First and foremost, I want to wish all of you a late Happy Valentine’s Day.
The holiday of Valentine’s is one that invokes thoughts of such things as flowers, cards, candy, and maybe stuffed animals. Reds and pinks and hearts and so on, but more predominately, I believe that Valentine’s Day invokes the thought of love.
The love between a man and a woman in their marriage, or perhaps two youngsters who are sweet on each other come to mind. Perhaps even some may think of the love between parents and children or grandparents and grandchildren. However, I think that, if we must talk of love, then it behooves us to speak about the greatest love in the world through Jesus Christ.
Jesus said in John 15:12-17: “This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you. Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you. Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you. Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you. These things I command you, that ye love one another.”
In this passage of scripture that we have read, Jesus is on the eve of His trial and crucifixion and He is giving to His disciples some last-minute instructions before He is violently ripped away from them. He makes known to them of what the Apostle Paul would later call the “Law of Christ,” which is love. More precisely, Jesus’ commandment is that they love one another just like He has loved them. I believe that, in that moment, they could not begin to recognize the depth of love that Jesus had for them or how He was about to demonstrate it.
Yet, Jesus alludes to it by saying, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”
The Lord Jesus, as you well know, would be taken that night, tried falsely, beaten, cruelly mocked, and spat upon, and even scourged to the point that He was almost unrecognizable. Until finally, He was made to carry His cross up to Calvary, where there they laid Him out on that cross and nailed Him to the timber. There He hung until He died.
Church, He had no need to go for Himself, and He was guilty of nothing that He should have suffered such a thing, but, saints, He went for you and me! What so great a love Jesus has for the world and for those who might believe in Him! There is no love greater than for one who would lay His life down for His friends, and He has called us friends indeed!
The Apostle Paul put it like this: “For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:6-8).
Paul wants us to realize something here; when we were without strength, meaning when we were unable to do anything about our lost condition and the verdict of death and hell that was against us and when we were at our absolute worst, Jesus still loved us and died for us!
I want to ask: Have you ever tried to love somebody when they just keep spitting in your face with their actions, despite your attempt to help them? That can become very trying after a while. Perhaps to the point that your heart gets hardened against them, but it wasn’t so with Jesus. We repeatedly turned away His love for so long, yet He still pursued after us. Oh, how He loves us despite the years of our rebellion and sin! While we were at our worst, Jesus died for us in the greatest love this world has ever known.
Paul says here, “Most people would hardly die for somebody else, even if they are righteous and maybe some might do it, but it was not even a question in God’s mind what He would do.”
A ruler of the Jews named Nicodemus came to Jesus by night one time and the Lord began to expound to him great truths and mysteries concerning the Kingdom of God. Particularly, how one must be born again of water and spirit and how the spirit comes and the like. Then Jesus says something so radical that I believe it shocked Nicodemus’ religious mind.
Jesus told him, “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.” (John 3:14-16).
Saints, there was no question and no hesitation of God’s love for us. For He came in the body of His son with a body to be broken and blood to be shed, taking our punishment in sin so that, through Him, all who put their trust in Him through the turning away from sin might have everlasting life! No more death, no more hell and no more condemnation! Jesus died for you and me to reconcile us and to get us back in the family of God.
I think that as the Church of Jesus, we should look on Valentine’s Day not just as a day for flowers and candy, but a day to celebrate the greatest love in Jesus Christ. We should take this day to remember that when we had separated ourselves and alienated ourselves from our creator and we couldn’t get back up to him because of the barrier of our sin, He came down to us in love!
Please suffer me a little longer that I may expound further upon His love. Jesus will love you when nobody else will. Jesus will receive you when others cast you out. Jesus is a father to the fatherless, He is a comforter to the widow, an advocate for the orphan. He is a strengthener of the weak and He is a deliverer of those who are out of the way! His love is an enduring love! The Bible speaks of His love, how that it brings this grace for us and how that His mercies are enduring forever and renewed every morning! I don’t know about you, saints, but in the mistakes of my flesh, I sure am glad for an all-sufficient savior.
He is one who says, “My Grace is sufficient for thee” (2 Corinthians 12:9)!
Jesus’ Apostles and followers knew all about that sufficient grace all too well, didn’t they? Remember how Peter denied the Lord three times before the cock crowed, but the Lord Jesus, in His compassion, forgave Him? Remember the woman that was taken in adultery as they were about to stone her.
Jesus said, “Let him cast the first stone that has no sin.”
He told the woman to go and sin no more and did not accuse or condemn her. Remember how the woman that came in to worship Jesus and washed His feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair? Jesus said her sins, although they were many, were forgiven her. And, of course, the Apostle Paul, a man who persecuted the church and referred to himself as the chief of sinners, found grace and forgiveness in Jesus’ love.
Paul said in one place, “Jesus saved me to show that if I can be saved, anybody can”.
Beloved, this same love and depth of grace and mercy is extended to us as well and nothing can separate us from it. His love is not fleeting or fickle! It’s truly is a love that is other-worldly!
Now, I must say that, no doubt, continual and willful sin and a departing from trust in Christ will lead to separation from Jesus and salvation. But that’s not on Jesus’ part, that’s on our part. In doing that, we are the ones who move away — and only we can separate ourselves from Christ through unbelief. Continuing in sin with no remorse and no repentance is unbelief. But I do think it’s a wondrous thing to know that our mistakes in the flesh, as long as we repent, are covered by the grace and love of God. And neither anything in death, anything in life, peril, sword, lack, power or principalities, angels, devils or Hell itself cannot separate us from the love of Christ Jesus, our Lord!
Therefore, knowing these things, saints, we ought to want to live in such a way that honors Him; we simply should love Him. And how do we love Him? Jesus said, if you love me, keep my commandments. And what are His commandments? Simply, to love. We should love Him with all of our heart, mind, body, soul and strength and we should love our neighbor as ourselves.
The Apostle John wrote in his first epistle: “Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.” (1 John 3:16).
God loved us, so therefore we should love others and extend this love that we have so graciously received. And isn’t that what Jesus said at the first of this column?
Again: “This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you.”
Saints, love God and each other sacrificially. Put God and others before your own self because that’s what Jesus did for us.
In your marriages, love one another and sacrifice. If you have children, love them and train them up the way they should go in the Lord so that, when they are older, they won’t depart from it. Children, honor you mother and father so that your life will be long upon the earth. Brothers and sisters, have understanding hearts of mercy and forgive! Give to him that asks, love your enemies, and bless them that curse you, pray for them that despitefully use you. Love God and love one another with Jesus’ love because it’s the greatest love in the world.
“And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” — 1 Corinthians 13:13 NKJV
Steven Croft is the senior pastor of Boyd Memorial First Church of God in Athens.