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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Dr. Charles Stanley » Charles Stanley - The Positive Power of Love

Charles Stanley - The Positive Power of Love

Charles Stanley - The Positive Power of Love

Every emotion that you and I experience in this life, somewhere in the Bible you're gonna find someone there who experienced the same kind of emotions. Sometimes it was hatred, sometimes it was love. It just went from one gamut to the other. So, all through the scriptures you're gonna find people experiencing all kinds of emotions. Somewhere along the way, God has intended that you and I would understand that the emotion that He has for us that supersedes all the rest of them, the thing that probably most of us have the most difficult believing is that God really and truly loves us.

Now, sometimes we can know it in our mind, but the truth is can we sense it in our emotions? Can we feel God's love? Oftentimes we have difficulty loving other people. We say some people are very lovable, some folks are not so lovable. And so, we ask the question: Well, how can I love people who are unlovable? And what is my responsibility? Am I to treat everybody alike? And so, we have all kinds of emotions that we come up with in our own feelings toward other people. Well, when I think about the emotions that probably diminish people's witness and hinder them the most, like anger and bitterness and unforgiveness and hostility and all the rest. Then you can turn around and look at all those that are so happy and joyful and those emotions that give us a sense of real living and a sense of real joy and contentment and peace and happiness in life.

You and I could just run the gamut of all those emotions. The most powerful positive emotion a person can experience is the emotion of love. And yet probably that's the emotion that most people have the most difficult really and truly experiencing. Now, we're not talking about a Hollywood kind of romantic love that just lasts till the next person comes along. We're talking about godly love. And what I want to do in this message is this. I want to take a passage of scripture that Jesus Christ gave in a parable and demonstrate the awesome power of love. Because it is a powerful and positive emotion that affects us and that affects all those whom we love. And oftentimes those who love us, we are greatly impacted by that love.

If I should ask you: Do you enjoy being loved? Yes, you do. How many of us enjoy not being loved? None of us. We all want to be, desire to be, would like to be loved. And yet some people seemingly do not have the capacity to love. They sorta mix up love with other feelings that they have. In the scripture, there are two primary words for love. One of them is "agape," which is God's kind of love, it's characteristic of God, it's sacrificial love. And that's the love we see on the cross. And then there's "phileo" love, which is affection and friendship and admiration that we can have toward someone. So, the kind of love we're gonna talk about is the kind of love that God has placed in the heart of every single believer. You recall the Bible says the fruit of the Spirit is love. That's not phileo love, that's agape love.

Where in the Bible is all this expression of the awesome power of love expressed best? I want you to turn, if you will, to Luke chapter 15. And the story that all of us, or at least most of us know by heart probably is the story of the prodigal son. And herein in this parable, Jesus Christ, in speaking to the Pharisees and helping them to try to understand God's love. You remember he told a story about a shepherd who sought the lost sheep and a lady who sought her lost coin. Then when it comes to this son, this lost son, Jesus gives us some tremendous principals about love, and certainly demonstrates in this in the father's love, how God loves us and exactly how you and I ought to love each other. So, I want us to read this passage and then I want us to think about it in this light. If love is this powerful emotion and it expresses itself, how does it express its awesome power in someone else's life? So, let's look at this passage and then we'll look at that.

The scripture says, beginning in verse eleven of Luke chapter fifteen, "And He said, 'A certain man had two sons; the younger of them said to his father, "Father, give me the share of the estate that falls to me". And he divided his wealth between them. Not many days after, the younger son gathered everything together, went on a journey into a distant country, and there he squandered his estate with loose living. Now when he had spent everything, a severe famine occurred in this country, and he began to be in need. And he went and attached himself to one of the citizens of that country, and he sent him into the fields to feed swine,'" which was the worst thing that could happen to a Jewish boy. "And so he was longing to fill his stomach with the pods that the swine were eating, no one was giving anything to him. But when he came to his senses..."

So he came to himself, the scripture says, "he said, 'How many of my father's hired men,'" or servants, "'have more than enough bread, but I am dying here with hunger! I will get up, go to my father, and will say to him, "Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in your sight; I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me as one of your hired men."' He got up, came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him, felt compassion for him, ran and embraced him, and kissed him. And the son said to him, 'Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.' But the father said to his slaves, 'Quickly bring out the best robe and put it on him, put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet; and bring the fattened calf, and kill it, and let us eat and be merry; for this son of mine was dead, and he's come to life again; he was lost, and he's been found.' And they began to be merry".

That is, they had themselves one big party. Now, when you read this passage of scripture, remember what Jesus has in mind primarily, and that is He wants the Pharisees and the Sadducees to understand the Father's love. When you look at this passage, I want us to think of it in terms of your love life. All of us love somebody or somebodies. All of us love some people in different degrees. What he's referring to here is the kind of love that God intends for us to express toward other people. So, when we talk about the power, for example, of anger, anger can cause all kinds of distress and heartache, and oftentimes bloodshed. Love has a power. Love empowers us to be able to express something toward other people that they so desperately need. And so, what I want us to do is to go through this passage of scripture and look and see the ways that love empowers us to respond and to act toward other people.

Now, I know that in a congregation this size, and maybe you are listening or maybe you're watching, and there are lots of you out there who go through all kinds of emotional feelings toward other people. What is it that God expects and how does He provide that? So let me repeat again. The gift of the Holy Spirit is the gift of love. That is, every single person who is indwelt by the Spirit of God has the capacity to love in a godly fashion. Now, whether we do or not's one thing, but we do have that capacity. We're talking about that quality of love. So I want you to look at this passage and notice several things here. First of all, let's talk about what love is.

Now, there are all kinds of definitions of love, but love really is a commitment to the satisfaction, a commitment to a person's satisfaction and security, and to their development. If I love someone, I'm concerned about their satisfaction. I'm concerned about their sense of security and I'm concerned about their developing and becoming the person God wants 'em to be. So, I want us to look at this passage, and we'll go right down these verses, and I want you to see how this father expressed his love toward his son. That is, the power to love. How does it respond and how does it react toward other people? Well, the first thing I want you to notice is this, and that is that genuine love, that is, genuine love that God gives us enables us, listen, enables us to respond patiently in very trying circumstances in life.

This young man came to his dad, he said, "I want my share of the goods". And having another son, that meant he would divide it between the two of them. Now, the father could've said, "Now son, wait a minute. First of all, you're a little bit young to be taking that much wealth. Secondly," he tried to warn him more than likely, "You don't know what's out there. There are lots of folks out there who will take your money before you understand what's happened. And besides that, you're heading in a direction that is gonna be devastating to you, and because I love you, I'd rather not do that". He didn't do that. But rather, very patiently, in a very trying circumstance of life, which I'm certain was very painful to this dad, he shelled out to him his portion of the inheritance and watched him walk away.

When you and I are expressing godly love, God will enable you and me to express love in situations and circumstances that are very trying, very difficult, and sometimes very painful. We know before a person acts the way they intend to act, they're gonna be hurt, they're gonna hurt others, they're gonna lose, and oftentimes they're gonna cause others to lose. They're gonna bring pain and suffering and hurt to themselves and are gonna suffer disappointments that they would never imagine, which is exactly what this young man did. He lost everything he had. If his father had said, "No! I'm not going to do that," it wouldn't have done any good because he could've left anyway. But you see, genuine, true, godly love enables us to express that love and enables us to be patient in circumstances that are very trying that we can't really alter and change at that particular time.

A second thing that I want you to notice that love enables us to do, it enables us, listen, it enables us to sacrifice without complaining. Because this father, having to give his son that large a portion of the estate had to be a sacrifice on his part. And as a result, he was able to do so. He did not complain about it. He did not argue about it. He did not fuss about it. His son insisted because, you see, he knew his son's heart. That boy, watch this, had already gone, he had already left and gone into a far country in his heart before he ever asked for his inheritance or before his feet ever took him there. Remember this, when a person chooses to live or to walk in sin, their heart precedes their feet. And this father knew, and this is why he was patient, he was loving, he was patient, willing to sacrifice, even though he knew what his son was going to do was going to be a disaster.

Love is able to patiently face difficult, trying, painful circumstances. But a third thing that's very evident here, and that's this, that genuine love enables us to wait patiently, enables us to wait patiently. It's interesting, for example, in these three parables, that in the parable of the lost sheep, the Bible says the shepherd went seeking after the sheep. When the woman lost her coin, the Bible says she searched for the coin until she found it. But isn't it interesting when Jesus tells the story of the prodigal son who wastes his substance and wastes his father's inheritance, that nowhere does it say, "And the father went out searching and seeking for his son".

Why did he not go searching and seeking for him? Because he knew his son's heart. His heart was already gone. But what did this father do? Instead of going to try to find him and convince him and persuade him against his will, he waited and he waited and he waited. If you'll notice in the thirteenth verse, "And not many days later, the younger son gathered everything together, went on a journey to a distant country, and there he squandered his estate with loose living". Verse twenty says, "He got up and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him, felt compassion for him, ran and embraced him and kissed him". The father waited till the son came home. Then he knew he was ready to come home.

Where did the son have to get before he came home? He had to get to the end of the rope, the end of life. He said, "I'm starving to death out here in this hog pen". He said, "Even my father's servants have more than enough to eat, and here I am". He repented of what he had done. He decided what he was gonna say. He'd already decided what his confession would be. "Father, I've sinned against heaven, I've sinned against you, and in your sight. Just make me one of the hired servants and I'll be happy. Just let me come home again". What did his father do? His father waited. Do you know that's exactly what God does for us? And sometimes you look at people and you see the way they are living and you see how far into sin they get, and you think, "God, why don't You do something"? Or we've prayed and prayed and prayed for someone and nothing ever happens and we think, "Lord, why don't You do something? Send judgement, send something".

What does God do in His very divine patience? He waits. Why? He waits because He loves. Does that mean that God doesn't care? No. Waiting doesn't mean we don't care. Waiting oftentimes is a sign, listen, of supernatural strength that God gives us not to get, listen, not to get between somebody else and God. Once in a while somebody gets out of God's will and we want to step in and sorta fix it for 'em. We want to help 'em out. And usually when we do that, we get between God and the other person. You get between God and another person trying to fix them, and who gets fixed? We get fixed. It's difficult to wait and watch God work in someone's life, especially when they're living in disobedience. We cannot afford to step in between what God is doing in that person's life and try to fix them when God knows exactly what it'll take to fix them. Likewise, I want you to notice something here that's interesting. Love has the power to forgive those who have wronged us.

Now, probably one of the most difficult things we have to deal with in life is an unforgiving spirit. Hardly a week goes by, in fact, not even a day goes by in our mail, that someone doesn't write and say, "I'm having a problem with forgiveness. I can't forgive my mother, my father, my children, my parents. I can't forgive the person I work for, my employee, my employer". They've been wronged in some fashion, sometimes financially, sometimes hurt in different ways, physically or sexually or mentally, verbally abused in different ways in life, struggling with a capacity to forgive someone who's hurt them. And yet the Bible says that when the Spirit of God comes into your life and my life, He says the fruit of the Spirit is love. What kind of love? The same kind of love that God has.

Now, think about this. If our Lord forgave us of our sins, and when He died on the cross, how much of your sin did He take? He took your sin-debt in full, so that every single child of God is a forgiven child of God. Confession doesn't get me forgiveness. Confession gets my attitude and my relationship and my fellowship with our Lord right. What brings about, listen, what brings about the forgiveness of sin is the death of Jesus Christ and the shedding of His blood at Calvary. That's how sin is forgiven. Once we become a child of God and we sin against Him, our confession restores our fellowship, our relationship to Him. So that every single one of us is a forgiven child of God.

So what we have to ask is this: What right do I have to be unforgiving and to hold an unforgiving spirit towards someone else, when God...listen, when a fellow believer wrongs you, no matter who it is, God has already provided for their forgiveness. How am I to respond to a fellow believer who wrongs me? No matter what they do, how long they do it, how deeply it hurts, how painful it is, what is my response? My response is to be forgiveness. And somebody says, "Well, how often do we forgive"? As often as we are wronged. "How long do we forgive"? As long as we are wronged. You see, in the flesh, we can't do it. In the flesh, that doesn't work. In the flesh, sometimes we want to get back, we want vengeance, we want to repay for what they've done. But love enables us, listen, to look, listen, to look into that person's heart, to look beyond what they are, to see what there can possibly be, and to see the will and purpose and plan of God for their life, and to be able to see that Jesus Christ died for their sin, that God forgives them just as He does for us.

And what happens? We're able to forgive. No person can live in the center of the will of God with an unforgiving spirit. No one is going to be happy, no one is gonna be content, no one is going to have peace in their heart when they're living with an unforgiving spirit. And all of us get wronged in life, different times and different ways. All us feel that at different times, "God, I've been wronged, been hurt". Goes on and on and on, and somehow we want to defend ourselves. And so we work up a good defense that's very, very convincing to us, and we think it ought to be convincing to God. And you know what? He's never convinced with any of our defenses. Love, listen, godly love placed in your heart when you were saved has enabled you to say, "Yes! You're forgiven". No matter what you did, no matter how long you did it, "Yes! You're forgiven". That is the awesome power of love.

Notice again, something else here, and that is when a person genuinely loves, they are able, listen, they are able to restore people who fall. Now, look at this. Verse twenty-four, notice. He says, "For this son of mine was dead and is come to life again. He was lost and has been found". And they began to be merry. When his son came home, he did not scold him, he did not reprimand him. He did not say, "Now, this time around, this is what you can expect". No, none of that. But what did he do? The father, because of his love for him, he restored him to his position. How do I know that? Because he gave him a ring, sandals, and a robe, all of which indicated his acceptance, his approval, and that he was reinstating him, so to speak, as a son. He was not to come back as a slave. He was to come back in the very position which he left, a son whom his father greatly loved.

You know what? Oftentimes the church is the one that treats people the worst. Every, listen, every single lost person, any lost person should be able to walk into this fellowship, or any other church fellowship, and feel welcome and feel at home no matter how they dress, how they look. It may be the best they have or the poorest they have. It doesn't make any difference how that person dresses. If that's all that they have, a person who is not a Christian should be able to feel loved and accepted in any fellowship of God's people. And when a person falls, when they falter in life and they make mistakes and maybe they blow it in business or blow it in their morality, it doesn't make any difference what it is. We who are believers, it is our responsibility, listen, not to condemn, not to judge, but to do what? To restore them.

Now, this father had all the legitimate rights of a parent to say, "You have squandered half of the fortune that I have worked so hard for. While your brother has been here laboring and working faithfully, you have squandered, you have wasted..." In fact, his brother said he wasted it on harlots and riotous living. "You have wasted your inheritance, wasted your life. Look what an absolute, total mess and embarrassment you are to all of us. You from now on will live with the slaves". No, what did he do? Because he loved him, he was able to restore him to his rightful position as a son, never scolding, never reprimanding, never saying to him, "I'll forgive you but, I'll forgive you if, I'll forgive you when". He didn't even have to say it. He hugged him and kissed him and loved him and, while his son was confessing all of his sinfulness, he was telling him how much he loved him.

Let me ask you a question. Who is it in your life you cannot forgive? And who among your friends or who among your relatives or who among your co-workers who've made big mistakes in life and you've chalked 'em off? And you've said, "I'll not have anything else to do with those people". You know Jesus never did that? You see, genuine love has the power to reach out in a forgiving, loving, kind way and respond with forgiveness. And respond, listen, with joyful service, willing to give of ourselves to help restore that person, if there's anything or something that we can personally do for them.

You see, all of us stumble at times in our life. All of us make mistakes in different aspects of our life. And how many people have reached out to you and encouraged you when you were down and you were discouraged and you were going through a difficult time in your finances and maybe you were embarrassed and maybe you'd lost just about everything? Or maybe someone in your family walked away and, your husband or your wife, or maybe your parents abused you in some fashion, and yet you're somehow able to accept them back. You don't re-read their history to them over and over and over again. But you're able to say, "You know, if it were not for the grace of God, I'd be right where you are". And the truth is, if it were not for the grace of God, there's not a single one of us who knows where we would be today if it were not for God's goodness and love and patience and kindness and grace and mercy and forgiveness and forgiveness and forgiveness and forgiveness. Amen?

Then, you see, genuine love reaches out to restore those who have fallen or who have made big mistakes in their life. Likewise, when a person genuinely loves and has the capacity to love from a scriptural point of view, they're able to be kind and express kindness toward those who misjudge them and those who misunderstand them. Now, watch what happens in this passage. We leave the first son, go to the second son. Remember what's happening now. Watch this. In verse twenty-five, "Now his older son was in the field, when he came and approached the house, he heard music and dancing. He summoned one of the servants and began inquiring what these things might be. And he said to him, 'Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fattened calf, because he has received him back safe and sound.'"

The other son, this brother, "became angry, was not willing to go in; and his father came out and began entreating him. But he answered and said to his father, 'Look! For so many years I have been serving you, I have never neglected a command of yours; and yet you have never given me a kid, that I might be merry with my friends; but this son of yours came, who has devoured your wealth with harlots, and killed the fattened calf for him.'" Look what you've done for him. Look at this next phrase. "And he said to him, 'My child, you've always been with me, and all that is mine is yours. But we had to be merry and rejoice, for this brother of yours was dead and he's begun to live, and he was lost and he's been found.'"

You see, what was his response? He could have said, "Aren't you ashamed of yourself? Your brother has just about lost his life and now he's come home, and you are angry and sitting out here pouting and having a pity party when your brother has come home". No, that's what a natural, normal, earthly father would have done who lives in his humanness and carnal nature. But you see, God has given all of us the capacity who are His children to do what? To be kind and respond in kindness when we are misjudged and when we are misunderstood. And so he misjudged the father. Didn't mean that he, that his father loved that son more than he did him. More than likely, if that son had said, "What about me having the fatted calf and have a party, father"? More than likely, he'd never ask. He just said, "You never gave that to me". But he already owned the rest of the inheritance.

But notice his father's response. And I want to say this again to dads: dads, we send many messages to our children, many messages, and we can send good ones and we can send bad ones. One thing for certain, whenever you and I respond to our children and we're responding in love, they will never be able to escape a father's love no matter what. They may wrong you, they may harm you in some fashion. But you know what? Love is irresistible ultimately. The Bible says that love never fails. And when a father loves his daughter and a father loves his son, ultimately, they're going to recognize that in a way that will cause them to have such admiration and love toward their parents, they'll never be able to thank them enough for their love for them.

Now, I want to ask you a couple of questions. Listen carefully, who is there in your life today that has wronged you, misused you, accused you falsely or even rightly? Who is it out there that a long time ago wronged you and you still think about it? Hurt you deeply, tore your heart out, ripped it apart? Hurt you so deeply that you think you'll never be able to get over it, and somehow you haven't. And you still hold it in your heart. You've talked to God about it and you've said, "Oh, I forgive them". But deep down inside, you haven't. It's still there. It's like poison, and it just sorta drips out. It may be a father who abused you, a mother who misused you.

Somebody says, "Well, yeah, it was my parents, but they're dead and gone, so it's over". Uh-uh, it's not over. Just, listen, just because someone dies does not mean it's over. You know what it means? It means it's more difficult because if your parent who wronged you dies and you didn't settle and you did not forgive them, you may think it's all gone away, but here's where it all went, right down in the innermost being of your life. And my friend, one of the worst things that can happen is to have an unforgiving spirit toward someone, and that person die, listen, and then you have to live with it.

Now, watch this. Let's say that person really wronged you. They were your enemy and they wronged you, and you had great dislike for them and you'd like to have taken vengeance on them but you did not. You know what happens? Watch this. If your enemy dies and you have not forgiven them, your enemy keeps punishing you after your enemy is dead and gone, only because you allow him to do it. Forgiveness is absolutely, extremely important. And so I want to ask you: Who is it out there in your life that still, when you think about unforgiveness, their face comes across? It may be years and years and years ago. It may be yesterday. Your husband, your wife, your son, your daughter, your parent, a friend, an employee, a relative somewhere out there, they wronged you, they were wrong, you have all the defense you need, but what you don't have is peace and contentment and joy and the Holy Spirit.

Second question: Those who know you, those who live with you, those who work with you, those who play with you, do they see in your character and in your lifestyle genuine, godly love? You're kind, you're forgiving, you're generous, you don't mind taking your part and sharing, serving. You get misunderstood sometimes but you're kind in response. All these qualities that were true in the prodigal's father, are those qualities true in your life and my life? You and I will give no greater witness, preach no greater sermon than to be loving and kind and gentle and understanding no matter what.
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