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).
At its core, the call to discipleship is about identity. Jesus wants us to identify ourselves first and foremost as His followers. But we tend to identify ourselves by the things of this world we most value, like our relationships, our belongings, and our jobs. Jesus doesn’t mince words in Luke 14:25-35. Following Him comes with a cost; we have to sacrifice the things of this world to be His faithful disciples. Do family commitments or other priorities ever hinder your commitment to first seek God’s will or plan for your life? Why or why not? What actions can you take to ensure that your relationship with Jesus takes precedence over all other relationships? What did Jesus mean by bearing one’s own cross and following Him (v. 27)? What costs keep people from following Jesus today? What things in your life would you find most difficult to give up for the sake of following Christ? What does “a lifestyle of sacrifice in the name of Jesus” look like?
PRAYER – Jesus, in this situation I have nothing to offer of my own ingenuity or strength; I need your wisdom and power as badly as I need the air that I breathe. As I move forward may I do so in desperate dependence on You every second. I joyfully and unreservedly confess that I am inadequate to answer Your call, in fact, I can do absolutely nothing without You. I’m not able to handle this situation on my own and any good that results must come solely through You. I simply ask You right now to flow through me, and cause me to stay out of Your way. Amen
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.
These verses point to both the deity and the humanity of Jesus Christ. In God the Father’s appointed time, He sent His Son who created the law to be under the law. The law demanded a price from those who failed to keep it, the price of death. Before we could be brought into adopted sonship, the price had to be paid. So the answer before time began, Jesus Christ entered the world as a member of the human race and paid the ultimate price which the law demanded. Because He is God, His death was sufficient to pay for all who believe. Because He was man, He could die as a substitute for man. Christ redeemed us from the law that through Him we might be adopted sons. Praise Jesus today for His work on the cross!
How are you daily living out your sonship through Christ?
PRAYER – I hereby surrender everything that I am, and have, and ever will be. I take my hands off of my life and release every relationship to You: every habit, every goal, my health, my wealth, and everything that means anything. I surrender it ALL to You. By faith I take my place at the Cross, believing that when the Lord Jesus was crucified, according to Your Word, I was crucified with Him; when He was buried, I was buried; when He was raised from the dead, I was raised with Him. I deny myself the right to rule and reign in my own life and I take up the Cross believing that You are in my and I in You. I thank You for saving me from my sins and myself. From this moment on I am trusting You to live Your life in me and through me, instead of me, to do what I can’t do, quit what I can’t quit, start what I can’t start, and–most of all–to be what I can’t be. I am trusting you to renew my mind and heal damaged emotions in Your time. I thank You now by faith for accepting me in the Lord Jesus, for giving me Your grace, Your freedom, Your joy, Your victory and Your righteousness as my inheritance. Even if I don’t feel anything, I know that Your Word is true; I am counting on Your Spirit to do what Your Word says– to set me free from myself, that Your resurrection life may be lived out through me, and that You may receive all the glory. I thank You and praise You for victory right now in Jesus’ name, Amen.
If we could daily enter into the true meaning and spirit of this Psalm, every day would be Thanksgiving Day. The reason for the happiness, gladness, and praise is presented by the words: We are His. We belong to Him by right. We are also His by His choice. And His ownership. We are His flock. The great offer of praise and worship is the goodness of God, and the everlastingness of His love and truth. We cannot be satisfied with this world but can only be satisfied with the saving knowledge of who God is and how much He loves us.
What comes between you daily praising God as this Psalm directs?
PRAYER – It’s been said there is a difference between praise and thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is a result of what God has done for you. Praise is about who God is. Take time today to just pray through praise focused on who God is.
When creation was created, God spoke and it was done. God’s words even preceded the act of creation. Christ who created time preceded time, and He being before time is eternal and divine. Jesus is the avenue by which God choose to go forth in creation, and offer redemption to mankind. The life of God was stored in the human nature of Jesus, when the Word became flesh. True life is always found in the light. When we receive Christ, we begin to truly experience life and shine. While God can be known in part through nature/creation and history, God is known in full through His Son. Christ as the Word brings grace and truth. The Bible is the written Word of God, and Jesus Christ is the living, incarnate Word of God. The hardest part in understanding the infiniteness of Jesus is a result of our finite being. We have a definitive beginning and ending. Jesus has always been and will always be.
In seeking to understand how majestic Jesus is, how does the act of sending Jesus to save us show how much we are loved by God?
PRAYER – Pray today to gain a deeper understanding of the love of God for us in that He would willingly sacrifice His Son for our redemption. That Jesus was the plan before time began. Thank God for His saving work. Seek to share Him today!