Love is Forever Relevant

Title: Love is Forever Relevant

Text: 1 Corinthians 13:8-13

Time: July 1st, 2007

 

One of the greatest challenges we face in learning about love in 1 Corinthians 13 is to move from the point of knowing what love is to the point of doing what we are taught. It’s easy to learn what love is, but it’s harder to live it out in life.  How will you respond to this teaching about love? Will you learn some things about love and then just file them away as something you now know? Or will you take what you’ve learned and make an effort to live it out in your life? The Apostle Paul knows that we all need extra motivation, or in other words, simply knowing we should do something isn’t enough, so he gives us an added incentive to apply what we now know about love to our lives. What is Paul’s added incentive? It’s just this: love is one of only a few things that actually applies both in this life and in the life to come. Love is something that we can take with us into heaven with God. Why is that so significant? Because most things are left behind here on earth when we die and pass on into the next life. But love is one of those rare things – there are a few other things too – that carry on beyond this life. So Paul wants to remind us of this in order to show us how none of our investments in love will be wasted. There are so many things in life, so many ways to invest our time, energy and resources in this life, how do we know which things to invest in? Paul helps us answer that question by letting us know that love is always a good investment because not only will it count in this life but it will also count in eternity. Love is never wasted or a bad investment; love is always a good use of time, resources, and energy. Paul spends a whole chapter describing what love really is so we are not investing in something false like the world does. In the world, people invest in something they call love, but that really isn’t love; that kind of investment can be a waste. But the love the Apostle talks about is from God and is never a bad investment, in fact, it’s a good investment because it’s good for now and it’s good for later; it’s something that applies in this life and it’s also something that applies in the life to come, in eternity. So we don’t ever have to feel that learning and living a life of love isn’t worth it, it’s always worth it, both in this temporary life and in eternal life. That should put things in perspective for us whenever we are tempted to neglect love or dismiss it as something optional in our lives. Far from being optional, love is one of those rare things that is in fact essential in life. Now we come to the very end of 1 Corinthians 13 with verses 8-13 (read), and the main theme is the permanence of love over against the temporary-ness of other things; this shows us how very important love is. Three things about this.

 

First, Love will never fall out of use (or become obsolete). 1 Corinthians 13:8, “Love never fails.” I already started talking about this fact, but think about it further. Love is one of those unique things that will never, ever pass away, or “become obsolete” as the Phillips Translation puts it. The Greek word here literally means “fall.” Love is something that will never fall or fail or fail to apply or fall out of use. We can all picture things that become old or out of fashion that simply become useless because they have outlived their usefulness. Clothing often becomes obsolete. How many of you have clothes in your closet that you can’t or won’t wear because it’s so far out of fashion you wouldn’t be caught dead wearing? There are men who own what they call a Zute-suit in their closet but who couldn’t wear such a thing today or else they’d be laughed at or arrested and put in a mental institution. That’s what you call obsolete. But love is never out of fashion, it’s never obsolete, nor can it ever fall into a state of uselessness. It is eternal and always something that applies no matter what year it is or what place it is. Love is something universal that applies in all cultures and all times. People in Japan understand love, just as much as people in Africa or people in Latin America or people in Europe or anywhere else. That’s why the Gospel is so universal today in all parts of the world, it’s because people can recognize God’s love when they see it in Jesus Christ on the cross dying for the sins of the world. You don’t have to be an English speaker to recognize the love of God in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Love speaks an international language. But it’s not only something that is always relevant today in the here and now, it’s also something that will be relevant and apply in eternity. Heaven will be full of love, God’s love for us, and our love for God and each other. In a minute, I’m going to talk about all the many other things that won’t be needed in heaven, but love is one of those very few things that will be needed in heaven as it is needed on earth here now also. If love is an “unselfish loyal and benevolent concern for the good of another,” then heaven will be a place filled with such a thing. And any time we go about living and loving God and others, we are really practicing for the day when life will be full of love for God and others in heaven. So if you get discouraged sometimes about loving people, if you get tired of loving someone who is hard to love, remember that you are really practicing for heaven where there will be pure love 24/7; in heaven, everyone will have “unselfish, loyal and benevolent concern for the good of each other.” Until that day we enter haven, let’s keep motivated to love in this life even if it is hard. Our investment in love is never wasted; it will pay off in eternity.

 

Second, most things fall out of use and become obsolete. 1 Corinthians 13: 8,13, “Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. . . . And now these three remain: faith, hope, love. But the greatest of these is love.” The Apostle Paul wrote the whole letter to the Corinthians in order to respond to problems they were having in their Christian church. Some people think that the early Christians and the early church never had any problems; that’s not true. They had problems like we have problems today, only different problems and sometimes the same problems. But Paul’s letters to the Corinthians were in response to these problems. One of the big problems revolved around the use and misuse of supernatural spiritual gifts. I wish we had such problems today, I wish we had so many people prophesying – really prophesying, not acting or sounding like it but really bringing forth true words of God – that we had to organize people in taking turns. But the problems today are different in this respect. One, there aren’t many people who are prophesying, and two, of the ones who are, not many of them are really doing it (as opposed to the ones who are trying but can’t). We need a move of God’s Spirit to bring back the real gifts of prophecy, but that’s another message. But even the real gifts of the Spirit, like tongues, prophesy, and words of knowledge – the things Paul lists in 1 Corinthians 12, even these powerful supernatural spiritual gifts, they will all eventually become useless in heaven. These are things we need on earth as we struggle to know and do God’s will, but in heaven there will be no struggling to know and do God’s will; it will all come easily and naturally. Besides the gifts of the Spirit, many of the qualities of the fruit of the Spirit will become obsolete as well. Paul mentions faith, hope and love, but only love will be needed in heaven for all eternity. Faith is something we need now because “faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen,” Hebrews 11:1. Wouldn’t it be odd to hear someone in heaven say, “I’m believing God for eternal life, I’m hoping that I’ll live forever and ever with God.” Wouldn’t someone need to say to that person, “Praise the Lord, you don’t need to believe God for eternal life and hope for it, this is it, you’ve made it, you’re in!” So both faith, that is, confident trust in God, and hope, that is, optimistic confidence in the future, won’t be needed in heaven since they will simply be present naturally. But love will be needed and experienced in its fullest form in heaven.

 

Third, now things are incomplete and immature, but later complete and mature. 1 Corinthians 13: 9-12, “For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears. When I was as child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put away childish things 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.” From an eternal perspective we are children now, but somebody we will be grown up spiritually when Jesus returns and ushers in His eternal kingdom of heaven. Most of the things that we rely on and depend on so much for life on earth will be done away with. And also, most of the things we experience as Christians won’t be needed when we enter our eternal home. For example, we won’t need the Bible anymore. Even though we read the Bible over and over again, trying to understand it, struggling to live it, someday we won’t need the Bible any more. We won’t need Bible teachers, because we’ll simply know the truth automatically in heaven. The same thing with prayer as we know it. Today, we struggle to communicate with God through prayer, but someday we’ll live in God’s direct presence and communicate with Him directly without what we know as prayer. Now we are like little children, somebody we’ll be spiritual adults. And there are many, many things that are connected with Christian living and the church that will simply pass away under the new spiritual order of heaven. But one thing that won’t pass away is love. When writing to the Corinthians, Paul reminds them to keep things in perspective. They were struggling with problems in the church and how to use spiritual gifts in their church, but Paul reminds them that spiritual gifts aren’t eternal or everlasting things; but love is never-ending, so they should emphasis it. Paul’s very first word on love comes after his teaching about spiritual gifts and he introduces it by saying, “And now I will show you the most excellent way,” 1 Corinthians 13:1. What he’s saying to the Corinthians and to us is: keep a proper perspective on things, stop emphasizing things that will pass away anyway, always love no matter what, since love applies both now and forever. In the midst of all our problems and challenges in life, we are constantly tempted to depart from the way of love and put other things ahead of it. Some people put money ahead of love, others put success, others put possessions and material objects, others put career and achievement, still others put pleasure or recreation or entertainment ahead of love. Some people put comfort, safety, security, and other creature things above love. People in churches are tempted to put all kinds of issues and concerns above love – that’s why there is so much disunity in Christianity. But what God is teaching us all is there is no excuse for not loving, especially because love is one of the few things that we will take on into eternal life with God. What things are you putting ahead of love in your life right now? In what areas are you failing to invest in love? What temporary things are you putting too much priority on, and not considering the priority of love, which will last eternally? I’m sure you can identify these areas and with God’s help confess, repent, and recommit to God and His will to love. Let’s pray.

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