My Sunday sermons given at Sellwood Baptist Church in Portland, OR, for those who missed church or just want to see what we're up to. You can also listen to these sermons if you prefer. Just go to our church website and click the "Online Church" tab. Here's the link:

Monday, February 15, 2010

"Love Is Not Puffed Up" - (2/14/10)

Today is St. Valentine’s Day, the “Day of Love”, the day of chocolates, and Vermont Teddy Bears, and PajamaGrams, and jewelry, and mushy Hallmark Cards, and fancy dinners at expensive restaurants, etc.  The celebration harks back to the year A.D. 269 when a Christian minister in Rome by the name of Valentinus was martyred at the orders of the Roman Emperor, Claudius II, for assisting the hated Christians by performing secret, non-sanctioned weddings.  He sacrificed his life for the sake of others.  He risked everything for his belief in love and the sanctity of Christian marriage.
Of course, it is also true that Hallmark Cards, chocolate factories, lingerie companies, teddy-bear manufacturers, and jewelry stores have all cashed in on St. Valentine’s Day in a big way!  But we shouldn’t allow that fact to keep us from expressing our love to our spouses and sweethearts and demonstrating that love in practical ways.
Having said that, we need to remember that real love is not something we turn on or off like a faucet.  If you only show love to your wife on Valentine’s Day then it isn’t real love.  Real love is a choice, a covenant that we make to keep on loving and doing loving things for that other person.

The Bible is the greatest textbook on love that has ever been written.  In fact, it is one long love story all the way from Genesis to Revelation describing how much God loves us, and what He has done to prove it.  But there is one special passage that really focuses on the quality of that love.  It is I Corinthians 13 that has been called “the Love Chapter.”  Listen as I read verses 1-8 to you from the New King James Version:
1 Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal.  2 And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.  3 And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing.  4 Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; 5 does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; 6 does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; 7 bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.  8 Love never fails.

Did you notice that phrase in verse 4? – “Love is not puffed up.”  That phrase intrigues me, so much so that I’ve used that for the title of today’s message.  Today we are going to continue our study in the Gospel of Mark but it so happens that our text for today has much to teach us about the real nature of Christian love.  And I believe that it also provides us with a clear illustration of what Paul meant when he said that real love “is not puffed up and does not seek its own.”  Open your Bibles to Mark 9:30-37.

Verse 30: From there they went out and began to go through Galilee, and He did not want anyone to know about it.
  • “From there.”  From where?  We don’t know specifically because the text doesn’t tell us but the event immediately preceding this verse occurred either in Caesarea Philippi or in one of the mountain villages close by where Jesus had cast a demon out of a young man at the request of the boy’s father.  Now Jesus and the Twelve have left there and are headed down into the region of Galilee closer to the lake.
  • But why did Jesus not want His whereabouts to be common knowledge?  Again, He was controlling the timing of these events leading up to His final journey to Jerusalem and the cross that awaited Him there.

Verse 31: For He was teaching His disciples and telling them, “The Son of Man is to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill Him; and when He has been killed, He will rise three days later.”
  • He was teaching His disciples and telling them.”  These two verbs are in the Greek imperfect tense indicating that He was telling His disciples repeatedly, not just once.  He was hammering them with the truth of what was to come.  At this stage of the game these were the high-priority they needed to know and understand.  What things?
  • Look again at the content of His instruction.  He was telling them exactly what was going to happen to Him in Jerusalem.  He didn’t want it to come as a surprise so He went over the details again and again.

Verse 32: But they did not understand this statement, and they were afraid to ask Him.
  • They were slow to comprehend.  But why?  I believe that what He was telling them seemed too horrific to be believable.  It was just too awful to take seriously.  Yet He had never lied to them in the past.  So they apparently concluded that He must have been speaking allegorically rather than literally.  Still, it didn’t make sense to them.  The idea that Jesus would deliberately walk into a trap that would result in His own death was totally off their maps.
  • And why do you think they were they afraid to ask Jesus for clarification concerning His instruction to them?  Had He ever been mean or rude to them before when they asked Him questions?  No.  I believe they were simply embarrassed at their own ignorance.  Before I became a pastor I was a schoolteacher and a seminary professor so I understand this phenomenon very well, and most of you do too.  In a classroom setting many students would prefer to sit there in a fog, understanding nothing, than to raise their hand and ask the teacher for help.  They would rather risk getting it wrong on the test than to look and feel stupid in the eyes of the teacher or their fellow-students.  I think this is how the disciples felt and why they kept quiet.

Verse 33: They came to Capernaum; and when He was in the house, He began to question them, “What were you discussing on the way?”
  • “They came to Capernaum.”  You’ll remember that Capernaum sat right on the edge of the Sea of Galilee.  It was a small fishing village of less than 1,500 people.  It was also the hometown of Peter, Andrew, James, and John, and probably some of the other disciples.  While we don’t know for sure whose house He entered, you’ll notice that the text says He entered into “the house.”  Mark deliberately uses the definite article.  I believe, as do many others, that there’s a very good chance that it was Peter’s house.  That would make perfect sense because Jesus and the fellows had stayed there on other occasions.
  • “What were you discussing on the way?”  I’ve told you before that whenever Jesus asked His disciples questions it was never to gain information.  There was nothing they could possibly tell Him that He didn’t already know.  However, Jesus posed this probing question to open the door for Him to teach them a very important spiritual lesson.  You can bet your hat that He already knew exactly what they had been arguing about as they had walked along the road.

Verse 34: But they kept silent, for on the way they had discussed with one another which of them was the greatest.
  • “But they kept silent.”  Yes, they certainly did and it’s obvious why.  As soon as the Master asked that question their consciences were pricked.  In that moment I think they must have looked like the little boy who was caught with his hand in the cookie jar.  The instant that Jesus asked them the question they know that they were in the wrong.  Jesus asked the question out loud but all He got from them was guilty looks, their sheepish silence, and a whole lot of foot shuffling.  I think they were suddenly ashamed to admit that rather than being concerned with His coming death, they were more interested in jockeying for positions of personal greatness in His coming Messianic Kingdom.
  • “For on the way they had discussed with one another which of them was the greatest.”  Can you imagine how that conversation might have gone?  Though what is even more disturbing is how that stupid conversation might have gotten started in the first place.

Verse 35: Sitting down, He called the twelve and said to them, “If anyone wants to be first, he shall be last of all and servant of all.”
  • Why did Jesus sit down?  For one thing He was probably tired.  They had apparently been walking for most of the day.  The other reason may have been cultural.  It was customary for a rabbi to sit down to teach.  You may remember back to the story told in Luke 4:16-30 of Jesus’ return to Nazareth and His experience in their synagogue.  The text says:
He went to Nazareth, where He had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day He went into the synagogue, as was His custom.  And He stood up to read.  17 The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to Him. Unrolling it, He found the place where it is written: 18 “The Spirit of the Lord is on Me, because He has anointed Me to preach good news to the poor.  He has sent Me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, 19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”  20 Then He rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down.  The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on Him, 21 and He began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”

Verse 36: Taking a child, He set him before them, and taking him in His arms, He said to them…
  • There is an old familiar saying that goes, “a picture is worth a thousand words.”  Object lessons function in the same way.  Jesus, the Master Teacher, first sat down because He had something very important to teach His disciples.  He lowered Himself to the height of a child then He immediately reached out His arms and beckoned a little child to come to Him.  Where did the child come from?  Maybe it was from that household.  Maybe he was Peter’s little grandson.  Maybe he was a little boy who had been watching Jesus from the doorway.  We don’t know.
  • Jesus picked up the little boy and held him on His lap, with His arms around the little guy.  Then He began to teach them about real love.  The disciples’ conversation on the road revealed that their love was puffed up, self-seeking, self-serving, and me-centered.  Jesus’ love, on the other hand, is selfless, focused outward rather than inward, always looking out for the best interests of others.  And that’s the way we should love too, whether we’re talking about loving our spouse, our parents, our Christian brothers and sisters at church, or the people out there in the world who do not yet know the Lord Jesus and are sometimes rather unlovable.

Verse 37: “Whoever receives one child like this in My name receives Me; and whoever receives Me does not receive Me, but Him who sent Me.”
  • What does Jesus mean by all that?  Well, it’s kind of like this… If you love my grandson, Lucas, it shows that you love Lucas’ daddy, Christopher, which shows that you love me because Chris is my son and Lucas is my grandson.  It’s a package deal.  We go together.  In fact, don’t try to convince me that you love me while you are saying horrible things about my son.  And don’t even think about bad-mouthing Lucas.  I love my son and my grandson and they love me and we go together.
  • Jesus loved that little child He was holding in His arms.  He told the disciples that by truly loving and showing love to that child they were really showing their love for Jesus.  On top of that, to receive Jesus and to love Him means that they love the Father who sent Him.


Bottom line… you can’t love Jesus and hate the people that Jesus loves.  You can’t say that you love God and yet reject the Son whom the Father sent to be the propitiation for our sins.  If you really love God, then you will love Jesus.  And if you really love Jesus, then you will love the people that He so loved that He was willing to die for.

            Real love, genuine Christian love, agape love “suffers long and is kind, does not envy, does not parade itself, is not puffed up, does not behave rudely, does not seek its own.”
            On this Valentine’s Day let’s not limit ourselves to thinking merely about romantic love, but let’s look at all our love relationships and examine ourselves to see if we are living and loving the way Jesus would want us to.

            The Bible says that we are to “be doers of the Word and not hearers only.”  What pearls have you collected from these verses?  What has stood out to you that you plan to take home with you to put into practice?

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About Me

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Since 1994 I have been the pastor of Sellwood Baptist Church in Portland, OR. Before that I was a missionary in South Brazil for many years. Until just recently I have also served as a police chaplain with the Portland Police Bureau. Now, however, God has a new assignment for us. My wife and I have been appointed with WorldVenture and are preparing to move to Ireland to help plant a new church in Sligo, a small city in NW Ireland. I'm married to Ramel, a crazy, beautiful redhead that I love more than life itself. We have three great kids, Jonathan, Chris, and Simoni who have given us ten wonderful grandchildren. We are truly blessed.

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