Build up in Love

“I do not seek yours, but you.” “We do all things, beloved, for your edification” 2 Corinthians 12:14, 19

Peddlers of a false Gospel had, among other things, accused Paul to the Corinthian church of preaching for reward. In this letter Paul reminds the church of how he ministered among them when he was there. He took no money from them and neither did they provide for him in other ways. He writes in this letter that he either provided for by himself or he was provided for by other churches. He chose to forgo the right to their providing him so that he would not be accused in this way. Ending his response to the accusation he leaves his readers with these two primary motivations for ministry; he doesn’t want their money but he does want to edify the church.

His accusers were likely doing the very thing of which they accused him. This is a common ruse of Satan and those who serve him. Before they are rightly accused of some wrong doing they falsely accuse those they wish to discredit. We observe this in politics and business; in fact in any sphere of life including, sadly, the church. When a person thinks they are about to be exposed they accuse the other of the very thing so as to create confusion and attempt to divert attention from themselves.

Paul had been accused of using religion to manipulate people to serve him and gain reward when in fact this was the motivation of those who accused him. They were jealous of the people’s affection for Paul. In his reluctant defense Paul explains his motivation is not to manipulate to receive but to minister by giving and building up the church.

In 1 John 3:1 John encourages his readers to take time to seriously consider the kind of love that God has lavished on us. His kind of love is one that gives, not takes, and that is the kind of love that Paul had shown to the Christians at Corinth. He was saddened that they were so easily deceived by the peddlers of false teaching when they could easily have seen through their ruse.

His motivation for ministry is the only motivation that is faithful to the Lord Jesus Christ, that is, love expressed in these two things: desiring the eternal benefit of others (v 14) expressed in building up other believers through personal sacrifice (v 19; 13:10).

Pursue Love

“So likewise you, unless you utter by the tongue words easy to understand, how will it be known what is spoken?” 1 Corinthians 14:9

This chapter begins with the words, “Pursue love” and follows a chapter describing the characteristics of God’s kind of love. This in turn follows a chapter describing the nature and purpose of spiritual gifting to the church through members of Christ’s body.

The Corinthian church regarded spiritual gifts as a thing of which to boast as if they merited the gift. Further to this they argued that their particular gift was better or more important than others. The focus was on exalting themselves in the eyes of others. There is no shortage of such people today and, unfortunately, we contribute to their pride when we idolise them.

Pursuing love is described by Paul in this chapter. It means to develop and exercise our spiritual gifting in order to edify other members of Christ’s church. This is accomplished through communicating understanding of God and His word in a language easily understood by the hearers. The key words in this chapter are edification and understanding. Rather than attempting to proclaim Christ in a language his hearers did not understand Paul writes that in the church he would rather speak five words with understanding than ten thousand words in a language not easily understood (v 19).

Love will demand that we minister to others and that means building up, strengthening and encouraging other believers. Apparently a spirit of pride had overtaken the Corinthian church and self exaltation had erroneously become recognised as a spiritual blessing. Paul corrected this attitude to spiritual gifts when he wrote, “Since you are zealous for spiritual gifts, let it be for the edification of the church that you seek to excel” (v 12). This is love in action.

To other Christians Paul described the difference between the spirit of manipulation and the spirit of ministry. “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit.” That would be manipulation of others to serve one’s own pride. “But in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself.” This is the right attitude of mind. “Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.” This is ministry to others out of love (Philippians 2:3-4). In the same chapter, commending Timothy for this right attitude and ministry, he comments of others, “For all seek their own, not the things of Jesus Christ” (v 21).

Paul gives to the Corinthian church, and to us, the principle to be applied, “Let all things be done for edification” (v 26).  He concludes his letter by writing, “Let all that you do be done with love” (16:14). That is how we pursue love.

Only One Reason

“He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God” John 3:18

Occasionally we meet or hear of someone who is concerned that they have sinned so greatly that they cannot be forgiven or they have committed some sin that is not covered by Christ’s sacrifice on Calvary’s cross. However, the verse above makes it clear that the only reason a person remains condemned is because he or she has not believed in the Lord Jesus Christ.

What does it mean to believe in Him? The answer lies in verse sixteen. First we notice God’s love for mankind even though all mankind is born in sin and stands condemned. Verse seventeen says that God did not send His Son to condemn the world. The reason being is that it is already condemned as evidenced by bodily death and the increasing corruption in the world.

We can barely even begin to know the pain and suffering of God by committing His beloved Son to such a horrendous death. It was His love for us that moved Him to do so. “God demonstrates His love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). We see anguish of soul in parents who tragically lose a child through sickness or accident but that pales in comparison to the suffering of the heart of God.

Truly, “God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world but that the world through Him might be saved” (v 17). Sometimes we may think like the disciples who wanted to bring down fire from heaven to destroy the ungodly but Jesus corrected their error. God sent Jesus to save mankind from the existing condemnation. An illustration of this is that of a person in difficulty in the surf at risk of drowning. He is moments away from death with no capacity to save himself. Without outside help he is condemned to drown. Then a surf lifesaver arrives, plucking him from death and returning him to shore.

It is God’s love for already condemned men that sent Jesus Christ to save them. To reject that sacrificial love is to show contempt of that love. Since there is no other way to forgiveness of sin (Acts 4:12) that person remains condemned by their own choice. In Jesus Christ God has provided all that is necessary for forgiveness and salvation. What is required on our part is to receive it as a gift (Romans 6:23). That is why the only reason a person remains condemned is because they have not believed in Jesus Christ. There is no sin so great that the blood of Jesus cannot wash us clean. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).

A Hearty Amen

“Whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men” (Colossians 3:23)

There are some verses in the Bible that we can admire because we take them rather lightly but when we look more closely at them we might wish they were not in the Bible at all. It is the other ‘bookend’ of another such verse: “Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him” (v 17).

We may have no problem giving a hearty “Amen” to these two verses but the heartiness may diminish when we look at what is between the ‘bookends.’

The context of these verses are our relationships with other people with special highlighting on the more intimate and built on love – the same kind of love that God has for us (vv 14-16). They presuppose that the love of God flows out of us through Christ in us (1:27c).

As he does in Ephesians Paul first mentions the marital relationship. Our thoughts, words and deeds within the marital relationship are our service to Christ and a witness of Christ’s gracious working power.  For both husband and wife that means living together as God planned.

Apart from having “Christ in you” there is also another prerequisite for this to be possible: “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom” (v 16). It is up to us to discover what the Bible teaches about how we live in a marriage. Paul goes on to say how we can know what the Bible teaches on this and any subject, “teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs with grace in your hearts to the Lord.”

It is all very well to leave it up to the preacher but that is not what Paul or Jesus had in mind.

The other relationships are children to parents, fathers to children and, dare we acknowledge it, our work place. Can you believe that Paul says that all our thoughts, words and deeds at work at school or in the home are our service and witness to the Lord Jesus Christ? No wonder some don’t want to acknowledge to work mates (or school mates) that they are Christians!

Paul writes that our work is our service, our parenting is our service and our marital relationship is our service for Jesus.

The more we meditate on this passage and those like it the more we realise that it is infinitely beyond us to conform to it in practice. When we realise that fact we finally know the truth: We cannot live it, only Jesus Christ in us can live it. Let us stop getting in the way and let Him do so.

What Kind of Love

“Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord” John 20:20

The disciples were behind locked doors fearing for their lives. A few days earlier they had witnessed the crucifixion of the Lord Jesus Christ. Peter had denied knowing Jesus and the other disciples had fled when Jesus was taken. The reason for their fear was that they had not listen carefully enough to Jesus words and hence not taken them into calculation. On at least three occasions He told them about His coming death and resurrection.

When Christians fear it is for that same reason – in some matter we have not heard at all, not considered carefully enough, not believed or taken on board, something that Jesus has said. The cure of fear is to draw near to and see the risen Jesus. We have His word to read and consider as often as we desire.

Not many days before His crucifixion and resurrection Jesus said to His disciples, “I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go to prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also” and “I will come to you” (John 14:2-3, 18). Somehow these kinds of statements by Jesus were not on their minds while their hearts were in turmoil over His crucifixion and the perceived hostility against themselves.

Our lives will be in turmoil from time to time and we may have fears but just as the disciples were at rest in their souls and were glad in their hearts when they saw Jesus so will we.

What was it that they saw in Jesus that gave them this joy and peace? Was it just because they saw Him alive or was there more? The beginning of the verse gives us the answer: “He showed them His hands and His side” where the nails had penetrated and fixed Him to the cross and where the spear had caused His blood to pour out. When they saw His hands and His side they also saw His sacrificial and unconditional love. That is what brought peace and joy to their hearts.

When we see the nail prints in His hands we see His kind of love. His “perfect love casts out fear” (1 John 4:18). To know Jesus is to love Him. If we are to experience this peace and gladness we must see Jesus. When we see the kind of love and magnitude of His love written in the nail holes and the gash in His side, we will no longer be in turmoil but trusting Him to care for us and our concerns for eternity. “Behold what manner [kind] of love the Father has bestowed on us that we should be called children of God” (1 John 3:1).

In 100 Years

“For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world and loses his own soul?” Matthew 16:25, 26

We make many, many choices every day but rarely do we take a good look at the basis on which we make them. Many choices may seem to have little consequence but that may be to underestimate the effect that a choice may have in the long run and on other people.

Paul writes that anything that our sufferings are not worthy to be compared with the glory we will experience in Jesus Christ (Romans 8:18). Earthly things are passing away and all that will remain is that which is eternal. The two are so far apart as not to be worthy of comparison.

In the passage above Jesus affirms that worldly treasure is only for a moment but eternal treasure is forever. It is an absurdity for a person to disregard an eternal possession (Ephesians 1:11, 14, 18) for one that will die with our bodies.

King David did make a comparison in Psalm 37 but as we read the Psalm it becomes quite evident that he realises there is no comparison. Those who choose ungodliness will lose everything for which they laboured but those who trust the Lord (v 3), delight in the Lord (v 4), commit their way to the Lord (v 5), rest in the Lord (v 7) and wait on the Lord (vv 9, 34) will have an eternal inheritance (v 18). The two destinies are not worthy of comparison.

There is no relationship that is worthy of comparison with that which we have with Jesus Christ. Jesus said, “If any one comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple” (Luke 14:26). Elsewhere we are commanded to love others especially our parents, spouse and children but what He is saying to us in this passage is that the love we have for them is not worthy to be compared with the love we have for Him. The reason for the disparity is who He is relative to whom our family members are.

When we make our myriad of choices during the course of the day it will be helpful to us to always have in the back of our minds whether we are choosing for the short term or eternity. We might ask ourselves, “What will it matter in 100 years? What will be the eternal consequence of that choice?” That might help us in the decision process.

Tender Affection

“When He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.” 1 John 3:2-3

Many years ago before I was married my friends sometimes visited me at home but I would do little or nothing in preparation. The day came when my fiancé, who had not met my parents or family, came from interstate to meet them and stay for Easter. There was a lot of activity on my part to prepare for her visit including the purchase of a new bed to ensure her comfort and washing the car. She was very special to me being the girl that I would marry. Nothing was too much trouble or expense to make her feel welcome and loved after three months without seeing her.

This kind of excitement and expectation can be ours as we “eagerly wait for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 1:7). The apostle Paul lived in eager expectation of seeing Jesus. He wrote with longing and anticipation, “Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord” (1 Thessalonians 4:17). He would later write to his young pastor friend, Titus, to teach all people to keep “looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13).

Observation over the years suggests that some Christians are satisfied that they have a home in heaven but without any real longing or eagerness to be in that home and be with Jesus. Heaven is heaven because of the presence of Jesus. Without Him it would be hell. If we truly love Jesus, there will not just be the knowledge that we will be with Him and see Him face to face, but a genuine heartfelt longing for that day.

John writes that this expectation will cause us to prepare ourselves for that day. If we remain content with a “ticket to heaven” with no thrill at the prospect of seeing and being with Jesus it may be that we do not have a home in heaven at all. Surely one in whom dwells the Holy Spirit will have this thrill and excitement that will motivate them to clean the house in readiness and eagerly look forward to the day.

When I speak the name of my wife it is with tender affection and it stirs the emotions every time. To better understand longing desire and tender affection read the Song of Solomon. When we are in intimate fellowship with the Lord Jesus we will speak the name of Jesus with tender affection also. Jesus is the name by which we are saved. Jesus is the name above all names. The name Jesus means Saviour. Let us speak His name but speak it with tender affection in anticipation of His coming.