Love, the Forgotten Four Letter Word,
By Dr. Calvin Evans
Even the language coming from Washington is filled with four letter "expletives." I think this shows us the moral and spiritual sickness in America which is reaching every level of our society. This should concern and challenge every Christian.
Jesus said, when talking about the last days, "Because iniquity shall abound the love of many shall wax cold" (Matthew 24:12). It's important that we know what the word love really means from the Christian point of view. There are four letters in this word and these letters will form the outline of my message:
I think we can say the "L" stands for the law of love. I believe the law of love defines it. Someone has said that it's impossible to define love, that it cannot be explained. It can only be experienced and perhaps this is true.
Love means many things to different people. A young boy who had just fallen in love with his first girlfriend said, "Love is a tickle under the fifth rib." This is one kind of love but not what I'm talking about today.
I know a young couple who were married and six weeks later separated and divorced. When asked what happened, they replied, "We just don't love each other anymore." I'm glad God's love for us lasts longer than six weeks. God says in Jeremiah 31:3, "I have loved thee with an everlasting love." Someone has pointed out that if it were possible for us to travel back into the distant past, beyond the time when the first wave had ever beat against the beach, or the first leaf had ever fluttered in the breeze, beyond the time the first star had ever penciled its ray of light across the blackness of this universe, or the first angel had ever worshipped before the throne of God, we would be no nearer the beginning of God's love than we are this present hour.
If we could board the chariot of time and travel into the future beyond time when the moon turns black, the sun grows cold, and the stars fall from heaven, beyond that time when the works of men vanish, and the leaves of God's judgment book shall fall, we would be no nearer the end of God's love than we are at this very moment. Aren't you glad God's love never changes?
We also hear much today about "free love." Love is never free! Genuine love always cost something! "God so loved…He gave" (John 3:16).
God made man in His own image and placed him in Eden. When He did this, He gave man a law to live by. God warned man, that if this law was broken, he would surely die. Man soon broke this law and started down the wide road of destruction, despair, and death. From that moment on, God has always given man a law.
God through Moses, gave man a law to live by. This law said "thou shalt" and "thou shalt not" do thus and so. In our age, God no longer says, "thou shalt" and "thou shalt not," but he simply says, "If a man love me he will keep my words." Romans 13:10 tells us, "Love is the fulfilling of the law."
The law of love is the strongest law in this universe. Love is that motivating force which will cause us to walk uprightly before God. Jesus said, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. The second is like unto it, thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets" (Matthew 22:37-40).
The law of love is the balance-wheel of Christianity. Jeb Magruder, a young businessman from California, left his position several months ago to become a special assistant to the President of the United States. May 21, 1974, Jeb Magruder was sentenced to prison for his part in the Watergate affair. During an interview he was asked, "Why did you do it?" He replied, "Somewhere between my ambitions and my ideals, I lost my compass." The law of love is a compass which will give us a sense of direction in the way we should travel.
Robert Oppenheimer, one of the most brilliant minds of this century and the father of the hydrogen bomb, died a middle-aged man. He lived the last fifteen years of his life in seclusion. Before he died, he said to a friend, "I have no purpose in life, I have no scale of values." Thank God, the law of love gives us a scale of values upon which we can build our lives.
I believe the "O" could stand for the object of love. If the law of love defines it, then we could say the object of love confines it. Love must have an object. If God gave man the law of love to direct his path, then God must also give him an object of love to show him where that path will lead.
Many think of God as some unidentified object of educated vagueness. The Pantheist, for example, teaches that everything is God and God is everything. They say that God is the air, the trees, the rivers, and the flowers. If this were true, then we could love everything. But it is not true! God is a personal God and He is to be the object of our love.
The Bible teaches that we are to love God and hate the devil. We are to love good and hate evil; love sinners, but hate sin. Jesus says, "No man can serve two masters. For either he will hate the one, and love the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon" (Matthew 6:24).
A little girl once came to her mother and asked, "Mother, where is God?" The mother replied, "God is everywhere." But the little girl responded, "I don't want God to be everywhere. I want Him to be somewhere, and I want him to be someone." How sad is it that many think of God as some vague object whom we can never personally know and love.
Dr. Hyman Appleman tells the story of a wealthy couple who had only one child, a seven-year old daughter. Death took the child from them suddenly. The parents were grief stricken. As soon as the mother had recovered from her initial shock, her friends suggested that she adopt a child. She finally agreed and arrangements were made for her to interview an orphan girl about the same age as her own daughter. The mother asked to be alone with the little girl. She began to tell the frightened child that she and her husband would like for her to come and live with them. She said, "If you come and live with us, we are rich, and can give you everything you want. You will have a nursery, a pony, many dolls, along with many other things." The little girl stood there not saying a word. The appeal went on. Finally, the mother was ready to give up in defeat. Then, the little girl looked up in bewilderment and asked, "If I come and be your little girl, and you give me all these things, what do you want me to do?" The mother grabbed that little girl in her arms and said, "All we want you to do is just to love us."
If I know anything about Christianity, the thing God wants most from us, is for us to love Him. God sees man on the road of life with his sins, his frustration, his problems, and says, "If you'll come to me, I'll forgive your sins, cleanse your conscience, fight your battles, be your friend, and finally, give you a home in Heaven," Man looks up and says, "God, if you're going to do all this for me, what do I have to do?" God replies, "I just want you to love me."
God did not make us as a puppet on a string. But He gave us a mind with which we can know; a heart with which we can feel; and a will with which we can choose. God wants to be that number one object of our love.
We're not only to love God, but also love the brethren. The Bible tells us that one of the evidences of the new birth will be our love for one another. By the way, I believe in the new birth. We must be born again. If we are born again, we'll love the brethren. I John 3:14 says, "We know that we have passed from death unto life because we love the brethren." The theme of this convention has been Christian growth. However, there can be no Christian growth without a Christian birth. The reason some people never grow as Christians is because they have never been born again. The baby grows after birth. The sincerity of our love for God will always be reflected in our love for the brethren. "He that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God, whom he hath not seen" (I John 4:20)?
Not only are we to love God, and the brethren, but we are also to love the lost. Jesus teaches us that we are to love one another as He loved us. The world is hungry for a little bit of love. We need to tell the world that Jesus love them. Jesus had a love and compassion for the lost.
My ministry through radio and television brings me into contact with thousands of people. This makes me keenly aware that there must be millions in America who have no one to love them. Many have grown old. They are shut in. Their families are gone. If relatives are living, they no longer care. How I pray God will give us the vision and concern we need to try to reach these people and tell them somebody loves them.
If the law of love defines it, and the object of love confines it, I think we could say the virtue of love refines it.
I don't know much about refining. I do know, however, it is a process where you take out the impurities. In the thirteenth chapter of First Corinthians, Paul list many virtues of Christianity, but says the greatest is charity or love. Love is that virtue which lifts Christianity to its highest level of spiritual and moral excellence. Love will meet and conquer every test of life and lift us to a higher level of Christian maturity.
I shall never forget the time when I was saved. I knew I was in sin. I knew I was lost. I didn't know John 3:16 or anything else about the Bible. I didn't have anyone to tell me about the Roman Road but I knew I was lost and my life was a wreck. I came down an aisle and for three days and nights I wrestled with God. (I didn't have to I guess, at least they tell me I didn't have to- but I didn't know that then). I was sick of my life and hungering for something. Finally, when I ceased my struggling and reached up with my little hand of faith and took hold of the nail pierced hand of my Saviour, something happened. When I arose from the altar and looked at that choir, they looked like a convoy of angels God had sent from another world.
The next morning I took a walk up behind the plant where I worked at the time. The sun had never shone as it did that morning! The grass was never as green as it was that morning! The birds had never sung as they did that day! It was the same old world, just a different man.
Somebody said, "He'll never make it over the first weekend." But that has been over 21 years ago. And if I know my own heart, I'm closer to Heaven now than I've ever been in my life.
In this thirteenth chapter, Paul reminds us that it is possible to be a great preacher, a great theologian, a great humanitarian, or even a martyr, but without love, it will profit nothing.
If the law of love defines it, the object of love confines it, the virtue of love refines it, then the effect of love outshines it.
D. L. Moody once said, "If I can only convince a man I love him, I can win him."
Jesus did not say the world will know you are my disciples because of your greatness, your faith, your works, your name, your fame, or your social status. But Jesus said, "By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another. "(John 13:35).
Dr. Herschel Ford tells of a Baptist missionary by the name of Paul Bell, who was a missionary to the Mexicans. One day Paul Bell won an old Mexican woodcutter to Christ. He could not read or write, but he seemed to be gloriously saved. He said, "Brother Bell, I can't read or write. Will you teach me a verse of scripture and a stanza of a song so I can witness to my people?" Brother Bell taught him John 3:16 and a stanza of that song, "What A Friend We Have In Jesus."
The man promised to come back to church to be baptized. Three weeks passed and he didn't show up. But on the fourth Sunday he came and brought five others with him whom he had led to Christ.
The old Mexican woodcutter only lived two years after his conversion, but, during those two years, with only one verse of scripture and one stanza of a song, he won about fifty others to the Lord. Why? Because he loved his people and wanted to see them saved.
Please understand me clearly. I'm not placing a premium on ignorance. What I am saying is, that if we really love God, we can use the capacities and potentials we have and be effective in winning other to Christ. Let's not use our inadequacies and our lack of training as an excuse for not being a soul-winner.
One day knowledge will vanish away. One day prophecies shall cease. One day faith will turn into sight and hope will merge into reality, but love will shine on and on. Amen.
(Adapted from a message preached by Evangelist Calvin Evans at the National Convention of Free Will Baptist in Wichita, Kansas, July17, 1974).
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