Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Avoiding the Big Zero

Leslie Basham: If you’ve ever attended a symphony orchestra you’ve heard them begin by tuning. But we don’t go to hear the orchestra tune. We go to hear them play together.

This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Tuesday, February 2.

If we speak without love, our words are just noise kind of like an orchestra tuning. But when we speak with love it can be as beautiful as a moving concert. Today Nancy will encourage us to let godly love influence our speech. Let’s join Nancy.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: We’re looking this week at the great love chapter. Some have called it a hymn of love1 Corinthians 13. We've seen how the Corinthian church had a whole host of problems that were the result of a loveless religion. Lack of love in their relationships with God and with one another created all sorts of divisions and conflict and contention, all sorts of problems.

Paul had to write a whole book just to address the problems that were created in this church because they did not know how to love one another with the love of God. They were selfish, rather than loving. We said that genuine love is totally giving of myself to meet the needs of another person without expecting anything in return.

Now as we turn today to 1 Corinthians 13, we want to look particularly at the first paragraph, the first three verses. Paul makes a beautiful statement about the priority of love, the necessity of love. Let me read those first three verses.

Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. Though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. Though I bestow all of my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but I have not love, it profits me nothing (verses 1-3, NKJV).

Let's take apart some of these different expressions and just see what Paul is saying here. He says in verse one, "If I had the ability to communicate with the tongues of men and even of angels"if angels had a different language. There's no evidence in the Scripture that they do. But he says, "If I could communicate with great eloquence, if I could speak great truths to other people, if I didn't speak those truths in love, I would fall short."

If I'm teaching my children, if I'm teaching a Sunday school class and I'm a persuasive communicator but I don't have love, what does he say? I'm just making noise. I'm like sounding brass or a clanging cymbal.

You may have heard an orchestra when it's tuning up before a concert. What a noise! Those instruments, that when they begin to play together make such a beautiful sound, when they're just tuning up and all playing their own thing, it's a horrendous sound. It makes you want to put your hands over your ears. Paul says that's what a family is like. That's what a church is like. If we're speaking the truth but we don't have love, it's just like a bunch of instruments making a loud noise.

By the way, let me say that the world isn't impressed with the noise that we make as believers when we're making that noise without love. When we go out into the world and we communicate the Gospel of Christ, as true as it may be, if they don't sense in us a heart of selfless love, they're not going to be impressed by our message. They're going to feel that we are just making a loud noise.

Paul says in verse 2, "If I had extraordinary spiritual gifts, the gift of prophecy (the greatest spiritual gift, he says, in 1 Corinthians). If I had this great gift so that I could declare God's truth to people, but I didn't exercise that gift in love, I would be nothing."

Jonah is a man who comes to mind when I think of a man who was a prophet. He went to Nineveh, finally. He spoke the truth to those people, but he didn't do it with a heart of love. A great contrast to Jonah is the prophet Jeremiah.

We read in the book of Jeremiah and the book of Lamentations that this prophet of God who had a tough message to deliver to his nation, proclaimed judgment of God. He proclaimed truth, but he did it with a compassionate heart.

Paul says, "If I understand how all of the Scripture fits together and I can explain it to other people but I don't have love, what does it add up to? Zero. Nothing."

Let me say that this is an issue I think particularly we need to hear as women. Many of us have the opportunity to be involved in Bible studies and classes. We're able to go and study the Word. There are some great Bible study programs available, particularly for women today. Here is one of the dangers. Paul said also in the Book of 1 Corinthians that if we just have knowledge without love, what does it do to us? It puffs us up. It makes us arrogant. It makes us hard to live with.

I've heard pastors and husbands express in different ways how difficult they find it to really lead the women in their church or to lead their wife. Even though as women we say we want men to be spiritual leaders, do you know how the men feel sometimes? It's that we know so much and we make sure that they know that we know so much, that they're intimidated by our knowledge. Why? It's not wrong to have the knowledge. What's wrong is if we have the knowledge without the love.

If my knowledge of the Word of God does not make me more humble and more gracious and more tenderhearted toward men of God and more encouraging of them in their position of spiritual leadership, then what has my knowledge profited me? Nothing.

Paul says, "Even if I have the gift of faith." I think of some believers that I know who are able to trust God for some incredible things. They just believe God. Paul said, "If I have the kind of faith that can move mountains. but I don't have love . . ." It's good to have faith. It's good to have knowledge. It's good to have spiritual gifts. It's good to use those spiritual gifts. But if I don't have love at the heart of how I use that faith and that knowledge and those spiritual gifts, then it all adds up to nothing.

He talks in verse 3 about the matter of being generous. "If I bestow all my goods to feed the poor." I give everything I have. Agape loveGod's loveis always self-sacrificing. But it's possible to be self-sacrificing and not have love.

Amy Carmichael said it this way: "You can give without loving, but you cannot love without giving."1 If we're doing our giving in order to be seen by others, if we're doing it for recognition or praise or we're giving out of duty or obligation"that's what I'm supposed to do"but we don't do it for love of God and love of others, then Paul says it profits me nothing.

We have a lot of mothers in this room. There is probably not a mother here who hasn't made enormous sacrifices for your children. You make sacrifices for your mate. Many of those sacrifices go unappreciated, unseen, unrecognized. But ask yourself this question: "Is my giving in my home motivated by love? Or is it motivated by a desire to be loved in return?" Genuine love is totally giving of myself to meet the needs of others without expecting anything in return.

Then Paul talks about the ultimate sacrificemartyrdom. "If I lay down my life for the cause of the Gospel, I give up my body to be burned . . ." He is talking about a degree of self-sacrifice that we've read about, but most of us can hardly imagine. If I give up my life but it's not motivated by love, then Paul says, "It has lost its spiritual value. It is worth nothing."

Love is not only the act, but it is also the heart behind the act. So Paul says, if I could paraphrase this in a very modern way,

Though I keep a spotless house and though I'm faithful in church attendance and though I work in the church nursery every other Sunday and though I lead a Bible study or teach a Sunday school class and though I homeschool my kids and all that that requires, if I do it without love, I am nothing.

And if I take care of my sister's kids while she has a hospital stay and if I make enormous sacrifices for my family but do it out of a sense of obligation or a desire to impress rather than love, it's worth nothing.

If I stay married to the same man for fifty years but I don't have God's love for him, what does it profit? Nothing. Though I bring my aging parents to live in my home and care for them for years and though I share my faith with others and though I read my Bible and memorize Scripture and though I give generously to the poor and to the missionaries and to other ministries and though I volunteer in local efforts in our community and have not love, it's nothing.

The Lord made it even more practical for me this morning. I would say, "Though I teach women's conferences, though I spend hours studying and preparing to do this radio ministry to invest in the lives of others, if I do it without love, do you know what I am at the end of my life? A big fat zero. Nothing." So Paul says, "Follow the way of love."

Oh Father, how You have convicted my heart as I've studied this passage, about the many acts of service, the many Christian works and deeds that I've done without a heart of love. And far more than I would like to admit, the sum total of many of those works has been nothing.

God, would You cleanse me of a loveless life and would fill me with Your lovea love that is truly devoted to You and to others and is willing to lay down my life with no expectation of receiving anything in return? Would You make me a lover as You are the supreme lover? I pray in Jesus' name, amen.

Leslie Basham: How many times do we serve other people and do work for the Lord all without love? Nancy Leigh DeMoss has been reminding us that anything we do without love is ultimately meaningless. She’ll be right back with the second half of today’s teaching.

But we stepped in to help you make this message personal through a helpful booklet called How’s Your Love Life? Nancy, what motivated you to write this booklet?

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: As I was preparing to teach this series, God really used this passage, 1 Corinthians 13, in my own life. I was just convicted at multiple points that even if I can be a great speaker, prepare great messages, have a great radio ministry, write great books, that if I don’t have a heart characterized by love, then as far as God’s concerned, it’s all meaningless.

God used 1 Corinthians 13 to help me identify what His kind of love looks like and to evaluate whether those characteristics are true in my own life. So I developed this little booklet as a practical tool to go with this series to help people walk through those qualities, those characteristics of love that are found in 1 Corinthians 13. With each of those qualities there’s a series of diagnostic questions, questions to help evaluate our own lives in light of the Word of God.

I find that a tool like this helps me go from just being a hearer of the Word to actually being a doer of the Word, learning to love God’s way.

Leslie Basham: You can get a copy of the booklet, How’s Your Love Life? Along with the CD series of the same name when you donate any amount to Revive Our Hearts. Just donate at ReviveOurHearts.com, or you can call us at 1-800-569-5959.

Now let’s get back to the teaching series, How’s Your Love Life?

Nancy: Ever since the 15th century when diamond rings were first used in weddings of kings and queens, diamonds have been considered a symbol of enduring love.

I've been told that there are four factors you are supposed to take into account when you are purchasing a diamond.

First is the cut. These are the four "C's:" the cut, the color, the clarity, and the carat.

The cut, when a diamond is cut well, it allows the most light to be reflected back up through the top of the diamond. I'm told that cutting is a fine art, and it takes a lot of years of experience to really be a good diamond cutter.

Then there is the matter of color. Color interferes with the way that a diamond reflects light so the less color in the diamond, the more valuable it is considered.

Clarity. To determine a diamond's clarity, they look for tiny defects that are within the diamond. They have to take a magnifying glass and magnify that diamond ten times it's normal proportion to find out if there are those flaws or where those flaws are in the diamond.

And then carat. We all know about diamond carats, that's the size of the diamond.

Diamonds have become a metaphor for love. Diamonds, like love, are perfected only over time. It requires great care, attention, and patience to create a brilliant, a valuable gem.

We're looking at the love chapterthe love hymn1 Corinthians 13. We saw in our last session the absolute necessity of love. Not a love that says, "What's in it for me?" but a love that says, "How can I serve you?"

We've seen that the apostle Paul says, "If I have all the spiritual gifts, and I have many spiritual activities I'm involved in, and I know all about great theological truths, but I don't have love, it all adds up to nothing in my life."

Now beginning in verse 4 of chapter 13, Paul's going to talk about the characteristics of love. "Love Is a Many Splendored Thing," a song used to say, and I suppose that could be a title for this paragraph: "Love Is a Many Splendored Thing." Paul talks about 15 different characteristics of love. Seven of them are negative: Love does not . . . or love is not . . . Eight of them are positive characteristics: This is what love is; this is what love does.

As a diamond has many facets, Paul holds up the diamond of love to the light. He challenges us to hold up our lives to the light, and let the Master Jeweler, the Master Cutter, look at our lives and put our lives under a magnifying glass.

I don't know about you, but I don't quite like it when there are flaws in my life. I don't want everybody else to see them. I don't want to magnify those flaws, but it does take putting a magnifying glass of God's Word and His Truth over our lives to say, "Okay, what are the flaws? What are the defects in your love life?"

That's what God has been using this passage to do in my life in recent weeks, and I'm excited to share with you some of what the Lord has been saying to me through these many splendored characteristics of love.

We're going to see as we read these characteristics that love is something that is very active. It's not passive. These are active verbs. For example, love doesn't just feel patient, but Paul is emphasizing the fact that love practices patience, actively, aggressively. Paul's saying love doesn't just have kind feelings, but love actually steps out and does kind things.

As we read this passage, as we read these characteristics, we're going to see that Paul is painting a picture. It's a picture of love, that's obvious in the passage. But you know what else?

It's a picture of Jesus. It's as if Jesus is sitting for the portrait of love. We're going to see that these characteristics describe Him. If we want to have this kind of love, we must allow Jesus to fill our lives.

We must be willing to be emptied of ourselves, because naturally everyone of us is born selfish. But when Jesus comes in and fills our hearts with His love, then we find we're able to love in that same selfless, sacrificial, and serving way that He loved.

Let me read through this paragraph, verses 4-7. I want to encourage you over the next days as you follow along with this series, to perhaps consider memorizing these verses1 Corinthians 13:4-7.

Just one other practical challenge, and that would be to take this whole chapter and read it out loud every day for 30 days, asking God to take this passage and get from our heads into our hearts and into our lives.

Let me read this paragraph, verses 4-7.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails (NIV).

How's your love life? We're going to take a little love test over these next days.

We begin with the first quality of love: Love is patient. "Love suffers long" some of your translations say. That's actually a good translation because love does require suffering. Sometimes it requires suffering not just for the short-term, but for a long time. This kind of patiencethis long-sufferingspeaks of a capacity to be wronged and not to retaliate even when it's in your power to get back.

This kind of patience is speaking of being long-suffering with people who really try your patience, people who get on your nerves. Does someone come to mind?

This kind of patience is the opposite of anger. A loving person is slow to anger. He refuses to pay back evil for evil. There's no retaliation.

It’s a kind of love that's willing to be taken advantage of. It's a love that is concerned more for the welfare of others than for how they affect my life.

If you want to have God's love and if you pray for God's love, expect that God will probably put some people in your life who are really hard to love.

But true lovethis long-suffering, long-tempered, slow-to-be angry lovedoesn't look out for how they affect me. It looks out for,"How can I really help that person and be committed to that person's best interests?"

This kind of long-suffering love is not just gritting your teeth: It's not just enduring, though there is endurance involved. It's active, aggressive, long-suffering. It's investing in the very lives of the ones who've hurt me the most.

Some of us get a little uncomfortable when we read, particularly those Old Testament passages, about God wiping out whole groups of people who have sinned. We think, "Oh, that seems so harsh a judgment!"

What astounds me more than that is the fact that there are so many groups of people that God never wipes out. It astounds me that God hasn't wiped me out, because every one of us deserves the wrath and judgment of God.

But more often than not, God withholds His judgment. He withholds His anger. And Peter tells us why. He doesn't want any to perish. He wants all to have opportunity, time to repent, to come to the knowledge of the truth. God is holding back His righteous anger against sin. He withholds judgmentnot foreverbut for now, so that we can have opportunity to repent.

He calls us to endure, to suffer long in that way. So in the big things of life and in the little everyday things, God says, "Love as I have loved you with a love that is patient, a love that is long-suffering."

  • Do you have that kind of love?
  • How do you respond when people annoy you?
  • How do you respond when they pull out in front of you in traffic?
  • How do you respond when people are unreasonable or unfair?
  • Do you have patient love?
  • Are you willing to be taken advantage of?
  • Are you genuinely concerned for the welfare and the best interest of those who have wronged you?

That's God's kind of love, and He wants to fill our hearts with long-suffering, patient love, the love of Christ.

Leslie Basham: Nancy Leigh DeMoss has been pointing us to Jesus as our perfect example of sacrificial love. We want to help you grow in Christ-like love, and Nancy's written a booklet to help you learn more. It's called How's Your Love Life? If you study the scriptures that are included and prayerfully answer the questions, you will start to learn how to show more love to the others around you.

We'll send you How's Your Love Life? as our gift when you make a donation of any amount to Revive Our Hearts. You’ll also receive our current teaching series on CD.

Make your donation at ReviveOurHearts.com, or call us at 1-800-569-5959.

What would you do if you were in this woman’s situation?

Woman: I’ve been married for 55 years and my husband has never really met my needs. I know when I’d been married about 20 years many people said I should get a divorce. And I said, “That’s not God’s way.”

Leslie Basham: Hear more of the story and learn how to love when it’s difficult, tomorrow on Revive Our Hearts.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: Father thank You for the incredible love that You have shown to us in Jesus Christ. You are the measure of love. In our hearts we know that we cannot love apart from You. So I pray that You would empty us of ourselves and fill us with the Spirit of Christ who is love. For Jesus’ sake I pray it, amen.

Revive Our Hearts is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

 Amy Carmichael quoted in Power of True Success. Institute of Basic Life Principles, p. 31.

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