Last week we heard testimonies from people. We heard from Stephen and from Chris. You know, hearing testimonies from people about what GOD has done in their lives is not like watching the same movie over and over. Because with a movie, after a while you get sick of seeing it. But listening to our brother Stephen, something occured to me. He talked about avoiding a long prison sentence. That for some reason, the judge did not impose on him the lengthy sentence that he could have. And that got me thinking. He stood before a judge, who could have given him a lengthy sentence. He was represented by someone who convinced the judge to forgive him. Does that sound like anybody we know?
Well, when we come to know Christ, we can compare it to being brought up on charges. Only in our case, we are already condemned. But when we call on Jesus, He paroles us from death row. How many times do you ever see a judge walk into death row and ask who wants to be pardoned? It doesn't happen. We gotta get a lawyer. And there are some here in Knoxville, and they're good. A lot of times they win, but a lot of times they also lose. But when you stop to really think about it, our Lawyer has never lost a case, and He never will!! Every case He argues comes back with the same verdict--"NOT GUILTY". Because we have a Judge who wants us to be free. Now, in our society a judge won't go to death row. But in GOD's system, He'll send someone to get us because, quite frankly, we don't know we're on death row. We think we're free. However, we're not free until the Son sets us free. Because He loves us.
Today, we're going to talk about love, real love, so turn if you will to 1st Corinthians 13. Just like we hear Psalm 23 at funerals, we hear this chapter read at weddings all the time. Many people refer to this as "the love chapter". But you know, every chapter in here is love chapter. In fact, we have 66 love letters from GOD in this Book, Amen?
OK. First, we see LOVE'S PRIORITY.
1 Corinthians 13:1
Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, If I do not have love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. 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, if I do not have love, I am nothing. And though I give all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, if I do not have love, it profits me nothing.
Now, when we hear a Bible passage enough times, it's not that it loses its meaning, but we sometimes lose track of its meaning Do you know the phrase "love one another" is found in New Testament NINETEEN TIMES!!!!
The word translated "love" is the Greek word "agape". This kind of love is not "I love you because you're good to me". It's more like, "I love you even though you hate me". It's the same word found in Romans 5:8. In other words, Paul is saying, "I could be the most gifted, interesting speaker. I could give a speech that would make the angels applaud. But if it's not love that's motivating me, I might as well be a little trumpet or a clanging cymbal, because it's just going to be noise." Have you ever heard people who don't have anything better to do than go around condemning others. They dont want sinners to get off of death row. Now, I could perform all kinds of good deeds, even offer my life in service to GOD. I could have a faith that would make a mountain jump into the sea. But if I don't do it with love; if I do it out of selfish ambition, just to score brownie points with GOD. or to check things off of my checklist and stamp my ticket, GOD will say "anybody could DO that." You have to do it WITH LOVE.
Next we see LOVE'S PATIENCE
Love is patient and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up.
I could go for a day and a half on these verses. Ya want to? Love is patient--for those of you who have kids, I'm sure more than once you've said, "Why do I put up with your nonsense?" Why? Because you love them. "Love is patient" That word "patient" means "To persevere patiently and bravely in enduring misfortunes and troubles. To be patient in bearing the offenses and injuries of others." That's what love allows us to do. Love does not envy, does not parade itself, is not puffed up. Love looks at what others have, and says, "Yeah, so-and-so has a fancy car, or house, or a boat." Or maybe a car on a houseboat. "Well, good for you!" Love says, "Anything I need I have, anything I don't have I don't need. " It does not cause us to go around trying to be better than everybody else. True, agape love seeks the best in everybody else.
Love 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.
What does Paul mean when he says that love does not behave rudely, does not seek its own? Well, love realizes we cant make it alone, and seeks to do good for other people. One reason this world is so goofy is, so many people are trying to be first. But love says, "If I let that person go first, I don't have to worry about it anymore." Love is not provoked, thinks no evil. The word "think" means more than having a "passing thought." It means to take that thought and harbor it, replay it over and over again, to hold it and keep it, and to actively consider doing it. Love says, "No, I'm only going to consider doing things which will benefit other people." Love does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in truth. I like what David said at the very beginning of the book of Psalms: Psalm 1:1-2--Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful; his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in that law he meditates day and night...and whatever he does shall prosper. There is no joy in iniquity, only doubt. If you tell one lie, you have to remember first lie in order to get your second lie to line up with your first lie. But love does not rejoice in iniquity. What Paul is saying is, we won't want to lie if love is motivating us.
Verses 7, 8A
Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Look at that phrase bears all things. A better way to translate that is, love "covers all things". In other words, if we "love one another", I'm gonna forget what somebody did to me 10 years ago. I'm going to "cover" that sin. I'm not going to go telling people "Did I ever tell you what so-and-so did?" To forgive means to forget--you can't forgive without forgetting. 1st Peter 4:8 says, Above all things have fervent love among yourselves: for love shall cover a multitude of sins. Love believes all things, hopes all things. Now, that doesn't mean that we believe that "the sky is purple". To "believe" means "to put confidence in", and "think the best of". Listen to what this man said--that love "usually thinks the best of all people, entertains a good opinion of them when there is no appearance to the contrary, and believes well when there may be some accusation against them, if the evidence is not clear." When we hear an accusation about somebody, we're so quick to say, "Did you hear what Person A said about Person B?" We are so quick to jump on gossip. But love says "Until someone proves it I ain't believing it." Listen to what Solomon said in Proverbs 18:8--The words of a talebearer are like wounds, and they go down into the innermost parts of the belly. On the other hand, love endures all things.
Love never fails. How about that part? Look at that again--"love never fails." That word fails is a synonym for "falls", or "to perish.....to fall powerless, to be without effect." You see, that will never happen to love. Love will never perish, never be without effect.
Finally, we see LOVE'S PREEMINENCE.
And now there remain these three things: faith, hope and love. And the greatest of these is love. Pursue love.
Love isn't something that will necessarily come to us, we have to pursue it. We have to ask GOD every day for love to be part of our lives. Why? Because "there remain these three things: faith, hope and love. And the greatest of these is love." And why is love the greatest? Because we can't have faith and hope without love, since it is GOD's love that prompts the others. You see, it is because of GOD's love that he gives us our faith. And without faith, we have no hope. Man, this is such a great verse.
Let me finish up with what GOD's word says about each. THESE THREE REMAIN:
FAITH--GOD has purified our hearts by faith. The just shall live by faith. We are justified by faith, and have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. We are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. And Christ dwells in our hearts by faith.
HOPE--Blessed is the man whose hope is the LORD. The LORD is our hope in the day of evil. We rejoice in hope. Christ in us is the hope of glory. And through the Spirit we wait for the hope of righteousness.
But the greatest of these is love. LOVE-- The LORD preserveth all them that love him. Love covers all sins. GOD loves us with an everlasting love. Love is the fulfilling of the law. The fruit of the Spirit is love. The love of Christ passes all knowledge. There is no fear in love. The love of GOD compels us to help our brother when we see him in need. The love of GOD is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit. The love of GOD is in Christ Jesus our Lord. The love of GOD our Savior for mankind appeared, and saved us, not on the basis of deeds but according to His mercy, by the renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior!! AMEN!!