Monday, September 12, 2011

How boasting, pride and rudeness kills the spirit of love in the church

TEXT : 1 Corinthians 13:4-7   
TITLE:  The Properties of Christian Love  #3 :  How boasting, pride and rudeness kills the spirit of love in the church  
TEXT :  11  /09 /2011

Christian    love(Gr. agape) produces  a  positive, constructive, uplifting  attitude  and  atmosphere   in the church. 
The apostle  Paul, in trying to describe the nature of such biblical love  has to use 15 verbs  to help us  to understand  what this  biblical  love is like ,  and   what it is not like.  Seven  times he describes   love  positively (what it is)  and eight  times  he describes  it negatively (what it is not). In order to  help us to understand  a positive attribute better, we are often helped by stating  also what it is not.  So when I tell you that Mary or John  are  wonderful  examples of  godly love, patient and kind,   I might  also  tell you that they  are  not  boastful or  proud  or rude people  - and by saying this,   their loving  Christian spirit  is  made even clearer! 

We are currently studying the nature of  biblical love as we  work through these 15  verbs which qualify the  character of Christian love.  Verses 4 – 7 constitute  the true  marks  or criteria by which we ought to  define a biblical church [1]. I am deliberately going slow on this, because I want us  to meditate  prayerfully on these traits  in the hope that we  will  see this  kind of attitude  firmly established in our church and in the greater Christian community. 

Today,   I want  to cover three ‘love killers’:  boasting , pride and rudeness. Each one of these, if  allowed to persist in the life of the church, will threaten  the life of the church, and will diminish the  effectiveness of  the use  of  our spiritual gifts  in the church.

1.      Love  does not boast (ESV) ; “ vaunteth not itself…” (KJV) :

The word used here  (Gr. perpereuomai)  means  to speak conceitedly  - to brag – to parade  one’s  achievements.  This action or attitude is related  to envy (or jealousy). If  envy is  wanting  what  my neighbour has, then  boasting  is  trying to make others envious of what  I have.  It is not difficult to see that “ boasting”  is an intensely self  centered activity. This was  a great problem in the Corinthian congregation. It can be  a problem in  every congregation from time to time. We must be able to identify it quickly, because  if unchecked it will kill the most precious commodity in the church  - our love for God and for one another!   
To illustrate  this in context of Paul’s letter to the Corinthians:  In 1 Corinthians 14:26  in the context of  the subject of orderly worship  Paul pointedly asks the Corinthian   church members:  26 What then, brothers? When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up.

What happened here is that each one in the church  came with his/her  own idea, and  wanted to press their own agenda upon the congregation as it was assembled in worship. It wasn’t that these activities  (bringing a hymn, a lesson, a revelation , a tongue , an interpretation)   were wrong in themselves in this context. It was  that they  were  being used to boast, brag, or show off. Unfortunately, this easily happens when a bunch of thoughtless worshippers  comes together. The church easily transforms itself into a stage   where people   may boast and exalt themselves  thus killing the spirit of  Christian love in the church.

2.      Love is not  arrogant ( ESV) ;  proud (NIV) ; "puffed up"  ( KJV) 
The Greek word “phusioutai “ used  here  literally translated  as - to puff up, to inflate – lit.  windbags or bellows. This  same word is also used in  1 Cor  4:6,18,19 ; 5:2; 8:1.      Everything good  that the Corinthians had, their  knowledge and their spiritual gifts in particular   came from the Lord, and yet in focusing upon their spiritual gifts  they  had become so arrogant, so puffed up, so proud, so self opinionated   that they  were  beginning to think themselves  wiser than what was written in God’s Word  (1 Cor 4:6); they were thinking  that they were  wiser than the Lord’s apostle – Paul (4:18,19);  they were  even  arrogant and puffed up in their  sexual sins  (1 Cor 5:2).  Such arrogance  leads to   a blindness in which  those  who are  proud like  this  cannot see this  in themselves. 
We see this well illustrated in Scripture. In his pride, Moses lost his temper and was kept from the promised land (Num 20:1-13). Pride kept Joshua from seeking God’s will at Ai, and he lost the battle (Josh. 7). King Nebuchadnezzar’s pride turned him into an animal (Dan. 4), and Peter’s pride led to his denial of Christ on the night that  He was betrayed .

Pride is   a potent  ‘love killer’ . It may be called the root of all sin.  C. S. Lewis  in his book “Mere Christianity”  has a chapter  entitled, “ The great  sin”  in which he refers to the sin of pride. He writes :

“ …the essential vice, the utmost evil, is pride. Unchastity, anger, greed, drunkenness, and all that, are mere fleabites in comparison: it was through pride that the devil became the devil: Pride leads to every other vice: it is the complete anti-God state of mind.”[2]

Pride  or  arrogance – this “puffed up state of mind”  transforms  all the wonderful gifts  that God gives to His children  into utterly useless, empty gongs and clanging cymbals.

Some  prominent  missionaries  understood  the  dangers of pride, and they knew how to deal with it. William Carey ( 1761-1834 ) an Englishman,  was  trained as a cobbler (repairing shoes)    in his youth. Later he became a Baptist missionary to India, and  there he became one of the greatest linguists the church has ever known. It’s reported that Carey translated parts of the Bible into as many as 24 Indian dialects. When he first went to India, some regarded him with contempt. One prominent man  apparently  once said to him, “I suppose, Mr. Carey, you once worked as a shoemaker.” Carey responded, “No, your lordship, not as a shoemaker, only a cobbler.” Carey didn’t claim to make shoes, only to mend them. Carey was not a proud man. He knew where he came from, and he knew who he was by the grace of God.

Just before he died at age 73  William  Carey apparently  said out to a missionary friend, "Dr. Duff! You have been speaking about Dr. Carey; when I am gone, say nothing about Dr. Carey; speak about Dr. Carey's God." William Carey's tombstone in Serampore, India  has these words inscribed: William Carey: Born August 17, 1761 ; Died June 9, 1834 - "A wretched, poor, and helpless worm, On Thy kind arms I fall."  Dr Carey was buried in  India. He greatly loved the people he ministered to !

Hudson Taylor (1832-1905), founder of the China Inland Mission  was once  scheduled to speak at a large church. The moderator of the service introduced the missionary in eloquent and glowing terms. He told the large congregation all that Taylor had accomplished in China, and then presented him as “our illustrious guest.” Taylor stood quietly for a moment, and then opened his message by saying, “Dear friends, I am the little servant of an illustrious Master.[3]  
He wrote: “I often think that God must have been looking for someone small enough and weak enough  for Him to use… he found me…” [4]
He was buried beside his wife in China on the banks of the Yangtze River, in the land of the people  he had loved, lived for. On his gravestone is this simple  inscription - James Hudson Taylor - a Man in Christ. No pride or arrogance there! Just humble love!

3.       Love is not rude (ESV) ;  "it does not behave itself unseemly “(KJV) 

The Greek “ouk  ascheimonei”  literally means  “acting contrary to form”  ("a" = negative; "schema" = a form). When  pride  rules  then  self rules; and when self rules our life is lived without any regard to any one.  That is the essence of rudeness. A rude person  acts without regard, respect, honour or consideration  to others.   Now clearly  this is contrary  to biblical  love. Agape love  by way of contrast frequently forgets itself and thinks firstly of others. The apostle  Paul is a good example of this. In 1 Corinthians  Ch 9 we saw how he laid down his own rights for the sake of the gospel (e.g. 1 Cor. 9:18,19)
The Corinthian Christians  were models of rude behaviour.  The ate and drank  in the context of a communion service  without  regard  to anyone else. This is seen particularly in  1 Cor 11:21  where Paul comments: “… for in eating  and drinking, each one goes ahead with his own meal. One  goes hungry, another gets drunk!”  That is being rude!

When Jesus was once dining  in the home of a Pharisee named Simon, a  woman  came in and washed his feet with her tears, dried them with her hair, and anointed them with expensive perfume. Simon was  embarrassed and offended and thought to himself:  “If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, for she is a sinner.”
Jesus who knew his thoughts then said to him:  “Simon, I have something to say to you.”  Jesus told him a parable:

” 41 “A certain moneylender had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. 42 When they could not pay, he cancelled the debt of both. Now which of them will love him more?” 43 Simon answered, “The one, I suppose, for whom he cancelled the larger debt.” And he said to him, “You have judged rightly.” 44 Then turning toward the woman he said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 45 You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not ceased to kiss my feet. 46 You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. 47 Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.”

Simon  the Pharisee  is plainly a rude host. He is  loveless. Jesus  contrasts  the humble   love of this woman  and he links  the difference in  her attitude  to  the Christian experience of  forgiveness: She loves much because she has understood the  extent of the love of God for herself!  That is profound! Agape love or biblical, Christian love is a gift from heaven. It is not natural, learned  behaviour. It is the love of God pored into our hearts by the Holy Spirit (Rom 5:5) .

Conclusion :

At the heart of these three   “love killers “    is  a lack of humility, just as at the heart of envy there is really a lack of contentment.  And it all comes from  a heart  which is unregenerate or which has become  cold and  out of touch with  God.
Why   can  we so easily   become  proud , boastful and rude?  It is  a lack of  God- the presence and experience  of God  in our lives.  John Calvin says: "It is certain that man never achieves a clear   knowledge of himself, unless he has first looked upon God's face, and  then descends from contemplating Him, to scrutinize himself."  

We need to pray  that  we would understand, comprehend  and  feel   God's  personal love for US! That is the essence of Paul’s prayer in Ephesians  3:14-19  - that they might be rooted and grounded in love

What we have to learn in the church  is this love. We need to also  learn those things which kill our love, and in so doing  we shall  truly see  the Kingdom of God advanced, making the Lord Jesus  attractive to an unbelieving world.(Jn 13:35)

We should be sick and tired of all the current attempts to cure the ills of the church and to promote church growth through  superficial  techniques.We should be eager to make it our aim to practise these properties of love.

How about   committing this matter to the Lord your God right now ?

[1] It is disconcerting that most modern  Christians  would not use this criteria  to establish  the marks of a biblical church . They would far sooner  look for the  manifestations found  in  1 Cor 13:1-3 as evidences of a  biblical church .
[2] C.S. Lewis : Mere Christianity , p.107
[3] Wycliffe Handbook of Preaching and Preachers, W. Wiersbe, p. 243.

[4] Kennedy and  Newcombe: What if the Bible had never been written ?

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