Greg Laurie — Real Love
You know I really wonder if we even know what the word love means. We use it so much from I love my wife to I love my job to I love pizza to I love my dog. I hope you don't love your wife in the same way you love pizza. You might love pizza more. I don't know that much about you. Maybe some of the confusion about love is because of the crazy songs that have been written about it.
You remember that song from years ago called "That's amore" by Dean Martin. Here are some of the profound insightful lyrics about what love is. Ready when a moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie that's amore which is Italian for love. When the world seems to shine like you've had too much wine. That's amore. Bells will ring ting-a-ling-a-ling, ting-a-ling-a-ling and you'll sing "Vita Bella" hearts will play tippy-tippy-tay, tippy-tippy-tay like a gay tarantella. When the stars make you drool just like a pasta fazool. That's amore when you dance down the street with a cloud at your feet. You're in love.
Ok. Let's put this together and see if we can understand love now. First of all the best way to tell you are in love is when the moon hits you in the face like a pizza. Then the world shines like you are drunk and your heart plays tippy-tippy-tay. Finally you drool at stars and dance down the street. Listen friend. That is not love. That is mental illness. I don't know about you but I did not come from a loving affectionate home. There were no hugs in my home. There were no "I love you" statements to one another. When I became a Christian it was very hard for me to express love and to receive love. It certainly was difficult for me to use the word love and say to someone I love them.
A lot of people don't want to make themselves vulnerable to love. I love what C. S. Lewis said and I am going to quote from him. He says, "Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one. Not even an animal. Wrap it carefully around with hobbies and little luxuries. Avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket," lewis writes, "Dark, motionless, and airless, it will change. It will not be broken. It will become unbreakable. Impenetrable. Ill redeemable. To love is to be vulnerable". That is true. When you love someone you can be hurt. There are a lot of emotions that come of course with love. But it certainly is worth it.
In this message I am going to talk about three things. 1. I am going to talk about the love that God has for you. 2. I want to talk about the love that we ought to have for God. Third and lastly I want to talk about the love we should have for one another. Let's start with our first point. Here it is. Ready. You have heard it before. God loves you. That is so clear in scripture. God says in the book of Jeremiah, "I have loved you with an everlasting love. Therefore with lovingkindness I have drawn you". This love that God has for you goes back further than you could ever imagine. You see God in his great love chose you to be his child. Listen to this. God personally chose and loved you as though you were the only person on the earth. Jesus said in John 15, "You did not choose me, but I chose you. I appointed you to go and bring forth lasting fruit".
I am sure you have seen that TV program the Simpsons. On one of the episodes I thought it was really funny. It was on valentine's day. It was about valentines being given out by the kids. One of the characters in the show Ralph Wiggum sort of a nerdy little boy. No one gave him a valentine. He was feeling very bad. Lisa Simpson had some sympathy for little Ralph Wiggum. She made him a valentine. On the front of it was a little drawing of a Choo-Choo train. You opened it up and it said I Choo-Choo choose you. He was very moved by that. In fact he thought Lisa was in love with him. So the rest of the episode was about little Ralph pursuing Lisa. She really wasn't in love with Ralph. She was just wanting to be kind.
Listen. Here is the bottom line. This is a great theological statement. God Choo-Choo-chooses you. He did and he does. Not only that but he chose you not out of mere sympathy but out of his love for you. Let me as you a question. Do you think that God the Father loves God the Son? Yes or no? Yes. I am sure he does. We know he loves his Son. But here is something that we ought to consider. God loves you as much as he loves his own Son. You might say, "Where did you come up with that"? From Jesus. In John 17 Jesus said in his prayer to the Father, "May they experience such perfect unity that the world may know that you sent me and that you love them as much as you love me".
It is easy to say to someone I love you but then you can prove it in action. God showed his love toward us in a tangible way. Of course Romans 5:8 says, "God showed his love toward us that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us". And of course the words of Jesus in John 3:16. "For God so loved the world he gave his only begotten Son". It is one thing to know that God loves the world and we are thankful for that. But God loves you. I love the way Paul personalized it and said, "He loved me and he gave himself for me". Yes he loves the world but he loved you. He loves you. Listen to this. No matter what you are going through nothing will ever separate you from God's love.
Here is point two. We should love God. Why should we love God? Because 1 John says, "We love him because he first loved us". The more I know about the awesome love of God for me it will cause me to want to respond in kind and to love him right back. What does it mean to love God? There are a lot of people today that say they love God but you wonder because their actions seem to contradict it. That brings us to our text. Matthew 22. This is an occasion when the religious leaders came to Jesus with sort of a trap. But of course those traps never worked. They were trying to get Christ to identify the greatest of the commandments and instead of answering their question he tells us how to love God and what it actually means.
Matthew 22:36. "'Teacher,' they ask, 'which is the great commandment in the law?' Jesus said, 'you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: you shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.'" Jesus gets to the heart of the matter about loving God. Loose paraphrase. Guys instead of trying to focus on all of these rules try this. Just love God. If you love God as you ought to love God everything will fall into its proper place. That is why Augustine one of the early church fathers said, "Love God and do as you please". That almost sounds insane. But it isn't. If you really love God in the way that the Bible tells you to love God you will want to do what pleases him.
This statement of Christ really gets to the heart of the matter. He says, "Love the Lord your God with all of your heart, with all of your soul, and strength" in verse 37. How does this work? It means you love God with every part of your being. To the ancient Hebrews the word heart as used by Christ, love the Lord with all of your heart did not refer so much to the emotion as it referred to the core of one's being. A better translation would be love the Lord your God from the very core of your being. When we use the word heart we usually use it to represent our emotions. We will say something like my mind says one thing but my heart says another. If someone seems a bit callous we will say where is your heart. If a person is too emotive we will might say your problem is you wear your heart on your sleeve. Maybe for the person who doesn't know where their heart is they should look on their sleeve. Maybe that is where it went.
There have been countless songs written about the heart. Of course the Bee Gees sang how can you mend a broken heart Elvis lived way down at the end of lonely street. Where? Heartbreak hotel. Bruce Springsteen had a hungry heart. Tom Petty was tired of people dragging his heart around. Selena Gomez sang the heart wants what it wants. Here is the problem with your heart. Here is the problem with my heart. Our heart can lead us in the wrong direction. In fact we are told in Jeremiah 17:9, "The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked. Who can know it"? Another translation puts it this way. "The heart is hopelessly dark and deceitful. A puzzle no one can figure out". Jesus showing the potential darkness of our own hearts said, "Out of the heart," in Matthew 15, "Comes evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, lying, and slander".
So don't say my heart tells me this. Your heart can mislead you. But the heart wants what the heart wants. You know what? Shut up. Your heart is dark. Your heart is evil. We need to let our minds step in here and help us with this. We need to love the Lord with all of our heart. For the Christian the objective is not to focus on your heart. It is to focus on your heart on God. Then you are to love the Lord your God with all of your soul. Actually the Hebrew word for soul would be closer to our use of the word heart. This speaks of something deep inside of a person. Jesus actually used this phrase in the Garden of Gethsemane when he said to the disciples, "My soul is deeply grieved to the point of death". He was emoting in that sense.
Here is the bottom line. Our love for God needs to be emotive and intelligent. One doesn't cancel out the other. We need to love God with our emotions and our intellect. We need to love God with our strength. We need to love God with our time and resources. With everything that we have. That is what it means to love the Lord your God with all of your heart, soul, and mind. This is sort of what we call the love chapter. That is the name of the Katina's project. The love chapter. We don't only discover what love is. We also discover what love does. In many ways love is more of a verb than noun. I remember from my days in school a noun was a person, place, or thing. But a verb speaks of action. Something going on. An occurrence. We are not just reading about what love is. We read here about what love does.
Let's look at these words. 1 Corinthians 13:4. "Love suffers long and is kind: love does not envy: love does not parade itself, is not puffed up: does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil: does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth: love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things". Now let me read this to you in a modern translation. Just listen. "Love never gives up. Love cares more for others than for self. Love doesn't want what it doesn't have. Love doesn't strut, doesn't have a swelled head, doesn't force itself on others. Love isn't always 'me first.' doesn't fly off the handle. Doesn't keep score of the sins of others. Love doesn't revel when others grovel. Love takes pleasure in the flowering of truth. Love puts up with anything. Love trusts God always. Love looks for the best. Love never looks back. Love keeps going to the very end".
I love that. Love keeps going to the very end. Now if you want to feel a little bad take out the word love or charity if you have a king James Bible and insert your name there. Greg suffers long. Greg is patient. Let's just stop now. Now put the name Jesus in there and it fits perfectly all the way to the end. 1 Corinthians 13 is effectively a portrait of Jesus Christ. I want you to notice that it says love is patient. It doesn't say love feels patient. Rather love practices patience. It doesn't just have kind feelings. It does kind things. Love is not a feeling. It is an action. Don't wait to feel love. Just do loving things. The emotions will catch up.
A lot of times we believe the worst about a person. You should believe the best. "But Greg they have done this or that". I know but have love toward them. Maybe they have changed. Maybe God is transforming them. Love believes the best. Actually this is an interesting phrase because it says it thinks no evil in verse 5. That is a bookkeeping term that means to calculate and enter into a ledger a permanent record that can be consulted when needed. How does this work? You know when you are having a disagreement with your spouse and one of you says I remember 25 years ago when you said... What? Yeah. 25 years ago. How do you know? I have it written down right here. I carry this ledger around. Get rid of your ledger. That is not what love does. Love forgives and love forgets. Ruth Graham the wife of Billy Graham, a wonderful woman who is with the Lord now once made this statement. "A good marriage is made up of two good forgivers". Learn to forgive and keep short accounts.
Last point. Point 7. If you really love your wife you are going to make it through the rough patches. Listen. Love doesn't give up. Verse 7. "Love endures all things. Love refuses to surrender. Love refuses to stop believing or hoping. It will not stop loving. Love doesn't quit". Sometimes we will abandon a marriage. We will say it is irreconcilable differences. Really? Every marriage has irreconcilable differences. As I have said before, I have had irreconcilable differences with my wife Cathe for 42 years. She is neat. I am messy. She is sometimes late. I am often early. She is cute. I am fat. It is irreconcilable.
What drew you together initially now has become a wedge between you. In the beginning it was like they are my absolute opposite. Wonderful. Now you have to learn to love despite those differences. Love will not stop loving. You say, "Greg please. Who can live like this? Do you do all of this"? No. But this is what God has called us to do. The Bible says that God has shed his love in our hearts. In other words the love is there. You just need to start doing it. "I don't feel it". Who cares if you feel it? Do it. Just start doing loving things and as I said earlier the emotion and feeling of love will catch up.
Let me simply this message. Here it is. Happy wife. Happy life. Or to put it another way. If mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy. So love. There is no greater love that has ever been shown than the love of Jesus Christ. In many ways it is through marriage we really understand the Gospel. Because we see what it is like to live with a person when we have differences with them. We keep loving them despite that. That is really what God did for you. I told you earlier God loved you. Don't misunderstand. It is not because you were all that lovable. Because you aren't nor am I. We are sinners we have broken his commandments. Thumbed our nose in his face. We have rejected him and he kept loving us. Finally we said I want to believe in him. He showed that love in a tangible way when he died on the cross for us 2,000 years ago. He rose again from the dead and now he stands ready to come into any heart that will welcome him.
I want to close with this. Do you have a relationship with God? I have been talking about loving each other and even loving God. But here you need to remember God loves you. Have you responded yet? What I am saying is have you asked Jesus Christ the living Son of God to come and take residence in your heart? Do you know that you will go to heaven when you die? If you don't, would you like to? Jesus who died, who rose, stands at the door of your life and he knocks and says if you will hear his voice and open the door he will come in. Have you asked Jesus to come into your life yet?