What makes for a successful life? We are surrounded by people who look very impressive and we can desire to be like them. Wealth, beauty, intelligence, influence, ‘followers’ on ticktock, social justice… Many things are held up as measures of success. What is your gauge for accomplishment? At the church in Corinth, they were holding on to a worldly measure of status. Part of this involved the use of gifts of the Spirit in a way that made them look impressive. They used gifts for self-promotion rather than for the edification of others. Paul corrects them:
‘If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have 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 do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.’ (1 Corinthians 13:1-3)
Do you see that it’s our motivations that give worth to our use of the gifts? Gifts ranging from tongues to care for the poor are worthless without the motive of love. The gifts mentioned in 13:1-3 are representative of all the gifts - word, works and wonder gifts are worthless if they are not motivated by love. God wants to change our hearts. By the Spirit, our motivations can be changed and purified. Love is not a gift, it is the motivation by which we are to seek and use the gifts.
Why is God so interested in our motives? Why isn’t our service valuable regardless? Surely, to do good is valuable whether or not we have a good heart! However, we are all put off when we sense that someone is inauthentic in their good works or use of spiritual gifts. I’m sure that we would rather not be helped by someone who was serving us for their own benefit! As those who are made in God’s image, we find is very unimpressive when people are self-serving. Added to this, the use of God’s gifts without love is detestable because it’s idolatry; without love for God and people, our motive is to gain benefit and glory for ourselves and God cannot be pleased with this! Give it some thought, why do you think that God treats as ‘nothing’ good things that are done with the wrong motives?
John Piper gave an illustration of a husband giving his wife a massive bunch of beautiful roses which cost a lot of money. When she asks for the reason, he responds that it’s because it's his duty as a husband! You can see how love is the only good motive for giving a bunch of roses! Surely this is true of any act of service or use of the gifts!
God is warning us about the danger of seeking and using His gifts without love. Love, in essence, is seeking to build others up. We can achieve this when we use the Spirit’s gifts with the right motive. A good response would be to pray for more of the fruit of the Spirit - love being a major feature:
‘But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.’ (Galatians 5:22-23)
COMMUNITY GROUP NOTES AND STUDY
It might be good to begin with notices. Please share from this week’s Church News.
Do you have any encouragements to share from how God has been speaking to you from His word recently?
3. SIV WEEK
This week is SIV (Serve, Invest and Invite) week and so we will focus on this together.
On Sunday, we began our study on 1 Corinthians 13. We saw how vital love is. Love is to be the motive for seeking to have and use the gifts of the Holy Spirit; without the motive of love, all of our use of the gifts of the Spirit is 'nothing'. We read,
'If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have 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 do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. Love is patient, love is kind...' (1 Corinthians 13:1-4)