1 Corinthians 13:13
“But the greatest of these is love.” (1 Corinthians 13:13)
Today, let us consider lovers. This is the deepest longing of contemporaries, perhaps of any generation, is an intimate, enduring love relationship. Trust is often broken; hope is in short supply.
Several years ago I read about a New York Times reporter who wanted to report on street people, and he didn’t want to report on something he hadn’t experienced. So he went out one winter night, it was getting cold and dark and darker. So he went around behind one of the buildings to find a heat vent. And sure enough, there’s a heat vent. But there was a street man on it. Well, the man moved over and invited him to share the heat vent with him. And then he said “a warm place on a winter night, that’s the only thing.” Then he paused and said. “Course, if you had somebody to care for you. That’ll be even only-ier.”
That’s the longing of our human heart to love and be loved. Consider the purpose God had in creating you on his pattern. Wasn’t it to enable a tight love relationship? Lovers, to be truly one must be compatible. So he created us God compatible. So he could enfold us in His love. He could hardly become one with a monkey. So he created us on his pattern. But that’s not the only the goal of creation, it’s the goal of redemption. A restored image to make possible that love relationship. That’s what God is about. Always has been, always will be.
If the secret to a happy marriage is each living to fill up the other, my question for you this morning is this, How is your love relationship with God? You may be happy enough, but is He happy with your relationship? Is your marriage to God mostly one sided? Day and night he’s filling you and you doing very little to fulfill him? Fulfill God? God is complete. What could you add to him?
The vulnerability of love is that God feels loss. God hurts. God feels happy. God feels sad. As the prophet Isaiah said. “In all their distress, He too was distressed. In his love and mercy he redeemed them, yet they rebelled and grieved his Holy Spirit.” God feels your pain.
So how does the bride of Christ look to you? Divided, bickering, self-centered, dirty with the world values, unfaithful, disfigured, from self-inflicted wounds. And the Prince all glorious- what a deal? Oh, I know we should become like him when we see him as he is. We will be transformed without spot or blemish. That’s true. But what about today? Do you bring him sadness today or joy? The good news is this, no matter how ugly and split up, the church as a whole may look to itself or to outsiders. No matter how misguided and impotent. We as individuals can come to that final celebration with gifts that bring him joy.
We don’t pursue holiness and give our best for Kingdom advance to earn merit. It’s a love gift to Jesus. That’s why we do it. That’s why we pursue holiness of life. But what about the how? Well, there are two false views that prevail on the how. God does it all or I must do it all. It’s all of gracet or it’s all up to me. We’re tempted to move toward one of these extremes or the other instead of settling on the biblical center. God does it, of course. It won’t be done, but I participate with all my heart, with all my soul, with all my mind, or it won’t happen. And why do I do it? Because I love him. We were created for that. We were redeemed for that. The ultimate goal of life is not power packed ministry. As exciting as that is, nor is the goal to become ever more godly in character. Because the holy life is a means toward the ultimate goal. For only as we are like him, God compatible, can we respond in the kind of loving intimacy He designed us for. Compatibility. That’s the key to a happy marriage, isn’t it? Sad the marriage where a husband and wife have no shared interests, no common values, no passionate commitment to the same goals, no special time or loving companionship. A miserable coexistence under one roof. Strangers or divorce. Incompatibility, the legal documents say. And thus it is with God and you. He wants you to be like him, God-compatible, so you can be intimate .
What are you going say to God? Oh, we call it prayer. Let’s start with Thanksgiving. Did you ever notice that children are not naturally thankful little guys? They just expect their parents to be there for them to buy it all they need and they certainly are not thankful for the spankings. So we have to grow up to a love relationship in which we tell our lover constantly of our gratitude.
But did you notice that Thanksgiving is me oriented? It is what God has done for me. Now that’s a wonderful place to begin, but it’s a dreadful place to end. So there’s affirmation, praise, adoration.
And we learn that the heavy heart lifts on the wings of praise. Thanksgiving, praise, adoration- we call that kind of communication worship. But I think he intends something beyond worship. Something utterly astounding. Intimate companionship. He wants us to grow in knowing him, loving him, exulting in his companionship, delighting that every gift that he sends. Daily relishing his love letter to us. The goal of all that transforming grace is to be his intimate companion. Lovers. Today and every tomorrow.