Love's Motive

Sermon Summary

What is the greatest thing in life? What is the most important thing in life? What really matters the most in life? These are questions that humans have been asking for eons! What is the supreme good that a person could seek to achieve in their life? What should be a person's ultimate goal? After all, we all have only one shot at this life! What we do with it really does matter! The Bible says love is the most important thing, and this message begins a series that examines the concept of love in detail. 1 Corinthians 13, which is known as the love chapter of the Bible, will be our guide for this sermon series. This first message looks at love's motive.

Community Group Discussion Guide

1. How important is love in your life, and why?

2. Paul says that a person who only talks about loving but does not follow through with actions is like a noisy gong or clanging cymbal. Explain why this is true. 

1 John 3:18 Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.

3. God's Word says "knowledge puffs up, love builds up." There's certainly nothing wrong with gaining knowledge and wisdom, but if we don't use that knowledge to help us grow in our love for God and for others, what good is it to anyone? There's an old saying, "People don't care how much you know until they know how much you care!" Explain how Paul's words seem to support that old saying.

1 Corinthians 13:2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge…but have not love, I am nothing.

4. The substance of our faith, the object of our faith, and the goal of our faith is to love God and to be loved by Him! This, in turn, causes the motive behind our giving love to never be "what's in it for me," but, "how can I honor the One who gave His life on an old rugged Cross to love me, and how can I help someone else know that love!" This helps explain why love is even greater than faith. It has to do with faith being a means to an end. What is that end?

Eph 3:16  I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being,
Eph 3:17  so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love,
Eph 3:18  may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ,
Eph 3:19  and to know this love that surpasses knowledge--that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

Full Sermon Notes

Love's Motive

"Out of the ruins, You're making me whole, the Giver of life is awakening hope." And do you know why we have hope? It's because of God's love! Today we will begin a series that will examine in depth the concept of love. As we will discover from our text, if we get everything else right, but get this wrong, we loose big! Let's pray and and ask God to help us get this right!  Prayer...

"Father God, how can we even begin to thank you for the amazing love you have for us. That love gives us hope in this world and gives us hope for life after we leave this place. Lord Jesus, You have loved us with an everlasting love and it causes us to want to love the way You love. Teach us over the coming weeks to understand deeply the concept of love and to practice what we learn! Help me to live in Your love and to be an example of that love in words and actions. As we begin today, hide me behind Your cross, and let the words of my mouth be inspired and anointed by Your Precious Holy Spirit! I know that I do not stand here today because I'm worthy, but because of Your grace and Your calling! I pray this prayer believing in the Name of Jesus, Amen!!

What is the greatest thing in life? What is the most important thing in life? What really matters the most in life? These are questions that humans have been asking for eons! What is the supreme good that a person could seek to achieve in their life? What should be a person's ultimate goal? After all, we all have only one shot at this life! What we do with it really does matter! We're going to use 1 Corinthians 13 as our guide for this sermon series. Most people who are familiar with this chapter of Scripture know it to be the love chapter of the Bible. If we look at the very last verse of this chapter, verse 13 we find the answer to our question. We will start with this verse and then spend the coming weeks going back and finding out just why Paul came to this conclusion.

1 Corinthians 13:13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

What is love and why is it the greatest? Today we begin a fascinating journey to discover what love is and why it is considered greater than hope, or even faith. So many religious teachers spend much more time on faith and doctrine and law, and the hope of what we get when we have faith: What we hope for here on earth and then what we hope for when we get to heaven.  

But Biblical writers come together in agreement that love is the greatest thing. Now, before you get up and leave thinking I've gone soft and sentimental, all touchy- feeling, emotional and that I don't think doctrine and theology are important, they are! And what I'm going to tell you about love in the coming weeks is foundational to all of our doctrine. And in case you're wondering what the words doctrine and theology even mean, let me remind you.  

Doctrine - A belief or set of beliefs held and taught by a church or other group!

Theology - What a person thinks about God!

So what does love have to do with doctrine and theology? Pretty much everything. Remember I said Biblical writers come together in agreement that love is the greatest thing. Check out this doctrine and theology found in 1 John 4:7ff. It also includes a powerful definition of love. A definition that set's the parameters of what true love really is!

1 John 4:7-8 Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.
Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.

So if you ever thought love is not the most important thing, you might think back to the fact the Bible states clearly and on more than one occasion says that God is love! This is an extremely important doctrine, it's good theology, and should inform our interpretation of all Scripture. We will return to 1 John 4 again in this series of messages. Now to the beginning of our text for today. 1 Cor. 13:1...

1 Corinthians 13:1 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.

Love's Motive is More than Talk

In other words, to quote an old DC Talk song, "love is a verb!" Love is so much more than words. Love is not just an intangible, inanimate, idea floating out there in the vast space and universe of your mind, it is something that finds it's reality in doing, in showing, in helping, in giving, in truly caring!! Sometimes, when I'm talking to someone about believing in God, I ask them a question.

"You wonder if God is real because you can't see Him, right? Have you ever seen love? What does love look like?" It is here that they begin to tell me things love does. They begin to describe love's actions. But when I press them on what love actually is, what does love itself actually look like, they start looking around and struggle to come up with an answer. Here's the world's definition of love...

Love: An intense feeling, A strong or constant affection for a person or some thing. Attraction.

One definition said love was nature's way of tricking people into having children! Too funny. This person may have been working through the scary world of the terrible twos or found themselves wondering around in the badlands of the teen years. But once again I point out that most of the definitions of love talk about an intangible feeling.

Feelings are hard to describe and painting a picture of a particular feeling is extremely difficult. One more example I use when talking to someone about belief in God. I ask them to describe to me what the wind looks like. They immediately begin to describe what the wind does, but not what it actually looks like. I then make this analogy: You may not be able to see God with your physical eyes, but the evidence of God's activity in our lives can be quite tangible. Like the wind moving the leaves of a tree or twirling them around once they have fallen, we can see God's hand at work in our lives when we choose to open our spiritual eyes and see. And here's what Paul was saying, true love is not defined by talk! True love is defined by actions. True love is motivated to act. True love wants to show the object of its affection just how much it loves and how deep its feelings truly are. And you might ask the question, "How does this concept apply to God, the definition of love?" Okay, back to 1 John 4, for the answer to this. It will show you the motivation behind the love of the God who is love...
 
1 John 4:9-11 This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.
This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.

And we must remember God's Word tells us over and over again that we love God by loving others and we don't just talk about it we are motivated to take action. 1John 3:18...

1 John 3:18 Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.

This takes us to the second verse of our text and our second, very important point. Paul goes on to say...

1 Corinthians 13:2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge…but have not love, I am nothing.

Love's Motive is Greater than Knowledge

If you have all the right doctrines, and interpret correctly all of the mysteries of Holy Scripture, but fail to have love, you've become nothing more than a legalistic Pharisee. Jesus had something to say to those guys, and it was some tough love. They needed to hear it. I think Jesus was so harsh with them hoping it would shake them, and wake them from their deadly slumber.

Matthew 23:1-7 Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples: “The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat.
So you must obey them and do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach.
They tie up heavy loads and put them on men’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them.
“Everything they do is done for men to see: They make their phylacteries wide and the tassels on their garments long; they love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues; they love to be greeted in the marketplaces and to have men call them ‘Rabbi.’

Rabbi was the honored term used for teachers who were thought to have great wisdom and knowledge. These guys knew the law. They had memorized the first five books of the Bible. Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy! Wow, that's intense. Talk about raw knowledge. These guys had it. But they missed the one thing! They didn't have love. So sad! These guys didn't love or care for others. They didn't care if anyone came into a loving relationship with God, they just loved the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues and loved having people think they were better than everyone else! Have you ever wondered what Jesus thought about these guys?

Well, He knew they were white washed tombs filled with dead men's bones, but how did He really feel about them? And remember, love is a feeling, but it's motive moves beyond feelings to action. How did Jesus feel about these guys?

Matthew 23:37 “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing.

And the attitude Jesus had is exactly what you would expect from Jesus Christ The Messiah Who was God in the flesh, because God is love! Let me give you a little knowledge about the word love as we find it in the Bible. The New Testament was written in Greek. Paul uses one word for love in our text, agape, which we'll talk about in a moment. There were other words he could have used for love. There is the noun eros and the verb earn which express more of the physical kind of love. This word for love is not found in the Bible. Then there is the noun storge, which is more like a parent's love for their child and vise-versa. Only once do we find the adjective form of this word in the Bible talking about brotherly love. A third word for love is found in the New Testament, Philia, the noun, and philein, the verb. This form of the word love is used to describe different kinds of love, and is used 69 times in the New Testament. However, the word Agape, which was rarely used by the Greeks, is used around 250 times in the New Testament. Over half of them as a verb! Most of us know Agape as "Godly Love!" Why?

The reason is this. Because the Greeks used this form of the word very rarely, followers of Christ took the word and filled it with descriptions, and meanings in relation to God's love! The Broadman Commentary put it this way...

"Agape is used to express the spontaneous, creative, caring love that is expressive of God's nature and that extended to undeserving men in Christ. Men who accept God's love are empowered by the Spirit of God to live thankfully and obediently in response to God's love and thereby live by the love that redeems them in Jesus Christ. It becomes their love, but it is the gift of God's love. It is not their work, but God's gift. One does not gain it; one receives it. It comes not through self-assertion, but self-surrender. Love evokes faith and faith evokes love."

This brings us directly to the next point of Paul's words in our text...

1 Corinthians 13:2b ...and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.

Love's Motive is the Object of Faith

What motivates Agape love is God Himself. He is the object of our faith. And what motivates our faith is our desire to know God and to love God and to be loved by God! And of course we already know He loves us, but we are motivated to experience that love and to know that love in our daily lives. It is not enough to just talk about it, to have knowledge of it, to have faith that it exist, but the object of our faith is the God of Love and that motivates us to live in His love, by His love, through His love, and to share His love! Why does Paul say that love is greater than faith? Because faith is a means to an end, not the end! The goal of faith, the purpose, the desire, the passion of faith, is to run into the open arms of a loving, gracious, giving, forgiving, merciful, caring, God who sacrificed so much in order to show us His love! And another goal of our faith is to exercise the honor and privilege of showing our love for Him in return!    

As I've said before, it is popular to preach about having great faith! Having big faith, but Jesus said that a mustard seed of faith is all it takes to cast a mountain into the sea. So the real question is this: it's not how big is your faith, but how big is the one you put your faith in? But when it comes to love, you've got to make a choice whether or not you're going to love big, or love small. Love is a choice!! And here's the deal…When God, who is love, is the object of your faith, the goal of your faith, the passion of your faith, He's going to instruct you to love big! He's going to instruct you to love Him by loving others.

And never forget this, this includes loving yourself, not in a selfish way, but knowing you are loved by God will give you the ability to love yourself, and then you can love others as you love yourself! Remember that "love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind and love your neighbor as yourself" thing? It's a pretty important teaching of Christ!

What does it look like to have God as the object of your faith, and loving Him as your goal in life? Maybe we could turn to one who was considered to be a man after God's own heart for some instruction on this one. King David had made some pretty serious mistakes in life, but his motivation was to  pursue God's heart, God's ways and to find both in a loving relationship with God! Listen..

Psalm 103:1-18 Praise the LORD, O my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name.
Praise the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits—
who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion,
who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.
The LORD works righteousness and justice for all the oppressed.
He made known his ways to Moses, his deeds to the people of Israel:
The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love.
He will not always accuse, nor will he harbor his anger forever;
he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities.
For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him;
as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.
As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him;
for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust.
As for man, his days are like grass, he flourishes like a flower of the field;
the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more.
But from everlasting to everlasting the LORD’S love is with those who fear him, and his righteousness with their children’s children —
with those who keep his covenant and remember to obey his precepts.

But from everlasting to everlasting the LORD’S love is with those who fear Him! The words fear Him are found three times in this chapter. Fear Him does not mean to be scared of God, it means to have a reverent, respectful awe and appreciation of God! It's the kind of awestruck fear that develops when your motivation is to love God will all your heart, soul, mind and strength!

And when you love someone with all your heart, you will naturally want to please them. What would please God more than to know that His children are keeping their covenant promises to Him and are obeying His precepts, which, by the way, are designed to bring us into a personal relationship with God! This takes us to our last point for today! It's so important. Listen closely to Paul's words…

1 Corinthians 13:3 If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.

Love's Motive Goes Beyond Giving

Did you know giving doesn't necessarily translate into loving? Sometimes people will give sacrificially, but without a motivation of love! There are times when people will do extraordinary things for all the wrong reasons. There are times people give to be seen as a good and giving person. They may give to the cause that gives them the most visibility rather than the cause that is most worthy! Sometimes people give to get! They want to know what they're going to get as a result of their gift. They are willing to give to God if in the end God is going to bless them with double, triple or four-fold what they invested. Years ago, a man sued a television preacher because he didn't get the return on his gift he was promised.

Here's something to remember. God looks at the heart! He knows our heart! You can't hide your heart from God. God wants us to love Him to the point of trusting Him with every aspect of our lives. He wants us live with such love that we would be willing to sacrifice for Him and for others, but the greatest sacrifice we can give to God is the sacrifice of obedience. The very last message of this series will focus on the sacrifices love is willing to make, but the motive of love goes beyond just giving. It is giving because we truly love God and those we are giving to. It has to be about others and not about ourselves. Jesus put it this way...

Matthew 6:1-4 “Be careful not to do your ‘acts of righteousness’ before men, to be seen by them.
If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.
“So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to
be honored by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full.
But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing,
so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

You may remember some time ago, I preached a message on this very topic. I told you that it's not wrong for someone to know you've given something to God or to help someone, but if you do it because you want people to know about it so you can look good in their eyes, that's not a motive of love, and the only reward you will have is that momentary "hey look at me!" But love's motive goes beyond giving. It is truly concerned with how giving will bless God and how the gift will help someone who is in need. And we have to be willing to know when giving is not the most loving thing to do. Sometimes giving to someone may make you feel good, but it only enables that person to continue living a destructive lifestyle. Love's motive goes beyond just giving and makes decisions based on what would honor God and what would really help someone in need. Let me recap and then close with a statement.

The recap…Love's motive is more than talk. Love's motive is greater than knowledge. Love's motive is the object of faith (which is a personal relationship with God). Love's motive goes beyond giving!

Now please remember these things...Sometimes love, no matter how much you want to speak, just needs you to be silent and not say anything, it just needs to do the right thing. Sometimes just being there for a friend is being a friend even if you don't have any words to say in a particular situation. It's called the ministry of presence!

And sometimes, silence is an action. Now I'm not talking about the famous "silent treatment" that people sometimes use as a weapon! But it can be an act of love when your spouse is upset with you about something, and you just listen and hear the truth in their words, even if it's only a grain of truth. Focus on fixing that grain rather than going into defense mode to justify yourself. And never forget this, God's Word says "knowledge puffs up, love builds up." People don't care how much you know until they know how much you care! Remember, also that faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. Like the wind, you can't literally see love but you can sure see the evidence of it's presence by what it does.

The substance of our faith, the object of our faith, the goal of our faith is to love God and to be loved by Him! And this, in turn, causes the motive behind our giving love to never be "what's in it for me," but, "how can I honor the One who gave His life on an old rugged Cross to love me, and how can I help someone else know that love!" Remembering these things will allow you to love as Christ loved!
Let's pray!