Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. 28 And in the church God has appointed first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then workers of miracles, also those having gifts of healing, those able to help others, those with gifts of administration, and those speaking in different kinds of tongues. 29 Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? 30 Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret? 31 But eagerly desire the greater gifts. And now I will show you the most excellent way. 1CO 13:1 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.
MT 18:21 Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, "Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?" MT 18:22 Jesus answered, "I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times. MT 18:23 "Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. 24 As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him. 25 Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt. MT 18:26 "The servant fell on his knees before him. `Be patient with me,' he begged, `and I will pay back everything.' 27 The servant's master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go. MT 18:28 "But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii. He grabbed him and began to choke him. `Pay back what you owe me!' he demanded. MT 18:29 "His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, `Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.' MT 18:30 "But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. 31 When the other servants saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed and went and told their master everything that had happened. MT 18:32 "Then the master called the servant in. `You wicked servant,' he said, `I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. 33 Shouldn't you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?' 34 In anger his master turned him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed. MT 18:35 "This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart."
Almost everyone I know is talking about the Oscar Pistorious’ trial. Some are sighing with relief whilst others are angry and disappointed. Some believe that his sentence sends out a message that “it is ok to take another person’s life” if you are physically challenged. As I was listening to a discussion on TV about the global impact this case has had in the media, I was deeply moved when the camera focussed on Oscar.
As I looked at him, with his hands covering his face and his head bowed in shame, I was reminded of the fact that each and everyone one of us will one day have to give account to God for what we have done in our lives.
Yes it is true that by the grace of God believers in Jesus will not be condemned. But we will have to give account to God for what we have done with our lives. In HEB 4:13 we read “Nothing in all creation is hidden from God's sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account”.
The reality is we have all sinned and our heads would also hang in shame if our sins were laid bare before the world.
Some people are angry because they believe Oscar is not getting what he deserves. But what if we got what we deserve? Remember God ordained that the wages of sin be death and God paid the price the law demanded on our behalf.
RO 8:1 Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, 2 because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.
BUT WHY WOULD GOD DO THAT?
Why would God save a motley bunch like us?
PS 144:3 O LORD, what is man that you care for him, the son of man that you think of him? These amazing words appear 5 times in various books of the Bible.
The Bible tells us that it is because “He so loved us!” God did what He did for love’s sake! Nothing more nothing less! God loves you and God loves me and all people everywhere and will do whatever it takes to save us.
We are commanded to love God with all our hearts and our minds and our strength and yet He does not want our love to be insincere. But God knows that once we discover what it means to be loved by Him we will love naturally love Him in return. We will want to please Him, not because we must but because can.
“WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO LOVE GOD?
It has been said that love is “the will to do good .To love someone is to “promote their good for their own sake”. This definition covers all loves. The love between a man and a woman, the love between a parent and child the love between friends and our love for God! I am not talking about cupboard love! The kind of love that does good in order to promote one’s own good! This is not really love is it? I call that pure skullduggery!
Paul said “without love we “are” nothing and we “gain” nothing. All the deeds we do and all the things we say and all the accolades we receive are nothing to God unless they are outward expressions of an inner love for Him.
Because God is love, His will is naturally to promote our good for our own sake, and He proved that beyond doubt when He went to the cross on our behalf. There is absolutely nothing selfish in God’s love for you and me.
· God does not desire revenge, or recompense He desires restoration and repentance.
· God does not offer us a life that is easy He offers us a life that is eternal.
· God does not expect us to be success in all things but requests obedience in everything.
AT THE HEART OF THE MATTER OF LOVE IS THE MATTER OF THE HEART.
How do we move from reluctant obedience to joyful service to God? Our relationship with God is like any other love relationship; at the heart of the matter is the matter of the heart.
If you feel that your love for God does not inspire you and motivate you to “do good for His sake”, then it is time to take a long hard look at your heart. You might be surprised by what you find!
We know that our physical hearts struggle to operate as they should when our arteries are hardened and the same can be said for our spiritual hearts.
Jesus says that (Luke 6:45) The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks.
By using the “analogy” of the human heart we can see that what goes into the heart affects what comes out of our hearts.
The condition of our hearts is directly affected (or infected) by our thoughts. Our thoughts can be compared to the arteries that feed the heart with blood, they have the capacity to channel both good and bad into our hearts.
Paul says in (Phillipians 4:8) … whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable -- if anything is excellent or praiseworthy --think about such things.
When we spend time thinking of the goodness of God, the beauty of His creation the hope we have in the many promises He has made, the inexplicable truth that He loves us and that He is with us every day, our hearts are stirred by the Holy Spirit, and love is able to flow into our hearts. The more our thoughts are filled with God the more we will love Him as he deserves to be loved.
This applies in our personal relationships too. When we look for the good in our fellow man rather than the bad it changes how we feel and in time how we act.
We might argue that we are justified in thinking and feeling the way we do about certain people in particular circumstances and that may well be true, but we cannot use that argument unless we are willing to concede that God would also be justified in condemning us for our sin rather than saving us.
God has never said our sin doesn’t matter, but he has shown that it matters to Him that we are set free from the hold it has over us.
He has set us free to love and not to hate, to forgive and not to hold grudges, to be to Him and to others all that He is to us.
When we accept God’s invitation to receive a “new life” in Jesus it is so important that we let the baggage we have collected along the way go. The kind of baggage we collect includes un-forgiveness, jealousy, greed, envy, malice, hate, prejudice and there are more.
There is no room in a believer’s thoughts for these things because like diseased arteries, they will most certainly will slowly but surely kill any chance of their hearts producing the fruit of the Spirit, the best of which is love. Love for God and love for each other.
The most lethal of all “bad baggage” is un-forgiveness. It provides a perfect seedbed for other ungodly thoughts and feelings. As the story in Matthew showed, to refuse to forgive others is as irresponsible as a heart patient refusing treatment.
I began this morning with a conversation about the Oscar Pretorius trial because it graphically revealed to me the spiritual “fall out” of the opposite to love which is malice.
As disciples of Jesus it is our spiritual responsibility to take measures to prevent our hearts from being seed beds of hostility. If we sincerely want to grow in our love and commitment to God we must make a conscious decision to allow God, and not the world, to shape our hearts and minds.
Paul said that must “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.
I do not want to over simplify what it takes to change the way we think. We cannot stop thoughts from entering our minds, but we can decide what to do with them when they arrive there. A bird might land on your head but you don’t let it make a nest there. Taking charge of our thoughts and feelings is like taming a wild horse. It is hard work but with patience and determination and discernment they eventually submit to the one who is their master. Who is the master of your mind?
I want to encourage, or perhaps go as far as to say “challenge you” to take some time this week to sit alone with God and prayerfully allow Him to help you to sift through what lies beneath the surface in your hearts and in your mind. Perhaps there are hurts you are holding on to that are hindering your love and commitment to God.
Is there anything that needs to go? Addiction? Regret? Anger? Hate? Greed? Vengeance? Jealousy? Fear? ………
Allow God help you. He is able to do more than you can imagine. Be assured, He will fill those empty spaces that are left behind with more and more of His amazing and everlasting love.
HOME GROUP DISCUSSION NOTES
READ DEUT 30:15-20
Today we look at the subject of love in its broadest sense. Love for God and love for each other. Dallas Willard in his book “Renovation of the heart” says this about love. “We love someone when we promote their good for their own sake”.
· Discuss ways in which we “promote the good” of those we to love, for their sake.
· In what particular way do you prefer your loved ones to “promote your good” for your sake? (Be specific here! This is not a spiritual question?)
It’s easy to be affectionate and generous towards those whom we love but doing this for God and people that we do not know (or even like) is not so easy.
· Why do think this is so?
· What attracts you, or prevents you, from developing loving relationships?
· How does God’s love differ from ours in this respect? Read Romans 5:1-8
God has commanded us to love as He loves but we struggle when our hearts and minds are focused more on the things of the world than they are on the things of God. This hinders our spiritual growth and our hearts remain hardened towards God and others.
· What can we do to change this? (Phil 4:8-13)
· In what ways can we “promote” God’s good for His sake?