Michael Youssef - Healthy Living in a Sick World - Part 18
Today, I want to do what I always do and that is put 1 Corinthians 13 in its context because 1 Corinthians chapter 13 is a breath of fresh air in the midst of this dizzying set of problems in the church of Corinth. It's an oasis in a desert of rebuke. It is a positive note in the midst of a continuing reproof and continuing correction on the part of the great apostle. In fact, it's a gem, it's a diamond in the rough. In spite of that, it is a huge mistake to take 1 Corinthians 13 and separate it from 12 and 14. Huge mistake. It's a colossal error that some people make if they ignore what came before it and what came after it.
I am absolutely convinced that you cannot comprehend 1 Corinthians 13 in isolation. Because in chapter 12 we saw, in the last message, the importance of our gifts and the importance of discovering these gifts and an absolute necessity for a healthy lifestyle, Christian spiritual lifestyle, not only to discover your gifts but to practice those gifts, to use these gifts. And then in chapter 14 in the next message, we're gonna see how it is filled with warnings, warning against those who want to use the gifts of the Holy Spirit for selfish purposes. And that is why chapter 13, smack in the middle between 12 and 14. Don't miss that.
Why am I saying this? Because chapter 13 gives us the right attitude toward these gifts, the right attitude toward the use of these gifts. Chapter 13 shows us the proper motive that we are supposed to have toward the gifts of the Holy Spirit that every believer has. Chapter 13 reveals to us God's plan for his gifts that he has given to us. In chapter 13, Paul tells us that love is far from being this gooey, mushy, fuzzy feeling that we talk about. It is actually... listen to me carefully. 1 Corinthians 13 is actually a 2 x 4. You heard me right. It's a 2 x 4. That means hitting the church with a 2 x 4, chapter 13. You never thought about it this way.
Now you do. Because having a spiritual gift does not make you spiritual. Having spiritual... does not make you spiritual. Listen to me, I have known great famous preachers who are carnal, and so do you. Only walking in the Spirit makes you spiritual. I want you to hear me right. Believers in the Corinthian church, they were very similar to the believers in the Ephesians church as we see them not in Paul's Epistle to the Ephesians, but in the book of Revelation chapter 2. And the reason they lost their first love is because they moved from the source of love. They got so bogged down in their self-interest, they got so bogged down that they've forgotten whose church it is.
Beloved, not a single time that I come down the street and turn into this church building without reminding myself, "This is the church of Jesus Christ". The agape, or agape as some pronounce it, is not that self-seeking love. Agape demands something of us to give. Hear me right. Agape has no room for pride, arrogance, or self-promotion. In John chapter 13, the Bible said when Jesus loved his disciple, he loved them to the end. Or another translation, he loved them to perfection. He loved them to completeness.
Here's what I have learned through the years from many painful experiences. I won't bore you with them. I have discovered that lovelessness, lovelessness is the root of disobedience to God. Seldom do you read in the Gospels about Jesus saying to the disciples, "I love you guys, I love you guys, I love you guys," which we do and that's fine but, you know, but you know what? They knew. They felt it. They've experienced it. He didn't have to keep repeating it to them. Verse 1: "If I am the most eloquent speaker in the world but incapable of loving, I am making a whole bunch of noises". That's really rough translation.
In fact, I'm gonna give you a lot of rough translations, but you'll get the meaning, ha. You might be a person with silver tongue who sway millions of people; but without true biblical love, ha, it's a bunch of noise. The Corinthians were clamoring for the gift of tongues. They all want to speak in tongues. They want to speak in tongues. Of all the gifts of the Spirit, we'll see in the next message, they want that one, why? Paul said, "I speak even more than all of you, but even if I speak all of the languages that is known to the world and I don't have love, I'm a windbag". Verse 2: "To proclaim the Word of God without love will have no lasting or eternal impact". "Oh," people might say, "look at him. Isn't he awesome"? Only God is awesome. "Oh, look at her. Isn't she wonderful"?
No. God says that's a bunch of hot air. Not only that, but if I comprehend all the secrets of the universe, if I'm able to know beyond the physical realm, if I'm able to see beyond the physical realm, if I'm able to perform supernatural acts, all of that is nothing without the fruit of love. Beloved, you know and I know that knowledge without agape produces spiritual snobbery, cockiness, and I pray to God you don't misunderstand me. Spiritual knowledge is wonderful. It really is. It is absolutely beyond description. Spiritual knowledge is a beautiful gift, and I thank God for it. Spiritual knowledge can be a blessing and fruit-filled in the work of God.
But only if it is ministered in love. Even if I'm a great man of faith, which I'm not, who I can trust God for supernatural miracles, supernatural intervention, which I believe he has given me that to do on behalf of others, never on behalf of myself, this means nothing if it is not exercised in love. Verse 3: "Eloquence, tongues, prophecy, spiritual knowledge, and even faith, none of these or all of these combined without love amount to anything". But there's more. Add to this list benevolence. That is giving of everything, giving your entire net worth away. And then you take a vow of poverty.
If it is not done in genuine love, it means nothing to God. It is not only giving away of your possessions, all of them, all of them. Even if you give your body and be martyred and we're seeing more martyrs for Christ today than any other time in 2000 year of Christian history. But even if I give my body to be martyred for Christ, if it is not done out of love and for love, it means nothing. The loveless person produces nothing, is nothing, and gains nothing. Look at verses 4 and 5. Here is the most comprehensive biblical description of the fullness of love. The list here tells us what love is and what love is not. I know we all tend to measure ourselves with others. I know that. The only measuring stick is Jesus.
You say, "Michael, that's impossible. Jesus was the perfect Son of God. He was the divine Son of God". Yes, overnight it is impossible. And that is why it takes a lifetime of constant measuring and failing sometimes and succeeding other times and constantly measuring and measuring and measuring yourself with Christ. "Love is patient". Listen, any serious-minded believer should be able to say, "I am more Christ-like this year than I was last year". Those of us oldies, any serious-minded believer should be able to say that my Christ-likeness this decade is greater than it was last decade. This is not pride, this is just reality. It's important reality. And that is what patience means here. Someone who wronged you, listen carefully, someone who wronged you and wounded you deeply and it is within your power to retaliate, but you don't.
Now, I can testify on the subject of patience. Patient here means never, never to retaliate when a person wrongs you personally. Listen, I'm gonna make the distinction here. It's very important. See, in the Greek world to which Paul is writing, this is crazy talk. It is absolute crazy to say you don't retaliate. What do you mean? Because revenge in the Greek culture was a virtue. Ah, but Christ-likeness says, "Let God do it. He does a far better job than you can ever do or you hope to do". Love is kind. You know, beloved, let me tell you. Kindness has a laboratory. And the greatest laboratory for kindness is in the home. If it fails in the home, it's not gonna succeed anywhere else. Love is not jealous.
Shakespeare called jealousy the green sickness, the sorrows of fools, ha, ha. It is not only want what somebody else has, but often this disease wants the other person to suffer ill. You know what I'm talking about? Hear me right, please. Jealousy is not a harmless moderate sin. It is not. And I've seen it in churches. I've seen it among pastors. Jealousy is devastating. Proverbs 27:4 says: "Wrath is fierce, anger is a flood. But who can stand before jealousy"? Jealousy drives people to do some horrible and terrible things to each other. "Love does not brag". What is bragging? It's trying to make other people jealous. That's why they come right next to each other. Bragging is making other people jealous of you. Love does not parade accomplishments. Jealousy is wanting what somebody else has and bragging is parading what you have and make other people jealous of you. Jealousy puts others down in order that we might lift ourselves up. Push them down so we can brag about how great we are, ha.
C.S. Lewis said, "Bragging is the uttermost evil. It is the epitome of pride". Love is not arrogant. Now, the Corinthians had no reason to be arrogant. A person is arrogant when they think that everything he has, self-made, it's him, her. Question: what is the cure for that? Remembering that everything, and I'm talking about everything, that you have is given to you. Everything you have is given to you. That will cure it. This fact alone will drive us to our knees instead of make us standing on tippy-toes saying, "Hey, look at me". "Love does not act unbecomingly". Better translation: "Love does not act grace-less-ly," gracelessly.
Love always being gracious, even to people who are rude. Did you get that? It is gracious even to people who put us down in order to raise themselves up. God bless 'em. Even people who are ungrateful for sacrifices that we made on their behalf. Love does not seek its own. What does that mean? It means the opposite of what we see all around us today, from self-fulfillment to self-actualization to self-serving to self-this and self-that and self-other thing. The Corinthians would not even share their food at the love fest, communion. We saw that from chapter 11. They wouldn't share their food. Their attitude was what mine is mine and what's yours is mine too. Love is not easily provoked, not easily aroused to anger.
Now I've got to stop here and tell you something important. He is not talking about righteous anger. The righteous anger that flares when we see sin and the devastation of sin and the merchants of sin, the righteous anger flares when we see false teachers and false preachers misleading thousands of people. That's righteous anger. He's not talking about this. He's talking about anger that results from our pride being injured. "Love does not keep records of wrong". The Greek word "logizomai" from which we get the word "logging". Not logging of the trees, but logging when you log down and keep records, particularly in accounting and financing. The purpose for entering things on the ledger to record it or log it in is important. You have a permanent record of it so you can go back to it.
Listen carefully, please. In finances and in business, this is absolutely important, it is a must. But in a relationship between a husband and wife, in a relationship between believers, that is not the case. Burn 'em every day. Keeping records, keeping ledgers against each other, can be a source of misery for those who are keeping the books. Love should erase the records. And do it immediately. Don't wait a month or two, a year or two. It will get bigger. So get rid of it right away. Bring it to the foot of the cross. Present it under the blood of Jesus Christ. "Love does not rejoice in unrighteousness".
Now, beloved, it's not an accident that the next description of love is that it rejoices in the truth. See, the Holy Spirit was not just throwing some words out there and... no, no, no, these are logically organized words by the Creator of the world, the Spirit of God. Because false teachers and preachers can say, "Well, don't keep record of wrong. Yeah, forgive". Ah, the other side of it is rejoicing in the truth because without rejoicing in the truth, you will not have power inside of you to be able to forgive and let go of the ledgers. Because love does not accommodate to falsehood. No, no, no, no, no, love does not wink at sin, love does not tolerate unrighteousness.
Love cannot tolerate false doctrine. Love does cannot tolerate false teaching. Love cannot tolerate compromise. Love bears all things. What does that mean? You don't broadcast the failures of others before you go and talk to them. You need to talk to the person directly. You don't go out and spread rumors and false innuendoes. Deal with them one-on-one. Love believes all things. It's not suspicious or cynical. Love hopes all things. Even when faith is weak, love holds on to hope. Love doesn't see a person's failure to be a final or permanent. Always hopes that God is gonna do his work in him or in her. Always hope.
That's why believing members of this church, if they talk to me they will tell you this, I have said to many people on one-on-one, individually, and you've heard me from this pulpit, when you have an unbelieving member of your family don't ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever give up praying for them. Love endures all things. This actually is a military term, and it comes from the fact that if, during war, when an army comes and found a strategic position like a hill or a mountain, you hold on to it and you fight and you stand your ground and you never give up. It's very important. Hold on to it. Love stands against overwhelming opposition. Love refuses to stop being, believing and hoping and enduring. Love never stop loving. Why? Verses 8 to 13 tells you why. Because in heaven there will be no need for faith or hope.
Why do we need faith in heaven? We have faith now because we can't see God. But in heaven, we'll be seeing Jesus face to face. We will see him on the throne being glorified and praised and adored and worshiped. No need for faith or hope because we hope in Christ because we can't see him, but there will be no need for spiritual gifts because we will have the fullness of the Spirit; and yet, love is forever the very air that we're gonna breathe in heaven, amen. Give God glory. Let me ask you this. Has your love been met with rejection? Has your love been met with betrayal? Has your love been met with indifference? Has your love been met with anger? Has your love been met with hatred? Has your love been met by selfishness and jealousy and resentment? Don't stop loving for love endures forever.