1 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.
4 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
8 Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. 11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. 12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.
13 So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love. (1 Corinthians 13)
A series of messages on the topic of love would seem to be a fairly simple series both to preach and to hear. I mean, who doesn’t want to talk about love, right? And yet the further we go together through this so called “love chapter” the more trouble I am having preaching through this. The problem is, I not only preach the messages but I also hear myself preach them. And I’m thinking as I do, “Wow, this is really significantly deep and convicting to my soul.” Last week in particular was hard for me. The aspect of love we looked at was that love is not rude. Preaching on that topic led me to confession of my rudeness, confession to God and confession to another person. I could not walk away from that message, nor have I from any of these messages thinking, “Yeah, I’ve got that one down, nothing for me to deal with here.” No, I hope that you know that these are things I need to conform to, and only can with the strength of Christ! Because I cannot do these things on my own. Maybe that is where you find yourself too. I have recognized more selfishness in my life through this series than I may have ever before. God’s Word does that, and it is good that it does, painful but good.
6 In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. 7 These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. (1 Peter 1:6-7)
Listening to a sermon, reading the Word, hearing a friend speak the truth in love, hearing myself preach a sermon, can all be trials, trials because they lay our hearts bare, in the open, expose our sins, our selfishness, we see ourselves for who we are. But these trials have purpose, they point us to Christ, they prove our faith, they make us more like our Savior! So if you’re feeling the pain of all this talk of Christian love, you can rejoice, God is at work in you, you are getting to a better place of loving and serving Him!
Today’s message, I suppose, will be no different. In it, I think, we can all find truths that will stir our hearts, point us to Christ, and show us how we can love God more in our love for other people. But look, where we need to confess, let’s humbly confess, and where we need to forgive, let’s humbly forgive, out of love for Christ, let’s all move forward in how we live out 1 Corinthians 13 together.
This morning, we come to another aspect of love that just might change everything in how we live. This aspect forces us to submit humbly to Christ, trust in His love and goodness, believe He is wise, and have faith that He really is in control and at work around us. This aspect makes us evaluate how we think about God’s love and provision for us. How we handle this aspect of love that we will look at today will show, in practice, will show out loud what we really believe.
What is it? Love does not insist on its own way
Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; (1 Corinthians 13:4-5a)
Paul is saying, or God is saying through Paul, “If we love, we will not insist on our own way.” A passage that may help us understand this way of loving can be Philippians 2:3-4.
3 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. (Philippians 2:3-4)
Paul is simply describing for us how all Christians should live. The first two words of Philippians 2:3 are significant to the passage as a whole where it says, “Do nothing.” Do nothing…from selfish ambition. What that means is that we are never, never, without exception, to do anything from selfish motives…ever. I don’t know about you, but as I seriously meditate on this part of the passage, my mind starts spinning almost out of control, thinking, “Why did I do this, why do I do that, who am I thinking mostly about when I act this way, or respond that way? I mean, never, ever, ever do anything with selfish motives? Okay starting today, no more doing anything with a selfish motive. How will tomorrow look different than every other day I have lived on this earth? Would you even know me, would my wife recognize me?”
I mean, put yourself there. Where you go, how you go, who you talk with, how you talk with that person, how you use your credit card, your computer, your phone, what job you choose, where you vacation, what you read, how you dress, what time you get up in the mornings, what time you go to bed at night, what you eat, how or if you exercise, what time you get to church, what car you drive, how you train your children, how you respond to your parents, the seat you choose on an airplane, to the parking spot you pick, how you pray. Every area of life, every activity, every thought is effected.
“Love does not seek its own.” “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourself. Let each of you look not only to his own interest, but also to the interest of others.”
Paul uses the same word in Philippians 1:17 as he talks of preachers who seemed to be doing the Lord’s work but they were really seeking their own, they were selfishly ambitious. Even Christian ministry can be done in a way that appears humble and selfless yet is anything but that, it is self-seeking. If this is true – and it is – then we should know that anything can fall out this way. Anything can be disguised as humble and selfless yet be self-seeking and self-glorifying.
It is possible to be doing what appears to be the right thing while all the while be mainly, if not exclusively, concerned with our own interests and motivated by pride. We must be careful here.
Our greatest example of selfless living is found in the Lord Jesus Christ.
5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross (Philippians 2:5-8)
The greatest example of a love that did not seek its own is found in Christ. Frequently in the ministry of Christ we see Him stating that He did not come to do His own will but the will of the Father. This seeking not His own will was a way of living all throughout His earthly ministry and was seen most radically in His willing death on the cross. Jesus also showed us an example of love, not seeking His own, in how he related to other people, His love and concern for people. He came to serve, not to be served (Matthew 20:28). He came to give rather than to get. He came to help rather than be helped. He came as a servant, not a ruler or dictator who just wanted others to meet His needs or desires. His whole life was an example of being other-oriented.
It’s easy for us to say, “Well yes, that was Jesus! Of course He could live that way.” And say, “I’m not Jesus!” Well, that is true we are not Jesus, but we are called to Christlikeness! We even call ourselves by His name – “Christians!”
Paul apparently anticipated this type of response in Philippians and gives examples of others who lived a “seeking not your own way” kind of life. Paul himself embraced this way of living. Paul himself, while facing great uncertainty about his future, while in prison, said that he didn’t care whether he lived or died, but his true desire was that Christ be honored in his body. His attitude was, “If Christ be honored most in my dying, then I want to die. If Christ be honored most in my living, if Christ be magnified in the eyes of others more in my living, then I want to live” (Philippians 1:20-21). In other words, it was not about himself, but about God’s glory and the good of his neighbor.
I love the kind of trust in God that it takes to maintain that attitude. I long for a trust like that in my life, in all circumstances! “Whatever God, whatever honors you most and is most helpful to my neighbors. Because I’m okay, I’m cared for by you, I have what I need, I am at peace, joyful in Christ, so my life, being in your care, can be spent to help others in the name of Christ.” Isn’t that how Paul lived? He was not Christ either, just a man in Christ, like us. Isn’t that the attitude in which he lived?
We can go further. Listen to this radical love that Paul shared with Christ and that we can share with them being in Christ. Again this is a just a man, Paul. Look with me at a love that does not seek its own…
17 Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all. 18 Likewise you also should be glad and rejoice with me. (Philippians 2:17-18)
Paul is giving an illustration from the Old Testament offering system. In the sacrificial system of the Old Testament, offerings were brought to the priests. The priests would take the offerings and put parts of it on the alter. Some of the offerings were burned and what was remained would be taken by the priests and eaten according to Leviticus 5. So some would be consumed and some used for the benefit of the priests, for their personal use. This was God’s provision for the priests. But the drink offering was different. The worshiper would bring a container filled with oil or wine to the place of worship. The container would be completely emptied on the altar, leaving nothing in the container, not for the priests or anyone else. There would be none left.
When Paul mentions being poured out as a drink offering, he meant that he was willing to be totally emptied, poured out in a life of service for others.
Love does not seek its own, love is not motivated by self-interest, love looks out for what is good for others, acting on that, for the glory of God. Paul was willing to make personal sacrifice, to be a personal sacrifice, with his energies, resources, even life itself, if God deemed those things necessary and helpful for other people. How far are we willing to go to be a sacrifice for our family, spouse, children, our church family here at Grace, our close neighbors and friends, and for strangers?
7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. 8 We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; 9 persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; 10 always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. 11 For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. 12 So death is at work in us, but life in you.
13 Since we have the same spirit of faith according to what has been written, “I believed, and so I spoke,” we also believe, and so we also speak, 14 knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence. 15 For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.
16 So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. 17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 18 as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:7-18)
Selfless living, love and care for others at great personal sacrifice, willing suffering, joyful suffering for the sake of the Gospel, for the glory of God. Love does not seek its own.
Let’s think some about actual practice, daily living. What does this kind of love look like? Here are some helpful examples that I will mention with the help of Dr. Wayne Mack.
Loving God and others with a love that doesn’t seek its own means that we will be willing to make costly sacrifices for God and for people. How will you, how will we do this? What will be some of those costly sacrifices that we will make for others out of our love for God? How are you and I sacrificing today, sacrificing our own desires, wants, in order to give to others?
Loving God and others with a love that does not seek its own means that we will be willing to do as the good Samaritan did in Luke 10. The good Samaritan loved a stranger who was in need; a stranger, yet one that God said was still his neighbor. How are you, we, loving strangers in need? Are we loving strangers the way we have been loved by God? Do strangers look at us and say, “Why? Why are you loving me this way? Why are you sacrificing for me, showing love and concern for me? Why would you do this for me?” Are we doing this and using that opportunity to say, “Let me tell you why I am doing this!”
We do this some, I know. By God’s grace we do. In our counseling ministry people ask all the time, “Why are you doing this for me?” With Scotty’s Gifts, people I know ask, “Why are you blessing our family like this? I don’t even know you and you are loving my family.” With Joni and Friends, parents ask, “Why are you loving us? My child, my family.” Missions trips – Ukraine, “Why?” Jaimie Smith’s upcoming trip to Italy, I’m sure you will be asked, “Why?” Our planned tutoring ministry, the question will come, “Why?” Let them ask why, give people reasons to ask why, and be ready to say, “Let me tell you why, let me tell you have what I have received that I did not deserve, let me tell you about Christ Jesus my Savior, my Lord!”
Loving God and others with a love that does not seek its own means that we will not be selfishly opportunistic or manipulative. We don’t have to be, we don’t have to be worried about getting more, having the best, being more comfortable, holding tightly to what we have. No, we don’t have to wear ourselves out on ourselves, but we can be free to love others.
Loving God and others with a love that does not seek its own means we don’t have to operate out of a “give to get” philosophy.
35 But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. 36 Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful. (Luke 6:35-36)
We don’t have to love to be loved, we don’t have to love to get, that is not real love. We love because we have already been loved, we have been supremely loved by God, that is how and why love flows from us.
God is gracious, I think, to give us people to love for which we will never get anything back from them. Those opportunities are priceless to strip away selfish motives. We love because we have been loved.
Loving God and others with a love that does not seek its own means we will attempt to see things from the other person’s point of view, and frequently be willing to submit when there is disagreement, unless to do so would be harmful for the other person or the cause of Christ. We can learn to live in the joy of giving in to others because they prefer something other than what we may prefer. Did you know you can find joy in that? “Let’s do it your way this time. Your way, not my way, because love does not seek its own.”
Okay, so why love this way? Simply out of duty? To gain favor with God? Do we love this way so bad things don’t happen to us? No, there are much greater reasons, more correct reasons.
One reason is because of what we read in 1 Corinthians 12:31. We pursue love, this kind of love, because it is the more excellent way! Excellent way for what? It is the more excellent way to make an impact for Christ, and without this kind of love all our efforts to impact people for Christ will be worthless! Remember that from the first three verses of 1 Corinthians 13?
Are you having an impact for Christ in other people’s lives? If not, ask yourself, “Am I loving in a way that does not seek its own? Am I loving in this impactful way described in 1 Corinthians 13?”
Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; (1 Corinthians 13:4-5a)
God be with us as we learn how to love in significant ways, ways that reflect the love that we have received from the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ!