http://vimeo.com/25678733 - Click here to watch the sermon on video
These are the notes from my sermon at FBC Ada on June 26, 2011.
This section of the letter Paul wrote to the churches in Corinth is probably a very familiar passage to many of us. Very often it is referred to as the “Love Chapter.” Paul discusses love quite extensively, and we hear this quoted, or have quoted it ourselves, at weddings, Valentine’s Day, marriage celebrations, etc. While I am not delegitimizing any of these, Paul’s intent was not merely to talk about what love is or like. The context of the letter must be examined, and we must remember the writers of Scripture did not separate their books into chapters and verses. Paul, in chapter 12, has just finished discussing spiritual gifts from the Holy Spirit and their functions in the body of Christ. Immediately after that, he talks about how what we do is meaningless without love. Do we not have the same struggle as members of the church? We hear over and over again in worship, Sunday School, and revivals WHAT we are supposed to be doing as Christians, but sometimes we forget the WHY. As Paul describes in this chapter, God really wants our hearts more than He wants our hands.
1. Service Without Love is Meaningless and Empty (vv.1-3) – Have you ever wondered what that gong or cymbal in the orchestra would sound like with everyone playing? Most times, they are not very pleasant. They are still doing what they are supposed to do, but there is something missing. Our service to the Lord is like that without love. We could do incredible things. We could build the biggest and brightest church. We could have the best budget. We could have the most members, but without love – it is all for nothing. What is the difference between having love and not?
(Illustration/skit – flowers for wife – 1. Obligation 2. Love)
What does my wife care more about, getting flowers or receiving my love and affection? Did you know God was the same way? In Isaiah 29:13-14, you can see what God says to the people of Israel, who were doing the right things, but God was tired of their worship:
“13 And the Lord said: ”Because this people draw near with their mouth and honor me with their lips, while their hearts are far from me, and their fear of me is a commandment taught by men, 14 therefore, behold, I will again do wonderful things with this people, with wonder upon wonder; and the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the discernment of their discerning men shall be hidden.”
Jesus quotes from Isaiah when He is speaking to the Pharisees in Matthew 15:8-9, “8 “‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; 9 in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’”
2. Love Comes From Where We Focus (vv.4-7) – Paul first describes the absence of love from our lives, and then in verses four through seven he talks about the fullness of love. The question you may be asking is, “Okay, I get it, we need to love, but what does that mean?” Our love comes from where we focus. If we spend all of our time focusing on what we should be or are doing, then that is what we will fall in love with – the doing. If we really focus on love, then that is what we will fall in love with. Paul helps us to show us what love is by describing it very well, but what is he really describing? Or better yet, WHO is he really describing? Paul is describing Christ. When I read these words, I see how Jesus lived. What I also find very interesting is the response of Jesus when He is asked what the greatest commandment is in Mark 12:28-34,
28 And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, asked him, “Which commandment is the most important of all?”29 Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.30 And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’31 The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”32 And the scribe said to him, “You are right, Teacher. You have truly said that he is one, and there is no other besides him.33 And to love him with all the heart and with all the understanding and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself, is much more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.”34 And when Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” And after that no one dared to ask him any more questions.
When we put our focus on the Lord and loving Him with all we have and all we are, what we are supposed to do for Him will supernaturally happen. In fact, when we really love God, we will want to do more than we ever imagined. When you love someone, you WANT to make him or her happy, you WANT to see him or her smile.
3. What is REALLY important (vv.8-13) – Do you remember when you were young making a gift or a card for your parents or someone like that? When someone is four, or if they are like me, his or her artistic abilities or penmanship is at a very low level. My mom or dad or grandparents never looked at what I gave them and said, “Are you kidding me? Is this best you can do?” They loved what I gave them because the gift was not as important as why I was giving it. Is it important for us to serve God with our gifts and be a part of ministry? Of course it is! The Holy Spirit is telling us through Paul’s writings that one day, all of our gifts and service will not be needed anymore. We will be with God. We will see Him! However, our love will still remain. All these things we do - all the things we spend time on – are they really important? It all comes back to our love for God and for others. That’s the greatest gift God has given us and that we can give others.