Archive for the ‘Love Series (1 Corinthians 13)’ Category

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Love Is…More Than Sacrifice – 1 Corinthians 13:1-3

March 4, 2015

love seriesWelcome to my series on 1 Corinthians 13!  For the introductory post, click here.

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.

– 1 Corinthians 13:1-3

I had a chance to put what I’ve learned about this passage into action yesterday.

(Really, it should always be in action!  It should be in every action!  But I mean God brought it to my mind and helped me escape temptation through my memory of this verse.)

It’s a long story, but in short – I committed to providing a cheese and cracker platter to a funeral reception at our church that evening, and due to some misunderstanding or miscommunication, I was under the impression that our neighbors were going to deliver it for me.  This did not turn out to be the case.  So I found myself rushing out the door with the three kids in tow, leaving our partly cooked dinner behind, so that I could get the platter to the church on time.

Let’s just say my mood wasn’t the greatest about this unexpected turn of events.

I felt like what God told Cain, that, “Sin is crouching at your door; its desire is for you and you must rule over it.”  Sin was right there with me, breathing down my neck.

And I could have let it own me, then.  But God in His graciousness helped me turn to Him instead, and brought this verse to mind, along with all the things I’ve learned from studying it over the past month.  He is faithful and good that way!

Lesson #1: You can sacrifice, yet have not love

In countering the “love is a feeling” lie the world often tells, Christians are known to respond with the sentiment that love is an action.  Love is what you do, we say.

This is only half true, I realized.

As we can see from this passage, we could even deliver up our bodies to be burned, and have not love.

I could speak with the eloquence of the greatest men or the languages of angels…but without love my words would be nothing but a disturbing clashing sound.  I could have the power to see the future, understand all mysteries, and accomplish anything with my great faith in God…but without love these amazing feats are worthless in God’s eyes.

I could sacrifice everything, right down to the shirt off my back – right down to my very life! – and yet be loveless.

So we cannot take impressive feats or self-sacrifice as proof of love.  There’s more to it than that.  (More on that thought in the rest of the series!)

Lesson #2: You can be a champion for Christ, yet have not love

One of the things I’ve loved about reading this passage is studying the commentary my digital Bible has to go along with it.  Here is one thought which the Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown commentary had which stuck out to me:

Men will fight for Christianity, and die for Christianity, but not live in its spirit, which is love.

Ouch!  I could fight untiringly for the cause of Christ, even die for Him, without truly becoming like Him.

Funny how that works.  Sometimes laying down your life in death is easier than laying down your life by serving others with the love of our Savior.

Why do we think we could make the ultimate sacrifice, but not even think of making smaller sacrifices?

People sometimes ask that question to imply that we wouldn’t actually make the ultimate sacrifice when it came down to the wire.  But I believe we could, and would!  We really could die for Christ in the extreme before dying to self in the mundane everyday.  But if that is how we spent our lives, if we only sacrificed at the end of the line and never before, what does that gain us?  Nothing.

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. – Romans 12:1

As a kid I remember being terrified of that verse, praying full of fear that God would make me a living sacrifice, picturing myself going up in flames. I didn’t notice that the key word in that phrase is LIVING.

Living, breathing, working, serving.  Presenting our bodies to Him, putting ourselves at His disposal.  This is acceptable to God.  This is our spiritual worship.

Taking up the cross of Christ means dying to self every day, not only when persecutors come for our heads.

So back to me in the car…

The love passage wound through my head and shame welled up inside me.  Here I was, quietly fueling a grudge, bristling at my inconvenience, and yet somehow I still managed to be quietly puffed up for being so “selfless” and serving my church when it wasn’t convenient for me.

But if I have not love, I am nothing.

Love suffers long and is kind.

Love bears all things.

The reminders piled up and blew that hot-breathed sin right off my shoulder.  By God’s grace I was able to turn around and say, “Please, help me do this for You.”  Sin did not rule the day!  God is great.

There are so many things we do in life with a self-congratulatory attitude behind it all.  We do things for the passion of it, for the emotion, for the rush of feeling like we “made a difference.”  We could even be very good at what we do, using gifts and talents God gave us to serve Him.  But if we do these things in a loveless way, they are no better than selfishness from the viewpoint of eternity.

It’s not the sacrifices we make.  It’s the way we respond to others, the way we carry out relationships, the way we interact with fellow image-bearers of God.  Love isn’t a feeling, and it isn’t a course of action, though those things are usually involved. Love is a purposeful attitude that rises from submission to God alone and manifests in treating our neighbors as ourselves.

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Next week, we’ll dig in to the loving way vs. the loveless way, continuing to the most famous part of the chapter, verses 4-7.

Please share your thoughts and additional musings in the comments!  I would love to hear your insights on this passage…there is always more for me to learn.  🙂

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Love Is… – 1 Corinthians 13 Series Introduction

February 25, 2015

love seriesAt the beginning of this Valentine’s month, I decided that I needed more love in my life.

By which I mean – my lack of love was painfully evident to me.  It was evident in how I spoke, thought, and acted every day, particularly toward my little children.

If there’s anyone in the world you think you love perfectly, it’s your babies, right??  But the Bible is clear that “love” is an action word…not a feeling.  As we’ve all heard,

Love is patient and kind…

Patient and kind?  So many days, I am anything but patient and kind!!  By the very definition of that passage, right from the get-go, I “have not love.”  This was a convicting and depressing realization, and for awhile I was bitterly disappointed in myself for not living up to expectations.

Then I remembered that this is what Christ came for – to die for me, to take my sins away, and He sent His Spirit to dwell in my heart to conform me to His image!  I am not a hopeless case; I’m a work in progress like every other believer throughout time.  I can and will learn and grow, in His strength.

I yearned to have a heart of love more like my Savior’s.

It was time to really study a well-known Scripture passage – 1 Corinthians 13.  Most Christians know it.  Even unbelievers who have never cracked open a Bible have probably heard part of it at weddings!  It’s so familiar that it’s easy to gloss over it as we read, rather than truly digesting it and applying it to our lives.  I decided to delve into it this month: to study it deeply, repeatedly, and carefully, and memorize it as best I could so that I could carry it with me always.

Long story short, this has been a beautiful and mind-blowing experience.

The text has opened up to me in ways it never did before, I feel like I understand it far better than I ever have, and best of all, God has used this study to reveal to me huge swaths of “weeds” in my heart…overgrowth of sin choking out love.  Now that I can see the weeds, I can uproot them, and water and tend that beautiful, first fruit of the Spirit He means for His children to grow – love.

I would like to share my musings and wrestle them into written form, so I plan to post a sporadic series here about my findings.  I hope my thoughts will be edifying to my readers here, as well. 🙂

Here is the entire passage.  Lord willing, I hope to come back next week and discuss the first few verses to start the series.

I CORINTHIANS 13

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 that I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

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.

Love never ends.  As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away.  For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away.  When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child.  When I became a man, I gave up childish ways.  For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face.  Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.

So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

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Have you ever intensively studied a Scripture passage for a specific purpose?  What passage was it, and how did it affect your life?