Sunday, 30 August 2009 00:00

The Mark of Real Christianity

I Corinthians 13 (NASB)

If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. And if I give all my possessions to fee the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing. Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, endures all things. Love never fails; but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part; but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away. When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known. But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love.

This morning we begin a new 22 week series on just one chapter of the Bible—I Corinthians 12. There are good reasons why we're spending the next six months studying this Bible text.

  1. Love is the mark of genuine Christianity.
    Jesus said by our love "all people will know" that we are His disciples (John 13:36). "God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God in him" (I John 4:16).
  2. Love is the most misused word in the English language.
    It is misused because love has come to mean something other than God's definition. Have you used a word in conversation that means something else to other people? By the time we finish our study, we will understand what real love looks like in us.
  3. Love is something that is both caught and taught.
    When you see it, you know it. Love overflows our hearts when love fills our hearts. In other words, there will be times when you may get frustrated with the text (or this study), because you see how shallowly you have treated the people you say you love. It is my prayer that this study will help you see the kind of love God has for you.

Having spoken about why it is we need this study, this first lesson will simply be a look at the chapter as a whole, with our expositional study of each verse beginning next week.

  1. Life is filled with problems for which the only solution is love.
    Christians will sometimes say they wish we could go back to the early church days. Corinth had a society that was sexually immoral. The Temple of Aphrodite was in the city. Prostitutes filled the streets. Society as a whole was pagan and immoral. But the church also had problems. There were divisions, cliques and even lawsuits. There seemed to be real difficulty among families and in the lives of individuals. Paul writes, "I will show you a still more excellent way" to live (I Corinthians 12:31).
  2. Love carries a promise that is worth your unconditional trust.
    After God inspires Paul to define and describe love, there is an inspired promise (v.8). "Love never fails." Three words that I hope you never ever forget. "Love never fails."
    1. Love will never fail you...
      Whenever you find yourself in a situation where you wonder how to respond, when you choose to live and give love's attributes, you will not fail in life.
    2. Love will never fail others...
      There are so many things we do in our relationships that are opposite of real love. We are selfish and controlling—we protect ourselves from hurt—and we seek to manipulate to order our environment—and we fool ourselves into thinking that we love others. But when we really love—the Corinthians way—it won't fail.
    3. Love will never fail God...
      We so often wonder how we can please God. No longer do we need to worry.
  3. Living a life defined by love is having a life devoted to God.
    In the coming weeks I will show you that without love, you do nothing, are nothing, and have nothing. The question we face is simply, Are we serious about our love?

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