Offer Them Christ
The Weblog Of J.F. Howard

How We Do What We Do Is As Important As What We Do

1 Corinthians 13:1-8

1 If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing. 3 If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing. 4 Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud 5 or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. 6 It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. 7 Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance. 8 Prophecy and speaking in unknown languages and special knowledge will become useless. But love will last forever.

            When Paul wrote this first letter to the Christian Church in Corinth, spiritual gifts were at the top of the list of subjects he wanted to address.

            In the first chapter of this writing, you can find these words:

            “I always thank my God for you and for the gracious gifts he has given you, now that you belong to Christ Jesus…Now you have every spiritual gift you need as you eagerly wait for the return of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 1:4, 6, NLT).

            So this particular church had “every spiritual gift” that the church needs! Can you imagine what it would be like to be a member of a church that had “every spiritual gift” that God gives? Think of all that church could accomplish!” Can you imagine what it would be like to pastor a church that has “every spiritual gift” that the church needs?

            I believe Ardmore UMC has every spiritual gift that this church needs to do anything and everything that God calls it to do?

            Do you believe that, too?

            I don’t think God has left His church, even in our day, without every gift we need, right here among us, to do everything God would ask us to do!

            In that regard, we are no different than the church in Corinth. They were a blessed church, but they were no more blessed as a church than we are today!

            But even in Corinth–in a church that had every spiritual gift they needed to do all that God asked of them, something was wrong.

            The Corinthians Church had many gifts and they used them regularly and enthusiastically, but they had a problem. They didn’t use their spiritual gifts with the right motivation.

            They were doing the right things, with the right gifts, for the wrong reasons.

            Paul commended the church for their faithfulness in using their spiritual gifts, but he confronted them because they didn’t use their gifts in love.

            I’ll show you what I mean.

            Look with me carefully at the first three verses found in 1 Corinthians 13. Notice how three separate times, Paul describes a spiritual gift, used with a lack of love, which accomplishes nothing.

            Now watch this:

1 If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, [SPIRITUAL GIFT]

 but didn’t love others, [LACKING LOVE]

 I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. [NO IMPACT]

 2 If I had the gift of prophecy, [SPIRITUAL GIFT]

 and if I understood all of God’s secret plans [SPIRITUAL GIFT]

 and possessed all knowledge, [SPIRITUAL GIFT]

 and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, [SPIRITUAL GIFT]

 but didn’t love others, [LACKING LOVE]

I would be nothing. [NO IMPACT]

3 If I gave everything I have to the poor [SPIRITUAL GIFT]

 and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; [SPIRITUAL GIFT]

but if I didn’t love others, [LACKING LOVE]

I would have gained nothing. [NO IMPACT]

            The point the Bible is making here is this: spiritual gifts used without love accomplishes nothing!

            I have one simple principle that I want to share with you today:

            Spiritual gifts are God’s plan to put love into action.

(1 Corinthians 13:2-3)

2 …if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing. 3 If I gave everything I have to the poor and…I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing.

          The beauty that comes from experiencing God’s love through exposure to the body of Christ is much like the quality of becoming “Real” in the children’s book The Velveteen Rabbit:

“What is REAL?” asked the Rabbit one day. “Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?”

“Real isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse. “It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real. It doesn’t happen all at once. You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t often happen to those who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”

            We become “real” when we put love into action by using our spiritual gifts.

            Arthur Simon, founder of the international organization Bread for the World, believes that all aspects of our lives need to be touched by Christ. His father, who grew up on a farm in Wisconsin, taught him: “Even the cows should know you are a Christian by the way you treat them.” Arthur has incorporated this philosophy into his ministry, adding: “And if cows, how much more people!”

            I had the privilege to visit a strong church, Christ Fellowship, in West Palm Beach, Florida recently. I went as part of a group of North Carolina pastors who study effective and healthy churches.

            Christ Fellowship is a 25 year old church. Started with six families in a home, the church has grown to 14,000 members (with an additional 10,000 people who worship with them via the internet).

            One of the pastors, Todd Mullins, said something that made me see into the reason for such amazing growth as a church. He said, “How we do what we do is as important as what we do.”

            One of their church core values is to do what they do in love. Here is how they describe it:

BOUND BY LOVE

We are bound by a love that is rooted in compassion, which compels us to action (John 13:35).

            Christ Fellowship church in West Palm Beach, Florida embodies the Bible’s message in 1 Corinthians 13. We are called by God to use the gifts given us by the Holy Spirit, to advance the cause of Jesus Christ in the world, and as we do, we put God’s love into action.           

Not long before his death, Martin Luther King Jr. spoke to the congregation at Atlanta’s Ebenezer Baptist Church:

If any of you are around when I have to meet my day, I don’t want a long funeral. And if you get somebody to deliver the eulogy, tell them not to talk too long. Every now and then I wonder what I want them to say. Tell them not to mention that I have a Nobel Peace Prize; that isn’t important. Tell them not to mention that I have three or four hundred other awards; that’s not important. Tell them not to mention where I went to school. I’d like somebody to mention that day that Martin Luther King Jr. tried to love somebody.

Karl Barth summarized 1 Corinthians 13 this way:

“It is love alone that counts, love alone that triumphs, and love alone that endures.”

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