Romantic love is so much different from 1 Corinthians 13 Biblical love, isn’t it?
About 2 years after I was saved, I recall sitting down to read my Bible and study and pray. I remember opening up to 1 Corinthians 13 and debating about whether I should just skip over those verses about love for now, because “after all, everyone knows what love is, right?” I wanted to learn about the “weightier things of God”. And then it came to me that love was the one thing that I actually knew so little about. And that if I didn’t begin learning what Biblical love was, I really wouldn’t be able to understand the “weightier things of God” with the proper perspective.
I must say that since I began making my focus understanding Biblical love and how it is supposed to be practiced by believers, the Word of God really did become more meaningful and more powerful in my life. I quickly came to see that learning to put into practice Biblical love, and knowing the God Who is Love, *were* the “weightier things of God”. And that was what I needed to know first and foremost.
Without love, we are nothing...a clanging cymbal. When the Preacher preaches, or the teacher teaches, or the Christian witnesses to the unbeliever, if it is not done in love, though the message itself may be powerful, the messenger is “nothing”, according to 1 Corinthians 13.
Romantic love is a wonderful thing, but without Biblical love it may eventually leave the heart empty. This Valentine's Day, think about God's love for you. Whatever state you are in, may you find contentment resting in His love.
The Scriptures never indicate that a born-again believer has a sinful nature. We certainly are capable of sinning, but it's not because we have a sinful nature any longer.
We have *one* nature which, before being born again, is entirely bad (sinful and anti-God). This nature equates with our spirit.
When we are born again, this nature is made new (2 Cor. 5:17). We still have one nature, but now in our new nature we love Christ and hate sin.
We still have some old habits, old "programs", old thinking and behavior patterns, physical desires and cravings, etc., and sin itself, which resides in our members. But this is not our new nature. Those old thinking and behavior patterns lust or "set their desires" against our new nature, our spirit (Gal. 5:17). It's what the Bible calls the "flesh" (Greek sarx).
Paul makes it clear in Romans 7 that sin still dwells in us, in our flesh, but that it is not us. He says, "I realize it's no longer I who do it, but sin which is in me."
This is important, because if we think that our new nature is a sinful nature, we will think it's "natural" for us to sin. Actually, the Bible teaches the opposite, that it is "UN-natural" for us to sin now (that is, it goes against our new nature).
We died to sin on the cross in Christ, and we are (in our new nature) now dead to sin and alive to God (Rom. 6:11).
Unfortunately, some Bible translations such as the NIV and early versions of the ESV translate "flesh" in Romans 6 and 7 as "sin nature". This is a bad translation which stems from a bad interpretation. Thankfully, the ESV has been revised to reflect the true biblical meaning of flesh.
Though we are not all we shall someday be in our totality, thank the Lord that we are not what we were, and that He has given us a new nature with which we love Him and worship Him and fellowship with Him.
The Bible speaks of the Gospel as an aroma. It's a good aroma to those who are being saved, and a bad aroma to those who are being lost. (2 Cor. 2:16)
Why would "Good News" smell bad to some? Why would "Good News" be offensive? Or to put it another way...
What is the offense of the Cross?
The answer is Grace.
Fallen man wants to *deserve* God's favor, but the gospel says "No. There is none good, no not one. It must be a free gift of grace."
The "offense of the cross" isn't "showing people they are sinners". If you think that offends them, you aren't spending enough time around sinners. People revel in their sin all the time (though they may think their "good" outweighs their "bad").
And "the offense of the cross" isn't the "Lordship of Christ". People bow to gods and gurus and messiahs all the time.
The "offense of the cross" is Grace. The only place in Scripture where it's specifically mentioned is Gal. 5:11. Paul says:
"...if I still preach circumcision, why do I still suffer persecution? Then the offense of the cross has ceased."
See, if Paul preached Legalism, he wouldn't have been persecuted. But he preached The Cross, the substitutionary death and gift of righteousness that Grace requires.
And the hearer must repent (change his mind) about his self-righteousness.
And he must believe in the Risen Christ who said, "It is finished". He must "believe God" that his own righteousness is as filthy rags, and he must accept the free gift of God's righteousness. His sins can't be overlooked, they must be paid for by another, as a gift.
This Grace is a "stumbling stone, and a rock of offense" (Rom. 9:33; 1 Pet. 2:8), because fallen man is religious to the core with self-righteousness.
Grace blasts that self-righteousness with a laser beam of Good News from the Light of the World, and self-righteous man screams in smug hatred, and calls the Good News bad.
Until he is born again.
Then the "offense" becomes sweet music to his ears, and he sees the Good News as the most precious news he has ever heard.