1 Thessalonians 3:12(2)

Sermon preached on November 2, 2014 by Laurence W. Veinott. © Copyright 2014. All rights reserved. Other sermons can be found at http://www.cantonnewlife.org/.

Unless otherwise noted, quotations are from The Holy Bible: New International Version (NIV). Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House.

When Lis and David got married they had a chocolate fondue fountain for dessert. I wonder why I remember that? It was fantastic. It was a great big fountain and the chocolate was melted and was flowing up from the center of the fountain and over the outer edge in one big continuous stream. I believe they had fruit, strawberries, cake and other stuff that you could take and put it under the flowing chocolate to make a dessert bite. The strawberries and the other stuff was delicious on its own—but when you put it under the overflowing chocolate and took it out all of a sudden you had a fantastically amazing delicious dessert.

It's hard to beat a chocolate fountain that is continually overflowing and in no danger of running out. But in our text we have a teaching, that if we applied it to our lives—would be so transforming that it would change everything around us. Paul wrote,

"May the Lord make your love
increase and overflow for each other
and for everyone else, just as ours does for you."

The love we have for others is to increase and overflow.

This is an remarkable teaching that we really need to take to heart. This is one of the great goals of Christian living—to love others. When Jesus was asked by a Pharisee, an expert in the law, what was the greatest commandment in the Law, Jesus replied, (Matthew 22:37-40)

"Love the Lord your God with all your heart
and with all your soul and with all your mind.'
This is the first and greatest commandment.
And the second is like it:
'Love your neighbor as yourself.'
All the Law and the Prophets
hang on these two commandments."

Our duty to our fellow man is to love them, and not with a superficial love—but with a love that is deep, and one that is increasing and overflowing. John Calvin writes, (Institutes, 1541 edition, p. 160)

"it is right to devote all the powers of the soul to love…"

There are three things we see about love in our text that we should pay close attention to.

First, your love for others is to increase and overflow.

Paul wrote,

"May the Lord make your love increase and overflow…"

The words 'increase' and 'overflow' ought to make us sit up and think. What's implied here is that the love that you have for others can be greatly improved upon. The love that we have for others, no matter how great it may be, ought to be increasing and overflowing. The first word that Paul uses here, translated in the NIV 'increase' means, (BDAG, 824)

"to become more and more, so as to be in abundance…"

God wants the love that you have for others to grow. Your love can greatly increase.

We saw last week that love is multifaceted. In Philippians 1:9 the apostle Paul interweaved love and knowledge. He wrote,

"And this is my prayer: that your love
may abound more and more
in knowledge and depth of insight,"

Your love is to be based on knowledge, specifically on the knowledge of how God has loved you in Christ and what God has done for you. Your love is to know that people, no matter how unlovable they seem, have been made in the image of God and because of that you are to love them. Your love is to abound in knowledge and depth of insight.

The second word that Paul uses, translated, 'overflow', (Paul Ellingsworth and Eugene A. Nida, A Translator's Handbook on Paul's Letter to the Thessalonians, UBS Translator's Handbooks)

"is stronger; it means usually 'to be more than enough, to be plentiful,' and in this sentence 'to make extremely rich.'"

The idea is that their love would be so great that there would be an abundance of it, that they would abound in love so that their love would be overflowing to others. As I indicated at the beginning of my sermon, perhaps the best way to think of it is a fountain overflowing. We are to have so much love that it overflows. It is not contained in us—it overflows to others. It's a wonderful picture. It reminds me of what Jesus said in John 7:37-39,

"If anyone is thirsty,
let him come to me and drink.
Whoever believes in me,
as the Scripture has said,
streams of living water
will flow from within him.
By this he meant the Spirit,
whom those who believed in him
were later to receive."

Part of streams of living water flowing from you is the love that you have for others.

The second thing we see from our text is that

this love is impossible for us to exercise on our own. It can only come from God.

It's the Lord that makes our love increase.

We can't love as we should on our own. John Calvin writes, (Calvin's Commentaries)

"When, therefore, God marks out our life, he does not look to what we can do, but requires from us what is above our strength, that we may learn to ask from him power to accomplish it."

The ability to love comes from God. Our text is a prayer. Paul writes,

"May the Lord make your love increase
and overflow for each other and for everyone else…"

Paul is telling us quite clearly that we need God's strength to do this.

This is because just about everything conspires against us in our effort to love others.

Our own hearts conspire against us. Our hearts deceive us. We sometimes think that we greatly love when we don't love others at all or, at best, we love them very little. We deceive ourselves about our love. The rich young ruler in Mark 10 had totally deceived himself about his love for other people. Jesus said to him,

"Do not murder, do not commit adultery,
do not steal, do not give false testimony,
do not defraud,
honor your father and mother."

Jesus was confronting him with the second table of the law (Mark 10:19)—the ones that can be summarized as, (Matthew 22:39)

"love your neighbor as yourself."

The rich ruler had himself totally deceived. He confidently replied, (Mark 10:20)

"'Teacher,' he declared, 'all these
I have kept since I was a boy.'"

He thought he had it covered. But we read,

"Jesus looked at him and loved him.
'One thing you lack,' he said.
Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor,
and you will have treasure in heaven.
Then come, follow me."

The rich ruler had deceived himself. He thought that he loved others as himself, but he didn't.

It's so easy for us to deceive ourselves about our love. We can be blind to our lack of love. We can show little love to others and think that we're full of love.

What we must recognize is that
God's command to love our neighbor goes beyond any natural inclination that we have. It is no easy thing to love. John Calvin writes, (Institutes, p. 793)

"Unless we abandon all thought of ourselves and cast aside every selfish desire, we will achieve nothing… Merely to obey the injunction not to be self-seeking would require us to do great violence to our nature, which spawns such self-love in us that it does not easily allow us to put our neighbor's welfare ahead of our own…"

Jesus told us to love others as He has loved us. The call for love demands great sacrifice. John Calvin says that the essential idea is that,

"the love of the brethren must… increase in us, until it take possession of our whole heart, the corrupt love of self being extirpated."

But's not only our own hearts and corrupt nature that conspire against us—

both our Christian brothers and the world also conspire against us showing love like we should.

Consider our Christian brothers and sisters. So often you will do good to them and, rather than them blessing you and thanking God—they will abuse your kindness.

"Be sure no good deed will go unpunished."

David saved the city of Keilah from the Philistines. At the time David was being hunted by King Saul. After David saved the city he asked the Lord if the people of Keilah would hand him over to King Saul. The Lord told him that they would. David had to get out of Keilah. They would have rendered David evil for good.

In Luke 17 we read that Jesus healed 10 lepers. Only one of them, a Samaritan, came back to thank Him.

In John 5 Jesus healed a cripple at the Pool of Bethesda. He had been an invalid for 38 years. Jesus healed him. He said,

"Pick up your mat and walk."

When the Jews saw the man carrying his mat, they were incensed and rebuked him for doing it. He told them that the man who healed him told him to carry his mat. He didn't know it was Jesus who healed him so he couldn't tell them who it was. Later, Jesus found him and told him to sin no more. The man then went to the authorities, who he knew hated Jesus, and told them it was Jesus who healed him.

In Luke 9 Jesus told His disciples that He was going to be betray into the hands of sinful men, that they would kill him and after three days He would rise from the dead. How did they react? They started arguing about which of them would be the greatest! Unbelievable.

Christians, many of your Christian brothers and sister are unwittingly conspiring against your love increasing and overflowing. You will love them, you will help them, you will be a blessing to them—and many times they will not appreciate it. They will not thank you for it. They will render you evil for good.

Their lack of appreciation will have a tendency to dampen your love. You will want to throw your hands up in the air and say,

"What's the point!"

You will be tempted to say,

"Well, I've learned my lesson. I'm not going to do good to them any longer."

We don't have it in us to have our love increase and overflow when it is abused. We're like David. He had been good to Nabal. He showed love to Nabal by looking after his goods. When Nabal returned evil for good, how did David react? He said to 400 of his men, (1 Samuel 25:13)

"Put on your swords!"

He later told Abigail that he was going to kill every male in Nabal's household.

That's what our natural love is like. When it's rebuffed it it doesn't naturally increase and overflow. It withers and dies.

But your love must not wither and die. Your love must increase and overflow even when it is abused and trampled underfoot. The only way for that to happen is for you to rely on God's power.

Or consider the world.

Your love is to overflow to each other and to everyone else. "Everyone else" refers to unbelievers—to the world. But they too conspire against you.

Note this well. The age in which we live in makes it impossible for our love to increase and overflow if we rely on our own strength. Our society's opposition to Christ and His teaching is increasing with each passing month. A few weeks ago I read that a Christian wedding chapel in Idaho may have to close down because of anti-discrimination laws. Similar laws have applied to florists, bakeries and photographers that have refused to work on same-sex weddings in other states.

How do we react to that? It can make us angry because these people are violating the 1
st Amendment of the Constitution and they are getting away with it. All those things are disheartening. But losing heart is not to be our reaction. Neither is anger is to be our reaction. Increasing and overflowing love is to be our reaction.

Isaiah 5:20 says,

"Woe to those who call evil good and
good evil, who put darkness for light
and light for darkness, who put
bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter."

People celebrating sin are in danger. They need to be saved. And what they need from Christians is love—not love that is alone. John Calvin writes, (Calvin's Commentaries)

"we learn in what the perfection of the Christian life consists—in love and pure holiness of heart, flowing from faith."

Increasing and overflowing love, with holiness and truth.

In Pakistan Asia Bibi is awaiting the hangman's noose because in standing up for Christ she was accused of insulting Islam. If she is hanged many people will celebrate her death. How will that make you feel? It can cause us to be angry and such anger could be righteous anger.

But even righteous anger is not to be our primary reaction. Increasing and overflowing love is what we need to practice.

Opposition to Christianity can have a variety of effects on Christians. It can disappoint us, irritate us, it can depress us, it can anger us and we can grieve that God's laws are not obeyed—

but one thing it must not do is cause our love to grow cold.

We must not let opposition have a negative effect on our love for others. In Matthew 24:12–13 Jesus said,

"Because of the increase of wickedness,
the love of most will grow cold,
but he who stands firm to the end
will be saved."

No matter what the times, no matter how bad the society in which we live—we are called to show love, love for others that increases and overflows.

When we oppose sin people will call us people who hate. Especially at a time like that—we must show love. We are not to hate. In our evil society your love is to increase and overflow.

It's so important that we take this seriously, that we put it into practice in our lives. Right now in our country the persecution is only beginning. We must love those who persecute the church, we must love them to the end. When Jesus was being crucified, he prayed for the soldiers who were driving the nails through His hands and feet. He said, (Luke 23:34)

"Father, forgive them, for they
do not know what they are doing."

When Stephen was being stoned to death by the angry mob, he prayed, (Acts 7:60)

"Lord, do not hold this sin against them."

Our love is to increase and overflow in spite of all opposition.

Christians, what a calling you have. You are to love others as Jesus has loved you. You can't possibly do it on your own. You need God's help. The Lord has to give you this.

For Christians, the amazing thing is that He can and does enable you to love others and for your love to increase and overflow. In 2 Thessalonians 1:3 Paul wrote back to them,

"We ought always to thank God for you,
brothers, and rightly so, because your faith is growing
more and more, and the love
every one of you has for each other is increasing."

Through God's power the Thessalonians were able to have increasing love. You can love because God's power is in you.

For you who are not Christians, what love there is in Jesus. He loved us sinners so much that He came and died in our place. In Him is love—love that can save you from your sins, from the consequences of your sin. That is real love. Embrace that love. Go to Jesus now.