Be My Valentine

Bible Book: 1 Corinthians  13
Subject: Love
Introduction

I read some years ago the story of a man named Valentine. I don’t know if the story is true and I don’t know where I read it, but it is interesting nonetheless.

It was said that a man named Valentine helped Christians during persecution in Rome and he was imprisoned because of it. In prison Valentine himself became a Christian. For this he was clubbed to death on February 14, 269 A.D., but before his death he sent messages to Christian friends which always closed with, "Remember your Valentine,” and, “I love you.” If that story is true, Valentine's Day actually began over 1700 years ago.

Certainly we need more expressions of love in this world today. We live in such a selfish age, where so many people, acting in self-interest, take advantage of others. There was a man who advertised a truck for sale at the price of $22,000. It appeared in the newspaper like an incredible price for such a truck, so a farmer drove down to the dealership and asked to see it. It was very plain, with no frills or extras of any kind. The buyer asked how much it would cost to add a few accouterments to make it more acceptable. By the time a few items were added, the truck price had risen to over $40,000. The man bought the truck, and in the process of finishing up the paperwork, he mentioned to the salesman that he owned a farm. The salesman said that he, in fact, was looking to buy a bull. When the farmer told him that he had bulls for sale at only $1,500.00, the salesman agreed to drive out to the farm and look them over. Two weeks later the seller of the truck drove out to the farm and asked to see one of the bulls. The salesman pointed to a bull and said, “I’ll take that one.” The farmer said, “Great, that will be $3,950.00.” The salesman was shocked. He said, “I thought you said the bulls were just $1,500.00.” The farmer said, “Oh, sure, but that is for a basic cow. The one you pointed to had 2 horns, special two-tone coloring, and real leather upholstery, and that makes it much more expensive!”

Sometimes what goes around comes around, or to paraphrase Jesus, “Be care how you treat people because God will see to it that you are treated the same way in return."

It would be a great world if everyone lived by the Golden Rule and expressed the love of God in all they did, but sadly that doesn't’t even happen between people in the home, and isn't shown between Christians in the church all the time either. It is important for us to remember how crucial it is for us to act in ways that show divine love, Biblical love – Jesus’ love.

Today we are going to look at the subject of love as expressed in 1 Corinthians 13. As you know, 1 Corinthians was originally written in the Greek language. The word "love" used in this passage appears in the Greek text and is a specific and special word. Unlike us, the Greeks had several words for love and each word had its own special meaning and use.

One word the Greeks used for love is the word, “storge'.” - (pronounced as store-gay). This word was used to indicate the type of love that a mother has for her child, or a brother has for his sister. This love goes very deep and is inherent in normal human beings. Let me give you an example. A little girl who was acting rudely was told by her mother to go to her room. The girl was so angry that she wrote a note to her mother that read, “Dear mother, I hate you! Love, Sarah." The love we have for family runs very deep and in normal people it is intrinsic.

Another word for love used by the Greeks is the word, “philia" (pronounced as fill-e-uh). This word speaks of the warmth you have for someone you have known for a long time, or someone with whom you have mutual likes and dislikes. It speaks of love between good friends. The word is included in the name of a great American city, Philadelphia. The word “phila” speaks of friendship and the word “adelphia” speaks of brothers. Thus, Philadelphia is known as the city of brotherly love.

Yet another word the Greeks used is the word “eros” (pronounced as err-ahs). This speaks of fleshly Love and we get our word “erotic” from it. This word is often associated with sex, food and worldly comfort.

But, the word used in our text today is another Greek word. Paul used the word “agape” (pronounced ah-gop-eh) when he penned this passage. This word speaks of a love beyond family, friends, or flesh. This word speaks of God’s kind of love. This is a love emanating from the will and not just from feelings! God loved us, for example, even when we were unlovely – He loved us in that while we were sinners Christ died for us! Paul is using this word to describe how we are to love each other - with the same love that God has for us.

The first three types of love I mentioned can be experienced purely on an human level, but not the fourth. That is the reason for a twisted and distorted view of love in contemporary society. Unless we have a relationship with God through Christ, we cannot love the way God loves. Even those who are Christians can fail to show this love in the proper manner. We must be committed to the Lord, and submissive to Him completely, if we expect to love one another as He loves us. We need to understand and learn to express God’s love – agape' love – in our daily lives. To better understand this subject, let us look at the great love chapter, found in I Corinthians, chapter 13.

I.The NECESSITY of Agape Love

Note the word "nothing" in this passage. All our abilities are like zeros on a check. If I gave you a check with 6 zeros on it, you would not get very excited. However, if I gave you check with 6 zeros on it and placed the numeral ‘one’ at the front of it, that would create quite a different reaction from you. If I put a "1" at the front of it, you would have a check for a million dollars. Of course if I gave it to you it would be worthless, but you get my point! Paul called God’s kind of love priceless. Our love without God’s love can be worthless, but with God’s love filling and moving us it will be something of incredible value.

A. Requires Divine Nature

This love is only possible through the Lord. We do not possess in our natures the kind of love mentioned here. Without this love we will never arrive at the fullest meaning of life and it cannot be obtained from anyone but the Lord.

There is the story of a man crawling across the desert near death for lack of water. He met a man who offered him a new necktie, but he turned it down. A few minutes later he came upon a restaurant. “At last,” he said, “a place to get water.” But, he couldn't’t get into the restaurant because they required all men to wear a necktie!

You will never “get into” the deeper meaning of life without God’s love in you and through you. Sadly, many people scoff at God’s love because they are looking for something else, and they don't realize that they cannot get “into” what really matters most without God’s love inside their hearts and lives!

B. Renewing the Divine Nature

It is possible to leave your first love - the church at Ephesus did (Revelation 3). We must walk in love! There are times in our lives as Christians that we need to come back to God and renew our love for Him and ask Him to renew His love toward others through us.

Some of you may have heard of the great evangelist Gypsy Smith. He live a long time ago and many today do not recognize his name. He was a great preacher and won many people to Christ in his crusade meetings. A man who was a phrenologist came to Gypsy Smith and told him that he wanted to feel of his head in order to understand the great power Smith had when he preached. As you may know, a phrenologist is someone who believes that you can know much about a person by feeling of the outline of a person’s head. Gypsy Smith said, “No, you can’t feel the power I have by feeling of my head, feel my heart instead!” Gypsy Smith was saying that the power he had lay in the fact that the love of God was resident and evident in his heart.

Oh, that today we might have God’s love powerfully displayed in our lives!

II. The NATURE Of Agape Love

D.L. Moody said, "Many Christians talk cream but live skim milk". The verses before us today serve to reveal to us if we are really expressing the love of God in our lives.

A. Patient

God’s love is patient. Just think of what would happen to you if God were not patient with you. God tells us that we are to practice patience with others the same way He practices patience with us. Agape' love is patient and kind.

B. Prideless

God’s love shows no pride. Jesus spoke much about pride, and the parable he shared about two men who went up to the Temple to pray is a good example. Jesus said that one man prayed in pride, rehearsing how good he was. The other man fell down on his knees and prayed, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!” Jesus asked which man his audience thought left the Temple justified. The answer is evident. The humble man most certainly was acting in accordance with a heart that was not filled with selfishness and pride. The Bible reminds us that God keeps the proud far from Him. If we act in His love, we will not act in pride.

C. Peaceful

God’s love produces peace. His love does not incite anger and arguments. Most disagreements turn into enmity because people love their opinions more than they love the person they disagree with. God's love brings peace and harmony between husbands and wives, friends and neighbors and between church members sitting in different pews.

D. Pure

God’s love is pure. He does not use his affection for selfish reasons. It is easy for us to love those who meet all our expectations, or are useful to us. It is another thing to love others because God is reigning in our hearts and minds.

E. Persistent

God’s love perseveres. God doesn't’t stop loving us, and He clearly said that He will never leave us nor forsake us. If we love the way God loves, we will not allow personal feelings to create barriers between ourselves and others.

Now, just thinking about the examples that Paul mentioned in this text challenges every one of us to recommit our lives to Christ. We can’t love like this on our own. It is impossible for us to do it. We must have Jesus reigning in our hearts and pouring His love in us and through us.

III. The NOBILITY Of Agape Love

There is a sense of nobility in acting in agape' love toward people who don’t necessarily love you or treat you properly. When Abraham Lincoln was shot, Stanton stood over his body with tears streaming from his eyes and said, "Gentlemen, here lies the greatest ruler that ever lived among men."  Love won the day - it always will. Let me explain this a bit more.

When Abraham Lincoln was president, there was one man who could not stand him and his name was Stanton. Stanton called Lincoln that "great ape." Stanton said that it was unnecessary to go to Africa to study the apes when America had a perfect example right there in the White House in the person of Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln was told of this, however, when he had to choose a Secretary of War, Lincoln chose Stanton. When asked why he would choose a man who had treated him so badly, Lincoln replied, “I chose him because he is the best man for the job and for the union of the nation.” When we act toward others with God’s love moving in and through us it produces a nobility and greatness. As Lincoln died, Stanton recognized the greatness of the man because of the way Lincoln had shown love.

A. This Love does not Fade

God's love, agape' love, does not fade with time. We are to possess a love for God and others that is new each day. When I was living in South Carolina, and pastoring a church there in the 1970s, there was a family who invited us to their home from time to time to eat and have fellowship. One day the husband and father in the home opened the cabinet and asked his wife, "Why do have nine boxes of vanilla wafers?" His wife responded, "Well, our son loved them and I bought a box every week. It was a few weeks before I noticed that he wasn't eating them anymore. When I asked him why, he said, 'I turned on 'em.'"

Here was a young man who craved and loved vanilla wafers. Then, one day, he just didn't want them anymore. He "turned on 'em." In other words, his love for vanilla wafers faded.

When it comes to loving God and others, we must never let our love fade! It's okay to love vanilla wafers and then lose your desire for them, but it is quite another thing to stop loving one another. God does not love us because we are 'lovable' but because He is Love. You and I have to love God's way - which means we act in love because it reflects His nature and that means our love will not fade over time.

B. This love does not Fail

Real love never fails. A mother will face down a mountain lion with nothing but a frying pan to save her child. She has a love that will not fail. We need that kind of love for each other and for those who do not know Jesus as their Savior.

As servants of God, we can sometimes be hesitant to serve or to witness because we are afraid of failure. Listen, if you love God and serve Him out of love, your effort will never fail! God will see that it does not fail! If you are serving to gain attention to yourself, failure is a real possibility. If you are serving just to gain some monetary success, failure is possible. But, when you serve out of love, you cannot fail. Love never fails.

Think of a mother facing down a mountain lion at a camp ground. The lion approaches and all she can find to defend her child is a nearby frying pan. The lion attacks and she does her best to protect the child. In the end, she and the child die in the attack. Now, I ask you, did she fail? NO! A thousand times, NO! Her love caused her to do what was right, noble and good. She did what she could, with what she had, for the right reason. Real love never fails.

Serve God in love. Serve others in love. Always act in love. No matter what the world thinks of you. No matter if you gain awards from men, when you act in agape love you are always a winner.

Let's think of that mother and child at the campground once again. Let's imagine that the mountain lion attacks and the mother runs for her life and yells for her child to run. The lion overtakes the child and kills the child. The mother escapes. In this scenario, one life was saved. Wouldn't that be a better outcome? Actually, no! In our minds we know that it was not right to run away and leave the child to fend for himself. Love would rather die doing right than live doing wrong. It was that kind of love that led Jesus up Calvary's hill to die for us. The nails did not hold Him on the Cross, love did!!! He did not fail. He came to the moment of death and cried, "It is finished!" His love had accomplished the task of giving Himself as a sacrifice for us. He could have called ten thousand angels to free Him - He could have run away and left us to do our best, on our own. His love would not allow that. Real, divine, agape' love, never fails.

Do you and I love like Jesus loved? Only if we are allowing Jesus to love through us!

C. This love is forever!

God tells us in this passage that faith, hope and love abide, but that the greatest of these is love. Yes, faith abides but we will not need faith when we are with God in heaven forever. At that point, we will have sight instead of faith. And, we will not need hope when we are with God in heaven. Hope clings to the promises from God of things to come. But, once we are with Him, we will not need hope any longer. However, love will remain. We will dwell in the presence of love and we will love Him and praise Him forever. Loving others the way God loves us is a rehearsal for eternity. The children of God are citizens of heaven – let’s act like it!

Conclusion

Do you have God's love in you? The only way to have God's love is to have God's Son! Jesus came to give His life for us that we might experience the love of God. Look at Romans 5:5, "Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us." (NKJV) In order to have heaven's love in your life, you must have heaven's King - Jesus. When you receive Him, He gives you the Holy Spirit and the Holy Spirit pours that love into your hearts. If you do not know Jesus as your Savior, come to Him today. Admit that you are a sinner and ask Him to forgive you. Believe that He died for you at Calvary and rose from the grave. Confess Him today as your Lord.

Sadly, some of us who know the Lord are not acting and living in agape' love. How can that be, if we indeed are saved? Since the Holy Spirit fills our hearts with God's love, it is apparent that we occasionally need to come back to God and ask Him to "fill" us with His Holy Spirit. Look at Ephesians 5:18, "...but, be filled with the Spirit." This was written to Christians. Paul did not need to write this if the people were already "filled" with the Spirit of God. Yes, they were saved, but they had allowed worldly, selfish influences to gain a place in their hearts. We all do that at times. So, Paul called on them, and on us, to experience a renewal - an infilling of the Holy Spirit - so we can love as He loves. We can't do that without His power in us - and, that power is the Holy Spirit. Is there a person here today who needs to have a renewal of love in your heart? Are you holding a grudge against someone?  Are you finding it hard to love as you know God desires for you to love? Come today, and ask God to fill you again with His loving, powerful, joyful Holy Spirit.

Whether in your family - husband and wife - parent and child - brother and sister - or, in the church, we need a new infusion of God's wonderful love. Let us ask Him today to pour that love anew into us and through us to others!