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TEXT: I Corinthians 13:6
SUBJECT: Attributes of Love #10: Love, Iniquity, and Truth
Listen up, kids!
This afternoon, we come to the next-to-last sermon in our long, long, study of I Corinthians 13. Before we get to it, let me ask you a few questions:
So far, we've thought about eight things love does and doesn't do. Love is an attitude (1) that puts up with people who do you wrong, (2) that treats them kindly (even if they don't deserve it), (3) that doesn't resent them when they have more or better things than you do, (4) that doesn't show off, (5) that isn't rude and obnoxious, (6) that isn't selfish and greedy, (7) that doesn't get mad all the time, and (8) that doesn't keep a record of every bad thing others do to you.
This is what love looks like. It's what Jesus Christ looks like (perfectly) and what He wants you and me to look like too (though not perfectly).
You can have good manners without being saved. You can be nice without being saved. You can be fun without being saved. But you can't be loving without being saved! Not this kind of loving, I mean! This takes more than good parents or good teaching or good practice. It takes God's saving grace. Which He gives to everyone who repents of his sins and believes in Jesus Christ.
If you want to be the kind of person described in this chapter, you don't start by trying harder, but by receiving Jesus Christ as your Savior and Lord.
Today's sermon is taken from v.6. It says,
Love.does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth.
The verse is made up of two parts: the front end says what love doesn't do; the back end says what love does. Let's look at each one of them for a minute or two.
WHAT LOVE DOESN'T DO
What does love not do? It doesn't rejoice in iniquity. I know you know what the first word means: to rejoice means to be happy. It means to enjoy something (like a new video game) or to celebrate it (like a birthday).
But what about the second word? What does iniquity mean? Iniquity is another word for sin.
Love does not rejoice in iniquity. Whose iniquity? It doesn't rejoice in your own iniquity, of course. Some Christians hate sin in other people, but in themselves, it's not so bad. This is as very common-since nearly everyone feels this way-but it's also very wrong. God doesn't have two laws: a strict one for you and a loose one for me! We ought to hate our own sins-and never rejoice in them. Never laugh at them, never think, Well, it wasn't that bad.
This is true, but it's not what our verse means. The iniquity God doesn't want us to rejoice in here is other people's. In other words, love is not happy when others sin. It doesn't approve of their sins, it doesn't laugh at their sins, and it sure doesn't egg them on to sin!
This is what love doesn't do-it doesn't rejoice in iniquity.
WHAT LOVE DOES
If love doesn't rejoice in iniquity, what does it do, walk around all day with a frown on its face? Some people are that way-they're against everything. They're very judgmental and often stupid and harsh in their judgments. But is that what love does-rain on everyone's parade? Stomp on everybody's happiness?
No. If love doesn't rejoice in iniquity, it very much rejoices in the truth.
You remember what rejoice means: to take pleasure in something. What it takes pleasure in is.the truth.
What is the truth? Is 2+2=4 the truth? Yes, but that's not the kind of truth Paul has in mind here. What about telling the truth (instead of lying)? Is that right? Sure it is, but I don't think that's what he means either.
I think the truth stands for the Gospel and what it does to the people who believe it. What is the Gospel? Some kids think it is: Obey your parents, work hard in school, go to church, say grace at the table. Without meaning to, parents often given this impression to their kids. But that's not the Gospel. The Gospel s about Christ and what He's done to save us. Death, burial, and resurrection is the short way of explaining it.
What does the Gospel do for us? If we don't believe it, it does nothing for us. But if we do believe it, it makes us holy-not perfect (in this world), but holy.
Because love loves the Gospel, it also loves what the Gospel does for people who believe and obey it. Love, in other words, takes great pleasure in the holiness of other people.
This is what the verse means.
Why does love feel this way about iniquity and truth? Why not turn them around (as some people do)? Or why not rejoice in both or in neither or switch back and forth depending on the mood you're in?
That's an easy one: The reason love does not rejoice in iniquity is because iniquity hurts people. Sin hurts the one who commits it and the one it is committed against. It also provokes other sins, and they provoke others in return. On and on it goes. The world is in the mess it's in because of iniquity. Without it, there would be no wars, no crime, no prisoners, no drunk parents, no abused children, no dead babies. All sins are not equally hurtful, but all sins are hurtful. That's why love cannot rejoice in them.
The Gospel, on the other hands, heals people. It makes criminals obey the law; it make drunk parents stop drinking; it makes angry dads stop beating their children; it makes scared moms stop killing their babies. If love loves other people, it has to rejoice in the truth.
Let me tell you a little story. When I was five years old, I liked a girl in school named Virginia. About two months after school started, the teacher came to class very upset. She told us that Virginia had been killed the night before in a traffic accident. The girls all cried; most of the boys just stared, not knowing what to make of it. But that was the unhappiest day I ever had at school.
Now, what if a boy in class had laughed about it, pumped his fist, and said, All right! Or, if he were quieter, what if he told everyone later how happy he was about Virginia?
What would you think of that boy? I'd think pretty badly of him. How can you rejoice at a little girl's death?
But that's just what we do when we rejoice in iniquity! We take pleasure in the sins that hurt people, and if not repented of, will send them to hell.
I'd have been very happy had the principal come into class that day and said, We made a mistake! Virginia was hit the by car but the doctors have found a miracle medicine, and she'll be back tomorrow, better than ever!
That's what the Gospel is! A miracle medicine, that heals the sick in soul and even raises the dead. That's what we should rejoice in-the truth!
If you want to rejoice in the truth instead of in iniquity, then make good friends. You like your friends, of course, but if they're bad kids, it won't be long until you like their sins. Please don't mistreat or look down on bad kids, but also don't make them your best friends.
If you want to rejoice in the truth and not in iniquity, help your friends who fall into sin. Don't correct them a million times a day, but when their sins are serious, try to help them. You do that,
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