February 10, 2019


"Sin, Truth, & Christian Love" - I Cor. 13:6

 - with Valentine's Day approaching, we're going to hear a lot about love this week; human love - romantic love; sometimes we make use of this opportunity to remind ourselves about God's love for us or about Christian love - the love we should have for one another - God's love in us & manifesting itself thru us toward others; & we often need those reminders; love is or should be the preeminent characteristic of followers of Christ; we should love God with all our hearts & love our neighbors as ourselves; Jesus said that it's our love for one another that should make us stand out to the world; love should be the main thing Christians are known for

- but instead of sharing with you another exhortation for us to love or to seek to better possess & express that quality of love in our lives, I believe God wants to give us a word of warning today; we need to be careful that we aren't deceived about this idea of Christian love; we've talked in some of our discussions lately about how our world & culture today is trying to shame believers about certain beliefs they have by claiming that they're lacking Christian love; if you hold to certain beliefs about immigration, you're accused of not being compassionate & not being a good Christian - that you don't have the proper Christian love for people trying to come into our country; likewise, if you hold to certain beliefs about family & marriage & gender, then you're again accused of lacking Christian love - a love lifted up as one that treats all people equal & values all people & is accepting of all people; & there are other issues or situations which arise & will arise as we move forward where followers of Christ will be facing the accusation that they aren't acting out of Christian love

- such accusations may tempt us to start wondering & believing if they may be true - are we lacking Christian love? Or in order to avoid conflict & appease our accusers or avoid ridicule, we may be tempted to compromise or forsake those beliefs that we're confronted about; so I believe it's important that we keep in mind what Christian love is & what all it involves; I Corinthians 13 has become one of the standard resources for answering that question; in v.4-7 it describes certain qualities of Christian love; we've probably heard multiple messages on these verses in the past - I've preached a series of messages on these verses; but for today & in light of what we're facing in the world today - these accusations about lacking Christian love - I believe the Lord wants us to zero in on just one verse here; v.6 - (read)

- Christian love - keep in mind in this chapter it's talking about the love communicated by that Greek word agape - not just brotherly love or sexual love, but God's love - God's kind of love; such Christian love doesn't rejoice in iniquity or sin, but rather it rejoices in the truth

- one of the things society is insisting we must do - & if we don't do it, they say we're not being good Christians & not loving like we should - they insist that we must not merely tolerate, but accept, receive, & even join them in celebrating or rejoicing over things the Bible refers to as sin or iniquity; whether it's not obeying the law & illegally entering a country (celebrating the courage & determination of those people) - or having sexual relationships outside of marriage (celebrating it as if it there's nothing wrong with it) - or practicing homosexual behavior or various other forms of sexual behavior outside the realm of one man & one woman in marriage (celebrating them for finding their happiness & for their courage to come out & admit who they are) - or the taking of human life (celebrating the passage of a law to allow for a mother's right to take the life of her child right up until birth) - & so much more; if you don't join in the celebrations, in spite of the wrongdoing or sin that may be involved, you're accused of lacking Christian love

- but according to this scripture, Christian love does not rejoice in iniquity; accepting & approving & even celebrating sin is described in Romans 1 as part of the spiraling moral decline of humanity; reaching that point of approving & celebrating sin is put forth as hitting the bottom of the barrel - that's when we've sunk to the lowest depths morally; this is the passage that goes through a whole list of sin - focusing first on idolatry & then homosexual behavior - one of the clearest condemnations of that in scripture - it doesn't leave you any doubt as to what it's talking about; but then it goes on & talks about all kinds of other sinful practices & attitudes as mankind sinks further & further away from God & godliness; it ends in v.32 by saying (read); in spite of knowing what God says about these things, people do them & approve of others who do them; & as we've seen, even celebrate it & expect others to do the same

- that's not Christian love; Christian love does not rejoice in iniquity; it's those who harden their hearts against God - those who give themselves over to their own "vile passions" - those who have forsaken the truth who approve of & rejoice over sin; don't be deceived into thinking otherwise; don't fall prey to the lie about not being a good Christian or not being compassionate or not having Christian love simply because you refuse to approve of & rejoice over what the Bible declares to be sin

- the other part of this is that true Christian love rejoices in the truth; back to Romans 1, how do the folks described there deal with truth - those who end up rejoicing over sin? Instead of rejoicing over truth, they suppress it (v.18 - read); it all begins by suppressing the truth - the truth about God & the truth God has revealed; it begins with people trying to ignore that truth & even hide it or push it away; they try to suppress it, not just so they don't have to deal with it, but to keep it away from others too; if others still uphold that standard of truth, it can make them look bad or guilty; so it's not enough to simply ignore the truth - they try to suppress it; look on down in v. 25 (read); they don't just suppress the truth but they exchange it for a lie; here it refers to "the lie" & seems to be referring to the specific lie of idolatry; but this shows the pattern & practice of those who are falling into moral decline; at the same time they're rejoicing in sin & sinful things, they're suppressing truth, pushing it farther & farther out of sight & trying to replace it with lies; society is trying to exchange truth for lies today - lies about unborn babies not being "life" or not really being human just because they're in the womb - lies about sexual identity & what makes a person a man or a woman - lies about the Bible & the character of God - lies about this very subject of Christian love; they don't just suppress the biblical picture of a God who loves people & judges sin at the same time, but they exchange it for the lie that God loves people to the point that He doesn't judge sin; they exchange the truth of the Almighty Creator, Father, & Consuming Fire to the Teddy Bear, the Santa Clause, the indulgent grandfather who lets his grandkids get away with anything & everything

- Christian love rejoices in the truth; love stands for & upholds the truth; love clings to what is good & right & true, even when society is trying to suppress it & hold forth deceptive lies to take the place of those truths; Christian love rejoices in the truth, even when we may have to suffer for sticking to the truth

- but sometimes the truth isn't pleasant; sometimes the truth hurts; it can be painful; or sometimes there's a negative, painful side of truth before we can get to the positive, pleasant side of it; realizing I'm a sinner in God's sight isn't a pleasant truth; coming face-to-face with the truth that I haven't been living my life rightly - that God's not pleased with me - that I'm lost & on the road to eternal destruction if something doesn't change - that's not a pleasant truth; recognizing that my sin nailed Jesus to the Cross - my sin caused Him to go through all that pain & suffering - that's a painful truth; the truth that there is a great God who created us & who loves us - & that we've sinned against Him & rebelled against Him & haven't believed Him & received the better life He offers us - is a painful truth; & some people refuse to hear it; they ignore it - they deny it - they suppress it & they lash out at others who proclaim it; but we have to accept the painful part of the truth in order to get to the more wonderful part it - the part about forgiveness & cleansing & being made right with God - & being adopted into His family as one of His children - the truth about deliverance from sin & victory over sin & evil in this life & heaven to look forward to in the future

- so yes, Christian love rejoices in the truth - all of it; the painful truth & the blessed truth; because it's the truth that sets us free; & we have to recognize the truth - including our sinfulness & our need to repent & put our trust in Jesus & what He did for us on the Cross - before we can experience the joy & freedom of deliverance & salvation & victory

- we have to receive the truth about how God created us & what His intentions are for men & women & relationships & families; & we need to rejoice in that truth & get ourselves in line with it; we have to receive the truth about the value of life & rejoice in it - if it means seeking forgiveness for our not valuing such life in the past or if it means changing how we look at babies, the elderly, the disabled - then we can receive that truth & rejoice in it

- the truth that we've looked at recently in our Sunday night study of Revelation - the truth that those whose names aren't written in the Lamb's Book of Life are going to be cast into the lake of fire for eternity - a place of torment - is not a pleasant truth; it should concern us & burden us for unbelievers; we don't rejoice in their destruction - we should be like the Bible says of God - we should not want any to perish but all to come to repentance; but at the same time we rejoice in the truth - that God is going to do as He says - that God is holy & just - that God is going to reward the faithful & punish the wicked - & that He will judge everyone rightly & according to truth

- Christian love doesn't rejoice in the suffering & pain of others, even the wicked - but it rejoices in the truth, in God's holiness & justice & mercy & grace

- so don't let the world with its warped view of love cause you to question your Christian love; Christian love - agape love - God's kind of love - does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth

- however, let's also make sure as we abhor sin & cling to what's good - as we stand for & rejoice in truth - let's make sure we're exhibiting the other characteristics of Christian love at the same time; while we have to guard against the trap of compromising with sin & compromising the truth in the name of Christian love, let's not fall into the other trap of compromising Christian love as we stand against sin & for truth

- as we rejoice in truth, we still need to be possessing these other qualities of Christian love described here; going back to v.4 - we should still suffer long & be kind - even to those who are accusing us of not being good, compassionate Christians; we still need to guard against envy & pride - being puffed up in pride because we're following the truth while these other "terrible" folks aren't; standing up for truth doesn't give us an excuse to behave rudely to others; Christian love doesn't seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; love means rejoicing in truth, but it doesn't give us license to lose our tempers & become easily angered & over-sensitive; thru it all Christian love will keep bearing all things, believing, hoping, & enduring

- don't rejoice in sin, but rejoice in the truth; & let's be sure we do so in the full spirit of Christian love; neither one of those will be an easy task; we need God's help to avoid being deceived by what the world says is love, even Christian love, & to stand strong when under pressure & tempted to compromise; & we need God's help to be kind & longsuffering & not rude & not self-righteous & proud as we do stand for & rejoice in the truth

- so let's seek to have a heart of Christian love - the love described here in I Cor. 13:4-7 - not just part or one side of it - but the full extent of agape love; don't overlook the part of it the world ignores today - but don't ignore the other part either; may God fill our hearts with His love - & may we experience it & express it better & better as we seek to be faithful followers of Christ in these times we're living in today