Classic Christianity – A Closer Look at Faith, Hope & Love P48 (08-05-20)
We got through sharing in 1 Corinthians 13, this use of hyperbole, a literary construct that uses exaggeration to prove a point. Here is the apostle Paul, having been trained under Gamaliel, the rabbi of Rabbis. Paul, formerly described himself as the Pharisee of Pharisees. He later came to know Christ and had spent fourteen years in the desert of Arabia, being taught by no man but Jesus Christ. He was appointed an apostle to bring the gospel to the Gentiles, but he did not start what God had called him to do until those fourteen years of getting to know the love of God. He later wrote that all that training and knowledge under Gamaliel was nothing but dung in comparison to knowing Jesus Christ his Lord. What he wrote here in 1 Corinthians 13 is a letter to the believers in Corinth to straighten out error, to explain the most important truth in scripture, the love of God.
1 Corinthians 13:1-3
1 If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 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 do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
Paul uses four hyperboles to emphasize that without love, anything we do or possess accomplishes nothing for me. So, if I speak in tongues of men or angels, have the gift of prophecy, of knowing all mysteries and knowledge, have a faith that can move mountains, or I give all I possess and give to the poor, but have not love, I gain nothing.
Jesus being God in the flesh is love. Jesus came to demonstrate the love of God. He often spoke in parables to explain the truth. In all these examples, without the love of God, we can do nothing. God wants us to have a teachable and humble heart. Recorded in scripture are events in the lives of people whom Jesus interacted with. We read about Jesus speaking with the Pharisees after healing a man who was born blind, whom Jesus put mud on his eyes and had him wash in the pool of Siloam. Other memorable stories in the bible are the story of Mary and Martha, where Mary was sitting at Jesus’ feet while Martha was worried and bothered about many things. She was busy doing good things, cooking and cleaning and serving, and was upset that Mary was not helping her. But Jesus told her that Mary chose what was better, listening at my feet, and that will not be taken from her.
The encounter with the Pharisees is an example of a pride heart, full of hypocrisy and dead men’s bones, who, though having much knowledge about the scriptures, known as teachers of the law and known to have memorized the first five books of the bible, the book of the Law, but who lacked love. The contrast is astonishing! The man who had little learning, blind from birth, and all he knew was “I was blind but now I see.” Shortly later he met Christ Jesus personally and then he believed, for he saw in front of him the man who made him see, and he believed. Who has ever heard of a man who has made the blind see? This man is the promised Messiah! There are other details in the story that are often missed, about why Jesus would choose to use mud, which Bob explains in the audio.
The second encounter with Mary and Martha is an example of serving in the flesh instead of being motivated by the love of Jesus. So, I think this is such a powerful story and example for us in regard to our motivations. Are we out working in the flesh? Or are we being motivated to work in the Spirit? In both cases there is work. One is motivated by love and the other is motivated by the flesh that says, “I am going to do what I am doing because it is going to make me feel good when I get a compliment and get patted on the back for what a good cook I am and how well I am serving.” When we look at those things, then we ask, “What is my attitude?” What is Martha’s attitude toward Mary’s? Probably the same one as ours would have been. What was her attitude toward Jesus? “Jesus, do you know what you are doing? You are sitting there teaching while my sister is sitting there at your feet. Something is wrong with you. Tell her to get up and tell her to help me.” Some of these women have some audacity. It is unbelievable. I guess we should not be surprised if that does not happen to us sometimes. Martha’s focus was on doing. Mary’s focus was on the Lord Jesus.
Bob also shared an example in his own life, as an example of the loving correction of the Lord Jesus Christ in Revelation 2:2-4. There you read the Lord’s commendation for what they were doing, but then the reprimand of forsaking their first love. In his book Classic Chrisitanity, he records what happened in his own life, of how he got into full time ministry and left his first love. He was so busy now that he did not even have time to study the word of God. He got so busy working for the Lord, even sharing the gospel with hundreds of people, but he had no joy and would often drive home from Dallas with uncontrollable tears. There was no joy in the Lord any more. That realization led him to seek the Lord, and indeed was used by God to bring him back to his first love. Knowing the unconditional love and grace of God transformed his life.
Many can identify with Bob, not that we were ever in full time ministry, but we were busy working for the Lord, going to Sunday services, then to be real spiritual you went to the Sunday evening service. Then you thought if you really wanted to love God, then you went to the evening service, and then Wednesday night, and then visitation. But we had error in our thinking. You had been taught that to be spiritual you had your quiet time and read your bible.
Listen to the audio as Bob also explains what so impacted his life by what a respected business leader said after he came to know the Lord. He said to the pastor, “I do not need a job. I need the Lord.” How is it that people get so excited when a respected business leader, celebrity or athlete comes to know the Lord, and the first thing they want them to do is to get busy for Jesus. The thinking is that now that he is saved, and him being so influential or talented, let us get him busy so he can get people to Christ. That is such damaging advice, and contrary to the teaching of scripture, to put a young believer in such a position. He is an infant in Christ, no matter what his age or position or background. Even the apostle Paul spent fourteen years in the desert of Arabia to learn the unconditional love and grace of God, to get that unbelievable legalistic, Pharisaical thinking out of his head. You have to have that time to be absorbed in the love of God. Then when the time is right, to allow that love of God to direct your heart. What he tells him to do is not your concern or focus. Your job is to encourage him to get to know Jesus, to trust Him and to walk in the Spirit, who is the head of the body.
Where is the emphasis on getting to know Jesus? Then letting Him to direct our paths. What is the attitude of your heart? What is your understanding of love? Is love something you do to get? Is love something that makes you feel good? We had it all backwards. Have you substituted service for love? We have substituted the Agape love of God with a performance-oriented orientation. You are dealing with an underlying fear of whether you are doing enough. Am I doing enough? Am I being accepted enough? Is God pleased with me? How much more do I have to do to be pleasing God?
Return to your first love. Sit at the feet of Jesus. Let Jesus work through you, to realize you are drawing upon Him and His love so that can be expressed in and through you. A branch cannot work for vine. A branch can only abide in vine and let the life of the vine flow in and through that branch and produce vine fruit. Otherwise you are trying to produce branch fruit. That is not exhausting. It is a rest and you are not going to burn out when you are abiding in Jesus.
How many times do we read through things, and maybe we do not have access to the true or deeper meaning to these things, but what is extremely interesting about that, that on the Sabbath, it makes a point to say that Jesus made mud on the Sabbath. Do you know how he made mud? He spit. There is a Jewish law that you cannot work on the Sabbath. So now you have to make up what it means to work. So there are about 613 laws, and one is that you cannot spit on the Sabbath. You can spit on a rock but you cannot spit on the ground, because that would make mud, and that would be considered as work, and you cannot work on the Sabbath so you cannot spit. So they picked up stones to stone him. So you can stone somebody on the Sabbath but do not spit while you are doing it. That is the hypocrisy of that.
So what did Jesus do? The scripture explicitly states that Jesus made mud. He spit on the ground and made mud on the Sabbath. I would not be surprised that they were just as angry for him spitting as for him healing. So they asked the man, “How did you receive your sight?” The man replied, “He made mud and put mud on my eyes, and then I washed and now I see.” Both of these would be considered terrible on the Sabbath, so what did they do because of their interpretation of the law, that you cannot spit and make mud on the Sabbath? That this healing of a blind man who now sees is contributed to who? The Pharisees responded, “He is not from God. He is a sinner”. His works were contributed actually to the devil because he did not follow their tradition. Were they glad the man received his sight? No. They were mad as a hen about it. They were more concerned about making mud and healing on the Sabbath. Do you think they were demonstrating pride or love? Is that the response of love or is that a response of pride?
Does preoccupation with observing the law produce love in a person’s heart or a judgmental spirit in your heart. A preoccupation with observing the law puts you in a position of being totally self centered, self righteous and therefore unbelievably critical of anyone who is not doing what you are doing that you think is what God wants you to do. So from God’s perspective, what is more important, observing the law, or serving someone in love? That is not even talking about God’s love but an interpretation of man’s law.
38 As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. 39 She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. 40 But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”
41 “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, 42 but few things are needed – or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”
Mary and Martha were sisters of Lazareth, for whom the Lord raised from the dead, and were obviously dear women. But Martha was a doer and Mary wanted to sit at the feet and listen to what Jesus had to say. She wanted to learn. She wanted to be taught. She wanted to be discipled. Mary wanted to be busy. If you look at these things and ask, “Where is the balance?” You just cannot sit all day and read your bible and sit at Jesus and say, “I will not do anything for the rest of my life.” You will be a little hungry and a little dirty.
There are a lot of things that can happen there, but it is the preoccupation. There is nothing wrong with preparing things. There is nothing wrong with being a worker, but not at the exclusion of learning. When the time comes to learn, you need to quit the work and set it aside for learning. Quite frankly, that is what the Sabbath day was supposed to be. People were totally preoccupied with their work through the week. They had to. Most of the people were slaves in those days. The one day of the week where they could go and learn was on the Sabbath, knowing the importance of that. You are not going to learn and do all this work.
So then they put all these laws as to what work is. No. This should be a day set apart for learning. That does not mean you cannot push an elevator button or you cannot spit. It means to let us take a day we can study the word together and sit at the feet of Jesus. I do not think it is one or the other. It is keeping those things in proper balance. This is an important lesson for us.
Mary, of course was upset, since she was doing all the work. “Don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself?” Listen to the Lord’s reply.
41 “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, 42 but few things are needed – or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”
Mary has chosen that one thing and it will not be taken from her. Again, to Martha, she thought serving and cooking and all of that was love. I am not saying that could not be but it also does not have to be. The problem is a substitute for what is loving, cooking and serving. He is saying, “No. Mary, that is an act of servitude but love has to come from me. Until you learn to sit at my feet and receive you will never have love. You can do all your deeds. You can work but you will not learn love. The only thing that matters is faith expressing itself through love. You substitute doing for loving. The greatest example of love is Martha sitting at my feet. And I will not take that away from her. I am not going to say, ‘Mary, get up and quit sitting at my feet and learning and go help your sister.’”
The world does not look at it that way. Hold on for a minute. Would not the loving thing to do would be to get up and help your sister. Would that not be the loving thing to do? What are we doing? “Substituting what my definition of love is.” Jesus says, “the most loving thing to do is to sit at my feet and learn from me.” Once you learned about that love then you can serve one another in love. You can serve one another without love or you can serve one another with love. Until you sat at the feet of the Lord and learned of him, not that we loved Him but He loved us first, then you can be serving. But you are not serving in love.
That is what scripture refers to, serving in the flesh instead of being motivated by the love of Jesus. So, I think this is such a powerful story and example for us in regard to our motivations. Are we out working in the flesh? Or are we being motivated to work in the Spirit? In both cases there is work. One is motivated by love and the other is motivated by the flesh that says, “I am going to do what I am doing because it is going to make me feel good when I get a compliment and get patted on the back for what a good cook I am and how well I am serving.” When we look at those things, then we ask, “What is my attitude?” What is Martha’s attitude toward Mary’s? Probably the same one as ours would have been. What was her attitude toward Jesus? “Jesus, do you know what you are doing? You are sitting there teaching while my sister is sitting there at your feet. Something is wrong with you. Tell her to get up and tell her to help me.” Some of these women have some audacity. It is unbelievable. I guess we should not be surprised if that does not happen to us sometimes. Martha’s focus was on doing. Mary’s focus was on the Lord Jesus.
Now again we ask ourselves, “has there been a time in my own life when I substituted service for love?” Yes. I have. What was the attitude in my heart toward those who were serving? What were you doing when you were serving? Were you doing it to draw attention to yourself? I remember a time in my early days as a Christian, sharing Christ with people and kind of looking out the corner of my eye to see who was watching me. I recall praying real loud in a restaurant thinking in my mind that they will think how spiritual I am. I have done those things. I do not like to admit it, but I have done it. To be asked to sit on a platform in church, looking so holy, thinking you are making your ascension into heaven. We are all capable of doing those religious fleshly things. We think that in church you cannot do things fleshly. That is one of the biggest places to do fleshly things. You have to fall in love with Christ. If you have come to Christ, forget thinking about getting busy. Come to know Jesus. “When you come to know My love, then it will be motivated by Me and not by you.”
I told this story in Classic Christianity. It was such a meaningful story to me. I remember an elderly gentleman I spoke once at a Wednesday night prayer meeting. This gentleman came to me afterwards and talked to me. He was a very, very nice guy, but he was deeply distressed. He came to the Lord. I had the privilege of introducing him to Christ that night. The pastor asked if he would respond to one of the services on one Sunday, to openly make a proclamation of his faith. So on Sunday night he came forward, and I was there. I am not saying that critically of the pastor. We all have our faults and our good points. But this was a mindset of doing for Jesus. A pastor called me over and said, “Bob, this man is one of the leading businessmen in this community. He is respected and he knows how to get things done. Bob, I want you to get a hold of him and to get him busy and to get him involved in this and involved in this.” I was standing there.
On this occasion was a total changing point in my life. I saw this big, old guy, probably in his late 70s. Tears were streaming down his face. “Pastor, I do not need a job. I need the Lord.” My heart sank on me. I thought to myself, when are we ever going to learn the truth of this. Here is this brand new babe in Christ, regardless of your age, and calling him right out of the womb and saying to him to get busy. A baby needs to be nursed and cared for and nurtured. It does not need to get busy. We are immediately doing that.
Many times we take these athletes and we see a lot of that. We see that in Dallas recently. These are brand new babes in Christ. What do they do? Get them up preaching on Sunday. The bible says do not let a new convert do that. Why? It feels good. It draws attention to us and before long we think we are the greatest thing, and then you do not grow. What do I need to grow for? Everybody thinks I am wonderful. And I think I am wonderful. We are a thousand miles wide and a quarter inch deep. We do that particularly with celebrities. “This person came to Christ.” “Oh, I tell you if this person could just come to the Lord. How God can use them.” It is so ridiculous to think that unless you are a celebrity God cannot use you. That is a Mary and Martha deal right there.
Jesus is saying, “You are worried and upset about many things but only one thing is needed and that is to sit at my feet and learn from me.” When people come to Christ, they say, “What should I do?” “Get to know Jesus.” “No, what do I need to do?” “No. Get to know Jesus.” Instead of that, we substitute activity. That is such a tragedy what takes place in Christianity today. We burn people out instead of getting them to know the Lord who loves them perfectly and get to know that love.
2 I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked people, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false. 3 You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary.
4 Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first.
You know, we can work hard. That happened to me in my life as I got into this programmatic mentality, of working for Jesus, and sicking them for Jesus. I was just working constantly. I was just doing and doing and doing. When I was a brand new Christian, I buried myself in the word of God. I studied and studied. Then when I went into full time work and did not have time to study any more. Many times I sat back and thought over these days. Here I am in full time work and I was sharing Christ, quite frankly, out of love as a layman. I was studying and learning as a layman. Here I am in full time work and I am so busy I hardly have time to read scripture any more.
I got involved in those types of things. I got involved. I was in charge of huge projects, promotions and revivals, and all this type of thing. I smiled on the outside, but I was dying on the inside. In my book, Classic Christianity, I tell about driving down the freeway with tears down my face. Take me back to the days I first knew you. I lost the joy of my salvation. I had forsaken my first love. Busy and barren. That is a tough place to be, because you are doing everything the Christian world tells you. If you do this you will be happy. If you do right, you will be happy. I was doing all those things in abundance, and yet happiness was the farthest thing from my heart.
As I look at this passage of scripture and analyze it again, it is so easy to see people in these illustrations. I know people like that and I have probably been a part of that. You work hard. Individuals who persevere. I know people who cannot tolerate wicked men. I am talking about all those people who teach false doctrine. They have tested those who have claimed to be apostles and teachers, and they are not. They exposed so many people to those things, exposed cults and bad teaching. They work hard. They persevere. They endure hardship. They have not grown weary in that. But they have endured a lot of hardship and criticism and yet you see, as you listen, a little bit of forsaking your first love. We begin to put our confidence in our intellect. We begin to put our confidence other than the Lord Jesus Christ.
If you want to learn the bible, you have to learn the science of biblical interpretation instead of the Spirit of God, alive living in us, who alone can teach us the meaning of the word God. We learn techniques of witnessing instead of a heart of love. Witnessing. We begin to focus on my knowledge of scripture instead of what God is going to say. If you communicate my love, all those other things will fall into place. We substitute all those other things for the love of God. Well meaning? Yes, but our intellect can get in the way sometimes, and when we do, we lose our first love. This is not good to get up and to blast some people for those type of things, but it is a reminder of the point that we believe the very opposite, even though we know the scripture and have much memorized but for some reason we do not know what it means.
1 Corinthians 2:9-10
9 However, as it is written:
“What no eye has seen,
what no ear has heard,
and what no human mind has conceived”[Isaiah 64:4] –
the things God has prepared for those who love him –
10 these are the things God has revealed to us by his Spirit.
There is only one way you are ever going to know what the word of God means and that is by direct revelation from God. It is not through some scientific biblical interpretation methods. It is not through certain methods people use to study the bible. It is revelation. When God is ready to reveal truth, He is going to reveal it to someone whose heart is open to the truth. When our heads get in the way, you can get through that truth. Pride comes before the fall, knowledge puffs up and the more knowledge that people have the more puffed up they get and the more pride they get, and God’s revelation cannot get through them.
You can certainly learn a lot. You can be a phenomenal flesh teaching., What you learn is out of flesh. You can learn a lot of things. Many Jewish people and even Gentile people, who have studied Psalms and Proverbs, have a lot of wisdom that people can have. But is it springing from love and have I been taught by the Spirit of God? If it has not been taught by the Spirit of God, then you can believe one thing today and something else tomorrow. And sooner or later you can be tossed to and fro by every wind and doctrine. Or, you can teach what my flesh believes and I will stand strong whether it is true or not and yet never be open to learn anything new that God might bring your way. “ This is in orthodoxy and I have learned it and I will hold onto it. ” Instead of stepping back, and saying, “ Hold on a minute, has the Spirit revealed this to me or has tradition revealed this to me. ”
I was listening to a very well known radio ministry, and whom I think is one of the best teachers in Christendom today. He was talking before a group of seminary students as to how in his own life, he was merely repeating what he had been taught without going back and saying, “what does scripture say about this?” Later in life, God’s revelation started taking place. He got new insights. “I used to teach this and now I do not. I used to teach in and out of fellowship and now I do not.” That is a wonderful thing to say. Here is a man with terrific intellect and yet he set that aside. I consider all of that as dung in comparison to knowing Christ. There is only one way to know Christ and that is directly from the Spirit of God, who is alive living in us, our hope of glory.
In Revelation, it is talking about forsaking our first love. Many times activity is what robs us of that joy, of keeping our eyes on Jesus and to look full in his wonderful face.
Turn Yours Eyes Upon Jesus by Alan Jackson
O soul, are you weary and troubled?
No light in the darkness you see?
There’s light for a look at the Savior,
And life more abundant and free!
Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.
We are told to focus on Him. Our eyes are to be on Him and His solution rather than the world and its problems. We all have problems and we are not going to miss those problems in this world. We are going to have tribulation but he says to fear not for I have overcome the world.
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
We said, so many times, that fear is one weapon Satan uses, and the reason for that is because it is the only thing that will keep you from the love of God.
1 John 4:18
18 There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.
When dealing with performance-oriented orientation, you are dealing with an underlying fear of whether you are doing enough. Am I doing enough? Am I being accepted enough? Is God pleased with me? How much more do I have to do to be pleasing God? Do I need to pray more than what I am doing? Do I need to read my bible more? Do I need to attend more meetings? Do I need to go to more bible studies?
We have developed this phantom Christian that this is what it takes to be a Christian. When you go and list all the things you are talking about you die of exhaustion. At the same time that you are doing all these things, you are supposed to be a mother, father, husband, provider, getting time for exercise, rest and meals, and all this. You can go on and on. It is destroying people who are sincere. I do not think you can burn out a person who is not sincere. A sincere person is out trying to work for Jesus. Turn that sincerity into truth. You cannot work for Jesus. You need to let Jesus work through you, to realize you are drawing upon Him and His love so that love can be expressed in and through you. A branch cannot work for vine. A branch can only abide in vine and let the life of vine flow in and through that branch and produce vine fruit. Otherwise you are trying to produce branch fruit. That is not exhausting. It is a rest and you are not going to burn out when you are abiding in Jesus.
1 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2 He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes[a] so that it will be even more fruitful. 3 You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. 4 Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.
5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.
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