1st Corinthians – Wayne Barber/Part 89
By: Dr. Wayne Barber
|By: Dr. Wayne Barber; ©1998|
|It’s really precious to realize that no gift is ever real unless it’s received. If we’re going to receive the gift that God has given us in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ, then we are receiving daily His life. We’re receiving daily His peace. We’re receiving daily the wisdom and all of the other things that He embodies. But if we’re not going to receive it, then we might as well forget it.|
1 Corinthians 12:31 and 1 Peter 2:1
The Absolute Proof of a Surrendered Life – Part 1
Turn in your Bible to 1 Corinthians 12:31. We’re going to hang out there for a minute, and then we’re going to take a detour. I think you’ll understand that a little bit better as we get into the message. I want to begin a series that is going to carry us all the way through chapter 13, “The Absolute Proof of a Surrendered Life.”
You’ve heard the saying, “If it acts like a duck and quacks like a duck and looks like a duck, it must be a duck.” That’s a good way of determining a duck. But in the context of what we’re studying in 1 Corinthians, particularly chapters 12 and 13, the question we must ask is this: Is there an absolute way to prove that a person is living surrendered to Christ? Is there an absolute mark on a person who truly is spiritual? We see those in the pulpit who preach. They’re eloquent and have all these gifts, so we say, “Surely that person is spiritual.” We hear a person teach a Sunday School class with teaching that we marvel at and we say, “That person is spiritual. Oh, what a gift they have!” We know people who know the Bible from cover to cover. They know all the books. They even know where Amos is. And we say that person has got to be spiritual. We see people do great things for others and we say just by the fact that they do those great things that they must be spiritual.
But you see, if you take all that preaching and teaching and knowledge and good things we can do for others and you mix them together into a big vat, there is one word that tests it all. That’s what we’re going to be looking at. It tells whether or not this is of God or this is of the flesh. You see, all this seemingly spiritual stuff could be nothing more than just pure religious flesh. But there’s one thing, just one thing that proves the fact that God has His hand on it, that this person is attached to Christ, that this person is surrendered to Christ. And it’s a word; really it’s a four letter word. We don’t like four letter words, but I like this one. It’s the word “love.” It’s something that only God could produce and it cannot in any way be faked.
In chapter 13 Paul shows that when you desire the Giver He will produce something far beyond that spiritual gift you want to talk about. He produces the fruit of the Spirit which is love. It’s no mistake that chapter 13 comes right after 12 and right before 14. He’s trying to bring them back to their senses. They’re attached to everything but Christ. But he says that when you desire the Giver, He produces in you that which cannot be manipulated and that which cannot be duplicated by the flesh. It’s a quality of love known only to God. A human being cannot produce it in his own way, in his own heart. God has to produce it in that person. If it’s not there, then all the teaching and all the preaching and all the good words and all this stuff is nothing more than a front to cover up what we really know we are apart from God.
I want us to do something that I think will help us in chapter 13. It’s the way God led me and I just have to follow where I think He’s leading me. I want us to divert from here. We’re going to see in chapter 13 what love is. There’s not going to be any question what love is, this love produced by the Spirit of God. But I want us to see what love is not. I think sometimes it’s healthy to put that as a backdrop. Chapter 13 will make a ton more sense when you see what it’s not. When you see what it is, wow, the contrast will be like night and day. I want you to know that in Corinth, with all their knowledge and all their gifts and all their manifestations they were chasing after, they did not possess this one thing which only comes from a surrendered heart from a walk, from an attachment to Christ. I want you to see what love is not.
Turn with me to 1 Peter 1:22. That will get us in the context. I’m taking you to a passage of Scripture that I’ve used many times. I want us to see it in light of what we’re looking at in Corinth. I want you to see why Paul has to do what he does in chapter 13. Everything you see Peter bring out was evident in the church of Corinth.
Let me give you a little bit of background of 1 Peter so that you’ll understand the context from which this comes. Nero has burned Rome as part of a prearranged plan to blame the Christians for doing it. As a result persecution came that had never been known before. These were the worst persecuted Christians you’ll ever find. Rome also dominated Asia Minor. As a matter of fact, when it conquered Greece, it divided into Achaia and Macedonia and Asia Minor. Up in Asia Minor, all dominated by the Roman influence, the persecution spread. Peter is writing to the churches, the believers, there in Asia Minor. These are very persecuted believers. If you want to find people going through tough times, this is where you’ll find it in the New Testament. You find them soaked in oil and hung up on poles and lit and to become torches for the orgies they would have right in front of them there in Rome and Asia Minor. Also they were taking them and putting animal skins on them and putting them out in arenas. People would pay great prices to come and watch wild animals eat them.
This is the time when the great stories come out about the way people stood in the face of persecution. The Christians would walk out arm in arm, singing the great hymns of the faith and it would astound the audiences. These people were so bold and so sure in the face of death. It’s a tremendous time in church history. It’s a tremendous time for people to look and see what a real Christian was.
But in the midst of that, Peter has to remind them of something that catches your breath. It’s like, “Why would you have to remind them of this? Come on! These are spiritual people, aren’t they? They’re being persecuted.” Let me tell you something. It doesn’t matter where you are or who you are, when you get your eyes off of Jesus, I don’t care how spiritual you’ve been up to that point, your spirituality just ceased. And when that vertical relationship is affected, it’s affected horizontally. Peter has to remind them of loving one another. Can you believe this? Evidently they took their eyes off the Lord and put it on the lions.
Look what it says in 1:22. “Since you have in obedience to the truth purified your souls.” That word “purified” is not referring to what Christ did for us, it’s referring to what they did in response. It’s consecration. You have made a reform. You have chosen to reform your life. You’ve moved from here to here.
He says, “purified your souls [speaking of salvation] for a sincere love of the brethren.” That word “sincere” means without any hypocrisy whatsoever. In other words, now that God is in you, you have a purpose in you, not only to love God as the greatest commandment said, but to love your neighbor. So this love is in you. He goes on to say, “fervently love one another from the heart.”
Then he reminds them in verse 23, “for you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and abiding word of God.” He’s going to compare flesh and spirit in the next verse. Persecution has set in on them and had caused them to start withering. It had caused their love to diminish. Why? Because they’ve taken their eyes off the Lord Jesus.
He quotes Isaiah 40:6 and following and says, “For, all flesh is like grass, and all its glory like the flower of grass.” Don’t you love the springtime when the beautiful flowers come out and the grass grows? The grass comes and the flowers grow. Springtime is beautiful. But what happened was, it wasn’t long before the sun came out and it was really hot. What happened to the grass? The verse tells you as it continues, “The grass withers, and the flower falls off.”
Do you see what he’s doing? He’s saying, “Listen to me. When you’re under the heat of persecution, if it’s of the flesh it may look good. But when the heat gets on it, it’s going to wither. The flower is going to fall off.” The flesh won’t cut it. In other words, when you’re under pressure and persecution, the love that you say you have for one another will disappear, because only that which God produces can stand the heat of trial. Peter says in verse 25, “But the word of the Lord abides forever.” This is the word which was preached to you.
Then he starts off in 2:1 and says, “Therefore.” How many times have we said this? When you see a “therefore,” you always look to see what it’s there for. I just told you. I just told you the context. He says, “Therefore, with this in mind, knowing that flesh won’t cut it, knowing that flesh will not be able to produce, only what God produces will last.”
Verse 1 continues, “Therefore, putting aside all malice.” That word “putting aside” is like taking it off like a garment. It’s the same word used in Ephesians 4 when it says to put off the old man and put on the new man. It’s the same word used in Colossians 3:9-11. It’s the same word used in Hebrews 12:1 when it says, “casting aside every encumbrance and you run the race.” The word “malice” is the key word here. The word “malice” is the word kakia. It’s only associated in scripture with a man’s flesh, whether he’s lost or saved. It’s evil. It’s wicked. It’s never associated with God. It’s always associated with flesh.
Turn to 1 Corinthians 5:7-8. Let’s look into this word for a minute. What is Peter saying to these persecuted believers who are being tremendously overwhelmed with pressure? He’s saying, “Hey, guys, get that malice off of you. Take it off. Take off that garment of flesh.” What is this malice? First Corinthians 5:7-8 gives us a clue. It says in verse 7, “Clean out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, just as you are in fact unleavened. For Christ our Passover also has been sacrificed. Let us therefore celebrate the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.”
Look at what he does. He takes the word “malice” and associates it with something we can immediately understand. It’s the word “leaven.” What is leaven? Leaven is yeast. Now, any woman who cooks knows what yeast is. You put yeast into the mix of certain things and what does it do? It causes things to rise up.
Now, figuratively, what’s he saying here? Figuratively leaven is sin and what he’s saying is when you choose to keep that garment of malice on, when you choose not to surrender your life to Jesus, not to be a vessel through which he can work, when you choose not to do that, malice, the flesh rises up. It’s not inactive. It’s not passive. It rises up within you.
Acts 8:21-22 tells us even more about it. It tells us it’s an evil intention of the heart. In other words, a heart that says, “God, don’t you call me. I’ll call you. I’m not going to do what you told me to do, God.” You’re going to go your own way. That’s the whole idea of it. Look in Acts 8:21-22. The same word is used in a context when a man wants to purchase the power of the Holy Spirit of God. The apostles had laid their hands on some people and great things took place. This fellow came to them and said, “How much money will it cost me to get that kind of power? I can use that kind of power.” Here’s what Peter says to him in verse 21, “You have no part or portion in this matter [look here], for your heart is not right before God.” Let me ask you a question. Is your heart right before God?
Verse 22 goes on, “Therefore repent of this wickedness of yours [the word “wickedness” is the word we’re looking at, kakia] and pray the Lord that if possible, the intention of your heart may be forgiven you.” You see the word. It’s attached to an intention of one’s heart. What is that intention? That intention is, “God, you are not going to dominate my life. Now, do we understand each other?” And you go your own way. That’s it.
Look over in Acts 14:1-2. Let me show you how it ruins relationships. This is all malice. This is kakia. This is the flesh and how it works itself out. Acts 14:1-2 reads, “And it came about that in Iconium [this is on Paul’s missionary journey] they entered the synagogue of the Jews together, and spoke in such a manner that a great multitude believed, both of Jews and of Greeks. But the Jews who disbelieved stirred up the minds of the Gentiles, and embittered them against the brethren.” That word “embittered” is a form of the word kakia.
You wonder why churches have splits? You wonder why Christian brothers and sisters can’t get along? There’s a garment somebody’s put on. It’s the garment of flesh, kakia, malice, and that is causing division and bitterness amongst people in the family of God. We need to understand what this malice, is because Peter is having to tell the persecuted believers of Asia Minor to take off that garment of malice. Get it off of you. Put it aside from yourself. Don’t even put it in sight. Get that garment off because when it’s on there’s no way in the world the people of the world could know you love the Lord Jesus Christ, that you’re living a surrendered life.
That’s why you see Peter saying in 2:1, “Therefore, putting aside all malice.” He’s going to show us what God’s love is not. Because, you see, everything that the flesh is, God is not. And everything that God is, the flesh is not. So what we’re going to look at four things that God’s love is not.
God’s love has no intent to deceive
First of all, as we wade into 1 Peter 2:1, God’s love has no intent in it to deceive others. He says, “Therefore, putting aside all malice and all guile [deceit].” Have you ever noticed when Peter or Paul make a list, the first thing they mention always seems to be, not every case, but seems to be the key? For instance, Paul says in Galatians 5:22, “The fruit of God’s Spirit is love,” and every word that comes after that simply magnifies and enhances the word “love.” Out of that love comes joy; out of that love comes patience; out of that love comes all these other things. So the love is the key.
It’s the same way here. Malice is the key word here. You may ask yourself this morning, “My goodness. Have I got malice? Have I got the garment of malice on? Is malice in my life right now? How could I know if it’s there?” Well, the four things that follow it, by the way, are all in the plural, so you can’t just single one out and say this thing or that. It’s many phases of it. But the four things that follow simply tell you what malice is and what it does. All the nouns that follow are plural and they simply magnify the word “malice.”
When malice is present there is always an intent to deceive. Have you been caught lately doing something you shouldn’t have done? When you’re caught what’s the first thing that you’ve caught yourself doing? You’ll lie to make it look like you’re not guilty. The deceit, the intent to deceive someone. That’s a fleshly trait.
The word for deceit is the word dolos. It’s a word meaning to defraud somebody with intent, with intent to deceive them in some way. It’s found in 2:22, and it seems to be to deceive them by what you say. It speaks of Jesus and says, “Who committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in His mouth.” It seems to be the things that you say with the intent to deceive. Of course, nothing could come out of Jesus that was in any way deceptive because He was the embodiment of truth. But when it comes to you and me, a heart with the intent to deceive is always betrayed by the tongue. James 3 says that the indicator of the heart is the tongue. So if I tell you something with the intent to deceive, that’s not only telling you that, but it’s also showing you where I’m coming from. It’s showing you where my heart is.
It’s amazing to me how much deceit is in the lives of people who claim to be believers that is covered up by the spiritual performance. It amazes me. The modern Greek word for “deceit” is the word for fish bait. That’s a good illustration. You don’t translate the text now by modern Greek, but it helps you to see that words don’t change that much. If you go over to Greece and you want to go fishing, you buy some deceit. You buy some guile. When you think about it, what are you trying to do? You’re trying to deceive the fish into biting the bait, right? He swims up and grabs what looks so good on the outside and swallows it all. It’s not long before he learns that within that which looked so good there was a hook. That’s deceit.
I want to tell you something. Folks, we can play games until Jesus comes back whether we’re spiritual or not, but there’s one thing that’s going to mark you and that’s the love of Christ. If the love of Christ is in you, there’s not a deceitful bone in your body. You cannot deceive by what you say or what you are. You are what you are. Transparency becomes immediate in your life. You can admit that you’ve done wrong because you know what you’re not. There’s no deceit. We’re not covering something up.
That’s deceit. It always has a hook in it. There’s an intent to deceive somebody with what they want or what they like in order to get what you want. That’s the way it was in Corinth. They were nothing more than deceivers. That’s all they were. They were believers, many of them, but they lived a deceitful lifestyle. Their pursuit of gifts tells you everything. Why would you pursue a gift if you’re pursuing the Giver? That changes your whole attitude toward the others who have the gift. They were looking for what would mask their wicked hearts, anything that would mask their wicked hearts. Because they were not attached to the Giver, they had to find something that could mask their sin. That’s deceit.
When you have a church filled with people and a church doing all the spiritual things, it could be nothing more than spiritual stuff if this love does not mark the heart of each believer. When that love is there, there is no intent in any way to deceive anybody around you. It took the apostle Paul and his boldness to unmask the problem that was going on in Corinth. When you pursue the Giver, there’s no place for guile because His love crowds it out and you become what you are. Transparency becomes something that’s real. And you can be what you are because you know what you’re not apart from Christ. In Him is where you find your identity. But apart from Him you can’t admit to anything because you know the wickedness of your flesh. In Him there’s no attempt to deceive the moment you’re confronted or in the moment you’re seeking to make someone think better of you than you know that you really are.
Where are you? What front do we have up? What intent do we have to make somebody think we’re something that we’re not? When accused, do we have to immediately defend ourselves and lie about it to make our flesh look better? You can’t do that when you’re surrendered to Christ. You cannot do that. When you’re surrendered to Christ, there is no guile, no intent to deceive, whatsoever.
God’s love does not allow us to pretend to be what we’re not
But I want you to notice another word that’s directly connected to it. He says secondly that God’s love does not allow us to pretend to be what we’re not. He says, “Therefore, putting aside all malice and all guile [deceit] and hypocrisy.” The next thing Paul mentions after guile is the word “hypocrisy,” which is in the plural, hypocrisies. It’s the word hypokrisis. Hypo means under, and krisis means to judge—to judge under. In the secular Greek it came from the stage performance. A person would come up on the stage and pretend to be what he was not. They would wear a mask. That’s where the word came from. They would wear a mask and you were judging him as a person under a mask. You never saw him. You just saw the mask. Instead of wearing make-up like our actors do today, they had a mask and the mask would have a smile or a frown. What you saw was what they wanted you to see. It did not necessarily represent the reality that was behind that mask. There may be a smile but underneath that mask there would be a frown. You never got to see the person on the other side of the mask.
It’s interesting to me how the word “guile” and “hypocrisy” are tied together. Guile seems to be the intent to deceive; hypocrisy seems to be the way you deceive. It’s the front that we put up, the mask that is worn to protect the reality of what we know is really there.
You take Corinth, for instance. If you only had certain verses to describe the church of Corinth, you could come out thinking they’re a pretty spiritual church. In 1:2 he calls them “the church of God at Corinth.” That’s not bad. The church of God at Corinth, man, what a title. Also in verse 2 he said, “to those who have been sanctified.” The word means to be put in a class all by yourself. Wow! Then in verse 5 he says, “that in everything you were enriched in Him.” In verse 7 he said they lacked no gift. Go to 8:1, and he talks about the knowledge they had about grace.
You could pick several verses out of 1 Corinthians and that would be a front. Their position in Christ was well known. You would say, “Wow! These are spiritual people.” But the apostle Paul, through all the chapters we’ve been studying, unveils what they were really like, hiding behind their knowledge, hiding behind their position in Christ. In chapter 5, there was the unwillingness to deal with a heinous sin of a man living with his father’s wife. Nobody would even touch it. Nobody would deal with it. They swept it under the rug instead of putting it under the blood.
In chapter 6 they were not willing to settle the differences that they had with one another under the blood. No, no. They would drag one another into public court and sue another brother in a public arena. What a testimony! In chapter 7 they completely distorted God’s view of marriage. In chapters 8-10 they became so arrogant of their knowledge they trampled over the weaker brother and didn’t even give him the opportunity to be somebody and to be heard in the body. In chapter 11 they made the Lord’s Supper a disgrace. As a matter of fact, the rich disdained the poor; the rich brought the food and the poor had none. The rich were drunk and the poor were hungry. Paul says to them, “You in no way honor God by what you’re doing.” In chapter 12 they become so ignorant in spiritual matters that they actually began to exalt gifts rather than the Giver.
You see, all this position in Christ and their knowledge and other things were just a front. What was underneath? You see, when you’re connected to Christ there can be no guile, but there can also be no pretense. There can be no front. You are what you are in Him. You find your identity in Him and if you’re not walking in Him it’s obvious to everybody. You must be transparent and willing to deal with it. Paul had to nail them in chapter 13. That’s why chapter 13 is there in 1 Corinthians, to show them the difference.
Oh how we pretend, don’t we? Some of the most difficult experiences in my ministry have been when I’ve been somewhere and I’ve heard somebody that I’ve always thought a lot of. That person gets up and speaks with such eloquence. I’m so appreciative of the way they speak and so appreciative of what they said. I go up to them afterward, and they won’t give you time of day. They won’t sit down with you. If you’re not important, if you’re not somebody, they don’t have time for you. They have all the gifts and all the abilities, but where is the love? All that spiritual garbage is nothing more than a front that they want you to think of them. What they really are in their hearts they do not want you know.
Do you know how I know all of this? Because I’ve done it. I’ve preached at times when God was not anywhere near me. I know He lives in me, but I was rebellious in my spirit. I’m sure those listening could tell that. Thank you for putting up with me and praying for me. I want to tell you something, friends. I know how to play that game and so do you. I was in the ministry, not as a pastor, but in the ministry for eight years before I even got saved. I know how to play the game. But if we’re not going to live surrendered lives, folks, our church is a joke anyway. It’s not how many gifts we have. It’s not how much ministry we have out there. If we’re not marked by the love of Christ, then all of that is nothing. That only comes from surrendered lives. That’s the only place it comes from.
I have to be willing to admit what he I’m not. I don’t like doing that any more than you like doing that. It’s hard. It hurts. But I want to tell you something. The more you’re willing to deal with what you’re not and the weaknesses in your life, the more that Christ is able to manifest His strength. And I guarantee you one thing, you’ll never take another gap to glory for it as long as you live because you’ll know where it’s coming from. Talent, gifts, abilities, that’s fine. But the only thing that marks them that they’re usable to God is this manifestation of love which has no guile in it, has no pretense whatsoever.
Do you want to know if you have a surrendered life? Well, let me ask you a question. What pretense are you putting up to other people? What front is in front of you? What is it you want us to think about you that you already know is not there? That’s telling you immediately you don’t even know what I’m talking about yet. But when we come to that place of honesty, that’s when God can take us and use us.
God’s love will not allow us to envy what others have
Thirdly, God’s love will not allow us to envy what others have. We’ve just seen in 1 Corinthians 12 how they envied certain gifts. Where does it come from? In 1 Peter 2:1 Peter speaks of the flesh-mindedness of envy. He said, “Therefore, putting aside all malice and all guile and hypocrisy and envy.” “Envy” is a fun little word. It’s a more difficult word in Greek to say. It’s phthonos. It’s more painful when you start finding its definition. It’s the pain felt when happiness in others is perceived. I have another way of saying it: It’s the funny feeling you get in the pit of your stomach when something good happens to somebody you know. That’s what envy is. God’s love does not allow that.
When I was Associate Pastor years ago the church gave the Pastor a new car every year. He would come over to my house driving his new, shiny, beautiful car. He’d pull up in my driveway, and I would say, as my front to deceive him, “Oh, that’s a beautiful car!” But in my heart do you know what I wanted to do? Spit on his car. That’s what I wanted to do. That’s the way I felt, exactly the way I felt, envy.
You can well imagine in Corinth the situation they were in. Somebody got up in an emotional, ecstatic moment and began to speak in another tongue and because of their pagan background they said, “Oh, man. That guy must have heard from God. I wish I could do that.” Envy was created in their hearts for that person’s gift, that person’s experience.
Let me tell you why people envy. It’s because they’re not finding what they’re really looking for in Christ Jesus. If you’re living surrendered to Him, you don’t envy anything, friend, because in Him you have everything. All spiritual blessings are ours in Christ Jesus. And if you’re living connected to Him, you’ll never find your joy in a gift or an experience or an ecstatic moment. You’ll find your joy in a person, the Lord Jesus Christ, and only when you’re surrendered to Him. That’s when you find your joy.
The whole theme of Corinthians, to me, is getting your focus back on Christ. Get it off the flesh and get it back on Christ. We’re always envious of other’s experiences, ministries, gifts, talents, looks, and abilities when we’re not finding our joy in Christ Jesus. Envy is an automatic byproduct of a person not finding their joy in Christ Jesus. God’s love will not allow us to deceive by pretending, putting a front up, and envying what other’s have. He will not allow us to live apart from the resources that He wants us to enjoy.
As a matter of fact, Romans 12:15 says that you’re so filled up with Him in Romans 12:1-2 that in verse 15 you can rejoice when others rejoice. That’s a beautiful thought. It doesn’t matter what happens to you, because you already have your joy. You don’t have to get it where they got it. You know where to get your joy. It’s in Christ Jesus.
God’s love will not allow us to slander one another
Well, fourthly and finally, God’s love will not allow us to slander one another. The word “slander” here is kind of like somebody says, “Man, that guy really is gifted, isn’t it? Whoa, man! That was so good.” But somebody not living surrendered to Christ, having to add in their garbage says, “Yeah, but do you know what I heard about him?” That’s slander. The word “slander” comes from two Greek words. One means to speak and one means against, katalalia. It means to defame somebody with intention. It means to cause another to think evil of someone.
A lady asked me one time, “How do I know when I’m not speaking for someone?” I said, “I don’t know. I guess you’re not speaking for him.” She looked at me and said, “That’s good. That’s deep. I’m going to write that down.” I’m thinking, “Wow! I didn’t realize I was that smart.”
Years ago my son heard something that he didn’t need to hear. He came home that night. We were sitting around the table. We always eat after church on Sunday nights because it digests better. He said, “Daddy, is such-and-such your friend?” I said, “Oh, yes, he’s really my friend.” Big tears welled up in his eyes and he said, “Daddy, if he’s your friend, why did he say what I heard him say about you?”
“Oh, but this man’s gifted. He has ability and he’s a leader. He must be spiritual.” Hogwash! Get real. Get beneath the veneer and find out what’s on the inside. You’re going to see this in 1 Corinthians 13. Though you have faith to remove mountains, though you can do all these things and have not love, he says that you’re nothing more than a clanging gong or a tinkling cymbal. You’re just making noise. That’s what he says.
Oh, can we ever deceive others. We can put our mask on and make them think we’re spiritual. “Oh, look at my gift. Look what I can do for God.” But underneath our heart’s full of envy and slander. I’ve done it. Have you done it?
Do you know what we need to do, folks? We need to climb down off that little pedestal we’ve got ourselves on and get back down where we belong, at the cross on our face before God realizing what we’re not so He can make us what He wants us to be.
I preached this passage of Scripture in Romania a few years ago. As I finished preaching I stepped outside and sat down and the pastor of that church walked up and literally fell over the pulpit. There were 2,500 people inside and that many outside listening by loud speaker. He began to break and weep, and he said to his people, “Oh, people, this is really where we are.” Do you know what I learned? Flesh is flesh, I don’t care if you put it behind Communist lines or if you bring it to America. Flesh is flesh and it’s rotten.
When I first went to Romania after the Revolution I told them in a group, I said, “Guys, do you know what impressed me so much about you when I first came over here?” They all sat up waiting to hear. I said, “Your flesh is just as rotten as mine.” They stood up and gave me a standing ovation and said, “Thank you for being real with us because everybody else comes over here and puts a Band-Aid over what we need to confess, trying to make us more spiritual than we know we really are. We know what we’re not.”
I don’t like messages like this. Do you? But I want to tell you something. If you don’t know what love isn’t, you’ll never realize in your life what love is. That’s the whole key. I heard a man from Bulgaria tell me, “The sin of our people is the pride of their persecution.” Can you believe that? They think they’re more spiritual than we are in America because we haven’t been persecuted like they have. They hold it over us when we go over there. He said, “Man, preach the cross. They need the same thing that you need to see over there. Flesh is flesh, and it’s rotten.” In an instant it will speak evil of somebody. In an instant it will pretend. In an instant it will be all these things that we’ve talked about because that love of Christ is just not there.
Well, it’s either God’s love or it’s not. If it’s God love it will not allow us to intentionally deceive others. It will not allow us to pretend by putting our front of spirituality. We will be transparent. It will not allow us to envy others. It causes us to bask in the joy that Christ gives to us. But not only that, it will not allow us to speak evil of one another. It looks like a duck. It quacks like a duck. It acts like a duck. I think it’s a duck. He loves like Christ. This love makes him look like Christ. This love even causes him to act like Christ. I think he’s a Christian. That’s the bottom line.