Jack Graham - The Greatest Love of All
The title of this message is "The Greatest Love of All". So be finding in your Bibles Romans chapter 5 and we’re going to take a look in just a moment at verses 5 through 11. But on earth there’s no greater love than the love of a mother. On this Mother’s Day we celebrate that love. The love of a godly mother, who loved you before you were even born, and loves you still after you are born. I thought it would be a good thing maybe to bring up some great quotes about mothers as we get started today. Here’s one: "A mother’s love for her child is like nothing else in the world; it knows no law, no pity, it bears all things and crushes down remorselessly all that stands in its path".
If you don’t think that’s true, just get in front of a mama bear sometime. Here’s one: "Mother’s love is bliss, it’s peace. It need not be acquired; it need not be deserved. If it is there, it is like a blessing; if it is not there, it is as if all of the beauty is gone out of life". And here’s another: "No love in morality comes closer to approximating the pure love of Jesus Christ than the selfless love of a devoted mother for her child". Or this: "A mother’s love reaches far beyond circumstances and feeling; it sees past flaws and imperfections, and celebrates God’s gift of love sent from heaven in the form of a child". Here’s one more: "The mother’s love is like God’s love; He loves us not because we are loveable but because it is His nature to love and because we are His children".
And with mother love, we have a greater love and that is the love of God through Jesus Christ. And this love is an eternal and expansive, excusive, extravagant love. The love of God through Jesus Christ our Lord, this is our message to the world. It's our message to you. Not a message, but the love of God, the love of Christ is the message! It's the story of the Bible. God's Word, the Bible, is a love story. It's the story of God's great love for you in redeeming us, and "redeeming love will be our theme and will be until we die". And this Gospel that is so needed in the world today. And what is this good news? This good news that in spite of our sin, in spite of our rebellion, God loves you; God loves each one of us. And it is our opportunity and it is our obligation in our generation to make sure that this message of the love of Jesus gets to the world.
This is the mission of the church, and oh how the world, our world, our nation, of all things and above all things needs the message of the love of God! It's the one thing, this message, that will change the world. And that love, the sweet love of God in Jesus Christ is our message. People need to know, you need to know that the gift of God's love is available and ready for your response.
So in the fifth verse of Romans chapter 5, "hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. For while we were still weak, at the right time (or just in time) Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die but God", key verse in all the Bible right here; mark it, underscore it, circle it, "but God shows (demonstrates) his love for us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified (that is, saved) by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, that we will be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God (we exalt, we explode with praise to God) through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we now have received this reconciliation".
The greatest love of all is the love that "while we were yet sinner, Christ died for us". While we were helpless and powerless and could not overcome the power of Satan, the power of sin, the power of death; we were helpless, unable to escape the wrath and the judgment that comes upon sin. That God sent His only Son, Jesus Christ to die on the cross for His enemies! All unworthy of His love! All unable to save ourselves. The love of God! Now the truth is, of course, that the love of God can raise questions, especially for skeptics, who want to know if God is a God of love how can a loving God send someone to hell? Or if God is love, how could a loving God allow sin and suffering and sorrow and disease and death? And if God is loving, people want to know, why are there tragedies and natural disasters and holocausts and tsunamis and hunger and suffering? If God is love, why does He allow evil to even exist?
These are hard questions. And those of us who are believers and followers of the Lord Jesus Christ, we admit they're not easy to answer. But God has given us an answer in the midst of all of this. Skeptics may wonder at these hard-to-answer questions, but the fact is, God has proven His love above all things we know in the midst of sin and suffering and tragedy and all the rest, in the prospect of judgment and hell, we know that God has provided a solution. God showed us His love in that He died on the cross for us. And this love, the Bible says in John chapter 4, verse 4 that God is love. Just as it is the nature of a mom, a mother to love a child, it is the very nature and heart of God, to love. But that love is not soft; it is not sentimental; it is a holy love! It is the love that He gives in the face of judgment.
And this is why we say that this love is inexhaustible and incomprehensible, and indescribable, and, yes, it is indestructible. God says, "I've loved you with an everlasting love". In verse 8 of Romans 5, says: "God demonstrates (or shows) His love towards us", it’s in the present-active tense, meaning that His love shows up every single day in our lives in multiple ways. He never stops loving us! God’s love, according to verse 5 of chapter 5 of Romans, is poured out into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, the agent of God’s love in the believer’s life is the Holy Spirit who resides in us. Jesus spoke of the Holy Spirit, and He said, "When you believe in Me, out of your innermost being shall flow rivers of living water". And this is what the Scripture is saying here: that the love of God, like a river is gushing. It's not as though God has put a few drops of His love in our hearts, but the word here, the idea here is He has poured out His love.
Look at it again, verse 5: "that He has poured out His love". He has lavished us with this great love. Not just a little bit, but all of it! And the Holy Spirit bears witness with our spirit that we are the children of God. The Holy Spirit is the one who convinces us deep within that we are loved like this: lavishly, abundantly. You see, love is not something that is to be abstract or theoretical, or even just theological, though there's great theological truth to the love of God. But that's not it alone. The Holy Spirit makes this love real to us! We experience His love. This love engulfs us, and that's the love of God. You know, the love of God is so difficult to comprehend and to understand, isn't it? I believe it with all my heart. I celebrate the love of God; I believe the love of God, but it is beyond me. It's beyond any of us that God would love us.
I was reading, I am reading a book written by Don Wilton who is a good friend of mine; he's pastor of First Baptist Church of Spartanburg, South Carolina. And Don had the wonderful privilege of being Billy Graham's pastor for the last 10 or 12 years of Dr. Graham's life. And he would go drive a couple a hundred miles every Saturday to be with Billy, and they would just talk life and Scripture and pray and spend the day together, eat hot dogs. It's a wonderful book; it's called Saturdays with Billy. And as I was reading one of the chapters, he was talking about how Billy Graham, and I hope the next generation doesn't forget about who Billy Graham was and is. Great evangelist, preached to more people than anyone in the history of the world. But Billy would just, they were talking about the great hymn "Amazing Grace", and John Newton said "Amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a (what?) a wretched like me".
The problem is so many of us don't consider ourselves a wretch. But Billy Graham did! He was always amazed by the grace of God, according to Wilton; that God would save a wretch like Billy Graham. And I'm thinking as I'm reading that, "Well, if Billy Graham is wretch, were does that leave me and you"? No, the Bible says that "We've all sinned and come short of the glory of God". That's Romans 3:23. And that His death on the cross, "God demonstrated, God showed His love for us, that while we were yet sinners (wretched and lost) Christ died for us". Jesus took our place on the cross. There's a word in the middle of verse 8, a little word, "for". "God demonstrated His love for us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us". And it's the Greek word huper, H-U-P-E-R. And it means "in your place".
He was our substitute. It is as though God took our sin, in reality He took our sins and He became what we were in order that we might become who He is. That's the substitutionary atonement; the death of Jesus Christ is not a mere martyrdom or murder; it was not the heroic efforts of a cause or a king but rather God in Christ reconciling the world to Himself. Why? Because He loved each one of us. Jesus loves me in spite of what I am. And here's the thing: though I was unlovely and ungodly, powerless and helpless to save myself, He died for me. That's a simple illustration that the Apostle Paul gives us here when he says, "You know, it's rare, every now and then someone might die for a good person! But who dies, who gives their life for an evil person"? Of course, we have soldiers and law enforcement, others who are willing to risk their lives every day for people they don't even know.
Jesus said, "Greater love has no man than this, but a man would lay down his life for his friends". It's the greatest love of all. And thank God for those who risk their lives every day to serve and to protect us. But he says, much this, God's love for you, God's love for me. The fact is that God loved us before time began. "O the love that drew salvation's plan; O the love that brought it down to man". Before the beginning of time God loved you and you and you and you, each of you. And if you ever doubt the love of God, just go to the cross and there it’s written in red. Paul speaks here of the blood of Christ. With drops of blood, His signature written in red is this love message to you. God loves you before you were born. God loved you in your mother’s womb!
In Job chapter 10, and verse 10, and this is from The Message translation, a paraphrase. Look at these words on the screen: "Oh, the marvel of conception", again, this is Scripture in The Message version "Oh, the marvel of conception... What a miracle of skin and bone... You gave me life itself, and incredible love. You watched and guarded every breath I took". What incredible love! God loves you; He always has, He always will. He loved you before time began; He loved you before you were born and He loves you as time will never end. At the Prestonwood Pregnancy Center where we are saving babies every day, one of our most effective testimonies and tools, if you will, is the ultrasound.
There was a time when a mother could come into our center or perhaps to a doctor's office, and hear the heartbeat of a baby, and that, of course, was the sign of life within the womb. But then a game changer! The ultrasound! And now even 3-D ultrasound. Through the miracle of this technology, you can look into the mother's womb and at the earliest of days and weeks to see a baby being formed. And we have discovered at our pregnancy center, over 73,000 babies have been born in the last 25 years as a result of this ministry and yes, we praise God for that. But what Leanne Jamieson and those who serve in this great ministry are telling us that what changed everything and changes everything is when a mother sees her baby. No longer a blob of tissue or a problem to be solved, but a living, breathing baby that God is forming in the womb, fashioning. And what does the Scripture say? In love.
This is why we believe so deeply in the sanctity of life from the, we say from the womb to the tomb. But it's even before the womb and after the tomb! This love of God. You love the child way before your child is born. If you have been a mother or have you received a child, perhaps through adoption, God gave you moms a special love for a child. No one loves a baby like a mom! Over the years I've held newborns from time to time, or visited a hospital to see the newborn. And sometimes you look at a newborn and you go "oop"! They're not always beautiful, except to the mom. A mom's baby is a precious gift from God. And just as you love your child, God loves you before you were born, and He demonstrates that love every single day by His cross and by His blood.
And one last thing, I have way, way too little time to really do this text justice. But one more thing. We're told in verse 10 that: "We are saved by his life", we are saved by His death, His cross, His blood, but when it says "saved by His life", what do you think that means? That's the resurrection! We often speak of the cross and the death of Christ, and His love shown at the cross, but without His life, without His resurrection, the cross has no meaning, no eternal meaning.
I was just seeing this week that there's a great book of theology written by a Princeton theologian by the name of Charles Hodge. And it's a Systematic Theology; it's a thing that students and seminary students often read. Systematic Theology, all the theology of the Bible in a compilation, doctrine, truth. And in Charles Hodge's great Systematic Theology there are 127 pages about the cross, and all good, of course. And yet only 40 pages about the resurrection! And when I saw that, I thought, we talk too little of the resurrection. We speak often of His blood, but we are saved because there is life in the blood! And here is salvation, and we're rounding third, coming home, so stay with me. When we sinned and broke God's commandments, we were born in this condition. We are born without God and out of relations with God.
God loves us but God loves us not because we're valuable but we're valuable because God loves us. And yet we are void. There's a spiritual vacuum. There's an emptiness because when man sinned against God in the Garden of Eden, God moved out! We are, as the Scripture says here, "godless," without God. And therefore, without hope. And that emptiness that people feel, that loneliness that people have, that's the emptiness; that's the void of God.
So what is salvation? Are you listening? Salvation is not getting man out of earth and into heaven. That’s the by-product of salvation. Salvation is getting God out of heaven and into us! So salvation is getting God into your life! It is receiving the gift of His love, and therefore, the Holy Spirit pours out this love in your life, and it becomes real. Again, not a soft love, not a sentimental love, but a Holy love, and it is the love of Christ that is in His death and in the power of His resurrection that gives us life! "He that has the Son, has life". So the life of God is now in us! We are saved by His life! And it is the living Redeemer, Jesus Christ that will give you the gift of His eternal love if you will receive it today.