The Power of Love

Do you remember the 80’s song, “The Power of Love” by Huey Lewis?  Here’s a few of the lyrics:

The power of love is a curious thing
Make a one man weep, make another man sing
Change a heart to a little white dove
More than a feeling, that’s the power of love

Love is powerful.

The Bible has a lot to say about love. In fact, from beginning to end that is its theme – God’s love for each of us, & our love for Him, which results in our loving one another. God has a lot to say about love.

But so does the world. The problem is that the world doesn’t say the same thing that the Bible says. And because we hear the world say so much about love, we tend to get the two mixed up.

In a “Dear Abby” column in the news-papers, a man wrote: “Dear Abby, I am in love & I am having affairs with two different women other than my wife. I love my wife, but I love these other women too. Please tell me what to do, but don’t give me any of that ‘morality’ stuff.” Signed: “Too much love for only one.”

I think Abby’s answer was “classic.” She wrote: “Dear ‘Too much love for only one.’ The only difference between humans & animals is morality. So you need to write to a veterinarian.”

I think Abby got her point across. We have been made in the image of God, & God expects better of us than to fashion our lives according to the instincts of a beastly nature.

Sometimes our children understand love better than we do.

Some children were asked what love is. Their answers were interesting:

One said, “Love is when your puppy licks your face even after you’ve left him alone all day.”

Another said, “Love is when my mommy makes a cup of coffee for my daddy & takes a little sip before she gives it to him to make sure it tastes okay.”

One boy said, “When someone loves you, the way they say your name is different. You just know that your name is safe in their mouth.”

Another thoughtfully responded, “You really shouldn’t say, ‘I love you’ unless you mean it. But if you mean it you should say it a lot, because people forget.”

And finally, 7 year old Bobby said, “Love is what’s in the room with you at Christmas if you stop opening presents & listen.”

So let’s consider once again what the Bible has to say about some of the attributes of Christian love.

As we continue our study of Paul’s first letter to the church in Corinth we come to the 13th chapter, verses that are the best known when it comes to describing the power of love.

This is a very popular chapter.  Prime Minister Tony Blair read it at the funeral for Princess Diana.  It’s a passage that has become a staple at weddings. I’ve heard it read at many weddings.  Most people should be very familiar with these words.

1  If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2  If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3  If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.

Why is Love Powerful?

Love is the greatest gift.   

To give us a little context: I Corinthians Chapter 12 focuses on spiritual gifts.  In the passage above, I underlined the spiritual gifts mentioned. Chapter 14 goes into some of the problems the Corinthians have with their gifts. Chapter 13 is sandwiched in between—and Paul was inspired to do it this way to underscore the truth that if we get love wrong—we get spiritual gifts wrong. In fact, Paul says that without Godly love—self-sacrificing love—all other things—including wonderful things like helping the poor—are nothing. Teaching as well-spoken as that of Apollos is just noise unless every word is prompted by love. Even faith and hope is empty without love. I’m reminded of something Richard McBrien wrote: “Love is the soul of Christian existence; it is the heart of every other Christian virtue.  For example, justice without love is legalism; faith without love is ideology; hope without love is self-centeredness; forgiveness without love is self-abasement—fortitude without love is recklessness; generosity without love is extravagance; care without love is mere duty; fidelity without love is servitude. Every virtue is an expression of love. No virtue is really a virtue unless it is permeated, or informed, by love.”

Like the Corinthians we need this power in our lives in order for us to be effective as Christians—and as a church. But to be more specific, we don’t need power, at least power as we define it and I say that because we usually equate power with control.  But for the Christian true power is not being in control, but rather under the control of a power much greater than us—namely, God.

To quote another part of that Huey Lewis song, “With a little help from above, you feel the power of love.” And Lewis is right because that’s the way it works. We experience the true power of love when we put God in control of our lives. We feel the power of love when Christ becomes greater and we become less. It is impossible for you and me to love in the ways described in this love chapter—without Jesus in us—empowering us to do so.

In the Greek language there are four kinds of love. There’s phileo — the love between brothers or friends.  There’s storge – the love of a family or a community. There’s eros — a physical love.  And finally there’s agape — a self-sacrificing kind of love.  The first three are common in this world—but the last is rare. Agape is the love used in this passage. It’s a no strings type of love.  It’s a choice.  Agape is a love that works for the good of the one loved even if it costs the love-er everything.

What does love look like?

4  Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.
5  It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.
6  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.
7  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

I John 4: 16 says, “God is love.”   Sometimes I put God where it says, love.  God is patient, God is kind.

Love Overcomes Evil

One of my favorite illustrations of the nature of love is to think about the fake plastic food that we find in displays at the store. Sometimes they are very real looking. I remember picking up a block of cheese, only to discover it was not real cheese. It was rubber! Let’s say we look at a barbecue grill and there is a steak on it.  We can’t tell whether it is real or not. One way to test it is to light up the grill and start grilling the steak. If it were a real steak, what would happen? It would first start to sizzle. It would let off a pleasing aroma. Juices would start running off the steak as it begins to turn into a golden brown color. Our stomach would start growling as we anticipate a good steak. Now, let’s say it is a plastic steak. What would happen then? It sure wouldn’t sizzle, but would start to melt. Instead of a pleasing aroma, it would let off toxic fumes. Instead of your stomach growling, we would probably get sick to our stomachs at the fumes. Instead of turning brown, the steak would melt and turn into an ugly, sticking, useless black lump of burnt plastic.

That is the different between “real” love, the love of God, and other kinds of love. When the heat gets turned up, when things get ugly, when it gets hard, self-defined plastic love gets ugly. It can even make you sick.

As Christians, we have a high standard of what love is.  Love is patient.  How do we know if we have patience unless it is tested?   We see what’s inside of us when heat is turned up! Then we see what is there and it will cause us to pray more, depend on Christ more.

For the last aspect of love, Let me close with this story that illustrates it:

Back in 1994 in Oceanside, CA doctors discovered a lymphoma in 5th grader Ian O’Gorman’s small intestine. They operated and removed a malignant tumor and then began an 8 week chemotherapy treatment.

Back in his 5th grade class, 10-year-old Kyle Hanslik realized that Ian would lose all of his hair. “The last thing he would want is to not fit in, to be made fun of” Kyle said, and he began to talk to the other boys in the class. Then (with their parents permission) all 13 boys in the class went down to the barbershop and had their heads shaved so their sick friend wouldn’t feel out of place.

The boys’ teacher, Jim Alter, was so inspired that he, too, shaved his head.

When they visited young Ian in the hospital, he knew they cared for him.

Those boys and their teacher had faith in the doctors.

They hoped for their friend’s recovery.

But what made the real difference for little Ian was that they loved him so much they were willing to do something to show him how much they cared.

13  And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

Love is lasting.

In the song, “The power of Love” Huey Lewis writes, “love might just save your life.”  Our response to the love of God in sending Jesus WILL save our life. Christ has the power to forgive all our sins, to take away the sting of death. Christ has the power to give our life abundance and purpose.  Will you join me in responding to the love of Jesus today?  I need Jesus power to love my wife, children and people in my life.  How about you?

Darrell

 

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You are Gifted – I Corinthians 12

Have you heard of the term “child prodigies?” Although educators often label them as “gifted and talented,” they are young people blessed with unbelievable intelligence, or amazing artistic talents, or seemingly unnatural physical abilities.  Examples of child prodigies would include Mozart who learned to play the piano at the age of four. He composed his first pieces of music at five and at age eight, he wrote his first symphony. Another example would be Pablo Picasso who had already become an accomplished and renowned painter in his teenage years. In more recent history many of you have probably seen the video of Tiger Woods as a two-year-old on the Tonight Show hitting golf balls. A few years ago a young man named Michael Kearney received national attention when he earned a $1,000,000 on the television game show “Who Wants to be a Millionaire?” He too was a “child prodigy.” Michael finished high school at age 6 and earned his first college degree at age 10. He began teaching college by the age of 17. He spoke his first words when he was four months old. At the age of six months, he said to his pediatrician, “I have a left ear infection.” He had learned to read at the age of ten months. When Michael was four, he was given diagnostic tests for the Johns Hopkins precocious math program and achieved a perfect score.

Although their stories astound us, such gifted individuals are very rare. The majority of us are astoundingly average, but I can say with confidence that each of you that know Christ is gifted! Before you deny being gifted remember that I am not the one saying you are gifted. God says it.  Listen to God’s description of how you are gifted in Apostle Paul’s inspired words from 1 Corinthians 12,

1  Now about spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be ignorant. …3  Therefore I tell you that no one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, “Jesus be cursed,” and no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit.
4  There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit.
5  There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord.
6  There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men.
7  Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.
1 Corinthians 12:1-7 (NIV)

  1. The Holy Spirit has given you the gift of faith
  2. The Holy Spirit has given you gifts for serving others

Four times in this letter that we call “1 Corinthians” the Apostle Paul used a short phrase like “now about” to transition to a new thought or topic. Remember that Paul addressed a long list of spiritual and practical concerns connected to the Christian church in Corinth. In the first eleven chapters he wrote about divisions in the church, lawsuits between Christians, sexual immorality, marriage, worship, and the Lord’s Supper. Then beginning in Chapter 12 and continuing through Chapter 14 Paul addressed the issue of spiritual gifts among Christians.

In a style that we have learned to expect from the Apostle Paul he began by simply saying, “Now about spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be ignorant.” With those words Paul was beginning a lesson on gifts given to Christians by the Holy Spirit. As he stated he was setting out to lead the Corinthians out of their ignorance into a better understanding of spiritual gifts. But this would be more than a doctrinal lesson for the Corinthians. They would learn that they were gifted people. The Holy Spirit had given them the gift of faith and the Holy Spirit had given them gifts for serving others. May we too be led to understand that those truths apply to us as well. The Lord of the Church is still speaking through these inspired words saying to each of us, “You are gifted! You too have been given the gift of faith. And you too have been given gifts to serve others.”

Perhaps I am stating the obvious when I say that any intellectual, artistic, musical, or athletic abilities that a child has are gifts. No child prodigy decided to be born a genius, an artist, or an athletic superstar. Yes, it is true that people like Mozart, Picaso, and Tiger Woods had parents that helped them develop their gifts but clearly they were gifted at birth with abilities above and beyond those of the average person.

In a similar way none of us can take credit for being gifted in the area of spiritual things. It was the Holy Spirit that first of all gave us the gift of faith in Christ. And it is also the Holy Spirit that has given each of us gifts to use for serving others.

After making the point that the Corinthian Christians were gifted because the Holy Spirit had given them the gift of faith Paul went on to remind them that they also had been given gifts for serving others. “Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.” There wasn’t a single believer at the Church in Corinth that could say he or she had no spiritual gift to use in service to God and others. Each of them had at least one gift to be used for serving others for the “common good” of all.

So are things any different for us? No. The same truth applies to each and every one of us. You and I are gifted. The Holy Spirit has given us at least one gift to use in service to others.

So what do these gifts look like for us today? “Serving” is such a broad category that it could include a nearly endless list of tasks. Helping in any ministry, mission trip, or special event the church is doing.  We have many things that need to be done each week to hold services such as cleaning, landscaping, loading message and song slides, video, lights, sound, kids classes, youth group, Connect Groups, and the list could go on and on. Obviously not everyone is able to teach a kids class, youth lesson or coordinate a Connect Group but if you are asked consider giving it a try. Maybe the Lord has given you the gift of encouragement. You are able to show genuine concern for others and lift their spirits with words of encouragement. As you look at your financial blessings perhaps the Holy Spirit has given you the gift of contributing to the needs of others.  Always remember that you have at least one spiritual gift to use for others. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you find it and motivate you to use it.

Research on child prodigies or gifted and talented children you shows one common problem that most of them experience. Gifted children are often bored in school or with life in general. Very often they are never challenged to use their gifts and so they waste them. I believe the same thing happens to many Christians. Their gifts go unused because they are never challenged or asked to put their gifts to use. I am asking every one of you right now to look honestly at yourself, find your spiritual gift or gifts, and put it or them to use in service to others.

“You are gifted!” Did you ever think someone would say that about you? Perhaps your reactions would be, “Who, me, gifted? I don’t think so!” Well, God says it about you. He says you are gifted. You may not be able to play music like Mozart, paint like Picasso, or use a golf club like Tiger Woods. But, nonetheless, you are gifted. The Holy Spirit has given you the gift of faith. And since he has given you the gift of faith you can be certain the Holy Spirit has also given you gifts for serving others. As gifted people may we now use our gifts for Christ and His body,

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Want to Discover Your Spiritual Gifts? You Can Here.

This week we are looking at the topic of Serving and Spiritual Gifts.  Do you know your spiritual gifts?  Would you like too?  Take the survey from the web link below and you will!

http://www.churchgrowth.org/cgi-cg/gifts.cgi?intro=1

The following Spiritual Gifts Survey is a discovery tool that provides you with a personalized analysis. Not a test, but a simple questionnaire giving you a profile of your God given spiritual gifts.

Discovering and exercising your God-given spiritual gifts allows you to experience maximum fulfillment with minimum frustration in your Christian life and ministry.

INSTRUCTIONS

This questionnaire will help you identify your God-given spiritual gifts. While there are many spiritual gifts, this evaluation covers the nine task-oriented gifts used in daily life to do the work of Christian ministry. Every Christ Follower has a dominant gift and many possess more than one. Through this analysis, you will find out in which areas you are “less” gifted and will also discover your dominant task-oriented gift. You can then begin to concentrate on further developing your dominant gift as you exercise it in daily life and in your local church ministry.

The following 108 questions or statements deal with your feelings and desires, so be sure to let your responses reflect your own opinions of yourself. As you read each question or statement, click the button in front of the most accurate answer: Almost Always (if the statement fits you 70% to 100% of the time), Occasionally (if the statement fits you 40% to 70% of the time), or Not Very Often (if the statement fits you less than 40% of the time). Remember, this is a self-evaluation; there are no “right” or “wrong” answers.

When you have completed the questionnaire, you will be able to view a bar graph of your scores for each gift, a description of your dominant gift, and several pages of personal analysis. You will also have the opportunity to print out the results.

Click Here to Begin:  http://www.churchgrowth.org/cgi-cg/gifts.cgi?intro=1

Thanks so much for your interest in Spiritual Gifts

I pray you are encouraged and empowered as you discover how the Holy Spirit has gifted you for ministry.   Let me know if you have any questions.  I am saying a prayer for you right now.

Darrell

 

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Flee! And Other Ways to Resist Sexual Immorality.

Why should we avoid sexual immorality?  In 1 Corinthians 6: 15-19 Paul gives us two truths to help us resist sexual immorality and then two action steps.  He expands on this idea of how our physical selves (bodies) are connected to our spiritual selves.  He points out two truths about our bodies the Corinthians had forgotten.  These are the same two truths that many of us have forgotten today, remember:

  1. Sex is not only a physical union but also a spiritual union.

Paul writes,15  Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ himself? Shall I then take the members of Christ and unite them with a prostitute? Never!
 (vs. 15) Notice the sentence begins with the phrase, “do you not know?” He asks that again in vs. 16 and in vs. 19. Paul is saying, “You know this, I’ve taught you this, but you’re not living by this, so let me remind you about it.”  This is how we are many times. We know better, but we choose not to live by what we know.   How many of us didn’t know immorality is wrong?  Of course we do.  God’s Spirit reminds us when we are about to sin. But many people ignore that still, small voice. They don’t live by what they know.  This is one reason God inspired Paul to write this letter. It’s not just for the Corinthians. It’s to remind us to live by what we know.

We may know but need to be reminded of is that our bodies are parts of Christ’s body.  They’re intimately connected with Christ, so we’re obligated to serve Him and do as He pleases.  Think of it like this. My hands are part of my body. They do what I tell them to do. I give the orders for my hands. They’re connected to me.  How would it be if my hands rebelled and started slapping my face?  It’s the same way when we use our bodies in ways we know Christ our Head would not want us to.

Paul is warning us about compartmentalizing our lives.  We think we can be involved in immorality with our bodies and somehow have it not affect our relationship with God.  We think we can isolate this one area of our lives, our sexuality, from our relationship with Christ.  We pray, we go to church, we read the Bible, we do all those things, but in this one area of our lives, we think we can do what we want; it won’t infringe on our relationship with God.

But that’s impossible because our bodies are part of Jesus’ body. Ours is the flesh He uses to do His will in this world. He’s our head.

This leads to a second truth people forget when it comes to sex.

  1. The physical union of sex creates a lasting spiritual and emotional bond.

Look at verses 16–17. “Do you not know that the one who joins himself to a prostitute is one body with her? For He says, ‘The two shall become one flesh.’ ” This is part of the joy of marriage this physical union but it’s more than physical. Sex is an act that unites two people in a one-flesh relationship. The idea here is a strong spiritual bond is created.  The Greek word “joins” in vs. 16 was used to refer to glue. It reminds us that when two people come together that way they’re glued together. I can’t help but think of Crazy Glue. If you apply that glue properly, the bond that’s created is actually stronger and harder to break than the thing itself. If you try to break that bond you can’t do so without doing great damage to whatever it is you’re gluing together like your fingers.

Paul is saying the sexual union is like that. It unites us, not just in body, but in soul as well.  Sex, whether we realize it or not, acts like glue in a relationship. C.S. Lewis once said:  “Each time a man and a woman enter into a sexual relationship, a spiritual bond is established between them that must be eternally enjoyed or eternally endured.”

We talk about safe sex, but we can’t put a condom on our heart.  Sex is far more than just a physical act. It’s an act that involves the whole person body and soul. There is no such thing as casual sex.  Don’t ever buy that lie. Something mysterious and deep takes place in this union. This is why the Word of God absolutely insists that sex be practiced within the covenant of marriage.  Sex is a life-uniting act and to do it justice sex has to be experienced in the context of a lifelong union, and that always means marriage.  Within that context sex is a beautiful expression of intimacy and vulnerability that should be celebrated.

So even though sex with no commitment can be enjoyed on a certain level, the end result of immorality is a sense of hollowness, frustration, and aloneness. In this way it is not beneficial.

But Paul says that for those who are believers it even has a greater impact. Look at vs. 17, “But the one who joins himself to the Lord is one spirit with him.”  Just as two people joined in sex are one flesh, so those who come into a relationship with the Lord are joined with Him. Our spirit has been glued with the Lord’s Spirit.  So, when you engage in immorality, you’re actually dragging the Lord along with you. After all, as a Christian You’re united with Him. You’re one spirit with Him. You can’t separate your spirit from your body, and so you are involving the Lord Himself in this act.

As Christians we are united with Jesus so when we sin He feels the pain of that sin. As Paul says, our bodies, “are temples of the Holy Spirit, Who is in you, Whom you have received from God.  We are not our own; we were bought at a price…so we must honor God with our bodies.” Jesus lives IN us He paid the penalty for our sins so these bodies are not our own. This is not our real estate. Jesus lives here now.

I like what John MacArthur says about this verse: “Could you imagine committing sexual immorality in your church sanctuary?”  No way. But that’s no worse than what happens every time a believer is involved in sexual immorality because our bodies are the sanctuary of God. God dwells in here. In a very real sense when we disobey God’s loving laws regarding sex we kick Jesus off the throne of our lives. We commit idolatry.  With all this in mind what should we do when faced with today’s distorted view of sex?  Here are two action steps to avoid sexual immorality.

  1. FLEE!

In verse 18 Paul literally says, “Flee immorality. Flee and keep on fleeing.” He doesn’t just say stop immorality. He uses much stronger words flee from it, run from it. I like what Wayne Wright says: “The best weapon against immorality is geography.” In other words, get as far away as possible. Our sexual urges are so great and so powerful that we can’t afford to hang in there and duke it out with temptation because if we do, we’re going to lose. Sooner or later you’re going to lose that battle if you don’t flee from it, if you don’t run as far away as you can.

Essentially, we must get out of the situation, whatever it is, that might lead us into immorality. This includes being very careful with the kind of things that we allow ourselves to be exposed to. I’m speaking of the kinds of books we read, the kinds of movies we watch, and the kinds of websites we visit. Many times we justify reading or watching trash because it has a good story or interesting characters. But it impacts us it changes our views.  So steer clear of it.

  1. The second action step to avoid sexual immorality is to decide daily to HONOR GOD in our body.

Now why should we honor God in our bodies?  Our bodies have been purchased by God with the precious blood of his Son. Our bodies aren’t our own.  Think of it, would you take your new I-Phone 6 and use it as a ping pong paddle? Sure it’s big enough but you’d never do that because it cost too much.  Plus, if you’re in the same plan I am until I pay it off the phone company owns it. Would you take a rental car and spray paint silly patterns on the hood? No. In the same way, we have been bought at tremendous cost.

Our body is under new management. Lets’ see our bodies and treat our bodies a way that honors the One who owns it.

Darrell

 

Sources:  Mark Mitchell’s message on this text on Preaching Today has been very helpful to me along with Mark Adams and John Mac Arthur Commentary.

 

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