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Love is Better Part 2

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Last week we began a short sermon series we’re calling, words to live by. We began talking about the word love.
And by love, we’re talking about the deepest and most profound love:
It’s not romantic love
It’s not parental love
It’s neighbor love
And what we saw last week is that so often we as Christians rightly desire to leave a legacy and do something that contributes to God’s mission in the world, but we wrongly believe that the only ones who will leave a legacy and do something that contributes to God’s mission in the world are those who have been gifted to do so.
We tend to believe that IF we had a more notable gifting (like the ones Paul mentions) THEN we could make an extraordinary impact for Christ.
So the first observation is this:

True significance and true gain do not come from extraordinary gifting, but ordinary love for God and neighbor

Looking again at these three verses we observe a second thing and that’s how the greater body of Christ gets this wrong:
Observation number two:

If God’s Mission is going to go forward, we have to believe it’s going to come through ordinary neighbor love

How the Church Gets Love Wrong

1 Corinthians 13:1–3 ESV
If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.
To do this Paul uses several hyperbolic examples.
To do this Paul uses several hyperbolic examples.
He says, “Okay, lets just imagine for a moment that you have the gifting to speak every language ever known to man and even the angelic language or the prayer language. Now what? Will you then be content? Will you then feel that you have true significance within the body of Christ?
Let’s imagine that you can boldly and effectively preach the Word! All the biggest conferences are crying out for you to be their speaker. How about if you were able to preach with such power and such clarity that thousands of people were saved as a result? Then what?
We all long to see the Glory of Jesus when we hear preaching. Or at least, we should. I have an expectancy when I listen to preaching, that I’m going to be changed. And as a preacher, I long to preach sermons where the Spirit of God rushes over the hearts of the people and leads them to new heights of fellowship with himself. But even then, so what?
Who cares if you could preach a sermon with power if when you go home you fight with your wife, you treat your children like slaves, and can’t get along with the people you work with. That’s not new, that’s the same, thats just noise.
Let’s imagine that you have incredible insight and understand and knowledge of the Word. You know the ins and outs of imputation and the hypostatic union and all of the ologies. You could stand on stage and debate the atheists, the Rabbis, the Emmams, and the evolutionists.
You can quote Augustine, Arias, Aquinnas, Jonathan Edwards, John Calvin, and the Puritans… and Sproul and Packer and MacArthur, and Piper, and Keller… What then? Will that then make you feel that you are a making a difference in the world?
Who cares if someone can quote all those guys and debate with all those people and can write books filled with truth if that truth hasn’t settled in to your soul and give you a deep gratitude that expresses itself in neighbor love towards the very people that you disagree with.
“When Christians differ, there is a golden opportunity to show the world how we love each other.”
Francis Schaeffer
Or faith, let’s imagine that you actually had enough faith to do what Jesus said could be done with the grain of a mustard seed, let’s imagine that you could say to that mountain “move” and it would move… You might have been gifted with faith which is closely tied to a leadership gifting. You know how to handle tough situations and you know the right direction, but all you have left behind you is a string of wounded people. Your family, former church friends who won’t respond to your calls and messages because they know all they’re going to hear from you (while it may be true) isn’t coming from a heart of love, it comes from a desire to be right.
What about martyrdom, the church sees martyrdom and says that’s the ultimate goal, I want to stand for Jesus and die for him… Paul says, being a martyr for God is not really FOR God if it’s not out of love for God and love for neighbor even enemies.
A little over a year ago a man in Sacramento who calls himself a pastor made a statement to the media after the terrorist shooting that happened at a gay nightclub in Florida and killed 49 human beings that he wished that the person who shot and killed those people (who had ties with ISIS) would have lined up all of the homosexuals in that bar and killed them all.
Notice the mindset that this so-called pastor had, it was the same mindset that the ISIS soldier had. I am zealous for god and these people deserve to die, so I’m going to be god’s warrior and take care of business. Sacrificing your life for a cause that God does not endorse is not martyrdom, it’s evil.
Oh but what if I give all that I have, like the widow in the gospels? Well, I have bad news for you, if your giving isn’t out of love, it means nothing.Those with the gift of generosity, we need you. We need you to be generous. But we don’t need to be reminded of how much you give or how much you serve. We don’t need to know that you know how much everyone else gives and serve. What made the widows generosity so unique wasn’t what she gave it was that it cost her everything, and she still did it in secret.
Observation number two:

If God’s Mission is going to go forward, we have to believe it’s going to come through ordinary neighbor love

To Non Christians and Skeptics

If you’re tired of the hypocrisy that you see in the church and you’ve just about had it. Or maybe you’re a skeptic, you like the Jesus of the Bible, but his followers are so arrogant and so hypocritical, and so judgmental. Let me encourage you this morning by saying that Jesus never intended for the church to get it wrong like this. Jesus and his disciples called out the hypocrites of their day, Paul is doing the same thing in this letter, and it’s what we need to hear today.
Church, if our interactions with the world around us doesn’t leave them with an extraordinary encounter of God’s love, than it doesn’t matter what you say you believe, all they hear is noise. All they see is hypocrisy. If love isn’t the dominant theme of our life and legacy, we’re doing life wrong NO MATTER how nice your car or home looks. No matter how well behaved your children are, or whether you sacrifice your time to do nice stuff for people, love is to be the dominant experience that people have with the followers of Jesus.
ESVBy this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
John 13:35 ESV
By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
And while I know the temptation is to say, I’ve seen this in every church I’ve ever gone to. You’ve bounced from church to church looking for a true expression of love. Let me just say, where there are people, there are problems. You can go to every single church in this city and the surrounding cities and eventually you’ll find a reason to leave and it might even be a good one.Some of you might be wondering, well if that’s the case, why should I even try? If the church gets love wrong, I’m just going to find a community that expresses love (I’ll still believe in God and everything) but I’m going to hit up the CrossFit Box, or the ToastMaster Club, or the local MOPS, and I’ll just do a Bible study with some friends, it’s basically the same thing.
Here is what is fascinating, what Paul tells us show us that it’s not just individuals, and churches that get love wrong, the culture gets it wrong too. Where does he say that? Let’s keep reading:
ESVLove is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
1 Corinthians 13:4–7 ESV
Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Did you see it? Maybe, maybe not, but the reason we know this is because love does not have a Christian definition and a non-Christian definition.
Think about it. When you read these words don’t you long for this to be done to you?
When you’re running behind, don’t you want people to be patient with you?
Don’t we long for kindness from others?
Don’t we all wish that we could spread our good news to everyone without feeling like if we told someone we got some new thing that immediately they’re going to retort, “Must be nice to always get what you want?”
You ever talk to someone, excitedly telling them, “We’re going to Tahoe for vacation.” And they say, “Tahoe? Oh that’s a cute little trip. Kind of like a staycation. We’re going to Fiji… for six weeks.” You should come, it’s like 6,000 per person, all inclusive.
I look forward to talking with humble people. We long for that, but I can’t stand arrogance. I want to do like nine eye rolls consecutively every time I hear an arrogant person open their mouth.
And rude. A translation that’s a little easier to understand is inappropriate. So it’s not the same as somebody who burps at the dinner table, but actually more like somebody who looks you up and down with lust. If you’ve ever had that happen (and I’m sure every women has) it feels like someone just vandalized you deeply.
You weren’t dressed in such a provocative way that invited the lustful stare (or if you were, you’re also taking part in the inappropriate behavior) but still, you got the creepy eyebrow shake.You don’t have to be a Christian to hope for people to treat you this way.
Everyone longs for that, and that’s because we’re all created in the image of God.

The Other Way Around is NOT So Fun

We forget that we’re not the only ones who wish people would rejoice with us. We’re not the only ones who wish people would be patient with us. Your family does. Your neighbors do. Your waitress this afternoon who probably does not wish to make serving food a career, she also wishes that people were kind. Your coworker that is arrogant, he longs for love too. Everybody is looking for authentic love.
How are we scoring?
Do you bear all things?
Do you believe all things (believe the best of everyone)?
Do you endure all things?
Do you see hope through all things?
Are you rude?
Are you patient?
The reality is that I am a class A failure in every single one of these things. I am not patient… or kind… I do envy, I do boast… I am arrogant… I am rude, I do insist on my own way, I am irritable, I am resentful, I can rejoice at wrongdoing, and not care about truth… I fail every time I take this test.
This list is unrealistic, right? I mean what we want defies this list. We want to minimize pain and maximize pleasure… right? Let’s not deceive ourselves, the stuff we pray for and work towards is to lighten the load, relieve the pain, the stress.
Love is patient. Love is long suffering… that means it suffers long. That goes against everything that ticks in us. I’m not going to willfully suffer for very long, c’mon. Who does that? Marriages, children, work relationships. Love doesn't insist on its own way? Ha! This is laughable.

We Have Two Choices

Choice One - We can fall into the way of the culture. It’s called tolerance. We somehow have bought in to believing that if someone doesn’t believe like I believe, think like I think, or is pretty close I can cordially say, “You do your thing, and I’ll do mine.” To each his own. Guys, that’s NOT love. Genuine neighbor love seeks the good of the person that they can stand the least.
Choice Two - We can learn from what Paul is communicating. We don’t have time to read the passage a fourth time, but the end of chapter 12 show us that Paul is shifting his grammatical tone. He has moved from speaking in the second person to speaking in the first person.He says,
ESVDo all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret? But earnestly desire the higher gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way.
1 Corinthians 12:30–31 ESV
Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret? But earnestly desire the higher gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way.
Paul’s movement is into a testimonial. If we look at what we see in the Bible of Paul’s life, you can see that Paul did have the gifts that he talks about to the max. But if we’re not careful, we can make this a “Let’s all be more like Paul” message of behavior modification. Is that what Paul wants?
Who was Paul? Paul was Saul of Tarsus. Saul of Tarsus was the most violent and feared member of the group of Pharisees in his time. show the ruthless nature of Saul to have Deacon Stephen stoned for his preaching, in Luke tells us that Saul ravaged the church. Forcefully entering homes and dragging people in to prisons. He was a terrorist.
To say Saul was arrogant and unkind would be an understatement. So who, gave that guy the right to tell us (less violent, less brutal, less angry) people how to love?
Because I’m fine with Jesus teaching me how to love, because He’s Jesus, but this guy… not so much.
Unless what Paul is trying to teach us is that if Jesus could transform an evil, angry, violent, destructive, arrogant, unkind, irritable person than Jesus is powerful enough to transform me!
If Jesus can take the chief of sinners, Saul of Tarsus and transform him to be a loving person, he can take my resentful, envious, and arrogant nature and he can rescue me.
Which one of these hurts for you to admit about yourself? Are you impatient? I mean so impatient that you can’t understand why people don’t want to be around you? People are afraid to be around you for fear that you’re going to explode?
Do you morph into a raging maniac if someone breaks your unwritten code and cuts you off on the freeway?
You don’t have to be impatient, or angry, or unkind, or irritable, or envious, boastful, lustful, arrogant anymore. You can be a person of love. Because, after all, Paul isn’t describing himself, he is actually describing Jesus
Jesus is none of the things we despise and all of the things we long for. And He is the one who cheers you on in your journey of spiritual maturity. He is the one who has sent His Spirit to transform you into his own image. He is the one who loves you far more than you could ever have imagined. I know that because he’s still with you. He’s travelled with you long enough and He’s seen enough of your failure to have a reason to say, “I’m out of here. I don’t want to be associated with you.” Nope, before the disciples were ever significant, he said “I will be with you, to the end of the age.”

Significance is Measured by Love

This is the hope that we all long for. You don’t need to need to be on stage to make a significant difference in the Kingdom, you just need to admit your failures, let the love of Jesus wash over you, and love others the way you’ve been loved. You do that, and you’ll be extraordinary.
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