In 1883 Antoni Gaudi began construction on the Sa-gra-da Familia, a
church with ambitious architecture. Gaudi attempted things never done
before in architecture. It was so complicated that no one really understood
it. It wasn’t until the advent of computers and software used in aviation that
anyone could duplicate his work. Upon Gaudi’s graduation his professor said
of him, today we either stand in the presence of a genius or a mad man.
In 1926, 43 years after starting this project, Gaudi was walking home after a
long day of work at the church when he was struck by a tram. Three days
later he was dead and less than ¼ of the project was completed. The question
now became, how would anyone carry on his work? How was the church to
be completed now that the chief architect was gone? Fortunately Gaudi
envisioned his departure. He planned for others to carry on his work. So he
created blueprints, and models, molds, and plasters, he left detailed notes on
how it was to be completed.

This morning we turn our attention to building not just a church, but THE
church. And we too are confronted with the fact that the chief architect has
left this earth, but he did not leave us as orphans. He did not leave us with no
idea of how the church is to be built. In fact, Jesus uses these words in John
16:7 – I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do
not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to
you. In other words, the blueprints Jesus left behind were the Holy Spirit.
When it comes to building the church, (growing you up into maturity, making
you and me a united people for God), the Holy Spirit does two very
important things:

1. He gives us gifts to build the church. We often refer to them as
Spiritual Gifts. 1 Cor. 12, Rom 12, 1 Peter 4, Eph. 4 all reference these gifts.
If you are a believer, God has given you Spiritual gifts so that you might
build up City Church.

2. He gives us fruit to build the church. We often refer to these as fruit of
the Spirit, and the greatest fruit, the foundational fruit, the first one
mentioned in the list is: Love.

So as Gaudi left blueprints and models so that the work of building the
church might continue. Jesus has sent the Holy Spirit, He has given us
spiritual gifts and the Spiritual fruit of love so that the work of building His
church might continue.

Today we are in 1 Corinthians 13 and guess what two ideas bookend this
chapter? Gifts and love.

Desire the gifts AND pursue love

12:31 – But earnestly desire the higher gifts. And I will show you a still
more excellent way (love).
14:1 – Pursue love, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts.

1 Corinthians 13
If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a
noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have prophetic powers, and
understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to
remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 If I give away all I
have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain
nothing.
4 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant
5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it
does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all
things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
8 Love never ends.

As we read 1 Corinthians 13 there is this tendency to say let’s pursue love
over the gifts, but that would be to miss the entire point of what 12-14 is
about. Certainly love is greater than any gift. Love is supreme, because God
is love, because love will outlast the gifts. But let us not swing away from
the gifts in pursuit of love, let us not say that all we need is love…no, right
now we need both gifts and love.

God has given the church spiritual gifts because the church NEEDS those
gifts in order to be build up.

And God has called us to exercise those gifts in love because the gift without
love is ineffective.

If you’re a Christian you have gifts that are to be used each time we gather.
Church is more than gathering and looking forward to this stage here and
allowing all the “ministry” to be taking place on this stage. Church is
gathering and exercising your gifts one to another. That’s the model Jesus
has left us! That’s the only way the church is going to be build up.

And so I want to say from the very onset that City Church needs to be a
church that allows each member of the body to use their giftings for the body.
That’s true when we gather together on Sunday, it’s true when we gather
together in our small groups, it’s true when you gather together in the park
or at a home or in a restaurant, any place the body is gathered together we
should be building up one another through our gifts. That’s chapter 12 –
You have gifts…use them!

And now Chapter 13 comes along and shows us the best way to use our
gifts, in the context of love. Because the reality was that the Corinthian
believers had gifts, were using their gifts, but they were not using them in the
right way.

Paul’s solution to the problem of gifts in the church wasn’t to say, stop using
the gifts. No he says, pursue love when you exercise the gifts!
And that is the word isn’t it…pursue love. In other words, it’s not passive,
it’s not something you can’t control. Love has been hijacked by society. It’s
been redefined and even in the church it can be misunderstood. But
apparently love IS a choice. Love IS something we should seek after. Love
IS something we can tell our hearts to do. When someone offends you,
pursue love. When decisions are made that you disagree with, pursue love.
When it’s tough, when it’s easier to quit…remind yourself that love endures
all things and that we are called to PURSUE love.

We do not have the liberty to define love. God is love and therefore God and
God alone gives to us the proper expression of love. Not our thoughts or
ideas. Certainly not our cultural understanding of love. In fact, in this
chapter we have a list of 15 verbs. Interesting isn’t it. It not just a feeling,
not just an emotion, love is action. And we are called to pursue it! But what
does that mean? How do we pursue love? Remember that love, true love, is
a fruit of the Spirit. So to pursue love we must be pursuing the Holy Spirit.
When Paul says pursue love he is saying, press into the Holy Spirit. Abide in
Christ. You can’t conjure up a desire to love, but you can place yourself
under the ministry of the Holy Spirit and He can change your heart and
radically transform how you love!

There is almost an endless ocean from which to swim in when we come to
this chapter, and to be honest I feel inadequate to preach from this chapter. I
have never had a more difficult time preparing for a sermon. But by God’s
grace, through the work of the Spirit today, we will focus on love in the
context of spiritual gifts.

Think about your gifts pull them up to the forefront of your mind right now.
As you hold them before you I want to answer two things for you this
morning: First of all, what does it look like to use your gift in love and
secondly, what happens when you exercise your gift without love:

Love is patient, not irritable

4 Love is patient
5 it is not irritable

If you want to see patience modeled, look no further than Jesus. How many
times did his disciples say dumb things?

Beware of the leaven of the pharisees…Oh dang, we forgot to bring bread.
I’m going to Jerusalem to die. Oh, Jesus no you got this one wrong…you’re
not going to go to Jerusalem die…this after he told them over and over
again…I’m going to Jerusalem…to die.

He feeds thousands with a miracle and the next time the disciples get an
opportunity to exercise that faith they’re like, “Jesus, there are too many
people…there’s nothing that can be done.” Really?
They argue over positions in heaven. They actually try to KEEP people from
coming to him…Jesus came to be with people and they’re trying to keep them
away!

How many of us would have given up on the disciples? How many of us
would have lost our tempers? How many of us would have been like, “okay,
let’s start over…new group.” But not Jesus.

Do you exercise patience with your gifts? If you minister to someone and
they don’t get it, do you go back? And if they still don’t get it, do you still go
back? Do you show patience to those you serve with, to those more
immature, those who are not as disciplined, those who are not as excellent?
In other words, those needing discipleship, those NEEDING building up. Or
do you dismiss them, complain, write them off?

Ministry is messy. People are difficult. Serving tries our patience. This type
of patience isn’t will power…not it’s based on something sure, something
greater than ourselves.

It is fueled by love:

Love believes all things and hopes all things.

7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things,

The word believe simply means faith and our faith is not in ourselves, it’s not
in our neighbour, no over and over again the scriptures say, believe in Christ,
believe in the son of God. It doesn’t mean believe in anything or everything.
There is a great object of our faith that is immovable – Jesus Christ. Love
believes in Christ and in His work through us!

These are the words of Jesus in John 14:1 – “Let not your hearts be troubled.
Believe in God; believe also in me.”

Love hopes all things, it hopes in a future not yet seen. When you use your
gifts do you come like the little boy with the fish and loaves? I may not have
a great gift, but I have a great God, so you offer it up to him convinced that
He WILL do something with it. Do you serve in the hope that He is working
in you to will and to work for His good pleasure? Or do you come saying, I
don’t really have much and what I do have really couldn’t be of any value.
That’s not love, love trusts the one who has endowed you with those gifts.

Love is Kind, not Rude. v. 4-5

4 Love is patient and kind…it is not arrogant 5 or rude.

Oh the kindness of our Savior. It is His kindness toward us that leads us to
repentance. He is gentle, Isaiah describes him as such: a bruised reed he will
not break, and a faintly burning wick he will not quench;

You feel broken and worthless? Christ binds up the broken-hearted. You feel
your faith is weak? He doesn’t throw water on your faith, he gently blows on
the embers of your heart till faith is alive again.

When When He fed the 4,000 it was in kindness…the scriptures said he saw
them and had compassion on them.

When He saw the crowds in Matthew 9 his kindness reached out to them
because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.
He treated people (saints and sinners alike) with respect and dignity. How
about you? When you serve is it with words of kindness? Are your actions
kind or harsh? Do you treat those you are serving with dignity? Are they
objects or people?

If we are not careful we get so task oriented that people get in the way of
ministry…let us never forget that people ARE ministry. If you’re running
projection or sound you may be working with electronics, but you serve
people and you serve alongside people, and that gift isn’t meant to ensure that
everything goes off perfectly, but that you build up those around you.
Sometimes we can so focus on exercising our gift that we ignore the hurts
and the pains of those we are called to serve. Don’t be task oriented…focus
on the person…that is love.

Love does not envy, is not resentful. v. 4-5

love does not envy or boast; it is not irritable or resentful;

Envy and resentfulness are both about hate. It was envy that caused Cain to
kill Abel. It was envy that sold Joseph into slavery – they hated him and
wanted him dead. It was envy that stirred up a riot in Thessalonica against
Paul – they hated him and wanted him dead. It was envy that motivated the
Pharisees to move forward with their plan of crucifixion.

Envy looks and says I want that which another has. It causes us to hate the
one who possess that which we want. It is a joy stealer. You can be perfectly
content with a gift…UNTIL you see someone else’s gift that is “greater” than
yours. And now that which once satisfied no longer satisfies. To be envious
tries to take by force. But this is not love. Jonathan had the right to the
throne, but willingly gave it up to David, fought for him, protected him,
supported him. John the Baptist amassed disciples only to see them leave
him for Jesus. He doesn’t say, that’s not fair. He doesn’t fight for power or
position…no he does the opposite. “I must decrease and He must increase.”
We don’t see Jesus grabbing power or thrusting himself to the front. It was
His. If anyone had a right to power and position, it was Jesus. People often
tried to encourage him to take it by force…but he refused. He entrusted
Himself to God and allowed God to exalt Him.

It’s easy for us to begin to envy another person’s gift. Or perhaps we have
the same gift as someone else, but they have a greater anointing, they have
been given opportunities we have not. Are you willing to serve with the gifts
you’ve been given? Are you willing to serve in the places you have been
planted?

Resentfulness looks at what another has done to us and can’t forgive. That
unforgiveness festers until it bubbles over into hatred. The NIV refers to it as
keeping a record of wrong, to think on the wrong done. This was not Jesus.
He looks at the woman found in Adultery and says does no one accuse you?
Neither do I…He’s not in the record keeping business, he in the record
erasing business. He doesn’t keep our wrongs, he rewrites our wrongs. He
transforms us, conforms us into His image.

Here’s the reality, people will hurt you. Things will go wrong. There will be
plenty of opportunity to make a list of all the wrong that is done to you or in
your ministry team. If we’re not careful we begin to write them off. We
begin to resent them. We begin to hate them. And it steals our joy. Are you
willing to serve those who have more than you? Are you willing to serve
those who have hurt you or made your life more complicated?
They are the very ones who needs building up! They are the very ones who
need you to come alongside them and minister to them with your gifts.

Love does not boast, is not arrogant, does not insist on its own way. v. 4-5

Love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on
its own way;

In other words, Love isn’t selfish. Jesus, the one who could have been
selfish…wasn’t.

He humbled himself by becoming lower than the angels, by being born in a
barn, by being obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross – He
became a curse for us.

The one who could have been arrogant…wasn’t.
He could have dined with Kings but instead chose to eat with criminals.
The one who could have insisted on his own way…didn’t.
In the garden he prayed…not my will, not what I want, not MY way, but
yours God, be done.

Jesus didn’t just teach Luke 18:14 – For everyone who exalts himself will be
humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” He lived it.
When you serve who is exalted? Jesus or you? When you use your gifts
what do your words and your actions point to, yourself or Jesus? Whose
opinions are most important in your service team meetings? Whose ways do
you insist on?

Love rejoices with the truth, not at wrongdoing. v. 6

6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.

There are two key ideas here in the wrongdoing:

It doesn’t rejoice at injustice. Have you seen injustice happen with gifts?
Have you known men and women to peddle their gift like a bootlegger
peddles liquor? They’ll offer you their gift…if you sow a seed of faith into
their ministry. We are not peddlers of the gospel, we offer it freely. We are
not out for gain. We don’t rejoice when wrongdoing happens because of our
gifts.

Jesus came to bring justice. Luke says he returned from the wilderness in the
power of the Spirit, took up the scroll of Isaiah and read of himself:

Luke 4:18
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives
and recovering of sight to the blind,
to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
How about your gifts? Is it used to bring freedom or does it overlook the
oppressed?

Secondly, wrongdoing has to do with unrighteousness.

Jesus didn’t come to approve of unrighteouness, he came to call sinners to
repentance. (Luke 5:32)

Have you seen the misuse of the gifts here, where the gift becomes paralyzed
in the presence of unrighteousness. We have this wrong notion that we can’t
use our gift o confront, we can’t use our gift to call sin sin, we can’t hurt
people’s feelings.

But notice what 1 Corinthians doesn’t say about love:

It doesn’t say that love is accepting of anything and everything, that the mark
of love is tolerance, actually it says quite the opposite, it does not rejoice at
wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. That was a problem at Corinth. On,
they were “loving” and boasting in that love of tolerance. We’re so loving
that a church member is sleeping with his father’s wife and we haven’t said a
word about it…we’re accepting, we love. And Paul comes along and says,
“that’s NOT love.”

No, love rejoices in the truth. Jesus says I am the truth. When he comes to
the woman at the well he doesn’t ignore her sin, he draws it out and sets it
before her that she might be healed. And when repentance comes there is
rejoicing. Rejoices in the truth. This is the rejoicing in Luke 15:6 – 6 And
when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying
to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’ This is
the rejoicing in Luke 15:10 – that doesn’t say that the angels rejoice, I’m sure
that’s true, but it says: there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner
who repents.”

To use your gift in love is to rejoice that your gifts have been used by God to
turn people back to Jesus.

Love bears all things, endures all things. v. 7

7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all
things.

What a beautiful word, to bear all things. It means to cover, like a roof
covers your head.

As Jesus enters Jerusalem he looks over the city and says Matthew 23:27 –
How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her
brood under her wings, To be taken under the wings of God in protection.
The love of Jesus bears the assaults of the enemy on your behalf. He is the
mother hen who sacrifices herself to protect you from the evil one. What of
your gifts? Are you willing to use your gifts at the expense of your own
safety as Barnabas used his gift of encouragement, covered Paul and brought
him into the fellowship…which could have been at great expense. A great
many insults could have been hurled at Barnabas, but that’s what love
does…it shields another from the darts of the enemy. Are you willing to serve
those that perhaps everyone else has condemned, those whose association
with them might make you an outsider? Are you willing to minister when it’s
hard? When the enemy turns his sights on you and you encounter spiritual
warfare…because when you’re active Satan takes note.

Love bears all things…Love endures all things. To bear means to suffer for
your brother, to endure means to suffer because of your brother. You see no
clearer picture of this than the cross.

 

Hebrews 12:2 reminds us that Jesus endured the cross. In other words, he
didn’t give up, even when the very ones he was saving shouted, Matthew
27:40 -If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross.” He could have.
But he chose to endure it. He endured their taunts for them. He served them
while they were inflicting pain on Him.

This describes ministry. Often times the very ones you come to serve bite the
hardest. Is your serving of the kind that endures all things? Listen to how
Paul described his endurance: 2 Timothy 2:10 Therefore I endure everything
for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation that is in
Christ Jesus with eternal glory.

Let us go back to the church I mentioned at the beginning. If you were to go
to Barcelona today and walk into the church you would find that it is still
undergoing construction. It is the longest ongoing construction project ever!
How is that possible? In 1936 the Spanish Civil War broke out, three days
after the war began a band of youth broke into the church, burned the room
where the blueprints were housed, smashed the models, moulds, and plasters
so that by the time the war had ended the architects were left scratching their
head, not having a clue how to build what Gaudi had started. Every time we
refuse love, every time we exercise our gifts without love we are smashing
the very things that Jesus left us in order to build up the church.

The chapter begins with these outrageous statements: Without love your
gift does not build up. Your gifts of tongues become noise (a noisy
gong), it’s useless. If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have
not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.

But then he gets even more personal. Without love it’s not just that
your gift is nothing…YOU are nothing. You’re more than the measure
of your gift. Your worth is found in Christ alone, not what you do. Do you
love Him Do you receive His love? For the love in 1 Corinthians isn’t just
love your neighbor, but it is predominately, love the Lord your God with all
your heart soul mind and strength. Don’t get so wrapped up in doing that you
lose sight of WHY you do…it is an expression of Love to the one who is
worthy of your love.

Remind yourself often that the gifts pass away. I won’t be preaching in
heaven. You won’t be prophesying in heaven. Those tongues you so
desire…will pass away. If you crave these things that are passing away (and
we should…earnestly desire the spiritual gifts) how much MORE should we
crave that which doesn’t pass away? How much more should we crave that
which will last for all eternity? How much MORE should we crave LOVE?
How much more should we crave Jesus…God is Love…for God so loved the
world he gave his son. God has given you the Holy Spirit in order to make
you like Jesus. And He has called you to use your gifts to build up the church
and make others like Him. So whatever gift you have, use it in LOVE

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *