Are you serious about following Jesus and embracing His mission to bring all of God’s lost children home? The Apostle Paul gave us some of the most profound words ever to leave human lips or come off a pen and one of those statements is found in his first letter to the Corinthians.
1 Corinthians 13:1-3 “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. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.”
Allow me to paraphrase those words and give them a much sharper point:
“If I have God-ordained and empowered spiritual gifts operating in my life and yet possess some fundamental character flaws – I am a spiritual child, drinking spiritual milk! If can hear the voice of God and translate it into powerful prophetic words through preaching or prophetic utterances but continue to hide habitual sin, resentment or bitterness in my heart … then I am a spiritual child, drinking spiritual milk! If I have allowed God to lay the essential foundation of grace in my understanding of Him but have not allowed Him to transform the foundations of my personal life and character – I am a spiritual child, drinking spiritual milk! If I have an overwhelming spiritual burden for the lost and a passion and frustration for the Church to reach them in evangelism but are still carrying personal baggage in my character – I am a spiritual child, drinking spiritual milk! If I can pray eloquently and exalt the Lord and intercede for His people and yet speak to or about my wife like she is a hired hand or worse – I am a spiritual child, drinking spiritual milk!”
Now that is the real meaning of this often sanitised, softened ‘love chapter.’ When it is truly understood, 1 Corinthians 13 is one of the most confronting, face-slapping passages in the New Testament. Those of us who are brave enough to take those words to heart will be encouraged to allow God some face-slapping time where He will examine our hearts, our personal priorities and our character – who we are in private. During that process we will be challenged to ask some hard questions:
- Will we allow the Holy Spirit time to address the issues which form the foundation beneath all foundations – our Christian character – our private life?
- Will we give God permission to address foundational issues governing what we think; what we say; how we say it; to whom we say it; what we expose our minds and hearts and bodies to; who we listen to and what we listen to; who we allow to be a key influencer in our lives; what we do with our bodies and how we treat them; how we drive; our attitude to each other and to Government authorities and law enforcement people?
- Will we allow God to do a work in us which directly targets our attitudes, our honesty, our integrity, practical holiness and personal lifestyle choices which all impact our witness more than all of the theology and ministry equipping put together? Are we brave enough to drop our guard and let God in so He can do all that by His transforming Spirit?
- Are we passionate enough about the lost in our community and leading them to Christ that we will do anything to achieve that – even if it means being laid open before God and each other as He re-arranges some very deep, personal and foundational issues and practices which may have previously enjoyed a safe haven or protection from His searching light?
I hope the answer is ‘yes’ to all of the above questions because that is what God will do if we open up to His Word. You see friends, I’m not sure if you know this or not; I’m not sure if you have realised this fact, but every one of you is a preacher. Every one of you is preaching a version of the gospel to everyone you live with, have fellowship with, talk to at work, pass in the street, speak to on the phone. They are all ‘hearing’ you preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ in the way you live, speak and act; in the choices you make; in what you listen to, watch, spend your money on and spend your time doing. That lifestyle gospel is being preached from the depths of your character and if your character is flawed then the gospel you preach is flawed and the Jesus you present to the world is not the Jesus they need to see or hear or fall in love with or follow as a disciple.