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About this series
Doing Less, Loving More
Most of us live very complex lives that move too fast, deliver too little, and demand too much. We often succumb to the push and pull of all the demands. We lack time for God, relationships, or ourselves. We know we need to change our pattern of life, but we either put it off or just don't know how to get started. In the end, there's a key question we need to ask and answer: What do we want to be known for? It is possible to break free from the high speed, high pressure, high demand, guilt-producing disease of our lives. The answer is counter-intuitive and it's found in 1 Corinthians 13. Discover what is needed to enjoy Spiritual Simplicity in today's fast paced lifestyles.More from this series
Has anyone noticed that each of the titles of the messages has been the title of a song? Have you picked that up? Right? You know? We had Tina Turner, What’s Love Got To Do With It? All You Need is Love. Well I’m kind of on a roll.
See, there’s a lot of really good things with a lot of really good motives that if the means becomes the end or if there’s a little shift over time, in the name of love, in our minds and hearts and motives, we often think we’re doing some really good things that produce some really bad results.
And that’s the question I want to address this morning here in part four. Why do so many good things so often result in so many bad lives? And what we’re going to learn, we’re going to discuss today, in each of this, the apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians chapter 13 he’s addressing a very high capacity, very gifted, very cosmopolitan, metropolitan church that is very immature, that is very selfish, that has lots of conflict, and is very unloving.
And so, all of chapter 13 isn’t some beautiful poem about love. He addresses how they hurt one another, he addresses how they deal with differences. He addresses this whole idea of what happens when you fail. And now he’s going to talk to us about how love responds to misplaced priorities.
I want to do a quick review before we talk about how love responds to misplaced priorities because the whole issue, I mean, I’m getting emails from people that are so encouraging. I got an email from a lady who said, “I just want you to know, I had a number of opportunities this week to absorb a blow, when people hurt me, and respond with a hug.”
I got an email from someone who said, “You know something? I had a situation this week where all the circumstances kind of looked like, wow, really bad stuff happening. And I chose to believe the best about this person’s motives.”
And so, let’s do a quick review because the issue isn’t someday, someway that we try to be more loving. These are the kind of things we have to practice in real time.
Situation number one is: how does love respond to hurts? The truth is, love is patient and kind. The practice we learned is when you’re hurt, wounded, rejected, or ignored. Love – remember the pillow? absorbs the blow. It’s not fair, it hurts. You’re rejected. But then by God’s grace, returns a hug.
Situation number two was how love responds to differences. The text says, “Love doesn’t envy, doesn’t boast, it’s not rude, it’s not self-seeking, it’s not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.”
The practice is: love celebrates differences. And remember the principle about loving? Love refuses to compare. Anytime you compare yourself with another person in any area, it always leads to carnality. You are who you are, in the station you are, in the season you’re living, by the grace of God.
If I compare upwardly, I’m prone to envy. If I compare downwardly, I’m prone to arrogance. Love chooses to do neither, but celebrates. That’s where they’re at, that’s what they have, that’s how they’re made, that’s their gifts, that’s their season.
Third situation is: how does love respond to failure? The truth was verses 6 through 8. “Love does not delight in evil but rejoices in the truth. It always protects, it always trusts, it always hopes, it always perseveres. Love never fails.”
The practice is: love responds to failure – remember? with both truth and grace. When people fail you, when your mate fails you. When your best friend fails you, when people don’t show up, when you fail other people, when you fail God. Love, this is how it responds, it doesn’t put it under the rug. It doesn’t act like it doesn’t happen. It doesn’t stuff it down. It doesn’t pay them back later.
Love responds with truth. This is the truth about that failure. It’s very real, it was very painful, and it was wrong, and it also responds with grace. And I still care about you. And I want to forgive you. And this can be made whole.
And so we learned that the practice of giving truth and grace was about bearing all things, believing all things, hoping all things, and enduring all things.
Now the apostle Paul is going to address these Corinthians because they are self-centered. They’re more concerned about who does what and who has what. And their priorities in the church are absolutely out of whack.
They are so into, in some cases, “my needs,” that they’re suing one another. They’re so interested in being first and being out front that they’re doing some spiritual practices and literally just dissing other people.
They’re in this deal where their priorities, they’re exalting some of the gifts and exalting some of what is supposed to be in the church that God talks about, but they put it up here and the things that really matter? They’re totally neglecting.
And so, the apostle Paul is going to write to them, situation number four: how does love respond to misplaced priorities? You can jot that in your notes if you would. And he answers. Here’s the truth, “Love never fails. Where there are prophecies, they’ll cease, where there’s tongues, they will be stilled. Where there’s knowledge, it’ll pass away.”
Then he gives us the reason, “For we know, in part, and we prophecy in part, but when the perfection comes,” and put a circle around “perfection,” will you? We’ll come back and address that. “When the perfection comes, the imperfect disappears.”
And now he gives us an illustration. He’s going to give us some help about how to get your priorities in order. He says, “When I was a child, I talked like child, I thought like a child, and I reasoned like child. When I became a man, I put away childish things.”
In your notes, will you underline the word talked, underline the word think, and underline the word reasoned? They’re three key, key verbs.
“Now we see but a poor 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’m fully known. And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.”
Now, it is poetic. It is beautiful. It is on plaques everywhere in the world. It is said at weddings. It’s said in, kind of, romantic settings. But you need to understand what he’s addressing here is not, sort of a, foo-foo, ooey-gooey, how to feel about one another.
He’s correcting misplaced priorities in a church and he’s giving them very clear guidelines about what’s really important and how to get some of those things. Even, I’m just going to assume the best of the Corinthians. I’m going to assume they really wanted to do the right thing. But just like in the name of love we do things that are kind of silly and stupid and don’t get us there, so did they.
And so, the practice here is love ruthlessly refuses to allow temporal good things to crowd out the eternal best things. And will you put a box around, I mean, I chose these words very carefully. Ruthlessly refuses. Put a box around that phrase.
And I want to give you a little warning. What we’re going to talk about is where a lot of the rubber really meets the road. If you want to simplify your life, if you want to find yourself three months, three years, five years, ten years down from here and say to yourself, You know something? I love God now like I never dreamed I could experience. I have relationships like I never dreamed. There are issues in my family that have come together that I never thought I would ever experience.
A lot of it is going to come down to you hearing today what God says to you and then you taking some very specific and they will be radical steps. We will not talk about how to tweak your schedule and get five or seven percent more time to do a few more important things.
We’re going to talk about priorities that, if you get serious about what God wants, you’re going to have to say to certain whole sections of your life, You know something? That’s been way up here. You know what? For a season, I just need to stop doing that. I’ve got to get refocused at a new level about what really, really matters.
Love ruthlessly, ruthlessly, that means, that means, Aw, I don’t want, if I do that she’ll get mad at me. If I do that, I want to do that, well I get a lot of strokes out of that. Well, that’s one of my hobbies and I really, you know, ah, em, em, ah, ah.
And so you keep trying to tweak and what happens? Seven days later, you’re as overscheduled, over-demand, overwhelmed as you were two weeks before.
You’re a really smart people. If tweaking a little bit here or there was the solution, you would have solved this a long time ago.
So let’s look at, okay, God help us. How do we ruthlessly refuse to allow, notice it’s not bad things. The things that eat you up, they’re not bad things. They’re temporal. They’re really good things, but the good is always the enemy of the best.
His thesis here is that love is supreme. Love is our number one priority. That phrase: love never fails. It’s kind of a hinge.
And then it kind of opens the door to how love responds to misplaced priorities. The word “fails,” seventy different times in the New Testament, it’s translated, “love never falls.” It means, love will never be corrupted, love will never cease, love is permanent, love lasts. He’s saying: loving God and loving people is the number one priority in your life.
And see, what we’ve got to do is step back and say, Okay, if someone picked up my schedule, if someone picked up where all my money went, if someone could pick up and read my mind about where my thoughts are when I didn’t have something to do, would my thoughts and my time and my money and my energy and my actions tell the story that, wow, this person really loves God and really loves people?
Or would it, would they listen to my words and say, This person says and thinks and actually is deluded into believing they really love God and really love people. But when you look at their time, their money, their dreams, their schedule, and their energy it looks like they really love themselves a lot. And they really have believed a few lies.
That’s what he’s dealing with that church then. And that’s what he’s talking to us about today.
The contrast, he says, love is supreme. Love’s the number one priority. The best of temporal things. The good. Even spiritually beneficial, powerful gifts, are far less important than love.
I mean, isn’t that exactly what he says? Look at verse, the second half of verse 8. There’s a big word. “Love never fails, but.” “But where’s there’s prophecies, they’ll cease. Where there’s tongues, in and of themselves, they’re going to go away. Where there’s knowledge,” I mean, even the great mysteries of God.
So, the apostle Paul, if you study this book carefully. Remember he told them in chapter 12? Prophecy is the most important of all the gifts. And now he comes back and says even that one’s going away.
The Corinthians believed that tongues was the most important gift. He goes, “Well yours is going away.” And then he said, “We would both agree that knowledge, the very mystery and knowledge of life and God…
He says, “That’s going to go away.” And those are the things, those are about ministry. Those are about the kingdom of God. I mean, prophecy and tongues and knowledge. And he says, “Wait a second. Compared to love, they’re not the number one priority.”
The reason he gives us is in verse 9 and 10. The reason is because they don’t last. They’re temporal. Could you put a line under they don’t last? Because this is what he’s trying to get into their mind and into their heart.
He says, “For we know in part, we prophesy in part, but when perfection comes, when the perfect comes.” A lot of debate on this, but the clearest explanation, things are going to be completed when Jesus comes back. I mean, I don’t mean the rapture. I don’t mean when He comes back. I mean, when the Second Coming of Christ, when the absolute completion and perfection of all things gets sealed, there won’t be any need for prophesy, won’t be any need for tongues. The knowledge won’t be in part, it’ll be face to face.
We’re going to know Him fully just as we’ve been already fully known. And what he’s saying is: Look, you guys are so into, and arguing about and stressed and pulled in all these directions about some very good things but what prophesy and knowledge, all they have in common is they’re temporal.
It’s not that they don’t matter at all. It’s like helping your kids learn sports at an early age or wanting them to get into a good college or wanting to be upwardly mobile or getting some extra training or wanting to do well in your job or, you know, are those – those aren’t bad things, are they?
I mean, if you would walk through carefully later today, the list of things that I put on the front page of your notes, every single one of those is really good – isn’t it good to be giving? Yeah, it’s good to be giving. But if you give, give, give, give, give, give and don’t honor God and take some time to get renewed, then guess what, you just feel guilty and burned out.
I mean, it’s good to help your kids grow but if your whole world is traveling around in minivans and SUVs and all your weekends are taken up helping your kids hit balls and kick balls and chase balls to where you’re never together and connected from the heart…
See, some good means, some very good things. But it’s sort of a wash. Sort of, we’re living in this world where, you know, you’re not a good dad if you don’t do this, you’re not a good mom if you don’t do that.
You’re never going to make it as a single person unless you go here, go here, go here, do this, do this. I mean, you’re not successful and significant unless you have a bag that looks like this, a watch that looks like this, and a car that drives like that.
You want to make it or not?
And you’ve got to start asking: make what? So yeah, that’s right, so what do you want to make? You want to make it big and go through a couple marriages? You want to make it big and have kids that don’t know your name and don’t care about you?
You want to make it big and be successful and some people, you know, it’s not…they do it in ministry. Every time the church doors are open they’re here and doing this and doing that.
I was talking on the phone with a guy from another country last night that I’m going to do some ministry with in the future. And I said, just, “Is there one thing I could pray for you?” And he said, “Yeah, there is one thing.”
And I said, “What is it?” He goes, “You know, I have three almost full-time jobs and there’s all this demand and my wife’s very understanding. But my daughter is eight and she just doesn’t understand very much.”
I said, “Well, what do you mean she doesn’t understand?” He goes, “Well, I just don’t see her very often.”
“Buddy, I’m going to build a little trust with you and I’m going to spiritually kick your rear end as hard and as long as I can. And I’m going to look you in the eye and say: Do you understand how good things, in the name of love, produce some really bad lives?"
I’ll tell you, he’s going to have a little girl that doesn’t like God, let alone love God. And will wonder why the church or God took her daddy away from her.
You can give people what they want but if you don’t give them what they need, they like you for giving them what they want now, then they hate you later for not giving them what they need. That’s the difference between parents and kids.
A picture that helped me with this was a guy named Jim Dethmer, he gave a message that really helped me. And he had an illustration that I’d like to just steal.
Because there’s part of this, theologically, and you say: what do you mean, they’ll fade away, they don’t matter? It’s not like those good things you’re doing don’t matter. It’s not like ministry doesn’t matter.
So what’s it mean, what’s the picture? And I love the illustration he gave. He said, “Imagine that we were having a big party, everyone in the church, big party. All the services coming together and, you know, we rent a park and, I mean, we’re going to have ice cream and we’re going to have food and a barbeque and we’re going to celebrate and there’s going to be great music. And so we get, like, four or five of our best artists and we want you to create a sculpture that, I mean, gives glory to God that, just, magnifies the artistic talent and ability that you have.
And here’s this big room, it’s about, you know, thirty feet by forty feet. And this big block of ice. And, you know, they’re in there with chain saw. Errr, errrr, errr, chhh, chh.
And so they work for weeks and then they put it on these rollers and there are thousands of us and we’re having music and here it is, this beautiful fountain. And it’s out in one hundred degrees and who knows, maybe we could have chocolate coming out of it or something. But, you know, there’s swans and I mean, I mean, it’s just an amazing deal, right?
And we stop and all of us are going, “Wow. Wow, can you believe? Man, unbelievable. Do you see, I mean, that is the most amazing. How did they do that with ice,” right? You know, we’re all just like this.
Three hours later, party is over. What they did was wonderful. Their energy was wonderful. We appreciated it. But three to four hours later, some of us are volunteering, cleaning up the chairs.
We’re picking up the paper. The swan only has one arm. The thing’s melting. By dusk a handful of us are just cleaning up. And where that beautiful ice sculpture used to be, there’s just puddles of water.
See, it’s not that what you were doing or what I’m doing doesn’t have any value. It’s that it doesn’t have any value that lasts. And there’s some of us that’ll stand before the judgment seat of Christ and I just say this from God’s loving heart to you as a warning.
And you will spend your time and your energy doing very good things that you think, with all your heart, are in the name of love, in your relationships, in your families, and in your work.
And you’ll get near the end of your life or worse, by the time, if you have a family, where your kids are grown, and what you’ll look back on is just pools of water that have no significance that are going nowhere and you wish you could turn back the clock.