Pastor Craig Carter
Happy Mother’s Day 2020!
Today we are going to continue our investigation of what the Bible describes as enduring realities: “Three things will last forever – faith, hope, and love – and the greatest of these is love.” (1 Corinthians 13:13 NLT)
Having explored faith and hope in two previous sermons, today we’re going to turn our attention to the subject of love. Why is it eternal? And why is love the greatest of all things?
The Apostle John gives us the answer in his first epistle when he states quite simply, “God is love.” (1 John 4:8b NLT)
Since God is the embodiment of love and since God has no beginning and no end and since God alone is worthy to be called great, then it only makes sense that love is eternal and is the most valuable commodity in the universe.
In the surrounding, supporting material for his assertion that “God is love,” John describes the nature of divine love that lasts forever.
7Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God. 8But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love. 9God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. 10This is real love — not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins. 11Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other. 12No one has ever seen God. But if we love each other, God lives in us, and his love is brought to full expression in us. (1 John 4:7-12 NLT)
John reveals four important truths about love that lasts forever.
The first thing we can say about it is that it is…
1) Of God
John states it very clearly in verse 7, “Love comes from God” (NLT). God is the source of all love … and real love does not exist apart from Him.
In fact, as we’ve already pointed out, “God is love.” If we break the Divine Being down to His basic essence, we find pure love.
So love is not one of God’s attributes or one of His activities. Love permeates and encompasses all that He is and all that He does. God creates in love, God rules in love, God judges in love.
What does this mean to us?
Since God is love and we, as human beings, have been made in His image, we are meant to love as well.
“Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God.” (1 John 4:7b NLT)
Life as God intended it to be lived is all about love.
But what is love? The world has many definitions of love but they don’t always represent true, Godly love. Ancient Greek philosophers identified eight types of love, including self-love, romantic love (based on physical attraction), kinship love (that you feel for a friend), affectionate love (for instance, the relationship you might have with chocolate or your favorite football team), or obsessive love (the kind that leads to addiction).
So what is real love like?
Real love is like God. The word the Greek use to describe this kind of love is “agape,” which means “unconditional, supernatural, spiritual.”
If you and I want to know what love that lasts forever looks like, we have to know and be acquainted with God because He is love itself.
It happens when we put our faith and hope in the Lord, because then “God lives in us, and his love is brought to full expression in us.” (1 John 4:12 NLT)
It’s also critical that we have thorough knowledge and understanding of Scripture because the Bible tells us how God acts in love.
That brings us to a second thing John tells us about love that lasts forever; love is…
2) As love does
I’m sure you’re familiar with the movie Forrest Gump, starring Tom Hanks. It is the story of a slow-witted boy from Greenbow, Alabama, who grows into adulthood during the turbulent times of the 60’s and 70’s.
Because of his diminished intellectual ability, on numerous occasions people call him “stupid.” Forrest always responds by quoting his mother: “Stupid is as stupid does.”
To borrow that line and relate it to our topic of love, let’s say it this way: Love is as love does. Real love always manifests itself in action.
“For God so loved the world that He gave…” (John 3:16 NLT)
“God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him.” (1 John 4:9 NLT).
In other words, God loved us so much He decided to do something for us.
We live in a world that speaks of love primarily as a feeling. And while there are strong emotions associated with love, God shows us that real love always acts.
That’s why John tells his readers earlier in his epistle, “Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.” (1 John 3:18 NIV)
We certainly understand this principle on Mother’s Day, don’t we?
My mom, like most moms, was the master of the double bind (no right answer).
“Craig, do you know how much I love you?” “Sure, mom, I know how…” “No, you don’t. You’ll never know until you have kids … get to be my age.”
“Craig, do you know how much I love you?” “No, mom, I have no idea…” “Well, you should after all I’ve done for you.”
Moms don’t just tell us that they love us, they show us through their actions. They console us when we’re hurt, they wash our clothes and cook us meals, they go to our games and drive us to practice, they may even bail out us out of jail.
If our moms suddenly quit doing for us, we’d know it…and their inaction might even cause us to question their love for us because “love is as love does.”
When I officiate at weddings, I almost always read a portion of 1 Corinthians 13, which is known as the Love Chapter. I tell the bride and groom that more than a feeling, love is a choice.
Then I paraphrase the words of Paul to the Corinthians by saying: love chooses to be patient…love chooses to be kind…love chooses to keep no record of wrongs… love chooses to protect…
In other words, love chooses to act in certain ways because love is as love does.
And how does love always act? That leads us to the third thing John tells us about love that lasts forever; it is…
3) Always helpful
God is love and He demonstrated His love for us by sending His Son Jesus into the world. How and why is that a loving act?
“This is real love – not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.” (1 John 4:10 NLT)
As human beings, we find ourselves in a sin-sick condition. We need help and God provided it by sending His Son to remedy the problem.
Listen to this poem by Clarice Reid Hart entitled, God Sent us a Savior:
If our greatest need were money,
God would have sent a banker.
If our greatest need were pleasure and fun,
God would have sent us an entertainer.
If our greatest need were food,
God would have sent us a chef or a farmer.
If our greatest need were education,
God would have sent us an educator.
God looked beyond our needs and into our sin sick soul.
He sent us a Savior to behold.
By sending His Son to be our Savior, God met our greatest need and, in such a way, showed us that real love is always helpful.
So whenever we choose to act in ways that are helpful to another person and in their best interest we love like God loves.
Our moms do so much that is helpful to us, what can we do that is helpful to them?
I’m not a mom so I’m not an expert on the subject but I had a mom and I live with one. The gift your mom most wants from you is your time and attention. Of course, a card, flowers, and not having to cook won’t hurt, either.
If you really love your mom do something for her that is helpful. Look through old photos and reminisce, wash the dishes, leave her alone and give her some much needed peace and quiet…
It’s also good to express your love to other women who have had an impact on your life such as a family friend, teacher, sister, or a small group member.
The last thing John tells us about love that lasts forever is that it is…
Listen to how the Apostle John says we should respond to God’s love shown us in Christ:
“Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other.” (1 John 4:11 NLT)
We cannot manufacture or initiate love, but we can share God’s love with others. And that’s the nature of love that lasts forever.
As one author has put it: “A bell’s not a bell until you ring it. A song’s not a song until you sing it. Love’s not love until you give it away.”
Whenever we receive God’s love, it creates in us a desire to give it away. Then, when we do so by acting in helpful ways, others encounter God’s love.
They, in turn, then want to share His love and the process is continued. That, my friends, is how the world comes to know and experience the love of God.
At least that’s how it happened for me.
Because I had a mom (and a dad) who loved me greatly, cared deeply for me, and helped me in countless ways, I was able to comprehend my Heavenly Father’s love for me and was ultimately captured by it.
Now, my greatest desire is for others to discover what I have experienced. And that’s exactly how God intends for it to work.
“No one has ever seen God. But if we love each other, God lives in us, and his love is brought to full expression in us.” (1 John 4:12 NLT)
Unless folks know that we love them, they’ll never know that God loves them.
But when we imitate God’s loving action, we enable people to encounter the living presence of the Lord, who in turn, experience His love and then are compelled to share it with others. In such a way, it becomes self-perpetuating and lasts forever
In the Covid-19 world in which we live, we’re all concerned about catching the virus. One of the preventative measures is to wear a mask. But we’ve learned that the mask is not so much to protect the wearer as it to prevent us from unknowingly passing on the disease to others.
It’s oftentimes said that Christianity is not taught as much as it is caught. In other words, Christianity is contagious.
But it seems to me that many Christians walk around with “masks” on, keeping our faith, hope, and love to ourselves. I think John, aka the apostle of love, would tell us to start spreading what we’ve got.
It’s the image I shared with you a few weeks ago that I received in an email from the architect that has helped us rebuild our church, Dan Cook. As the pandemic unfolded and fear began to run rampant, Dan wrote that because his trust is in Jesus who cannot fail, “I have made the decision to be a carrier of joy and spread the infection of hope.”
To rephrase this, and draw upon the three things we have discussed in this series that last forever, what if we said: “Having tested positive for faith, let’s be carriers of hope and spread the infection of God’s love.”
I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t mind being responsible for a community or even global outbreak of faith, hope and love. Wouldn’t it cool if such a pandemic could be traced back to LHUMC?
We’d probably even let folks name it after us and not be offended in the least!
It all gets started, not in a laboratory, but in our lives to the extent that we experience God’s love and then share it with others.
There’s no vaccination to prevent it and there’s no mitigation to flatten the curve. Because faith, hope, and the greatest of all, love, last forever and ever. Amen.