By George Rice, Pastor, Triadelphia Seventh-day Adventist Church, Clarksville, Maryland

Summary: God’s greatest love indicator was His act of giving up His Son. Jesus, the Son, imprisoned Himself in a human body and became a member of the human race, a member of the very race He himself created. This act was not a temporary stay in a human body. Jesus loved us enough to always be a member of the human race. What are our love indicators?

Introduction

Christianity is an experience of love. God loves us and we, in return, love Him. You cannot find a more profound love than God’s love for sinful man. For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son (Jn 3:16). God’s love is self-renouncing, self-sacrificing. The response on the part of those who accept Christ as their personal Savior is also a response of love.

God’s love indicators

God’s greatest love indicator was His act of giving up His Son. Jesus, the Son, imprisoned Himself in a human body and became a member of the human race, a member of the very race He himself created. This act was not a temporary stay in a human body. Jesus loved us enough to always be a member of the human race, to always bear the human body. What profound love! What a love indicator!

Another love indicator is God’s forgiveness­—giving us the gift of repentance, giving us the gift of eternal life, giving us the gift of His Holy Spirit. All the material and spiritual blessings that we share in our lives are given to us as love indicators from God.

Our love indicators

What are our indicators? First, the way we deal with our fellow man is a love indicator. When Jesus was asked by a lawyer what the basic commandment in the law was, Jesus responded Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and mind. Love your neighbor as yourself. When Jesus separates the sheep from the goats, He will commend the sheep for the way they have expressed their love for Him through their relationships with others. He will say to them I was hungry and you fed me. I was thirsty and you gave me drink. I was ill and you ministered to me. I was in prison and you came and visited me. And the sheep will respond Lord when did we ever see you hungry or thirsty, or ill? When did we minister to you? And Jesus will respond because you have done this to the least, you have done it unto me. Jesus looks upon our relationships with other people as love indicators. John makes this absolutely clear—And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also. If someone says, ?I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar (1Jn 4:20, 21).

A second love indicator is the Sabbath. The Sabbath will become the central issue around which everything else in the great controversy will revolve. Sabbath observance will distinguish those who love God from those who don’t. The Sabbath will be a love indicator. Love for Jesus and His instruction, His word, His commandments, His instructions He has given to His people will surpass everything else. The observance of God’s Sabbath, part of His ten commandments, will surpass everything else as far as importance is concerned. Obeying Jesus and honoring His Sabbath, the seventh day of the week, is looked upon by Him as a love indicator. John emphasizes obedience to God—And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world. Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments (I Jn 2:2, 3).

The last love indicator we’ll look at today is stewardship. Faithful stewardship is a love indicator. To the servants who took the talents and used them wisely, Jesus said Well done, good and faithful servant; . . . Enter into the joy of your lord (Matt 25:23). We are all stewards of God’s possessions. We are accountable for what we do with God’s possessions. There is nothing that we owe Him or nothing that we possess that we can call our own. Everything we have belongs to God. He has merely let us borrow them for a while. God instructs us to use His possessions as an expression of our love for Him, and not as an expression of our love for ourselves. This is the principle that underlines Jesus’ parable of the talents. He says to us, What you have is mine. I have let you borrow it for a little while for a few years, use it wisely. Use some for yourself, but also use it to express your love for Me. Our possessions are to be used as love indicators, of our relationship with Jesus Christ.

The liberal attitude

Withholding from God that which belongs to Him is robbery. Will a man rob God? Yet you have robbed me! But you say, ?In what way have we robbed You?’ In tithes and offerings (Mal 3: 8). The reference is not only to tithes—but in tithes and offerings. You are cursed with a curse, for you have robbed Me, even this whole nation. Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be food in My house, and prove Me now in this, says the Lord of hosts, ?If I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you such blessing that there will not be room enough to receive it’ (Mal 3:9,10).

God wants us to be liberal with what He has given us. Now, why does God ask us to be so liberal with that which is not ours? I can think for two reasons:
1) Our giving advances God’s work on earth, to prepare the world for Jesus’ second coming. 2) God wants us to learn to trust Him and not the couple of dollars that we have stashed away in the bank. So He tells us Be liberal and see if I will not open up the windows of heaven and let you borrow some more interest free. And the more you are willing to share my substance for the advancement of the work and the betterment of mankind, the more I will entrust to you.

The same God who counsels us to give liberally also says Therefore I say to you Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what will you put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? (Matt 6:25). He is saying Trust Me to see if I cannot take care of you. Trust Me. Then He goes on to talk about the birds, and how He takes care of them. The heavenly Father takes care of the various different lower animal life here on earth. He has clothed the flowers. If God can do this for lesser life form on earth, can’t He take care of you?

Jesus reiterates this when he says Therefore do not worry, saying, ?What shall we eat?’ or ?What shall we drink?’ or ?What shall we wear?’ (Matt 6:31). God understands our needs better than anyone else. Jesus first says Trust Me to take care of your needs. Then He goes on to say Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things (Matt 6: 33, 34).

The intriguing thing about God’s economic system is that no one is too poor to tithe. Tithing is not dependent on financial resources; it is dependent on the level of trust we have in God. The question we need to ask ourselves is Do we really trust God enough to take care of us after we are left with little or no earthly resources?

In the balances of the sanctuary, the gifts of the poor, made from love to Christ, are not estimated according to the amount given, but according to the love which prompts the sacrifice (Counsels on Stewardship, p 180).

It was during the last week of Jesus’ life that He stood by the temple treasury, watching the people bring in their offering. While the rich dropped bags of money into the treasury, a poor widow self-consciously waited by the fringes of the crowd. As she quietly walked to the treasury and let her two small copper coins clink their way to the top of the pile of gold, Jesus called the attention of the apostles. He said You know this woman dropping two copper coins has given more than all those dropped bags of money into the treasury. The two little mites were a tremendous love indicator. God never, never ignores love indicators. Therefore there is a sacredness in the poor man’s offering that is not found in the rich man’s gift; for the rich give of their abundance (Counsels on Stewardship, p. 180).

Conclusion

Love indicators are what Christianity is all about. God so loved He gave His son (Jn 3:16). In response, we who appreciate and accept God’s great love indicator, respond with love indicators of our own. We love our fellow men. We love God’s Sabbath and are faithful in its observance. We are faithful in our stewardship. Love indicators go both ways?from heaven to earth, and from earth to heaven and in Jesus Christ that whole cycle is complete.

Our praises to God that come from our lips may be rich and full. Our testimonies may move the saints to tears, but God watches for the love indicators for they speak of what is really in the heart.

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October–December, 2000

Sacrifice