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Home Sermons Part 2 - Maturity is the overflow of genuine love. 1 Corinthians 12 & 13 - Text

Part 2 - Maturity is the overflow of genuine love. 1 Corinthians 12 & 13 - Text

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Part 2 - Maturity is the overflow of genuine love.      1 Cor 12 & 13        

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David Calderwood  

 

If you were not here last Sunday, I apologise because you will not have the context I am assuming as we dig deeper into 1 Corinthians 12 &13 this morning.

Follow as I read again verses 4-7 in which Paul describes love – the attitude and behaviour which ought properly to underpin and flavour every activity, every use of our God-given abilities and talents in this church family which is the body of Christ.

This is such a devastating blow that I’m left with my head spinning and my eyes filling with tears - how on earth could I possibly love like this.

And it was my unease in terms of this challenge to be loving, reinforced by our discussion as elders on Tuesday night that has resulted in further reflection on this theme.

Look at 12:18 – God has deliberately put me and you in this enormously diverse family of sinful personalities, with massively different abilities, and stages of spiritual maturity – and he expects us to love each other as described in these verses.

How can I be consistently committed to your spiritual wellbeing, showing consistent patience and kindness rather than becoming angry and resentful at your failings, and even at the expense of my own rights and freedom in Christ?

How can I maintain a high regard for you that will always look for the best in you, and cultivate a deep affection that will always hang in with you, when it is so easy to get drawn into the tit-for-tat of hurting those whom we believe have hurt us, even justifying our sinful responses rather than being controlled by truth and righteousness?

How can I act consistently for your spiritual wellbeing, and avoid being jealous of your abilities or personality; and avoid thinking that I am better than or superior to or more mature than my brothers and sisters?

As I said last Sunday, this is a huge challenge for us.

But the problem is even worse - verses 1-3. I may think I have done something great, and others may value my ministry in the church, but if done without love then I am just an empty shell before God because my service of Jesus has actually been done out of self-interest.

So, given this double whammy - a love that is not natural, and certainly not easy YET the sort of love that Jesus models and requires of us believers – is it possible and attainable for you and me in this church family?

The answer is ‘NO’ and ‘YES’. But first I want to summarise Paul’s teaching in chs 12 & 13.

What is Paul’s focus? – Not specifically ‘gifts’, but how to be spiritually mature.

Their starting point was totally wrong - not thinking of the church family as a beautiful body of inter-dependent parts. Instead they were individualistic, self-centred, competitive, and oozing disunity rather than displaying the deep unity they had by virtue of being in Christ.

So, Paul’s teaching on love is in response to their lack of love as they thought about and used their God-given gifts and abilities in relating to one another.

Their wrong thinking was evident in chasing after showy gifts and ministries, convinced that having these was the evidence of spiritual maturity. Right thinking, 12:4-7 that there is a huge diversity of gifts and abilities given by God’s Spirit, none of which should be dismissed.

They were obsessed with ranking themselves according to their gifting or ability. Paul argues that they should be obsessed with using their God-given abilities for the common good, which is to help others in the church family become mature, or more like Christ.

Why this focus? – Because it is God’s end-point for salvation.

They thought having and displaying a particular gifting was the ultimate end for a believer because it was evidence of spiritual maturity. Paul argues, 12:7 & 11, that gifting and abilities are simply a means to God’s desired end for his saved people, which is bringing God’s people to maturity or to Christ-likeness.

God’s purpose in salvation was always far more than individuals being forgiven and brought into new relationship with him forever. His ultimate purpose was to create a new community of saved people, re-connected to the eternal community through God’s Spirit, and living gladly under God’s rule as originally created to do.

 All gifts are God’s temporary provision, 13:8-13, to help us to be like Christ, and to live a grace-based life – a life of faith, hope and love - until we actually go home to heaven.

So, it is never enough simply to be activists, passionately using the gifts and abilities we have been given. It is never enough just to have everyone in our church family engaged in ministry, as though being busy and creative is the purpose for having our gifts.

Rather we must be consumed with using the vast diversity of abilities in our GECN family for the ultimate end of helping one another become like Christ, making us a winsome and attractive and authentic colony of heaven on earth.

How are we to achieve this? – In love-saturated, love-motivated community.

Since we are a body, then there is no complete or mature or Christ-like person apart from being in community – we need each other to be what Christ wants us to be.

And love is the life blood of the body. It must be in constant supply to every bone, every muscle, every sinew, every organ if the body is to be healthy and at peak performance. If the life blood of love fails at any point in the body, then the body begins to deteriorate and die.

Which brings me back to my initial question - How can I be consistently other-person-centred, genuinely committed to the wellbeing of all of you, even at the expense of my own rights and freedom in Christ? How can I maintain and cultivate a high regard for, and deep affection for you all while struggling with my own sinful responses and yours?

Is it possible for me and you to love as we must if we are to become like Christ together?

The answer must be “NO, its not,   . . . . . .   and YES, it is!”

I have already said this sort of love is certainly not easy, and even worse it’s not natural, so we cannot ever expect to having it flowing through this church family like lifeblood on our own resources. Put simply we need the renewing, enabling and empowering of God’s Spirit.

But that is exactly what we have. Look back at chapter 12:3 & 7 & 11-13. Now look back to chapter 1:4-9.

We have been given all the grace, all the renewing power brought by the presence of God’s Spirit within us. We lack no spiritual gift, including the ability to love deeply. We have been promised that we will be kept so that we are blameless. We have been called into fellowship with the eternal community, whose very essence is love.

Friends, in practical terms, God’s intention has been to re-connect us to his eternal community of love. We have been able to understand that love because of the Spirit’s renewing work within us. We have seen a brilliant model of this love at work in the death of Christ. Even better we have experienced it in our own lives.

And this is the key – it is only when I see, understand and appreciate practically the love and grace of Jesus to me that I will, in turn, be able and willing to love others in the same way.

When I become filled up with appreciation for how Jesus has acted selflessly towards me, and acted in my best interests in spite of me despising him, and treated me with high regard and deep affection in spite of my carelessness towards him, then this same love will begin to overflow out of me into the lives of others around me in this church family.

When my heart is healthy and working well, it automatically pushes blood around my entire body. When, at heart, I am filled with understanding of Christ’s love for me then automatically this will overflow and push love to thr rest of this body of Christ.

So the secret of making GECN a love-saturated, love-motivated community is not in me and you simply trying harder in our own resources to be like this, but in becoming more and more appreciative of how I am loved, and more obsessed with being like Jesus to others.

No amount of trying will make a body fit if the heart is not working properly first of all. In fact, trying to get body parts working with a diseased heart is positively dangerous.

Making people feel guilty for not being loving as required, or putting in place new rules or policies to legislate love will never work – We need to make Jesus front and centre of our thinking and living.

And may I also encourage you to understand that this is the very thing God wants for us. Look again at 12:4-6 – father, Son and Spirit are all equally engaged in providing the resources and enabling we need in order to love as they want us to love.

We see the same thing precisely from Jesus in his farewell teaching section. Listen to John 15:12-13 – if we are great friends of Jesus, really understanding him, valuing him, and wanting to honour him, then we will love others as we have been loved by him.

Now listen to John 17:11 & 21-23 – Jesus only concern for his people is that they demonstrate unity and love, and this will be the inevitable outcome when we properly understand Jesus love for us, and that the Trinity will protect and nurture this enabling to love as we have been loved.

The same point is made in Philippians 2:12-13 . Again the context is the unity sand love we have seen modelled and personally experienced in Christ and through his Spirit. As we struggle to maintain and display this love to one another, we have the confidence and reassurance, verse 13, that God the father, Son and Spirit are all working together with us for the same end.

So, not it is not possible to show consistently the sort of love called for in our church family simply on our own resources. But it is entirely possible if you look to Jesus and become caught up with his love for you- then this love will overflow into the lives of others in this church family and beyond.

So, the really big question you and I need to ask and answer for ourselves and together as a church family is:- Do we actually desire to be like Christ? Do we really desire to be so filled with an appreciation of his love that we can see and enjoy the overflow into the lives of others in this church family?

Lots of what I do and you do are habits – that is something that is so normal for us to do that we do it without really thinking. Let’s make it our goal to be so aware of how Christ loves us that we overflow in love to others – as a habit, as an action that does not even require conscious thinking.

It is only as you understand how Jesus continues to love you, in spite of your sin, your failings, your slowness to learn and change, your stubbornness and refusal to learn and change, that this same understanding will overflow to your brothers and sisters in Christ in this church family.

Only then will we be able to demonstrate patience and kindness with each other. Only then will we be able to break the cycle of responding to hurt and disappointment with anger and attack or defensiveness. Only then will we be able always to protect, continue to think the best of and hang in with those whom God has carefully positioned in this body or church family.

We can do it. We have all the resources and modelling to allow us to do it – provided by father, Son and Spirit, But do we really want this sort of love? Do we really desire it? The real test of your answer is do you really love Jesus and want to be like him?

And friends we need to be giving ourselves to prayer – urgently because we so much need the Spirit’s enabling, but also confidently – because the Lord will delight to grant us our heart’s desires if only they are to be more like Christ together.

If we are not desperate to be like Jesus and to help others be like Jesus in this church family, and desperate in prayer, then whatever else we do here together is pretty well useless to us spiritually, even though it might continue to engage us, entertain us, cause numerical increase which looks like growth, and make us feel valuable indefinitely.

 Amen

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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