“Love Matters Most”

(Please read Philippians 1:8-11.  The following quotes the NIV.)

         Love matters so much we shouldn’t do it the wrong way. Here are some examples of ways we shouldn’t show others we love them.

Observed on a tombstone in Cracker’s Neck, Mississippi (BTW, the name of the place gives it away)

“Anna Wallace.

“The children of Israel wanted bread and the Lord sent them manna.

“Old clerk Wallace wanted a wife and the devil sent him Anna.”

See if you notice why this wedding announcement should’ve been reworded:

“Mr. and Mrs. Harvey Wurst of Alban, NY, announce the engagement of their daughter, Barbara, to Jonathan Ever, son of Mr. and Mrs. Ever of West Hampton, NY.  The Wurst-Ever nuptials are slated for early June.”

One more: After the church service, a church member greeted the pastor enthusiastically and said, “Reverend, that was a wonderful sermon.  You should have it published.”

“Actually,” the pastor replied, “I’m planning to have all my sermons published posthumously.”

“Good,” the church member exclaimed, “The sooner the better!”

The love that matters most is Christ-like love (8).

         For example, Paul loved the Philippian believers. He wrote, GOD CAN TESTIFY, which could be paraphrased, “God knows how much I love you.” This is almost like Paul is swearing an oath; something he just didn’t do in his letters.  This fact underscores his sincerity; he’s not resorting 2 flattery. And/or this statement might’ve been Paul’s attempt to silence further debate & relieve any lingering doubts.

To further emphasize his devotion, he added, I LONG FOR ALL OF YOU. Paul was filled with longing to be with them.  Wouldn’t you like to hear this said about you?

In Paul’s day, the bowels, not the heart, were thought to be the place where deep emotions were felt.  So if you hear my tummy grumbling, I’m just saying “I love you.”

But the ultimate example is the love of Jesus Christ. How does the Bible describe THE AFFECTION OF CHRIST JESUS Paul mentioned in verse eight? A quick survey of John’s writings will reveal some important answers.

  • John 13:1 = IT WAS JUST BEFORE THE PASSOVER FEAST. JESUS KNEW THAT THE TIME HAD COME FOR HIM TO LEAVE THIS WORLD AND GO TO THE FATHER. HAVING LOVED HIS OWN WHO WERE IN THE WORLD, HE NOW SHOWED THEM THE FULL EXTENT OF THAT LOVE.  As the account continues, Jesus took on the role of the lowest servant and washed the dirty feet of His disciples.
  • John 3:16 is a familiar verse and 1 John 3:16 expresses the same truth in a slightly different way: AND THIS IS HOW WE KNOW WHAT LOVE IS: JESUS CHRIST LAID DOWN HIS LIFE FOR US, AND WE OUGHT TO LAY DOWN OUR LIVES FOR OUR BROTHERS.
  • Later in that letter, John addressed this subject again; THIS IS LOVE: NOT THAT WE LOVED GOD, BUT THAT HE LOVED US AND SENT HIS SON AS AN ATONING SACRIFICE FOR OUR SINS. (1 John 4:10)

Love matters; is serves several purposes (9-11).

         There is always room for more love.  That’s a fact of human nature and the reason the Spirit led Paul to write, MY PRAYER [IS] THAT YOUR LOVE MAY ABOUND MORE AND MORE. Its a fact of life that the deeper our love, the more we’ve worked at it, and the more profound joy we experience as a reward. This is the second mention of Paul’s prayers in this chapter.  PRAYER and LOVE out to be found together as often in our thoughts as they are in Paul’s thoughts. Note the object of Paul’s prayer: that their love may ABOUND – increasing in quantity and quality – MORE AND MORE.

Love is not merely a matter of feelings.  On the contrary, it is primarily a matter of intellect and spirit; as Paul revealed in the phrase IN KNOWLEDGE AND DEPTH OF INSIGHT.

True love is based on KNOWLEDGE.  This exactly the opposite of the empty love called “tolerance” which prefers ignorance (i.e., “Don’t ask, don’t tell”). Knowledge is not emotionless or detached nor is love only emotion. Love and knowledge affect one another, deepening each other.  More love will cause us to notice and know things we didn’t see before.

People like to excuse a lot of nonsense with the expression, “Love is blind.” Love is DEPTH OF INSIGHT. Biblical love, godly love, has 20/20 vision, folks. It focuses on the truth. True love always looks for ways to draw the beloved closer to God. It causes us to broaden our focus from the usual “me & now” to pay more attention to others and the more important issues of our time.

Love increases our wisdom. Paul wrote, SO THAT YOU MAY BE ABLE TO DISCERN WHAT IS BEST. Another flaky notion in our culture is that we excuse misbehavior because we’re not supposed to “judge.” Love seeks what is BEST; what is most in accord with god’s will.  Good judgment, biblically-grounded wisdom, Spirit-led discernment is necessary to know what IS BEST. We do want to avoid judgmentalism and prejudice, but without informed discernment to know the difference between good and evil, the most good-intentioned love can be twisted to serve evil purposes

A good outcome of discernment is tact.  Discernment is sensitivity to others that enables us to communicate and relate better. It’s not enough to say the truth, we need to do better and say the truth at a time and in a way that t other person will be more likely to hear it.

Love improves our morality. Part of Paul’s prayer was that the Philippians might be PURE AND BLAMELE and FILLED WITH THE FRUIT OF RIGHTEOUSNESS. By PURE he meant that their actions could be held up to the light and examined thoroughly, passing the moral test. Our words and deeds must be sincere and motivated by true love, not falsehood or flattery.

The word for BLAMELESS means “harmless.” In relational terms, this means not doing things that cause another person to do immoral acts (see 1 Corinthians 10:32). In personal terms, it means keeping our conscience clear; giving no reason for our conscience or others to accuse us of wrongdoing (see Acts 24:16).

FILLED WITH THE FRUIT OF RIGHTEOUSNESS describes the ethical and spiritual life God desires us to have. True love always has, as its priority, drawing attention to God, being obedient to Him.

Love has an eternal perspective. It looks ahead to THE DAY OF CHRIST. THE DAY OF CHRIST is the Second Coming. True love isn’t just stuck on today, doing things that appear to make sense in the short term. It also looks at the big picture, the long term. We need to live today as though it might be our last – not because death is imminent, but because the Second Coming is, and we want everyone we love to be ready for that day to come today!

Love results in worship of God. The phrase TO THE GLORY AND PRAISE OF GOD isn’t just a noble sentiment. Paul is acknowledged that true love begins in God’s heart, not ours.  It is His gift. God’s gifts are always supposed to draw attention to Him; that what GLORY and PRAISE really mean. The result of making God known is that hearts will turn to Him.

Life can send us some problems, and people are certain to complicate them.  But in all of it, we must remember that love is really what matters.  At the end of the day, at the end of life, love matters most. For example:

One day the pastor came home from conducting a wedding service.  “How’d it go?” his wife asked him.

The pastor sighed heavily and said, “It went well until I asked the bride if she would love, honor and obey, and she said, ‘Do you think I’m crazy?!’

“The groom was so stunned by this outburst all he could think to say was, ‘I do.’

“That’s when things began to happen.”

A wife was convinced the family needed a new car, but her husband insisted their current car was fine.  She and her husband argued about it for weeks without either side budging an inch.

So she had a brainstorm and decided to take a different approach.  She broadly hinted that for their fifteenth wedding anniversary, she’d like to receive something that would go from 0 to 200 in seven seconds.

On the morning of their anniversary, she was surprised to find a brightly wrapped box on the kitchen table.  The tag read, “Happy Anniversary – just what you wanted.”  She opened the box to find a brand new bathroom scale.

Her husband has been missing ever since.

(Material for the introduction and conclusion was gleaned from “The Joyful Noiseletter.”)

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