Love from the Heart

1 Corinthians 13:3

 
Introduction
We have been going through 1 Corinthians 13, the love chapter, the last few weeks. Last week we got to vs. 3. I want to briefly recap what we learned form vs. 3 last week. Here is the passage.

3 If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

This is quite the shocking statement. Paul is here talking about extreme, radical self-sacrificial giving and self-sacrificial devotion. He says that it is possible for a person to give away all that he has and yet not have love. We generally think of love as being virtually synonymous with sacrificial giving. Let me give you an example. How would you respond to me if I was to ask this simple question; Was Mother Teresa a genuine believer? Many would be offended by me merely asking the question. I don’t pretend to know. However, I believe that there is good reason to question, because of her massively horrid doctrine. But the average person in America would be offended by the question. They would say, How can you question her genuineness, look at how sacrificial she was in serving the poor! Yet Paul says that a person can “give away all I have… but have no love.”
I do not pretend to know if Mother Teresa was a born again Christian or not. However, our tendency is to boil love down to simple self-sacrificial giving. The question that this passage demands us to ask is this; What is the difference between empty self-sacrificial giving and loving self-sacrificial giving? It has everything to do with the heart. It has everything to do with the motivations of the heart. It has everything to do with the affections and desires of the heart.
A person may give of themselves for many different reasons:

1. self-righteousness (I don’t do it because I want to please God, I am doing it to earn His favor),

2. reputation (I give to earn the applause of men),

3. obligation/duty (I wouldn’t give if I didn’t have to—complain, complain, complain),

4. guilt.

Paul then talks about self-sacrificial devotion to God.
The ultimate sacrifice in service to God is martyrdom. We see a picture of it in the book of Daniel. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were thrown into the fiery furnace because they would not disobey God by bowing down to the image set up by King Nebuchadnezzar. Many Christians were martyred in the first century by being lit on fire. Nero made a practice of impaling Christians on poles in his gardens. He would dip their bodies in pitch and starting them on fire at night to give him light in his gardens when he would throw a party. Paul says that you can make this ultimate sacrifice and yet not love. You can die as a martyr and yet gain nothing.
What is the difference between empty self-sacrificial devotion and loving self-sacrificial devotion?
It has everything to do with the motives of the heart. It has everything to do with the heart, with the affections and desires of the heart. Many have died as martyrs in order to earn the favor of God. Others have died to leave a self-righteous legacy. But Paul says that such devotion to God is only rewarded if it is motivated by love. This is why Islamic terrorists who blow up their bodies in service to Allah have no reward. Are you driven by a desire to please Him and to glorify Him. Or are you driven by an obligation to appease Him and earn favor with Him. Let me say here that this is why salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone is so central. If you believe that you have to earn salvation, work for salvation, you cannot love as God demands. Those who feel that they have to earn God’s favor are driven by obligation. Only those who are trusting in Christ alone for their salvation are freed up from the demands of obligation and are set free to serve Christ simply as an act of love and thanksgiving.
The sort of love that God demands is that which comes from the heart. It is clear from this passage that God demands that we not just do things that look loving, we must be loving. The Pharisees did all sorts of things which, from an external perspective, looked loving. And yet their actions were not pleasing to God, because their actions were not motivated by genuine love from the heart. This is why Jesus could say to them in Matthew 23:25-26.

25 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. 26 You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and the plate, that the outside also may be clean.

They looked good on the outside. They looked loving! They gave to the poor, they tithed, they fasted and prayed. Why did Jesus rebuke them? Because although they looked good on the outside, their hearts were filled with all sorts of sin and rubbish. I drive a 2003 Oldsmobile minivan. We call it the Tan Man Van. It is my dream car. Imagine if I washed the outside of the car 365 days a year. Every morning I get out the house, the bucket, the brush, the soap and dry it all off with my shamwow. One day you ask for a ride in my sparkly van. You open the door and to your dismay you smell rotting animal carcass, must, and moldy cheeseburgers. You look around and you see mud and much and old sermon notes and McDonald’s wrappers and Dunkin Donuts coffee cups and old shoes and dirty clothes strewn throughout. You ask me, “What is that smell?” I tell you, “Yeah, about a year ago the neighbors cat got stuck in here on a hot day and died, I haven’t had time to take care of it yet. Take a seat!”
This is why Jesus rebuked the Pharisees. They looked loving on the outside. They looked like they had genuine love for God and love for their fellow man. However, their hearts were far from God. Their hearts were not filled with love. God is primarily concerned with the heart. His greatest concern is that we love Him and one another genuinely from the heart, as Christ has loved us.  They did the things that made them look loving, but they were in fact not loving.
It is impossible to talk about love without talking about the heart.
1 Corinthians 13:3 should be sufficient to prove that point. What we learn from this passage and others is that God’s first concern is the heart. I actually want to spend the rest of our time this morning on this. It sounds so nice does it? God’s number one concern is the heart. I talked about this briefly last week. However, I want to spend more time on it this morning. I believe that we often  times water down God’s command to love because we don’t understand what God means when He says that His first concern is with the heart. The average Christian would say, “God’s looks at the heart—His greatest concern is the heart.” However, if you were to ask the average Christian what he/she means by saying that God looks at the heart, I think you find that the average Christian has an unbiblical understanding of what this means. What do we mean when we say that God looks at the heart? In the time left I want to lay forth five misconceptions that many Christians have about God’s primary concern with the heart.
Misconception #1
God doesn’t care what I do, He is only concerned that I have good-intentions.You can live like the devil, talk like the devil, party like the devil, treat others like the devil, but God won’t care so long as your intentions are good—so long as you have a good heart. Having a good heart is virtually synonymous with having good intentions or meaning well. Many people think that God doesn’t really care about external sin—sins like sexual immorality, gossip, drunkenness, cheating, lying, etc.—He only cares about the heart. You can sin all you want so long as you have good intentions. The problems with this should be self-evident. However, it may be helpful to realize that some of the worst crimes in history have been done with the best of intentions. For example, before God saved Paul, he was a “a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent” (1 Timothy 1:13). Paul killed Christians. Why? He thought he was doing God a service. He was silencing the blasphemers who taught that Jesus was the Son of God. Good intentions. Evil actions.
Many Americans use this line of reasoning as a justification for sin. They deceive themselves by saying that they can continue in sin because God only looks at the heart. But for many this nothing more than a cheap and easy way out of obedience to the commands of Christ. The point is not that God cares about the heart, not about sin. If anything the fact that God looks at the heart suggests that God is more concerned about sin, not less. God does not pass over sin as if it were somehow less offensive to Him simply because the person sinning is well intentioned. He does not say, “I don’t care how you live, I just look at your intentions.” This is even more evident when we consider the fact that sin is rebellion against God! Do you think God says, “I don’t care if you rebel against me, so long as you do so with good intentions.”? The fact is that many people use this is a way of justifying their sinful lifestyles. The second misconception is connected to the first.
Misconception #2
Jesus relaxed God’s standard of righteousness (right living) when He put the focus on the heart. Many take a look at the Pharisees in the New Testament and they say, “Those guys were so intense about keeping the law. I am so glad that Jesus made things easier for us by putting the emphasis on the heart.” But this is to misunderstand Jesus’ teachings. The problem Jesus had with the Pharisees was not that they were too stringent, but that they had watered down God’s standard of righteousness so that it could be kept in the power of the flesh. Jesus didn’t dumb the standard down, He raised it. As an example just take a look at Jesus words in Matthew 5:21-22, 27-28.

21 “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ 22 But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire. … 27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

Here we see Jesus talking about the righteousness of the heart. He puts the focus on the heart. Which is more difficult to keep; to not murder or to not be angry? You see, the fact that God is concerned with the heart does not mean that He is loosey goosey with sin. If anything it means that He has raised the bar. To merely not murder is not a high enough standard. If you want to avoid eternal damnation, you must not hate, you must not insult, you must not slander. God’s concern with the heart does not lower His standard of righteousness. To prove my point let me ask two simple questions: 1. How many of you have committed murder? 2. How many of you have hated another person? Wow! Virtually zero of us are guilty of murder. Virtually 100% of us are guilty of hate.
He says that same about sexual sin. Adultery is the physical sin. Lust is the sin of the heart. I could ask once again:

1. How many of you have committed adultery?

2. How many of you have lusted after another person? Although the spread would not be as wide as with murder and hatred, the evidence is plain, the sin of the heart is the higher standard. It is the harder to keep. And he even seems to communicate that lust is a form of adultery. In the sight of God, lust is equivalent to adultery. When we say that God’s first concern is with the heart it is incorrect to say that Jesus has relaxed God’s standard of righteousness. If anything, He has raised the bar. This leads to the third misconception.

Misconception #3
God does not care about external righteousness, He only cares about the heart. This is simply not true. It is true that God’s first concern is with the heart. However, this does not mean that God is not concerned that we produce fruit and practice righteousness. Look once again at Matthew 23:25-26.

25 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. 26 You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and the plate, that the outside also may be clean.

Many people often times approach this passage and say, “Jesus doesn’t care about the outside of the cup.” Yes He does! Does He say, “Clean the inside of the cup and plate and forget about the outside—Who cares if the outside is dirty, all that matters is that the inside is clean!’ Absolutely not! Remember, Jesus is our example. Was Jesus clean only on the inside? No. Jesus was righteous both before God and before men. Notice what He says, “First clean the inside of the cup and the plate, that the outside also may be clean.” Jesus tells us what will inevitably happen if we clean the inside of the dish. If the inside of the dish is cleaned, so will the outside. This is His point, inward righteousness results in outward righteousness. Jesus is concerned that we serve one another. He is concerned that we give to the poor. He is concerned that we meet each other’s needs and that we build one another up with words. He is concerned about the outside of the cup. He is concerned that we practice righteousness—that we do let our light shine before men so that they might glorify our Father in heaven (Matthew 5:16).
So Jesus is concerned that the outside of the cup be clean as well. However, how do we get there. By cleansing the inside. The point is that we are to focus on character transformation, not behavior modification. We do not just want to be people who do loving things, we want to be loving people. If we focus our attention on being loving people, loving deeds will flow out of us. Conformity to the character of Christ results in external works of righteousness. This is the way Jesus says it in Matthew 12:33, “Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad, for the tree is known by its fruit.” Focus on the goodness of the tree and it will naturally produce good fruit. We are to focus on being like Jesus in terms of His character and Christ-like deeds and behaviors will follow. Behavior is symptomatic of character.
Misconception #4
If you cannot do it with a right heart don’t do it at all. I have heard many Christians condition their obedience to the commandments of Christ on whether they can obey with a right heart or not. I have heard many Christians say something like this, “If my heart is not in it, I should not do it.” Let me illustrate. A brother (or sister) in Christ sins against you. You are hurt and offended. You feel cold toward this brother and you are having a difficulty praying for this brother. You have negative or even sinful feelings toward this brother. You know that if you see this brother you will not be able to treat them with kindness and gentleness and love as Christ commands you. So… in order to avoid being a hypocrite, forcing obedience, you decide to disobey the commands of Christ. Some do this because they have had bad teaching. They misunderstand what Jesus says to the Pharisees about not being hypocritical. Others do this as manipulative, deceptive way of justifying their sinful attitudes and conveniently sneak around the commandments of Christ.
Listen, God has never ever ever ever said in His word that we are to disobey His commandments in order to avoid hypocrisy. That is simply not in the Bible. God’s commandments are to be obeyed whether we feel like it or not, whether we are battling sinful feelings or not, whether our heart it is in it or not. You do not rebel against God to avoid being a hypocrite.
What then should you do if your heart is not in it? Obey anyway! You obey the word of the King regardless of where your heart is. But here is the most important point; as you are obeying King Jesus cry out to Him from the depth of your soul that He might conform you to the image of Christ. Cry out to Him that He might change your heart. That He might empower you to see your brother through His own eyes. You obey even though your heart is not in it and you cry out to Him that He might empower you to love your brother who has sinned against you even as He has forgiven you. And let me tell you, if you do this I believe that God will smile down on you with a smile bigger than the rings of Saturn. Why? Consider what God is witnessing. He is witnessing one of His children struggling to obey His commands, crying out to Him in dependence for the ability to love as Christ loves. It is a picture of obedience, brokenness over sin, and a true dependence upon Him for the strength and power to love as Christ. It is the perfect picture of Isaiah 66:2.

2 But this is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word.

Misconception #5
You can’t ever know the condition of a person’s heart. This is true to a point. You certainly cannot see the heart as God sees the heart. You cannot speak with absolute certainty on the condition of another person’s heart. However, this is not at all to say that you can’t know the condition of a person’s heart at all. I guess you will need proof before you will agree with me. Turn with me to Matthew 12:33-36 and John 14:15.

Matthew 12:33 “Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad, for the tree is known by its fruit. 34 You brood of vipers! How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. 35 The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil.

John 14:15 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.”

Very simply, Jesus says that a person is like a tree. If the tree is bad he will produce bad fruit. If the tree is good he will produce good fruit. He says that the tree is know by its fruit. If you truly love God and neighbor the sincerity of your heart will be evidenced by the fruit you bear. If you don’t bear the fruit of the Spirit, it is evidence that your heart is not right before God. Jesus then says, “out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks.” You can know what is in a person’s heart by what he says. Talk is the hacking up of the heart. If you hack up slander and hate and gossip and evil your heart is evil. If you hack up praise and blessing and edification when you speak your heart is beating with love for Christ.
In John 14:15 Jesus clearly says, “If you love Me you might keep My commandments.” Is that what He says? No, He says that you will keep His commandments if you love Him. How can you know if a person truly has a heart of love for Christ? Does that person keep the commandments of Christ? Can that person live in unrepentant sin? A person who genuinely loves Christ from the heart will obey His commandments—not perfectly, yet truly and sincerely. So, no one can know another person’s heart fully. However, this does not mean that you cannot know anything about another person’s heart. The reason I point to this is not so that we can go around and determine how hot or cold other people are in their love for Christ. I point to this because it reinforces the point that a genuine love from the heart always manifests itself through verifiable action.
Conclusion
Next week, Lord willing, we will move along into vss. 4-7 and talk about the nature of love. However, it was necessary this week to take a look at what God say about the heart. The fact is that the average Christian dumbs down the standard of love that God has given us in His word because they read the text of Scripture in light of their culturally shaped assumptions. Sometimes it is essential to smash our wrong assumptions and build biblical ones so that we can interpret the Scriptures in light of God’s assumptions and not ours. Because biblical love flows from the heart—the seat of the affections—it is so very important that we think biblically about the heart as we continue to focus our attention on love. It is my contention that many have a watered down understanding of what God expects from us when He commands us to love because we do not have a biblical understanding of what it means that He is primarily concerned about the heart. May you feel the impossibility of loving others as He has loved you that you might depend upon Him as you seek to fulfill the greatest commandment.
My plan was to move along to vss. 4-7 this week and begin talking about the nature of love. However, I was racked all week long this week as I tried to decide if that was the wisest thing to do. As a pastor it is not merely my responsibility to explain bible passages clearly. It is also imperative that I prayerfully ask the question, Will those who are sitting in front of me have any wrong assumptions that will inhibit them from truly understanding the passage. You see, the goal is not merely to teach what the Bible says. The goal is understanding which leads to a transformed life. The goal is not merely to know what God says. Most importantly we want to know what God means when He says what He says. Sometimes we are unable to understand what a passage means because we interpret the passage through our misinformed presuppositions.
~ Jimmy

 
Jimmy Snowden
Jimmy serves as pastor for “Preaching and Vision” at Sovereign Grace Fellowship in Boscawen, New Hampshire. Previoulsy he fulfilled leadership roles in both Kansas City, Missouri and Las Vegas, Nevada. Jimmy received his Bachelor of Arts degree in Biblical Studies from Hannibal-LaGrange College and a Master of Divinity degree from Liberty University.
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Torah Wisdom in the Book of Proverbs

 

“As taught elsewhere in the Old Testament,
wisdom is, in effect, the outworking of
divine law in the heart.”

 

I have argued previously that the concept of wisdom in the Old Testament is torah-centric, and that Jesus’ definition of wisdom in Matt 7:24 also functions as a neat summary of the Old Testament definition of human wisdom, namely, that being wise involves hearing and doing the word of God (see “The Old Testament Concept of Wisdom” for further details).
This view is supported by the book of Proverbs, where wisdom is closely linked with torah.
For example, Prov 28:4, 7, 9; 29:18 speak about hearing, keeping, or forsaking the law. The law in question at this point ought to be understood in the original context as being the law of Moses. This conclusion is reached on the basis of the fact that Prov 28:4, 7, 9; 29:18 are proverbs of Solomon (see Prov 25:1), and that Solomon’s wisdom is strongly connected in the historical narrative of the Bible with the law of Moses (e.g., 1 Kgs 2:3; 3:3, 14; see also 1 Kgs 8:25, 58, 61; 2 Chr 7:17–20). In fact, from the point of view of the Mosaic covenant, keeping the Mosaic law was Israel’s wisdom (Deut 4:6). The law of Moses was able to make wise the simple (Ps 19:7; 119:130). Solomon also clearly knew of the Mosaic covenant and called upon Israel to be committed to this covenant (1 Kgs 8:56–61).
Solomon provides a form of covenant instruction.
Given the close connection in the Old Testament between wisdom and the law of Moses, and given that the language of Prov 1–9 recalls the language of the exhortatory passages of Deuteronomy, the voice of the father in chapters 1–9 is best understood as an example of generalized sophistic covenant instruction. Solomon’s instruction is generalized and sophistic in the sense that instead of being an Israelite father passing on the laws of and the historical rationale behind the covenant to his son (such as we see, for example, in Deut 6:6–9, 20–25), Solomon appears as the “father” of the nation passing down a form of covenant instruction, expressed in the conceptual categories of the wisdom tradition (where wisdom and understanding obtained by means of listening to and accepting divine instruction leads to life) to all his subjects.
Wisdom is the outworking of divine law in the heart.
The use of the word תורה thirteen times in the book of Proverbs (in Prov 1:8; 3:1; 4:2; 6:20, 23; 7:2; 13:14; 28:4, 7, 9; 29:18; 31:26), where it is usually translated as teaching, also serves to make clear the connection between wisdom and torah. The word תורה is derived from the Hebrew root which denotes instruction or direction. There are also proverbs that mention obedience to “the word” or “the commandments,” or the need for such to be received into the heart (e.g., Prov 2:1; 3:1; 13:13; 16:20; 19:16). All of this suggests that there is a close connection between the concept of wisdom in the book of Proverbs and the torah of Moses. As taught elsewhere in the Old Testament, wisdom is, in effect, the outworking of divine law in the heart.

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Steven Coxhead
Brother Coxhead has served as visiting lecturer in Hebrew and the Old Testament at the Sydney Missionary and Bible College since 2002. He’s taught Advanced Classical Hebrew regularly at the Macquarie Ancient Languages School since 2009. As a part-time lecturer at the Presbyterian Theological Centre in Sydney from 2002 to 2010, teaching the Old Testament, Romans, John’s Gospel, Biblical Hebrew, and New Testament Greek; and taught Johannine Theology and the Old Testament at the Wesley Institute in Sydney from 2010 to 2011. Steven also taught Old Testament, New Testament, and Systematic Theology in South-East Asia.
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