Love Wins… Really!
Text: 1 Corinthians 13
Proposition: The compelling presence of the Holy Spirit in the church invites the church to see that love really does overwhelm and win people from sin.
Introduction: It was August 1945, Tsutomu Yamaguchi was in Hiroshima on business for his employer Mitsubishi Heavy Industries when an aircraft named the Enola Gay flew over the city and dropped a uranium gun-type atomic bomb called Little Boy. It was 8:15 am on August 6, 1945. Mr. Yamaguchi survived that blast and though suffering from burns with both ears ruptured he made it to a first aid station. That same day he went outside of the destroyed city and boarded a train for his home. Despite his wounds, he returned to work, in his home town of Nagasaki. It was three days later, the morning of August 9th, an American B 29 called Bockscar had tried three times to do a bombing run on the Japanese city of Kokura. In its hold was a plutonium bomb called Fat Man. Clouds and smoke obscured the city so an alternate was taken, Nagasaki. The explosion from the bomb generated heat estimated at 3,900 °C (7,050 °F) and winds that were estimated at 1,005 km/h (624 mph). The bombs dropped at Hiroshima and Nagasaki killed more than 220,000 people. Mr. Yamaguchi survived both atomic blasts and lived until Jan 4, 2010. It’s an ‘against all odds’ kind of story. His survival was against all odds, improbable to the point of being a miracle. In the passage we’re going to look at this morning is something more powerful than an atomic bomb, more miraculous than the man who survived it’s blast twice. It too is an against all odds kind of story and it’s a story that is not over, it’s happening right here this morning. Have a look at 1 Corinthians 13.
I. When It Comes To Significance, Love Is the Main Ingredient. People long for significance, to be able not just to standout as unique in some way but that it would create a lasting effect. In short we long to be remembered for the good that we have done. When Paul begins this chapter he speaks about a number of the spiritual gifts that are very noticeable, powerful and have tremendous effect on the lives of the people of a church and community. Listen to how the NLT describes these first few verses, “If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels… if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge… if I had such faith that I could move mountains… if I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body… (yet) if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing.” The key ingredient in these and all spiritual gifts is love. It’s the ‘Why you do’ part of what you do and if there is no purity of love as it’s center your great giftedness is just noisy, empty, ineffective, effort. Why do think that is? Perhaps what Paul is saying is that a spiritual gift is just that, a gift that the Holy Spirit works from within us and His presence is the very essence of love, for God is love. In other words, without God’s love at the center of the ‘Why you do’, the what you do doesn’t last. It is significance lost because love was missing. Look at how Paul describes love in verses 4-6. He uses two positive descriptions and eight negative which cues us to the odds against love ever making it out of our heart. “Love is patient, love is kind…” those are the two positive descriptions of what love looks like. Then he lists eight negative expressions, “… not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness”. Eight things and more can suppress or neutralize the love that the Holy Spirit would use through you. It’s against all odds that love would ever be seen, that is the description of sin’s depravity in each of us and yet we have a God Who overcomes against all odds. Let me show you the power of love in Christ at work in you.
II. Love Overcomes Sin to the Power of Four. Have a look for a moment at what verse 7 says about love, “…bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” Four times Paul uses the phrase ‘all things’ as he describes the way love defeats sin. This is the battle we are in, an all out war, so let’s look at what love does against all odds.
1.Love bears all things… contrary to what the word ‘bears’ suggests as to hold something up, the Greek actually means “to cover over, to keep secret”. The word suggests self control, perseverance, long suffering. It demands hope, faith, wisdom, it calls out of love the need to trust God when the bottom falls out. So what could the ‘all things’ look like? It suggests a batlle with multiple fronts. There is the attack from inside your own heart and head, the self doubts, self disgust and fears and lies that have found a corner to grow like mold in. Love bears these things, it smothers them by receiving and believing in the truth of God’s love for you. The Word of God reflects the love of God, it points you to the greatest expression of His love, Jesus Christ. The second area we are attacked in is from others close to you, even at times the church. Love bears with them because though they are family or even saved in Christ they are just people who still make mistakes, people stuck in a sin that disappoints and frustrates. So love covers over their short comings, it bears with them, it waits out their sin. The third battlefront is where the world judges you, where you live and seek to be light to a world that doesn’t see, that can’t see. To bear all things here is to persevere, to be generous in spirit, gracious when no grace is shown. Love covers over the failings of those blind in sin. The fourth quadrant of our battle is that of the spiritual realm, the demonic who carry orders and strategies designed to destroy anything that belongs to God. Love covers over the schemes of the enemy with the Word of God. Deceit is wrapped up in the paper of truth. Love bears all things.
2. Love believes all things… only love can do this, the evidence is everywhere against truth, yet love believes when all others throw in the towel. The same four quadrants are involved here… the self, the saved, the system and the Satanic. To believe the truth about your soul, your great beauty to God, your design unique and deeply needed in Christ… to believe the truth of who you really are is what love does. Love believes in the good of the church even when the church doesn’t do well and reflects miserably her Christ. Yet it is Christ’s bride and we believe in the salvation and redemption of the cross of Christ. We believe in the body of Christ, we believe in our brothers and sisters in Christ. Love believes all things. In a similar way love believes that the lost can be saved, even when they themselves don’t. It believes in the hand of God in their lives and it believes in the election and call of God despite our reasons for doubt. Love believes that Satan’s efforts are known by the Father, love believes in the incomparable power of God verses the measured and soon to be defeated power of Satan. Love believes all these things.
3. Love hopes all things… it hopes for redemption for the lost, for power for the powerless, for belonging to the alone, for a future to the terminal, for a heaven to the hell bound. It’s because love hopes all things that we pray, we speak to God about the difficult and the things that that are needed. It’s against all odds that we pray because of the darkness of sin. Love fuels the hope that God is just, wise, perfect, and our Father Who art in heaven, His will be done on earth as it is in heaven. That’s a love based hope and it has dominion over all things.
4. Love endures all things… at the entrance to the Mediterranean Sea stands the Rock of Gibraltar and in Roman days it was said there was sign put there for every ship about to sail into the Atlantic. It was in Latin and it said, ‘Ne Plus Ultra’. Literally it meant, ‘No More Beyond’, it was a warning to not venture into the unknown. This same phrase is now used today to describe ‘the perfect or most extreme example’. The phrase that once cautioned us now calls us to love against all odds When we speak of the love that endures all things we are speaking of Christ.
Hebrews 12:2,3 give us a picture of enduring, “fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” Jesus is our ‘Ne Plus Ultra’ in all things, it is His love now in us that endures all things. All I’m saying is that love wins, really! That love is the very person of Christ and He is standing right here holding out His arms to you. “We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in his love. God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them.” (1 John 4:16 NLT)