2-11-24 Quinquagesima

Bible Text: Luke 18:31-43 | Preacher: Pastor Christian Preus

So these three remain, faith, hope, and love, and the greatest of these is love. Love has to be the greatest, because God is love and God is the greatest. God is not hope. He doesn’t hope for things. He knows. Everything is present to Him, past, present, future. And this is so wonderful to know, because your future in heaven is not a hope to Him, it is certainty, He’s seen it already, it’s present to Him. This is why Jesus can say that no one can snatch you who trust in Him from His hands. He knows it, He’s seen it, and He passes on this conviction to you. For us it remains hope because we haven’t seen it. But for Him it is already knowledge, because the future is as present to Him as the past.

So God does not hope. He isn’t Hope. He doesn’t believe either. God is not faith. What would He believe in? Us? He sees us, knows us, and He has no reason to trust or believe in us. And He has no reason to believe in Himself either. He doesn’t need saving. We do. And so we are the object of His love.

God is love. So love is the greatest. This doesn’t mean that we are saved by our love. That’s what the Roman Catholics argue, that since love is the greatest virtue, we should be saved by the greatest virtue, and so we are saved by our love. This is bad logic and even worse theology. It ignores the entire Bible. The fact is we are saved by love, but it isn’t our love, it’s God’s love. This is why faith is necessary, because our love has failed. If we could produce the love that God required, there would be no need for us to be saved at all. We’d be walking and talking with God like Adam and Eve in the Garden. We would have no sin and no death and no pain and no sorrow. But our love has failed and so we’ve fallen short of God’s glory. Faith saves because faith trusts in God’s love and God’s love never fails. Because God is love.

God so loves the world, that He gave His only Son. Jesus says all that is written about the Son of Man, all the prophets desired to look into concerning God’s love, will be fulfilled in His suffering and death and resurrection. Greater love has no one than this, that a man lay down His life for His friends. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the sacrifice for our sins. Faith saves because it lays hold on Jesus and Jesus saves, Jesus’ love saves, and that love is pure action, it is not some inert feeling in God, it is Jesus bearing all things, enduring all things, it’s God in the flesh bearing your sins and death and punishment and then rising to plead for you in heaven and send His angels to guard and protect you.

Faith is like a tin can full of gold and rare jewels and diamonds. The tin can is worthless by itself. But because it is full of treasure, it is worth everything. The worth of faith is Christ Himself. If faith clung to anything else – to our own works, to our own strength, to politicians or alcohol or money or sportsball or anything else that we think might make us happy – then it would be a useless faith, like a tin can full of dirt or dung. Faith saves not because it is a great work, but because it trusts the great work of Jesus’ suffering and death and resurrection. And this is God’s love. That’s why St. Paul says, “the greatest of these is love.”

Faith alone saves, but faith is never alone. A faith that does not produce love is no faith at all. It’s a tin cup with nothing in it. Faith lives on God’s love. It is our daily meat and drink. And so we learn to love. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. Faith alone saves, but faith is never alone. This is why St. Paul can say, “If I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, and have not love, I am nothing.” It’s why St. James says, “Faith without works is dead.” Faith must love, it’s the only thing that can love, because it’s form, it’s substance, it’s content is God’s love.

But we never rely on our love. Because our love is always failing. It is so beautiful that Paul says, “Love never fails.” Because this simply isn’t true of us. Our love constantly fails. We do what we don’t want to do. We grow bitter, hold grudges, get impatient with each other, judge one another, lust after people and things that aren’t ours, we feel sorry for ourselves, we doubt God and cave into our laziness and ignore our Creator. Our love fails. But St. Paul says Love never fails. And He is talking about God. That Love is capitalized. He is Love and that Love never fails, and we see this day after day. It’s what makes a Christian a Christian, what makes faith Chrstian faith, that no matter how many times your love fails, you find again and again, day after day, that God forgives, that the blood of Jesus still washes all guilt away, that God never rejects you, is always patient and kind with you, always mindful of your weakness. He bore your weakness, he endured your failed love, He took your corruption in His own body, and He loved you to His death and He lives to love you still. There you see Love never fails.

There you also see what love is. There are pseudo-loves, fake-loves, and they all fail, and they all look silly and dirty and counterfeit when held up and compared to the Genuine Love of God’s suffering for us. When Jesus lived for us, His love fulfilled the Law of God. He kept the Ten Commandments. Go through the commandments. He obeyed His Father’s will, He gave His body, His life, to save ours, He laid down His life for His Bride, He became poor to make us rich, He pleaded for our reputation and our forgiveness before God, he coveted nothing except our sins, desired nothing but to take our death away and give us life. He fulfilled the Law. That’s what love does. Love, St. Paul says, is the fulfilling of the Law. And when you see God Himself subject Himself to the Law, see Him born under the Law to redeem those who were under the Law, you see the eternal standard of love in action and that Jesus means it when He says, Not one jot or tittle will fall from it. Love never fails.

To change the definition of love is to change the definition of God. Because God is love. It is an act of idolatry to define love any other way than God defines it and God acts it out in the life and death of Jesus Christ. So all the pseudo-loves that this world offers are not loves at all. They will call anything love. Keep your eyes locked on the genuine article, the Love of the Crucified, and you will not fall for them.

They will say it is loving for a struggling mother not to bring life into the world, to terminate the pregnancy rather than have a baby grow up poor and underprivileged. And God’s love answers, Thou shalt not kill, and Jesus’ suffering answers, that life is precious and worth the blood of God. They will say it is love for a man to know a man and God’s love answers, In the beginning it was not so, but God made them male and female, and what God has joined together, let not man tear asunder. Thou shalt not commit adultery. And Jesus’ suffering shows the Husband laying down His life for His Bride. They will say it is love to stop with the patience, stop with the bearing all things, stop with the enduring all things, and instead live for yourself, YOLO, and so now divorce is love, greed is love, gossip is love, mutilation of children is love, and love becomes a synonym for selfishness, love means only acting on my own desires for my pleasure according to my standards. Love is love is love, and so love is what I want. Hold it up to the Law of God, hold it up to the Love of Christ, and you will see it for what it is, as you see darkness is not light and death is not life.

So St. Paul says, Love rejoices in the truth. And Jesus says, I am the Way and the Truth and the Life. And St. Paul says again, We can do nothing against the truth but for the truth. Love rejoices in the truth. Never forget that. A love that tosses aside the truth of God’s Word is no love at all. It is the love of a false god who can give you no life or forgiveness or rescue from death or true happiness or contentment. A false god can only give you the false. Live not by lies. The true God is your Creator and He created you for Himself and your soul is restless until it finds its rest in Him. If you abide in My word, Jesus says, you will be my disciples and you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.

Our knowledge of the truth is incomplete. We know in part. No one has all the answers. Anyone who claims to is selling you something. Science doesn’t have all the answers. Neither do the universities or the politicians. No one has unlocked the mysteries of the universe. But the Bible is truth. Ad we do know, because the Bible tells us, what love is and who God is and who we are. Because we know Christ Jesus and we know His sufferings. The disciples had it all hidden from them. They could not understand it. They were blind to the truth of Jesus suffering and death for them. That’s sad and horrible and it is the darkness in which most of the world lives. They don’t know the truth and so they don’t know who they are or where they came from or why God made them or what is love, because they don’t know Jesus. And so we love them and pity them and bear with them and pray for them, that they would know Jesus, that their eyes would be opened.

But we cannot love them and pray for them unless we ourselves know our God and the truth of His love. So we partake of Him today and confess His truth and sing it and take it into ourselves, and eat and drink the body and blood given for us. To be a Christian is to have our eyes opened like the blind man, and his eyes were opened because he concentrated all his attention on Jesus, and he would not stop shouting to Jesus for mercy, would not stop though the crowd and all the world rebuked him and told him to give it up, he cried all the louder and Jesus opened his eyes and he saw His Savior and there is truth and there is love full and complete. So we come to the season of Lent. And we lock our eyes on Jesus. He is the content of our faith. He is our salvation and our righteousness and His love never fails. And so we learn what love is from him and we learn to love, until what is passing away comes to nothing and we stand before our Savior and know Him as we have been known, in perfect love forever.

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