No Greater Love
If you compared the Bible to the OT temple, then John's gospel would be the Holy Place, and chapters 13-17 would be the Holy of Holies, the Most Holy Place, the 'inner sanctum'. All of these words were spoken by Jesus the night before He died. And so in just a few hours, He's going to be crucified and pay for our sins, and these are His last words.
The recurring theme in these chapters is love.
A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.
If ye love me, keep my commandments.
Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him.
12 This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you.
13 Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.
The two distinguishing birthmarks of a true believer:
1. A love for God, demonstrated in the way we obey Him.
2. A love for one another, demonstrated in the way we treat each other.
The word love is hard to define today because we use it so loosely. We say, "I love ice cream." Does it love you back? Or, "I love Wheel of Fortune." Love what? The wheel, the fortune? The model on social security? We know what we mean. But is that really love?
The confusion is compounded by Hollywood who spells love LUST. That isn't love. Physical attraction that drives you to jump in bed with someone doesn't mean you are 'in love', it means you are 'in heat.'
What is real love? God is love. And the best way to understand true love is to get to know the God of love.
ill.--one of the most famous explorers of all time was Balboa, who was credited as the first European to see the Pacific Ocean. He fell to his knees and raised his hands to heaven, thanking God for creating such an amazing thing, and for allowing him to discover it.
When you come to know true love it should drive us to our knees in gratitude for such an amazing creation of God...and for allowing us to discover it!
And we will never make a greater discovery than uncovering the depth of how God loves us! It is oceanic in its scope ... far beyond anything we can measure or comprehend.
Love is not a suggestion, it is a command.
v. 12 Our military men know the difference between a suggestion and a command. Your commanding officer doesn't give you ideas, options, or suggestions, he gives you orders, and they are to be followed strictly!
ill.--the military wanted to train an assassin for covert operations. They narrowed it down, using psychological profiling, to two men and a woman.
They brought in the first man to see if he would obey commands without question. They gave him a gun, and ordered him to go thru a door and shoot a woman sitting in a metal chair with no hesitation, and come back out. He entered, and came right back out saying, I can't shoot her, that's my wife you've got in there! They said, thank you, at least we know you're not the right man for the job.
Later, they sent the second man in with the same instructions, and again, with tears he ran out, unable to shoot his wife.
Later, they sent the woman in with instructions to kill on sight a man sitting in a metal chair in the room. She entered. They heard bang bang bang. Then they heard a terrible commotion which went on for several minutes. She came out, sweaty and out of breath. "What happened?" "First of all, that was my husband in there. Secondly, the gun you gave me was full of blanks. But I beat him to death with the chair."
She understood the difference between a suggestion and a command. [we can trust our commander's orders are not grievous!]
"Love one another" is a command. [husbands, love your wives!] This tells me that love isn't something that we feel or say...it is something that we do. Love is action. Sometimes we have no control over our feelings. God is not commanding us to feel love, but to show it.
ill.--I counsel couples who say they are splitting up because they don't feel love anymore. This proves that they don't understand true love. Biblical love is something we practice regardless of how we feel. Sometimes love involves sacrifice, difficulty, and pain. And always, it involves commitment!
Love is a decision! We need to get away from the ethereal sentiment about love being something you fall in and out of.
ill.--a young lady was a writer for a magazine, and Valentine's Day was approaching. Her editor asked her to write a poem for print. "But before you do, tell me what you think love is." She got starry eyed. "It's looking upon a lily pond, with the one closest to your heart, by the light of the moon, while the lilies are in full bloom. "Stop!" he said. "Let me tell you what love is. It is getting out of a warm bed on a cold winter's night and filling hot water bottles for sick children."
Love is action. Love is something we do. This is how it can be a command, and not just an idea.
Our love for each other:
Your immediate family-
If love doesn't begin at home, it usually doesn't begin at all. One of the best ways to have a good Christian testimony in the world today is to have a peaceful, harmonious home, characterized by love. Love is the missing ingredient in many modern day families / the home, where it is supposed to thrive MOST.
Better is a dinner of herbs where love is, than a stalled ox and hatred therewith.
ill.--mansion with filet mignon but no love, or a vegetable plate in a loving home.
We have misplaced our values in our homes today. We are chasing things instead of pursuing love. We are vegging out in front of a TV instead of talking, playing games, going on hikes, and sharing dreams. We are looking down at electronics instead of looking up to one another!
Home is supposed to be the place where the principles of love are learned and put into practice. If love doesn't begin at home, it usually doesn't begin at all. We have misplaced our values in our homes today, resulting in our love growing cold.
Love should begin with our immediate family...and our immediate family is our church as well! And other believers in the kingdom! How should fellow disciples of Christ treat one another?
Our world says, "It's a dog eat dog world." Yeah, and Christians should be the exact opposite! "Look out for #1!" We are to do it precisely backwards of the world's philosophy!
How much damage does it do to the cause of Christ for the world to see believers not able to get along with one another?
By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.
We are to respect one another, defer to one another...consider THEM #1!
Again, this is a command. It's not optional. By the way, these things don't occur naturally...they aren't 'automatic' or else we wouldn't need a command. Love is a discipline. It's work!
Look at someone you love and say, "You're a lot of work!" "You're high maintenance...but you're worth it!"
Back in 13:34 it is called a 'new commandment.' What's new about it? It's not human love...it's a command to love AS HE LOVED! It's a new height of love, with a greater quality than we possess!
Love isn't just abstaining from doing your brother harm, it is looking for ways to do him good, even if he doesn't particularly deserve it!
This is the Christ-kind of love: Giving people not what they deserve, but what they need.
Point is, if we can't ever get to the place where we can love each other that way, how can we ever expect to demonstrate that kind of love to this sinful world?!
Churches split - and the ones that don't split divide up into factions and cliques. So it's no wonder the world says, I don't need that!
When Christians can't get along, it makes a mockery of all Christ came to earth to do!
Actual news article from a few years back:
100 years of Christian fellowship, spiritual love, Godly unity, and community growth ended last Tuesday in a fit of congregational discord not to be rivaled in this century. Holy Creek Baptist Church was split down the middle like the tabernacle cloth that tore at the point of our Lord's crucifixion. It is said that one could hear that rip a hundred miles away. Holy Creek Baptist was severed from the once stalwart cord of unity that bound them together. The fist of discord has pounded an army of Christian soldiers into two disheveled, unorganized factions of estranged members.
The source of dissension in this once Holy house of God, is a piano bench which still sits behind the 1923 Steinberg to the left of the pulpit. They say that the old bench was always a source of hostility. People should have seen this coming. "That congregation was getting ready to break for the last 10 years," some said. "It's just a shame that it had to be over a piano bench."
At present, Holy Creek Congregation will be having four services a day. There has been an unspoken agreement mediated by Pastor Fred of the Landover Baptist Church. Each faction will have it's own separate service with it's own separate pastor. Since the head pastor is not speaking to the associate pastor, each will have their own service, which will be attended by factioned members. We are told that the services are far enough apart that neither group will come into contact with the other. An outside party will be moving the piano bench to different locations and appropriate positions, between services, so as to please both sides, and avoid any further conflict that could result in violence.
That sounds like an extreme example, but those of us who have spent our lives in the ministry know the truth. It may sound unbelievable to you good folks in a great church like this...and I'm glad it sounds foreign to you!
Now we're getting down to the level of love that relates to 'human feelings.' We act on our feelings...and when we do, our emotions show up outwardly.
What do you do when someone unloads the truck on you? How do you respond when they are less than loving in how they treat you? What can be done when you seem to be 'in the way' of someone's happiness? Just love them.
Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head.
Ideally, it will fix them. Sometimes it runs them off. If you do like Jesus said and turn the other cheek it can heap coals of fire on their head, because you're no fun to bully. But love can heal it all!
Hatred stirreth up strifes: but love covereth all sins.
1 Peter 4:8
And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity shall cover the multitude of sins.
Why talk about this subject in v. 12 today? Because it comes after v. 11! [thru the Bible] We talk about it not because it's a problem, but because it's not, and we'd like it to stay that way! And it's better to be a problem preventer than a problem solver.
How about v. 13? This one is about our Lord, laying down His life for us, His friends.
*His love is immutable - never changing under any circumstance or conditions. This is what distinguishes God's love from man's love. Human love is fickle, and ever changing.
ill.--Tom Cruise in 1987 met and married the love of his life, Mimi Rogers. They divorced in 1990. That same year he met the love of his life, Nicole Kidman. That one lasted a decade. In 2001 he met the love of his life, Penelope Cruz. [1 year]. He took a couple years off, and then he met a woman who could only be described as "the love of his life," Katie Holmes. And he jumped up and down on Oprah's couch. [in the words of Buddy the Elf: "I'm in love and I don't care who knows it!"] Of course, that's over, and I hear he's in love again!
Human love is fickle. And I'm glad God's love is immutable, never changing, unconditional!
We didn't do anything to compel God to love us and we cannot do anything to make Him love us less!
But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
He did not love us because we were lovable! His love is not dependent on us, nor is His love regulated by us! It is immutable, never changing.
For a person to say no to salvation and go to hell they must do it against the will of God and love of God. They have to step over the love and mercy of God to get to hell.
You may go to hell unsaved, but you won't go there unloved! I say, don't go there at all. Accept the love!
*His love is infinite - since God is infinite, so is His love. There's no way to measure His love...it has no limit...and no end!
ill.--as with all teachings, I like to illustrate or explain it somehow in words. In this case, the only illustration that I can offer is that there are no words! But it is no less a reality.
Some use the illustration of the ocean, of God's infinite love. But even it would run out.
George Beverly Shea singing, The Love of God
May the lost world see our love, and it tell them of God, as they look at our homes and our church. We all have someone in our life that is unsaved. Make sure they know they aren't unloved!