Sermon by Nate Wilson for Christ the Redeemer Church, Manhattan, KS, 06 Sept 2009
Love is the beginning of all the fruits of the Spirit. What is love?
o Can be caused by Making false judgments, Not placing self under authority, Idle talk, Responding to sin with tolerance rather than repentance, Reliance on education and information rather than building covenantal relationships, Thinking not based on God’s word
o Ways To Puncture Pride: 1) Consider others more important than self, 2) Give yourself to others, 3) Walk humbly, and 4) Think of ways to serve
o Also translated “unseemly” (KJV), “unbecomingly” (NASB), “dishonorably” (F.F. Bruce), “indecent” (ATR), “ill-mannered” (Anderson), “uncourteous, inattendant to civility and propriety” (JFB), contrary to established standards of proper conduct (Strauch).
o Proper behavior regarding Dress, Speech, Relationships, Culture
o Love gives up its entitlements and thinks of others first (Anderson)
o Examples of unselfishness in Jesus, Paul, Barnabus
o Can be done actively by blowing your stack or passively by pouting.
o God is provoked by sin, so it is appropriate to be disturbed when you see sin, but if this is the right kind of provocation, it will lead to speaking with the offenders so they may be reconciled to God.
We whose sins have been forgiven by the blood of Jesus
should, of all people, be the quickest to forgive others!
Now let’s cover the last two things that love is NOT, along with their converse:
· The verb in this phrase (logizomai) has a range of meaning. Strong’s lexicon gives the following meanings: “take an inventory, count, account, estimate, conclude, despise, esteem, impute, lay, number, reason, reckon, suppose, think” so there are two main ways to take this phrase:
· Love does not rejoice to DO wrong things
o 2 Thess. 2:12 “They all shall be judged who believed not the truth, but took pleasure in unrighteousness.”
o It is important for us as Christians who are to “love the LORD and love our neighbor” to acknowledge that what we like or don’t like does not set the standard for right and wrong. Jehovah-God is the one who sets the standard of ethics. What He doesn’t like is by definition “unrighteousness” and therefore love will not rejoice over such things.
o I was just reading yesterday about what the Psalmist has to say of the wicked in Psalm 10: “The wicked sings praises over his selfish cravings. He blesses the greedy and abhors the LORD… His mouth is full of cursing and deceit and oppression: Under his tongue is mischief and iniquity. He sits in the lurking-places of the villages; In the secret places he murders the innocent; His eyes secretly watch the helpless. He lurks in secret like a lion in his cover; He lies in wait to catch the poor...”
o Maybe you aren’t out to victimize people by killing or stealing from them, but how often do you look for people’s weak spots and then laugh about their “bad luck, bad taste, or bad timing?”
o There are some people who would never do such things themselves, but they enjoy watching others commit wickedness, but
· Love does not enjoy watching OTHER people do wrong things
o This appears to be the sin of Ham in Gen 9:22-23, who walked in on a shameful sight of his father after Noah had gotten drunk and apparently took some kind of pleasure from it. Ham was cursed as a result.
o Romans 1:32 warns us of the danger, not only of those “who, knowing the law of God… practice things worthy of death…” but also of those who “think well of/approve of/take pleasure in those who are doing” such things.
o Love does not get a thrill out of watching other people engage in sexual immorality in videos.
o Love does not enjoy thrillers of people trying to kill each other.
o My wife told me just this week about a lady in our church who saw some students playing with Tarot cards. Whether or not these students realized the danger of what they were playing with, this woman knew that this kind of activity connects people with evil spirits in an effort to know the future. She was not willing to stand by and let this happen unchallenged, so she went up and witnessed to the students. That is love.
o But what if you’re a lot better than everybody else and you wouldn’t be caught dead doing wicked things or watching them happen?
· Love does even not look forward to catching others in wrongdoing
o I remember one night when I was just out of college, a group of college guys caught me doing something wrong (I’m too embarrassed to say what). I still remember how they laughed and jeered at me. (“Busted! You’d better run away!”) Of course I deserved the shame, but love doesn’t relish the thought of catching someone else in their sin even when love calls for confronting and seeking the restoration of that brother or sister.
o “What a man rejoices in is a fair test of his character. To be glad when evil prevails, or to rejoice in the misfortunes of others is indicative of great moral degradation.” (Scroggie, The Love Life, p.45)
o “Loving people do not take pleasure in feelings of superiority over others. They do not delight in juicy gossip, nor do they find satisfaction in hearing about the sordid sins and demise of Christian leaders they don’t like. They do not gloat over scandals in a denomination… They don’t enjoy publicly denouncing or criticizing the failures and errors of other Christians. If they must expose and confront sinful behavior, they do it with compassion and genuine sadness of heart.” (Strauch, Leading with Love, p.77) cf Gal. 6
· Rom 12:9-21 “Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor that which is evil; cling to that which is good. In love of the brethren be tenderly affectionate one to another; in honor preferring one another; in diligence not slothful; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing stedfastly in prayer; giving to the needs of the saints; given to hospitality. Bless them that persecute you; bless, and curse not. Rejoice with them that rejoice; weep with them that weep. Be of the same mind one toward another. Set not your mind on high things, but condescend to things that are lowly. Be not wise in your own conceits. Render to no man evil for evil. Take thought for things honorable in the sight of all men. If it be possible, as much as in you lieth, be at peace with all men. Avenge not yourselves, beloved, but give place unto the wrath of God: for it is written, Vengeance belongs unto me; I will repay, says the Lord. But if your enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing you will heap coals of fire upon his head. Be not overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”
Thus ends the list of what Love is Not. Love does not project evil on others or harbour grudges, and love does not rejoice in what is wrong. Verse 6 closes with a positive statement that corresponds to that last negative statement of what love is not:
· In the Greek text of this verse, the verb in this phrase is slightly different than the one in the last phrase. In this phrase, the verb for “rejoice” has the word “together with” added to it. Love does not rejoice alone. Even if it’s just you and God and everybody else against you, you don’t rejoice alone because God rejoices with you. And if you love your neighbor, there will always be a neighbor that God places alongside you with whom you can rejoice because love is always others-focused and shares its joy.
· The Greek dative translated “in” by the KJV versions and “with” can mean “in,” “by the agency of,” or in some cases “with.”
o “IN the truth” tells us that love stands in the sphere of truth.
§ It does not accept lies or tell lies, but listens to the truth (Jesus is the truth – John 14:6) and speaks only truth.
§ Integrity: “…virtually every action and stance bears some relationship to the power interests of the self, or to one’s peer group. Genuine love… alone de-centers the power interests of the self and of its peer group, and in re-centering them in the Other (primarily in God, but also in the other person), disengages from self-interest. Only [then] can truth emerge as disengaged from a power agenda. True disinterested integrity is free to seek truth, without anxiety about what it helps or hinders in one’s personal agenda. Love, Paul says, has discovered integrity…” (Thistelton, p.1055)
§ Thus, as love rejoices it rejoices while standing squarely IN the truth.
o Love also rejoices BY the agency of truth.
§ Truth is what causes love to rejoice and is the tool that love uses to live in joy.
§ Some scholars suggest that “THE truth” refers specifically to the Gospel, the good news that Jesus died on the cross to pay the price for our sin and reconcile us to God. Those who believe the truth of the Gospel have great cause to rejoice! (JFB, G. Clark)
§ Witness the contrast between the father and the older brother in Jesus’ parable of the prodigal son. The father “rejoiced greatly” (Luke 15:11-32) in the restoration of his younger son despite the shame upon the family because he loved his son, but the older brother did not rejoice because he did not have love for his brother.
o Love also rejoices WITH the truth.
§ Love stands beside the truth and “rejoices together” with it.
§ In this sense, some scholars think that truth is personified as God Himself with whom we rejoice. (A.T. Robertson, Vincent)
§ If we love other people, we can rejoice with them as well, when we hear reports of how well they are doing or when we hear true praise of other people (Chrysostom).
§ This is what Paul did in 1 Cor. 1:4-7 “I am thanking my God always concerning y’all, on account of the grace of God which was given you by Jesus Christ, so that in everything, y’all were enriched by Him in every word and in every [piece of] knowledge, even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed by you, so that y’all don’t miss out on any [spiritual] gift...” These things were true of the Corinthian church, and Paul could thank God for them even while suffering hardship in another country, rejoicing WITH them.
· How easy it is to fudge on rejoicing in the TRUTH
o In political elections, we often have a particular interest to protect, and we will often fudge on integrity in order to protect our party interests. For instance, if I’m against socialized medicine in this era, I might tell others that the Democrat who wants to implement socialized medicine is bad and the Republican candidate is good because he is the most likely to be able to defeat that Democrat. Doing this has strong potential of distorting the truth because there are many other candidates and many other issues.
o You probably run into politics like this in your own business where people are willing to fudge on the truth in order to advance their pet projects or agendas.
o Or how about in the home? I’m always amazed at the way children who are bickering in the home represent themselves. Suzy says, “Johnny HIT me!” But she conveniently leaves out the truth that she had hit Johnny first.
o I’ll confess that sometimes I do this as well, conveniently leaving out Bible verses that don’t fit with a point I’m trying to make in a sermon. That’s why I encourage you to keep your Bibles open and hold me accountable!
o 3 John 1:3-6 “I rejoiced greatly, when brethren came and bore witness unto the truth of you, even as you walk in truth. I have no greater joy than this, to hear of my children walking in the truth.”
o Eph. 4:15 “Speaking truth in love, we may grow up in all things into … Christ”
· What is it that makes you happy? What makes your pulse race and rivets your attention? What makes you so excited you could dance? God’s word calls us to get that kind of feeling from what is right and true.
What we think and what we get excited about is part of what defines our love. Only a mind and emotional makeup that is harnessed to God can love the way we are called to love.