How you do something matters. Motives matter. Why you do or don’t do things matters. The scary truth is easily apprehended when Mark quotes Isaiah, “This people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.” Does this not cause you to tremble that we can sing praises to God but not mean what we sing? It’s just noise. It’s worthless worship. Please, Lord, don’t let us be this way! Fill us with your Spirit!
Chapter 13 moves from gifts of the Spirit to fruits of the Spirit. It’s not enough to have the gifts of the Spirit without the fruits of the Spirit. Tongues of men and angels…of angels without love is just empty and loud clanging. Though the loudest often gets the most attention it is certainly not the determiner of truth.
Gifts of the Spirit are good things. It’s good to know all mysteries and all knowledge. It’s right and important to know theology. But I’ve heard Mark Dever say to the interns something like this, “If you can’t put the Systematic Theology book down and go help an elderly member get to church your theology is worthless.” Can you see this scene? …..A group of guys sitting around wrestling with the truth of God while their fellow brothers and sisters are in need of their assistance.
The fact is all of us fail at this is some way or another more often than we would probably like to admit or have probably even noticed about ourselves. We so need brothers and sisters who love us dearly to point these things out to us. That’s what Paul is doing. If this church needed it then we do too.
You must start with the facts about ourselves in order to be on guard. A believer can possibly give away all his possessions to the feed the poor just to be noticed instead of selfless love. A believer can possibly surrender his body to be burned at the stake (martyrdom) with utter hatred of those who carried out this grievous act. Yet, it seems a centurion noticed something distinctly different in HOW Jesus died on the cross that persuaded him to confess, “Truly this was the Son of God.”
I’m certain that centurion had witnessed and participated in countless crucifixions but never had he heard someone say, “Forgive them for they know not what they do.” Nor had they ever experienced an innocent man not plead his own case! The “how” matters. Selfless love displays the selfless Savior.
This causes me to think of this verse: “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church, – Colossians 1:24. Paul does not in any way add to what Christ has done but rather in his selfless sufferings he was making Christ’s suffering visible to the world! What was lacking was Christ’s sufferings being made known…visible…imaged for the world to see!
I so want the world to see Jesus in me. Selfishness hides and distorts the image of Christ. The Lord has been so kind and patient to show me through this letter and by His Spirit so many ways that I am selfish. I have so much that needs to change in me. It is impossible to fix selfishness. But God is the God of the impossible.
I was speaking with someone about a verse in 1 Corinthians 15 this morning and I was trying to figure out how that chapter on the resurrection fit into Paul’s attempt to correct so much selfishness. Well I think the answer to slaying selfishness is only found in the gospel. It is our nature to be only concerned about ourselves. But the Selfless Savior died a selfless death and was buried alone in an empty tomb that he might save selfish people!
The resurrection, in particular, should relieve us from living for ourselves now when we will live forever with Jesus! Let us love like Jesus! Let us put off childish ways (the world revolves around me) and put on maturity (Christ is the center of my life). This is still a more excellent way!