Summary: Topical Sermon originally given for Valentine’s Day

I begin this morning with a true story about true love.

He first saw her in Sunday school when he was six and she was just five. Many years later he would recall: "She had golden curls and beautiful blue eyes. I thought she was the most beautiful and the sweetest person on earth." They graduated from high school together in 1901, went their separate ways but later both moved back to their hometown where he began his 9 year campaign to win her heart. He began by writing to her, eventually penning over 1300 love letters. Since she was from a well-to-do family, he began several business ventures, none of which were very successful. In 1911 he finally popped the question. She turned him down. He persisted. Finally, she fell in love with him. In 1918, when he left to fight in WWI, he always kept his sweetheart’s picture in his breast pocket. He was overjoyed the day he received her letter promising to marry him when he returned home. His fondest wish became reality in 1919, when he finally married the girl of his dreams. One day the world would hear the true love story of a woman named Bess Wallace of Independence MO, and her heart-sick sweetheart, whom the world would remember as the 33rd president of the USA---a sweetheart named Harry S. Truman.

Harry and Bess Truman enjoyed something spend their entire life searching for, but never finding---true love. I want to talk to you this morning about true love—what it is, how to find it, how you and I can enjoy true love not just in this life, but for eternity. But where do you start? How can I really find true love? To help us I want to read a few verses from what you could call the Bible’s Valentine---the short letter all about true love called 1 John: 4:7-11, 5:3.



Where does love come from? Is it just chemicals sloshing around in our brain, or hormones

pulsing in our blood? What causes us to care for somebody else so much, to want so much to be with them, to find our happiness in spending our lives with them? Where does love come from? John offers us the ultimate answer: True love comes from God.

…Love is from God… (v. 7) …God is love… (v. 8). Love begins with God. Love is not just what God does, but Who God is. Before anything in the universe was created, God was love, and the only reason love exists is because it is derived from God’s love. Right before He went to the Cross, Jesus prayed these words to God the Father:

John 17:24 “Father, I desire that they also whom You gave Me may be with Me where I am, that they may behold My glory which You have given Me; for You loved Me before the foundation of the world.

Between the eternal Trinity of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, there is a true love that has always existed, that still exists, that will always exist. God is love.

John goes on to say All true love comes from God. God created you and I in His image with the capacity and the longing for love. You were created to love and be loved. Where does the love of a mother for her child come from? From God. Where does the true love of a man for a woman come from? From God. Where does the love for our family and friends come from? Love is from God.

But John also mentions in vs. 9-10 another important truth: God shows us what true love is.

(read). God doesn’t just tell us what true love is—He shows us when He sends Jesus to earth …to be the propitiation for our sins… that we might live through Him…

Jesus didn’t come to earth just to live—Jesus came to earth was to die--to die for you, and for me, and for everybody else in this world. The Bible says every one of us is a convicted criminal, sentenced to die for our crimes, our sins against God’s holiness. Justice demands our debt be paid. But God sent Jesus to earth to be our propitiation—to give His life to pay our sin debt---so we could go free.

But that’s not all. The apostle Paul puts it so eloquently when he writes in

Romans 5:7-8 7For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. 8But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

God doesn’t wait for you to start living right to love you---He loves you when you do wrong. When you lie to save your own skin, God loves you. The man and woman committing adultery are loved by God, even in the very act. All of the murderers on death row for horrible, unspeakable crimes--God loves them. It’s scandalous, almost unthinkable. People had a problem with that when Jesus walked the earth and we still do. It boggles your mind and my mind. God loves sinners enough to send His Son to die for them, knowing they will spit in His face and beat His back, and nail Him to a Cross---God loves them all. This is why Jesus prays, almost with His last breath, He prayed, in Luke 23:34 Father, forgive them…

A father once overheard one of his children admonishing the other, “You must be good or Father won’t love you.” Calling the boy to him he said, “Son, that isn’t really true.” “But you won’t love us if we are bad, will you?” the boy asked. “Yes, I will love you whether you are good or bad. But here is the difference: When you are good I will love you with a love that makes me glad; and when you are not good I will love you with a love that hurts me.”

You can find plenty of people who will love you when you are loveable and good. But true love loves you even when you are unlovable and bad. True love is grounded in the love of God, love that is willing to sacrifice and suffer for sinners like you and me. If you want to experience true love, you begin with God. But don’t stop here, because true love comes not just from receiving God’s love, but also returning God’s love. This is why John also tells us:


Four-year-old Martha, hugging a doll in each of her pudgy little arms, looked wistfully up at her mother and said, “Mamma, I love them and love them and love them, but they never love me back.”

Have you ever experienced that heartbreak of loving somebody who doesn’t truly love you? Parents love kids who rebel. You fall in love with somebody, and they ignore you---or worse, they pretend to love you just to get what they want. Nothing hurts more.

God wants you to truly love Him back. His love is the source, the starting point, but His love for you is meant to draw you to love Him. But lots of people say they love God, just like they can say they love you. How do you know if your love for God is true? John tells us very simply: keep His commandments.

Does that sound strange? You show Me you love Me by doing what I tell you to do. John throws another curve when he adds And His commandments are not burdensome. Show Me your love is for real by doing what I say, and by the way, that should be easy.

Keep His commandments. Listen to what I say, then do exactly what I tell you to do. Coming from somebody who doesn’t truly love you, you might get a little suspicious they’re trying to manipulate you. But coming from the God Who truly loves you they take on a different meaning. If He truly loves you, then whatever He commands you is not just for His glory, but for your good. His commands are not just an attempt to manipulate you—they are an expression of His true love for you.

And His commandments are not burdensome= His commands are not hard to obey. Is John saying it ought to be easy to obey everything God asks of us? I don’t think so. I think one key to help us understand these words comes from the life of Jacob. You remember back in Genesis, Jacob was in love with a girl named Rachel. He asks her dad Laban to let them get married, and Laban offers Rachel to Jacob’s life in exchange for seven years of labor.

Genesis 29:20 So Jacob served seven years for Rachel, and they seemed only a few days to him because of the love he had for her.

Did you notice what makes the work easier? Love. That’s what makes our obedience to the Lord easy—His love for us, and our love for Him. The more you are convinced the Lord Jesus loves you, the easier you will find expressing love through your obedience to His commands.

John 15:10 If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love.

His commands are an expression of His love for you. Your obedience to His commands is your expression of love for Him. That what it means to truly love God.

Anybody can say they love the Lord Jesus, but words are cheap. If your love for Him is true, you will obey Him. Let me suggest some commands to start with.

Mark 1:15 …Repent, and believe in the gospel.

You cannot truly love God until you turn from your sins and believe in Christ, until you surrender your life to Him as Lord, and commit yourself to living for Him. Believing Him is the first commandment you obey if you truly love Him.

Mark 1:17 …Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of men.

Make it your goal not just to do what Jesus said, but to do what Jesus did. He spent a lot of His time praying---you spend time praying, too. He went to church---Luke 4:16 said it was His habit---make it your habit, too. He made it His business to win people to God---make it your business to win souls for God. He lived to please God---you live to please God, too.

So often, it’s not that we don’t know what Christ commands us to do---it’s that we just don’t do it. Do you truly love the Lord? The real answer to this question is: are you doing what He commands you to do? God loves you truly, and He wants you to love Him truly. But John mentions another aspect of true love that is just as important:


Have you ever noticed how easy it is to love your neighbor in theory?

Leaving the sanctuary, a church member comments: "I’d like to see you love MY neighbor."

Love your neighbor sounds good in writing, or in preaching, but it sometimes seems impossible in real life. It can be hard to spit out I love you through gritted teeth to your spouse when they won’t listen to you, to your kids when they rebel, to the guy who tries to pick a fight with you in gym, to the person who takes advantage of you, who just plain won’t treat you right. But true love means loving other people in spite of their faults, failures, and sins. John makes it very clear in vs. 7-8: Everyone who loves is born of God and loves God…he who does not love does not know God…John nails that down again when he writes in vs. 4:20-21 (read).

Part of what it means to love God is loving people. If you don’t love the people He created, the people Jesus died for, the people He loves then you cannot love Him.

Ian Pitts Watson writes: When Rosemary, my youngest child, was three, she was given a little rag doll, which quickly became an inseparable companion. She had other toys that were…far more valuable, but none that she loved like she loved the rag doll. Soon the rag doll became more and more rag and less and less doll.

It also became more and more dirty. If you tried to clean the rag doll, it became more ragged still. And if you didn’t try to clean the rag doll, it became dirtier still.

The sensible thing to do was to trash the rag doll. But that was unthinkable for anyone who loved my child. If you loved Rosemary, you loved the rag doll—it was part of the package. “If anyone says ‘I love God’ yet hates his brother or sister, he is a liar,” (I John 4:20) “love me, love my rag dolls”

At the same time, loving everybody doesn’t mean to love everybody the same way. The Bible says I am to love my wife as Christ loved the church. It does not command me to love every other woman that way. God commands me to love my children by disciplining for them, but it doesn’t say I’m supposed to discipline your kids. Loving everybody else doesn’t mean I approve of or agree with everybody else. So what does it mean? Jesus explains this way:

Matthew 22:39 …‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’

Luke 6:31 And just as you want men to do to you, you also do to them likewise.

John 15:12-13 12This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.

Jesus sums up how He wants us to love everybody in two words: compassion and sacrifice.

Loving them means treating them with compassion. Whether it’s your spouse, your children, your boss, your teacher, your enemy---think about how you want them to treat you and then treat them the same way.

Love them as you love yourself. I don’t know about you, but sometimes I get frustrated and even angry at myself. I sometimes say Mike, I can’t believe you did that! But I never give up on myself. I never feel like getting rid of myself. If you ever hear Mike Crews committed suicide, find out who killed me, because I guarantee I didn’t. Love other people as you love yourself.

But Jesus calls His followers to an even higher standard of love—a love that sacrifices: love one another as I have loved you. 13Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.

Jesus says the measure of your love for one another is sacrifice. He’s not necessarily calling us to die for one another as He did on the Cross. There are lots of other ways to lay down your life for somebody else. You lay down your life when you forgive others---especially when they don’t deserve it. You lay down your life by serving others, especially when they don’t appreciate it. You lay down your life when you help somebody else---especially when it means going without yourself.

Love God, love His ragdolls. Love one another compassionately and sacrificially Jesus says and your love is a true love. Let me ask you—is that how you love your spouse? Is that how you love your kids? Is that how you love your brothers and sisters in Christ? Is that how you love friends, strangers, enemies? God doesn’t call us to love everybody in exactly the same way---but compassion and sacrifice are the foundation for every kind of true love there is. God wants you and I to love each other truly, with compassion and sacrifice. This, and only this, is true love.

God created you and I to love and be loved. Love is what life is all about. Imagine a world without love, and you have a world where nobody truly lives, they just exist. Will you experience true love, or settle for something less?

Little Chad was a shy, quiet young fella. One day he came home and told his mother, he’d like to make a valentine for everyone in his class. Her heart sank. She had watched the children when they walked home from school. Her Chad was always behind them. They laughed and hung on to each other and talked to each other. But Chad was never included. Nevertheless, she decided she would go along with her son. So she purchased the paper and glue and crayons. For three whole weeks, night after night, Chad painstakingly made thirty-five valentines.

Valentines Day dawned and Chad was beside himself with excitement! He carefully stacked them up, put them in a bag, and bolted out the door. His mom decided to bake him his favorite cookies and serve them up warm and nice with a cool glass of milk when he came home from school. She just knew he’d be disappointed; maybe that would ease the pain a little. It hurt her to think that he wouldn’t get many valentines—maybe none at all.

When she heard the children outside she looked out the window. Sure enough here they came, laughing and having the best time. And, as always, there was Chad in the rear. He walked a little faster than usual. She fully expected him to burst into tears as soon as he got inside. His arms were empty, she noticed, and when the door opened she choked back the tears.

“Mommy has some warm cookies and milk for you.”

But he hardly heard her words. He just marched right on by and all he could say was:

“Not a one … not a one.”

Her heart sank.

And then he turned around with a big smile and added, “I didn’t forget a one, not a single one!”

Chad understood what true love really is. The love of his mom overflowed into his love for others, just as God’s love can overflow out of us to love others.

Have you experienced true love in your heart? A true love that comes first by knowing and receiving God’s unconditional love for you. He really does love you, and if you will come to Him, He will show you His love for you, and give you a love for Himself and for others that will make your life worth living. Will you let Him love you? Will you love Him, and let Him love others through you?