Pleasing God

pleasing god

During a Sunday morning service it was asked of the congregation how many of them really want to please God more than anything else. Every hand went up. Then it was asked, “How many of you think God is really pleased with you?” Out of at least 400 people, one 11-year-old boy and one 10-year-old girl raised their hands. That was all.

Very few believers actually believe that they are pleasing to God. Most feel some degree of forgiveness and maybe acceptance, but to think that the Lord is actually pleased with us is another matter. A person can choose to love you because of his or her own goodness, but to be pleased with you, they actually have to like your performance. Right?

With God, no one could ever be pleasing to Him based on performance. His standard is perfection, and no goodness on our part can ever compensate for our sins. We may please man with our actions, but “all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). It takes the precious blood of Jesus to do that.

The way we receive the forgiveness that’s available through Jesus’ blood is by faith (Rom. 10:9-17). When we put our faith in Jesus as our Savior, we are pleasing God. Hebrews 11:6 says, “But without faith it is impossible to please him.”

Faith comes from the heart (Rom. 10:10), and God looks on the heart — not the actions (1 Sam. 16:7). Of course, God sees our actions and will deal with us about them, but only because they are inseparably linked to our hearts (Prov. 23:7). It’s our hearts that really concern God, and faith in Him (trust, reliance) is what He is searching the heart for.

A person whose actions are not right but who trusts the Lord is more pleasing to God than an individual who is doing the right things but has no faith in God. It’s not a case of those who act the best will get accepted, and those who act the worst get rejected. That would put some of the followers of other religions ahead of many Christians, but that is not what the Bible teaches.

This is exactly the point Paul is making in Romans 11:6: “And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work.” That’s old English for saying, “It’s one way or the other but not a combination of the two.” We’re either saved by God’s grace through what Jesus did for us, or we’re saved by what we do without Jesus, but not a combination of the two. The choice should be the obvious.

Elijah is an example of a great man who lived a holy life and didn’t earn God’s pleasure with his actions. He made some serious mistakes. He ran in the face of persecution and became so depressed over it that he asked the Lord to kill him (1 Kin. 19). The Lord gave him three direct commands in an audible voice (1 Kin. 19:15-16), and Elijah never did two of them. Most people would think God couldn’t have been pleased with Elijah, yet Elijah was translated.

Even though our heart conditions influence our actions, we all fail in our performance to some degree. Elijah did. If God used performance as the basis of whether or not He was pleased with us, no one would ever pass the test. “If thou, LORD, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand?” (Ps. 130:3).

Satan used to accuse me and say, “What makes you think God will use you?” The truth is that none of us are perfect, we don’t deserve the blessings of God. Now I put my faith in Jesus. It’s hard for some people to accept this. It has been ingrained in us that if we aren’t holy, God won’t bless us. When God looks at you, He doesn’t see your goodness — He sees Jesus.

If you’re walking in faith, you use faith as the rate of exchange between you and God. God is pleased with you even though your actions don’t measure up. Your life may be a wreck, but God is still pleased with you. Our religion says that is hypocrisy. On the contrary, the worst sin is self-righteousness — the attitude that God owes it to you because you’ve been good.

The difficult thing is that there are no role models for grace. Your employer hires you based on performance. The parent-child relationship is based on performance, even though it shouldn’t be. When it comes to God, your performance can’t earn you anything. If you sin, you need a savior. It is your faith in Jesus that will grant you access to God.

Most people accept this level of grace when it pertains to salvation. However, some of you may think that after you’re born again, God expects you to pray and study; and if you don’t do these things, God won’t bless you. After you are born again, it doesn’t change! Colossians 2:6 says, “As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him.” When we are born again, we come to Jesus just as we are. In fact, if a person has a lot of sin, it’s even more reason to come to Jesus. When it comes to being healed, it’s a different story with most Christians. They think if you haven’t read your Bible today or you had a fight on the way to church, it will keep you from being healed. That’s a double standard. That’s saying that the way you approach God after you’re born again is different. Your actions may not please God today, but you can be healed or delivered in spite of it.

Some of you may think I’m advocating sin. I’m not — your actions are important to you. Your holiness is important because it changes your heart toward God and not God’s heart toward you. Unholiness will hurt you. Even though God will love you just as much, you won’t love God as much. It will harden your heart toward God. It’s like eating. You must eat to stay alive, but eating is not life. If you miss one meal, will you die? If you constantly live in sin and never feed yourself spiritually, it will kill you. I am not saying you should ignore your actions. You will never do everything perfectly, but don’t let it keep you from receiving the blessings of God.

Luke 22 shows us an example of someone who had faith and pleased God. In verses 31 and 32 Jesus is talking to Peter before the crucifixion. “And the Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren.” Peter did blow it tremendously. He denied the Lord three times. He cursed and blasphemed God, and yet Jesus prayed that his faith wouldn’t fail. Jesus’ prayers were always answered. Peter’s actions failed, but not his faith. If Peter hadn’t repented it would have killed him. He was restored to God and went on to become a pillar of the church.

Some of you may be thinking, This is great — I can live like the devil and still get what I want from God.” If you think that, I’d say you aren’t born again, because a Christian wants to please God. This word is for Christians who have a desire to serve God but who still sin. I myself struggle with some of the same sins over and over. When that happens, we sincerely need to repent  of that sin.  It is good that a heart is heavy when we do what we ought not, and we cry out to God for forgiveness.  That means the Holy Spirit is still evident in us.

But if you have repented of a sin with a sincere heart (for sometimes the 100th time) then go on and catch up and stand there with confidence in your Savior. Your faith in Jesus pleases God. None of us get saved and head straight on the path to God. We bounce around, but we’re still heading in the general direction.

“To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved” (Eph. 1:6). You do please God through your faith in Jesus as your Savior, and you must perceive that you please Him.

 

 

http://www.awmi.net/reading/teaching-articles/pleases_god/

Morning Prayer

 

expectant

“In the morning … in the morning …”. One of the ways the Hebrews emphasize something is by repeating it. If they say it once, they mean it, of course, but if they say it twice, they really mean it (and if they say it three times it is ultimate, like “holy, holy, holy” is the Lord; which means that He is ultimate in holiness. So the fact that David repeats “in the morning” here shows the emphasis that he put upon it. It was “in the morning” that his prayer would rise up to God.

But it is not only that (although it would be enough!). The words “order my prayer” are also very revealing. In Hebrew this is the same root word which describes how the priests “laid in order” the morning sacrifice, which was the very first act of the day in Israel. So David is saying that just as the priests “ordered” the morning sacrifice as their first duty of the day, HIS first duty of the was going to be to let God hear his voice in prayer!

He said the same thing in Psalm 63, “O God, You are my God — I shall seek Thee earnestly.” That Hebrew word “earnestly” there literally means “early.” That makes sense. If you are seeking something earnestly, you seek it early:
— hunters who are serious about bagging their prey get out there early. (Someone was just recently telling me about getting out at 4 or 5 a.m. to hunt; that’s just what they do!)
— fishermen do the same thing.
— I’ve noticed that most really good golfers get out and get the early tee times (that’s why I usually go in the afternoon!)
— on Black Friday, people get out early — 4 or 5 or 6 a.m. — because they are earnest about getting the best deals. People who are serious about seeking something get out early to get it.
And that is what Psalm 63 says we should do with the Lord too. If we are serious about seeking Him, we will seek Him EARLY.

— In Mark 1:35 we see that Jesus kept this same pattern: “And in the early morning, while it was still dark, He arose and went out and departed to a lonely place, and was praying there.”
There we see that Jesus got up early — and “early” is qualified by “while it was still dark”, so it was pretty early! — and went out to a place where He could be alone. And He did that, the Bible says, so that He could pray. Jesus serves as the great model for us. He was busier in ministry than any of us will ever be in our lives — the previous verses describe how just the night before, “the whole city had gathered at His door” and He was healing people. This went on until very late. And yet Jesus made it a priority to get up early and seek God and pray. We should do the same thing. We should tell the Lord, “In the morning, You will hear my voice.”

— Morning prayer is assumed in the Model Prayer that Jesus gave us in Matthew 6. Think about it: what good would it do to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread” at the end of the day, AFTER you’ve already HAD your daily bread! It makes much more sense as a morning prayer, asking God to provide what we need for the day ahead.

What good would it do to put on your “spiritual armor” after the battle is done, at the end of the day?! We may need it then too, but we especially need to put on our spiritual armor BEFORE we fight the battles of the day — in the morning, in God’s word & prayer.

 

Understanding that we are not ONLY to pray in the morning, not everyone prays best then; it IS important to begin our day by spending at least some time with God in His word and prayer in the morning, because it will affect the rest of your day.

Words Matter

meditation

Words are the essential currency of social interactions. Words are the necessary tool for ordinary communication, meaningful exchange of ideas, and the intended covenant of business and agreement. I have visited and ministered in countries where their native language is different from mine. Thankfully, I was accompanied by others who made me understood and helped me understand.

Words contain life and carry the seeds of creation. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through Him all things were made; without Him nothing was made that has been made.” John 1:1-3 NIV. The Creator spoke, and it was so. “We understand that the universe was created by God’s word.” Hebrews 11:3 TEV. Words have the power to heal or hurt, inspire or intimidate, inform or deceive, build or tear down. Solomon warned, “You must live with the consequences of everything you say. What you say can preserve life or destroy it; so you must accept the consequences of your words.” Proverbs 18:20-21 TEV.

 Your words are important to God. “May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O Lord.” Psalm 19:14 NIV. In unguarded moments and situations, your words will eventually reflect your true attitudes and thoughts. Know your heart. Guard your words. Paul urged that your words should not be, “foolish talk or coarse jokes.” Read Ephesians 5:3-4 NLT. Jesus’ words are sobering, “For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks . . But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken.” Read Matthew 12:35-37 NIV.

Your words must be important to you. “Let your speech be always with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so you will know how you should respond to each person.” Colossians 4:6. In those words, I see the picture of a mom carefully preparing supper for her family, tasting and seasoning as she cooks. Taste your words before you lend them a voice. Just in case you must eat them later. “Words from a wise man’s mouth are gracious . . A man of knowledge uses words with restraint.” Ecclesiastes 10:12/Proverbs 17:27 NIV.

Music From Your Heart

thanksgiving

 

 

If you are filled with the Spirit, it will be recognizable. People should be able to see a difference between you and somebody who isn’t filled with the Spirit. How will they know? Because if you are full of the Holy Ghost, you will have a song in your heart. What does it mean to have a song in your heart? It means you’ve got joy!

The Bible says, “For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and JOY in the Holy Ghost” (Rom. 14:17). If you are full of joy, it will show on your face. You may even dance, sing, or laugh. Sometimes when you’re full of joy, you can’t keep from laughing, even when you’re by yourself!

So you see, being filled with the Spirit means you’ll have joy and a song in your heart. Now, I don’t mean some song that you get out of a songbook. The songs we sing in church are fine. We ought to sing them. But they didn’t have any songbooks that they passed out to the congregation back in the Apostle Paul’s day.

Paul is talking about psalms and hymns and spiritual songs. He is describing something that the Holy Ghost gives you. These songs come from your heart on the spur of the moment. They are given to us by the Spirit to help us.

I’ve noticed that in the hard places of my life, I would begin speaking in psalms and spiritual songs. In some of the most severe places,

Do you remember that Jesus said to His disciples, “I’ll not leave you comfortless”? (See John 14:18.) He asked the Father to send “another Comforter,” the Holy Spirit. The Amplified Bible translates the word Comforter as “Counselor, Helper, Intercessor, Advocate, Strengthener, and Standby” (John 14:16). The Holy Ghost is our Standby. He’s standing by to help us in the hard places in life. And those psalms He gave me helped me. They were a comfort to me.

 

http://www.rhema.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=1049:have-a-song-in-your-heart&Itemid=145

Body Of Christ

body of christ

In our passage, Paul is going to discuss the importance of church teamwork. This is expected because the Old and New Testaments have a corporate emphasis. This is not to depreciate the fact that people become Christians on an individual basis, but that once one is a Christian the focus is always on the health, unity, and well being of the whole.2 In 1 Cor 12:12-31, Paul will inform us that everybody is somebody because we’re in this together.3

1. Appreciate the solidarity of the body (12:12-13). These first two verses give the theological basis for the body imagery that is developed in the rest of this passage. Paul states that every part of the body is essential because every believer is a member of the church. In 12:12, he writes, “For4 even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ.” This verse is a tongue twister and can be a little confusing. It can help to change the word “member” to “organ,” like the organs of the body.5 The term “body” is introduced in 12:12 and then repeatedly employed by Paul 18 times throughout the remainder of the chapter.6 The word “one” occurs five times in 12:12-13. Hence, the emphasis is on unity and oneness. Our body of many members is unified in one body. Paul is so intent on driving home this point of our oneness in the church that he refers to Christ as the church. This is one of the places in Scripture where all believers collectively are called “Christ.” Paul had received an inkling of this truth on the road to Damascus when he fell to the earth and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” (Acts 9:4) He had been persecuting Christians, not realizing that in so doing he was persecuting Christ. Saul, who later became Paul, would one day learn that every believer is a member of Christ’s body. Likewise, you and I are members of the body of Christ…and we are one body.

In 12:13, Paul explains the reason for the oneness of the church: we have all been placed into the body of Christ. Paul puts it like this: “For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.”Paul argues that every Christian has experienced Spirit baptism. Notice the word “all” as well as the past tense, “were baptized.” Every believer shares in this experience. It occurs the moment we trust in Jesus Christ.7 In Spirit baptism the Holy Spirit baptizes the believer into the body of Christ. He makes us a part of His church. The baptism of the Holy Spirit means if you belong to Jesus Christ, you belong to everyone else who belongs to Jesus Christ. This means the baptism of the Holy Spirit is not a matter of having a certain level of spiritual maturity, achieving some advanced spiritual state, or receiving a “second blessing.” On the contrary, every believer experiences Spirit baptism regardless of his or her race or social status.8 We are now on equal footing in the sense that we are all members of the body of Christ.

The phrase “the baptism of the Holy Spirit” is confusing because biblically it refers to one trusting Christ as Savior, but it is used today of an empowering, yielding, post-conversion experience in the lives of believers. I do not deny the reality of this subsequent experience, but I prefer the description “Lordship experience.” We might also speak of deeper fillings of the Holy Spirit.

The figure of drinking of one Spirit recalls John 7:37-39 where Jesus invited the thirsty to come and drink of Him to find refreshment. Baptism and drinking are both initiation experiences and take place at the the moment we believe in Christ.9 In the first figure the Spirit places the believer into Christ, and in the second the Spirit comes into the Christian.10

Now, having been introduced to this important analogy between the human body and the body of Christ, I would say there are two key problems that constantly plague the church and prevent us from enjoying unity in diversity. Those two tendencies are what we might simply call an inferiority complex and a superiority complex, or self-pity and pride. When certain Christians think they just don’t have anything to offer and therefore fail to participate in the life of the church, the body cannot be complete. On the other hand, when some think of themselves as God’s gift to the church and don’t allow others to contribute their gifts, again the body cannot function well. If this passage teaches anything, it teaches us that both inferiority feelings and superiority feelings are out of bounds in Christ’s church. Everybody is somebody because we’re in this together.

2. Do not underestimate your importance to the body of Christ (12:14-20). In these verses, Paul, in a somewhat humorous vein, attempts to get his point across that every member of the body has a different role to play, but that all of these parts are needed in order for the body to function as a unit. He personifies two different body parts—the foot and the ear—to say, “Because I am not the hand/eye, I am not of the body.”11 In this section, certain members have an inferiority complex. In 12:14, Paul writes, “For the body is not one member, but many.” Paul is making a simple statement of fact that every part of the body, every organ, is valuable. Everybody is somebody because we’re in this together.

In 12:15-16, Paul writes, “If the foot says, ‘Because I am not a hand, I am not a part of the body,’ it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body. And if the ear says, ‘Because I am not an eye, I am not a part of the body,’ it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body.” The phrase “I am not a part of the body” occurs in both 12:15 and 12:16. This is an indication of a feeling of insignificance: “No one thinks that I am important or significant. I have little to contribute to this ministry. I don’t really matter to this church.” The foot is jealous of the hand because he is covetous of the hand’s prominence. The hand is in the public and in the limelight, but the foot is in confinement inside a shoe. We rarely permit our feet to go out in public. We manicure hands and put ointment on them. We make hands beautiful by putting rings on them. We put jewelry on the hand but rarely on the foot. Hands take a scalpel and do delicate operations. They play the piano or violin. No wonder the foot feels inferior! During a church vote, no one in a meeting says, “Raise your foot” it’s always “Raise your hand!” The foot thinks, “The hand has so much dexterity, it can pick up things so easily.” The foot has an inferiority complex because the hand is out in the limelight!

Yet, the body would be in bad shape without a foot. Did you know that you use more than 200 different muscles to walk?12 If your feet and their muscles are not working well you aren’t going very far. Furthermore, if you dislocate a tiny bone in your foot your whole body is miserable. Feet are awfully important. So why should the foot say, “I don’t count; I’m not important; no one ever notices me; no one cares about what I do. If I do anything, no one sees me or cares about me. I don’t belong. I might as well give up.” No, God rewards the foot based on being a foot. If you have been gifted as a foot it’s easy to look at those gifted as hands and think how skilled, how capable they are, and that you’re not important at all. However, all God expects is that you do what you can with what you have. Remember that each part of the body is important. Everybody is somebody because we’re in this together.

Similarly, the ear feels inferior to the eye. The eye is out front whereas the ear is on the side. No one ever talks about the ears. Lovers do look into each other’s eyes; they do not look into each other’s ears! The only one who looks in our ears is our mother and all she ever says is, “Wash those dirty ears!” They say wonderful things about the eye. Eyes come in color. Poets write poems about the eye but never about the ear. There is nothing very impressive, appearance-wise, about ears. Has anyone ever approached you and said, “You have incredibly attractive ears?” I seriously doubt it. Yet, your ears are critical.

Unfortunately, some at Corinth who lacked the more spectacular gifts of others were discouraged and began to ask whether they had any place or function in the church.13 So Paul moves from the sublime to the ridiculous by envisioning an absurd scenario. In 12:17, he asks, “If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole were hearing, where would the sense of smell be?” Try to picture being an “eye-body”—one massive six-foot eye! How gross it would be if the whole body was an eye. How useless and unattractive. You couldn’t hug or kiss. You wouldn’t have anything to kiss with, unless you “batted each other” when you got up close. You would get hurt all the time as you rolled around the house. We would see everything but hear nothing. Think of trying to drive a car or getting into bed.14 It isn’t so wonderful being an eye. The same could be true if the whole body was an ear. The body depends on union of all the members to function, so it is utterly ridiculous for the body to consist of one member. If all the church had was the pastor/teacher, how impoverished would that church be? A body with just an eye would not be able to hear. A body with just an ear would not be able to smell. We must always recognize that any public ministry is built on a private ministry. My preaching is only as powerful as our praying. The worship is only as fruitful as our nursery. The point is that we need each gift for the body of Christ to function.

In 12:18-20, Paul emphasizes that God sovereignly places the gifts in the church that He desires. Paul writes, “But now God has placed15 the members, each one of them, in the body, just as He desired. If they were all one member, where would the body be? But now there are many members, but one body.” Paul makes it clear that God is the one that has gifted every church the way He wants her gifted. Notice that God “placed the members…just as He desired.” The church is all about the sovereignty of God. We are one because of God’s work. Everybody is somebody because we’re in this together.

[Beginning at 12:21, we have a transition from those who feel inferior in their gifts to those who feel superior. In this section, we see members who suffer from a superiority complex.]

3. Do not overestimate your importance to the body of Christ (12:21-26). Paul explains that we need to squash spiritual pride because we all need each other. He writes, “And the eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you’; or again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you.’”With this statement, Paul seems to be getting closer to the difficult issue being faced in Corinth. As we have seen on several occasions in this letter, pride was indeed a problem among the Corinthians.16 Paul needs to get across that all of the members in Corinth need each other, and no one is dispensable.17

In 12:22-25, Paul continues his rebuke: “On the contrary, it is much truer that the members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary; and those members of the body which we deem less honorable, on these we bestow more abundant honor, and our less presentable members become much more presentable, whereas our more presentable members have no need of it. But God has so composed the body, giving more abundant honor to that member which lacked, so that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another.” Paul argues that every member of the body is necessary. There are no exceptions. Those body parts that are deemed weaker, less honorable, or less presentable18 are all critically important. Paul rejected the Corinthians criteria for evaluating which gifts were most honorable. They had chosen the most visible or audible gifts for selfish reasons. The sole purpose of the gifts was to build up the body of Christ; the true criterion for the greatness of any gift would be its usefulness to the body of Christ.

How does this apply to the church? Every church has people who are out in the forefront and love the public spotlight. But what is really essential to the ongoing life of the church is the people behind the scenes—those who serve faithfully and quietly (and often are the ones who make the leaders look good).

We tend to forget that many of the strengths we so admire in one person are often incompatible with the strengths we admire in another. The grace of a figure skater is useless to a Sumo wrestler. The diligent research and study of my favorite theologian doesn’t leave much time for the globetrotting compassion of my favorite missionary.

In 12:26, Paul pens one of the most powerful verses in the Scriptures: “And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.” If you’ve ever been sick with a cold or the flu you know that a simple cold, cough, or sore throat can affect your entire body. Worse yet, have you ever had a case of food poisoning? Several years ago, I had a terrible bout with this dreadful condition. I was so sick that I was scared I was going to die and then when I didn’t, I wished I had. This little bug didn’t just affect my stomach, it affected my whole body. I ached from the tip of my head to the bottom of my feet. I experienced chills. I ran a fever. I was in flat-out agony. When one part of your body suffers, the whole body is brought down.

Paul took the theme of mutual care one step further. As members of the same body we are so closely bound together that we actually share the same feelings. What causes joy for one member delights the whole body. When one member suffers the entire body hurts. Most of us do a better job empathizing with those who suffer than we do rejoicing with those who are honored. If we could ever come to the conviction that we are truly family, it would change many of our attitudes about ourselves and others in the church. I know that I receive greater joy in seeing my children achieve than in my own achievements. If we are family, why is it so difficult to see another member of our own body receive honor? Our measure for evaluating our gifted self-images is not another body member, but our faithfulness in employing our unique gift for the good of the family itself.19 We must desperately yearn for the success of others.

[Now that we have done away with spiritual inferiority and superiority complexes, we are ready to…]

4. Celebrate the diversity of the body (12:27-31). Paul takes the analogy of the physical body and applies it practically in terms of gifting and how ministry is to be expressed. In 12:27-28, Paul writes, “Now you are Christ’s body, and individually members of it. And God has appointed in the church, first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, various kinds of tongues.” Paul lists eight kinds of members with special functions.20 The ranking of the first three items corresponds to their building up the local church. We will briefly discuss these definitions.21

Apostles: As a spiritual gift, this is the ability to begin and/or to oversee new churches and Christian ministries with a spontaneously recognized authority.22

Prophets: The ability to receive and proclaim a message from God. This could involve the foretelling of future events, though its primary purpose as seen in 1 Cor 14:3 is forthtelling: “One who prophesies speaks to men for edification and exhortation and consolation.” This gift provides a word from God to a specific group, not the normative Word of God to all believers.

Teachers: The ability to clearly explain and effectively apply the truths of God’s Word so that others will learn. This requires the capacity to accurately interpret Scripture, engage in necessary research, and organize the results in a way that is easily communicated.

Miracles: The ability to serve as an instrument through whom God accomplishes acts that manifest supernatural power. Miracles bear witness to the presence of God and the truth of His proclaimed Word, and appear to occur most frequently in association with missionary activity.

Gifts of healings: The ability to serve as a human instrument through whom God supernaturally cures illnesses and restores health. The possessor of this gift is not the source of power, but a vessel who can only heal those diseases the Lord chooses to heal. Inner healing, or healing of memories is sometimes associated as another manifestation of this gift.

Gifts of helps: The ability to enhance the effectiveness of the ministry of other members of the body. This is the only usage of this word in the New Testament, and it appears to be distinct from the gift of service. Some suggest that while the gift of service is more group-oriented, the gift of helps is more person-oriented.

Gifts of administrations: This word, like helps, appears only one time in the New Testament, and it is used outside of Scripture of a helmsman who steers a ship to its destination. This suggests that the spiritual gift of administration is the ability to steer a church or Christian organization toward the fulfillment of its goals by managing its affairs and implementing necessary plans. A person may have the gift of leadership without the gift of administration.

Various kinds of tongues: The ability to receive and impart a spiritual message in a language the recipient never learned.

Why does Paul include two lists in a single chapter? The two lists are critical to Paul’s broadened understanding of spiritual gifts. The first list enumerated only the prized gifts of the Corinthians, the miraculous ones. In the second list, Paul literally pulled the top and the bottom out of the first list and expanded the accepted definitions of spiritual gifts. He added leadership abilities and service abilities.23 God’s expectation is that every Christian will serve in the local church. Yet, someone may say, “I am an inactive Christian.” There is no such thing. That is like saying, “I am an honest thief” or “I am a godly prostitute.” An inactive Christian is a paradox in terms. No Christian is without a special, supernatural gift from God. Inactive Christians are about as good as a bump on a pickle. There is no such animal as an inactive Christian biblically.24

Paul prepares to close out this passage with a third list of gifts in a descending order of priority. Each of Paul’s seven questions expects a negative answer.25 Paul writes, “All are not apostles, are they? All are not prophets, are they? All are not teachers, are they? All are not workers of miracles, are they? All do not have gifts of healings, do they? All do not speak with tongues, do they? All do not interpret, do they?” Paul’s point is that it would be ridiculous for everyone to have the same gift. Variety is essential. It is wrong to equate one gift, particularly speaking in tongues, with spirituality. All of the believers in the Corinthian church had been baptized by the Spirit (12:13), but not all of them spoke in tongues (12:30). Thus, Paul deals a deathblow to the theory that speaking in tongues is the sign of the possession of the Spirit, for the answer “No” is expected to each question.26

Paul’s final words are found in 12:31: “But earnestly desire the greater gifts. And I show you a still more excellent way.” The command to “earnestly desire the best gifts” is not addressed to the individual but to the collective church. The implied “you” is second person plural in the Greek. We cannot select our gifts because that is the prerogative of the Holy Spirit. However, as a congregation we can “earnestly desire” that the “best gifts” (superlative gifts) be manifested among us. The “best gifts” are those that benefit the general body of Christ. In chapter 14 Paul lists “prophecy” as a greater gift.

https://bible.org/seriespage/27-no-nobodies-1-corinthians-1212-31

Love

love

1. Selfless love is patient.

Ouch! Why did he put that first? This often confronts me with my failure in relating to my family. Patience is an interesting quality in that when I don’t need it, I want it. It’s when things start to irritate or frustrate me that I need patience, but usually at that point I don’t want to be patient!

The Greek word comes from two words meaning, “long-tempered.” If you’re patient, you’re slow to anger, you endure personal wrongs without retaliating. You bear with others’ imperfections, faults, and differences. You give them time to change, room to make mistakes without coming down hard on them. Do you do that, men, with your wife and children? How about you women?

I read a story of a man who had developed this quality to a far greater extent than I. During the late 1500’s, Dr. Thomas Cooper edited a dictionary with the addition of 33,000 words and many other improvements. He had already been collecting materials for eight years when his wife, a rather difficult woman, went into his study one day while he was gone and burned all of his notes under the pretense of fearing that he would kill himself with study. Eight years of work, a pile of ashes!

Dr. Cooper came home, saw the destruction, and asked who had done it. His wife told him boldly that she had done it. The patient man heaved a deep sigh and said, “Oh Dinah, Dinah, thou hast given a world of trouble!” Then he quietly sat down to another eight years of hard labor, to replace the notes which she had destroyed. (Paul Tan, Encyclopedia of 7700 Illustrations[Assurance Publishers, #2350.) Next time you think you’ve arrived at being patient, that will give you something to aim for!

2. Selfless love is kind.

Kindness is patience in action. The Greek word comes from a word meaning “useful.” A kind person is disposed to be helpful. He seeks out needs and looks for opportunities to meet those needs without repayment. He is tender and forgiving when wronged. The word was used of mellow wine, and suggests a person who is gentle, who has an ability to soothe hurt feelings, to calm an upset person, to help quietly in practical ways.

The kind person shows kindness in response to harsh treatment. Jesus said, “And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same thing. . . . But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men” (Luke 6:33, 35). The kindness of God leads us to repentance (Rom. 2:4). Kindness motivates others toward positive change.

As with patience, the real proving ground for kindness is the home. Are you kind to your family? Do you do kind, useful things for them? Are you training your children to be kind to one another by the way you treat your husband or wife and them?

3. Selfless love is not jealous.

The word means to eagerly desire, and it is used both positively and negatively in the Bible. Jealousy in the negative sense is related to greed and selfishness. The jealous person wants what others have, he wants things for himself. He is too selfish to applaud others’ success; he has to have all the attention. In the family, a jealous spouse refuses to trust his/her partner. They don’t want to recognize the other’s abilities and contributions. They are jealous of the time their spouse spends with the children or with their friends. They wants it all for themselves. Jealousy is often the source of quarrels and conflicts (James 4:2).

4. & 5. Selfless love does not brag and is not arrogant.

These ugly twins are related. They both stem from selfishness and are the flip side of jealousy. “Jealousy is wanting what someone else has. Bragging is trying to make others jealous of what we have. Jealousy puts others down; bragging builds us up” (John MacArthur, Jr., The MacArthur New Testament Commentary, 1 Corinthians [Moody Press], p. 341). Bragging is an outward manifestation of pride.

The braggart tries to impress others of his great accomplishments in order to make himself look good: “After all I’ve done for you, and you treat me this way!” But love isn’t trying to build up me; love is trying to build up the other person. Love is humble. The humble, loving person is aware that everything he has is an undeserved gift from God (1 Cor. 4:7). So he doesn’t boast, but thankfully uses what God has given to serve others.

6. Selfless love does not act unbecomingly.

The NIV translates, “It is not rude.” Love does not needlessly offend. Love has good manners. It is courteous, polite, sensitive to the feelings of others and always uses tact. The reason we are not courteous, of course, is that we are thinking only of ourselves and not of others.

I read of a man who was generally lacking in manners. He never opened the car door for his wife. “She doesn’t have two broken arms,” he would say. After many years of marriage, his wife died. At the funeral, as the pallbearers brought her casket out to the hearse, the husband was standing by the car door. The funeral director, who knew the husband by name, called out to him and said, “Open the door for her, will you?” He reached for the car door and then, for one second, froze. He realized that he had never opened the door for her in life; now, in her death, it would be the first, last, and only time. A lifetime of regret came crashing down around him. Love is not rude.

7. Selfless love does not seek its own.

It is not selfish, does not demand its rights. Alan Redpath said, “The secret of every discord in Christian homes, communities and churches is that we seek our own way and our own glory.” R. C. H. Lenski put it, “Cure selfishness, and you plant a Garden of Eden” (The Interpretation of I and II Corinthians [Augsburg], p. 557). Selfishness is the root problem of the human race; it is the antithesis of love, which is self-sacrificing.

Elisabeth Elliot was once speaking on this subject to an audience that included some young children who were sitting right in front of her. As she spoke, she wondered how she could make this plain to them, so that they could apply it. Later, she got a letter from one of those children, a six-year-old boy, who wrote, “I am learning to lay down my life for my little sister. She has to take a nap in the afternoon. I don’t have to take a nap. But she can’t go to sleep unless I come and lay down beside her. So I lay down with my little sister.” That boy is learning to love!

If husbands and wives, as well as children, would apply this verse as that little boy did, our homes would be free of conflict and an honor to Jesus Christ, who did not come to be served, but to serve and to give His life a ransom for many (Mark 10:45). Aren’t you glad Jesus didn’t insist on His rights? He would have stayed in heaven and we wouldn’t be saved!

8. Selfless love is not provoked.

The Greek word means to sharpen, stimulate, rouse to anger. Phillips paraphrases, “It is not touchy.” Love does not have a hair-trigger temper. Some people make everyone around them walk on eggshells. They’re easily offended. One little thing that doesn’t go their way and “KABOOM!” They use their temper to intimidate and to punish. When you confront them, they say, “Sure, I have a bad temper. But I get it all out and it’s over in a few minutes.” So is a bomb. But look at the devastation it leaves behind! When you’re angry, usually you’re not loving.

9. Selfless love does not take into account a wrong suffered.

This is an accounting word, used of numerical calculation. It is used of God not imputing our guilt to us, but instead imputing the righteousness of Christ to our account (Rom. 4:6-8). Love doesn’t keep a tally of wrongs and bear a grudge until every one is paid for. It doesn’t try to gain the upper hand by reminding the other person of past wrongs. Love forgives.

One married man said to his friend, “You know, every time my wife and I get into a conflict, she gets historical.” His friend said, “Historical? Don’t you mean hysterical?” “No, I mean historical. She rehearses everything I’ve ever done wrong in the whole history of our marriage.” That’s keeping score! That’s not love.

10. & 11. Selfless love does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth.

These qualities are the flip side of one another. Moffatt puts it, “Love is never glad when others go wrong.” To rejoice in the truth means to be glad about behavior in accordance with the truth of God’s Word. If someone you don’t like falls into sin, you don’t gloat; you grieve, because God is grieved over sin. If they repent, you rejoice.

There is a fine balance to love. Although love is kind and overlooks the faults of others, it does not compromise the truth or take a soft view of sin. To allow another person to go on in sin, whether it is known sin or a blind spot, is not to seek his best; it is not love. Love will sensitively confront and correct precisely because it cares deeply and knows that sin destroys. Love rejoices with the truth. Love gets excited when it hears of spiritual victories. Love encourages by expressing joy over little evidences of growth. John, the apostle of love, wrote, “I have no greater joy than this, to hear of my children walking in the truth” (3 John 4).

12. Selfless love bears all things.

The word can mean either to bear up under or to protect by covering. If it has the first meaning, then it would be the same as “endures all things” (end of v. 7). I prefer the second meaning, to protect by covering. Love doesn’t broadcast the problems of others. Love doesn’t run down others with jokes, sarcasm or put-downs. Love defends the character of the other person as much as possible within the limits of truth. Love won’t lie about weaknesses, but neither will it deliberately expose and emphasize them. Love protects.

13. Selfless love believes all things.

The NIV translates, “Love always trusts.” This does not mean gullibility; it does mean that love is not suspicious and doubting of the other person’s character and motives without good reason, even if his actions offended you. If trust has been broken, then it needs to be earned again, step by step. But love believes the other person is innocent until proven guilty, not guilty until proven innocent. If there is a problem, love doesn’t jump immediately to blame the other person.

In the family, trust shows itself by not grilling the other person about every detail of his story, like an attorney cross-examining a defendant. It means believing in your kids, expressing confidence in them. I’m thankful that my parents trusted me as a teenager; it made me want to live up to that trust. One of my friends had parents who did not trust him, and he lived up to their distrust! Sometimes you will get ripped off when you trust, but love persists in trusting.

14. Selfless love hopes all things.

It is not pessimistic. It does not expect the one loved to fail, but to succeed. Love refuses to take failure as final. It exudes a godly optimism which says, “I know you can do it, because God in you is able!” It does not ignore reality. It doesn’t close its eyes to problems. But it rests on the promises of God, that He is working all things together for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose. And so love always hopes.

15. Selfless love endures all things.

The word “endures” is a military word meaning to sustain the assault of an enemy. It has the idea of holding up under trial, of perseverance in spite of difficulties. It means that love hangs in there. It is not just a passive, stoic attitude. It is a positive, triumphant spirit that sticks it out.

There is an epidemic among Christians of bailing out of tough situations. People don’t like something that happens in a church. They go find another church more to their liking. They run into problems or disagreements in their marriage, grow tired of the effort and bail out. “But,” you say, “isn’t adultery a legitimate grounds for divorce?” Technically, yes. But all too often one partner uses it as an excuse to bail out of a marriage where both partners have wronged one another repeatedly in many ways. I’m not minimizing the seriousness of adultery. It destroys trust and creates all sorts of problems in a marriage. I’m not suggesting that it’s easy to work through. It takes a lot of hard work to rebuild, a brick at a time. But God’s best is to forgive and renew the marriage, not to bail out. Love endures all things.

https://bible.org/seriespage/lesson-5-what-love-looks-1-corinthians-134-7