Pearl of Great Value - Matt. 13:45-46

Sermons and Stuff

My Sermons,  Richard Kirby

Let Love Abound

 The topic of my sermon this morning is ‘Let Love Abound,’ and the text is

Phil. 1:9: “And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more...” All of us here know that love is the most important thing in the world. Today I want to challenge us in some practical ways on this topic.


The great English writer C. S. Lewis wrote a book entitled The Four Loves.  In the book Lewis made a useful distinction between ‘Need-love,’ and ‘Gift-love.’ Need-love comes from a want or lack, a need to complete itself; Gift-love comes out of sufficiency, a desire to share itself, and a willingness to give.


Though Gift-love is nobler than Need-love because Need-love grows out of weakness and need, Need-love is not bad in itself. It is quite natural and right, for instance, that a child should need his parents. We all need others physically, emotionally, and in every way. It’s a natural and God-given fact that we need each other to survive; that’s why we live in a civil society. Need-love drives a child to its mother, a lover to his beloved, or a sinner into the hands of God. Nothing is bad about a child needing his mother, or a man needing a wife, or a sinner needing salvation. God Himself said of us, “It is not good that man should be alone.”  And our love for God starts with Need-love: “We love because He first loved us.”


But Need-love is not a noble kind of love; it arises from weakness rather than strength. God’s love is always Gift-love; “every good and perfect gift comes from Him.” It is Gift-love that most resembles God, and we are most like God when we practice Gift-love; for God is love.


Some examples of Gift-love would be the man who works and plans for his family and posterity in the full knowledge that he will die without sharing the full fruit of his efforts; or the mother who eats what is left after everyone else is satisfied, the parent who risks life and health to protect his or her children; or the soldier who throws himself on the grenade to save his comrades. This love is not a sentiment or a feeling; it is a choice of the heart.


Different Kinds of Love: There’s a saying among students of Greek that goes like this: ‘the Greeks had a word for it.’ We say that we love pizza, we love our sweetheart, we love our pet hamster, and we love God: our overworked word ‘love’ has to serve for different kinds of love as far apart as our love for our favorite food and our love for God. The Greeks didn’t have such a problem; they had different words for different kinds of love.


For example, they used the word, philia, when they wanted to describe the love that close friends have for each other. You can see that true friendship would have traits of Need-love and Gift-love; there must be give and take in any friendship. If one does all the giving and the other all the receiving, the relationship can’t be called a friendship.


They had the word eros, by which is meant romantic and sexual love. This kind of love is primarily a Need-love, a craving, a desire to possess; it can easily degenerate into lust and selfishness. But true lovers also want to please the beloved, not just possess him or her. Happy is the man or woman who falls in love with his or her best friend. The life-long blending of philia and eros makes the happiest marriages.


Then there is the word ‘storge,’ by which the Greeks spoke of the affection between parents and children. This is also the affection we feel for members of our class or social group, our church family. It can also refer to the ‘love’ we feel for pets.


Finally there is agape, a word found only in the Bible. In the New Testament agape usually refers to the higher Gift-love that the KJV translates ‘charity.’ Agape is a high, noble, supernatural love that cannot occur in nature, but only as God gives it.


Agape doesn’t always refer to the higher Gift-love in the New Testament; in one passage of scripture agape speaks of the Need-love that binds society together.


Luke 6:32-34:  “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even `sinners’ love those who love them. 33 And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even `sinners’ do that. 34 And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even `sinners’ lend to `sinners,’ expecting to be repaid in full.”


There’s a good bit of Need-love in most of our dealings with our neighbors and fellow citizens, much of what is called quid pro quo, something for something; ‘You scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours.’ Need-love can quickly degenerate into mere selfishness, but it is necessary as the bond of civil society. Every society is an attempt to balance the various conflicting needs and interest of its citizens.


 In this passage Jesus is calling His disciples to the nobler, Gift-love.


Luke 6:27-28: “But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who ill-treat you.”


I tell you the truth, no man or woman can do this in the strength of his or her natural life; only one who has been begotten from above, who has the love of God shed abroad in the heart can do this.


Most of the uses of agape in the New Testament refer to Gift-love rather than Need-love. This Gift-love goes beyond the other, more natural loves. It is supernatural. No one can have that love unless God grows it in him.


I said earlier that the life-long blending of philia and eros makes for the happiest marriages. Imagine how much more blessed is it when agape is added to the mix! Or maybe you don’t have to imagine; maybe you experience it in your own marriage. I believe I do.


Love of the Brethren: Evidence of the New Birth: Some of you have heard me say a number of times that the only sure evidence that one is born again, that God’s life has been engrafted into one’s spirit, is Christian character—Christian character that expresses itself primarily in love. One can be as theologically orthodox as you please, but if the fruit of the Spirit is not in evidence, one ought to doubt his regeneration. One can be baptized, faithful in church attendance, and ever so religious, but if he does not have love, genuine love for other believers, he is not a real Christian. That’s what Jesus and John, the Apostle of Love, taught.


John. 13:34-35:  “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”


I John 3:14We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love our brothers. Anyone who does not love remains in death.”


1 John. 4:7-12: “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.  8 Who-ever does not love does not know God, because God is love.  9 This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.”


How do we know if someone is a Christian?  By his church membership?  By his baptism?  By the orthodoxy of his teachings?  No. Jesus told us plainly: “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”  And John, following his Master, taught the same thing: “But if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.” We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love our brothers.”


God’s life is in us if we love.  We know we have passed from death to life if we love. We prove ourselves to be true disciples if we love.


People who have been born again, who have passed from death to life, have an intense and comprehensive love for other believers. Even when believers are of another racial or social groups, we have more love for them than for unbelievers of our own race or group. For example, I feel closer to a brother or sister of another race than I do for someone of my own race who is not a Christian. I think that’s how it should be.


I have said that agape does not come naturally; we need supernatural help to practice it, even towards other Christians.  The impossibility of agape without Divine help is expressed in this humorous little poem:


To live above with the saints we love,

Oh, won’t that be glory?

To live below with the saints we know,

Now that’s another story.


In the normal course of things our love begins with God, extends to our fellow believers, and soon radiates outward to encompass all people, even our enemies. So it is this supernatural love that we find in ourselves that most assures our hearts that we belong to Christ.


How do we set our hearts at rest and assure ourselves that we belong to Him?  By having and showing real love—by actions. Love is not a feeling; feelings come and go.  Love is an act of the will, a decision to act with good will towards another. It is true that real love is often attended by affection, good feelings, and warm regard. But not always. We’re not expected to feel warm and cuddly towards people who are persecuting us. We can’t always ‘like’ the people we’re called on to love. Feelings can’t be brought up or changed on commanded. We can’t choose our feelings. But we can choose to do good to all men, to pray for them, and help them in their needs.


I want to focus now on our love for our brothers and sisters in Christ. Love of the brethren, as we saw, is a sure mark of the New Birth. But it must be more than sentiment or warm feeling; it must reveal itself in acts of consideration, concern and kindness.


1 John. 3:18: “Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.” 


Nothing is easier than to greet people, to hug them, and tell them you love them. I’ve heard people refer to it as ‘Sloppy Agape.” We smile, greet each other, shake hands, and hug; but then we go our way and hardly think of our ‘church family’ until the next time. If we wanted to, we could see needs all around us. If we were not so self-absorbed, we would see dozens of opportunities to “do good unto all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers” (Gal. 6:10).


Do we have brothers and sisters going through trials who never hear from us?  Who only hear from the preacher, or the elders, and from one or two others?  I’m ashamed of the opportunities I’ve lost because I was too self-absorbed to notice until after the crisis had passed. Do we pray for each other, think of ways to encourage each other? Are we always alert to any needs among us? Faith always works through love. Love always expresses itself in acts of kindness.


I wonder if our love for each other is not largely on the natural level. Is it the natural affection one feels for one’s own group?  Is it merely warm, familiar feelings for our ‘church family’?  Do we greet each other and then go home and never give each other a thought until next time?  I know I’ve been guilty of that. Do we say to the needy among us, “Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,” and leave others to offer real help? Or is what we have that agape love, that Gift-love that searches out ways to bless each other?  Love is always expressed by actions. Love shows itself, not in good wishes only, but in also good works.


James 2:14-17:  “What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? 15 Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 If one of you says to him, “Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? 17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.”


Would you like to know how to encourage the growth of Love? I think I can help some, for I can see in myself more of that noble kind of love than I once did; and I’m pretty sure you can see more in yourselves as well. How did that come about?  Did it not grow in us as we cooperated with the Holy Spirit, sought to obey God’s Word, and prayed for the fruit of the Spirit in our lives?  As with all of God’s work in us, we must first see our need; then we cry out to God in faith to meet our need. Our foremost need is more love; more love for God and more love for our brothers and sisters.


Let me conclude by calling your attention to a Golden Text, one that answers so many hard questions. It answers this question as well, the question of how we can grow in love and let love abound.


It is Philippians 2:12-13: “...continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and act according to His good purpose.”


This text admirably expresses the two sides of faith—God’s side and our side. Our duty is to “continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling.”  In this case we are to strive to find ways we can involve ourselves in the lives of our brothers and sisters in Christ. Whether through prayer, sending notes of encouragement, phone calls, fixing meals, helping out financially, we should with earnest diligence seek out opportunities to practice agape love. God’s promise is that He will work “in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.” He will work in you the supernatural love that makes you earnest effort effectual. You can’t do it without God; God won’t do it without you.


Brothers and sisters, let us, you and I, not miss the message of this sermon. We need each other; let us show ourselves disciples indeed. Let us love one another in deed and in truth.  Amen