#2146 – No Greater Love    (8 May 2011)

The Message

Dr. Sheila Schuller Coleman

Special Guest

Austin Gutwein
Austin Gutwein is 16-year-old who is the founder of Hoops for Hope. This non-profit organization is raising funds for the children in Zambia. They have access to food, clothing and shelter.

The Message

Well today I’m concluding our series of messages on 1st Corinthians 13 on Love Life. And we have been teaching you that love believes, not just anything, love believes the best. And love waits patiently, as long as it takes. And love never fails, as dad taught you. And last week, Jim Penner taught us about love hopes, and if you are facing a wall in your life, a wall that says fear, a wall that says failure, a wall that says forget it, God loves to wreck those walls. And how does He break those walls down? How do they come tumbling down? They come down with praise, they come down with worship. When we worship the Lord, the walls come tumbling down! And that’s what we learned last week. Amen.     And today, we wrap it all up with love gives. No greater love is this than a man lays down his life for a friend. Love gives everything.

There’s a story, I don’t know if it’s true, I don’t know if its fiction, but I love the story. And it’s about a father and his son, and they were art collectors. The father was a man of means, very, very wealthy and he could buy anything he wanted to and so the father and the son loved to go and they would purchase Rembrandt’s, Monet’s, Van Gogh’s, Renoir’s. It became a renowned art collection, and the two of them loved to look and study and they just loved this collection of art.

And then one day, the son received a draft notice to go and serve and fight in the Vietnam conflict. The father missed his son terribly. And he wrote to him and received letters back and one day the letters didn’t come back, and he began to become afraid, and sure enough, a knock on the door told him the awful truth that his son had been killed in combat. But he died a hero; he had given his life for somebody else, to rescue someone else. Well the father was inconsolable. He’d grieved and grieved until one day there was a knock on the door and there stood a stranger, a young man. He said, “Sir, you don’t know me and I’m sorry to intrude but you see I’m the man your son gave his life for. He gave his life for me. And I wanted to tell you that your son talked of you all the time. He shared how much the two of you loved art and I’m a very amateur artist. I paint just for a hobby. But one day, before your son was killed, I painted a portrait of him. It’s really nothing, but it’s all I have and I wanted to give it to you.”

And as the father took it with hands trembling, he opened the package and he looked at the portrait of his son. And oh yes, the brush strokes were very amateur and the mixture of the pastels and oils were so amateur, but the father saw his son’s eyes. The artist captured his son’s eyes, and the father’s eyes filled with tears and he said, “This is my son, you’ve captured him.” He reached into his pocket to pay him and the man said, “Oh please no, no. I could never repay what your son did for me. He gave his life for me. This is a gift to you.”

Well down came the Rembrandt that hung above the mantle piece and the father replaced it with the portrait of his son, the amateur portrait of his son. And he loved it and every time someone came to visit, the first painting he took them to, to show them, was not the famous masterpieces; it was the son over his mantle.

Well in time, I think because of a broken heart, the father died. And his entire estate and it was a wealthy, wealthy estate, his entire estate and all of the paintings were to be auctioned off. The day of the auction, people flew in from all over the world. Representatives from museums and from the best art collectors in the world came to get their hands and to buy and they came with a lot of money in their pockets for these paintings because they knew what was going to be auctioned off that day.

But there in the hall stood the painting of the son right there in the front. And the people said, “We didn’t come here to buy that painting, we came to get the Rembrandt, we came to get the Monet’s, we came to get the Van Gogh’s.”

The auctioneer said, “No, we’re going to start with the son.” He said, “The son, the son, who will take the son?”

“We don’t want the son, we want Rembrandt, we want Van Gogh, we want Monet.”

The auctioneer said, “The son, the son, who will take the son.”

Finally, a hand and a voice from the very back, it was the gardener, a man who had very little means. He said, “I’ll give $10 for it.”

“Hurry up and just give it to him,” they said. “We want to get on with the good stuff.”

“No,” the auctioneer said, “$10. Do I hear twenty?” Silence. “Ten dollars,” said the auctioneer. “Going once? Twice? Sold for $10.”

“Okay now bring out the Rembrandt’s; bring out the Monet’s,” said the art collectors.

The auctioneer laid down his gavel and he said, “I’m sorry, the auction is over.”

“What about the paintings?”

“Oh,” he said, “there was a secret stipulation to the will and I was not to reveal it until this point in the auction and it was this. The man said that whoever bought the painting of his son, would inherit the entire estate, including all the paintings.” The man who took the son got everything. The man who took the son got everything. And people, when we get Jesus Christ, the Son of the heavenly Father, when we take Him, we have everything, everything, everything.

God the Father gives and He doesn’t hold anything back, and we in turn, we have the choice, we can either accept it or not. And when we do, we have the choice to give back to Him everything and we may have the choice to hold things back from Him, hold things back that are near and dear to our hearts. But Jesus says no, you can trust Me with everything.

I learned this lesson a very hard way when I was just a young mother. Many of you know I had four sons within seven years time and my second son was born, Christopher was born was Jason was two and Christopher, he was ten four at birth. You know how dare he, ten four at birth. And yet, Christopher, he looked like the picture of health. This round rolly poly little boy, and I couldn’t wait to take him for his first baby check up. And then the doctor got this very worried look on his face and he was listening to Christopher breathe, and he said, “There’s something wrong with his breathing, Sheila. You can take him home. But if he starts running a fever, you are to call me immediately.”

I took Christopher home, I monitored him very carefully. The next morning I went in, I was checking on him as I’d been doing, and he was in his little crib and he was shuttering. It looked kind of like a seizure and I got really scared as a mom and I reached my hand out to touch him and he was burning hot. I called the doctor immediately and he said, “Sheila, I will meet you at the emergency room. He will be getting a spinal tap to see if he has spinal meningitis.” I knew what that meant. That meant that his central nervous system had either a virus or bacteria infected in it and that’s not good. It can even be life threatening for a three and a half month old infant.

I quickly found the nearest bathroom I could find and I closed the door and I stood in there and I just cried and I cried and I cried and I said ‘God, help me. My baby, this is my baby.’ I was so worried about my baby.

I went home and I walked down to his nursery and I looked in the empty crib, and my husband took a little baby bible that we’d used for his baptism and we put that in the crib where Christopher was supposed to be. And that night I tossed and turned and tossed and turned and shed many, many tears over my son. And finally I went downstairs and I said, ‘Jesus, I’ve given my life to You. And You gave me this beautiful son. I need You to be real to me right now. I don’t know how to get through this without You.’ And in my mind’s eye, I could see Jesus and He was holding Chris in His arms. And Chris looked as comfortable if not more comfortable in the arms of Jesus than he did when I held him. And unlike other people who would hold Chris, or my children and you feel as mother you want to take them back, I did not feel that because I could see and I could sense that as much as I loved Christopher, Jesus loved him more. As near and dear as he was for me, he was even more near and dear to Jesus. And so, I said, ‘he is Yours. He’s Yours. I entrust my son to You.’ It was a lesson, an important lesson for me to learn as a young mother. And you know the good news is that God did give Christopher back to me and he’s getting ready to graduate from seminary. He’s a big strapping about six foot five, tall, handsome man, and you know God restored him to full health, but I learned that he’s not my son. He is God’s son and that’s how it is with all of our children.

There’s another story in the bible that tells a very same lesson. We all know of Abraham, father Abraham. He had it made in the shade in ur. And then God came to him and said Abraham, I want you to get up and I want you to go and I want you to build a nation; a nation of people, a whole new nation. You and Sarah, who are about a hundred years old each, by the way, and have no children, the two of you are going to father so many generations and so many children; it’ll be a nation for generations to come. Of course Sarah thought that was pretty funny. But God still honored them and Abraham, by faith, got up and went. By faith, Abraham got up and he obeyed God and he went out into the wilderness, not knowing where he was going to end up. And by faith, the impossible happened; a miracle of miracles, Sarah birthed the promise, the baby Isaac, the fulfillment of God’s promise. Wow. Everything rested on this one child, Isaac.

So it must have been very puzzling to Abraham when God came to him and he tested him and he said, “Abraham, I want you to take Isaac and I want you to take him up to Mt. Moriah. It’s a three days journey from here, and I want you to offer up your son as a sacrifice to Me.” How could this be? How could Abraham.. why would God do that to begin with?

But Abraham, it says in Hebrews 11:17-19, Abraham by faith said okay, I will offer up my son, because this is what Abraham reasoned, this is what it tells us in Hebrews 11. I’m not just making this up. Abraham reasoned that God could raise Isaac from the dead. And so he obeyed God by faith. He entrusted Isaac to God. Isaac was not Abraham’s son, Isaac was God’s son and if God said give him back to Me, Abraham was going to give him back to Him.

And so there he went, Abraham and Isaac. Can you even imagine the faith it took for them to take that three day journey. And then Isaac was asked to carry the wood for the sacrificial flame. The son was asked to carry the wood up the hill. And he says to his father, “Where’s the lamb? Where’s the lamb?”

Abraham said, “God will provide the lamb, my son.” They got there to the top of Moriah, they built the altar. Abraham put his son on the altar and just before he was ready to slay him, he had the knife in his hand and all of a sudden the angel of God came out and said, ”Stop! Stop! Stop!” And Abraham stopped and he looked and there was a ram in the thicket that God provided and God did figuratively speaking, yes, He did, He raised Isaac from the dead, figuratively speaking. He did.

This story foreshadows the most important story in the entire bible. Because another Father gave His only begotten Son and Mt. Golgotha is only a stone’s throw away from Mt. Moriah and that three day journey that they took foreshadows the three days that Jesus was in the tomb. And just as Isaac, the son, had to carry the wood up the hill, so did Jesus the Son have to carry the cross, the wood for His sacrifice up the hill. And when Jesus was crucified and when they pounded those hammers and nails into His feet and hands, and when they thrust those swords into His side, an angel did not come and say stop. An angel did not come and say stop. Jesus gave His life; God gave the life of His Son for you, for you, for you.

Jesus is the lamb; the sacrificial lamb that God provided for you and for me so that we never have to worry about death. Oh death where is thy victory, oh death where is thy sting. We have life, we have life, we have life! Because you see, by faith I gave my son to Jesus and Jesus gave him back to me. By faith Abraham gave his son to God and God gave his son back to him. And God gave His Son but the story does not end there because there’s resurrection Sunday and Jesus, that tomb is empty. The grave is empty and Jesus lives today, He lives today. He who did not spare His own Son but gave Him up for us all, will He not also give you everything you need?

Please stand with me. Stretch out your hands if you would and close your eyes and pray this prayer with me in your heart. Thank You, God, for the gift of Your Son Jesus. Thank You, God, for the gift of life. I accept and take this gift, this gift of love that Your son; no greater love is this than a man lays down his life for his friends. And oh God, You did this for me and I accept it today and I say thank You. I will hold the gift of life that You’ve given to me near and dear to my heart.

And keeping your hands outstretched, pray the follow up prayer with me: And Lord today You know there are things that I’ve held on, held out from You, things that I haven’t wanted to surrender to You. I didn’t have the faith that You would use it in the way You choose to. Oh Lord, I give back to You everything. I give back to You everything, even that which I hold most near and most dear, I give it to You, Lord Jesus today, because as near and dear as it is to me, it is even more near and more dear to You. By faith, by faith I know I can trust You, Lord. Thank You Jesus, amen


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