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← Preserving Unity Through Love - Jesse Barrington

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Showing Revision 6 created 04/12/2018 by Carrie Spradlin.

  1. Brother Geoff spoke to us last night
  2. about the privileges of the Christian.
  3. And he mentioned to us that privileges
  4. come with responsibilities.
  5. And so I'll be speaking more
  6. on the responsibilities that we have
  7. in the Christian life.
  8. If you'll open your Bibles
  9. to the first letter to
    the church at Corinth
  10. in chapter 13.
  11. I want to begin by stating
    a concern that I see.
  12. It's a concern that's
    repeated in Scripture
  13. in numerous places.
  14. And it's a concern that's prevalent
  15. in the church today.
  16. The concern pointedly is this:
  17. How do we handle our differences
  18. in our local churches?
  19. I have a concern that
  20. we all too often view ourselves
  21. much more spiritually mature
  22. than we really are.
  23. And the evidence of our immaturity
  24. is revealed in our lack of love
  25. towards one another,
  26. demonstrated in how we
    respond to one another
  27. and handle our differences
  28. in our local churches.
  29. I'm concerned this is especially true
  30. for us in the reformed church
  31. in the area of doctrinal differences
  32. and in the area of how we live out
  33. our convictions in our lives.
  34. Reformed churches and reformed Christians
  35. are known for their focus
  36. and their emphasis on doctrine and truth.
  37. And praise God for that.
  38. That is commendable.
  39. Let me say from the start,
  40. every Christian and every true church
  41. should be known and marked
  42. for their careful attention
  43. to right doctrine.
  44. I mean, after all,
  45. the Scriptures tell us that the church
  46. is a pillar and buttress of truth.
  47. Most of you who are here
  48. in the churches represented here
  49. are in those because you love
  50. doctrine and truth.
  51. You're in those churches
  52. because the pastors of those churches
  53. unashamedly proclaim truth,
  54. uphold truth, and defend truth,
  55. and the whole counsel of God.
  56. Beloved, we should thank
    God for those pastors.
  57. We should thank God for those churches,
  58. for those Christians
  59. who long for truth,
  60. proclaim truth, and defend truth.
  61. Over the years, I've gotten
    to know many of you here.
  62. I know that you're a people
  63. who individually study doctrine.
  64. Your desire is to glorify God
  65. and you want to take
    the truths of Scripture
  66. and apply them in all areas of life
  67. and be ever conformed
  68. to the Word of God for the glory of God.
  69. But we must be careful.
  70. At the same time that we are
  71. in our pursuit of truth,
  72. and the application of truth -
  73. individually and corporately -
  74. as local churches,
  75. that we don't fail to heed
  76. a very important call in Scripture.
  77. And that is to maintain the
    unity of the Spirit in Christ.
  78. This unity of the Spirit

  79. that we have in Christ is wonderful.
  80. It's what we love to experience
  81. when we gather together
  82. in fellowships like this.
  83. It's that unity of Spirit
    that we've all had
  84. where maybe we are on
    a plane trip somewhere
  85. and we sit down next to someone,
  86. and we begin a conversation,
  87. and we feel a bond to them.
  88. We feel a oneness with them,
  89. and as we go further in the conversation,
  90. we begin to realize,
  91. this is a brother or sister in the faith.
  92. And we may not even know their name,
  93. but we love them and
    we're drawn to them.
  94. We even want to be with them.
  95. This is that oneness of spirit
    that we have in Christ.
  96. Know this, church,

  97. the church of Jesus Christ
  98. is united together supernaturally.
  99. We are not called in
    Scripture to create unity.
  100. Do you know that?
  101. We are called in Scripture
  102. to maintain and preserve the unity
  103. that God Himself has created in us.
  104. Maintaining our unity in
    Christ is vitally important
  105. because the church's unity
  106. is a living witness to the lost world
  107. about the saving and uniting power
  108. of Jesus Christ.
  109. Jesus Christ, through the gospel,
  110. brings together a diverse people -
  111. a people from every nation, tribe,
  112. tongue, and language.
  113. and makes them one in Jesus Christ.
  114. In Christ, we are one body.
  115. We are one spirit.
  116. We have one hope.
    We have one Lord.
  117. We have one common faith.
  118. We have one common object of our faith
  119. and affection of our hearts
  120. and that is Jesus Christ.
  121. In our churches;

  122. in our families of faith
  123. our unity though is tested.
  124. It's tested in the midst of our diversity.
  125. When I speak of diversity,
  126. I'm not just speaking about
  127. cultural diversity here.
  128. Although, there is cultural diversity.
  129. The diversity I'm speaking about
  130. is the diversity, maybe,
  131. in maturity in Christ.
  132. Or, our growth in the understanding
  133. of truth and doctrine.
  134. Or, the diversity in our convictions
  135. and how we apply the Scriptures
  136. to our lives.
  137. How we live out those understandings.
  138. So what do we do?

  139. Do we just set doctrine aside?
  140. Find the lowest common denominator?
  141. And just rally around that?
  142. Of course not.
  143. Of course that's not what we do.
  144. We do see that happening in some places;
  145. some of the professing churches
  146. who set aside doctrine
  147. for the sake of unity,
  148. which is a fake unity.
  149. But no, we don't set aside doctrine.
  150. Again, the church is the
    pillar and buttress of truth.
  151. We must all be consistently growing,
  152. understanding, defending,
  153. and proclaiming truth.
  154. We must be conforming to truth
  155. personally in our lives.
  156. We must maintain that unity
    that we have in Christ
  157. and the witness that we have
  158. to a lost and dying world.
  159. So let me summarize it in one question

  160. and put it before you,
  161. and then try to answer it for us.
  162. How do we as local churches here
  163. with such diversity
  164. maintain our unity in Jesus Christ
  165. while we vigilantly
    pursue and defend truth.
  166. That's the question I want
    to put before us today.
  167. And I think Paul in 1 Corinthians 13,
  168. he gives us the answer.
  169. Let's read 1 Corinthians 13.
  170. Please follow along as we read
  171. God's holy and inerrant Word.
  172. "If I speak in the tongues of men

  173. and of angels but have not love,
  174. I'm a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.
  175. If I have prophetic powers
  176. and understand all
    mysteries and all knowledge,
  177. and if I have all faith
  178. so as to remove mountains,
  179. but have not love, I am nothing.
  180. If I give away all I have
  181. and if I deliver up my body to be burned,
  182. but have not love,
  183. I gain nothing.
  184. Love is patient and kind.
  185. Love does not envy or boast.
  186. It is not arrogant or rude.
  187. It does not insist on its own way.
  188. It is not irritable or resentful.
  189. It does not rejoice at wrongdoing,
  190. but rejoices with the truth.
  191. Love bears all things;
  192. believes all things;
    hopes all thing;
  193. endures all things.
  194. Love never fails.
  195. As for prophecies, they will pass away.
  196. As for tongues, they will cease.
  197. As for knowledge, it will pass away.
  198. For we know in part
    and we prophesy in part,
  199. but when the perfect comes,
  200. the partial will pass away.
  201. When I was a child,
  202. I spoke like a child;
  203. I thought like a child;
  204. I reasoned like a child.
  205. When I became a man,
  206. I gave up childish ways.
  207. For now we see dimly in a mirror,
  208. but then face to face.
  209. Now I know in part,
  210. then I shall know fully
  211. even as I have been fully known.
  212. So now, faith, hope, and love abide
  213. these three,
  214. but the greatest of these is love."
  215. I'll be focusing on verses 1-7,

  216. and I won't even be able to cover them all
  217. in this short period of time.
  218. In verses 1 - 3,
  219. I hope to convince us all
  220. of the essential need for love
  221. in our local churches
  222. in the midst of our differences.
  223. In verses 4 - 7,
  224. we will look at the picture
  225. that Paul paints for us,
  226. which is nothing less than a portrait
  227. of Jesus Christ Himself.
  228. And I believe that we will all
  229. look at this portrait of love;
  230. this portrait of Jesus Christ,
  231. and I think we're all going to see
  232. that we are falling short.
  233. What we will all see is
  234. that the genuineness and the depth
  235. of our love towards one another
  236. may be found lacking.
  237. And I think we're going to discover
  238. that we're not quite as mature
  239. as we think we are.
  240. As Paul said,
  241. when he was a child,
    he thought like a child.
  242. He reasoned like a child.
  243. He's talking about the maturing process.
  244. Beloved, I think many of us think
  245. that we're men or women,
  246. but by how we handle our differences
  247. in our local churches,
  248. we're proving to still be children.
  249. Well, it's no secret that the answer

  250. to how do we maintain our unity
  251. in Jesus Christ in the
    midst of our diversity
  252. in our local churches is love.
  253. Before we walk through these verses,
  254. I don't know about you,
  255. but I find it very interesting
  256. that the greatest treatise on love
  257. in the entire Bible
  258. is not written to a man and a woman
  259. standing at an altar with rings in hand
  260. about to exchange vows.
  261. But it's written pointedly
  262. to a local church.
  263. A local church - and we've all read
  264. the book of Corinthians who no doubt
  265. is in the face of diversity;
  266. has some differences.
  267. And the unity that they have
    supernaturally in Christ,
  268. right now is at stake
  269. in this local church.
  270. And I will tell you, that's true
  271. for all of us sitting here right now.
  272. The context again is that this is written
  273. to a local church
  274. who had experienced wonderful fellowship
  275. in their union of Christ.
  276. And now that fellowship,
  277. that unity in Christ,
  278. is in danger.
  279. Look at verse 1.

  280. "If I speak in the tongues
    of men and of angels,
  281. but have not love,
  282. I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal."
  283. We know from chapter 12 that there
  284. is a division sprouting up
    in the church of Corinth
  285. over spiritual gifts.
  286. They're priding themselves
  287. in what gifts they have.
  288. It seems people are creating
  289. what you might call subcultures
  290. within the church.
  291. Based on what?
  292. Based on what spiritual gifts they have.
  293. They're creating spiritual hierarchies
  294. within their local church it seems.
  295. Different classes of Christianity.
  296. Treating some people with
    preferential treatment
  297. or elevated treatment over other people
  298. based on which gifts they have.
  299. Well, Paul will have none of that.
  300. In fact, in chapter 12,
  301. we know that he spent time
  302. straightening that out.
  303. He helped them all see
  304. that the body of Christ is one body
  305. with many different parts.
  306. But the gifts within the church
  307. are distributed by God,
  308. and we're not to boast in those,
  309. and they're to be
    used for the edification
  310. and the building up of
    the church as a whole.
  311. But here in chapter 13,
  312. Paul says something different.
  313. Paul says essentially
  314. you're finding your identity
  315. in believing that you are something;
  316. believing that you have something to offer
  317. based on what gifts God has given to you.
  318. "If I speak in the tongues
    of men and of angels,
  319. but have not love,
  320. I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal."
  321. What is it that Paul's doing here?
  322. Well, please know this, beloved.
  323. Paul is not minimizing the importance
  324. of spiritual gifts in the local church.
  325. He just spent an entire chapter
  326. letting them know spiritual gifts
  327. are important and vital
  328. to the local church.
  329. Well, if he's not minimizing
    the importance
  330. of spiritual gifts,
  331. what is it that Paul is doing here then?
  332. He's maximizing the necessity of love.
  333. Paul is not minimizing
    the importance of gifts,
  334. but maximizing the necessity of love.
  335. He's essentially saying this,
  336. if you have gifts -
  337. even the ones you're all boasting about -
  338. the gift of tongues maybe,
  339. but it's not rooted in love;
  340. it's not used and governed by love,
  341. then your gifts do not help the church.
  342. They distract from the church.
  343. They hurt the church.
  344. Verse 2.

  345. "And if I have prophetic powers
  346. and understand all mysteries
    and all knowledge,
  347. and if I have all faith
  348. so as to remove mountains,
  349. but have not love,
  350. I am nothing."
  351. And I think is where we'll focus our time.
  352. This is where we in the reformed church
  353. with our emphasis on doctrine
  354. seem to struggle a lot.
  355. Praise God again that we study doctrine,
  356. and we seek to live it out
  357. and apply it in all of our lives.
  358. That's something we must be doing.
  359. But for many in the reformed church,
  360. understanding doctrine
  361. has become everything to them.
  362. At any time I begin to discuss
  363. this type of subject,
  364. like Paul's discussing here in v. 2,
  365. it's not long before I hear from someone,
  366. "Jesse, you're minimizing doctrine,
  367. and doctrine is from God's Word,
  368. and we can't minimize doctrine."
  369. So let me say loudly and clearly,
  370. and I will repeat myself
    throughout the entire sermon,
  371. I'm not minimizing doctrine.
  372. I agree with you.
  373. All of doctrine is of vital importance
  374. because it comes from the Word of God.
  375. I'm not minimizing doctrine.
  376. I'm not suggesting that
    we set doctrine aside.
  377. As a pastor, I'll tell you this.
  378. I've given myself to doctrine.
  379. To the study of doctrine.
  380. To the teaching and preaching of doctrine.
  381. To the defending of doctrine.
  382. Week after week, year after year.
  383. I'm not minimizing doctrine.
  384. But I'm maximizing the need for love.
  385. The need for love in our doctrine.
  386. The need for love in our
    doctrinal differences.
  387. Look what Paul is saying here.
  388. "If I have prophetic powers
  389. and understand all mysteries
    and all knowledge..."
  390. All mysteries.
  391. One of my favorite portions of Scripture

  392. is in Luke 24
  393. after the resurrection of Christ
  394. on the road with the disciples.
  395. He's speaking to the disciples.
  396. And Jesus unlocks all mysteries for them.
  397. He helps them to see
  398. how He is the fulfillment,
  399. and how all of Scripture
    finds its fulfillment
  400. in Jesus Christ.
  401. Jesus who understands all mysteries.
  402. What a value that would be to the church!
  403. To have an individual
    or people in our church
  404. who understood all
    the mysteries in Scripture
  405. and how they find their
    fulfillment in Jesus Christ.
  406. What about the one who has all knowledge?
  407. Deep doctrine.
  408. This may be the person who has
  409. all the covenant issues
  410. sorted out perfectly.
  411. They have all their eschatology down.
  412. Paul says here they have all knowledge.
  413. He's giving them credit.
  414. You understand all mysteries.
  415. You have all the knowledge.
  416. But if you have not love,
  417. you are nothing.
  418. Again, I think this is where

  419. the rubber meets the road for us.
  420. maybe these churches represented here.
  421. There are some of us who believe
  422. we have all the mysteries and knowledge
  423. figured out.
  424. And I think if we're honest,
  425. we need to confess
  426. we don't have it all figured out.
  427. We're all still growing.
  428. These men who have walked in the faith
  429. 40, 50, 60 years faithfully,
  430. you could bring them up here one by one
  431. and they would acknowledge,
  432. listen, I'm still growing.
  433. The Word of God is still sharpening
  434. and shaping my
    understanding of who God is.
  435. The mysteries are still
    being unlocked to me.
  436. The knowledge and the
    deeper things of the Lord
  437. are still being revealed to me.
  438. And praise God, we never stop growing.
  439. But what Paul says here is,
  440. what if you did
    understand all the mysteries
  441. and have all the knowledge?
  442. Even then, without love you're nothing.
  443. In verse 3, Paul goes on to say this:

  444. "If I give away all I have
  445. and deliver up my body to be burned
  446. and have not love, I gain nothing."
  447. Again, I've talked to so many of you.
  448. You're living self-sacrificing lives
  449. so you can be more faithful to Scripture
  450. and give more.
  451. I mean, aren't you the kind of people
  452. you want to see in our church?
  453. The ones who are gifted by God?
  454. The ones who have and
    are studying doctrine
  455. and have knowledge and understanding?
  456. The ones who are living sacrificially
  457. for the glory of the Kingdom of God?
  458. Aren't these the people
    we want in our church?
  459. And the answer is yes.
  460. And don't they bring value?
  461. Don't they help edify and
    build up the church?
  462. And the answer is maybe.
  463. But maybe not.
  464. Do you see the progression that happened
  465. in these first three verses?
  466. Without love, we accomplish nothing.
  467. Without love, we are nothing.
  468. And without love, we gain nothing.
  469. What's the conclusion
    that we must come to?

  470. In measuring our Christian maturity,
  471. if we have everything without love,
  472. we have nothing.
  473. We have nothing.
  474. Love is essential.
  475. Oh, how important the use of gifts are
  476. in the local church.
  477. Oh, how important doctrine is
  478. in the local church.
  479. Oh, how important sacrificial living
  480. is in the local church.
  481. But apart from love, beloved,
  482. it's nothing.
  483. Right away, some of you
    may begin to struggle

  484. as we talk about doctrine
  485. and begin to ask a question like,
  486. "So, are you saying that we should
  487. let go of doctrine and pursue love?"
  488. And I want you to know this: No.
  489. It's not truth or love.
  490. It's truth in love.
  491. So often, we have that pendulum swing
  492. in our life, don't we?
  493. Where, okay, I'm pursuing truth.
  494. I'm given to truth.
    I'm studying.
  495. I'm reading systematic theology.
    I'm going through all these things.
  496. I'm growing in truth;
    growing in truth.
  497. And we begin to neglect
    other areas of our life,
  498. and you realize, wait a minute,
  499. I'm lacking in love.
  500. So what do we often do?
  501. We overcompensate and we set truth down,
  502. and we walk over here
  503. and begin to pursue love.
  504. Saints, it's not truth or love.
  505. It's truth in love.
  506. It's not 50% of truth and 50% of love.
  507. It's 100% of truth and 100% of love
  508. working together.
  509. It's not either/or; it's both/and.
  510. Well, it's at this point that some of you

  511. may say, okay, I'm pursuing truth,
  512. and I believe that I'm loving.
  513. But you may believe that you're loving
  514. because all too often, we find -
  515. especially in reformed circles -
  516. statements like this:
  517. Of course, I'm loving.
    I told them the truth.
  518. That's the most loving thing you can do.
  519. Well, it is loving to share
    truth with people.
  520. But Paul now in verse 4

  521. is going to help you see
  522. what does love look like
  523. actually lived out.
  524. He's going to help us see that
  525. love is not just sharing the right,
  526. correct doctrine,
  527. but the spirit in which
    you share that doctrine
  528. is vital.
  529. Here's what Paul's going to show us.
  530. The genuineness and depth of our love
  531. is not seen in just sharing truth
  532. or how we respond to people
  533. who agree with our doctrinal positions,
  534. but the genuineness and depth of our love
  535. is revealed in how you respond
  536. to people who disagree
  537. with your doctrinal positions.
  538. What I keep seeing in reformed circles
  539. is people pursuing truth.
  540. And typically as I begin this discussion,
  541. I'll see them pursuing truth
  542. as it pertains to doctrines
    that we would call
  543. non-salvific.
  544. Meaning, we're not usually struggling
  545. in the areas of whether Jesus is God
  546. or we're saved by grace
    through faith alone.
  547. We're dealing in doctrinal areas
  548. that although very important
  549. and vital because they're
    from the Word of God,
  550. that we know that some through the ages
  551. have disagreed upon
  552. and come to different conclusions upon.
  553. And that's kind of where I want to focus

  554. my effort and energy today if i could.
  555. Someone begins to study
    a doctrinal position.
  556. Maybe they were unaware of it.
  557. It wasn't even on their radar before.
  558. They become passionate about truth,
  559. as we all should be
    passionate about truth.
  560. Well, they begin to talk with others
  561. in their local church about this truth
  562. because they're excited about it.
  563. They see how God can be glorified
  564. in it and through it.
  565. And this is good.
  566. But then they find someone in the church
  567. or different people in the church
  568. who disagree with them.
  569. And it's at this point that I begin to see
  570. that unity that we have in Jesus Christ -
  571. that supernatural bond that we have -
  572. this is where I begin to see a disunity.
  573. Not a working to preserve
    and maintain that,
  574. but a division beginning to occur.
  575. And I see the divisions occurring really

  576. in two different ways.
  577. One of the divisions that may occur
  578. is they say,
  579. "Well, if you're not going to side with me
  580. in my beliefs, I'll just go find
  581. another group of Christians;
  582. another church who more
    believes in these areas
  583. the way I believe,
  584. and I'll go be with them."
  585. But another division I'm actually seeing

  586. more likely happening,
  587. and probably more prominent
  588. in our churches represented here
  589. is a division that stays
    in the local church.
  590. And what this division looks like is this:
  591. When I find someone who doesn't agree
  592. with my new study of doctrine
  593. or my new arrival of understanding,
  594. or I find someone who doesn't
  595. live out their convictions
  596. the same way that I do,
  597. there's division within the church.
  598. And that happens by treating
  599. other Christians in the church
    who disagree with me
  600. as second-class Christians.
  601. "You're not as spiritual as I am."
  602. "You clearly don't love holiness
    and God as much as I do."
  603. "There's something wrong with you,
  604. or you would come to the same conclusions
  605. I have come to."
  606. You would live out your convictions
  607. the same way I live out my convictions."
  608. This person that we once had
  609. such intimate fellowship with;
  610. that we shared the joy and union
  611. of fellowship and union
    in Christ together -
  612. my brother and sister in the Lord -
  613. someone who, like me,
    has been blood-bought,
  614. now, I realize has come to
    a different conclusion
  615. in an area of doctrine,
  616. and I don't even treat them
  617. like a brother or sister anymore.
  618. I want everyone in here to know,
  619. especially myself is this:
  620. that's not loving.
  621. That works directly against our call
  622. to maintain the unity that
    we have in Jesus Christ.
  623. I see this played out
    in churches all the time.
  624. Maybe you come to a conviction
  625. about how you should
    educate your children.
  626. Something that never was
    even on the radar.
  627. And then your eye diffused that
    quickening ray in the dungeon.
  628. And the light came in
    and Christ became real.
  629. And then everything in your life
  630. began to look through
    the lens of the gospel
  631. and the Scriptures as we should do.
  632. And you've come to convictions
    you've never even thought about.
  633. How should I educate my children?
  634. And you arrive at a conclusion.
  635. I think the best way
    for me to live this out
  636. might be for me to homeschool my children.
  637. And then you become
    convinced that's the only way
  638. that you can educate your children
  639. if you're seeking to glorify God.
  640. And you begin to look at other people
  641. who don't follow the conviction
  642. that you follow there.
  643. And you begin to categorize
    them in your mind.
  644. They don't love Jesus like I do.
  645. They're not willing to make the sacrifices
  646. that I'm willing to make.
  647. Do you see the spiritual pride?
  648. Do you see the classes of Christianity
  649. beginning to divide?
  650. Do you see that the basis
  651. of our fellowship,
  652. which was once the sweet union
  653. of Jesus Christ and the gospel,
  654. now becomes the basis of:
  655. well, how do you educate your children?
  656. What happens when we do that?
  657. Inevitably, whether we mean to or not,
  658. we begin to minimize
    the gospel of Jesus Christ.
  659. We begin to minimize the power
  660. of the purchasing blood of Jesus Christ.
  661. We begin to find fellowship
  662. in something other than Jesus Christ.
  663. We begin to find our unity
  664. in something other than Jesus Christ.
  665. Saints, it's dividing our churches up.
  666. That does not work to maintain
  667. the unity that we have in Jesus Christ.
  668. How you respond to that person
  669. who disagrees with
    your doctrinal position;
  670. how you respond to that person
  671. who comes to a different conclusion
  672. on how you should educate your children
  673. or what premarital
    relationships should look like -
  674. how you respond to that person
  675. is the evidence and depth of your love
  676. in the local church.
  677. You see, if we just keep
    surrounding ourselves,
  678. within the church,
  679. with little subcultures -
  680. we're the homeschooling group;
  681. we're the courtship group;
  682. we're the amillenial group;
  683. we're this group;
    we're that group;
  684. and anyone who doesn't agree with you
  685. in those areas, although you do have
  686. union with them in Christ,
  687. that's not good enough
    for fellowship anymore.
  688. I won't let my kids be around anyone
  689. who doesn't homeschool.
  690. What are you teaching your children?
  691. That homeschool is more important
  692. than union in Jesus Christ.
  693. I think some of us are
    going to wake up one day
  694. and realize we put all
    of our hope and faith
  695. in educating our
    children in our home.
  696. Homeschooling doesn't save anybody!
  697. It's Jesus Christ that saves.
  698. And I homeschool my kids.
  699. Listen, I'm not implying

  700. that the love you have
  701. with the group of people you
    have surrounded yourself with
  702. that hold to those same convictions -
  703. I'm not saying it's not love.
  704. It is love. I think it's love.
  705. What I want us to look at is this:
  706. But what is the depth of my love?
  707. And Paul seems to think
  708. the depth of your love is revealed
  709. not with those you've
    gathered around yourself
  710. who affirm you all day,
  711. but the one who doesn't
    see it the same way
  712. and how you treat that brother or sister
  713. is the reality of the depth of your love
  714. for the local church.
  715. Let's look at it in verse 4.

  716. Paul says, "Love is patient."
  717. Love suffers long.
  718. Assumed in this first
    characteristic of love
  719. is offense.
  720. He assumes that there's provocation here
  721. between two people.
  722. He assumes there's differences
  723. and disagreements here.
  724. Why do we say that?
  725. Because know this,
  726. you don't have to
    suffer long with people
  727. who agree with you in
    every point of doctrine
  728. and live out the same way you do.
  729. You don't suffer with those people.
  730. You just sit around and affirm each other.
  731. Look how spiritual we are!
  732. Look how unspiritual they are!
  733. I don't suffer long if you
    just build me up all day
  734. and agree with me in every area.
  735. That's not suffering.
  736. But Paul says genuine love suffers long.
  737. Genuine love is revealed
    in the face of adversity.
  738. In the face of disagreement.
  739. So how long are we suffering
  740. with those who disagree with us
  741. or have offended us
  742. because they haven't come
    to the same conclusions?
  743. Well, that's the reality of
    the depth of your love.
  744. What's assumed in the characteristic
  745. again is provocation.
  746. It assumes someone has provoked you here.
  747. They've provoked you
  748. by not seeing it the way that you see it.
  749. "Well, I showed it to them in Scripture.
  750. It's so clear.
  751. Why can't they see it?"
  752. Love when they've been provoked,
  753. does not provoke back.
  754. But it suffers long with the other person.
  755. What becomes very clear in Paul's
  756. definition of love here
  757. is that the love Paul is speaking about
  758. is not the love the world speaks about.
  759. The love the world speaks about
  760. is emotion-driven;
  761. feelings-based.
  762. And know this, genuine love
  763. is full of emotion and feelings.
  764. But it's not feelings-driven
    or feelings-based.
  765. Beloved, the love that
    Paul is calling you and I to
  766. to preserve the unity we
    have in Jesus Christ
  767. is nothing less than the love
    of Jesus Christ in the gospel.
  768. This is the love that you
    and I are being called to.
  769. This is not a love in word only.
  770. It's a love in deed and action.
  771. It's a love in the face of provocation
  772. that suffers long.
  773. Let's apply this first
    characteristic again here.

  774. Suffering long.
  775. Someone in the church disagrees
  776. with a doctrinal position you
    spent the last six months
  777. reading three books on and
    listening to 25 sermons on.
  778. And you're convinced you've
    come to the right conclusion.
  779. You've sat down with them
    and you've shown it to them,
  780. and they just don't see
    what you're talking about.
  781. In fact, they see the other side of it.
  782. Now, we become passionate about truth,
  783. and Christians should be
    passionate about truth.
  784. But what this love does
  785. is it's patient with that person.
  786. Have you ever noticed -
  787. and I've seen this in my own life -
  788. you'll begin to study
  789. and focus on an area of doctrine.
  790. Something that maybe
    wasn't even on the radar
  791. for the first ten years
    in your Christianity.
  792. You spend six months studying on it
  793. and you're an expert on it.
  794. You dogmatically go to other
    people in your church,
  795. and you can't stop talking about it,
  796. and you struggle that they can't see it
  797. the way you've explained it.
  798. You forget that it was
    ten years in the faith -
  799. it wasn't even on your radar.
  800. But now if they don't come
  801. to the same conclusion
    as you've come to,
  802. you can't even be in
    fellowship with them anymore
  803. in the local church.
  804. Know this, saints, suffering long
  805. is more than just biting your tongue
  806. when someone disagrees with you,
  807. and distancing yourself from them.
  808. Because one of the things
    we need to see here
  809. is that these first two characteristics -
  810. patience and kindness -
  811. actually go together.
  812. One's the other side of
    the coin of the other.
  813. Let me put them together with you

  814. and show you what this really looks like.
  815. Love is patient. It suffers long
  816. in the face of provocation.
  817. But more than that, love is kind.
  818. The root word here in "kind" has the idea
  819. of being "fit for use."
  820. Usefulness.
  821. Serving each other.
  822. Think with me for a moment here.
  823. True love is demonstrated
  824. when someone disagrees with you
  825. or offends you,
  826. and instead of responding back to them
  827. and provoking them back,
  828. you do not respond back to them with that,
  829. but rather you show them patience.
  830. But more than that,
  831. you move towards that person
  832. to serve them in kindness.
  833. I don't know about you,
    but that's really hard.
  834. I'm so convinced I'm right.
  835. I'm so passionate
  836. because this is about the glory of God,
  837. and I think they're robbing
    the glory of God in their life,
  838. so I'm trying to show them,
  839. I'm trying to sit with them
    and work with them,
  840. I've walked them through
    every Scripture in the Bible.
  841. They still don't see it.
  842. And they're getting a
    little frustrated with me
  843. because I won't stop talking
    about my doctrinal points so much.
  844. And what this says is this:
  845. That even if I'm right in
    the doctrinal position,
  846. I'm going to be patient
    with this brother or sister.
  847. But more than that, I'm going to begin
  848. to move towards them
  849. and serve them in kindness.
  850. You know what I see happening?
  851. I shared truth with you
    and you didn't get it.
  852. You're not going to be
    in the circle anymore.
  853. I'm not going to fellowship with you
  854. as much as I used to anymore.
  855. It's one thing to bite your lip
  856. and not respond when
    you've been provoked.
  857. It's a whole other thing to move
  858. towards that person you disagree with
  859. and find ways to serve them
  860. and welcome them in the church.
  861. Can I ask you something?

  862. Isn't that what Jesus Christ did to you?
  863. Weren't you and I provoking Jesus Christ?
  864. In fact, I think the only
    thing we were doing
  865. was provoking Jesus Christ.
  866. And didn't He pointedly and individually
  867. not only not give you what you deserved
  868. which was His wrath?
  869. He did not. He was
    long suffering with you.
  870. But more than just
    suffering long with you,
  871. didn't Jesus Christ move towards you
  872. and seek you out
  873. and look to serve you
  874. by laying His life down for you?
  875. And isn't this exactly what we need to do?
  876. If we're going to maintain the unity
  877. we have in our local churches
  878. in the midst of our diversity,
  879. we need to respond with Christ-like,
  880. gospel-centered love
  881. and move towards those
    people we disagree with
  882. and serve them.
  883. What a testimony that would be to them
  884. and to those outside.
  885. This is the love we're called to.
  886. Gospel-centered love.
  887. Ask yourself right now,
  888. those in your local church
  889. who view premarital relationships
    different than you,
  890. who view how to educate your
    children different than you,
  891. who've arrived at different
    conclusions of your favorite doctrines,
  892. are you moving towards that person
  893. to serve them and welcome them?
  894. Because that's the genuine
    depth of your love
  895. in the local church right there.
  896. That's it right there.
  897. Or are you like so many that I see
  898. that say, well, I'm only
    going to associate
  899. with the people who homeschool like me.
  900. I don't want their lack of seriousness
  901. to rub off on me or my children.
  902. And you forget all along
  903. that you're speaking about someone
  904. purchased with the blood of Jesus Christ.
  905. This is not being patient.
  906. This is not being kind.
  907. And it is unloving.
  908. It's sin.
  909. Do you know that
    loveless orthodoxy is sin?

  910. In Revelation 2, Jesus warned a church
  911. that seemed to have
    all their doctrine right,
  912. debated it, stood in the
    face of false teachers,
  913. and hated evil.
  914. He commended them for all of that.
  915. And then He turned to them and said this:
  916. you need to repent though.
  917. You say, well, they had
    left their first love
  918. and that's referring to Jesus Christ.
  919. I agree.
  920. But can I ask you this question?
  921. Where is the evidence of your love
    for Jesus Christ most revealed?
  922. In love for His church.
  923. How can you love Him
    whom you have not seen
  924. if you can't love your brother
    or sister who you do see?
  925. "I love Jesus!"
  926. The depth of your love for Jesus
  927. is revealed in how you love His bride.
  928. And the reality of love is not just
  929. those who agree with you,
  930. but those who have disagreed with you
  931. and offended you.
  932. I'm not suggesting in any way, beloved,

  933. that we do not discuss these doctrines
  934. or our convictions in our local churches.
  935. We need to.
  936. It's one of the means of grace
  937. that God has used to
    grow us and sharpen us.
  938. But I am suggesting that we discuss them
  939. in the context of gospel-centered unity
  940. and clothed in Christlike
    humility and love.
  941. When we allow something
    other than Jesus Christ
  942. to become the basis of our
    unity and our fellowship,
  943. again, we inevitably minimize
    Jesus Christ and the gospel
  944. and the work against the unity
  945. that He's given to us.
  946. Think of this statement
    and see if it just
  947. rings wrong for you.
  948. "Yes, you're my brother in Christ,
  949. both saved and redeemed
    by the grace of Jesus Christ,
  950. and we have that in common
  951. and we agree on those things,
  952. but we've come to a
    different place eschatalogically,
  953. so I can't even be in
    fellowship with you anymore."
  954. I'm not minimizing the importance
  955. of any other doctrines.
  956. But I'm saying that the unity
  957. that we share in Christ,
  958. and the love within that unity
  959. should help us be able to work together,
  960. have these discussions,
    encourage each other,
  961. sharpen each other
  962. without breaking the
    fellowship and unity we have
  963. in our local churches
  964. which is centered upon Jesus Christ.
  965. So yes, discuss these things.

  966. Yes, encourage and build up each other
  967. in these things.
  968. Yes, sharpen each other in these things.
  969. But do it clothed in love and humility.
  970. And when others disagree with you
  971. or do it differently,
  972. suffer long with them
  973. and move towards them
  974. in kindness and service.
  975. So we don't treat them
    like second-class Christians.
  976. Because know this,
  977. there are no second-class Christians.
  978. The fact that our
    rallying point is a cross
  979. says one thing:
  980. the playing field is level.
  981. The only reason why any of
    us are getting in is grace.
  982. That's it.
  983. And when you make something
  984. other than the cross and Jesus Christ
  985. the basis of our fellowship,
  986. you minimize the work of Christ.
  987. Jesus Christ identifies
  988. with the lowest of
    understanding doctrine Christian.
  989. They will be welcomed in
  990. to the same degree that you will be.
  991. They are loved by Jesus Christ
  992. in the same way that you are loved,
  993. because the basis of His love
  994. is not rooted in you,
    it's rooted in Himself.
  995. I'm not condoning immaturity in doctrine.

  996. I'm not condoning indifference
  997. to how we live out our lives
  998. and Jesus Christ is not either.
  999. But again, Jesus Christ
    identifies with them.
  1000. We need to be careful how we speak
  1001. about the body of Christ;
  1002. how we treat the body of Christ.
  1003. Jesus said to Saul,
  1004. "Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?"
  1005. when he was persecuting the church.
  1006. Jesus so identifies with His church
  1007. that how you treat them,
  1008. He views it as how you treat Him.
  1009. Know this, we can have our doctrine right,

  1010. but the doctrine that we
    believe we have right
  1011. has not had its full work in us
  1012. until it manifests in Christlike love
  1013. towards each other.
  1014. You can have your doctrine right,
  1015. but that doctrine has not
    had its full work in you
  1016. until it manifests itself through you
  1017. in Christ-centered love.
  1018. This love we're called
    to is patient and kind.
  1019. One more here.

  1020. Paul says this love
    "does not envy or boast,
  1021. it is not arrogant or rude."
  1022. Can I tell you that nothing works faster
  1023. at causing disunity in the local church
  1024. as spiritual pride?
  1025. The Corinthians thought:
  1026. We are something.
    We have these gifts.
  1027. We understand this doctrine.
    We've arrived.
  1028. We're living sacrificially. Look at us.
  1029. And Paul didn't deny any of
    those things were important,
  1030. but he knew without love,
  1031. those things would divide the church.
  1032. The genuineness and depth of my love
  1033. is not seen with those who agree with me,
  1034. but with those who disagree with me
  1035. and how I respond to them.
  1036. I've often referred to the local church
  1037. as a brewing pot of sanctification.
  1038. Sometimes I find people just leaving
  1039. local church after local church,
  1040. looking for people who are
    exactly like themselves.
  1041. One of the reasons God put you in churches
  1042. with such diversity culturally
  1043. and maturity-wise is to abound you
  1044. in Christlike love.
  1045. And that's hard.
  1046. It's a lot more comfortable and easy
  1047. just to keep finding
    subgroups of Christians
  1048. who believe all that you believe
  1049. and do it all the way you do.
  1050. But that's not how He made the church.
  1051. He made the church diverse,
  1052. so we could abound in love
  1053. as we show patience and kindness
  1054. to those who disagree with us.
  1055. Can I give you one test that you're being

  1056. boastful or arrogant?
  1057. If you constantly feel the need
  1058. to talk about your doctrinal positions
  1059. with everyone in the local church,
  1060. that's a sign of arrogance and boasting.
  1061. If you view everyone in your local church
  1062. as positions rather than people,
  1063. and your goal is just to win everyone
  1064. over to your position -
  1065. you're not even asking people anymore:
  1066. hey, how are you doing?
  1067. What's going on at work?
  1068. How can I be praying for you?
  1069. If every time they walk up to
    you all they hear about is
  1070. why they should be doing it this way
  1071. or why they should believe this doctrine,
  1072. you're in a dangerous place.
  1073. If you look down at others
  1074. who disagree with you
  1075. and only surround yourself with people
  1076. who look like you and talk like you
  1077. and do like you do,
  1078. that's a sign of spiritual pride.
  1079. It's not preserving unity.
  1080. Let me ask us this question.

  1081. What if Jesus Christ did that to us?
  1082. What if Jesus said to us:
  1083. You know, I know we have
    this whole gospel thing
  1084. that we agree in,
  1085. but in these areas of doctrine,
  1086. you're wrong.
  1087. And He began to treat you
  1088. like a second-class Christian.
  1089. What would happen?
  1090. Every single one of us would be put out
  1091. of His inner circle.
  1092. Can I tell you this?
  1093. Jesus Christ has never
    done that to you once.
  1094. He keeps moving towards you
  1095. and pursuing you in love.
  1096. How can we as Christians so freely receive

  1097. this love from Christ
    on the basis of grace
  1098. and then treat others without love
  1099. because they differ from us
  1100. in different areas of
    conviction or doctrine?
  1101. You know what that's called?
  1102. Gospel amnesia.
  1103. You're forgetting how Christ has
    treated you in the gospel.
  1104. To have right doctrine
  1105. but lack love for one another,
  1106. it is sin.
  1107. There's so much more we could say

  1108. here in Corinthians about it.
  1109. But before I finish, I
    want to encourage you
  1110. because saints, the hope we have
  1111. of maintaining our unity in Christ
  1112. in the midst of our diversity
  1113. is Jesus Christ's gospel-centered love
  1114. towards those who disagree.
  1115. Again, it's not love or truth,
  1116. it's truth in love.
  1117. It's a love that suffers long.
  1118. It's a love that moves towards others
  1119. who disagree; who provoke us.
  1120. And it's about that person -
  1121. serving them in kindness.
  1122. It's a love that keeps
    no record of wrongs.
  1123. It's a love that believes
    the best about each other.
  1124. And why?
  1125. Because this is the love that Jesus Christ
  1126. has shown to you
  1127. and continues to show you day after day,
  1128. week after week,
  1129. month after month,
  1130. year after year.
  1131. I will confess to you personally

  1132. that as I studied this,
  1133. and preached six sermons
    on it in our church,
  1134. I came to the conclusion
  1135. that I'm not quite as
    loving as I thought I was.
  1136. In fact, I talked to some
    people in our church
  1137. after we finished six sermons on this.
  1138. And they were discouraged.
  1139. They said I thought I was loving,
  1140. but I realize I've just surrounded myself
  1141. with people who think of the
    doctrines the way I think of them
  1142. and do it the way I do it,
  1143. but I'm struggling with those
    who disagree with me
  1144. and I'm not as loving
    as I thought I could be
  1145. and it's really hard to love those people.
  1146. If that's you today,
  1147. if you say if I'm going to be honest,
  1148. I haven't been treating people
  1149. who disagree with me with kindness,
  1150. looking to move towards them,
  1151. to serve them and welcome them;
  1152. and I've made the basis of my fellowship
  1153. in my local church those who
  1154. agree with me and affirm me.
  1155. And I want to love like
    you're talking about.
  1156. I see that's how Christ loves me,
  1157. and I want to love like that,
  1158. but I'm really struggling
  1159. to love like that.
  1160. What do we do?
  1161. Well, most of us have been taught
  1162. our whole life
  1163. that Jesus is our example.
  1164. And He is.
  1165. And that when you find
    yourself struggling
  1166. in obedience to Him, to just try harder.
  1167. And then you keep falling down
  1168. and realizing I can't do this.
  1169. The reason why trying harder doesn't work
  1170. is because the love that
    you and I are called to
  1171. is not something we
    can produce on our own.
  1172. Think of Galatians 5 with me.
  1173. The fruit of the Spirit is love.
  1174. What does that tell us?
  1175. The love you and I are
    called to is a fruit.
  1176. It's something I cannot
    grit my teeth and produce
  1177. by trying harder.
  1178. It's something that must be produced
  1179. in me and through me.
  1180. Well, does this mean I'm not responsible?
  1181. I don't have a part in this?
  1182. No, you are responsible in this area.
  1183. Well, how do we love like this then?
  1184. I heard an analogy that I'll close with
  1185. and I think will be helpful for you.
  1186. As we all look at the call
  1187. that Paul's put before us of love,
  1188. which is nothing short of Jesus Christ,
  1189. and we become discouraged to see
  1190. I'm struggling to love like this
  1191. and I fall short.
  1192. I want to emulate Jesus Christ.
  1193. I want to love like He does,
  1194. but I'm struggling so much.
  1195. What hope do I have?
  1196. Is it just try harder?
  1197. And here's the analogy.
  1198. Let's say all of you love music.

  1199. And you love beautiful music.
  1200. And I come to you and I say,
  1201. well, I want you to begin to produce,
  1202. write, and play music like Mozart.
  1203. He's your example.
  1204. And you say wonderful.
  1205. I want that kind of music.
  1206. I want to produce that music;
  1207. write that music; play that music.
  1208. And you sit down and you study Mozart.
  1209. You look at Mozart.
  1210. You examine Mozart.
  1211. And you try really hard.
  1212. And you fall miserably on your face
  1213. over and over again
  1214. and you become discouraged.
  1215. You say, I'm trying so hard
  1216. to play music like Mozart;
  1217. to compose.
  1218. I just don't find the strength to do that.
  1219. And I would agree with you.
  1220. You're not going to play
    like Mozart if you try harder.
  1221. But what if I told you this?
  1222. The spirit of Mozart was going to come
  1223. and reside inside of you?
  1224. And compose through you?
  1225. And write through you?
  1226. And empower you to write music?
  1227. To compose music?
  1228. And to play music like him?
  1229. Then, you'd be mightily encouraged
  1230. and say yes, I can play music!
  1231. I can compose like Mozart.
  1232. Not because of my strength,
    my trying harder,
  1233. but because the spirit
    of Mozart lives in me.
  1234. Well, beloved, that's what
    happened in the gospel.
  1235. Jesus Christ not only forgives you and I
  1236. for our lovelessness,
  1237. He takes up residence within us.
  1238. It is the Spirit of Christ
    and His love in us
  1239. working through us,
  1240. being produced for His glory.
  1241. So where do we begin with that though?
  1242. You need to begin by confessing inability.
  1243. John 15:5 - I can't do this, God.
  1244. Then by faith, you abide in Christ.
  1245. You be led by the Spirit.
  1246. You walk by the Spirit.
  1247. And you lay hold of
    the truth of the gospel
  1248. that Jesus Christ in us
  1249. will produce His fruit through us
  1250. and make it so we can maintain
  1251. the unity of Christ in our local churches
  1252. for the glory of God.
  1253. This is our gospel.
  1254. It not only forgives, it empowers.
  1255. Let's pray.

  1256. Father, in the name of Jesus,
  1257. I pray that You would help each of us.
  1258. Lord, convict us of our lovelessness.
  1259. Help us to mark it for
    what it is which is sin.
  1260. Help us believe the gospel.
  1261. That if we confess this sin,
  1262. You're faithful and just to
    cleanse us and forgive us.
  1263. But help us believe
    the rest of the gospel.
  1264. That the Spirit of Christ is now in us.
  1265. That love that we so seek to emulate.
  1266. His power is towards us who believe.
  1267. God, that we would abide more
  1268. and appropriate the gospel more.
  1269. Led by the Spirit;
    walking by the Spirit.
  1270. And that Your fruit would be manifest
  1271. in us and through us for Your glory.
  1272. God, accomplish these things.
  1273. Preserve the unity in Your church
  1274. for the testimony of Jesus Christ
  1275. to a lost and dying world.
  1276. In the name of Jesus we pray,
  1277. Amen.