Jack Graham - Lasting Love
Take your Bibles and turn to 1 Corinthians, chapter 13. This, of course, is known as the love chapter. There are many songs written about romance and love and marriage, but this is the greatest song of all. These are the lyrics of love. God included them in Scripture so that we could see in a beautiful way what love really is and what love does. When we read 1 Corinthians, chapter 13 we see many verbs which means love is a verb. Love is more than a feeling; love is so much more than sentimental attachment, or even chemistry or physical relationships. Love is the love of God experienced and expressed through His people. And I want to encourage you to remember that, even write that down. Before you can express love you must experience love. And the love of God, the love of the Lord Jesus Christ makes it possible for us to love and for love to last. It's really a radical, revolutionary, resurrected love, because it's the love of God.
One of my favorite Michael Buble tune... and, yes, I like Buble, is Crazy Love. When you think about the love of God you think, "That's so radical that God would love me unconditionally; that He would love me with an everlasting, eternal love". God's love is lasting. Aren't you glad? And there's nothing that you can do to make God love you less than He loves you right now. There's nothing you can do, as a matter of fact, to make God love you more than God loves you right now, because He loves you perfectly. And that love according to Romans chapter 5 and verse 5 is poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit. If you are a follower of Jesus, if you are a believer, the Spirit of God lives in you, and with His Spirit comes His love. The fruit of the Spirit, Galatians chapter 5, begins with love. It's all about the love. "The fruit of the Spirit is love". So when you experience the love of God, the supernatural love of God in your life, then in the natural, in your normal, daily walk with Him you can experience and then express love to others, beginning with your own family, beginning with your own husband, your own wife.
Physical attraction brings people together, but it is spiritual affection that keeps people together. It is the relationship that we have with God through Jesus Christ that enables us to love even the unlovely, and to keep on loving. First Corinthians chapter 13 is written originally to a group of Christians who were very immature. Though they possessed and practiced spiritual gifts and thought they were outstanding believers, they were, in fact, carnal and childish; immature. And the challenge of the Corinthian letter is to build up and strengthen those Christians, and to help them grow up in their faith. And what needs to happen in our marriages is that we would mature and grow in love. People talk about "falling in love" like you slip on a banana peel and you're in love. No, you don't fall in love; you grow in love. You cultivate and nurture love.
Now when Deb and I met, she was my college sweetheart, you know, we didn't know a lot about marriage or the expectations, but we knew one thing: we knew that we loved Jesus, we knew that we were called to serve together, and that God would enable us starting out as just college students, He would enable us to grow in our love. I can tell you that I love her more now than I've ever loved her. And I'm telling you the absolute truth. I thought, you know, when we first got married I couldn't love a woman as much as I loved this woman but now these many years later it's impossible for me to understand how much I love her as compared to even then. God has given us a growing and developing love, and that's all, not because of us, but because of God's grace and God's mercy in our lives, but we were committed to one another. And we need to mature in our love for each other.
Now, you know, that first love is exciting. No question about that. In fact, Jesus talked to a church and they were losing their love, or leaving their love behind for Him. And He said, "You need to return to your first love". And so there's one sense that, you know, the first brush of love, the excitement of new love, it's all good. You know, it's like, remember when you got a brand new car. You got that brand new car. And you couldn't wait, you know, just to keep it clean and put that key in the ignition or, you know, get it going and maybe you want to take it on a road trip somewhere just to try it out. And you studied the manual; you're looking at all the stuff about the car. And you're washing it every other day; you're making it clean. You're waxing it.
Now you've had that car about two or three years and it hasn't been washed in a couple of months. It's got Whataburger wrappers in there from three months ago. You know, it smells like a Whataburger or it smells like dirty diapers if you have kids and you know, you just sort of let it go. Well what happens to a car like that can happen in a marriage if you just let it go. You know, it's been said that if you see a guy opening a car door for a woman, either one of two things are true. Either it's a new car or a new wife, one or the other. But you know we shouldn't lose those things. You know, when you first got married, you know, you're opening the door and you know if you accidentally stepped on, you know, her foot, "Oh, did I hurt your itsy-bitsy little foot? You know, I'm so sorry". And you know, now, "You're so clumsy! Get out of my way"! We lose the rush and blush of first love! And in reality you can't keep up all that excitement of first love.
So what has to happen is a more a satisfying love, of growing love, of fulfilling love in your life. And that's the greatest love of all; it's the love of God. Marriage is a lifetime achievement. Not just a romantic love. It's a real love! It's a radical, crazy love! Love is a devotion and a dedication, and, yes, a commitment to a lifetime. So in 1 Corinthians chapter 13, here is what love is and what love does. And I want you to look at it. If you've read this many times or you're reading this for the first time, I want to really encourage you to live here for a while, read it together as a couple, as a family, for it says: "If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. (Life minus love equals zero). If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing".
You can have religion and not have real love. For verse 4 tells us what love is. Again, watch the verbs. "Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth". And verse 7 is our focus on the message today on love lasting. All In love. "Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things". And verse 8 begins with these words: "Love never ends, love never fails". Now human love fails, and can fail, and does fail. I remind every couple of this when we prep them for marriage or even when we're performing a ceremony. I say: Human love fails, but the love of God never fails.
And the love that is talked about here in 1 Corinthians 13 is God's love. You may have heard in the past that there are different words for love in the Bible, in the New Testament in particular. There's the word eros which is erotic, that's sensual love or sexual love; physical love. And then there's the word philo which is, philo is brotherly love. Philadelphia, the city of brotherly love, philo. It's a social love. So there's a sensual, sexual love, there's social love. But the word that is used uniquely in the New Testament to describe love, in this case and many other instances is the word agape. Agape love is sacrificial love; it is sanctifying love; it is the love of God through Jesus Christ. That's agape love.
And really what you can do if you want to understand 1 Corinthians 13 is just substitute the name Jesus every time you see the word love. Just insert His name. "Jesus is kind. Jesus rejoices in the truth". And if you really want to get close to this passage, put your own name here, and ask yourself, "Am I fulfilling the love of God in my life? In my relationships? In my marriage? In our home"? You say, "Well that makes me feel really rough because I don't love like Jesus loves". Well, you can love like Jesus loves because the Holy Spirit, the risen presence of Jesus is in your life. Four things, very quickly:
Number one, love that lasts bears all things. The word bear here literally means to cover. It's a picture of a covering of support and security. The covering, a roof on a house, secures the house. Well, when those storms come, you're glad you've got a good roof on your house, even if it gets damaged, because it provides security for you and your family. And when storms come and seasons of storms come to your life and your marriage, and when you're under attack, if you will, love bears up. Loving relationships protect us when we're under attack. The love that lasts is a protective love. God's love is a protective love. Bears all things. When Jesus went to the cross, Isaiah the prophet said, "He has borne our griefs", same word, same idea, "carried our sorrows. He was wounded for our transgressions, bruised for our iniquities".
That's the love of God personified in Jesus. What Jesus did when He bore our sins and bore our sorrows and bore our suffering, our stripes on the cross. That's the idea, protective love. We were facing a storm of eternal judgment, and Jesus covered it all. Jesus bore our griefs, carried our sins so that we could be saved and secure in the midst of the storm. We were naked and ashamed and afraid, but He covered us and He has now cleansed us. And because we have been given such great love, this is the love of Christ, the "all in" agape love, it covers. Love does not exploit or expose or condemn. It bears all things. It doesn't participate in negativity and gossip and criticism. And that's why, men, if somebody criticizes your wife, you better be ready to defend her. Love covers!
Now I've been around some guys in the past who like to get around at the table and criticize their wives, talk bad about their marriage. No place for that, guys. I don't know what women talk about necessarily. But I've heard that sometimes women do the same thing, complaining about their husbands with their friends. Yap, yap, yapping about this, that and the other, and how bad things are at home. Not a good idea! That's a bad strategy for a successful marriage. Love covers, because, listen, every time you're chipping away at your mate in some way, you're chipping away at love. You're diminishing the love that you have for one another. You're not growing, you're shrinking the love. The primary emotional need for a woman, and I do know this, because it comes from God's Word, is security. 1 Peter 4:8 says: "And above all things have fervent love for one another, for love will cover a multitude of sins". Love covers! So cover one another. Say to your wife, "I got your back".
And then love believes all things. Love takes a positive, just read this passage, kind, respectful, responsible, helpful view towards people and problems. It is not suspicious; it is not cynical. Love believes the best about others. And certainly if your love is going to last you need to believe the best about the one you love. I know there's one person on earth, if there's nobody else on earth who believes in me, if no one else does, is Deb Graham because love believes all things. And I'm standing here today, preaching to you because I have a wife that believed in me, and prayed with me, and encouraged me, believing the calling of God; believed in her own heart about God's calling. Because I can tell you life is not easy, your job's not easy, my job is not always easy. But when we have one another we can believe and bear all things! Does it mean, believing all things, that Christians are gullible and foolish. No, love is discerning; it is wide-eyed.
You know, I say about, about first love, it's not just that first love that's exciting, but when you've been looking at each other all these years and you still love one another, that's real love! Keep believing in one another! Given a choice, if there's doubt about another person, love chooses to believe the best, always! And let me say, if you had no one on earth that believes in you, and maybe some of you feel that way. You just feel like, you know, nobody believes in me, God believes in you! And if want to know for sure, just look at the cross. We talk about our believing in God: well, God believes in you, and He will love you when nobody else will love you! So love believes all things. You know, some people have a predisposition to believe the worst about everything. And sometimes when we age, as we've gotten a little older and we've had some bad knocks and experiences; we've just seen a lot of things and we've seen people fail, you know what can happen to us? We can become suspicious and cynical and negative about everything and everyone.
That is a prescription for misery in your life. And that's not the love of God, is to always be suspicious. Some people love, you know, conspiracy theories. Always feeling like somebody's out to get me. Suspicious! Love is not suspicious! Love is not cynical! You take people at face value! You love them in spite of their imperfections! You say, "Jack, have you seen my wife lately"? Have you looked in the mirror lately, sir? Nobody's perfect. Maybe you've got a little older and you don't look the way you looked 30-40 years ago. Most of us don't. But again, real love is beyond the physical attraction. Now physical attraction remains, but the deeper love, the greater love is the love of the heart, the love of God. And that's what lasts. Believe in one another, encourage one another. That's the link between a marriage that dies or a marriage that lives. Faith.
Thirdly, "hopes all things". Love never looks back even when your faith in someone is shattered, and love is sick or shattered on the ground. Love continues to hope. Because let me tell you something, as long as God lives, as long as there is God's grace, no one is beyond redemption! And no marriage is beyond reconciliation! You can hope on! It's better than holding on. You take a view of the future and you live in hope! Love hangs tough and expects things to get better! I can't tell you how many couples I've talked to when everything seemed to be so bad, but they hoped on, they held on, they stayed positive and didn't give up! Jesus always provides hope!
So love that lasts "bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things" and finally, "endures all things". It's a military term, endure here, persevere. Means to hold your position at all cost. That's what a soldier does: defends the country, holds the position, holds a territory, advances the line. We are in a fight for our families. We are. But Christian love, God's people love with a love that lasts, that endures and perseveres, that never ever quits. It bears the unbearable, it believes the impossible, it expects and endures the unimaginable. This is worth noting: After love bears, it believes. And when belief is clouded in doubt, it hopes. And when hope seems to be gone, it endures.
Love never stops loving because love never fails. And that's the bottom line that we read of verse 8. Love never fails. It lasts. And it can last a lifetime for you and with you and in you and through you. We're going to be talking a lot about this kind of commitment. I do want to remind you that no matter, as I stated at the outset, no matter where you are in life, season in life and where you are in your marriage and family, it's never too late for a new beginning, for a new commitment of your life and your love in Jesus Christ. We know that sometimes humanly love fails. That's a fact of life. But love can be reborn. Love can be renewed. And why do we know that? Because Jesus said, "If anyone is in Christ, new creation, old things are passed away, everything becomes brand new". You can have a brand new life and a brand new love by the transforming power of Jesus Christ.