Theologian and Pastor R.C. Sproul never knew me and I never got a chance to meet him. However, Pastor R.C. has had a big impact in my life with his knowledge and teaching of the scriptures. Pastor R.C. went home to be with the Lord on Dec. 14, 2017. Below is an article he previously wrote online about “The Christian Virtue of Love.”
How many people do you know that have made it to the hall of fame in music, art, literature, or sports because of their love? We elevate people to the status of heroes because of their gifts, their talents, and their power, but not because of their love. Yet, from God’s perspective, love is the chief of all virtues. But what is love?
Love is said to make the world go round, and romantic love certainly makes the culture go round in terms of advertising and entertainment. We never seem to tire of stories that focus on romance. But we’re not referring to romantic love when we speak of the Christian virtue of love. We’re talking about a much deeper dimension of love, a virtue so paramount that it is to distinguish Christians from all other people. Moreover, love is so important to the Bible’s teachings that John tells us, “God is love” (1 John 4:7–8). Whatever else we say about the Christian virtue of love, we must be clear that the love God commands is a love that imitates His own. The love of God is utterly perfect. And we are called to reflect and mirror that love to perfection, to be perfect as He is perfect (Matt. 5:48). Now, of course, none of us loves perfectly, which is why we must be covered with the perfect righteousness of Christ by faith in Him alone. Nevertheless, it’s important for us to return time and again to Scripture to find out what love is supposed to look like, for we’re so easily satisfied with a sentimental, maudlin, romantic, or superficial understanding of love.
First Corinthians 13 plumbs the depths of what love really means. It’s a measuring rod by which we can examine ourselves carefully to see whether this love resides in our hearts and is manifested in our lives. Given that truth, I’m surprised that 1 Corinthians 13 is one of the most popular passages in all of Scripture instead of being one of the most despised. I can’t think of any chapter in Scripture that more quickly reveals our sins than this chapter. It’s popularity may be due to its being one of the most misunderstood and least applied chapters in the Bible. There’s a sense in which we’re ambivalent toward it. We’re drawn to it because of the grandeur of its theme and the eloquence of its language, yet at the same time we’re repulsed by this chapter because it reveals our shortcomings. We want to keep some safe distance from it because it so clearly demonstrates to us our lack of real love.
This chapter is part of an Apostolic admonition to Christians who were torn apart by contentions in the church. They were behaving in an immature, fleshly manner, and at the heart of this ungodly behavior was a manifestation of certain talents, abilities, and gifts without the presence of love in their lives. In the opening verses, Paul speaks of love as the sine qua non of Christian virtue (1 Cor. 13:1–3). He’s speaking with hyperbole, intentionally exaggerating things to make his point. He starts off comparing love to the gift of tongues. Paul says, in effect, “I don’t care if you are fluent in fifty languages or if you have the gift to speak foreign languages miraculously. I don’t care if God has endowed you with the ability to speak the language of the heavenly host. If you don’t have love, the eloquence of your speech becomes noise. It becomes dissonance, an irritating and annoying racket.” He says here that if we speak in the tongues of men and of angels but have not love, we become a sounding brass or a clanging symbol—mere noise. All the beauty of speech is lost when love is absent.
Paul then compares love to the gifts of prophecy and understanding, miraculous endowments that God gave to people during the Apostolic era. These tremendous gifts were nothing compared to love. The Apostle says that you can have a miraculous endowment, you can receive power from God the Holy Spirit, but it is to be used in the context of the grace of love. And without that love, the use of the divine power is a charade. Jesus had to warn even His own disciples about the danger of using a God-given gift without love. Jesus empowered His disciples to participate in His ministry of exorcism, and they went out on their mission and came back clicking their heels. They were so excited at the effectiveness of their ministry that they were rejoicing in the power Christ had given them. But what did Jesus say? Don’t rejoice because you have been given power over Satan, but rejoice that your names have been written in heaven (Luke 10:1–20). The disciples were caught up with the power instead of the grace that was underlying that power. They were intoxicated with the gift, and were forgetting the One who gave it.
The bottom line is that the gifts of God can be used without love. When that happens, their value is destroyed. The essence of love, 1 Corinthians 13 tells us, is to seek the welfare of others. A person who reflects God’s love is driven to give of himself for others, not to wield his power for his own benefit. But we are people who are more interested in power, in doing rather than being. We’re more concerned to seize the supernatural power that God can give rather than the supernatural love that is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit (Rom. 5:5). We have misplaced priorities. Thanks be to God that His love for us is greater than our love for Him. May He strengthen us to pursue love above all else, a love that reflects His love for us in Christ (5:8).
This Christian Perspective comes from Max Lucado. This is a prayer from the book When God Whispers Your Name. I believe this is a great prayer to set your mind on living Intentionally for each day and that’s why it’s entitled “Each Day.”
For the next 12 hours I will be exposed to the day’s demands. It is now that I must make a choice – allow the day to be dictated to me or choose to Live Intentional for the Lord. Because of Calvary, I’m free to choose. And so I choose.
I CHOOSE LOVE…
No occasion justifies hatred. No injustice warrants bitterness. I choose love. Today I will love God and what God loves.
I CHOOSE JOY…
I will invite my God to be the God of circumstance. I will refuse the temptation to be cynical…the tool of a lazy thinker. I will refuse to see people as anything less than human beings, created by God. I will refuse to see any problem as anything less than an opportunity to see God.
I CHOOSE PEACE…
I will live in Christ forgiveness He has given me. I will forgive so that I may live.
I CHOOSE PATIENCE…
I will overlook the inconveniences of the world. Instead of cursing the one who takes my place, I’ll invite him to do so. Rather than complain that the waits is too long, I will thank God for a moment to pray. Instead of clenching my fist at new assignments, I will face them with joy and courage.
I CHOOSE KINDNESS…
I will be kind to the poor, for they are alone. Kind to the rich, for they are afraid. And kind to the unkind, for such is how God has treated me.
I CHOOSE GOODNESS…
I will go without a dollar before I take a dishonest one. I will be overlooked before I will boast. I will confess before I will accuse. I choose goodness.
I CHOOSE FAITHFULNESS…
Today I will keep my promises. My debtors will not regret their trust. My associates will not question my word. My wife will not question my love. And my children will never fear that their father will not come home.
I CHOOSE GENTLENESS…
Nothing is won by force. I choose to be gentle. If I raise my voice, may it be only in praise. If I clench my fist, may it be only in prayer. If I make a demand, may it be only of myself.
I CHOOSE SELF-CONTROL…
I am a spiritual being. After this body is dead, my spirit will soar. I refuse to let what will rot, rule the eternal. I choose self-control. I will be drunk only by joy. I will be impassioned only by my faith. I will be influenced only by God. I will be taught only by Christ. I choose self-control. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. To these I commit my day. If I succeed, I will give thanks. If I fail, I will seek His grace. And then when this day is done, I will place my head on my pillow and rest.
What “season” are you in? Mid 40’s, married, two adult children, three teenagers, one pre-teen, a Nana, a Granddaddy, a dog and a fish. Although this definitely describes the chaos I navigate through in my day to day life, it in no way describes “the season I am referring to”. What season are you in? I am referring to the season of your heart.
Proverbs 4:23 says above ALL else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.
There are many reasons we go through “seasons” in life; age, jobs, family, sickness, loss, etc… just to name a popular few. I’m in no way discounting the effects that life changes have on our day to day life and in turn our heart. Please don’t hear that and miss what God has for you in this transparent witness to God’s goodness and HIS glory. I challenge you to know that in all those times of change I listed, and the ones I didn’t, that God and His word remain the same. I am asking that as you continue reading you hear a heart tuned daily to HIM, resting in HIM, surrendered to HIM, sometimes multiple times a day because I keep letting things in that aren’t good for it. I would best describe the season of my heart over the past 6 months as broken. The loss of my Mother-In-Law threw me into some unchartered waters that I had not experienced in my 45 years of life. Which was surprising having experienced a similar pattern that resulted in the loss of my step- father (aka Dad) less than 10 years ago.
He heals the brokenhearted and bandages their wounds. Psalm 147:3
Before I go further, let me say what a blessing my Family and church Family have been. Loving on us and interceding on our behalf. God’s people taking care of God’s people is heaven here on earth! That being said, helpful and well meaning friends and family have come along side me with the purest of intentions and said things like;”I understand”, “it’s hard”, “she’s better off”, “you’ve gotta move on” and my personal favorite “how can someone so blessed be sad?” Some with not the purest of intentions, have said; “You are being dramatic”, you knew it was coming” or “this too shall pass”.
The tongue can bring death or life; those who love to talk will reap the consequences. Proverbs 18:21
Each of those comments helpful or not, kept leading me to the same questions, “What’s wrong with me? Why can’t I move past this?” EVERY time I questioned, MY God, who is faithful, would say, “surrender”, “wait”, “rest”, “I am working on your behalf”.
“The Lord himself will fight for you. Just stay calm.” Exodus 14:14
With great confidence and assurance I have done just that “wait”. This looked a little strange to many from the outside and some on the inside because if you know me, even a little, you know I don’t really “wait well” because I’m more of a “doer”. It became necessary for me to share with a close circle that God was calling me to “wait”, “pause” and “reflect”. Saying it out loud to people made some frustrated, but made most supportive, understanding and even intrigued to see what God is doing.
And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns. Phil 1:6
Don’t hear me to say “waiting” to mean sitting around doing nothing, watching for a BIG sign or revelation. Do hear me say “waiting” as an active action word. Seeking The Lord through prayer, scripture and wise counsel. Doing what HE puts in front of me each day. Putting aside things that aren’t needed that might distract me. Tuning my heart, several times throughout the day, and intentionally putting myself in a position to be still allows me to receive what He has.
“Be still, and know that I am God! I will be honored by every nation. I will be honored throughout the world.” Psalm 46:10
Yes, this has meant saying no to some things and some people. Pulling away from some opportunities that were not where God was leading. Putting down some things that I felt God wanted someone else to pick up. Someone said to me “you can’t just quit”. God quickly gave me the words to respond “you don’t quit God’s work until He takes you home. Therefore, if He asked me to lay it down, he has something else in store for me. It may look like quitting, but it’s a new beginning to God!” Thank you Lord for that quick reply. People, even well meaning, can sometimes weigh us down and make us feel guilt that isn’t ours to feel. Don’t assume all counsel is wise! Surround yourself with the right counsel. Do your due diligence through prayer and scripture. Ask God to reveal “your circle”.
There are “friends” who destroy each other, but a real friend sticks closer than a brother. Proverbs 18:24
Today, I would describe the season of my heart to be repurposed. I don’t think after significant life events our hearts are ever the same because it is through those life events that God is preparing us for our next assignment. The pain takes on a purpose and the test becomes our testimony. So as I write this, my heart is repurposed and I share this with you because God has convicted me to do so. I pray that it’s an encouragement to you.
The faithful love of the Lord never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is His faithfulness; His mercies begin afresh each morning. Lamentations 3:22-23