Written and preached by David P. Nolte

2 PETER 1:5-11, 1 CORINTHIANS 13:4-8

The greatest thing about murder mysteries is the suspenseful challenge to figure out "Whodunit?" before it is revealed in the conclusion. The greatest thing about a dog is that he will love you when everybody else thinks you're a skunk and he will come back to lick the hand that smote him! There are some great things about Love, too, that we ought to consider today. Love is not to be equated with permissiveness; love is not a wishy-washy emotion that never says, "No!" Love is not a bowl of mush that never rebukes! Love is not some chemistry or physical, sexual reaction. Let's note some great things about Love. There are three great things about love.
    1. Many try to characterize love with little adages like: "Love is a warm puppy!" or "Love is a cool hand on a fevered brow!" or "Love is like cold spaghetti covered with chocolate sauce inside when you see 'him' or 'her'!"
    2. No finer characterization of love could be given than that by Paul in the Love Chapter, 1 Corinthians 13.
      1. Love is characterized by sacrifice from pure motives:
        1. We may do good deeds to obligate others, to show off, to appease God or conscience! Those are impure motives and make our doing vain, callous, empty and a mockery!
        2. Paul says, "If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn't love others, I would be of no value whatsoever." 1 Corinthians 13:1-3 (NLT).
      2. Love is characterized by other-centered attitudes:
        1. For some there are 3 important persons: "Me, Myself, and I!" Nobody else matters, counts or exists! But we are told in Philippians 2:4 "Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others."
        2. Paul says, "Love does not demand its own way." 1 Corinthians 13:5 (NLT).
      3. Love is characterized by looking for the best:
        1. In and for others: This is the Christlike ability to distinguish between the sin and the sinner; it is the ability to give the benefit of the doubt! Love disciplines, corrects, exhorts, rebukes, encourages.
        2. Paul says, "Love is not irritable, and it keeps no record of when it has been wronged." 1 Corinthians 13:5 (NLT).
      4. Love is characterized by enduring all things:
        1. Even the unworthiness, the failures, the gall of the recipients!
        2. Paul says, "7 Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance. 8 Love will last forever, 1 Corinthians 13:7-8 (NLT).
    3. There are many lovely things: a sunset; rolling waves; snow capped mountain; none as lovely as a life characterized by love!
    4. A college girl was in a horrible automobile crash. Her face was disfigured by breaking glass and impact with the dash. Her fiancé visited her in the hospital and when he saw how horribly cut her face was, said, "I'd be a fool to stay with you looking as you do." And with that walked out of her life. Love would have seen beyond the scars. Love would have stayed. Love is characterized by those attitudes and actions.
    1. Love is not easy nor natural! Loving only the easy to love is not real love! Love is a challenge and presents challenges!
    2. Consider the challenges of love:
      1. We are challenged to love the unlovely:
        1. The Rejects, the Misfits, the Nerds!
        2. The ones who make it difficult for us! Even our enemies; and this is perhaps toughest!
      2. We are challenged to see beyond what is to what can be:
        1. If a lump of coal can become a diamond, then a failure can become a success!
        2. The only atmosphere in which anyone can unfold, bloom, get back up is love!
      3. We are challenged to give another chance:
        1. Too many: "You goofed! You blew it! No way will I trust you again!"
        2. God is the God of another chance!
      4. We are challenged to go the second mile:
        1. That means to do more than might be expected or required, like Mother giving peanut butter sandwich and adding jelly!
        2. That means to go beyond the call of duty to the call of loving service!
    3. Jesus issued love's great challenge: John 13:34 "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another."
    4. A mother learns the challenge of love. She tells of the time she was on top of a step ladder hanging a picture when she heard the door bell. She ignored it, but the bell kept ringing. She knew it was her eight year old son, Christopher, so she thought, angrily, "Why can't he ever put down what he's holding an open the door for himself?" The bell kept ringing. She got down from the ladder and her tirade began before she opened the door. She saw the last traces of a boy's smile disappear as she berated him. His eyes brimmed with tears as he brought a hand from behind his back and handed her a couple of broken-stemmed daffodils. She stood looking at the flowers as the little boy ran weeping into his bedroom. She approached the shrunken little figure on the bed and said, "This didn't start out right. Can we do it all over?" Wiping away his tears, Christopher took the flowers and went outside. In a few minutes, the doorbell rang. Mom pushed open the screen door and he held out two wilted, broken stemmed daffodils. "These are for my favorite Mom," he said. Hugging him, she said, "That is the way it should have been before." Love challenges us to think and to love before we rashly and regrettably act. (Ramona Sexton Calloway).
    1. A champion is a conqueror, a champion is incomparable, a champion is exceptional, a champion is outstanding!
    2. Jesus Christ is love's Champion! He is a Champion
      1. In sacrifice:
        1. He sacrificed Heaven to come to earth! He became poor that we might become rich in Him! He became sin, though He never sinned.
        2. He gave His life on the cross!
      2. In living for others:
        1. Even when weary He took time for the pressing crowds!
        2. He always gave and helped and served.
      3. In giving a second chance
        1. He called Judas "friend" even in the moment of betrayal.
        2. Even on the cross He remembered the thief hanging by His side!
      4. In seeking the best in and for others:
        1. He saw that Simon the shifting sand could become Peter the Rock!
        2. He said to the woman taken in adultery, "Go and sin no more!"
      5. In endurance:
        1. He endured the Cross and despised the shame!
        2. Having loved His own, He loved them to the very end!
    3. Jesus Christ came to be and to give and to show the love of God among us!
    4. Sharon Van Alstine tells about the time her four year old daughter spilled her milk. After the second warning, the little girl stood up on her chair, and "splat" went the glass, breaking a dinner plate on impact. A size four bottom was firmly spanked. The little girl cried, then her sister cried, and then Mom cried. Then came the crushing question, "Do you ever wish you didn't have us, Mommy?" With a lump in her throat, Mom gathered her daughters into her arms. "No! We have never wished we didn't have you! But what I wish is that you'd obey me the first time. But even when you don't obey, we love you more than we can tell you." Evening wore on. Mom sat pondering, "Does God ever wish He didn't have us?" Then came the sweet assurance, "I never wish I didn't have you. What I wish is that you'd always obey me - but even when you don't, I love you more than you can understand." Truly He is the Champion of love.

The love that Christ reveals is not that love that depends on some good thing in us! It is not based on what we have given or done on His behalf! He does not love us because we are Christians or because we go to church or because we don't commit adultery! Without making His love maudlin or shallow, let me say that He would love us if we were 10,000 x 10,000 times worse than we are! He loves us because of Who He is! The proof of that is the cross! Romans 5:8 assures us, "God demonstrates His own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us!" This is no excuse for sin, for rebellion, for carelessness, however! Romans 6:1-2 reminds us "Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?" Many have not experienced that kind of love! If you have, you ought to become a messenger of it for Jesus! If you have not you ought to believe today that He loves you -- failure, rebellion, sin, lust, perversion, arrogance and all! He won't save you in those things -- but from them -- not because we deserve it -- but because we need it and because He loves you! Greatest response is to love him back! But you cannot do that until you have more of His love and power; you cannot do that until you live in the bond of love with others.

stories of the two mothers from the Albany Democrat Herald newspaper

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