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Sunday, December 14, 2008

Matt's Messages "Love Never Fails"

“Love Never Fails”
Learning to Love
December 14, 2008
1 Corinthians 13:8a

Dawn Boyd told me last Sunday that one day the previous week, out of the blue, she was asked by a co-worker if she knew the “Love Chapter,” 1 Corinthians 13!

And Dawn said, “Well, believe it or not, I do!” And she was able to quote it for her.

Let’s all do it together.

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.”

Amen!

One of you wrote me an encouraging email this week that said this (I thought it was so good), “This current sermon series has been...honest, encouraging, meaningful, guided, thought-provoking...[and] a struggle. I thought I had my ‘version’ of Christian love down pretty good. Wow. I have a LOT of work to do.”

Can I get an Amen for that one, too?

Me, too! Amen. I think that this sermon series has been one of the most challenging to prepare and even more challenging to live out.

I am definitely not “Doctor Love.” I don’t have a Ph.D. in Christian love.
In fact, I realized while I was hunting the last two weeks how far from the ideal I really fall short.

I’ve found out this year that hunting can really show you your heart!

I’m NOT patient. Love may be patient, but I am not!

Sitting in the woods, waiting for a deer–maybe a deer who isn’t going to come!

I just kept fidgeting! I couldn’t sit still.

I am envious.

Love does not envy, but I found myself envying.

The first day of deer season, there you are in the woods–and about 7 o’clock you begin to hear, what?

Guns going off! And you don’t think, “Oh good. I’m so glad those guys were successful!”

No, you think, “Where’s mine?!”

I’m not boastful. I don’t have anything to boast about.

But that doesn’t mean that I’m not proud.

I hope I wasn’t rude. But I know that a couple of times I was easily angered.

You know, the second day of deer, I went out to park where I had the day before, and there was a truck parked there taking up 2 spots. And I was immediately filled with rage!

I’ve forgiven him, though, I’m not keeping a record of wrongs.

Hunting has a way of showing your heart....if you’re paying attention.

I was not successful this year at bagging a buck or tagging a doe. But it’s just 50 more weeks until hunting season again! Maybe next year.

I failed this year. But verse 8 tells us that, “Love never fails.” And that’s what we want to think about this morning.

“Love never fails.”

That’s the cap that Paul puts on this compact little powder-keg of a passage.

“Love never fails.”

There is a major contrast between verse 7 with the repetition of always, always, always, always. And then verse 8 with “never.” Notice that?

Love always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

But love NEVER fails.

“Love never fails.”

Let’s think about that. What does that mean?

It certainly DOESN’T mean that we never fail to love.

You and I often fail to love. That’s one thing that we’ve been learning this Fall.

“Love don’t come easy.” It’s not easy to love, and we often fail at it and require forgiveness and grace.

And it doesn’t mean that others won’t fail to love us.

They will. If we expect our loved ones to love us back unfailingly, we will be sorely disappointed.

Sinners fail to love. And it hurts. It really hurts.

It also doesn’t mean that every loving thing we do will accomplish what we intend for it to do.

So, if we do something loving, for an enemy, for example, that “love never fails” doesn’t mean that they will automatically become our friend.

Love does not always attain automatic or predictable results.

However, love never fails.

That’s the truth. It’s right there in your Bible. What does it mean?

Let me suggest three things this morning.

#1. LOVE IS EFFECTIVE.

“Love never fails” means that love is effective.

Love does have an effect on those who are loved.

In other words, love works.

The Greek word here for “fails” is “pipto.” It literally means to fall.

Love never falls. It doesn’t stumble and have no effect.

When we practice it in truth, love accomplishes something in our relationships.

We’ve all experienced this.

What happens inside of you when someone is patient with you?

Well, if we notice it, it often makes us realize that we’re being a problem, doesn’t it?

Love has an effect on us.

What about when others are kind to us? Does that effect us?

You bet it does.

Remember a couple of months ago when I asked for testimonies of seeing patience and kindness in your week?

A number of you gave testimonies of how encouraged you were by someone else’s patience or kindness. It had an effect on you.

Love never fails. Love is effective.

Now, that’s LOVE that is effective, not manipulation!

Sometimes, we get to thinking that if we act in an outwardly loving way (or if we’re nicey nice) then we’ll change someone else.

Well, first of all, we can can’t change anyone else.

But second of all, it takes real love to help someone change–not just the outward veneer of it.

But true love itself IS effective.

I got a note last week from one of you telling a victory story about how you’ve grown at love in one particular relationship in your life.

And, even better, that relationship has improved! There has been both a give and a take on both sides of this relationships. Love never fails.

Now, again, it doesn’t always look like we expect.
It doesn’t always happen on our time-table.

Sometimes, it doesn’t look remotely like what we had hoped for.

And it’s not a trick.

But love never fails. It is effective.

I think one of the reasons why Paul puts this last in the list is to encourage us to keep at it.

As we’ve seen, this is a beautiful description of love in action, but it can seem almost crushing with the weight of it when you try to measure yourself against it.

And verse 7 encouraged us to keep at it. Don’t stop. Be tenacious in love.

And then verse 8 tells us, not only to keep at it, but that it will have an effect.

Love never fails.

Don’t stop now. Love will be effective.

Love will be victorious.

Love will be triumphant.

Love will have an effect.

Do you need to hear that today?

Do you need to hear that at the end of this sermon series?

Don’t give up on love.

Don’t give up on that relationship.

With your spouse, with your kids, with your parents, with your co-workers, with your neighbors, with your church members, with your classmates, with your roommates.

Keep on loving.

Now again, that doesn’t mean that those relationships will not change. Or that you shouldn’t do some things to change those relationships.

But don’t stop loving in those relationship.

Don’t stop being Patient, Kind, Content, Encouraging, Humble, Respectful, Others-Focused, Joyful, Gracious, and Holy. in your love for them.

Don’t stop loving. Because it will be effective.

Expect effect.

Love never fails.

Take that as a promise and keep on loving–even though it’s hard, especially because it’s hard.

Expect effect.

Love never fails means that love is effective.

#2. LOVE IS ETERNAL.

That “love never fails” means that love is eternal.

This little phrase is a bridge between verses 4 through 7 and verses 8 through 13.

And it’s part of Paul’s larger argument in 1 Corinthians.

Remember, Paul is fixing problems at the church in Corinth.

They had a spiritual gift problem. Not that they didn’t have them, but that they loved them too much. They thought too much of their spiritual gifts.

And chapter 12 of 1 Corinthians deals with spiritual gifts and chapter 14 deals with spiritual gifts.

Chapter 13 does, too. And one of the chief things that it says about spiritual gifts is that they don’t last. Spiritual gifts aren’t that important because they don’t last.

In chapter 12, Paul has been saying that spiritual gifts are good and from God but that now in chapter 13, he’s going to show us something much more important–the more excellent way: Love.

And then in verses 1-3, he contrasts love with the exercise of amazing spiritual gift without love–and he concludes that spiritual gifts (no matter how amazing) without love are worthless.

And then he gives us our textbook on love (verses 4-7), “Love is patient” ending with “Love never fails.”

And then, he talks about spiritual gifts again, doesn’t he? V.8

“Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease [King James: “they shall fail”]; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when perfection comes (at the return of Christ!) the imperfect disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. And now these three remain [forever!]: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love” [1 Corinthians 13:8-13].

Love is eternal!

Love goes into eternity even though spiritual gifts do not!

The English Standard Version translates verse 8: “Love never ends.”

Gifts are temporary.
Love is permanent.

Love is eternal.

So, do you know what Heaven is going to be like?

Heaven is going to be a “world of love.”

That’s a phrase from Jonathan Edward’s great book on the “Love Chapter” called “Charity and Its Fruits.”

I’ve been reading it as I prepare for these messages.

Edwards calls heaven a “World of Holy Love.”

And his last chapter is a long meditation on what it means that heaven will be a great home of love.

Heaven will be a place where everybody loves everybody and everybody knows the love of God!

Doesn’t that sound marvelous?

Love is eternal.

This is another reason to practice love.

Because love lasts.

It isn’t just here today and gone tomorrow.

Love (and what is done in love) lasts forever and ever and ever and ever and ever.

Love lasts. It’s permanent.

It’s a permanent fixture in the universe!

And when you and I practice Christian love, we experience a foretaste of the world to come.

Let me say that again.

When you and I practice Christian love, we experience a foretaste of the world to come.

When we practice Christian love, we are practicing for Heaven.

“Love never fails.”

So, husbands and wives:

When you are patient with each other.
When you keep no record of wrongs.
When you are kind.
When you are not easily angered...

You are getting ready for Heaven.

Parents:

When you lead a family into humble confession (I’m sorry).
When you lead a family into humble forgiveness (I forgive you)...

Your home becomes a place like Heaven.

Kids:

When you don’t envy and you don’t boast about toys, sports, and privileges..

...you are passing out a little taste of Heaven!

Teens:

When you refuse to rejoice in evil at West Branch or Philipsburg or Clearfield but instead delight with the truth...

...you are opening the door a crack onto what it’s like on the other side!

Church!

When we go from here into the fellowship hall and have our annual Christmas dinner, and we defer to one another and are kind to one another–remember mothers with small children and our older worshippers should go straight to the head of the line–and the rest of us should love them as they go there...

...when we are kind to one another, we, as a church, are getting a foretaste of what Heaven is like!

Love is eternal.

Love never fails. Never, ever, ever, ever.

Do you need another reason to love?

One more.

That “love never fails” means that “love is effective” and that “love is eternal.”

It also means that:

#3. LOVE IS DIVINE.

How is that love never fails?

How is that possible?

How is that love is effectual and that we can expect effect from our love?

How is that love is eternal and that it will exist forever and ever and ever ad infinitum?

It must be that love comes from and is empowered by God Himself.

More than that! God Himself is love.

The Bible says, “God is love” (1 John 4:8).

That’s how love can be unfailingly effective and everlastingly eternal.

Love is divine.

It’s an attribute of deity.

It’s a glorious part of who God is.

Love is divine.

Now, that’s another reason to love other people, because when we do it, we’re acting like God Himself.

But what I want to end with is what we need to remember and rejoice in every single day of our Christian lives: the love of God for us.

Love is divine, and the Divine (God!) has shown His love for us in Jesus Christ.

More than two thousand years ago, God sent His own Son to us as a little baby born in Bethlehem and laid in a lowly manger.

The divine love came near.

We’re going to talk about that next Sunday. The sermon title for next week is “Love Has Come,” and (by the way) you don’t have to memorize that!

But we do need to rejoice in it!

God Himself has loved us with an unfailing love!

And it’s bound up in Jesus Christ, God in the flesh, leaving His throne and coming to Earth to be a little baby, then a young man, then a man who taught like no one else, who lived like no one else, and then who died like no one else.

The Lord Jesus Christ is the greatest expression of the greatest love in the universe.

God so loved the world that He gave His One and Only Son that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.

If you have the Son, you have life!

If you do not have the Son, you do not have life.

And you don’t have love.

If you are outside of Christ today, we invite you to come inside.

We invite you to put your faith and trust and hope in Jesus Christ and experience the love of God for you.

He died to pay the penalty for sin.
He came back to life to give us life.

You are invited to begin a love relationship with Him today.

You are invited to know the divine love of God in Jesus Christ.

And if you already know Him, then rejoice!

Rejoice that you know the unfailing love of God.

Love never fails.

Love is effective. Expect effect!
Love is eternal. Let’s love for Heaven’s Sake!
And love is divine. It’s God’s love.

And it never, ever fails.

4 comments:

does anybody ever print these out and take them to church with them? ;-)

It's happened before, but that's why I don't post them until about church-time or after.

I used to send out the email version early in the morning, because I thought friends and family far away might want to read them before their worship times, but I was finding that some folks here at home were reading them and following along in the pew!

Good to hear from you, Matt.

-Matt

You can "pre-post" and future date a post on Saturday night (since I think that's when you said you post them). Maybe you already do that.

Yeah, I pre-post these now the night before now.

Blogger didn't used to do that, but it does now.