"THE GREATEST OF THESE"
Intro: The Christian gospel rests on three planks; faith, hope, and love.
I. A FAITH IN THE ETERNAL, SELF-EXISTANT, OMNIPOTENT GOD WHO CREATED HEAVEN AND EARTH AND ALL OF THE LIFE FORMS THEREIN.
A. The Bible tells us that God has revealed His existence to man through creation.
1. Rom. 1:19
For that which may be known of God has been made plain to them, for God has shown it unto them. For the invisible things of the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse.
2. David the psalmist said, "The heavens declare the glory of God and the earth showeth forth His handiwork. Day after day they speak to us, night after night their voice goes forth. There is not a speech or language where their voice is not heard."
B. The honest and intelligent man will admit to the creator.
C. The folly of the other alternative, that everything came into existence by itself without any purpose or design.
1. This is the worship of the goddess Ghia or mother nature, for the universe is then eternal and self existent.
2. It is the worship of the god of chance. It is the denial of design or order in the universe.
E. It is believing the preposterous proposition that matter acting on matter given sufficient time can bring anything into existence.
F. The very design of the Universe shows that there is not sufficient time for the very first cell to develop. You would have to have an infinite amount of time to bring the first DNA molecule into existence.
G. By considering the compound probabilities of the first cell producing itself by accidental circumstances the least scientific estimate I have ever heard was one in 10 to the 157 power. Most credible scientists usually give you a figure that it is far greater than that, some even suggesting that 1 in 10 to the 1,000th power is still not sufficient time.
H. Let's take the lower estimate, 10 to the 157th. If you had an ant that travelled one inch every 15 billion years carrying a single atom one at a time, how many atoms could he move in 10 to the 157 power years? He could move all of the atoms in 600,000 trillion, trillion, trillion, trillion universes the size of our universe a distance of 30 billion light years. A light year is the distance that light travelling at the speed of 186,000 miles a second travels in a year, or 6.4 trillion miles
I. At the rate the sun is reducing in size as it expends its energy, estimated to be 1,200,000 tons per second, and at the rate that the magnetic field surrounding the earth is being reduced annually, if you would just reverse the rate of reduction and add that much mass to the sun and that much force to the magnetic field, the surface of the earth would have been a molten mass as little as 50,000 years ago, incapable of supporting any kind of life forms. There would be no water or ooze from which the amoeba could emerge.
J. To be very honest it takes much less faith to believe in a Divine Creator that is all knowing all powerful and all seeing than in blind chance.
K. Faith is abiding, when every thing else falls apart, our faith sustains us.
L. Faith that God loves me, faith that God will work out the difficulties that I am facing and faith that I will come out on top with the help of God.
M. If I did not have faith in God I would be the greatest cynic in the world. I would be in total despair, for you cannot rationally look at the moral trends of the world in which we live and not realize that we cannot continue this path very far before we crash. Look at every other civilization before us, they have all crashed.
A. We as Christians have a hope for the future.
1. Jesus said to Martha when she was grieving over her brothers death, "I am the resurrection and the life, he that believeth in Me, though he were dead, yet shall he live, and he that lives and believes in Me shall never die. Martha, do you believe this?" You see how immediately all of mankind is divided into one of two camps, those who believe and those who do not believe. Those who have a hope of eternal life, and those who have no hope of eternal life.
2. Before you try to argue that there are millions who have lived and believed in Jesus Christ who have died. You must realize that the Bible has two definitions for death.
a. The separation of your consciousness from your body.
b. The separation of your consciousness from God. If you live without the consciousness of God from a Biblical standpoint you are dead. The Bible declares that you are living just for pleasure, you are dead while you are still alive.
c. Jesus is not promising that we are going to live forever in these ageing bodies. God forbid, He is saying that we will never be consciously separated from God.
d. That is the hope of every child of God.
B. This hope sustains us through the darkest experiences of life.
1. David the Psalmist asked, "Why are you cast down O my soul? Why are you disquieted within me?" He then commanded himself, "Hope in the Lord, for I shall yet praise Him for the help of His countenance."
2. Sometimes our circumstances have a tendency to get us down. We get discouraged or depressed, the answer is to put our hope in the Lord, for He will yet bring His good purposes to pass.
C. What a dark shroud covers us when all hope is lost.
1. When my dad and brother didn't show up at the Orange County airport on schedule, in my brothers private plane we knew that they must have crashed. Yet there was always that hope that maybe they landed at some remote airport where there was no phone, maybe they landed safely in some remote area. Maybe the phone will ring soon and we will discover that they are safe, All night long we clung to this hope, but in the morning when the phone did ring, and the man identified himself as a member of the Civil Air Patrol and informed us that the plane had been found at Camp Pendleton and that there were no survivors, all hope was gone, and the realization of our tragic loss began to settle upon our consciousness.
2. We have heard the saying as long as there is life, there is hope.
D. When everything looks so bleak, how can we have such joyful hope?
1. We have the guide book. We know the end of the story.
2. We sing, "And though the wrong, seems oft so strong, God is the ruler yet. This is my Fathers world, the battle is not done, Jesus who died shall be satisfied, and heaven and earth be one."
3. Hope is the anticipation of a good ending.
4. Paul the Apostle spoke of rejoicing in hope, and then he stated that the scriptures were written that we might we through the patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.
5. The book of Hebrews speaks of the hope as an anchor for our soul.
III. THE FINAL PLANK IS LOVE.
A. Jesus was asked by an attorney, "What is the greatest commandment?" His answer was, "You shall love the Lord your God with all of your heart, soul, and mind, and you shall love your neighbor as yourself." He declared that this is the summation of all of scripture, the law and the prophets.
B. This is not the Hollywood version of the word. Hollywood has skewed the meaning. We are prone to think of some passionate bedroom scene as making love.
C. True love is demonstrated by reaching out a helping hand to one that is need. When Jesus said to the attorney, "Love your neighbor as yourself," the attorney responded in typical attorney style, "Who is my neighbor?" Jesus then told the story of the good Samaritan.
D. The three Greek words for love that express love on the physical the emotional and the spiritual level.
1. Eros, he was the Greek god of love. We get our English word erotic from his name. This is love Hollywood style. It is nothing more than pure lust.
2. The Greek word phileo speaks of love on a much higher plane. This is emotional love, the love that you feel for your children, for your family, for your friends. Philadelphia.
3. There is another dimension to love that is even greater than phileo, the New Testament more or less coined this word to describe this love. It is the Greek word agape. This is spiritual love. When in the New Testament you read the word love, it is never eros, for that word is not found in the Bible. The vast majority of times it is the word agape. Only 22 times it is the word phileo.
E. When a new word is coined, there comes the necessity to define the word. This 13th chapter of Corinthians is a definition of the word agape.
F. These are the three planks upon which Christianity stands, but the greatest of the three is Love. If you do not have this, you do not have true Christianity.