First Things First

Sonja and I preached this message together at the Abundant Life Fellowship in Butte, MT, Senior Pastor, Tim Moslander.




Whether married, single by choice or not by choice I think we can all agree that love is important.  In the words of Deon Jackson’s 1966 classic song: “Love Makes the World Go Round.”

But long before Mr. Jackson’s hit song, the apostle Paul wrote, “And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”

With this being Valentine’s Day, Sonja and I decided to test the strength of our love by collaborating on a sermon together.  You’re our guinea pig today—good luck! So let’s jump in.


Talk about baby books (Briana’s) and Lee’s calendar and how important the first things they did were to me and D.  

In the same way, some theologians take special note of the first time a word is mentioned in the Biblical text.  It sets the precedent for the meaning of the word as it is used throughout the rest of Scripture. 

This morning we want to examine the first mention of the word LOVEas spoken by God the Father, God the Son, and God, the Holy Spirit. 


FIRST: God the Father (the very first mention of love in the bible)

Genesis 22:2 (NKJV) Then He said, “Take now your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.”

Thesis: True love is extremely difficult! It is sacrificial. It is, first of all, God-focus.

Genesis 22:11-13 (TLB) “…for I know that God is first in your life—you have not withheld even your beloved son from me.”

Application: If you are going to truly love and be loved, it must begin with your relationship with God and all other competitors must be sacrificed.

Psalm 37:4 (NKJV) Delight yourself also in the Lord, and He shall give you the desires of your heart.

Illustration of application: The day Sonja lost her fur coat.


SECOND: God the Son.  The first mention of love by Jesus in the New Testament:

Matthew 5:43-44 (NKJV)

43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you…”

Thesis: True Love is the sacrifice of self.  It is focused on others, not on how others make us feel.  It challenges us like nothing else and will allow no exceptions. 

Certainly, people who identify as our enemies, who curse us with their words, who hate us and do things to spite us and persecute us are not easy to snuggle up to!!

This is a list of people that we would find it hard to love!

But Jesus expects us to try.  A little later He says:

If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

It’s easy to love those who love us first, who think like we do and act like we do.  It’s so easy that anybody can do it!

We move toward the perfect love of the Father when we sacrifice our feelings and extend love to those who do not deserve it, who hurt us and harm us with their words or actions. 

Which is the greater witness of Christ’s presence in our lives? 

We love (and live out that love) because He first loved us. _1 John 4:19


THIRD: Holy Spirit | The First Mention of love and the Holy Spirit together.

Romans 5:5 (NKJV) Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.

Thesis: The kind of love that Sonja and I have talked about and that God demands is impossible (!) …without God’s help.

Application: Thomas doubted the witness of 10 apostles because he turned his back on being present where Jesus was present.

The couple on the road to Emmaus had turned their back on Jerusalem and the disciples and followers of Jesus…but Jesus went after them.  And what was the first thing they did?  The went immediately back to Jerusalem and their fellow believers.

I wonder if there is a connection between so many believers not being in church over the last twelve months and all the discontent and violence sweeping our land?

Remember, God loves the world! God loves _________.

We are called to be salt and light and a witness of Jesus.  (He promised power to do this.)

What is that power?  The Holy Spirit being poured out in our hearts so that we can love with the love of God.

Application: For every controversial issue, gripe, and irritation in your life, attach a face of someone you care about. 


When something is the greatest, it’s First-rate; in First place; first in importance.

That’s why Paul says in 1 Cor. 13: The greatest of these is LOVE. 

1 Cor. 13 and “charity”… Archaic term, old-fashioned.  Right on target! 

The love of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit is agape love – charity.  Love that gives without expecting anything in return.

When you put money in a hat for a homeless beggar, do you expect that person to give you back half of it?

When you donate food to a ministry that feeds the hungry, do you expect a single mom to show up at your door with a bag of groceries for you??  NO! 

In the same way, the premier love of God shows up in our lives when we love and give without expecting anything in return, but the joy of knowing that we made the Father smile!


Invitation & Closing prayer

Humor: My ordeal getting this sermon printed.

Dr. Theodore Ferris has told a story of a traveler out in Africa watching a nun dressing the wounds of a leper.  The wounds were revolting, gruesome, and repulsive.  As he watched her, he said, “I wouldn’t do that for ten thousand dollars.”  She looked up at him, and said, “I wouldn’t either.”  _James S. Steward, Classic Sermons on Praise, p. 138

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