Friday, November 21, 2014

1 Corinthians 13: Love Does Not Boast, It Is Not Proud

Boasting is the act of 'showing off'.  It is the desire for attention.  Boasting occurs when an individual wants recognition. It stems from pride; which is the mentality that I have accomplished something that deserves recognition.  It is gaining fulfillment and feeling self-actualized because of personal performance and/or talent.  Pride comes when an individual defines their worth by their own ability.

Boasting often looks like confidence, but in fact it is only a manifestation of deep insecurity. When someone boasts, they are revealing that they feel the need to be validated for their achievements.   Pride is about building up personal image, it is rooted in the fear of man, and therefore is driven by the opinions and expectations of others. Pride only exists in the realm of comparison, where someone feels gratified by being 'better' or 'different' than other people.

The world lifts up self actualization.  There are hundreds of articles written about the defining characteristics of introverts and extroverts, about personality types, and emotional pre-dispositions.  Articles like '10 Problems Only Tall People Will Understand', or '5 Steps To Reach Your Full Potential'.  Although we are meant to feel comfortable in our own skin, how we grow into personal freedom isn't through the self-centered justification.  Although, personality tests, and articles can be helpful in gaining perspective, we will not find personal freedom by primarily focusing on ourselves.

The scriptures show that it is when we fix our eyes on Jesus that we realize who we actually are.  It is when we are focused on Him that we are set free to be ourselves (1 Corinthians 3).  The greater capacity that we have to see Him in all of our situations defines our capacity to relate freely in them.

When we see Jesus and realize what He accomplished for humanity, our petty concerns, irrational expectations, and fear of man strip away as we gain an eternal perspective. When we are satisfied in Him, we don't look for fulfillment from the world.  We are set free to live in the world but not be of it.  We are free to enjoy the pleasures of living without being controlled by them.  We grasp hold of life in all its complexities rather than being tossed to and fro by the winds of circumstance.

Pride is self-focused, it is rooted in insecurity. And boasting is what is verbally produced out of a prideful heart. Pride causes us to boast in ourselves.  We talk up our experiences, our wisdom, our accomplishments, so that we can feel fulfilled in comparison to those around us.  Eyes that see Jesus on the other hand live from fulfillment rather than towards it.  Psalm 23 begins with, 'The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want."  Shall not want! What? That seems impossible huh?

It is possible to live a life of pure bliss, of supernatural satisfaction, divine complacency.  Hebrews 4 says that we can rest from our works just as God has rested from His.  We can function in life from a place of wholeness where we are free to love, laugh, and bless; rather than living from anxiety and dissatisfaction.  The flavor of faith is joy, hope, and peace that is above circumstance and reason.

Pride ceases to exist when we see Jesus in truth.

Read the following scriptures, the meaning of life has been revealed, discover the mystery that is Christ!

"Such confidence we have through Christ toward God.  Not that we are adequate in ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God, who also made us adequate as servants of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life (2 Corinthians 3:4-6)."

"God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things-and the things that are not-to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him.  It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God-that is, our righteousness, holiness, and redemption. Therefore, as it is written; 'Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord (1 Corinthians 1:28-31)."

"I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.  I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty.  I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.  I can do all this through him who gives me strength (Philippians 4:11-13)."

What is the secret? 

"I resolved to know nothing but Christ and Him Crucified 1 Corinthians 2:2)."

Look to Jesus and you lose sight of everything else. Lose sight of yourself and we will be free to live as you were created to be!

"I have been crucified with Christ and I no longe rlive, but Christ lives in me.  The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me (Galatians 2:20)

Friday, November 14, 2014

1 Corinthians 13: Love Does Not Envy

"For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power, love, and sound mind (2 Timothy 1:7)."

Power (dunamis) is the miraculous ability of God that can transform, heal, and set free. Love (agapos) is good will and benevolence towards others. A sound mind (sophronismos) is the ability to do what 'fits' a situation.

Love without power does not have the ability to bring transformation, it can only empathize. Love with power not only cares for the individual but has the capacity to set them free. Add wisdom that knows what to do when, and you have someone that can change the world.

A powerless person is subject to circumstance. They say they are victims to their own circumstances, pushed to and fro by ideas, struggles, and unhealthy expectations. Powerlessness either manifests in passivity, where the individual makes excuses for their behavior and situation; or it results in control and manipulation, where the individual seeks to manipulate people and circumstances because they are afraid of the the unknown.

A powerful person on the other hand takes responsibility for their own actions. They don't make excuses for poor decisions but, own them and learn from them. A powerful person doesn't place blame, and has the capacity to decide how they will act regardless of the circumstance. A powerless person finds it difficult to love because they are focused on self, a powerful person has the capacity to love because they are free enough in themselves to focus on others.

Love Does Not Envy

At it's core, love is other centered. Love desires benefit for others, which is why jealousy is polar opposite to the way of love.  Envy says, 'I dislike you because you have something I want' or 'I would not be miserable if my circumstances were different.'  Love says, 'I am so thankful that you have that blessing, give them more Lord.'  It isn't that we shouldn't desire good things in our own lives, but out of the goodness of our hearts we want those same good things for those around us.

Envy can produce entitlement; which is the belief that we 'deserve' one thing or another.  Entitlement doesn't give thanks for what we have, rather it looks at what we don't have, and either lays blame for why that is the case, or just fills us with regret.  Entitlement kills thankfulness, because it doesn't have eyes to see what is already possessed.  More often than not, entitlement causes the individual to be a victim.  'Well if only I had your circumstances I would never make these decisions. . .' If I had better friends I would be happier'.

Envy and Entitlement believe that fulfillment comes from the outside, and unless something changes in our circumstances our inner being will remain the same bitter, depressed self. Jesus dealt with both sides of that unhealthy perspective, and when we come to Him our minds can be renewed to a whole new way of looking at things.

1) Jesus showed us how silly it is to feel entitled. 'All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23).' 'The wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23).'  We actually don't deserve anything! Any goodness in our lives is a gift of grace. Most of us don't believe that, but it's true. If we saw reality for what it truly is, every blessing in our lives, every bit of love, would be an occasion for thanksgiving.

2) On the other hand, Jesus shows us great worth through His choice for us. Even though the 'wages of sin is death, the gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 6:24).' Jesus died for us while we were still sinners (Romans 5:8).' He proved that our worth has nothing to do with our outward behavior or circumstances. We were dead in our trespasses, bankrupt before God, and He still chose us!  Worth is measured by the amount that someone is willing to pay for it, and God gave His own life in exchange for ours.

When we see Jesus in truth, jealousy no longer has a foothold in our lives.  How can we feel entitled when we know we don't deserve anything and yet have been given everything? Seeing what Jesus has done for us, and for the rest of the world, is the only thing that can cause us to 'consider others greater than ourselves (Philippians 2:3).' Otherwise that is pretty much impossible.

The apostle Paul was so focused on blessing others that he said he would forfeit his own salvation if the Jews would realize theirs (Romans 9;3)! How incredible! How supernatural!!

This doesn't mean we neglect ourselves.  After all we are instructed to 'love our neighbors as ourselves.'  If you don't know how to love yourself, you certainly will not be able to give to others in a healthy way.  Some people out out of the motivation to serve and give all of themselves to others, end up suppressing growth because they do everything for them, rather than building them up to be able to function wholly themselves.

Envy kills joy.  If you struggle with jealousy look to Jesus.  You deserve nothing, and yet have been given everything.  The Gospel changes our perspective to the extent that we view no one according to the flesh; no one in accordance with the 'way of the world'.  Stop being a victim and take charge of the life that you have. How you live in the present is going to dictate your life in the future.

Monday, November 10, 2014

1 Corinthians 13: Love Is Kind

When asked what the greatest commandment of the law was, Jesus said, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. And the second is like it, love your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 22:37).”

Very often this scripture is held as the Christian standard; and we are silly enough to think that although we can't fulfill the law, we are most certainly able to love God with everything we have. Notice Jesus said this was the greatest commandment of the 'law'. A law that Jesus spent his whole ministry trying to convince people of their inability to fulfill. Jesus equates lust with adultery, and anger with murder, then he goes so far as to say that all of the commandments can be fulfilled if you can somehow manage to love God, others, and yourself. This is the law on steroids! It is one thing to try to manage your outward behavior, but another thing entirely to change the way we think, feel, and function on the inside. Here again, Jesus isn't trying to get us to pump up our love meter, He is pointing out our absolute inability to change ourselves.

Love isn't easier than behavior management, in fact it is an impossible thing to formulate or produce. That is why after the fruits of the spirit are listed in Galatians 5, Paul writes, 'Against such things there is no law.' No law means that we are completely unable to produce these inner attributes on our own accord. We only have the capacity to love as a result of being filled by His love. As a byproduct of our union with Him, we are transformed from the inside out, not from the outside in.  This is the fundamental problem with our un-renewed minds, and it is the biggest obstacle to intimacy with God.

We don't mind talking about love as long as it has to do with our external behavior, but if you start pushing the fact that love is only proven by how we function on the inside, in private, people will start getting uncomfortable. Love does manifest outwardly, but how do you function internally when someone offends you? What is your first reaction in conflict or when someone even sins against you? Are you understanding or judgmental? Are you angry or are you filled with peace, are you jealous or do you like it when other people are blessed? Do you place blame or are you full of grace? Love is a deep thing, it can't be proven on the surface.  How do you think about people when you are all alone, how do you think about yourself? Are you filled with hope, peace, understanding? What about kindness?

Love Is Kind
Jesus displayed a harsh temperament to the Pharisees, the religious elite who thought that they could present themselves as Godly on the outside while being wicked within. Jesus called them 'white washed tombs'. Most of us probably fit into this category. Jesus however only showed kindness to the broken, the insecure, and the sinful. In Christendom today, kindness is not the first word that comes to mind. In fact the world has a pretty poor opinion of Christianity, and for good reason, we aren't very kind. Think of how Christians respond to homosexuality, abortion, media, or someone who they theologically disagree with. The response is often anger, bitterness, loathing, pity, elitism, and bigotry. Not much love there.

Love is kind; where love is, kindness is practically displayed. Kindness is simply behavior that is benevolent, it is acts of service done for the benefit of someone else. Doing the dishes, raking the leaves, going out of your way to be a blessing to those around you, that is what kindness is. Are you kind? Do you see others and have a desire to bless them in either small or big ways. Are you a consumer or a producer?

When we see Jesus in truth and are filled with His peace, goodness, and faith, kindness is a natural result. He took on what we deserved so that we can take on what He deserved. When we have eyes to see what we have received from God, we are filled with thanksgiving that manifests in care for other people. We are satisfied because God is satisfied. We are fulfilled because Jesus fulfilled our requirement. Since we are not in need we can give to other people.

It is when you are attached to the vine, drinking from the water of life, that His fruit is produced in you. We don't need to try to produce Godliness, just look to Jesus, be overcome by His goodness and His grace. Interact with Holy Spirit throughout your day, and you will be filled with springs of living water, so much so that you will be able to infuse those around you with the light of life!

Remember, we are transformed from the inside out, not from the outside in.  Our minds are not changed to see God in truth by Him endlessly berating us for messing up or not getting it right. He is not offended or unable to relate with people in the messiness of life, and neither should we be.  It is God's kindness that renews are minds, showing us who He is and who we are in Him (Romans 2:4). 

“I am the vine, you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing (John 15:5).”

Thursday, November 6, 2014

1 Corinthians 13: Love is Patient

As we grow in our comprehension and experience of God's love, our lifestyle is inundated by that love. God's love for us changes the way we interact in the world. As we talk about the practical expression that comes from knowing God's love, do not mistake it for a legalistic call to try and will power your way to look a certain way. If you try to relate in circumstances the way you think love should be expressed, but don't actually have love, you will fall on your face.  Love flows from you as an effortless response to being loved yourself (1 John 4:19). This is an unveiling of a lifestyle that is merely a byproduct of being influenced by the love of God. Love is expressed in normal life circumstances in such a way that it neither seems normal nor reasonable from a strictly 'human' perspective.  Love is a heavenly perspective, and religious practice can neither understand nor replicate it's deep reality. So allow yourself to be loved by God, ask Him to reveal Himself, and ask the Holy Spirit to fill you with His presence.

"I pray that you will be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith-- that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God (Ephesians 3:16-21)."

Love is patient
Because love is the result of divine influence on someones life, the way that this love is expressed is done so from a heavenly perspective rather than an earthly one. In 1 Corinthians 13, Paul isn't saying that if you have love you 'should' be patient, he is saying that if you have love you will be patience. Love is practically expressed through patience. 

Patience is perseverance, long suffering, the capacity to put up with difficulty. Life is full of circumstances that 'don't go our way'.  There are plenty of people who are difficult to get along with, and there are a plethora of situations that we wish would pan out differently.  Yet where love abides, patience is expressed. 

Patience isn't tolerance, it isn't the mere longing of an unmet need, neither is it putting up with someone's problems because you don't know what else to do. Patience isn't ignoring conflict or tense relational situations, neither is it the expectant waiting we have when we want something to happen. 

Patience is the capacity to put up with struggle, difficulty, and conflict; not out of a desire to avoid them, but because love has eyes to see the positive potential that those situations present.  If someone is getting on my nerves by acting out, being rude, obnoxious, or needy; love allows me to be patient, because I recognize their behavior is an indicator of brokenness.  I now have patience for them because I want them to be whole, to be better.  Love seeks the good for the other not the convenience of self. Patience implies that there are difficult situations and circumstances, but love makes patience easy and joyful.

When we see in Jesus that God does not hold our trespasses against us, but that He died for us while we were still sinners, we are set free from our own self-effort and brokenness.  Our new worldview no longer has the capacity to hold the trespasses of others against them, because we know that they, like ourselves, have been forgiven. We then relate with them on account of reality as we know it. We are patient with those who are broken, insecure, and difficult, because the love we have for them can do nothing less. 

"From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh.  Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.  The old has passed away, behold, the new has come (2 Corinthians 5:16-17)."

1 Corinthians 13: Love Is Practical

Love, Agape, means to have good will, to be benevolent.  This love is pure and holy, it isn't about wanting simplistic happiness, it is desiring and willing everything that is good; that which is whole. Agape love finds its definition in the heart of Father God.  His love for us is complete, He has created us to walk in freedom and wholeness, and His love fiercely and tenderly defines who we are.

"If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.  If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body [a]to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing (1 Corinthians 13:1-3)."

Spiritual performance can exist without love. You can speak a heavenly language, have all your theology in line, see heavenly realities, move mountains with your faith, die for Jesus, give up everything in this life for others, and still not have the capacity to love. We can miss the essence of God and fail to become who we are created to be, for we were made to be loved and to love.  

Love is practical, it is deep, it is the capacity to view life from God's perspective.  When we see people, circumstances, and situations form His heart our actions follow. Love infuses our very being, when we love we view people differently, our expectancy for life changes, and the way we handle relationships and situations are completely re-wired.  Love is practical.  

1 Corinthians 13 reveals the practical side of love; not only How God treats us, but how we begin to interact in this world when we have been captivated by His love.  We love because He first loved us (1 John 4:19).  Love isn't something you can conjure up, you cannot will power your way to a place of loving others.  You can moderate your behavior, but you cannot change your own heart.  

Jesus is the revelation of the Fathers' love for us.  When we see Him, we see love on display.  But intellectually grasping it isn't enough, we need to experience the love of God; it is the only way that we have the capacity to love in response. Holy Spirit comes to verify that love, and to interact with us so that we can practically experience the love of God. May He fill you with the love of God today. 

As we grow in the reality of God's love for us, we are ever increasingly changed into His likeness, being transformed by love.  Love then becomes our essence as well as His (1 John 4:8), and our lives take on His character and qualities.  

Over the next few weeks I will write briefly on each statement in 1 Corinthians 13:4-13.  I want to comprehend how the love of God finds its' expression in human life, and how beholding Jesus changes the way we view everything! 

"Do not conform to the pattern of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your minds (Romans 12:2)."