WHAT ARE THE GREATEST THINGS OF LIFE?
If you asked this question to people on the street, you would no doubt here and a variety of answers. Some would give worldly answers such as money, healthcare, food, etc. Some might say their family or even their dogs. Everyone will probably have a different answer to this question, but I want to share you some of my answers to this question from a Christianís perspective. While I am sure you can add to my answers, I think you will agree with the ones I will present in this lesson.
Letís start out with the greatest thing in life that exceeds all other things. I believe that it is love. As Paul states in:
1 Corinthians 13:13 †And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
Why is love so great? Again, Paul explains in:
1 Corinthians 13:1 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.
Paul has given us one the most beautiful descriptions of why love is so great. Without it our actions are meaningless. If we are not motivated by love by things we do for the Lord, then we have completely missed one of the most important parts of the foundation of Christianity because love binds it together. Paul says it best in:
Colossians 3:12 Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering;† 13 bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do.† 14 But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection.
The word love used here comes from the Greek word agape, which means:
LSJ: love: esp. brotherly love, charity; the love of God for man and of man for God,
It is this kind of love that makes it possible to have the bond of perfection.
The word bond in the Greek means:
Friberg: a state of being completion, perfection; (1) with a component of totality wholeness, perfect unity† (2) with a component of having achieved a purpose maturity, perfection
The Greek word behind perfection means:
Friberg: literally, as the middle item that joins two or more things together link, joint, bond; of the body sinew, ligament, muscle. figuratively; (a) in a positive sense of spiritual forces that unite people bond, what ties together.
I gave you the definitions for all these words so you could see just how important love is for our lives especially our Christian lives because when love each with the agape type of love then we truly will have this strong bond of unity that will tie us together with the pure love of God. No wonder John said:
1 John 4:19 We love Him because He first loved us.† 20 If someone says, "I love God," and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen?† 21 And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also.
Peter adds this:
1 Peter 4:8 And above all things have fervent love for one another, for "love will cover a multitude of sins."
Notice, he said above all things have fervent that is intense continuous agape love for one another. When we have this kind of intense love for another sin is not going to be a problem because when we have this kind of love in place, we will seek out how we can serve one another just as we do for our flesh and blood. When we can learn to love each other as Christ wants us to, it will become almost impossible for us to sin against each other and even if we do sin against each other, love will be victorious in the end because love will motivate the sinner to repent and the victim of that sin to forgive quickly and not hold a grudge.
Love for the brethren will always cause us to look for the best in them instead of the worse and will cause to treat them as we want to be treated. We can know that when we love the brethren as Christ would want us to then He says:
John 13:35 "By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another."
Now I want to make something clear. Love by itself is wonderful, but love by itself will not make one pleasing to God because remember, love is a binding agent that brings things together. One could have love with others while living a sinful lifestyle. In other words, love would be used in a negative way to bind together the ways of the world. Just because people living for the world and its sinful ways show love for one another does not make them disciples of Christ. The major difference is what kind of fruits are coming from their love and more specifically, what are they binding together with their love? Jesus explains how we can know what kind of people we are dealing with in:
Matthew 7:15 " Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves.† 16 "You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles?† 17 "Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit.† 18 "A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit.† 19 "Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.† 20 "Therefore by their fruits you will know them.
We have to be careful because as pure as love is and even though it is one of the greatestest things of life, it can be used for evil. It is easy for us to recognize the difference if we use Godís Word as our guide. As Jesus said:
John 14:15 " If you love Me, keep My commandments.
1 John 2:3 Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments.† 4 He who says, "I know Him," and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.† 5 But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him.† 6 He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked.
This is the wonderful thing about love because we can know that we have the love of God in us by the fruits we bear. If our love for each other and our actions match up with the teachings of Godís Word then we can know and recognize the love of God as opposed to some other kind of love. So, the only way that love can truly be one the greatest things in our lives is if it is a love that is binding us together in unity based on Godís Word. Another other kind of love will lead you to hell because it will be a misguided love.
Another reason love is the greatest thing in life is because love for man is what caused God to make the ultimate sacrifice for us:
John 3:16"For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.† 17 "For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.
As Paul writes:
Romans 5:6 For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.† 7 For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die.† 8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.† 9 Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him.† 10 For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.† 11 And not only that, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.
Now you think about that for just a minute. You would be hard pressed to find someone who would give their life for a righteous man or for a good man. Though you may find a few people that would do this, how hard do you think it would be for someone to allow one of their children to die for a murder, a thief, or any other shady character? Well, that is exactly what love motivated our Father in heaven to do for us. He was willing to offer up His only begotten Son for us all; every single good ole boy and every single rotten to the core person on the face of the planet. I do not know about you, but it is hard for me to wrap mind around the idea that God had that much love for us all after everything we have done against Him.
It is a good thing I am not God because I would have destroyed mankind by now and moved onto the final judgment to be done with it all, but not God because He is longsuffering and merciful as Peter says:
2 Peter 3:9 The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.† 10 But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up.† 11 Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness,† 12 looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved, being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat?† 13 Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.
Someday Jesus will come back and final judgment day will occur, but in the meantime we see that God is longsuffering toward us all and is giving us plenty of time to repent and turn to Him, but even Godís mercy has its limits because the cup of iniquity will overflow and the judgment day will begin. The fact that God loves us so much and has made heaven possible for all who will love Him back by keeping His commands shows just how much love He has for us and how great and important love is in our lives.
When we love God and keep His commandments, we can be confident in our Christianity. We can know that we are childern of God and that we will forever remain under the hedge of protection that God will provide for us. When we have love for God and His people, we can have the same attitude and assurance that David professed in:
Psalm 138:1 A Psalm of David. I will praise You with my whole heart; Before the gods I will sing praises to You.† 2 I will worship toward Your holy temple, And praise Your name For Your lovingkindness and Your truth; For You have magnified Your word above all Your name.† 3 In the day when I cried out, You answered me, And made me bold with strength in my soul.† 4 All the kings of the earth shall praise You, O LORD, When they hear the words of Your mouth.† 5 Yes, they shall sing of the ways of the LORD, For great is the glory of the LORD.† 6 Though the LORD is on high, Yet He regards the lowly; But the proud He knows from afar.† 7 Though I walk in the midst of trouble, You will revive me; You will stretch out Your hand Against the wrath of my enemies, And Your right hand will save me.† 8 The LORD will perfect that which concerns me; Your mercy, O LORD, endures forever; Do not forsake the works of Your hands.
We serve a living and all powerful God who loves us and cares for us and wants to love and care for Him. When we draw near to Him, He draws near to us. He will always be there for us in this life and in eternity. We can never go wrong when we focus on loving God and His people and by maintaining our relationship with God and His people based on Godís Word.
There is much more I could say about how great love is above all other things, but I would like to move on and begin talking about some of the great things that all come from loving God and loving others.
One of the greatest purposes in a Christianís life is to glorify God in all that we do and say.
1 Corinthians 10:31 †Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.
Once we made the commitment to obey the gospel and live for God, we signed us as being representatives of Christ. So our goal should be to glorify God to the best our ability in everything we do. Again, Paul says:
1 Corinthians 6:15 Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a harlot? Certainly not!† 16 Or do you not know that he who is joined to a harlot is one body with her? For "the two," He says, "shall become one flesh."† 17 But he who is joined to the Lord is one spirit with Him.† 18 Flee sexual immorality. Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body.† 19 Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own?† 20 For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God's.
When we are motivated by our love for God and what He has done for us, then we are going to our best to keep ourselves pure by keeping sin out since, we are joined with the Lord. We no longer are to live for ourselves, we are to live for God because we became Godís servants, but we are not ordinary servants because we are children of God. We must do our part in glorifying God with our bodies and our spirits by living a righteous life outwardly and inwardly.
When we make it our aim to glorify God in our words and deeds then we will be the most effective example of Christ that we can be. Jesus said:
Matthew 5:14 "You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden.† 15 "Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house.† 16 "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.
Let us never stop thinking about how we can be more Christ-like so that we can be a shining light on a hill for a dark world. Our light is to shine for 24/7 and not just when we feel like it or when we are around our brothers and sisters and Christ. I have met Christians who try and live both lives, but like Jesus said about money, you cannot serve two masters because you will end up loving one and hating the other.
I like how Solomon compares the evil way to the righteous way in:
Proverbs 4:14 Do not enter the path of the wicked, And do not walk in the way of evil.† 15 Avoid it, do not travel on it; Turn away from it and pass on.† 16 For they do not sleep unless they have done evil; And their sleep is taken away unless they make someone fall.† 17 For they eat the bread of wickedness, And drink the wine of violence.† 18 But the path of the just is like the shining sun, That shines ever brighter unto the perfect day.† 19 The way of the wicked is like darkness; They do not know what makes them stumble.† 20 My son, give attention to my words; Incline your ear to my sayings. †21 Do not let them depart from your eyes; Keep them in the midst of your heart;† 22 For they are life to those who find them, And health to all their flesh.† 23 Keep your heart with all diligence, For out of it spring the issues of life.† 24 Put away from you a deceitful mouth, And put perverse lips far from you.† 25 Let your eyes look straight ahead, And your eyelids look right before you.† 26 Ponder the path of your feet, And let all your ways be established.† 27 Do not turn to the right or the left; Remove your foot from evil.
This is great advice for us to follow today as well. If we simply allow ourselves to be motivated by our love for God and keep ourselves focused without going to the left or the right, then we will glorify our Father in heaven and have the all confidence in the world that our merciful Father will allow us to exist in heaven forever and ever, but if we chose to take the path of the wicked and we continue to live like the world, then we make our path, which will leads to the horrible place that is called hell. But thanks be to God that He loved us enough to allow us to choose our fate. As Joshua said a long time ago:
Joshua 24:15 "And if it seems evil to you to serve the LORD, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD."
What will your choice be?