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Christian Kindness in Action: Agape Love Series - Part 3

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Christian Kindness in Action

Agape Love Series - Part 3

MP3 Audio (19.98 MB)


Christian Kindness in Action: Agape Love Series - Part 3

MP3 Audio (19.98 MB)

1 Corinthians 13 says that agape love is kind. Romans 12 illuminates what kindness is. This sermon goes through these characteristics and expounds how they contribute to the agape love we are developing in our Christian walk.


[Gary Petty] A few weeks ago, we began a series of sermons and I began the sermon by reading from 1 John 4.8 where it says that God is love, and spent the entire sermon explaining what John means. Went through a whole section of that, 1 John, and why he uses the same word over and over and over again to the point it seems almost redundant until you realize the point he's making. And we talked about what agape means, is the word he uses there, and that it's a Greek word. We went through all these different Greek words and their meanings and their translated love in English.

But how agape was given a Christian meaning, especially by John and by Paul. They gave it a Christian meaning that went beyond the Greek, you know, the secular Greek. Now, the secular Greek looked at agape as being somehow divine, but it was a philosophical word. You know, Plato might say, "Well, the God that created all the other gods, He has agape," but it really wasn't, you know, played out. And that's why if you actually looked up agape in the New Testament, as I mentioned, you will find it used a couple different ways. It's translated a couple different ways. It's because it had this wide variety of meanings.

But John and Paul bring it specifically down to what agape is, the way they use it, is it is a description of the essential mental, emotional, and moral character of God. This is what He is. Now, we say, "God is spirit. Well, you know, explain that." But when we get into the essential nature of how he thinks and why he does what he does, why he creates, how he creates, his purposes, his meanings, what he wants to accomplish, it all comes down to agape. And that is the core in understanding his relationship with us. We have to understand that if we're really ever going to understand, at least in the limited way that we can, and it is limited. The more you study concepts like agape, the more you realize we are just getting a little bit of this.

As I said last week, we jumped into the deep end of the pool here. We're in the deep end of the pool when it comes to Christianity. Now, we have to learn all these other things to get where we are, but once you learn Sabbath and Holy Days and you learn all these other things we're supposed to do, basic doctrine, basic knowledge, once you learn all that, there is an outcome called conversion. And we showed in 1 John, or what John basically says is that the purpose of the Christian life is to have agape shown to us by God through Jesus Christ and for us to have that essential nature developed in us. That's the essential nature of God.

And then we started to go through 1 Corinthians 13 where Paul starts to break down, "Here are the basic qualities of the essential qualities of the nature of God that we must learn." And the only way that can happen, by the way, is through God's Spirit in us. Human beings are capable of moments of agape, and especially in the secular Greek word. But even in the New Testament, there are moments of agape, but to have it as an essential core part of who you are so that you could say...God says, "I am agape," and none of us can say that.

To have us become that takes God's Spirit in us. So we can learn it on a surface way, and we can have moments of agape, but to actually become what God wants us to be, this has to become our essential nature. It has to become our essential nature. And so what I talked about last time is I went through the first of those qualities, which is suffering long, or longsuffering, and showed how the essential nature of God through human history has been to suffer a long time with us. It is who He is. It is how He interacts with each one of us, and it's how he actually interacts with humanity. So that is something we have to learn. It is not normal for human nature to suffer long with other people. And when I went through, I showed that suffering long there doesn't mean like, "Oh, I have an illness or a financial problem, you know, and I had to go through a whole year of this major problem."

Longsuffering is used that way in different places. But when we look at it in terms of agape, he's talking about you're suffering long with other people, which means that they're making you suffer. The whole point is suffering long means you suffer for a long time. There's no other way to explain it. And unfortunately, you get into the Greek and that's what it means too. So we went through that.

The next statement he makes is, there in 1 Corinthians, is agape is kind. Now, we know what kindness is, right? To be kind is to be nice to people, it's to not treat people bad, it's not to be a bully, it's to think about and care about other people's feelings. Yes. But that's more. When agape talks about God's kindness, it's more than that.

Let's go to Romans because this is where we're going to be today. We'll come back to Romans, the whole rest of the sermon. We'll go to a few places and keep coming back to Romans. Because it's here in Romans that Paul breaks down agape in the term of kindness in much finer detail than he does in 1 Corinthians 13. And like what we read in 1 John, and like what we read in 1 Corinthians 13, all the instructions on agape start with how we treat each other in the church. That's where it starts. And it's not like how other people treat me as we go through this. Over and over again, we find out agape is always how you treat others, and sometimes has nothing to do with how they treat you. And we always go back to God.

If God's interaction with us was on how we treated Him, we're doomed. So agape is going outside yourself, and it's how you treat others, that's why suffering long. But now we go into kindness. And so when we read through this passage, you're going to see where Paul begins talking about our interaction with each other in the church, and each one's responsibility to do this, and you can't base it on whether other people are doing it. That actually has nothing to do with it. Is what you're doing before God and what God's doing in you. At the end of the passage we're going to go through, he expands it out outward towards other people, which is exactly what Jesus Christ does in His ministry. So let's start here in verse 9.

Romans 12:9 “Let love, that's agape, be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil, cling to what is good.

He starts with our interaction with other people cannot be hypocritical.

[Tim] What chapter?

[Gary Petty] Oh, this is Romans 12. Didn't I give you the chapter? Oh, you're supposed to know your Bibles. Just find it. I'm so disappointed. Romans 12:9. Thanks, Tim. You know, I thought, "Boy, I guess everybody's a little distressed or something today, the way they're looking at me." Now I understand. My wife says it takes me a while to pick up on things, you know? But it's without hypocrisy. Now, we all understand hypocrisy. It bothers us, right? When we see someone that is very self-righteous, but we know, "Oh, yeah, they have a drinking problem," or, "They have this problem or that problem," we look at them and say, "Well, that's just hypocrisy. They're pretending to be one way and acting another."

But once again, let's look at the context here. Our agape cannot be without hypocrisy. In other words, you can be kind for the wrong reasons. You can be play-acting kindness. How do you play-act kindness? You know, you're kind, you did something nice, but remember what Paul said? I could give all that I have to the poor, and if I don't have agape, it doesn't mean a thing. How can that be? If I give all I have to the poor, isn't it the ultimate love? As we go through this, Paul said, "No, this is the central nature of God, and this is what He wants to be developing in us, this essential nature."

We can't be hypocritical. In other words, we can't treat other people nice for our benefit. We can't be treating other people nice and be kind because we're going to get something from it. We'll be recognized or we'll be liked. You know, some people can be very kind because they just want to be liked by people. So what's the reason? You're kind to them because you are concerned about them or because you're concerned about yourself? Now, this gets a little complicated. Agape just keeps delving deeper, deeper into our inner person, who we are.

You know, there is a perfect example of trying to exhibit kindness and failing at it miserably. And it's in Acts chapter 5. Remember the story where Barnabas, all the churches together, it talks about how they're selling things and giving it to each other because what happened was lots of people were there when the church started. They'd come from all over the world into Jerusalem and it appears that they didn't go home. Many of them just stayed there. The Holy Spirit had been poured out and they just became this giant community living in each other's houses and they started selling things. And it said Barnabas sold some land, brought the money, and gave it to the apostles and said, "Give this to people. Let's make sure everybody's taken care of." And he actually became known as, because of that, the son of encouragement.

You know, they changed his name to Barnabas, son of encouragement. This man encourages everybody. How can I help you? There was just a kindness to the man. And, of course, we know the rest of the story is Ananias and Sapphira saw him do that and said, "Oh, we'll do the same thing." So they took and they sold some of their property. They brought the money to the apostles and said, "We sold everything we had to give to the church. And here it is." And Peter said, "No, that's not true. You sold a little piece of your land, and you're making a big show of your kindness."

It's interesting what Peter says because he says, "It was yours, you didn't have to sell any of it. You didn't have to give any of it, and nobody would have thought anything about it. But here you are doing this great act of kindness." And he said, "You're lying. You're lying to the Holy Spirit." And it's one of the few places in the New Testament that God killed somebody. The first people we find in the New Testament God kills isn't pagans. It's two church members. That bothers me a little bit. I don't know about you, but that's serious. The first two people He actually kills is because, why? They're faking their love for the brethren so they can get a benefit. They're faking it. "Look at us. We sold everything we had to give to the poor. We love the poor. We love the brethren."

And Peter says, "No, you don't. You want to be like Barnabas. You want everybody to look up to you like everybody looks up to Barnabas. You want some kind of honor and recognition. So you sold a little bit and gave a little bit. You could have sold a little bit and gave it. You could have sold none. You could have given just an offering. That would all have been out of love. But this was all out of show. It is hypocrisy. And the hypocrisy of it is pretending to be kind to get some kind of recognition."

So the first thing he says is agape can't be hypocritical. It can't have a different motive except receiving the love of God and then sharing that love of God with others. You've received the love of God, and now you're sharing it with others. So let's go back now. As we go through Romans 12, we can give a whole series of sermons on Romans 12. And all we're doing is covering one aspect of one word in 1 Corinthians 13.

Romans 12:10 He says, "Cling to what is good." Then he says in verse 10, "Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love and honor giving preference to one another."

So to be kindly affectionate. And of course, they translate this in English as brotherly love because it comes from phileo. It's where we get the word Philadelphia, city of brotherly love. This has to do with the love of brothers. And he said in the church, now remember he starts always in the church, so does John. Because, okay, we're going to start in the world. There may be moments of agape in the world, but this Christian love can only come from God. He has it, He gives it to us, we learn it, we live it, we give it to others inside this environment, and then we spread that every place we go.

As I've said before, I think this is one area in the church that we really need to work on. We really need to work on it. And, of course, we can say, "I agree, the people in this congregation needs to work on this." And that's not the point. Every single one of us has to do it. So we can't look at anybody else. It does no good to look at anybody else, unless you see somebody that's really...I mean, I think of some people, I think, "Wow, they are one of the greatest examples of agape I've ever seen." I've met a few people in my life, and those I look to, because I think I can learn from them. Right? Everything else is, how do I do it?

This brotherly love. So they have to have an affection towards each other. So agape here, he says, "In this agape, we have to actually care for each other as brothers and sisters." Now, brothers and sisters have arguments. Brothers and sisters sometimes at certain moments don't like each other, right? But they're still brothers and sisters. That's the point he's making. With agape, we're still brothers and sisters inside the church.

Romans 12:10 And then he says, "In honor, giving preference to one another."

Now here's a problem we have. In honor giving preference to one another, that goes against core basic human nature. This is a God nature. This is I want to do what's best for you even if it cost me something. So I will give a preference to you and I will honor you. You know, the greatest example of this in the entire Bible? Every time we go through these, we're going to find examples through something God did, something Jesus Christ did. On Passover, Jesus Christ, the one who's most honored in the room, the one who all humanity...literally, to receive salvation, every human being has to bow before him. That's how much God honors and upholds Jesus Christ. And what did he do on that Passover night? He did what servants did, and he washed their feet and then said, "You need to do this too."

Now, that's an example of what He means here. That's agape. He didn't have to do it. He did it for their good. He got no benefit from it. God made all things through Jesus Christ. You're the creator of the universe. What personal benefit do you get from washing 12 men's stinky feet? That was why He did it. He did it for them and He was happy to do it for them. And, of course, the thing that really is astounding, He washed Judas feet. That's what's really amazing. The man He knew was going to betray Him because He said it at the dinner, "One of you here isn't right. One of you here is wrong." He knew He was going, and He said, "Go do it quickly." And he washed his feet anyways. That's agape.

Now, how does God teach us? Well, there's a lot of things Jesus said, "Let me show you because you won't get this. We can tell you and you can't get it, but we can show it to you." And a lot of agape is in actions. A lot of it is in actions. How do we honor? How do we follow that example of Jesus Christ in honoring other people, giving them preference? Well, one of the things we should do, and remember we start in the church, is we need to show respect to each other. Each of us was made in the image of God, and remember I said the one thing we learned from this, we were created by God to be loved.

When we say He created us to be children, that's exactly what that means. You were created by God to be loved by God. Okay? Now, we all need to love each other, and we all have a need for loving each other. I mean, that's part of the problems of humanity. We need love so much, we'll do evil to get some feeling of love from somebody. Of course, God doesn't need that. He doesn't need our love. We talked about that in great detail, where John says we are completed by His love and we are made perfect. He is not completed by us and He's not made perfect by us, which is really good for us. There's no insecurity in God.

But we have to respect each other as made in the image of God and as someone who is loved by God. You know what? Next time you're having a real argument with your husband or wife, just stop for a minute and think, "This is a person loved by God," and see how much you still want to keep fighting. Now, just take a minute, get off by yourself and think about that. This is a person loved by God. How much do I want to keep treating him or her this way?

Another thing is we recognize and respect each other for our unique personalities and unique abilities. It's easy to marginalize people who have very difficult personalities. And I guarantee you, God brought us here not because any of us is so charismatic, He just couldn't live without us. None of us are here because of that. We're all here and we're all quirky. Every human being's quirky, right? We're all weird, just in different ways. Once we accept that, we have to accept that in each other. That's how you honor somebody. We honor the weakest among us. We have to honor each other because God's called us, even though we're not perfect. We have to be careful what we say about each other behind each other's backs. How do we honor each other when we're stabbing each other in the back all the time?

Oh, man, can't we just talk about how you don't have an immortal soul? Because that's a lot easier than this. It is. Take time to talk with each other and listen to each other. That's how we honor each other. How about this, keep the promises you make. You honor somebody, you make a promise, and it costs you something to keep the promise, you keep it anyways. Even if it costs you time or money or energy, you keep it anyways. Why? Because you told them and you honor them. Boy, that's a little different concept than what we're used to, isn't it? And we have to give of our time and our energy and resources to help others. And we've just scratched the surface of that phrase.

So let's go on to the next phrase.

Romans 12:11 He says, "Not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord, rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer." And now he starts... Now, these are all aspects of agape, but now he starts into how this exhibits itself, what it means now to be living this. “Distributing to the needs of the saints and given to hospitality.”

Giving to the needs of the saints. He hasn't even left discussing yet how we're supposed to be treating each other. Living on the fringe of the church is not agape. Not having relationships with each other is not agape. But you might say, "I don't even like the people there." Oh, well, they may not like you either. That has nothing to do with this. It has nothing to do with it. God didn't call you because you all automatically would like each other. In fact, I think I mentioned this before, I read a book one time on how to create a megachurch. I thought, "This is interesting." They had interviewed all these guys at megachurch. Not that I ever thought we would do that because we wouldn't live by the principles. That's the reason I didn't buy the book. I just read it in the bookstore. It wasn't very big.

One of the things you do is you build a church in a specific neighborhood. You figure out who you want in your church and you build a church in that neighborhood so that everybody coming is basically the same background. In fact, megachurches die when the neighborhoods they're in change. And I've seen megachurches that were huge 30 years ago, and then the demographic changed around them. I remember one time we went to rent a church building, it was a Methodist church. They had a thousand people, and believe me, they had a room enough for a thousand people. They had a school, they had a television studio. It was amazing.

And we were talking to him and he said, "Yeah." I said, 'How many people you have?" He said, "Well, we're down to 400." And then I looked, you know, they have the attendance. You've seen in certain churches, they have the attendance. Their attendance was 100. And as time went on, by the end of the interview, I had some church people with me and he was watching some of our younger couples and he said, "I know we have some doctrinal differences, but on the simple things like the Bible stories and the love of Jesus, we agree." He said, "Do you think your people could teach our Bible school in the summer? I don't have anybody in my church young enough. I only have a few kids and I don't have anybody to teach them. Megachurch died."

So I asked him what happened. He said, "We were a middle class, fairly wealthy group of people that moved out. And so we have never been able to attract the people that moved into the community in." Now, that's how you build a megachurch. You know how God does it? He picks people that wouldn't even know each other and wouldn't get along at all and throws them together and says, "Ah, now we're going to learn agape." That's what this is. He just throws us together, and then He makes it work. And that's what you have to understand. This isn't some nice grand idea. This is Christian requirement. After you learn the doctrines, this is the next step. This is the Christian requirement, and it starts within us, because we have to show this to everybody in how we live.

Distributing to the needs of the saints. You know, it's interesting, in James, he's talking about...in James chapter 2, he's talking about the different works and faith. You know, it seemed to appear that at times Paul was saying, "All you need is faith, you don't need works." And what James is arguing is you're misunderstanding Paul. What he's saying is faith has to come first, and that produces works. If you have works without faith, it's going to be all messed up. You start with faith and it produces works. And he says, "Let me show you. If you say to somebody that is poor and has nothing to eat, 'Bless you, go and be filled,' and you don't feed them," he says, "Your faith means nothing. Your faith has to produce works." It produces, "Here, let me give you something to eat." It produces something.

If we truly are to be members of the Church of God, we are to take care of each other. That's what it means. And there may come a time in the future where we're really going to have to take care of each other. That may happen, I mean, in a way that we've never had to before. Although I grew up in the church as a kid on the border of West Virginia, and those people in the church took care of each other because they were poor. And if they didn't take...I mean, every Sabbath was people bringing food, you know, eggs, everything that they had on their farms and just giving to each other. Just brought it and gave it to each other because sometimes that's how they lived. That's how they live.

He then says, "Given to hospitality." Now, hospitality is a very important subject. It's actually a very big subject in the Bible, much bigger than we realize. Hospitality doesn't mean giving parties for your friends. Now, that's being hospitable. Okay. I mean that's an element of hospitality, but that's not what he means here. That's not what he says here. He says, "Given to hospitality..." Let me find it. Yep, distributing to the needs of the saints, given to hospitality. The word hospitality here in the Greek is not the word it would mean just having people over your house and having nice parties. Having your friends over, that's hospitable, isn't it? The word here is very interesting. It's philoxenia. You've heard of xenophobia, fear of strangers? It literally means the love of strangers.

Have the love of strangers. In other words, hospitality is part of who you are so that you interact with even strangers who are in...and we're still into the Christian community. We haven't even moved beyond the Christian community yet. And we participate in hospitality. Hospitality is to have people many times over your house. And I've heard people say this over and over again in the last 50 years, "I can't be hospitable. I don't have a nice house, or I don't have a big house." Or, you know, "I don't know how to cook." And, you know, that's none of the requirements of this word. The requirement of this word is you simply have them over. That's all it means. You want to be hospitable in this way? But yeah, food is part of being hospitable. Actually, it is. Well, then serve them peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and a glass of milk. If somebody doesn't like that, they're the one who has the problem. Right?

One time I remember in Texas, I went to visit three widows and they all wanted to be so hospitable. So each one knew I liked pecan pie, and each one had baked a pecan pie and coffee. By my third piece of pecan pie, because I was not going to eat it, not because I wanted to, but at the end of the first one, I couldn't because they're giving me big pieces. By the end of the third visit with three pieces and coffee, I was just like this. Driving home, I was like, "You wouldn't want to be around me." I'm all over the place. But I was going to eat it because they were being hospitable, and what am I going to say? No? I had to eat it.

One time, there was an evangelist from out in Pasadena and he moved into our area, he retired. And he said he hadn't spent any time really out in the field ministry. And I said, "Oh, good, you and I are going to go visiting. You've entered a whole new world." We went to visit a woman one time that she said, "I don't understand..." She was a black person. She said, "I don't understand you white people here in Wisconsin." She said, "You eat these things called brats," which is like a giant hot dog, you know? She said, "So I made one for you."

Now, she made brats and had no idea how to make them. And she served us these brats and they were half raw. And he looked at me and I took a bite and I said, "This is good." We got in the car and I said, "The first time I met that woman, she was in a halfway house selling her body for drugs." That was hospitality. See, we think parties. That's hospitality. That was a God-given gift. And I said, "If we get sick, well, you'll get over it." He said, "It's different being out in the field in Pasadena." I said, "Yeah, it's a lot different."

See, that's the thing. To her, she was exhibiting this. It wasn't a party. She was exhibiting hospitality, and we went and received it. And it was a gift from God. Neither of us got sick. But even if we did, I was going to eat it, right? And he was too. It has nothing to do with wealth. It has to do with caring for the person you bring. And that's why Jesus said if you give a party, don't invite your friends or the rich people, invite the poor people. He didn't say never have your friends over. Okay? That's not His point. His point is don't forget other people.

Friendship is friendship. Hospitality goes beyond that in a much greater extent. And that's why Jesus on a couple occasions said, "Don't do that. Don't just invite or don't invite to your house everybody that can give you a benefit," as he put it, anybody that can give you something. Bring the people who can give you nothing, and he says, "Your Father will reward you in the kingdom." Invite the people who can give you nothing. We could use a little more hospitality if we're going to understand this. See why it's going to take a long time to get through this?

Romans 12:14-15 “Bless those who persecute you, and bless and do not curse.” Now, we've talked about that. That's going to come up again in this series. “Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.”

Now, that is what we call empathy. Empathy is the ability... It's the ability to understand and feel what other people are feeling. You ever been with somebody who's grieving and you help them because you suddenly grieve with them? You're holding them, you're both crying, you're grieving with them, right? That is the good side of empathy. Empathy without wisdom can be a very bad thing. You ever around somebody that's really angry? You don't even know why they're this angry and pretty soon you're angry too? That's called empathy. We can absorb.

I don't mean this as a put down, watch 15-year-old girls sit around and talk, and watch one of them start talking about some problem in their lives. Pretty soon, they're all weeping. Or they all want to go kill the boy, right? Just this empathy just takes over and it's an amazing thing to watch. Because I don't even know what they're talking about because they're talking in half sentences. But they know exactly what each... It's like their brains are connected. It's like the Borg or something. And they just connect. Now, some of you girls got to know what I'm talking about, right? I'm being a little facetious, but it is...you don't see guys do that as much. You will see girls do that.

That's where empathy can be a problem. That's where empathy can be a problem. Because we can feel for the person, we don't understand what's best for them. Because we feel so much, we can actually...sometimes if we're not careful, we will go ahead and would just sort of abide with their evil. I read an article recently about someone who was saying they had spent some time with a person in jail who had been in poverty all his life and he committed robbery and murder. And how after being and listening to how horrible his life was, the person decided he should be let out of jail because they were so empathetic. The problem is that actually doesn't do the guy any good, because being in jail doesn't do him any good either. God has different solutions to things, but you understand.

That's not the solution. Oh, well, you had a bad life, so we'll go ahead and excuse the fact that you robbed and murdered. No. You know, I know that because that's not what God does. You know, God doesn't give any of us excuses. I don't care what our background is. God never says, "I understand." Actually, He does understand, but He never says, "I understand. I'll let you slide." God never says that. God says you can only be justified by having Jesus Christ die for you and you accept that because that's justice, and then we can have a relationship. He never excuses the evil just because He understands.

God has empathy. He expects us to have empathy, to rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep. That's an emotional connection that we're not afraid to show each other. We have to get to that place. For men, sometimes that's hard for us. The older I get, the easier it is. Okay. I don't mean be overly emotional, but I mean, yeah, okay, show your emotions to an extent. We have to be that way. We have to have that empathy. You want to see one of the greatest examples of empathy in the Bible? Luke chapter 5. I really appreciate this little story because you look at it and there's something in here you miss. Jesus does another miracle, okay? We read all these miracles. We know He's going to do these miracles.

Luke 5:12-13 "And it happened when He was in a certain city, behold, a man who was full of leprosy saw Jesus, and he fell on his face and implored Him, saying, 'Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.' Then He put out His hand and touched Him, saying, 'I am willing to be cleansed.' And immediately, the leprosy left him."

Now, you read that and you think, "Wow, another miracle," but there's something there we miss. You know how many times Jesus looked at somebody and said, "You have faith, you're healed?" You know how hideous leprosy is, this kind of leprosy? The person is rotting from the outside in. And they're very contagious. And he touched him. That's empathy. That's the kind of empathy God has with you, but He won't excuse our evil. He won't excuse our bad. It's not like, "I understand. I'll let you slide."

No. I understand. Now, accept Jesus Christ as your Savior, that His death is your substitute. Now we have to start to understand agape here. Agape never uses empathy to excuse, but it does open us up to the pain of others. It opens us up to suffering with others. It opens us up to joyful with others. But every time I read this, that little... He touched him. He didn't have to touch him. He healed people without touching them. Touching him was a remarkable thing. Nobody touched this man. This man may not have been touched in 20 years by any other human being. Can you imagine that? Never shaking somebody's hand, never getting a hug, and he touched him. That's God's empathy. We get just a couple more here. Verse 16, back in Romans. One word, that's all we're dealing with. One word.

Romans 12:16 He says, "Be of the same mind toward one another. Do not set your mind on high things, but associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own opinion."

One of the core aspects for us to ever learn agape is this humility that we have to have. And all humility begins with humility before God. One of the biggest detriments to all Christian growth is our own needs. They're built into us. Our need to feel safe, our need to feel loved, our need to...you know, which turns into needs to control. Our needs to be righteous so it makes us...we compare ourselves with each other all the time. "Oh, I'm more righteous than you, so I'm okay," which happens all the time in the church. All these things lead us away from God, and He says, "Do not set your mind on high things." Let's read it again, verse 16.

Romans 12:16 "Be of the same mind, one to another. Do not set your mind on high things, but associate with the humble, and do not be wise in your own opinion."

We can't love each other as long as we see ourselves as superior to each other. Now, everybody has different talents. I mean, we had four people up here with special music, and I can't do any of that. So what do we do? We honor them for doing it. They helped us worship God today, and that's an honor we give them. We appreciate it.

Now, I doubt if any of the four of them went back... I'll have to ask, you know, Mr. Ellithorpe there. Where is he? Did you go back and say, "Oh, I'm superior to everybody else because I played the guitar?" I don't think that happened. Right? But that's what we can do. We're comparing ourselves with each other. Humility is at the heart and core of everything we're talking about. And this humility starts with you and I before God and our absolute understanding of our poverty, our spiritual poverty before God.

We sure didn't cover much of 1 Corinthians 13, did we? In fact, to tell you the truth, if you really want to get more, you've got to read all the rest of chapter 12 of Romans just to go see where He's going and His kindness. It all has to do with what we do, what we do. In fact, from verse 17 through verse 21, he shifts gears and he talks about how we interact with the world. And he says we have to do what's right for them even if they're treating us bad. He doesn't say that we are to compromise God's way. In fact, he says, "Live peaceably with all men as much as it's up to you," because much of the time, people won't let us live peaceably with them. They just won't let us. They don't have the same value system, so it's not going to happen. We have to accept that.

Sometimes you can't live at peace with somebody. They won't let you. Some workers, some family members, they're just not going to let you. But he says as much as you can, you try to create peace without compromise. Without compromise. And don't give in to wanting vengeance. If God wanted vengeance, we're in trouble. Okay, I killed my son for you. Let me put you in purgatory for two million years, and then I'll feel better about it. That's sort of the purgatory concept. God's got to get His vengeance. That's the whole idea of everlasting hell. God gets His vengeance on evil people. So you can live for 20 years, be evil for 20 years, die, and God puts you in hell forever and ever and ever to get His vengeance on you. If a human being had that kind of concept, we would say they were evil, wouldn't we? And yet that's what people think God's doing. It's not God. It's not God.

So we got to one other word, partly. Partly. I erased all kinds of stuff out of my notes because, well, I didn't want to speak for three hours. Keep studying this. Keep going through this. We've already been given the knowledge we need. I mean, we still need to grow in grace and knowledge. We still need to grow in knowledge. We still need to grow in obedience. But we also have to begin to grow in understanding that God wants His core basic nature developed in us. And in the New Testament, that nature is called agape.

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