The Greatest of these is Love
Three things will last forever - faith, hope, and love - and the greatest of these is love. (1 Corinthians 13:13)
I don’t think that there will be anyone reading this who is not familiar with 1st Corinthians 13, the great song of love in the New Testament. However, I wonder how many of you remember the first time you read it. I do.
When I first stumbled upon 1st Corinthians 13, I didn’t have the same respect for The Bible that I have today because it wasn’t long since I had handled The Bible for the first time. I hadn’t yet ventured along the road of Bible study and I didn’t realise it was Holy Spirit inspired writing. I thought it was merely a man writing down his own ideas.
On that memorable occasion, I began to read the now familiar words,
Love is patient, love is kind.
It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.
It does not dishonour others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.
Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.
It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Love never fails.
(1 Corinthians 13:4-8)
“Well, this just can’t be right”, I thought to myself. I wasn’t trying to be smart. I wasn’t in any way being judgemental. I truly thought that the person who wrote this had got it all wrong. I reasoned that I loved my family, but I had to admit that I wasn’t always patient with them. Nor was I always kind. And maybe I did get a wee but angry from time to time... but that didn’t mean I didn’t love them!!! I mean, what family didn’t annoy each and express irritation to each other? That was just life and love.
It was then that something happened that I have never forgotten. A gentle voice spoke to me in my mind and said, ‘but this is MY love I’m talking about’. With those words came revelation. Revelation of a love so great, so patient, so kind and long-suffering. Charles Spurgeon describes it well when he says,
For breadth, the love of Jesus is immensity
For length it is eternity
For depth it is immeasurability
And for its height infinity.
God’s love was way above anything I had ever imagined. It made human love look small in comparison. I wanted to find a new name for God’s love; a name that was as big as the reality I had seen.
Over time, I began to realise that, although Corinthians 13 speaks of God’s love, this is the standard that He is asking us apply to our lives. This is one of the most difficult things he asks us to do and in many cases, it cuts right across the grain of what we want to do. But, if it is God who is asking, it is God who also gives the power.
This week, take time to read this chapter of The Bible again, and let God renew in your heart the vision of His love.
Remember your Creator... (Ecclesiates 12:1)
Robert Laurence Binyon published a poem in The Times newspaper in September 1941; it was entitled ‘For the Fallen’ but is more widely known as ‘We will remember them’. It is quoted each year on 11th November, Armistice Day. Last week, our Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, quoted the words at a 75th VJ Day commemoration. He said,
‘At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them’.
Imagine a society where we didn’t ‘remember’ these momentous events. We would all be the poorer for it.
I was meditating this week on the word ‘remember’, considering some circumstances when it appears in the Bible. I felt the weight of the importance of this word. In Luke’s gospel, we read that one of the two criminals crucified with Jesus, comes to a point where he realises his own sin and says:
“Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” (Luke 23:42)
The word ‘remember’ here, doesn’t just mean to bring something to mind. The criminal wasn’t asking Jesus to simply think about him. The ‘remember’ here requires action, some kind of outward gesture, effort or activity. In this case, the criminal wanted Jesus to grant him admittance to Heaven. Jesus assured Him that this would be so.
Similarly, we find the word ‘remember’ in Ecclesiastes 12. The word Ecclesiastes comes from a Greek word ‘ekklesia’ which means ‘assembly’ or ‘congregation’. We read in The Bible that Solomon was visited by ambassadors and kings who wanted to hear his wisdom. In Ecclesiastes 12:1-7, he instructs his audience eight times to ‘remember’ their creator. For example;
Ecclesiastes 12:2 Remember him before the light of the sun, moon, and stars is dim to your old eyes...
Ecclesiastes 12:3 Remember him before your legs—the guards of your house—start to tremble...
Ecclesiastes 12:4 Remember him before the door to life’s opportunities is closed and the sound of work fades...
Perhaps this message was delivered to a younger audience because it refers to youth, but the principle of ‘remembering’ our creator applies to us all, irrespective of our age.
I wonder what action you need to take today in order to ‘remember’ your creator . Perhaps you have neglected to take time aside every day to be alone with God to pray, to read scripture and simply be in His presence. Or perhaps you have become so busy with work that no time is left for those for whom your Saviour would have you remember, to visit the sick or those in prison. (Matthew 25:43).
Perhaps you have been letting you minds wander away a little bit too frequently day dreaming of that holiday in the sun, that shiny new car or the next home makeover.
Whatever it is that you need to do to remember your creator, make room for it and your life will be all the richer as a result of it.
You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength. (Deuteronomy 6:5)
In the Bible, we all have our favourite characters. In the Old Testament, mine are Joseph, Moses and Daniel. I love Joseph for the fact that he kept looking outward in the face of crushing setbacks, Moses for his gargantuan style patience and and Daniel for his unwavering commitment to God, even in the face of death.
However, there is another person that I also greatly admire and that is David. I admire him because of his love for God.
In 1 Chronicles 28 we read of the vast preparations David made for the building of the Temple. Here are just a few...
Then David gave Solomon the plans for the Temple and its surroundings, including the entry room, the storerooms, the upstairs rooms, the inner rooms...
David also gave Solomon all the plans he had in mind for the courtyards of the Lord’s Temple, the outside rooms, the treasuries, and the rooms for the gifts dedicated to the Lord...
And he gave specifications for the items in the Temple that were to be used for worship...
David gave instructions regarding how much gold and silver should be used to make the items needed for service...
He designated the amount of refined gold for the altar of incense...
Finally, he gave him a plan for the Lord’s “chariot”—the gold cherubim whose wings were stretched out over the Ark of the Lord’s Covenant.”
However, not only did David hand over all the plans to Solomon, he also said, “And now, because of my devotion to the Temple of my God, I am giving all of my own private treasures of gold and silver to help in the construction.” 1 Chronicles 29:3 NLT
David knew that he would never see the Temple built in his lifetime. I wonder how many people today would pour their heart and soul into planning a work for God they knew they would never see and knew that it would bear another’s name? Not too many, I think.
I also wonder if Solomon would ever have built this, had it not been for David. I suspect, perhaps not.
You never read of David planning the name for the temple; he just planned everything else. So why did he do it all? He did it because he loved God more than he loved himself. He loved God more than his love for a name for himself. He loved God more than he loved riches for himself. He loved God more than fame for himself. In short, he loved God!!
I think that David brought much pleasure to the heart of God, and here’s the greatest thing...... so can we!
Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. (Psalm 51:10)
Have you ever wondered, when you’re interested in a particular topic, how many times it’s mentioned in scripture? Maybe, like me, you Google to find references to a particular theme.
I did this with word ‘purity’ recently and found the top 100 verses in the Bible that relate to purity. When a topic is mentioned that often, we want to sit up and take notice. Here are just a few of them;
Keep yourselves pure. (1 Timothy 5:22)
Who may ascend the hill of the Lord? And who may stand in His holy place? He who has clean hands a pure heart. (Psalm 24:3-4)
Depart, depart, go out from there! Touch no unclean thing! Come out from it and be pure, you who carry the articles of the Lord’s house. (Isaiah 52:11)
In addition to this, there is another one that caught my attention this week,
So remove your dark deeds like dirty clothes, and put on the shining armour of right living. (Romans 13:12)
I find this to be a very ‘visual’ verse. I picture a young man, coming in from the rain on a stormy, winter’s evening. He’s soaked to the skin and covered in mud. I picture him unzipping his mud splattered jacked and casting it aside. He does the same with his Wellington boots. However, the rain and mud have penetrated to the next layer; in fact every layer of clothes is sullied, so every contaminated piece has to come off.
I picture him now, in his new, clean clothes. But these aren’t any ordinary clothes. This is his ‘shining armour’, whiter than white, indeed dazzling white.
Does this remind you of anything?
Six days later Jesus took Peter, James, and John, and led them up a high mountain to be alone. As the men watched, Jesus’ appearance was transformed, and his clothes became dazzling white, far whiter than any earthly bleach could ever make them. (Mark 9:2-3)
When Jesus was transfigured before his disciples, they saw something of his eternal being; the radiance of His purity, came sharply into focus.
There is an inner clean-ness that God is looking for in each one of us. He wants to gift us the ‘shining armour’, but he can only do that if we live right and live in purity. I wonder what ‘dark deeds’ could be holding someone back today from receiving their ‘shining armour’? Could it be jealousy, or pride or selfishness? Or perhaps it’s unclean thoughts, lust, anger or bitterness?
Shall we make it a point to take along, honest look at our ‘dirty clothes’ and make a decision to get rid of these once and for all? In doing so, we make way for God to bestow upon us His ‘shining armour’ as we live in purity.
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