Revive Our Hearts Podcast

How to Make Your Love Overflow

Leslie Basham: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Monday, February 1.

If you do a Google search on the word love, you’ll find millions of websites. That’s a lot of information—actually, a lot of misinformation. If you do a search in the Bible, you’ll find some things that will change your life. That’s what we’re going to do the next couple of weeks. Focusing on 1 Corinthians 13 as Nancy begins a series called How’s Your Love Life?

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: Dear Dr. Tracy, one woman wrote to a counselor for the lovelorn.

I have a dilemma. My husband and I have been married for four years and have a wonderful son. We’ve had our share of problems, but we’ve always seemed to work things out. Lately, I can’t stand to talk or even be around him. I’ve told him before that I’m not in love with him, and he just says, “That happens.” But I’m not happy at all. He’s a great guy, just not for me.

What should I do? I want to leave and get on with my life, but I also don’t want to hurt a great guy. I don’t want to take his only son away from him. Please let me know what you think.

Confused in New York.

Dr. Tracy writes back:

Dear Confused,

You are obviously in a relationship that doesn’t work for you now, and maybe never did. You are not in love with your husband and show no desire for him. Why would you want to stay with him?

If you’re bored or indifferent or out of love now, it won’t get better. You’ve been together four years, and you can’t stand to even be around him. In four more years, you will be even more unhappy.

You are too young to settle for a life without love.

You say you want to leave and get on with your life. The sooner you do just that, the better off you and eventually your husband will be. Give yourself a future. Give your son a chance to grow up in a home with people who truly love each other.

Good luck,

Dr. Tracy

Now, this woman is truly confused as is Dr. Tracy because neither of them understands the nature of true love. It’s not just true of this woman and Dr. Tracy. This is an epidemic of misunderstanding about love that is rampant in our world.

When the great Russian poet Pushkin finally married in 1831, he said it was "the 113th time that he had fallen in love." Obviously he didn’t know the meaning of the word love.

The world is desperate for love, and everyone in this room has a longing to experience and to know the meaning of love. But so many times we are sadly mistaken in our understanding of the meaning of true love.

So we use the word love very casually. “I love pizza. I love ice cream. I love my new dishwasher. I love my new baby.” We use one word—love—to describe things as different as my new dishwasher and my new baby.

To find the meaning of true love, we have to go back to the Word of God because God Himself is love. He defines love, and in His Word we discover the meaning of real love. The word agape is one of the rarest words in the ancient Greek language and literature, but it’s a word that’s commonly used in the New Testament because only the Christian faith has a real comprehension of and appreciation for the meaning of true agape love.

Now, what does that word mean? Well, unlike our English word love for the way we often use the word love, the Greek word agape never refers to romantic feelings. It never refers to sexual love. It doesn’t refer to just having warm feelings about someone or something. It’s not a word that speaks of just close friendship or brotherly love. There are other words that communicate those needs. It has nothing to do with that slushy, sentimental approach that many take for love today.

So what is agape love? What is genuine godly love?

As we look at the Scripture, and we see the way that God communicates about love, we see that real love, agape love, is a God-quality. That means it’s something that we don’t have naturally. We have to have God in our lives to have this kind of love. It’s a God quality that always acts in self-sacrifice.

So really, to talk about self-love, self-seeking is not love at all because genuine love, God’s agape love, always acts in self-giving, self-sacrifice, laying down of my life, not seeking to be pleased myself.

I heard a definition of love, godly love, years ago that has really stuck in my heart and something that I keep coming back to. It becomes a measuring tool for my own love. This person said that genuine love is totally giving of myself to meet the needs of another person without expecting anything in return. Did you get that? Totally giving of myself to meet the needs of another person without expecting anything in return.

Now, it’s easy sometimes to give to meet the needs of another person, but I find that often I have this subtle, secret, hidden desire for that love to be reciprocated. I’m doing something to serve so that person will love me in return, but genuine love is giving myself, totally, laying down my life if need be for the benefit and the good of another person without expecting to get anything in return.

God’s agape love, that love that starts in the heart of God and that He wants to put into our hearts, is not ultimately a feeling. Now, there can be some loving feelings that God puts in our hearts, but ultimately, true love is not a feeling. Rather, it is a determined act of my will. That kind of love always results in determined acts of self-giving. The supreme measure, the example of agape love is God’s love for us.

Romans chapter 5 tells us that, “When we were powerless, Christ died for the ungodly,” and it says, “God demonstrates His own love for us in this way: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. . . . When we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to Him through the death of His Son” (verses 6, 8, 10).

So we have a God who loved us, not because we deserved it; not because He found anything beautiful or attractive or desirable in us, but just because He is love.

When we were powerless to do anything for Him; when we were enemies of God; when we were bent against God; when we were rebels running from God . . . You say, “I was never that way. I came to know Jesus as a four-year-old child.” Perhaps that’s your experience as it was mine, and you can't remember ever being an enemy of God.

According to God’s Word, I was God’s enemy. I was bent on rebellion against God even as a two-, three-, and four-year-old child. The Scripture says when I was in that condition, God loved me. He loved you, and He demonstrated that love in the supreme act of self-sacrifice.

What did He do? God so loved the world, He gave His only begotten Son—the most precious gift that He had (see John 3:16). He gave Himself. He gave His life. That is the supreme measure and example of love. When Jesus came to this earth in the form of a man, He came to help us see the love of God.

John chapter 13 tells us that “having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the uttermost” (verse 1, paraphrased). He loved them to the full extent of love. What does that passage go on to say? He got down and washed the feet of His creatures. Love is not just an emotional attraction. Rather, it’s selfless, humble service to meet the needs of another person, no matter how lowly or menial that service, that task may seem, and no matter how undeserving is the recipient of that love, the person that we’re serving.

Scripture tells us that kind of love ought to be the supreme mark of the people of God. Jesus said “that’s how people will know that you belong to Me.” It’s not because you’ve memorized your Bible. It’s not because your church buildings are overflowing. It’s not because you have all kinds of programs. “The way that the world will stop and take notice of your relationship with Me,” Jesus said, “is that you love each other the same way, in that selfless, sacrificing, serving way that I have loved you” (see John 13:34).

So the Scripture tells us, “pursue love” (1 Corinthians 14:1). Go hard after it. Make it your aim; make it your goal to learn how to love. We’re told that wives are to learn how to love their husbands and how to love their children. Did you know that you can learn how to love?

Paul says to the Thessalonians, “I want you to increase and abound in love” (1 Thessalonians 3:12), not just a little bit of love. I want you to always be growing in your love, to abound in love, to have overflowing love.

Peter says, “Love one another with a pure heart fervently; be earnest in your love” (see 1 Peter 4:8).

Leslie: Nancy Leigh DeMoss has been asking, “How’s your love life?” That’s the name of the series she’s beginning today, and she’ll be right back with the second half of today’s teaching, but first, I need to just step in here and remind you of an opportunity to join with women around the world who are preparing to come to Chattanooga March 25-27. The True Woman Conference will be here before you know it, and if you haven’t made plans to join us in Chattanooga, do it now.

Don’t miss the chance to hear from pastors Voddie Baucham and James MacDonald along with Nancy, Kay Arthur, Mary Kassian, Fern Nichols, and many other speakers who will show you what it means to be God’s true woman for such a time as this. Get more information at ReviveOurHearts.com.

Now, let’s get back to Nancy Leigh DeMoss and the series, How’s Your Love Life?

Nancy: What would you say about a church that has these kinds of problems:

  • A church that has divisions and factions, envy, strife, contention?
  • A church where there’s a competitive spirit?
  • A church where members are going around suing each other? A lot of lawsuits in that church.
  • A church where people practice gross forms of immorality and then condone the immorality of others?
  • A church where divorce is rampant?
  • A church where people take advantage of each other?
  • A church where people are selfish in their marriage relationships and withhold physical love from each other?
  • What would you say about a church where people get drunk at the communion service?
  • How about a church where women are out of order, are speaking out of turn, are disrupting services, and are not fulfilling their God-ordained role in the church or in the home?

What would you say is the basic issue in that kind of church?

As I read that list, some of you realized that I was describing the church in Corinth, the New Testament church, and all those problems we just listed are described in the book of 1 Corinthians. This was a church that had all of those problems and more. So what was the basic issue? Well, there were a number of issues, but one the apostle Paul keeps coming back to is the issue of love.

  • Here was a church that had spiritual gifts, many of them, and they were actively being used.
  • Here was a church that had a great heritage, that had many great teachers of the Word.
  • Here was a church that, for the most part, was characterized by right doctrine.

But there was something missing.

The absence of love in the church of Corinth created multiple other problems. The absence of love in our churches, in our relationships creates multiple problems. It’s possible to be doctrinally sound and orthodox but not to have love. It’s possible to be active in church work but not to have love.

Just as the absence of love creates a multiple of problems, so the presence of love in a church, in a home, in a work place, in a nation—the presence of love can solve almost every problem that you can think of. The presence of agape love, God’s love, that kind of love that is self-giving, self-sacrificing, that kind of love that serves, is committed to the best interests of the other person and doesn’t expect anything in return.

As you read the book of 1 Corinthians, you see a people who were promoting their own interests. What they really cared about was, “How will this decision impact my life? What will make me feel good? What will make me happy?”

Now as you read through the book of 1 Corinthians, Paul talks about many of the expressions of love and what a difference love would make in a community of believers because only true Christians can have true love.

We said yesterday that love is a God quality. It’s something that we don’t have naturally, something that we can’t manufacture or engineer. So if you’re not a Christian, you cannot really love other people in the way that God has commanded us to love. God is love, and true love comes from Him.

Paul is writing 1 Corinthians to a group of people who claim to be believers. He’s saying, “You have access to the love of God. In fact, the love of God,” he tells us in Romans, “has been shed abroad in your hearts by the Holy Spirit. The love is there. There’s access to it, but you’ve got to be willing to appropriate that love and live it out in your daily relationships, in the nitty-gritty of everyday life.”

Now as you read through the book of 1 Corinthians, you see so many evidences of what would be true if there really were love.

Some time ago I read through the book of 1 Corinthians and just tried to make a list of, “What are the expressions of genuine love? What is the way of love?” Paul says we’re to pursue love; we’re to walk in the way of love. What is that way look like? In the book of 1 Corinthians, Paul says that if we really love each other:

We will respect each other and each other’s gifts and strengths.

We will be joined together in the same mind, working toward a common goal instead of working against each other.

We will think of each other as family. He says, “Brothers and Sisters.” There’s relationship that’s possible.

If we’re walking in the way of love, Paul says, we will nurture other believers spiritually. We will be feeding the Word of God to those in spiritual need.

The way of love is the way of humility, esteeming others as better than ourselves, lifting them up rather than lifting ourselves up.

If there’s love, Paul says, we will mourn over sin in the body of Christ, and, when necessary, we will exercise discipline for the possibility of restoration with the goal of the person who has sinned being restored.

If we’re walking in the way of love, we’re going to speak well of other servants of God. We’re not going to be critical with our tongues. We’re going to speak words of commendation and affirmation about God’s servants.

In a church or a family or a community that has love, there’s going to be a willingness to be wronged without retaliating. There’s not going to be a vengeful spirit or a getting even or a getting back. I’ll be willing to absorb the wrongs that are done to me.

In a church that has love, they will not have sexual immorality. They will be morally pure, and in a church where there’s love, in a family where there’s love, in a marriage where there’s love, men and women will give themselves wholeheartedly and fully to their mate. They will stay with that mate for life, even if that mate is an unbeliever. Paul says this is an expression of the way of love.

Paul speaks to those who are single. He says if you’re walking in the way of love, you won’t be saying, “How can I fulfill myself? How can I be happy? How can I be satisfied?” Instead, you’ll be asking God, “How can you serve Him? How can your life be fully devoted to His kingdom?”

In a community where there is love, we will build each other up. We will edify each other, and we will limit our own personal freedoms if need be in order to build others up. We won’t do anything, even if it’s scripturally permissible, if it might cause someone else to stumble in their walk with God. That’s the way of love.

If we’re walking in the way of love, we’re going to be willing to yield our rights rather than claiming our rights. We’ll be willing to even suffer, if need be, so that the Gospel of Christ will never be hindered, so that others will never think poorly of it.

If we’re walking in the way of love, we’re going to choose the pathway of a servant.

Paul says we’re going to flee idolatry, and we’re going to flee fornication, immorality.

We will always engage only in those things that edify or build up others. We will seek the best interests of others. We will do all for the glory of God, and we will seek to please others rather than to please ourselves.

In that context Paul writes to the Corinthians. He’s been talking at some length about the matter of spiritual gifts and the abuse of spiritual gifts and how people were using spiritual gifts that came from God to tear each other down and to be competitive with each other.

Paul says, “I want you to walk in the way of love. Let love be the rule. Let it be the law of your life." The love of Christ:

  • Let it govern everything that you do.
  • Let it govern the way that you do church.
  • Let it govern the way that you do marriage and parenting.
  • Let it govern your relationships when you leave church and go out into the world.

Then Paul describes that way of love.

I want to read a portion from 1 Corinthians 13, the great love chapter. We’re going to be reading this passage several times over the next several days because I want us to get this passage into our hearts to be reminded of the way of love. Paul says in verse 1,

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. [Love] 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, and always perseveres. Love never fails.

Then down to the last verse of the chapter.

And now, these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

Then what’s the very next verse, verse 1 of chapter 14? “Follow the way of love.”

Leslie: To help you follow the way of love, we’d like to send you a booklet Nancy Leigh DeMoss has written called “How’s Your Love Life?” We’ll offer a love quiz to help you evaluate your level of love, and it will help you apply 1 Corinthians 13 to your life. If you go through the booklet as part of your daily Bible study, you may begin to see a lot more evidence of love in your life.

Just ask for the booklet “How’s Your Love Life?” when you make a donation of any amount to the ministry of Revive Our Hearts, and you’ll receive our current series also called How’s Your Love Life? on CD.

We’re a listener-supported ministry, and we rely on our prayers and financial gifts to help us fulfill our mission. And Nancy, our current series, How’s Your Love Life? really fits with that mission.

Nancy: Yes it does, Leslie. On Revive Our Hearts, we’re calling women to freedom, fullness, and fruitfulness in Christ. So many women today are not experiencing freedom or fullness in their marriages and relationships. I’m sure you’ve been to weddings and seen couples walk down the aisle of a church, heard the preacher recite 1 Corinthians, the passage we’ve been studying today, but so many of those same couples end up one day walking down the aisle of the divorce court.

Now, I realize there are a lot of different issues that may be involved in the breakup of a marriage, but I’m confident we’d see a lot more couples staying together if each person would allow God’s love to flow through them to their mate. So many problems that you and I have in our relationships could be solved if we would learn to pursue love.

That’s the message we’re trying to teach women every day on Revive Our Hearts. We’re able to do that because of the prayers and financial support of listeners like you. So would you consider what you can give to the ministry of Revive Our Hearts?

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

You know, Nancy, when we speak without love, we’re just making noise.

Nancy: That’s right, Leslie, and it reminds me of an email I just received from a listener. She said, “For all the flowery speeches I can give at retreats, or speak with the knowledge of men and of angels in Sunday school, my tongue lacks love toward my husband. I am a clanging bell, and who wants to live with that?”

Tomorrow we’ll hear how love can affect the words we say. I hope you can join us again for Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the New International Version unless otherwise noted.

 

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