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The Greatest of These Is Love: Agape Love Series - Part 11

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The Greatest of These Is Love

Agape Love Series - Part 11

MP3 Audio (23.83 MB)


The Greatest of These Is Love: Agape Love Series - Part 11

MP3 Audio (23.83 MB)

“Faith and hope and love abide, and the greatest of these is love.” The final episode in this sermon series gives a brief study of faith and hope, showing how they relate to love.


[Gary Petty] Well, we've gone through 10 sermons on agape. It's not quite 12 months, but we've done 10 sermons. In the first sermon, we looked at the importance of this concept of agape, not just in the meaning of the Greek word, but the way the New Testament writers, the way they used it. And it's interesting how, I think I told you then, I was reading a book about Agape. It was actually a dictionary and the comment was made in there, if you ask a Greek person the meaning of agape, they're going to ask you, "Do you mean just the Greek language or do you mean the biblical explanation?" Because the biblical explanation has become basically how the word is used. Well, today we're going to talk about how Paul finishes all this. Because we went through all these qualities of agape. Nine sermons on the qualities of agape but what's interesting is how he finishes it. And there's certain comments he makes at the very beginning of 1 Corinthians 13 that you really don't understand until you go through the whole thing and understand how he ends that chapter and then suddenly what he says in the beginning makes even more sense. Let's go to 1 Corinthians 13 and we'll pick up here where Paul's now concluding this whole discussion and let's start in verse 7.

1 Corinthians 13:7 Here's what agape does, "It bears all things. It believes all things. It hopes all things. It endures all things."

Now, we've been talking about all these qualities. It doesn't envy, it suffers long, it doesn't rejoice in iniquity, but these are... What happens, these are consequences of agape. It bears all things. When you look at the word bears there in Greek, it means to survive a struggle. It's talking about struggling with something and you survive it. You bear it, you carry it, but it's not easy. Let me look at one place here, 1 Thessalonians 3. We'll come right back. 1 Thessalonians 3 where Paul uses the same word. And here when you read how Paul uses it, you really get an idea of the meaning of the word.

1 Thessalonians 3:1-2 Paul writes, "Therefore, when we could no longer endure it..." That's that same word, bear. The struggle just got more than I thought I could handle, more than I could do. "...we thought it good to be left in Athens alone..." There was a group of men that were with Paul at this point. "...and sent Timothy, our brother and minister of God and our fellow laborer in the gospel of Christ, to establish you and encourage you concerning your faith."

So here's what he couldn't endure. He felt like the church at Thessalonica was fading away. He felt like it was falling apart and he couldn't take it anymore. But he couldn't get there. He was in Athens. He was doing a work in Athens. So he said, Timothy, you go. You go because I can't bear the worry about those people anymore. So see, it's a struggle.

1 Thessalonians 3:3-4 He goes on, in fact, he says, "That no one should be shaken by these afflictions, for you yourselves know that we are appointed to this. For in fact, we were told you, we told you before when we were with you, that we would suffer tribulation, just as it happened, and you know."

So part of the problem in Thessalonica is people were losing faith because they were seeing the problems Paul and the ministers that were with him were going through. They looked at that and they were starting to have them doubt. He said, "No, I told you these things would happen."

1 Thessalonians 3:5 "For this reason, when I could no longer bear it, when I could no longer endure it, I sent to know your faith, lest by some means the tempter had tempted you and our labor might be in vain."

That really gives you an idea of that word. You know, it bears all things. In other words, it does the struggle. It's not like having agape means there's no struggles. Having agape means you do the struggle. So let's go back to 1 Corinthians. And this is verse 7. We could do a whole sermon of verse 7, but this is just the introduction of what he's talking about here.

1 Corinthians 13:7  "...bears all things, believes all things."

Now, he's not talking here about being gullible. You know, I just believe everything. It's believing the things of God. When we have agape, we believe, we trust. And that's important in what he's going to say later. He's building up here into something he's going to say that can be a little bit just shocking and that's when we understand what he means. When we have agape, we believe all the things of God. "...hopes all things." There's hope because we have agape and, "...endures all things." Now, you say, "Well, why would he use the same word?" But it's not the same word in Greek. What the word here is, it means that you face the struggle with courage. See, the first was when you just face the struggle and you get through it. The second word means not only do you do that, but you do it with courage. You face the struggle and you have courage. Why? Because you have trust, you believe and you hope. These all things are tying together here and Paul's breaking this down and we can read this and miss what he's doing. He's taking huge concepts and tying them together into a real description of reality. So if we have agape, we bear the burdens. When we have agape, we believe God. We hope. We're not in despair all the time and we face the problems with courage.

You know, someone said to me the other day, said, "I don't understand..." Well, I'm sorry. It was a person, a minister who said that he had some young people come to him to say, "Why is it that we emphasize truth but we don't emphasize love?" And what he had to explain was, until we understand the truth of God, we don't know what love is. There's a truth to a definition of love. We have to know the truth of the definition, which we've been reading the truth of the definition of the love of God. If we just take human definitions of love, we end up not believing and living the way God says. This whole chapter defines the love of God. That's why he said at the beginning if you don't have this, you could have faith, you can have knowledge, you can have no prophecies. You can know all that and he said it's nothing. How can he say that? I mean, if I'm rude, now remember, you've got to put these all together. It's not just one. I mean, there's lots of people... You can find an agnostic who's not a rude person but you have to put all this together. And when all this comes together, understanding the love of God and having the love of God developed in us because that's the whole point here. God's definition of love must be developed in us. When it's developed in us, it produces something, and it produces the ability to bear all things and believe all things and hope all things and endure all things. This means that love, as defined by God, is so much greater than human feelings and that's where we get messed up.

Now, human feelings are part of love, right? I mean you look at your child, you look at your best friend, you look at your husband, you love them. You have a feeling about that. But that isn't...that feeling isn't the only definition of love. It's a product of a relationship. This is a product but agape is having the mind of God in us. In other words, God's love is developed in us. And that's why you can love your enemy because that's not a good feeling. It is not a good feeling to love your enemy. It goes against all human emotions. And yet what we have is if we have this, Jesus' command can only make sense in this context. Look what he says next. "Agape never fails." This lasts. Now remember, he's talking about this as the mind of God, the ultimate expression, which is the mind of love, which is the mind of God. The mind of God never fails. Never. "But whether there are prophecies, they will fail. Whether there are tongues, they will cease. Whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away." He says, you know, some of the knowledge that we have now is absolutely unimportant when we're changed in spirit beings. "Thou shalt not murder," will have no meaning in a world of people whose minds have been turned into and changed into agape and they're spirit beings.

You can't even murder each other because it's not possible, for one thing. Prophecies. You know, the Bible only tells us so many prophecies that there's nothing there. In fact, a lot of the prophecies we have about the future that apply to us, we only have bits and pieces of it. And sometimes we come up with all kinds of explanations how that's going to work out, and it doesn't. It works out a different way. He said tongues, a great gift that had been given to the early church. There's all kinds of gifts that are given to the Church of God throughout the years. And sometimes those gifts aren't there anymore. And sometimes those gifts go bad, which is one of the issues he was dealing with in 1 Corinthians. The gift of tongues that actually was bad for that church. It was creating all kinds of problems and confusion in the church. He said, so look at this, God gave you this gift, and it can fail. But this cannot fail. Skip down to verse 13.

1 Corinthians 13:13 "And now abides," continues. Okay, this is what continues. Of all the things, we look at all the things that can fail. We're going to come back to some of these other verses at the end. But, "...now abide faith, hope, and agape, these three." And then he says, "But the greatest of these is agape."

How can that be? Okay, that... I understand, but without faith you are nothing. Without hope, we give up. So we understand it's important, but why is he stating these three specifically and then saying this is one is the greatest? The reason why is he has just told us in all this in a Pauline way, and very concise for Paul actually, remarkably concise, how they work together. Because actually you can't have agape unless you have faith and hope. And you can't have real faith without hope and agape. They tie together. But why is this one greater? Why is it greater? Well, let's look at, just briefly, faith, hope, and agape. We've already covered agape, but I want to just look at a snapshot understanding of faith, a snapshot understanding of hope, and then look at agape and see how these fit together. Faith. Let's go to Hebrews 11, the faith chapter, and I want to look at... I'm just sort of picking a few verses out of this chapter but these verses all zero in on a specific aspect of our faith, our faith. Verse 1. This seems like a cryptic verse. I remember when I was a kid, I'd think, what in the world does Hebrews 11:1 really mean? I mean, I was 12, 13, 14 years old. What in the world does that mean?

Hebrews 11:1 "Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen."

Now he's tying faith and hope together here, again. We're going to see these three things tied together. It's the substance of things not seen. Okay? The evidence of things hoped for. This can be translated. Some translations translate this, the realization of things hoped for and the confidence of things not seen. The point is, faith is in something you're not physically experiencing. If you are sick and you have faith that God will heal you and God heals you. Your faith was in the healing. The healing took place. It's like you don't say, "Oh, I still have faith that He's going to heal me." He's already healed you. Faith is something not seen. And he goes on to explain this. Let's go down to verse... Let's see, let's go down to verse 3. Now, one thing about faith. Faith is only as meaningful as what you have faith in. I have met people whose faith is in their faith, right? They talk about their faith all the time. Their faith all the time. Their faith all the time. Which means their faith is in their faith. That means their faith is only as strong as they are. Your faith is in yourself. Our faith is in God whom we don't see. Now he's going to really explain this throughout this chapter.

Hebrews 11:3-5 Says, "By faith, we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God so that the things which are seen are not made of things which are..." oh, I'm sorry, "...were made of things which are not..." Let me read this again. Trying to get through this too fast. "By faith, we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God. So the things which were seen were not made of things which are visible."

In other words, you and I look outside this window or we look around at each other and we say, "Who did this?" God did this. Our faith is that, but none of us were there. None of us saw it. None of us saw the expanse of nothingness, whatever that is when God said, "Let there be light." But we believe it, don't we? We go out, we see that sun, we actually know it's a physical thing.

There was a time when that did not exist, and you and I believe God created it. He said that's faith because you didn't see it. We didn't see it happen. We weren't there. So once again, it's in a faith in something that's not seen. But we know it and we believe it. It's part of who we are. I mean, if you took away that part of us, we wouldn't be the same people. If you took away your belief that God is not the creator of all things, you would be a different person. You would literally become a different person. So that we have faith in all kinds of things that aren't seen.

Hebrews 11:6 "But without faith, it is impossible to please Him. For he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him."

Okay, faith in that God is, even though you don't see Him, you believe He's there, but you have another level of faith here. I believe God's going to reward me. I believe God's going to give me eternal life. I believe God's going to give me a resurrection. We must believe that He is involved in our lives and He has a purpose and end goal for our lives and that's eternity. It's a reward. That means you have faith in something that hasn't happened yet. You haven't seen it. You haven't seen it. How many times when someone dies, you'll hear someone say, "Do you realize they go to sleep and just like that they wake up and they're there?" But we're not there yet, are we? Our faith is in that. It's a future that we can't see. But in here, in here, we believe it. That's how we live our lives. We're motivated. Faith is in something you actually don't see.

Hebrews 11:7 "By faith Noah being divinely warned of things not yet..." okay, "...warned of things, not yet seen."

When Noah built the ark, there was no flood. In fact, where he built it, there was no body of water that you could float that thing in. You couldn't move it. It was so large. His faith is something that's not seen. That God said, "I'm going to bring a flood," and he believed it. Moved with Godly fear, prepared an ark for the saving of his household, by which he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness which is according to faith.

Hebrews 11:8 "By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to the place which he would receive an inheritance, and he went out not knowing where he was going."

He didn't turn on YouTube and say, "Oh, I can find some film about this place called Canaan." Okay? That'd be great. I'll just Google it. I'll Google it. I'll go to TripAdvisor. I like TripAdvisor. How many of you ever use TripAdvisor? Am I the only one? Oh, a few. Okay. "I'll go there and find out what kind of water parks they have in Canaan." He had no idea where he was going. He didn't see it. He just believed it and he trusted in God. He believed all things, he endured all things. He did those things which are the result of agape, and he did it. In his faith, he went. It goes on and talks about how Sarah, when it was impossible for her to have a child, she couldn't see that, because it's impossible, she did. She couldn't see it but she had faith.

Hebrews 11:17-18 "By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, of whom it was said, ‘In Isaac, your seed shall be called.’”

Wait a minute. You will have a son and he will have children. That's the promise of God he gave him. And then he said, "Now kill him." How do you see that? God must be a liar.

Hebrews 11:19 "...concluding that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead from which he also received him in a figurative sense."

I can't see how you resurrect, but you promised me that he will have a child. So if I kill him, you will bring him back to life. That's the only conclusion he could come to. Either God's a liar or God's a murderer. I mean, there's no place to go except God doesn't lie. God loves me. God loves my son. He will bring him back to life and I'm actually going to kill my son. And in his mind, he decided to do it. God wasn't going to have him do it, but he didn't know that. You've got to remember, he didn't know that. But he couldn't see it, but he was going to do it. He believed in something he could not see, that he could not see. Verse 32 here.

Hebrews 11:32 "What more shall I say?"

And he starts talking about Gideon and Samson and Jephthah, and he goes on and on and on and he says how these people, these people could not see what God had for them, but they did it anyways. David. Could anybody see David killing Goliath? I mean as a vision, only Him. But then they saw it reality. But when David faced Goliath, that was his faith. After Goliath was dead, he didn't have to have any faith that God would kill Goliath. But his faith was standing up beside a man probably 9 to 12 feet tall. That's faith. Because he couldn't see it yet. It hadn't yet been fulfilled.

Hebrews 11:39 "And all these, having obtained a good testimony through faith, did not receive the promise."

Not one of them has been resurrected to eternal life, not one. They never received it. In fact, Abraham never received the promised land. In his life, he was a nomad. In all the land that God gave to him and other people lived in it. Other people had the towns, other people had the farms, other people had the ranches, and he just wandered around as a tribe, as a nomadic tribe. He never received it. But he knew he was going to. And then verse 40.

Hebrews 11:40 "God having provided something better for us, that they should not be made perfect apart from us."

The reason Abraham and Sarah and Peter and Mary, all the great men and women of the Bible, the reason they are in their graves asleep, waiting the resurrection is because God is going to resurrect all those who believe and follow Him at the same time. Now, I want you to think about that. Abraham hasn't received his reward because God's waiting for us. And if all of us die, we will go to sleep until God has completed all the people He's going to call under Satan's rule. And then we get the promise. We don't see it, do we? No, there will be some who will be alive when Christ comes back and they'll get to see it. Most Christians will not see their reward. They will die and then be resurrected and see their reward. But they believe, they embrace it anyways. In fact, that's what it talks about here in Hebrews 11. They embrace this heavenly city. They embrace the Kingdom of God. They embrace God as their God. And in doing so, they believe it's going to happen, but they don't see it yet. You know, when you look around today, this isn't God's kingdom. There's nothing about this world that's God's kingdom. But that's who we are. We're members of God's kingdom. Waiting to see it. And that's our faith. We're waiting to see.

Let's talk about hope. You know, the Greek word translated hope. The Hebrew is very similar, but let me talk about the Greek word here. It's just almost exactly what the English word means. It is a favorable and confident expectation. The happy anticipation of good. Hope is you expect, you expect, and you accept. See how hope and faith are tied together. I mean, I can have faith, yeah, God someday is going to resurrect me, but man, my life is just meaningless now. Yeah, I won't see it til then. Well, big deal, don't enjoy anything, because nothing in life is good. No, hope, which is tied in with agape, and is actually tied in with faith, if we see what God... If we in our mind's eye see what God's doing, we don't see it physically. Remember, we don't see it physically, but in our vision, we see it, our spiritual vision. When that happens, we expect it, and we anticipate it, and we are excited about it. And that sometimes is missing in the church. We're so upset over who wins the Senate, who wins the Congress. You know, do you think it matters in the long run? No. This isn't God's kingdom. It doesn't matter in the long run. But what matters is I expect something.

You know the problem though, when you expect something and you're anticipating it? You're not looking at it. You could be anticipating your marriage, right? For months you anticipate your marriage. You're anticipating it. You're making all the plans. But you don't see it until when? When you're walking down the aisle, then you see it. And when the minister says, "I pronounce you husband and wife," now you see it. Your marriage is real. It's completed now. You're husband and wife. But you're anticipating it, and you're looking forward to it. And sometimes you're enduring, aren't you? You know, how many times have people said, "Oh, if I would have known it was going to be this hard, I'd have just eloped." But you're enduring sometimes, but you have hope. You're a little bit nervous about being married for the rest of your life. You know, what about all the responsibilities so you have that courageous endurance? All those things he talked about, we can put them in all kinds of experiences. But the thing is, they're all headed towards something you don't physically see until you're there. Faith is faith in what you don't see. Hope is hope in what you don't see. Romans 8.

Romans 8:22 "For we know" Paul says, "that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now."

He's talking about how because of Adam and Eve being kicked out of Eden, even creation itself became corrupted. And everything is corrupted. Nothing is the way God designed it to be. And all creation suffers. Animals suffer. Everything. Nothing works. Our environment doesn't work. This isn't what God designed. But it's going to be this way until in the future Christ comes back and the prophecy says He heals everything. He heals everything. It hasn't happened. You and I don't see that. But if you believe it, the Feast of Tabernacles has meaning. If you don't believe that, you go to the Feast of Tabernacles just to have a good time. We spent some money. If you believe it, when you go to the Feast of Tabernacles, you're celebrating something you don't see, but you know is out there. I've never been to London, England, but I have absolute faith unless someone nuked it today, it's there and I hope to see it someday. Now if I don't, that's okay. The kingdom of God is much more important. I have faith it's there, I hope it's there, but I've never seen it. I've seen pictures of it, which isn't the real thing, right? I've had a vision of it in pictures. I've watched Sherlock Holmes. And surely that's true.

Romans 8:23 "Not only that, but we also have the first fruits of the spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body."

We're looking forward to that reward that we have faith in. For we were saved in this hope. This anticipation brought us to salvation. To realize we were lost. To realize that we couldn't save ourselves. To realize we were self-destructive. Absolutely self-destructive. This weekend when I was up at the home office I was in a room with minister and his wife, and we were just discussing different things. And the question came up, "When did you really, really get a vision of God?" And the man said something, I thought, "Wow, yeah, I guess from all of us that's true." He said, "When I realized they need a savior. When I realized I have no hope in life. Then, then it all became real." He says you were saved in that hope. There's hope about the redemption. of humanity.

Romans 8:24 "For we were saved in this hope, but hope that is seen is not hope. For why does one still hope for what he sees?"

If I hope for a new car, and then I buy a new car, I don't hope for it anymore. In fact, I may feel like, "Oh man, that's not the exact color I wanted," right? I may be disappointed in physical things. But the hope is what you don't see, just like the faith is what you don't see. Now, when God does something and you see it, it strengthens your hope, doesn't it? It strengthens your faith. When God heals us, it strengthens us. When we receive a blessing from God, or we understand something we didn't understand, or God helps us overcome a sin, or God helps us build a closer relationship in our families and our marriages, what happens? It strengthens us. But we're still not there yet. We still have faith and hope in what God's going to do with us til the end.

Romans 8:25 "For if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance."

Hope is anticipation. And he said, if we really hope, we don't see this. This way it's tied in with faith. We believe God's going to do it. We hope because that hope isn't, "Oh, I hope he does that, maybe he won't." That's not what this means. That's not what that Greek word means. Sort of like, "Boy, it'd be nice if it works out that way, but I'm not sure." No, if we have faith in what we don't see, the point of the hope is, you know, I'm excited about the hope. I anticipate the hope because it's a...as the Greek word means, it's a happy anticipation of good. I have a happy anticipation of this. It gives us happiness. So faith is what we don't see. Hope is what we don't...is in something we don't see. We only get encouragement along the way as God does these things to keep us focused. Believing in the ultimate hope. That's why faith and hope are motivations. Without them, we won't be motivated to be Christians. They are core motivations. We trust in God even though we don't see Him. But we follow Him. We hope and anticipate even though what's going to happen is still in the future.

So now let's talk about agape. As we went through Agape, we saw that Agape is not just... It's not just a list of things to do. It's not just the Ten Commandments. There's things to do. It's taking the Ten Commandments. They actually...when we understand agape, the Ten Commandments are turned into virtue. Ways of being. You don't murder somebody because you can't. It goes against the fiber of who you are. You wouldn't be you if you murdered somebody. You'd be somebody else. You would be destroyed. Because agape makes you where you can't murder. It makes it a virtue. Now I must love people. Instead of killing them, I have to love them. It turns us into this virtue of how we live, how we see life. So now let's go back to 1 Corinthians 13. 1 Corinthians 13 and pick up in verse 9. Now I skipped from verse 8. I read verse 8 then went back to verse 13, but I want to pick it up now in verse 9.

1 Corinthians 13:9 He said, "For we know in part and we prophesy in part."

We don't know everything. The older I get, the more astounded I am at what I don't know. Whether it's the Bible, just, you know, everything. And the more I appreciate what I do know. That what God has given to us. He said, so really at best, we're only getting bits and pieces of what God is doing.

1 Corinthians 13:10 "But when that which is perfect," okay, that future, what we have faith in, what we hope in, "comes, then that which is in part will be done away."

He says we will be completed someday. We will be completed. That's our faith. That's our hope. We will give up if we don't have faith and hope in that. And then Paul does what he does every once in a while. He makes this personal statement. I'm always amazed how personal Paul will get. When he's talking like a rabbi, he's talking like a great philosopher, and God's inspiring him, and then all of a sudden he'll just make some personal comment.

1 Corinthians 13:11 He says, "When I was a child, I spoke as a child. I understood as a child. I thought as a child. But when I became a man, I put away childish things."

He says, I grew up. So I was no longer a child. I was a man and I didn't think and feel like a child anymore. Now he's applying that to his discussion of agape. Faith, hope, and agape. He's now applying it to that.

1 Corinthians 13:12 He says, "For now, we see in a mirror, dimly..."

We look in this mirror. Now there's another place he talks about this mirror, where when we look in the mirror, what we see is Jesus Christ. And it's sort of like we see Him, then we don't see Him. We're being turned into that. That is the process of faith, hope, and agape. The very mind of God that is revealed in Jesus Christ, which is agape, when we look in the mirror is what we're becoming. And that's not just a future event. That's now. Excuse me, we should be seeing now the character of God being developed in us. Excuse me, after this last bout of COVID, it's the same thing I had last week. Every once in a while I just cough. I think it...because I can only talk 40 minutes now, which everybody will be happy with.

Did someone pray that I would give shorter sermons? I just want to know. Because you may not have to need to have any hope in that anymore because it just happened. "...but then face to face." So now, if we look at his other place in Corinthians, where he talks about a mirror, we look at this mirror and we see Jesus Christ. We're actually seeing this happen and we're still anticipating the future. That's our goal but that's what we're seeing now. We do see something now. We see the work of God in us. We see our minds being changed. We see that we give up certain things and believe different things. We give up certain behaviors, we change those behaviors. Our priorities of life change. Our character changes because we're looking into that mirror. And what are we seeing? We're seeing agape. He says, and then, faith, hope, and agape all comes together because we see him face to face. It's all complete then. At that point, everything we had faith in, everything we had hope in is complete. And what is complete? That we have become agape. That's what's complete.

1 Corinthians 13:12-13 "Now I know in part," Paul says, "but then I shall know just as I am also known." God knows me now, I get to know God then. "And now abide..." Here's the things that exist. Here's the things that continue to live on. "...faith, hope, and love, these three. But the greatest is the agape."

And remember, this isn't love the way we define it. It's not like, the greatest thing is the feeling you get when you look at your mother and say, "Oh, I love you." That's not what it's talking about. Now that is the expression of love. This is talking about something greater than that. This is talking about who we become and that the very mind of Christ is in us. And that is agape. Faith is belief and trust in God even though we don't see Him. It motivates us. Hope is our anticipation of God's involvement in our lives and God's reward in the future, even though we don't see it. Agape. When we put all this together, we see that agape is faith and hope in action in our relationship with God and our imitation of Jesus Christ. It is faith and hope that mingles together in our relationship with God so that we now follow Him and submit to Him so that we have agape built into us, created into us.

Agape is proof of faith and love. if we aren't having God's character developed in us. If that's not happening... Now we're all struggling with it. We're all at different places. Some of you have certain aspects of God's character really built in you and other areas you're flat on your face, right? We're all like that. That's the way it is. But if we're not seeing that, then we have a problem with faith and hope. We're missing something in our faith and hope. Because it's these three that work together. And the more agape that we have, the more hope and faith we have. I mean, the more we have the mind of Christ, the more we would what? Believe God. And the more we have the mind of Christ, the more we anticipate the future. That would be natural. Agape is exhibited, of course, in our thoughts, our emotions, and our behaviors towards God and human beings.

It's the two commandments. And this is what the problem is in modern definitions of love in English. Love your neighbor means it's all about feelings. And those feelings are good. I'm not saying they're... But loving God first, right? That's the first great commandment. And then neighbor is the definition of the order. There is an order to this or we can't develop agape. In fact, if we just love our neighbors without God, we become basically emotional wrecks. Because relationships basically don't work very well, oh God. So we love God first and then he defines this and he helps develop all the other relationships. But he has to come first. Christ has to be, right? Remember what Christ said? If you don't love me more than your mother, brother, your sister, your father, and your own life also, you can't be my follower. Because He said, this is the only way it works. We love God and Christ first and then we love each other, but both have to fit together. You can't do one with the alt the other. You can't love God... In fact, John says that...I didn't put it in my notes so I won't go there. But John says that if you say you love your neighbor and you don't love God, you don't love your neighbor. And if we say that we love God and don't love our neighbor, we don't love God. He says that.

So these things come together. This is what agape is. And when we look into that spiritual mirror, we're supposed to see that agape. There is something that we actually see now. Oh, we see God working with us. He's always doing things to help build our faith. He's always doing things to give us that little hope so that we endure another day. We get through the next step. We keep going onward til He finishes what He's going to do. So He's always giving us that help in our faith. He's always giving us that help in our hope. When we fall down in faith, we fall down in hope, He always picks us up. Even though sometimes it feels like he's waiting a long time. And same way with agape. When we look in the mirror, we see some of it. We don't see all of it. Our faith and our hope is in the completion, but we should see part of it today. And that should encourage us. I believe you're here keeping the Sabbath today because God showed it to you. That should encourage you. That should encourage you. That should give you some faith and hope. Now, you still got a lot more work to do, right? Yeah. Sometimes it scares me how much work has to be done in me. But he said he's going to do it, so I have to believe he's going to do it. Because our God is that great. Our God is great enough to change us. And we have to have faith in that and hope in that, and then we'll see the changes, little by little by little. Faith and hope is based on what we don't see. Agape is based a little bit in what we do see and Him acting in our lives and working with us and developing us.

So let's go back now and we're going to end where we began. 1 Corinthians 13:1, now this makes sense. It's taken us 11 sermons and there's still more we can do. I mean, we can put together a whole other series of sermons on 1 Corinthians 13.

1 Corinthians 13:1 "Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love," have not agape, "I become as a sounding brass or a clanging cymbal."

You know, he says, if I don't have this, he says, all my speaking, all the ability to have to speak in tongues, which God had given to him. He said, you know what it's like, to put it in modern terms, it's one of those little monkeys that clangs the cymbal, you know, you bang, bang, bang, bang. That's all it is. That's all it is.

1 Corinthians 13:2 "And though I have the gift of prophecy and understand all mysteries and all knowledge..."

He says I can know everything about this Bible. I mean, Paul knew Hebrew. He knew...he wouldn't have known English, but he knew Hebrew and Greek, by the way. They were his native languages. He thought in Greek. He thought in Hebrew. When he wrote these words that God inspired, he knew exactly what he meant. We're the ones who struggled with what he meant. He didn't.

1 Corinthians 13:2 He says if I have all that, "...and though I have all faith so that I can remove mountains, but have not agape, I am nothing."

You think, well, what does that mean? Well, we can believe that Christ is coming back, let's just eat, drink, and be merry. Or like the people once in a while have someone say, "I wish God wouldn't have called me now. I'm missing out on all the fun". Well, then you lack the faith of the vision of where He's taking you. And if you really believe that, you're not going to look in the spiritual mirror and see Agape. You're just going to see somebody who wishes, "Oh man, I could do what I really want to do because I'd be so much happier." So you don't have any anticipation. How can you anticipate something that you're really not looking forward to? He said so you can believe in God and God can even do some miracles in your life because of what you believe. But if the character of Christ isn't being developed in you, he says in the end, when you get there, it means nothing.

1 Corinthians 13:3 "And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor..."

How could you show greater love than that? I'm just going to go live in poverty to help the poor, but he says, "Why are you doing it? Why are you doing what you do?" See that's a whole other subject we never even got into. Acts of goodness that really aren't acts of love. We can do acts of goodness that really aren't acts of love. They have a different motivation but that's all another subject.

1 Corinthians 13:3 He says, "... and though I give my body to be burned, If I die for God, but have not agape, it profits me nothing."

Now those three verses only make sense if you've read the whole rest of the chapter in detail and understand where he ends up. If I can't... When I face him face to face, if I'm not like him, my religion has been meaningless. Paul takes us where we don't want to go a lot, at least for me. He's always taking me places I don't want to go. You know, when I stand before God, it's not like, "Well, let me get out my resume. I was pastor in Nashville for seven years." So? "Do you look like my son Jesus?" "Well, I was on TV, reached millions of people." So? I mean, that's going to impress God, right? He doesn't care about a resume. He compares about how much we're Christ-like. How much of God be as part of us? And all of us have a long ways to go. I'm not giving this to discourage you. "Oh, I'm not totally Christ-like." Well, join the club. In fact, if we don't say that, you're in trouble. If you don't look in the mirror and say, "Oh yeah, me and Jesus, man, people just think we're just twins." You're in trouble. We're supposed to look in that mirror and say, "Yeah, every once in a while." And I said we got work to do. But remember what that is. Faith, hope, agape. These are the three that abide. These are the three things that will always exist.