Sunday, June 21, 2009

1 Corinthians 13: What is Love?


Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. (1 Corinthians 13:1; NKJV)
How often we speak not in love, but out of some other motive. Often we speak from a point of self-centeredness. It seems that this is the easiest thing to do. "I want..." "I need..." "I..." The ego is on the throne of our hearts. When we speak from this vantage point Love is not in our hearts. Passion perhaps, desire most definitely, longing, lust, but love is missing. Selfish desire and love can not cohabitate within the heart they are incompatible. Without love our speech becomes loud and obnoxious to the hearer.

And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing. (1 Corinthians 13:2-3)

Most Christians desire to do great things for God. We are thankful for the salvation from our sin. There was a young rich ruler (Mark 10:17-22) that lived in Jesus' day that wanted to be saved. He had reached the panicle of success at a young age and was ready to be great for God. Jesus informed him of the one thing that still prevented him from giving his life to the Lord.

Then, looking at him, Jesus loved him and said to him, "You lack one thing: Go, sell all you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow Me." (Mark 10:21; HCSB)

Notice that Jesus "loved" him. It is an unfortunate that so many fail to realize the love of God. They miss receiving this love into their hearts and so they go away empty. Unfortunately this young man could not bring himself to give up the worldly things that held his heart. You can have all the things of world. But if you do not have the love of God in you then it profits you nothing! In his heart he loved things of this world more than God or people. Is there anything that you love more than God or people?

Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. (1 Corinthians 13:4-7; NKJV)

Love is...

Love is not...

Kind toward others
Joyful in truth
Uplifting others
Believing in others
Self promoting
Keeping records of wrong
Happy with immorality
This is the core of Christian Love. We tend to make our walk with God much more complicated than it needs to be. Jesus said that the two greatest commandments were, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and most important command. The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. (Matt 22:37-39; HCSB)" Looking at the list above can you say that the "Love is" list defines your relationships with others? This is one of the Christian paradoxes, that something so simple could be so hard to accomplish. In fact impossible. Perfection in this regard is impossible in human effort. We need something else to be able to accomplish this. We will study Romans 8 later, but let me share this:

For I am persuaded that not even death or life, angels or rulers, things present or things to come, ?hostile? powers, height or depth, or any other created thing will have the power to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord! Romans 8:38-39 (HCSB)

Note two things: First we cannot ever be separated from the Love of God! Second that love is "in Christ Jesus our Lord!" When we come to God and receive Jesus Christ as our Lord we have the irresistible love of God placed into our lives and nothing can change that. I believe that the key to having that love then flow out of us into the lives of others is that second part. "In Christ Jesus our Lord" we can and must demonstrate the "love of God" toward God (through obedience; see 1 John 5:1-5) and toward others (through giving to others' needs; see 1 John 3:16-17). If we love in our own human nature the ego is always there to say, "What is in it for me." When we love "in Christ Jesus" then nothing stands in the way! The love that is listed in the table above is accomplished in Christ. This means that we have to live life for God and remain in Jesus to accomplish this kind of love.

Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God?God remains in him and he in God. And we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and the one who remains in love remains in God, and God remains in him. 1 John 4:15-16 (HCSB) (See also John 15:9-17)

Remaining in God's love is one of the most blessed virtues that a Christian can have and give! It is how the world is able to determine that Christ is with us (John 13:34-35).

Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part.But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away. (1 Corinthians 13:8-10; NKJV)

God's love is unending. Everything that we consider worthy or valuable in this life will vanish like dew under the warm sun. Love is one thing that we can trust to carry through from this life to the next. It is interesting that of all the things that God could allow us to take to heaven He chose love. I firmly believe that it is because love defines the very essence of God. In fact were God is, love is! (see 1 John 4:16-19). Another thing to point out that Jesus said the the rich young ruler was, "If you want to be perfect... (Matt 19:21)." Love is perfection of Christian virtue. If Love is the essence of God then love ought to define our lives. Christian love is the sign that God is in us and we are in Him.

When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things. For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known. (1 Corinthians 13:11-12; NKJV)

This love is much more lofty than this humble attempt to explain it. In fact it cannot be fully understood until we come to Jesus "face to face" in heaven. However through this love we have a glimpse of what heaven will be like. This love is our heaven on earth. We should cultivate it and let it grow so that it becomes the very center of our life and living. Love is the greatest!

And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love. (1 Corinthians 13:13; NKJV)

Next Subject Love Going Deeper in the Word