

2. After that, we’ll explain what it means to treat people the same way you want them to treat you.

3. Finally, we’ll apply it to everything, as Jesus says “in everything” treat people the same way you want them to treat you.

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First, this teaching is the Law and the prophets.

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  1. This is the Law and prophets
    1. “Law” and “prophets” book ends a major section the Sermon

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Jesus says, “Therefore, treat people like this, “for this is the law and the prophets.”

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With this statement, Jesus ends a major section of His Sermon on the Mount. Turn with me back to chapter 5. Chapter 5:17 and our text this morning 7:12 form two book ends as it were. These two verses form the beginning and the end of a major section.

We know these two verses form the beginning and the end of a section because He uses two words found in both of the verses. See if you can find which two words Jesus says in Matthew 5:17 that is similar to 7:12.

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Jesus says in Matthew 5:17, “Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill.”

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Did you find them? In both verses, 5:17 and 7:20, Jesus uses the words “Law” and “Prophets.” What Jesus is saying is this: I am fulfilling, summing up the whole OT. “I came to fulfill” the OT.

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TRANS: But how is our text, 7:12, the Law and the Prophets? Because this teaching sums up the OT. It’s the OT in a nutshell.

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  1. How 7:12 is “the Law and the Prophets.”

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Matthew 7:12 12 “In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets.

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To see how this sums up the OT, we need to know our OT. What we’ll do now is cite a number of OT passages to show us that what Jesus is teaching here sums up the OT. An interesting verse along these lines is in Exodus 23. Let’s turn there… The Old Testament in a number of different ways testifies that treating people the same way you want them to treat you is the big point. Exodus 23:5.

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This verse is about a donkey. But is the donkey the point? What do you do if you see your enemies donkey?

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Exodus 23:5 5 “If you see the donkey of one who hates you lying helpless under its load [so there’s that guy who hates you, there’s his donkey lying helpless under its load what do you do? “Ha, serves him right, that old scoundrel, he deserves it. No….], you shall refrain from leaving it to him, you shall surely release it with him.

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Give him a hand! Is the donkey the point here? Help your enemies’ donkey! Help your enemy. “Treat him the same way you want him to treat you.”

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And then just a few verses later in verse nine…

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Exodus 23:9 “You shall not oppress a stranger, since you yourselves know the feelings of a stranger, for you also were strangers in the land of Egypt.

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The people of Israel used to be slaves, they used to be strangers in the land of Egypt. Picture that! But God delivered them to the Promised Land of Israel. And then of course what would happen is that strangers would come into the land of Israel. The Israelites were to remember what it was like to be strangers in a foreign land and then not oppress them as they themselves were oppressed.

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They had an experience of oppression that should inform their relationship to others. They should overcome the evil they experienced with good, “treating others the same way you would want them to treat you.”

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In the same way over and Isaiah chapter 1. Hundreds of years later, God’s people have gotten off track. The people of Israel at this time were known for defrauding those who were less fortunate. They would take advantage of the widow. Isaiah tells them in Isaiah 1:17.

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Isaiah 1:17 17 Learn to do good; Seek justice, Reprove the ruthless, Defend the orphan, Plead for the widow.” If you were a widow, that’s what you would want done for you. Do that for them! Treat others the same way you would want them to treat you.

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And I’ll just quote these next few verses to us, Jer. 7:5-6…

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Jeremiah 7:5–6 5 “For if you truly amend your ways and your deeds, if you truly practice justice between a man and his neighbor, 6 if you do not oppress the alien, the orphan, or the widow, and do not shed innocent blood in this place, nor walk after other gods to your own ruin, then I’ll let you dwell in the land.

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It’s similar in Ezek. 18:7-8 and then in

Micah 6:8 8 He has told you, O man, what is good; And what does the Lord require of you But to do justice, to love kindness, And to walk humbly with your God?

Do justice for the widow and the orphan and those who need help. “Treat people the same way you want them to treat you.”

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Finally, a very important verse that Jesus quotes in the NT… turn back to Lev. 19:18

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Leviticus 19:18 18 ‘You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge [that’s internal, not bearing any grudge] against the sons of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself; I am the Lord.

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Now, Jesus teaches that this verses sums up the whole law, also. Let’s turn to Matthew 22 and we’ll see Jesus’ teaching on this verse we just read. Jesus quotes Lev. 19:18 here in Matthew 22.

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A lawyer questions him in verse 36, “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?”

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Matthew 22:37–40 37 And He said to [this OT expert in the Law…], “ ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 “This is the great and foremost commandment. 39 “The second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 “On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.”

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Similarly, in our text, Jesus says “… treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 “On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.”

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Same idea! Here, “On these two commandments (loving God and loving others) depend the whole Law and the Prophets.” And our text, “treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” Treating people the same way you want them to treat you is the same thing as loving your neighbor as yourself.

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Paul similarly, let’s turn to… Romans 13:8-10…

Romans 13:8–10 8 Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another; [now, here is similar language…] for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law. 9 For this, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and if there is any other commandment, it is summed up in this saying, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.

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… this is the Law and the Prophets, treat people the same way you want them to treat you…

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Paul again…

Galatians 5:13–14 13 For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. 14 For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

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That’s the summary of the Law … the whole Law fulfilled, one word, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” … this is the Law and the Prophets, treat people the same way you want them to treat you…

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Same idea.

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So, back to Matthew 7:12. Many people have a question about this golden rule, as its called. They say, “Well, what if someone loves pain and they want people to hit them? What would they do? They would hit others!”

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So they themselves want people to hit them, and so they choose to hit others.

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“treat people the same way you want them to treat you.” I want to be hit and so I hit others.

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Simple response: That is not the law and the prophets. Jesus is speaking in a context of Moses’ Law and all the prophets and therefore of following the LORD and seeking Him, serving Him…He speaking to Israelites, the people of God, who submit to the LORD, …. do to others what you would want them to do to you.” And so for “you” who at least give a head nod to the LORD, you are to treat others the same you want to be treated.

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This is why “Treat them how they want you to treat them” doesn’t work. No, treat others how you want others to treat you. And how do you want others to treat you? Biblically!

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TRANS: Jesus’ teaching is the Law and the Prophets; it sums it up. Now, treat others the same way you want to be treated or oving your neighbor as yourself is the same idea.

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  1. Treat people the same way you want them to treat you

And so therefore, Jesus whole point in this major section of the sermon on the Mount is to treat others in the same way you would want them to treat you. His teaching in this section fulfills the Old Testament, completes it, and is the perfect application of it for all time!

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So we need to remind ourselves of Jesus’ teaching in this section. Go to Matthew 5:21 where Jesus speaks of anger. You have heard that you should not murder, verse 21. But Jesus says v.22, “anger makes you guilty enough to go into the fiery hell.”

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Instead of anger, be reconciled to your brother verses 23-24. Treat them that way! Instead of anger, be reconciled. That treats others the same you you would them to treat you.

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It’s the same with adultery, whether you think of it as looking at a woman with lust in verse 28 or verse 32 if you think of it as divorcing your wife.

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Instead of committing heart adultery or divorcing your wife, the response instead is verses 29-30, repentance of sin, pictured here as tearing out your eye and cutting off your hand. That also loves your neighbor…your relationship with other people’s spouses and with God makes a difference with your neighbor.

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Similarly, do not make oaths v.34 like “I swear by Jerusalem that I will do it.” Instead, simply let your yes be a yes. Let your word stand, be honest. That treats your neighbor in the same way you yourselves want to be treated: honesty.

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Instead of verse 39 resisting evil people, go above and beyond what is expected of you in your helping and loving of your enemies.

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GOSPEL: And Jesus and His Father are the primary examples of this! Verse 45, He sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous! That’s what He would want! He is no hypocrite.

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And that’s what He’s done in the gospel as well! Know love of Christ! He has treated you the same way He would want to be treated if He were in your shoes. He knew you needed someone to fix your sin problem, and so He himself provided it for you! He died and was raised for you and your eternal benefit!

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He knows that you cannot handle His justice, and so He Himself satisfied His own justice against you by sending His own Son to the cross! Christ took God’s wrath for us!

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Know therefore, the love of Christ! Graciously, He hasn’t dealt with us according to what we deserve. With grace:…. that’s how we all want to be treated and God in Christ is the ultimate expression of that love. He Himself is the pinnacle of what it is to treat others in the same way you want them to treat you. He took your hell and gave you His heaven. Simply trusting Him receives that covenant love.

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It’s all by trusting in the Son of God, who loved us and gave Himself up for us. He treated us well beyond what we deserve.

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TRANS: Now, Jesus example of love applies to everyone here.

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  1. In everything

Matthew 7:12 12 “In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets.

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In everything! I need this, you need this. You know, I tend to view sin against others as what I don’t do to them, not what good thing I fail to do. That needs to stop. When I fail to actively care, that is sin also. I need to be more active in my love. It’s not that if I just stop being mean to others, I’m ok. Active love, care, and going out of my way in kindness.

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I need to work on this and I think we all do.

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APP: So, let me test you out, as I did myself, from Lev. 19:18, which our Lord quotes as the great commandment. You could turn there or just recall what we saw there. This is the greatest commandment according to Jesus…, the one that sums up the OT law.

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Leviticus 19:18 18 ‘You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the sons of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself; I am the Lord.

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Are you holding a grudge? Do you have regular thoughts of resentment because someone has hurt you or has done something you don’t like or not done something you think they should have…in your view, they have done something wrong?

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Don’t seek revenge, don’t resent them, have anger toward them, instead, love others as yourself!

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If someone has done you wrong…they got your order wrong at the restaurant, they spilled your drink at the table, they scream too much, she doesn’t listen, he doesn’t care, they won’t pay, they won’t pay you back, your literal neighbor has a beef with you, whatever…what’s the solution?

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Treat other people the way you would want to be treated, what would that require? Let love cover that sin! Now, you say, “I can’t get over it, I keep harboring resentment. What should I do?” Get help! You might not need to mention it to the person you have a problem with, if they haven’t done anything wrong.

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But in many cases, you do. Humbly go to that person and get the situation fixed.

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Put yourself in the shoes of the person with whom you’re struggling! Do they want you to hold a grudge against them? No! If you were them, how would you want to be treated? Don’t hold that grudge, instead treat them how you would want them to treat you: scripturally! In great humility, get right with each other!

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We sooo want others to listen to us from our perspective, but we aren’t willing to do that to others? No, love others as you yourself want to be scripturally loved! Listen to their perspective! Humbly approach them in difficulty. Sadly, we’re committed to ourselves first. No, Christ and others, Christ and others!

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In everything, treat others how you yourself want to be treated.

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  1. In the home

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Treat your spouse, your children, parents how you would want to be treated.

Look at the flesh-ripped shoulders of Christ who has taken the sin of the world, your sin being the foremost…he’s taken your sin upon Him. Now, will you treat your brother, sister, parents with contempt? No, “Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.”

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In everything, treat others how you yourself want to be treated.

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  1. At work

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Your coworkers are sinners at best or completely severed from Christ, at worst! Christ has loved them, Christ is patient with them, Christ isn’t done with them yet. Will you be frustrated and angry with them, despising them in your heart? Will you write them off, or will encourage them when they seem to be against you?

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He took a crown of thorns pounded into His skull for your eternal benefit. Love those sinners, bear looooooong with them.

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  1. In the church

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In the church as well! I’m not perfect, you’re not perfect. That’s a recipe for disaster if we don’t have the patience and kindness of Christ dwelling in us. Whether it’s doctrinal error, practical error, Christian living problems, problems between us and those happen! … sometimes, we need to gently address and confront…and each others’ quirks and idiosyncrasies we bypass and pray and encourage and build up each other. Love covers a whole lot of sin and we simply pray and encourage.

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But we don’t abandon or avoid…no we treat others how we would want them to treat us. Would you want them to avoid you if they had a problem with you? That happens so much in churches! We need to love and care and spend time with each other, building relationships and thereby getting into each others’ lives. This is the body of Christ and you yourself, yes you are responsible in it!

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Now, like myself, it’s one thing to know this; it’s another to do it. We need to listen to Jesus’ words and believe Him to the point of action. Folks, this is basic Christianity: love, love one another. Christ has loved us, we ought also to love one another. He says…

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John 13:34 “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.

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The newness of that command is to love one another as Christ loved us… to death!

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So what are we focused on, what are we committed to? Animals, kids, family, job, recreation? But are we committed to Christ and His mission in people’s lives in this church? Where do you spend your time, energy, thoughts in your free time…do you think of your brothers and sisters and their needs, those in this church that Christ has placed you? Do you pray regularly for them?

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Here’s the truth: life and the church is not about you. It’s not about your desires and preferences, it’s about serving Christ and serving others, putting others first. What have I done to reach out and build community and love and kindness to others? You?

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I believe our church can grow…can grow together to love each other more, to reach out more, and to show simple care even more. I believe that… I trust Christ and I know from His word that His resurrection power is working through me and is working in our church.

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But we may feel hurt, harbour ill will, be too devoted to other pursuits, but by God’s grace that can change and we can grow together in love, loving others to the point of self sacrifice.

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We can’t be about getting, taking, and hording and then complaining when we don’t have enough. The church by Christ’s example is about giving of our time and giftings to bless others. And actually thinking about who you can be a blessing to when you gather, and who you can be a neighbour to when we’re not gathered.

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All it’s going to take to stop this church is for us to become selfish and not loving, a church that’s all about paying our dues in order to get our listed benefits, a country club. We get our music we want, our length and style of of sermons, and our special needs met and we’re happy. That’s how this church can be stopped. Or we’ll be stopped if we become a church where we’re at each others’ throats, not caring and speaking with the love of Christ, demanding our own way.

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Or, we’ll be stopped if we fail to treat each other the same way we would want others to treat us. I want to be known as a church that loves each other to the extent that Christ loved us, wouldn’t you?

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When we stand together before the throne of Christ and give an account, I want Him to say of us, “You have loved each other.” But each of us is going to have to take specific steps, perhaps uncomfortable ones, in order to make that a reality. Each of us!

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So how can we treat others the same way we ourselves want to be treated, how can we show Christ’s love to others?

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CONCLUSION: Ways to Love

Meet spiritual needs. Regularly pray for others. Do you regularly pray for the people of this church, including your pastor, who needs a ton of it? Wednesday night here is a great time for that.

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Another spiritual need is forgiveness. Freely forgive others of their transgressions and let your love for them cover a multitude of their sins. They really need that!

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But also gently and humbly correct others. We need to be a part of each other’s lives to the point that we can help each other in this way.

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Rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn, and actually seek to do that! Is someone going through a tough time, get with them. Is someone rejoicing, rejoice with them or share in their trials and struggles.

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Maybe we just need to spend some time with someone, or meet physical needs. Too often, we live private lives and choose not to reach out. That needs to change.

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When you’re together, fellowship over Christ and what He’s doing in your life. Encourage each other with the truth, really listen to their problems!

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We’ve failed at this, right? We have. But Christ is sufficient to forgive. His blood cleanses from all sin, when we by faith cling to His cross. And the more you cling to His cross with one hand, the other hand will be outstretched serving the needs of His body.

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Live with one hand gripping the foot of the cross and the other extended, open, in grace to others, humbling serving His very body, the church.

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1 John 4:11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.

Matthew 7:12 12 “In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets.

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219 Blest Be the Tie that Binds

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