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Archive for February, 2011

The Thing about Love

God's Valentine

Presented at Belleview Bible Chapel 02-16-11 

It’s February, the month of love, it’s all about Valentine’s Day! We hear about Valentine’s Day from Christmas until February 14th, like all holidays, merchants have made it into a profitable experience for them and an expensive experience for people swayed by worldly advertising and tricks merchants use to tell you what you have to do, or buy, to show someone you love them. As most Christians know, the world’s understanding of love is something different from the love God speaks about in His Word. I mean, do we really need a holiday to remind us to tell someone that we love them? Are we really that busy or shallow or distracted with life?

 The thing about love in the world is that it is all fluffy and soft and warm. In the world love is expressed by gifts. Flowers and chocolates top the list, but other more expensive gifts are allowed. That’s the thing about worldly love, many things are tolerated. Valentine Cards range from short sweet sayings like  you see on the tiny sugar hearts, love you, be mine, hugs and kisses, to x rated hallmark cards wishing one an erotic holiday.

 Like most things in this world, humanity has managed to corrupt the original, true meaning of love, which includes things like correction, discipline and obedience. Since the fall of man, his ability to fill in the answers to misunderstood questions by substituting lies and imaginations to stir the physical and tempt the mind has only sharpened. If you look at the world today you can see that practice makes perfect. I’m saying that the worldly environment has desensitized us to depravity to the point that we can fail to recognize immorality. Every decade we observe the self-indulgence and corruption of man made holidays that purport to celebrate things like the birth of Jesus (Christmas), His death(Good Friday), His resurrection(Easter), Love (Valentines Day), Nature (Earth Day), Freedom (July 4th), and even Ice Cream. Most holidays are simply an excuse for gifts and a party.  The list of US holidays would take 10 minutes to read. And, yes, there is a National Ice Cream day. Most of these holidays are about love and what the world would like us to believe is giving back. What kind of things do lovable people do? They recycle because they love the planet and that’s ok with me. They protect wildlife because they love wild animals. They build animal shelters and help people adopt lost, dumped or forgotten pets because they love their pets. They give to all kinds of debilitating disease research because they love people and that’s good. As a people we are supposed to care and the way we do that here in the US is to spend money, volunteer our time and keep the cause in the news.

 For Christians it can be about how you support your Church. But here’s a thought. God has a different kind of love. He loves you whether you believe in Him or not. He would like believers to not forsake the assembling together, but he does not like religion. This God love is very different from what the world believes is love. The only way we can truly understand it is to look at the Scriptures and ask God to reveal to us the kind of personal relationship He desires.

 There are many Scriptures that speak of love however; the first Scripture we go to when we talk about love is usually 1 Corinthians, chapter 13. Other Scriptures will be addressed later.

 1 If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.

Let’s just take this one sentence and decide what it means –

The Amplified Bible puts it this way – If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love (that reasoning, intentional, spiritual devotion such as is inspired by God’s love for and in us), I am only a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.

Love is described as that reasoning, intentional, spiritual devotion inspired by God’s love for and in us.

I love what Walvoord & Zuck’s (WZ) commentary says about this verse: They report that eloquence was greatly admired in the first century. Unfortunately the Corinthians received little of what they considered eloquence from Paul. Paul a straight shooter and didn’t take time to mince words. However, they were fascinated with his stories of speaking in tongues. Paul captured their attention when he spoke of his exceptional experiences regarding the languages of men (as referred to in 1 Cor. 14:18; I thank God that I speak in tongues more than all of you) and of angels (2 Cor. 12:4; Paul talks about his heavenly experience, he – 4 was caught up to paradise and heard inexpressible things, things that no one is permitted to tell). Paul tells them no matter what kind of magnificent speech they could possibly imagine, or any speech that might momentarily electrify them like a clash of a cymbal or gong, that the thrill would vanish as quickly as the sound.

A word, a pithy saying or a profound statement can quicken the heart for a few seconds.  Often we hear things that excite us for the moment. They may be clever words; they may be romantic sounding words of another language. They may be words that give a smile or laugh. But often these are only words spoken to impress us and elevate the person speaking. And so we are impressed for a little while. On the other hand, as Paul was explaining, words spoken in love produce eternal effects.
 When we think of love with eternal effects we can only come to the foot of the cross and remember the love demonstrated by Jesus when He died on that cross and when He prayed, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”  We can only be humbled by the tremendous sacrifice He made out of a true and everlasting love for us. He spoke these words out of a true and lasting personal love for each of us.

New International Version (NIV)

 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.

Amplified

And if have prophetic powers (the gift of interpreting the divine will and purpose), and understand all the secret truths and mysteries and possess all knowledge, and if I have faith so that I can remove mountains, but have not love (God’s love in me) I am nothing (a useless nobody.)

The WZ commentary says that even the gift of prophecy, which Paul championed as a great gift for the Corinthian church (1 Cor 14:1; where Paul tells them to “follow the way of love and eagerly desire gifts of the Spirit, especially prophecy”) or the gifts of wisdom, knowledge, and faith (1 Cor 12:8-9; Paul describes gifts of the Spirit, “ to one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit”), were nothing compared with love. Paul certainly was not depreciating those gifts, but was appreciating love showing it to be incomparable.

Love is more important than all of the spiritual gifts. I believe that people today are confused about the power and meaning of love. Great acts of faith, acts of dedication and sacrifice, and even miracle working power produce very little without love. Love makes our actions and gifts useful. Different people are given different gifts of the spirit to use in service for the Lord, but love is not one of them. Love is available to everyone.

Then the chapter takes a more serious turn, verse three says If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

The Amplified

Even if I dole out all that I have, and if I surrender my body to be burned or in order that I may glory, but have not love (God’s love in me), I gain nothing.

 Giving is certainly a wonderful way to express love. However, giving can also used in various ways. People have been known to be generous for various reasons. For instance, cleaning out the closet and giving bags of clothing to the Salvation Army isn’t necessarily done out of love. It may be just a necessary and prudent way of cleaning house. You could just throw everything into the dumpster, but practically speaking that would be wasteful. You would actually feel better about of all the things you spent good money on and are no longer delighted with if someone else could use them. Being convicted about wastefulness isn’t necessarily anything about love. If it’s really love, consider giving up something you want to keep. That’s what we call sacrifice.

Feeding the poor is one of the things the Lord commanded us to do. However, if one is feeling down and would like to feel better, they might think to give something to charity. Giving always makes us feel better. But if feeling good about ourselves is the reason for giving, then it doesn’t count. (Matt 6:2; So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full.”) Somewhere the love has been left out.

We should be giving out of love. Here’s where the chapter takes an even more serious turn. It revealed to me once again just how depraved man can be. Many times I read this verse and thought nothing about it.” If I surrender my body to be burned in order that I may glory” didn’t mean much to me until I realized at the time this was written Christians were being burned at the stake for their faith. In Hebrews, chapter 11, it speaks of the faithful that were captives, but refused to be released so that they might gain a better resurrection. Now I am not saying that those Christians mentioned in the faith hall of fame suffered without love, and that they were willing to die only for a better life in heaven. I would never condemn the men and women God commended for their faith. But I am saying is that there are some people that are zealous. Zealous enough to die for a cause.

They would do anything for the faith, even murder, which we know is not the will of God. In these cases love seems distant. It’s human nature to pick up a cause and fight for it, especially if we think we are right. Sometimes it has little to do with anything else – just that we are right! If we would be willing to die for something we believe in without love, it doesn’t count. How many times do we feel we must win the argument for the sake of our own glory? People starve themselves to death. People set themselves on fire. Humanity is so depraved that winning the argument, being right, making a name for ourselves or leaving a legacy, can become more important than love. Even self sacrifice can be self centered.

Remember Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in the Book of Daniel and their obedience to God. They were thrown into the fiery furnace for their obedience. Their message to Nebuchadnezzar was “If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up” (Daniel 3:17).  Their motive here was to glorify God. Love seems to have a lot to do with obedience and selflessness as demonstrated here.

  The point is that we need to always be checking our motives. We need to always be asking ourselves if what we are doing is in love. Are we doing it because we love God? Are we doing it because we love His created beings? Are we doing it because we love His commandments? This is vital to our existence here on earth and in heaven. But what is love? What is this divine love that God wants to bestow upon us?

I wanted to know more so I decided to look deep into the fourth verse. It’s a short verse, filled with challenge.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.

Amplified

Love endures long and is patient and kind; love never is envious nor boils over with jealousy, is not boastful or vainglorious, does not display itself haughtily.

The first three verses are about how we should express love. This verse is the beginning of a series of verses that define love.

The Greek word used here for what we translate as patience means the capacity to be wronged and not retaliate. The Corinthian church had members who had been wronged by lawsuits. Also many of the poor of the church had been passed over at communal meals and gatherings. How did the member of the Corinthian church respond? They brought counter suits; they complained and muttered about the injustices. The correct response of these wrongs should have been kindness and goodness. However, the Corinthians had a great deal of pride. They wanted justice. Now that’s a whole different talk, but let me tell you I do not want justice. I want mercy because I know what I deserve. I want mercy for myself and I want mercy of those who wrong me. God’s love is all about mercy. “Love covers a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8).

Paul switches now to giving four negative descriptions of love. He tells what love is not and I like the way it’s written in the King James Version.

King James Version

Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil.

NIV

 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.

Amplified

It is not conceited (arrogant and inflated with pride); it is not rude (unmannerly) and does not act unbecomingly. Love (God’s love in us) does not insist on its own rights or its own way, for it is not self-seeking; it is not touchy or fretful or resentful; it takes no account of the evil done to it.

The Beacon Bible Commentary says:

Paul here speaks of perfect love and of its operation in the Christian life. The “more excellent way” is the way of holiness. The apostle does not refer merely to an ideal to be sought. He points to an experience in love which is in the present tense. The time is now. Such love does not behave in unseemly fashion. It does not do anything that is “disgraceful, dishonorable, indecent.” Love has proper respect for those in authority and proper regard for those over whom authority is exerted. Love “prompts to all that is fit and becoming in life; and would save from all that is unfit and unbecoming.”

Jesus had described the basic approach to Christian living when He spoke of the grain of wheat falling to the earth and dying that it might live (John 12:24; “Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.”) This is Christian love. It is the direct opposite of self-seeking. Selfishness and love cannot reside in the same human spirit. Love cannot find its own happiness at the expense of others. This does not mean that a man should have no concern for his own welfare. Nor does it mean that he should disregard his personal health, property, happiness, or salvation. It means that a man does not make his personal happiness and welfare the chief motivation of his life. Love prompts the Christian to seek the well being of others even at the cost of toil, self-denial, and personal sacrifice.

I believe we are surrounded by people with burdens of one kind or another. One might have a physical or health problem, another may have family members that are hurting in some way or another. Jesus told us to bear one another’s burdens. This can mean some type of sacrifice for us. It could be the sacrifice of our time, an interruption of our schedule, or even perhaps we might be led to help someone with money or giving something tangible.

Whatever we are called to do (and the Lord will put it on our heart) we should stop and think about what we are giving. Sometimes it takes just a little bit of sacrifice on our part to make a huge difference in someone else’s life. You could make a phone call to someone at just the right time and find out that you made their day. They may have needed someone to share a burden with. They may need someone to pray with, but really, what could be more satisfying than helping someone in their time of distress?  Again, it’s very important we check our motives anytime we reach out. We must do it to the glory of the Lord, out of love for Him.

Being easily provoked is almost epidemic in society today. There are times when people say things you don’t agree with. Someone might even say something in a conversation, or you may hear from someone else that someone said something about you that hurts. It might just be an offhand comment or it might be directed at you. We cannot hold these things in our hearts. We must take an attitude that the person most likely didn’t mean to hurt your feelings and leave it at that. Sometimes we take a situation and rehearse the wrong done against us. We nurture the hurt feelings and end up holding a grudge when we could simply dismiss it by believing that the person didn’t mean to hurt us.

A Christian woman – in fact, a pastor, once told me that the “wound that never heals is the one inflicted by another believer’s sword.”  I understand completely what she was saying. When another believer attacks us, it is almost unbearable because we serve the same Lord. We must not let it fester; we must address it immediately or let it go. We must be aware of how we behave and what we say, but more than that, we need to be always forgiving. We should never take up someone else’s offense. That’s just looking for a fight. We can take someone’s side and be mad at the person who hurt our friend. Then they make up and we are still mad. We must always check our motives.

Beacons Bible Commentary states that “Love does not record evil means to take into account, to charge, to calculate, or to record. Love does not add up, or assign evil intentions and wrong design to a man. Love does not credit other people with evil motives.”

The 17th century theologian, Frederic Godet said – “Love, instead of entering evil as a debit in its account book, voluntarily passes the sponge over what it endures.” It wipes the slate clean.

NIV

6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Amplified

It does not rejoice at injustice and unrighteousness, but rejoices when right and truth prevail.

Love finds no joy in evil of any kind. It does not participate in any personal sins or acts of unrighteousness. Nor does love rejoice over the vices of other men. It finds no pleasure when others are proved guilty of crime. Love never derives satisfaction when another falls into sin. Rather, love rejoices with the truth and finds joy in the virtues of others.

NIV

7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Amplified

Love bears up under anything and everything that comes, is ever ready to believe the best of every person, its hopes are fadeless under all circumstances, and it endures everything.

King James

Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.

Personally I have had problem with the part of the verse that says believeth all things and certainly Paul did not suggest that a Christian filled with love would naïvely believe everything presented to him. He means here that love is eager to believe the best about others and to make allowances for circumstances.

NIV

 8 Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.

Amplified

Love never fails. As for prophecy (the gift of interpreting the divine will and purpose), it will be fulfilled and pass away; as for tongues, they will be destroyed and cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away.

I love the way Beacon’s explains this verse. It says “When the redeemed stand before God, there will be no further need of prophecies. The tongue, so highly regarded by the Corinthians, will cease, since man will be delivered from all that separates him from God and from others. Knowledge, both the learning acquired by man and the mysteries revealed by God, will vanish away in the perfect of the knowledge of God.”

NIV

9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part,

Amplified

For our knowledge is fragmentary (incomplete and imperfect, and our prophecy (our teaching) is fragmentary (incomplete and imperfect).

Here Paul admits the gifts of knowledge and prophecies are incomplete. The Book of Revelation warns us that near the end of days knowledge will increase. We can access the internet these days, ask almost anything about any subject and get answers. This is truly the information age. However, as most of you already know, what you discover on the internet isn’t always fact or truth. Our earthly knowledge will always be partial. We will never understand or fully grasp God’s revelation while here on earth.

NIV

10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears.

Amplified

But when the complete and perfect (total) comes, the incomplete and imperfect will vanish away (become antiquated, void and superseded).

The good news is that one day, when Christ returns, all that we wonder about here will be revealed. On that day all imperfections will disappear. Half truths will vanish. We will no longer have to doubt what others teach or wonder about their use of the spiritual gifts. Truth will be in our midst. Temporary gifts will give way to eternal perfection.

NIV

11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me.

Amplified

When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; now that I have become a man, I am done with childish ways and have put them aside.

This verse again refers to the gifts of the Spirit. Here Paul is describing the purpose of the gifts using a picture of human growth and maturity. It correlates to a passage in Ephesians, chapter four, where it explains the use of the Spiritual gifts were to bring the church from a state of infancy to adulthood. The same could be said of love, WZ explains further by saying, “The word translated ‘mature’ in Ephesians 4:13 is the word translated ‘perfection’ (teleion) in 1 Corinthians 13:10. In the Ephesians passage, maturity is defined as ‘attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.’ Such a state will obviously not exist until Christ’s second coming.”

NIV

For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

Amplified

For now we are looking in a mirror that gives only a dim (blurred) reflection, but then we shall see in reality and face to face! Now I know in part (imperfectly), but then I shall know and understand fully and clearly, even in the same manner as I have been fully and clearly known and understood.

The notes in the Archaeological Bible say, “The imagery is of a polished metal (probably bronze) mirror in which one could perceive only an imperfect reflection.” Since Corinth enjoyed a reputation for decorative bronze mirrors, Paul’s example got their attention. The reflection of a bronze mirror is blurred when viewed indirectly. However, the view is much clearer when viewed directly, thus likened to the contrasts of imperfection and perfection mentioned in verse 10. Now Paul speaks of the contrast of the imperfect time in which we now live and the perfect time when the partial reflection of the present will give way to the magnificence of our future perfection. At that time partial knowledge will give way to the perfect knowledge of God. We will be complete when we see God face to face.

NIV

 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

Amplified

And so faith, hope, love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

Ancient Corinth and Americans today have one thing in common, for sure. For both of us the term ‘love’ has lost its meaning. For many of us it is just a short word with little meaning at all. To others it is such a big word they could never attempt to explain it. 1 John 4:8 tells us one of the attributes of God is love, “Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.”

Faith is the certainty and conviction regarding man’s relation to God and divine things. Hope is the glad and assured anticipation of eternal salvation. Love is sincere affection for God and man budding from God’s love for and in us.  There is faith and hope, both important aspects of Christian life, but love is the greatest of all and will never end. Love will be present in Heaven. It will never end. It is eternal.

Eph 5:1-2 says we should imitate God and walk in love.

The Message Bible

Ephesians 5:1-2. Watch what God does, and then you do it, like children who learn proper behavior from their parents. Mostly what God does is love you. Keep company with him and learn a life of love. Observe how Christ loved us. His love was not cautious but extravagant. He didn’t love in order to get something from us but to give everything of himself to us. Love like that.

Jesus said that we should love one another as He loved us. That is a tall order, but as Christians we strive to do His will. His love for us included sacrifice, giving, healing, obedience to God, forgiveness, and more. Our love walk means losing self, serving others and keeping our eyes on Him.

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