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Faithlife

Loving One Another Forever

Love One Another  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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Introduction

Francis Schaeffer once said, “When Christians differ, there is a golden opportunity to show the world how we love each other.” You see, Schaeffer was convinced of two truths simultaneously: 1) Christians will disagree because the gospel is too deep and people are too different for it to be any other way. 2) Christians have the opportunity to demonstrate the power of the gospel by loving one another well and remaining bonded with one another in the midst of those disagreements.
Unfortunately, the church has become more famous for how viciously she fights rather than for how ferociously she loves in many places. And, such was the case at the Church at Corinth during the first century. The early Corinthians had found the gospel, but they had been slow to grow in it. And, there were a number of divisions that had arisen in the church, especially regarding the spiritual gifts. So, Paul writes to them to address these differences, and he tells them that “(He) will show them a more excellent way.” Iron City, I want us not to be famous for how divisive we are because of our differences; rather, I want us to be famous for how united we are in light of our differences. I want us to be living examples of Paul’s ‘more excellent way.’

God’s Word

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The People of Greatest Love

“And I will show you a more excellent way” What may shock you is that the 'love chapter' of the Bible is not written about marriage, though it is certainly appropriate for you to let it inform the way you love your husband or wife. The 'love chapter' is not even written about primarily to express God's love for us or our love for him. The 'love chapter' of the Bible was written to explain how we are to love one another within the Church.
APPLICATION: Now, I wonder how many of you could use to describe your experience with the Church. There are likely some of you here today for whom church is synonomous with meanness. It may have been for you that Church was the very place that you felt least loved in the whole world, and so you abandoned the whole idea. And honestly, it's a miracle that you're even here today. But, this vision that Paul gives us of the church here is one that is worth pursuing, isn't it? It's worth not giving up on. It's worth not quitting on. Because what these words cannot be written about any other place on the earth other than church. There is no bar or coffee shop that is like this. There is no social club or sorority that can be described this way. This is an extraordinary love that must find its origination in the love of God himself and thus is only possible within the people of God. This is the kind of church I dream of us becoming. The Church is the people of greatest love, and love should be the defining virtue of the people of God.
This morning, we come to one of the most famous passages in all of the Bible. It is a passage that many of you probably had read at your wedding or that you have memorized. And, it is the perfect place for us to begin our 'Love One Another' series, as we plan to spend the next five weeks on our value of emphasis. What may shock you is that the 'love chapter' of the Bible is not written about marriage, though it is certainly appropriate for you to let it inform the way you love your husband or wife. The 'love chapter' is not even written about primarily to express God's love for us or our love for him. The 'love chapter' of the Bible was written to explain how we are to love one another within the Church. This beautiful, even poetic, passage was given to us for the purpose of teaching us what it means to live out the new commandment that Jesus gave to us as his disciples, which is to love one another in a way that is both distinctive and magnetic.
APPLICATION: Now, I wonder how many of you could use to describe your experience with the Church. There are likely some of you here today for whom church is synonomous with meanness. It may have been for you that Church was the very place that you felt least loved in the whole world, and so you abandoned the whole idea. And honestly, it's a miracle that you're even here today. I've been an active part of a church for almost 20 years now, with at least 12 of those years being on a church staff. And, I can tell you that many of the most painful experiences of my life, some of the meanest things that I've ever had said to me came from within the Church. But, this vision that Paul gives us of the church here is one that is worth pursuing, isn't it? It's worth not giving up on. It's worth not quitting on. Because what these words cannot be written about any other place on the earth other than church. There is no bar or coffee shop that is like this. There is no social club or sorority that can be described this way. This is an extraordinary love that must find its origination in the love of God himself and thus is only possible within the people of God. This is the kind of church I dream of us becoming.

For the Good of the Church and the Glory of God

One of the ways that we know that Paul is talking about the Church here is the context within which we find it. Both chapters 12 and 14 are about the spiritual gifts, that is, those gifts that are given to us by God through the Holy Spirit for the good of the Church and the advancement of the Gospel. So, when we come to chapter 13 that is sandwiched in between, Paul is making sure that we keep our eyes on the big picture and understanding the end to which our spiritual gifts are aimed. You see, we have a tendency within the church to become so enamored by gifts and so busy in the work at hand that we often miss the main thing. Apparently, such was the case within the Church at Corinth. Regardless of your view of speaking in tongues, the Church at Corinth really seemed to prefer it. They believed that it made them more spiritual and that it was the greatest of the gifts. So, if you didn't have it, they looked down up you. If you did have it, they held you up as being a super Christian of sorts. And, much of what Paul is writing is to rebuke them for their view. They were championing this great gift from God, but they were only doing as a part of some spiritual excercise. They had no apparent interest in using their gift for the purpose they were intended: to build up their brothers and sister in the church and to reach others with the Good News about Jesus. So, Paul calls them out for having the appearance of being deeply spiritual, when in fact they were practicing dead religion. Thus, he wants to teach them a more excellent way.

Not Charisma, but Love

“If I speak in the tongues of men…but have not love…I am a noisy gong/clanging cymbal” They believed that it made them more spiritual and that it was the greatest of the gifts. So, if you didn't have it, they looked down up you. If you did have it, they held you up as being a super Christian of sorts. And, much of what Paul is writing is to rebuke them for their view. They were championing this great gift from God, but they were only doing as a part of some spiritual exercise. They had no apparent interest in using their gift for the purpose they were intended: to build up their brothers and sister in the church and to reach others with the Good News about Jesus. So, Paul calls them out for having the appearance of being deeply spiritual, when in fact they were practicing dead religion. Thus, he wants to teach them a more excellent way.
One of the ways that we know that Paul is talking about the Church here is the context within which we find it. Both chapters 12 and 14 are about the spiritual gifts, that is, those gifts that are given to us by God through the Holy Spirit for the good of the Church and the advancement of the Gospel. So, when we come to chapter 13 that is sandwiched in between, Paul is making sure that we keep our eyes on the big picture and understanding the end to which our spiritual gifts are aimed. You see, we have a tendency within the church to become so enamored by gifts and so busy in the work at hand that we often miss the main thing. Apparently, such was the case within the Church at Corinth. Regardless of your view of speaking in tongues, the Church at Corinth really seemed to prefer it. They believed that it made them more spiritual and that it was the greatest of the gifts. So, if you didn't have it, they looked down up you. If you did have it, they held you up as being a super Christian of sorts. And, much of what Paul is writing is to rebuke them for their view. They were championing this great gift from God, but they were only doing as a part of some spiritual exercise. They had no apparent interest in using their gift for the purpose they were intended: to build up their brothers and sister in the church and to reach others with the Good News about Jesus. So, Paul calls them out for having the appearance of being deeply spiritual, when in fact they were practicing dead religion. Thus, he wants to teach them a more excellent way.

Pagan Worship

One of the ways that we know that Paul is talking about the Church here is the context within which we find it. Both chapters 12 and 14 are about the spiritual gifts, that is, those gifts that are given to us by God through the Holy Spirit for the good of the Church and the advancement of the Gospel. So, when we come to chapter 13 that is sandwiched in between, Paul is making sure that we keep our eyes on the big picture and understanding the end to which our spiritual gifts are aimed. Because, you see, it’s easy for the church to be busy doing a lot of stuff and be aimed at the wrong target. It’s even easy for us to be so wrapped up in spiritual looking and spiritual sounding things that we forget why all of this exists. All of this exists because God loves us, and we love him, and through him we love others. And, detached from that, all of this is pointless. Apparently, such was the case within the Church at Corinth. So, in verse one, Paul is speaking to those gifts that are most exciting to us and catch our eyes the quickest, such as the gift of tongues. It was a gift that was flashy and spiritual-looking and exciting. It invoked the emotions, and it captivated the imagination. But Paul asks, what good is it, what point is it, if it is not anchored in love? How often in the church's history have we prioritized charisma and flash over love? Charisma without love is nothing more than a clanging cymbal detached from a band. In fact, what Paul is saying is even stronger than that. In the pagan temples in Corinth, large gongs or cymbals were often used in an attempt to arouse the attention of the false gods. So, the false priests and people would use them to make an awful racket, hoping to win favor with fake gods to no avail. And, Paul says that if you use what God has given to you, even your spiritual gifts, in a way that apart from love and not for your brother's good, you are no better than the pagan worshippers banging their cymbals.

Grenades Without a Pin

If in verse one Paul talked about the most exciting gifts, in verse two he speaks of the most prominent. He's talking about the teaching gifts here. He's talking about those who have the roles of preaching and teaching and leading by faith. They have the Spirit-given ability to stand with God's word and to explain in a way that informs the church and rally's the church to causes of Christ. They are competent in the Scriptures and able to explain mysterious doctrines. They can tell you who the church should be and what the should do and where the church should go. And, when they tell you, you want to be and do and go as they have said it! But, how dangerous is one who teaches and preaches and leads without love? When they preach, they preach as one who is self-righteous. When they teach, they teach as one who is puffed up by the knowledge they have. When they lead, they lead with brute force and indifference about the ways that it will affect people. A preacher without love is like a grenade without a pin. He's volatile and explosive, and will ultimately leave carnage in his wake.

Mercy, not Sacrifice

In verse 3, Paul compares it to those who appear to be among the most pious, the most devoted. In verse 3, he points out those whom the Church would hold in the highest esteem -- those who have suffered a great deal, even having given up their lives for Christ. Do you wake up early to read your Bible and pray for an hour or two hours? What good is it if you don't know love? Are you always standing for the truth in the places that you work or go to school, even when it alienates you from others? What good is it if you don't have love? Did you give away everything that you own to someone else? What's the point if you don't have love? Did you give over yourself to be martyred for the faith? What does it matter if you don't have love? Did Jesus not says, "I desire mercy and not sacrifice!"

Love is Storm Resistant Glue

In verse 3, Paul compares it to those who appear to be among the most pious, the most devoted. In verse 3, he points out those whom the Church would hold in the highest esteem -- those who have suffered a great deal, even having given up their lives for Christ. Do you wake up early to read your Bible and pray for an hour or two hours? What good is it if you don't know love? Are you always standing for the truth in the places that you work or go to school, even when it alienates you from others? What good is it if you don't have love? Did you give away everything that you own to someone else? What's the point if you don't have love? Did you give over yourself to be martyred for the faith? What does it matter if you don't have love? Did Jesus not says, "I desire mercy and not sacrifice!"
APPLICATION: If you think of the three commandments that Jesus spoke the most strongly about, all of them have the same essential ingredient -- love. The greatest commandment is to love the Lord your God with all of your heart and all of your soul and with all your mind. The second greatest is to love your neighbor as yourself, and the new commandment that he gives to his disciples is to love one another so deeply, so profoundly, so radically that the other world recognizes it as the love of Jesus himself. Brothers and sisters, love is the essential attribute of the Christian life. Holiness without love is self-righteousness. Worship without love is idolatry. Preaching without love is oppressive. Evangelizing without love is selfish. Knowledge without love is prideful. Friendship without love is cheap. Love is essential! Frankly, I do not care if our church is known for her excellent music or exciting preaching or flashy programs. All of those things are good, but all of those things can be true without Jesus and without love. No, brothers and sisters, let us be famous for our love. Let us be famous for our unquenchable passion for the glory of God. Let us be famous for our compassion and our care for our neighbors and our community. Let us be famous for how sacrificially and radically we love each other. Let us be famous for how lovingly we disagree with one another. Because if we are joined together by our interest in a program or our enjoyment of a particular music style, that is not enough to hold us together. But, love is. Love is the storm resistant glue that holds gospel churches together. Let us love one another, brothers and sisters. Let us love one another.

Gracious Love

APPLICATION: If you think of the three commandments that Jesus spoke the strongest about, all of that have one word as their center -- love. The greatest commandment is to love the Lord your God with all of your heart and all of your soul and with all your mind. The second greatest is to love your neighbor as yourself, and the new commandment that he gives to his disciples is to love one another so deeply, so profoundly, so radically that the other world recognizes it as the love of Jesus himself. Brothers and sisters, love is the essential attribute of the Christian life. Holiness without love is self-righteousness. Worship without love is idolatry. Preaching without love is oppressive. Evangelizing without love is selfish. Knowledge without love is prideful. Friendship without love is cheap. Love is essential! Frankly, I do not care if our church is known for her excellent music or exciting preaching or flashy programs. All of those things are good, but all of those things can be true without Jesus and without love. No, brothers and sisters, let us be known for our love. Let us be famous for our unquenchable passion for the glory of God. Let us be famous for our compassion and our care for our neighbors and our community. Let us be famous for how sacrificially and radically we love each other. Let us be famous for how lovingly we disagree with one another. Because if we are joined together by our interest in a program or our enjoyment of a particular music style, that is not enough to hold us together. But, love is. Love is the storm resistant glue that holds gospel churches together. Let us love one another, brothers and sisters. Let us love one another.
“Love is patient…it is not resentful” When come to verses 4-13, we see Paul fleshing out in greater detail the character of this love that he is describing. In Paul's day, like ours, there were a lot of different definitions of love that were circulating. And so, Paul's desire is that there be no ambiguity and no misunderstanding about the type of love he is calling the church to. And to describe love, Paul doesn’t use adjectives; He uses 15 verbs. Love is actionable and demonstrative. It doesn’t sit idol. It acts!
1) It is a gracious love. If we really think about what Paul is saying here, we have to admit that not everything he is saying is exciting. Not everything he is saying is going to be a lot of fun. Listen to what he says: "Love is patient." Now look, I know that y'all are good and godly people, but I wonder how many of y'all are really fired up about an opportunity to demonstrate patience! You're just hoping someone gives you the opportunity to be patient toward them. He says that 'it is not irritable or resentful.' Do you know what those words mean? It means that there are going to be times in which you're irritated! There are going to be times in which you find yourselves tempted toward resentment. Now, isn't that an awesome opportunity for personal growth? To be irritated but to be irritable. To be wronged but to not be resentful. This word 'resentful' carries with it the idea of score-keeping. It's keeping a tally of how many times you've been wronged by somebody or by a church so that you are sure to hold the right amount of anger and resentment. In verse 7, he says that love bears all things and endures all things. What kind of things must you requires endurance? What kinds of things requires forbearance? Painful, sorrowful, hurtful things.
1) It is a gracious love. If we really think about what Paul is saying here, we have to admit that not everything he is saying is exciting. Not everything he is saying is going to be a lot of fun. Listen to what he says: "Love is patient." Now look, I know that y'all are good and godly people, but I wonder how many of y'all are really fired up about an opportunity to demonstrate patience! You're just hoping someone gives you the opportunity to be patient toward them. He says that 'it is not irritable or resentful.' Do you know what those words mean? It means that there are going to be times in which you're irritated! There are going to be times in which you find yourselves tempted toward resentment. Now, isn't that an awesome opportunity for personal growth? To be irritated but to be irritable. To be wronged but to not be resentful. This word 'resentful' carries with it the idea of score-keeping. It's keeping a tally of how many times you've been wronged by somebody or by a church so that you are sure to hold the right amount of anger and resentment. In verse 7, he says that love ‘bears all things and endures all things’. What kind of things must you requires endurance? What kinds of things requires forbearance? Painful, sorrowful, hurtful things.
1) It is a gracious love. If we really think about what Paul is saying here, we have to admit that not everything he is saying is exciting. Not everything he is saying is going to be a lot of fun. Listen to what he says: "Love is patient." Now look, I know that y'all are good and godly people, but I wonder how many of y'all are really fired up about an opportunity to demonstrate patience! You're just hoping someone gives you the opportunity to be patient toward them. He says that 'it is not irritable or resentful.' Do you know what those words mean? It means that there are going to be times in which you're irritated! There are going to be times in which you find yourselves tempted toward resentment. Now, isn't that an awesome opportunity for personal growth? To be irritated but to be irritable. To be wronged but to not be resentful. This word 'resentful' carries with it the idea of score-keeping. It's keeping a tally of how many times you've been wronged by somebody or by a church so that you are sure to hold the right amount of anger and resentment. In verse 7, he says that love bears all things and endures all things. What kind of things must you requires endurance? What kinds of things requires forbearance? Painful, sorrowful, hurtful things.

Pain is the Cost of Love

APPLICATION: Brothers and sisters, if we love one another with the type of radical, relentless, love that I'm calling us to and that Paul is describing for us here, we must be prepared for some difficult days. Pain is the cost of love. Jesus taught us this when His love for us compelled him to the cross. To enjoy the deep relationships with fellow sinners is to accept that pain and sorrow will sometimes be the cost. There is no sinner on earth with whom you can walk in close, intimate relationship with for years at a time without being hurt or wounded. And, how the opportunity for hurt goes up when you're talking about 300 people and not just one! The only way that sinners can coexist under one roof is with grace! Let me repeat something I said earlier: Love is the storm resistant glue that holds gospel churches together. Storms are not going to go away, Church. So, love one another. Offense is not going away, Church. So, love one another.

Selfless Love

“Love is kind…it does not insist on its own way” 2) It is a selfless love. Let's look at a few of the other words and phrases that Paul uses. Love is 'kind.' Love causes us to care about how we come across to others. It is to say the truth, certainly, but it is to say the truth in love. It is to seek to use the truth to build up your brother or sister and not tear them down. It is to meet needs when needs arise. It wants to make the other persons life better. He says that it doesn't 'envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude.' Gospel love is a humble love. It is to do as Paul says in in counting others a being more significant than ourselves. Selfless, humble love cannot be envious, because it wants and desires for things to go well for your brothers or sisters, even better than it goes for you! Humble love doesn't boast because it has nothing to boast of anyway outside of Christ, and cannot stand the thought of making the object of its love feel small and worthless. It is not arrogant and rude (and those two do always seem to go together, don't they?) because it is in everything you do and everything you say laboring to be a blessing to your brother or sister in the faith. In verse 5, he says that this love 'does not insist on it own way.' And man, we could have an entire sermon on just that, couldn't we? Just reading that I come under conviction. How many churches have crumbled because they were filled with people who insisted on their own way? How many marriages have disintegrated because both the husband and the wife always insisted on their own way? How many friendships have ended because each person insisted on their own way? But, it is the opposite of humility, it is the opposite of selflessness, it is the opposite of love, it is the opposite of the Gospel to be one who insists on his own way! Sometimes this looks like insistence, ramming your idea to the front of the line no matter what anybody says, and sometimes this looks like resistance as you protest any other idea or approach than your own. It is to say that we must do it my way, or I will not do it at all. And, brothers and sisters, whether you are the one who insistent or resistant, you must see that this is not love; this is arrogance!
APPLICATION: Is the love that you have for your church determined by whether or not things are done in the way that you prefer them? Or, is your love kind and humble and selfless and unifying?

Joyful Love

“believes all things, hopes all things” 3) It is a joyful love. The longer I've been involved with the church, and I've been deeply, deeply involved for about 20 years now, the more I believe this is true: The Church can bring about great pain in my life. But, the Church can bring about even greater joy in my life. We've already spoken of some of the flaws of the Church, and as we all know it's the flaws of the Church the get all of the press. But the truth is that in a Gospel-centered though imperfect church, there is more joy to be found than sorrow. Do not miss that in our text he uses words like 'rejoice with the truth' 'believes all things', and 'hopes for all things.' In verse 7, when it talks about believing and hoping in all things, it's speaking of a collective optimism that we have for one another. It's an optimism about the how God is going to use each of one of you to make you collectively better.
3) It is a joyful love. The longer I've been involved with the church, and I've been deeply, deeply involved for about 20 years now, the more I believe this is true: The Church can bring about great pain in my life. But, the Church can bring about even greater joy in my life. We've already spoken of some of the flaws of the Church, and as we all know it's the flaws of the Church the get all of the press. But the truth is that in a Gospel-centered though imperfect church, there is more joy to be found than sorrow. Do not miss that in our text he uses words like 'rejoice with the truth' 'believes all things', and 'hopes for all things.' In verse 7, when it talks about believing and hoping in all things, it's speaking of a collective optimism that we have for one another. It's an optimism about the how God is going to use each of one of you to make you collectively better.
3) It is a joyful love. The longer I've been involved with the church, and I've been deeply, deeply involved for about 20 years now, the more I believe this is true: The Church can bring about great pain in my life. But, the Church can bring about even greater joy in my life. We've already spoken of some of the flaws of the Church, and as we all know it's the flaws of the Church the get all of the press. But the truth is that in a Gospel-centered though imperfect church, there is more joy to be found than sorrow. Do not miss that in our text he uses words like 'rejoice with the truth' 'believes all things', and 'hopes for all things.' In verse 7, when it talks about believing and hoping in all things, it's speaking of a collective optimism that we have for one another. It's an optimism about the how God is going to use each of one of you to make you collectively better.
You believe in what God is doing through your relationship, and you believe in how God is going to use you for the sake of your brother's good, and you believe in what your brother is going to do to bring about good in your life. This got me to thinking about a group of men that I spend a lot time pursuing godliness with. And man, I couldn't be more hopeful for what God is going to do in the lives of these men, but and I'm so thankful for the good and for the joy that they've brought into my life. I thought about each one of them and the ways God uses their spiritual gifts for my good. James has the gift of faith, and he helps me to rest in God's sovereignty. Daniel has the gift of exhortation, and he urges me toward greater devotion and seriousness in my Christian walk. Keith has the gift of mercy, and he comforts me with his prayers and kind texts. Andrew has the gift of discernment, and he helps me to see situations and decisions clearly. Chris has the gift of service, and he challenges me to put actions with my words. You see, when I am in deep, loving relationships with my church family, I can rejoice in what God is doing in each man and how God has equipped each man, and I can have faith in how each one of us is going to grown in godliness because of our love for each other. Our love for each other leads to a more Christ-centered life, and a more Christ-centered life leads to a life of greater joy.

Permanent Love

“Love never ends” 4) And, Paul says that it is never ending love. You’ll notice that throughout verses 8-13 that Paul keeps talking about how everything we see is passing away. His mind is going to the eternal state where Christ reigns. And, in the eternal state there will be no need for spiritual gifts to build up the Church because the Church will be perfectly glorified. And, in the eternal state, there will be no need for trying to see God more clearly, because when we get there, we’re not looking at a picture any more. We’re going to see the real thing! All of these differences and all of these gifts, even the one we love the most, will pass away, but brothers and sisters, love will still be there.
“So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest is love.” And, this is why love is greater than faith and hope. One day, you will no longer have faith for you will see. And, one day you will no longer have hope for you will know and experience. But, you will love! In fact, your love will deepen, and your love will eternally exalt the risen Christ! Love is an eternal virtue, and it will be the center of the Christian’s life not just now, but forever!
“So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest is love.” And, this is why love is greater than faith and hope. One day, you will no longer have faith for you will see. And, one day you will no longer have hope for you will know and experience. But, you will love! In fact, your love will deepen, and your love will eternally exalt the risen Christ! Love is an eternal virtue, and it will be the center of the Christian’s life not just now, but forever!
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