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Paul began his communication with the church in Corinth by speaking about the power and wisdom of Jesus’ death on the cross.
He wrote, “The message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Corinthians 1.18).
Once again, he said “We proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God” (1 Corinthians 1.23-24).
Not only did Jesus go to the cross, but in a very real way he lived a cross-like-life.
At every moment in his life Jesus was surrendered to the guidance and direction of the Father. There was never a second when he didn’t live in self-giving love toward all people.
Paul also lived by the power and wisdom of the cross. He, too, followed the guidance of the Holy Spirit and was determined to live toward others in self-giving love.
Love is the Theme
At the end of his message to the Corinthians, Paul declared his love for the church in 2 Corinthians 12.
— Verse 14 – I do not want what is yours but you.
— Verse 15 – I will most gladly spend and be spent for you.
— Verse 15 – If I love you more, am I to be loved less?
— Verse 19 – Everything we do, beloved, is for the sake of building you up.
It is one thing to read Paul’s words. It is quite a different matter to make them our standard for living.
How can we begin living after the manner that Paul outlines here?
Dallas Willard, one of wisest men of our generation, highlights three components that will certainly help us live in this manner: vision, intention, and means.
What exactly does living in self-giving love look like in action?
Think about your family or the people with whom you spend the most time.
What if everyone placed each others’ concerns above their own?
What if husbands and wives or friends sought to give to one another practical expressions of love, friendship and care?
What if every attitude and action in the family unit or among friends was intended to make life better for each other?
Would you like to be married to someone like what I have described? Would you like to live in that kind of home environment?
What would your workplace environment be like if people sought the very best for co-workers and to make life better for the team?
If you think these thoughts are too far out of reach, remember that this kind of life is described by Paul as a beautiful picture of God’s power and wisdom.
Find a way to firmly fix this vision in your mind.
A vision without action is nothing more than a pipe dream. A vision needs people who intend to live in this preferred picture of reality.
The next step has to do with an intention which is a conscious choice to live in self-giving love as the ruling guide for our lives.
The fact that Paul had to write two letters to the Corinthians is ample evidence that not everyone in Corinth was living in self-giving love.
Let’s not forget that Paul taught that self-giving love is backed by God’s power and wisdom.
You possibly know the tale of the starfish. A man was walking down a beach and saw in the distance what looked like another man reaching down to the sand and whirling in the direction of the sea.
As he drew closer, he saw that the beach was covered in starfish. The man, who looked like he was performing a strange dance was actually picking up one starfish after another and flinging them back into the sea.
He asked the starfish man, “What are you doing?”
He replied, “I’m saving the lives of starfish.”
He said, “But there are so many. There is no way you can make a difference.”
The man never stopped his work with the starfish and said, “I made a difference with that one, didn’t I?”
Then, he continued his task with one starfish after another on down the beach.
If you were to conduct a “man on the street” interview and ask people if they think love is an important value, you would probably get near 100% agreement.
If you look at what people DO rather than what they SAY, the picture is much different.
As our culture asserts its self-centered power and worldly-wisdom, we are daily dying on the beach like the starfish.
If you make the choice to live in self-giving love, you will make a difference. You may not change the world, but everyone who is close to you will experience the impact.
Can you imagine what your family, friends, and workplace would be if everyone lived in loving harmony, serving one another?
If you embrace the vision and intend to live in self-giving love to make a difference in as many lives as possible, you will need some resources to help you accomplish it.
Here is how one person in the program of Alcoholics Anonymous described how they changed from a self-centered preoccupation to self-giving behavior.
“Why do we do and say things that hurt us or others? Why don’t we do and say more things that help us and others love life?
“For me, the answer lies with the knowledge of how my mind works.
“There really are two competing voices in there, one that pulls me down and one that rises me up. The pulling-down voice blocks me from loving my life by convincing me to focus on my problems.
“Today I’ll take contrary action to that negative voice and choose to focus on all that is good because I love my life!” (Internet Article on Contrary Action)
Similar to these thought about Contrary Action, Rufus Moseley made a daily decision. He determined to live in love and only love each day of the week.
Moseley knew that he was not able to accomplish the contrary action of turning from self-centered living to self-giving love in his own strength.
To his determination to live in love and only love, he added a daily conscious contact with Jesus Christ.
He understood the truth of Paul’s words, “Live by the Spirit, I say, and do not gratify the desires of the flesh.
“For what the flesh desires is opposed to the Spirit, and what the Spirit desires is opposed to the flesh; for these are opposed to each other, to prevent you from doing what you want” (Galatians 5.16-17).
Our own self-will apart from the power of God is what the word “flesh” refers to in this passage. Even our own good intentions are “flesh,” if they are not empowered by the Spirit.
However, if we connect with the Holy Spirit, he will empower us to live as Paul did with the churches he served. We will find . . .
— Our interactions with others will be for their benefit. We will not use people for our own self-centered desires.
— We will gladly give our energy to build other people up and help them live the best life possible.
Let’s intend to live in self-giving love. And let’s use the means God has given us – contrary action and the power of the Holy Spirit.
May We Pray for You?
The Maywood Baptist prayer team is honored to pray for you. Please email me at email@example.com or private message me on Facebook. We will pray for you.