Love: The Foundational Christian Character Trait
Sermon Summary
This message is the first in a series of messages on Christian Character. Love is considered the foundational Christian Character and the one on which all the other characteristics find their footing. Without love, the other Christian Character traits will simply not exist. Without love you won't be humble! Without love you won't have the courage to step up, you'll step back. Without love you won't be forgiving, giving, or faithful! Without love you won't even have the desire to live a Godly life! In other words, without love we are nothing like Christ. The main text used in this message is John 13:1-17 where Jesus showed His disciples the full extent of His love by washing their feet. The point of the message is that we are to love others so much we would be willing to put our own needs aside and take up a towel and wash their feet if need be. However, in our modern world, it is usually not foot washing, but other needs we should be willing to meet. The remainder of the message was an interview with Tanya Disear, director of the House of Blessing Orphanage in Haiti. Tanya was once an orphan at the House of Blessing. She is a perfect example of what can be accomplished when people follow through on the Christian Character of Love.

Community Group Discussion Guide

1. As you listened to Pastor Larry's interview with Tania, what moved you the most?

2. Bro. Larry talked about his first mission trip to Haiti and the impact it had on his life. Have you ever been involved in a mission trip at home or abroad? If so, what had the most impact on your life? If you've never been on a mission trip, would you be willing to go if given the opportunity?

3. Do you agree that love is the foundational Christian Characteristic? Why would it be hard to have other Christian Character traits without first having love?
1If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.
2If 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.
3If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.
4Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.
5It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.
6Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.
7It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
8Love never fails. . .
1 Cor. 13:1-8a
 
4. What are some things we can do to develop the Christian Character trait of love?
Colossians 3_12-17
12Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.
13Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.
14And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.
15Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.
16Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God.
17And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
 

SERMON NOTES
Love: The Foundational Christian Character Trait

The very word Christian means “Christ-like” so if our goal is to be more like Christ in our daily lives, we must seek to exemplify the character traits Jesus had in His life. Jesus’ character was one of Love, humility, and courage. He was forgiving, faithful, and selfless. Jesus was not only God in the flesh, He was Godly in the way He lived His life.
In other words, He was righteous, pure, holy, wise, discerning, truthful, trustworthy, and principled in everything He said and did.

There are many words to describe Jesus and His character and there is no way we could cover all of them in a seven week series, but the characteristics we will cover are vital to understand if we are to achieve our goal of becoming more like Christ every day!

Today we're going to look at the foundational Christian Character trait: Love! When I think of Jesus I think of many things, but the most amazing thing about Jesus was His love for others. And when I think of His love for me and His willingness to give up everything for me, as the old hymn says, "I scarce can take it in!" We've just finished a series of messages entitled "Through the Lens of the Cross!"

The Cross was the greatest act of love ever witnessed by human kind, but it was not the first act of love Jesus had shown the world! His life had been one act of love after another, but just before His crucifixion, He did something amazing and it serves as one of the greatest examples of the Character of Love that was in His life!

Let's take out our Bibles and turn to the Gospel of John 13:1-17. I'm going to  pray and then we'll read our text.

PRAY

1It was just before the Passover Feast. Jesus knew that the time had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he now showed them the full extent of his love.
2The evening meal was being served, and the devil had already prompted Judas Iscariot, son of Simon, to betray Jesus.
3Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God;
4so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist.
5After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.
6He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?”
7Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.”
8“No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.”
9“Then, Lord,” Simon Peter replied, “not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!”
10Jesus answered, “A person who has had a bath needs only to wash his feet; his whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you.”
11For he knew who was going to betray him, and that was why he said not every one was clean.
12When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them.
13“You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am.
14Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet.
15I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.
16I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him.
17Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.
John 13:1-17

Jesus Christ, the King of Kings, the Lord of Lords, the Wonderful Counselor, the Prince of  Peace, God in the Flesh, washed the disciples feet!! How can this be! The Creator God of the Universe gets on His hands and knees and washes the dirty feet of the created. Why? We are created beings, but we are made in the very image of God and He considers us His very precious children.

He loves us and desires to have a personal relationship with each one of us! He desires to walk with us and to help us deal with the struggles of our daily lives! He wants to wash us and to cleanse us from the filth of the world. He desires to create in us the very character of Jesus Christ. Listen...

22You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires;
23to be made new in the attitude of your minds;
24and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.
Ephesians 4:22-24 NIV

Put off your old self and put on the new self! It's like taking off the old dirty clothes and putting on brand new clothing spiritually. Paul talks about this so much because it's important for the world to see Christ in us. Notice, I said it's like taking off the old clothes and putting on the clothes spiritually. You might say, what in the world do you mean by spiritual clothing?

The world will never know we are Christians by our outward appearance! It's not the physical clothing, suites and ties, fancy dresses, or jeans and sneakers! It's not what you're wearing, it's what what you are that really counts and the way people will know what you are is by the way you conduct yourselves because of your character. Again, the foundational Christian Character is love. Jesus said...

34“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.
35By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
John 13:34-35

Without love, the other Christian Character traits will simply not exist. Without love you won't be humble! Without love you won't have the courage to step up, you'll step back. Without love you won't be forgiving, giving, or faithful! Without love you won't even have the desire to live a Godly life! In other words, without love we are nothing like Christ.
In Paul's first letter to the Corinthians, 1 Cor. 13:1-8a he says

1If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.
2If 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.
3If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.
4Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.
5It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.
6Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.
7It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
8Love never fails. . .
1 Cor. 13:1-8a

The Christian character trait of love includes, compassion, encouragement, and service. When you truly love someone, and truly care about them, you'll not only encourage them, you'll do something to help them. You'll not only have compassion on them, you'll be moved to serve them.  Back in the eighties I was traveling and doing Christian concerts. I sang songs encouraging people to get to know Jesus Christ and to follow Him. I sang songs about helping others.

I sang songs and preached sermons about getting involved in helping the needy and the hurting at home and abroad. I talked about two of my friends, Phil and Lonnie Murphey, who had gone on mission trips to Haiti and when the call came, they actually packed their bags an moved to Haiti to care for a group of children whose care taker had passed away.

I was so inspired by this newly married couple and their willingness to leave their life in the states behind to love and care for children they barely knew. Just a couple of years after they were there, they invited me to come for two weeks and help out on a mission trip to build an above ground water cistern to catch rain water for a remote mountain village called Sha-sha. I went.

It was interesting that the title cut on my first album was called Genuine Love and my ministry was called Genuine Love Ministries. God was going to use my first trip to Haiti to show me what Genuine Christian Love was all about!
Many things happened on that trip which changed my life.
I'll share with you just two!
The first happened on the mountain.

The people of Sha-Sha were so loving, and caring! They had helped us carry our duffle bags up the mountain. Rocky, rugged terrain and many of them had no shoes or just flip flops or sandals. Even little children helped carry our bags. No shoes. We all had on nice hiking boots. Around 4,000 feet of mountain.

One of the last days there we decided we wanted to show them how much we loved them and appreciated their kindness to us. How better to show them than to do for them what Jesus did for His disciples. We decided to meet in the old church building for worship and then to get tubs of water and wash their feet.

Now let me tell you, I'm a bit of a clean freak. Hand sanitizer is one of my best friends. It wasn't around back in the late eighties like it is today. As I awaited my turn to wash someones feet, I was thinking, "This is not very sanitary and I don't have any rubber gloves. What shall I do?" When it was my turn, a little old man sat down in the chair and put his feet into the tub of water. As I knelt down, and looked at his dirty, calloused, and very worn feet, it hit me.

Jesus walked on rough rocky terrain. He wore sandals! His feet probably looked much like this man's feet. As I began washing this precious old Haitian man's feet, God spoke to my heart so clearly…"if you've done it unto the least of these you've done it unto me!" That's when it hit me, "I'm washing the feet of Jesus! Jesus lives in this man's heart and Jesus takes it personally when we serve one of His children.

I wept, and with a whole new attitude, lovingly washed this man's feet, and then we embraced. I was beginning to understand the "Genuine Love" I sang and preached about!

And speaking of God's Children, the second thing that changed my life and helped me understand the love of Christ more clearly. I met the children who made up the original House of Blessing Orphanage. They were precious!
I was so moved by their smiles and their happiness even though their circumstances were unbelievably difficult. Here's a couple of pictures of Phil and Lonnie Murphey taken back in 1986 with the kids.  

One of these kids now lives just down the road from the House of Blessings Orphanage. Here name is Tania Desear. She was around 12 years old when these pictures were taken.

Tania's on the right!

Tania's on the right!

I want us to give a warm Northshore welcome to Mrs. Tania Desear, director of the House of Blessings Orphanage in Calabasse Haiti!
Tania, it is so good to have you here this morning! You have a special place in my heart and life. Thank you for what being who you are and for continuing to allow Jesus Christ to work through your life as you minister to the children at the House of Blessing orphanage.
Pause……If you would, Tania, please tell me a little bit about how having churches like our church and people like Phil and Lonnie Murphey come down to Haiti and spend the resources, what difference did it make in your life?
How different would your life had it not been for the House of Blessing orphanage?
Tell me a little about your husband and your children.
Tell us a little about the plans for the House of Blessing Orphanage and your continued work in the community of Calabasse.
I want to end our message today on the foundational Christian Character of love with these verses…You'll hear them again next week...

1If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion,
2then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose.
3Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.
4Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.
5Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:
Philippians 2:1-5