Jack Graham - All You Need is Love
Romans 12 is our text. One by one we're taking each verse, each word almost, and talking about what it means to be all in. It begins with that all in at the altar when we become living sacrifices, laying our lives down in surrender and service to our Lord. Our minds being transformed by the power of God's love and God's truth and God's Word, the Holy Spirit. And then beginning at verse 9 of chapter 12 there is a list. And one by one, verse by verse he talks about what it means, what it looks like to live an "all in" life, an authentic life for the Lord Jesus Christ. And it all begins with love. So with all due respects to Paul and John, not the apostles, but the Beatles, I'm calling this message "All You Need is Love". It's true. Love is the answer. And this definition if you will, demonstration of the love of Christ in us is clear, and we are called and commanded as believers to live lives of love.
Jesus told us that in the last days that the iniquity and the immorality of the world would increase, and the love of many would grow cold. And we're seeing that in our own generation, the lack of love; as iniquity increases, love decreases. And so we need more love, the love of God in our lives. And the answer to the problems we face personally in our homes, our families, our marriages, of course, is love. But what kind of love? What is real love? Because the world gets it wrong for the most part. We have all kinds of definitions and songs about love, and it generally romanticizes love. And love is a wonderful things. Love's a many splendored thing, and on and on we could go. But what is real love? What is the duty of every Christian to live in love?
That's what we're going to talk about today. All you need is love. Verse 9 says: "Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor". Jesus told us that the first and greatest command is to love. In summing up the Ten Commandments He said, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, your mind, your soul, your strength. And the second (wrapping it up he said) is like it, love your neighbor as you love yourself". It's all about the love. And yet so many don't understand how to live this love out. So here we discover how. Not just what love is, but how love is worked out through our lives.
So what is love? Real love is true and trustworthy. That's why it says, "Let love be sincere" or "Let love be genuine". Why? Because there's a lot of phony and fake love. We see lust rather than love in our generation. So there is a difference between pretending to love and actually loving. The word that he uses here, in fact in the old King James it's a word we don't use very much. Love does not dissimulate, which means love is not hypocritical. In the ancient world the actors would perform with masks, various characters, a variety of characters. Same actor, different masks. And so Jesus and New Testament Christians took that word to wear a mask to describe hypocrisy, when we're just acting and show-boating rather than truly living and loving! He said, "Don't love wearing a mask to put on a show, but let love be genuine".
So this love is a sincere, authentic love, not pretentious, not manipulative, not shallow, not superficial, but sincere. I like the way Phillips paraphrases these words: "Let us have no imitation Christian love". The biggest turn-off of all is hypocritical love, when Christians say they love but do not love. I was in New York City several years ago and I was walking down the street and I saw a big sign in a display that said "genuine imitation watches". We don't need genuine imitation believers; we need real believers and real love. The believer's love is a command. It is a Christian duty to love. Not a feeling or an emotion because we don't always feel like loving, we don't always feel like acting in love, but rather we are to choose by faith to love and the love that comes from God enables us to love as God loves.
Love is genuine. Judas betrayed Jesus in the garden before His crucifixion with a kiss. That's hypocritical love. That's pretending to be something that you are not. Betrayed Him with a kiss. And I wonder how often we as Christians betray our Lord with a kiss and a phony love that's not real. Not only was this love sincere but this love is a sacrificial love. The word that the Holy Spirit uses to describe this kind of love is agape love, A-G-A-P-E, agape love. It's a Greek word which is descriptive of a new kind of love, the love of God! It's a uniquely Christian word. It's the kind of love that the world doesn't understand or cannot comprehend. The world understands erotic love; the world understands the love of family and friends; but it is the agape love, the love of God, the love of Christ.
If you want to know what agape is then look at the cross because that is the sacrificial love of God demonstrated at the cross. And Jesus said in the upper room in John chapter 13 "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another as I have loved you, you also are to love one another". What's new about the love of God? What's new about this kind of love? It is as Christ has loved us, the way God has loved us. It is the wonder of this love. Though we were undeserving and unlovable, Christ gave His life for us. He said, "This is the love with which I'm leaving you. It's my legacy of love. You love one another as I have loved you". God loves us not because we deserve it, but because we need it! God loves you not because you deserve His love but because you need His love!
In the upper room Jesus stripped down from His outer garments and he took up a basin of water and a towel, and He washed the filthy feet of those fishermen. He washed their feet to demonstrate that He is the suffering and sacrificial servant, and this is what love does. Love may or may not feel from time to time, but love always acts. Real love is giving people what they need. It's willing to get down and dirty if necessary. And it fulfills the highest love of all, the loyal love of God. Jesus often spoke of this love and He told stories about how to love. He spoke of a certain man who went down to Jericho, and on his way down to Jericho he was beaten by thieves and robbers. They beat him within an inch of his life, took his money and left him to die.
Jesus said along came a religious crowd; several of them walked by on the side. Didn't want to get their hands dirty. Didn't want to get involved; they walked by. And then Jesus said a certain Samaritan, Samaritan's were hated among many of the Jews in that day. And yet He said a certain Samaritan, we call him the Good Samaritan. Jesus never called him the Good Samaritan. He said a certain Samaritan. He was only doing the good that everyone is called upon to do when we see someone in need. He got down off of his horse and he reached out to man and he ministered to him, and he gave him medicine and poured oil and wine into his wounds. And he got him up and he paid for his stay at a hostel so he could recover.
There are people in life who will beat you up and plenty of people are beaten up in our generation. I see it all the time. Some of you have been beaten up and left for dead on the side of the road. Abused, hurt in many different ways, physically, emotionally and otherwise. And you are left for dead. And you wonder does anybody care? Does God care? Does the church care? And often Christians do pass by on the other side. Because you see, there are those who will beat you up and then there are others who will pass you up! Walk by and never reach out, never serve. They're all into themselves! Not all into love. But then there are those who will pick you up. I actually believe the certain Samaritan here is Jesus. He's the one who will pick you up when no one else will. He's the one who will save you and deliver you when you are left for dead! But the love of Jesus is in us!
Let it be said of you, that a certain Christian came by and picked me up! The mark of a Christian disciple is a godly genuine love for people. The Apostle John was not always known as the apostle of love as he became known later in his life. He was the son of thunder, apparently known for his temper and competitiveness; he was known to explode in anger. But time well spent with Jesus those three years turned his temperament around, and tendered him up. And he at the Last Supper when he was reclining, he put his head over on the chest of Jesus. You know, the Lord's Supper, the painting da Vinci, I mean, it's a nice painting but that's not the way it happened. You know they weren't sitting at the table and said, "Everyone say cheese. Pose". No, they were reclining around a Middle Eastern table and a low table, and so the passing of that the food and the drink.
And so John was very close to Jesus. John described himself as the disciple whom Jesus loved. I've always wondered why John said that, describing himself as the disciple that Jesus loved, because we know that Jesus loves everyone. He loved Peter and Thaddeus and James the Less, and Andrew just as much as He loved John! But John was so overwhelmed by the love of God. You know when you love someone and you feel like you're the only one? That was John. He felt so loved that he put his chest over near the heart or his head, rather, near the heart of Jesus. And it's always astounded me to think that John heard the heartbeat of God! God's heart throbbing, beating for the world, about to explode in love for the world.
John heard that. Followed Jesus all the way to the cross. And he saw Jesus die in agony and blood, and yes, with love. You know it was not the nails that kept Jesus on that cross, but His love. He could have called ten thousand angels to deliver Him, but He bled and He died for you, for me. Love fastened Jesus to that cross. "God demonstrated His love toward us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us". John saw that; it changed his life. He became the apostle of love. And in 1 John chapter 3, verse 14, here's what John later said. He said, "We know that we have passed out of death into life because we love the brothers". You want to know the mark of a Christian? You want to know that you're saved? Here's how "because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death".
Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him. By this we know love, that he laid down His life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. But if anyone has the world's goods and see his brother in need yet closes his heart against him, how does God's love abide in him? "Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and truth". That's love with sincerity. That's love without hypocrisy. That's real love. It is true and always true. Paul would say in 1 Corinthians 13, you can speak like the angels, you can sing like the angels, you can prophesy like a prophet but if you don't have love you're nothing. It's nothing. Life minus love is zero! Love! All you need is love. It's sincere, it is sacrificial; agape is also steadfast and strong.
1 Peter 4:8: "Love fervently or love earnestly". He says, "Above all love earnestly". And it's the word here, I love the picture because it's a love that means to stretch a muscle. The love of God, the love of Jesus Christ is a stretched out love! It's a strong, muscular, robust love that reaches out to people and does whatever is necessary, what is needed to demonstrate the love of Jesus. We're to love people unreservedly and unconditionally, Jesus said, "as I have loved you". You say, "How do you love like that? Impossible"? But Romans 5:5 says, "The love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit". "The fruit of the Spirit is love". A lot of people get excited about spiritual gifts, but the sign of a spirit filled life is not a spiritual gift; the sign of a spirit filled life is spiritual fruit, and the fruit of the Spirit is love.
Secondly, love is tenacious. Love is tough. Because the second part of verse 9 says, in contrast: "Hate what is evil and cling to what is good". Love is tough and tenacious in the sense that while we are to love unconditionally and unreservedly people, yet we are to hate and despise what is evil, and never endorse what is wrong. It's a thin line we walk. But love is discerning, you see. And the reason that we're counseled here, commanded here to hate what is evil is because evil will destroy love! Sin destroys love! I've seen it over and over again. How evil and sinful behavior destroys the love of a husband and wife, destroys the love of family, destroys the love of a church, destroys the love of a community, destroys the love of a nation!
Hate what is evil, because God does. God is perfect and pure love, and yet He is "of purer eyes than to behold (to even look at) evil," according to the prophet Habakkuk. The Bible says that we are to abstain from every form of evil, which literally means don't even allow a hint of evil in your life! Not a hint, not a scent of it as a believer! Not playing around with sin. We are to despise it! And yet, how many of us are entertained by sin? We use media of all kinds that is celebrating sin and evil behavior, and we applaud or we cheer or we just quietly watch it, knowing that it's eating away at our souls. God says, No! That will kill you! It will destroy your testimony and everything that is good. Hate every kind of evil because hate is the only response to that which would destroy love.
Billy Graham was quoted as saying this: "Our society strives to avoid any possibility of offending anyone except God". And it's true. There is sin; there is evil, and we're never to endorse it. And we should confront it in our own lives first. Jesus said, "Before you get the speck out of your brother's eye get the plank out of your own eye". So we should confront evil and sin and sinful behavior in our own life! We should hate, hate, hate it! If you are saved you will hate evil and you will love good. The Bible says in Psalm 97:10, "O, you that love the Lord, hate evil".
Proverbs 8:13 says the same thing, "The fear of the Lord is the hatred of evil". Now it doesn't say hate people who are evil. We're to love people; we're to even love our enemy. Again, I'll quote Billy Graham. Here's what he said. I posted it this week. "It is the Holy Spirit's job to convict, God's job to judge and my job to love". We hate evil; we love people.
Thirdly, and quickly, real love is not only tough, tenacious and true, it is also tender. So verse 10 says that we're to love one another with a brotherly love. He's talking here about our response to one another as a band of believers, brothers and sisters in Christ. He's talking to the church because you see the church, we, the people of God. It is not an organization to join like you would join a club, but it is a family to share. We are blood bought and heaven bound together. We are born again by the Spirit and into the body of Christ - God's church.
And so we have this spiritual connection and we are to love one another as brothers. It's a different word than agape. It's phileo, it means the love of friends, the love of family. And we're to love one another like that. I've been seeing so much in the news today and recently regarding the political and cultural and racial divide in our country. It's heart-breaking, truly. Even articles describing how some people don't want to go to church with other people, because they have political differences. Or maybe even the skin color sets people apart. And I wonder what is the answer to the racial problem in America. And we've come a ways, but we're not there yet.
I know this, in heaven there will be no racial divide. People from every kindred, every tongue, every language, every nation will be there celebrating Jesus together. And I want to taste heaven this side as well! What color is God's skin? The old song said. Is it black, brown, yellow; is it red, is it white? No! Every man is the same in the good Lord's sight! The only color that God sees is the red of His Son's blood! And we, regardless of our racial background or our ethnicity, are brothers and sisters in Christ, and that's the only thing that's going to heal the racial divide in America! The love of Jesus Christ! That's the only answer I know! And that means we've got to show this love because God gives it, but we mush show it, and go out of our way to love people unconditionally.
And one final thing, real love is not only true and tenacious and tough and tender, brotherly love, but it is thoughtful. Now, you're going to like this cause I love this right here. It says, "Outdo one another in giving honor". Outdo, it's a competitive word. Now, I'm fairly competitive. In fact some people would say I'm too competitive, and I try to chill that down a little bit. But here is a case that you can't be too competitive. It's actually a word which means compete to outdo one another in love, and showing honor and serving. It means prefer one another, put others first and not yourself.
And in this "me-ism", selfie generation how appropriate is it for the church of the Lord Jesus to love like this? There's so much disrespect in our culture! He says, to honor one another, outdo each other in showing love. All you need is love! Love that is true, sincere! Not phony, not hypocritical, not dishonest, not just a clanging cymbal, but real! Love that is tough and tenacious, that hates evil but holds on to what is good. Love that is tender with brotherly affection. Love that is thoughtful. You say, "You go first". It focuses on others and not ourselves. Amen?