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TEXT: I Corinthians 13:1-3
SUBJECT: Attributes of Love #1: The Importance of Love
Listen up, kids!
This afternoon we'll begin a new study of God's Word. The chapter we'll be looking at for a few months is I Corinthians 13. About one hundred years ago Henry Drummond wrote a short book on the chapter and called it The Greatest Thing in the World. I don't care much for the book, but I sure like the title because it is what the chapter is about.
What is the greatest thing in the world?
It is.money.your parents getting off your back.no school.what is it? What is I Corinthians 13 all about?
It's all about.love.
(If you read the King James Bible-and that's a very fine Bible, you won't find the word, "love" in the chapter. The word it uses is "charity". When that Bible was first translated, "charity" was the right word to choose. But-though the Word of God does not change-the words of people do. Today, "charity" means giving to the poor-and that's a good thing to do. But that is not what the chapter is about-helping needy people. It's about. love).
The love this chapter is about is not the kind of love that is always hugging and kissing and smooching (though nobody likes these things better than I do!). No, the love here is an attitude and a way of behaving.
The loving person doesn't feel or do some things: he doesn't brag, he doesn't feel better than everyone else, he's not happy when bad things happen to others and he's not bitter or mad that others have more than he does.
But he's not a statue or a robot. He very much feels and does some things. For example, he's happy when others are happy and he's kind to people who are not so happy.
Is love a feeling? Sure it is! But it's not only a feeling-it's also a way of acting-it very much controls what you do and say and what you don't do and say.
We'll get to all this later-the Lord willing-but for today, I'll try to show you how important love is. This is what the first three verses of the chapter are about.
Everything in the Bible is true-and not one thing can be left out because it seems so little to you. However, some things are more important than others. One day the Lord criticized the scribes and Pharisees for being super interested in tithing their spices, while not caring at all about things like mercy, justice, or faithfulness. It's not that He wanted them to forget all about giving a part of their salt and pepper to God, but that He wanted them to see that these other things are more important than tithing their spices.
What about loving others? Is that a biggie with the Lord or is it not that important?
The last part of this chapter tell us that faith, hope, and love are far more important than other things in the church-and other things in your heart. These are the Big Three-and the biggest of them all is.love:
"Now abide faith, hope, and love, these three;
but the greatest of these is.love".
Thus, loving other people is not a teeny, tiny thing you can skip over without hurting yourself or put off until you grow up. Not it isn't! It's the thing the Lord wants to see in you more than anything else!
Love is number one on your list of things to do. If you flunked every class in school-while loving others-God would be happy with you. But if you got straight A+'s-while being impatient, mean and conceited-the Lord would be very unhappy with you.
Loving others is very, very important. Except for loving God, it is the highest thing you're called to do:
"The second is like it: you shall
love your neighbor as yourself".
In the first three verses of the chapter, Paul shows how important love is. He's not saying it is more important than tongues, prophecies, knowledge, giving, and even dying for Christ, but he's showing us that even these great gifts and heroic works are no good without love. Love makes them good, while no love makes them rotten.
LOVE AND TONGUES
The chapter begins with the gift of tongues. Does any kid here know what the gift of tongues is?
If you go to some churches, you'll hear what they call the gift of tongues. I've heard this gift and it sounds something like this: !@#$ %^&* ()(* &^%$ #@!@!
This is not the gift of tongues. It is gobblydegook! I'm going to speak in tongues now, so that you'll have some idea of what they sound like. My gift is far from perfect, but it will give you some idea of what tongues is:
"Grande es Jehova, y digno de suprema alabanza!
Y su grandeza es inescrutable!"
Tongues are nothing but foreign languages that the Holy Spirit gave His people in the old days to praise Him before the Gentiles who did not know the languages of Israel.
Was this a wonderful gift? Sure it was! I wish I could praise God in Russian so that my friends over there would be blessed by what I say.
But what if I used the gift without love? What if I used it to show off? What if I used it to exclude people who didn't speak Russian? If I used the gift of tongues without love, it would become a bad thing!
How bad? The first verse says it would be like
"A sounding brass and
a tinkling cymbal".
What if your little brother was taking music lessons and the instrument he was studying was.the cymbals? And what if he practiced eight hours a day? And what if he got really good at the cymbals (but still practiced eight hours a day)?
Do you think you would enjoy his music? Or would it give you a headache?
That's what tongues for the church when people used them without love. What might have been a great encouragement to everyone became a headache!
LOVE AND PROPHECY
The second thing Paul mentions is.prophecy. Prophecy is something like preaching the Word of God. Now, preaching is an important part of church life.
What if I were a great preacher, just full of knowledge and good at speaking in public, and never looking at a note, but eye contact all the time and saying just the right thing? That would be a good thing, wouldn't it?
But what if I preached without love? What if my preaching was unkind, for example?
What if I singled people out and used all kinds of bad words? Tom is a stupid idiot! Maria is a joke for wife! And no kid here is more disobedient and more sure to go to hell than Tammy?
Would that kind of preaching be a blessing to the church? Even if it were true, would it be encouraging or a real bummer to listen to?
Without love, even prophecy is worthless.
LOVE AND KNOWLEDGE
Then we have knowledge:
"And though I understand all mysteries
and have all knowledge."
Wouldn't it be great to understand every mystery in the Bible? To know exactly what every verse in Revelation means? Or to see how every word in Proverbs applies to us? Great knowledge would be a very great blessing to the church.
Unless the one who had it had no love. "Love is not puffed up", but what if the super smart man were that way? What if he was cocky about what he knew and put down everyone who didn't know as much as he did?
His knowledge would hurt people and would, therefore, hurt Jesus Christ.
LOVE AND FAITH
Next we have love and faith. What if a man believed every word of God from the bottom of his heart-and never once doubted it? That would be good.
But what if his faith made him rude and short-tempered with people whose faith wasn't so strong and sure all the time? "How can you doubt the promises of God? What's wrong with you? You're not even saved?"
Would he be a good man to have in the church? Nope. Because his great faith was not controlled by simple love.
LOVE AND GENEROSITY
Next we have love and generosity. If your dad lost his job and your family was about to be put out on the street, wouldn't it be wonderful to have a friend in church who would give you some money-not a couple of buck now and then-but everything he had to get you out of debt and tide you over until your father got another job?
He'd be the most popular man in the church!
Unless he did it without love? Is that possible? Sure it is. What if he kept reminding you of how much he did for you? What if he criticized every dime you spent? What if he felt that helping you out gave him the right to control you?
It would be better to live in your car than to put up with that kind of generosity. Because it was offered without love.
LOVE AND MARTYRDOM
Last of all, we have love and martyrdom.
Does any kid here know what martydom means? It means dying for another person, laying down your life to save his. Would you want someone to take your place in front of the firing squad?
I'd sure like that. But if he did it without love-to show off, to make a name for himself, to make people ooh and aah at his memory, this great act of self-sacrifice would mean nothing to God!
SUMMARY AND CHALLENGE
If love makes little things (like a short prayer or giving someone a cup of cold water) into a blessing and if no love makes even big things (like fantastic sermons or dying for another person) into a curse, then love must be very, very important to you, to others, and most of all, to Jesus Christ.
You need, then, to repent of your no love and start loving others more than you do. The best place to start loving others is at v.4:
"Love suffers long and is kind".
Does someone really get on your nerves? Maybe he's always bragging or saying mean things or leaving his chores for you to do. If so, don't get mad at him. That's love.
But don't stop with not getting mad. Do something kind for someone today. It doesn't have to be a big things, but it has to be something. So, some time this afternoon or tonight, put down what you're doing to do a kind thing for someone else.
And remember, love is not in the big things of life so much, as in the small things-the things you can do-or not do-every day.
God bless you, everyone, for Christ's sake. Amen.
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