Here at MRC we try to keep things as real as possible.  It is something we literally pray for each and every Sunday.  That this would be real.  We don’t want this to be something we do on the surface that doesn’t penetrate our hearts.  We want to be able to be the same people here at church that we are in every other environment all week long, and we are very focused on bringing you God’s word in such a way that you can take it, and apply it into your life.  I think for us one of the biggest challenges and gifts is one and the same, it’s clarity…it’s us being real, and being clear.  I think it’s a gift because that clarity brings focus, and that focus helps us lead people through this chaotic world right to God’s truth.  It’s a challenge because we are trying to bring focus to a world moving at warp speed, and where people aren’t always seeing with spiritual eyes.  But the biggest reason it’s a challenge is because not everyone really wants their hearts touched, not everyone wants real.  Some people would rather just not know.  Or they take the very truth of scripture that we try to share and explain it away so keep it at arms-length.  But here’s the thing, we want you being able to see, and touch God’s word, and we want you to be able to take it from a Sunday morning right into your daily life…that is what it’s all about!  See to Ken and I, that’s fun…because it’s real and we love you enough to keep it real.  But we know, or maybe I should say we are learning that, the idea of keeping things real just isn’t for everyone.  Especially when it comes to church!  For many of us, we would rather just hear some good music, watch a nice video or two and then hear a cute Bible story and go home.  That’s a more popular idea than I would care to admit, it’s this thing that says “I will go to church on a Sunday morning.  But I would rather not have my heart touched in any way.”  But to me, if this isn’t hitting our hearts, and isn’t challenging us to move towards Jesus and towards life change it’s pretty empty and seems like a waste of time!  I mean think of all the wonderful things you could be doing with your Sunday mornings if this isn’t real, other than going to church!  Frankly we love you too much to do that…even if it makes some uncomfortable and we are committed to staying true to God’s word regardless of the response.  We are going to be real.  We pray daily that we would be able to speak directly into the hearts of God’s people each and every week here at MRC and hopefully that is something you come and can really grab a hold of each Sunday.  But we are realizing that as passionate as we are about being real and direct so that we can actually grab a hold of God’s word and apply it to our lives…it can actually make people uncomfortable.  This is something that has hit my heart a lot.  It’s something I think about all the time.  What is so unsettling about truth?  Why is it looked at as abrasive to keep things “real?”  Why does a place like MRC get pushed into a polarizing category because we will be so direct with our message?  If I love you won’t I speak the truth to you even if it’s “hard” to hear?  This is so interesting to me, some hear God’s truth and get excited, and some they turn and walk away.  Some are drawn towards it, and some want no parts of it.  Which is a very challenging thing to watch unfold in our world today.  So you may be wondering where I’m drifting to today, as I talk about keeping things real, and speaking truth, and how I think the truth is actually spoken in love…you nervous yet?  Today we study 1 Corinthians 14 and Paul is going to be very honest and get very real with this people in Corinth, and from this chapter we see some big principles that I want to jump into with you, that will lead us all over the Bible…and I can’t wait to get into it with you today!

Before we move forward into Chapter 14 I want to take a moment and go back to last week.  I just loved Ken’s talk last week as we studied 1 Corinthians 13 which really is looked at the love chapter.  While we hear those scriptures at pretty much every wedding, what really impacted me was the idea of what love really is, and how love is more than a feeling.  If you think about that, it means that if love is more than just a feeling then I will DO some things out of love that would make me feel a little uncomfortable from time to time, and maybe aren’t always easy for me to do!  You know, like preach right into the hearts of people, who may like but who may not like it as well.  Or it may mean standing for something that will benefit others even if it isn’t popular.  For Paul it serving Jesus regardless of his circumstances…its love that motivates him through angry mobs, ship wrecks, imprisonment, and even death.  Love is more than just a nice feeling.  What an awesome thought, and if you think about that as a leader, or spouse, or parent or friend, or a disciple of Jesus…when we love, we do what is best for those we love regardless of how it would make us feel.  Ken did a beautiful job of breaking that all down for us last week…this is what Christ did for us.  He loved us so much that He would lay down His life for us to know God in a real way.  Which is just amazing.  There is this line at the end of that chapter that really stuck with me this week and really leads us into our study today.  Where Paul says we have three things to do…

1 Corinthians 13:12 We don’t yet see things clearly. We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won’t be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We’ll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us! 13 But for right now, until that completeness, we have three things to do to lead us toward that consummation: Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly. And the best of the three is love. MSG

We can all really connect with this, in this crazy life that we live we may not see things clearly, but we will someday…in the meantime Paul would say to remain in faith, hope, and love, and really focus on love.  Last week Ken gave us the key, the motivation for life…or as Paul would say, “I will give you a better way to live.”  That better way is a life of love…which is just awesome.  So with that in our minds, that we will remain in love, Paul charges into the next chapter and really picks right up where he left off and lays out of few challenges for us.  The first challenge that I see is right here in verse 1.

1 Corinthians 14:1 Go after a life of love as if your life depended on it — because it does. Give yourselves to the gifts God gives you. Most of all, try to proclaim his truth. MSG

Challenge 1- Go after a life of love.  So he explains to us what love is, and then pushes in on all of us to live a life of love as if our lives depend on it!  Which is just awesome, and as you can see he is tying back into spiritual gifts but always with love as the lead in!  He is about to push in on speaking in tongues but I want you to see how he stresses other people in this process…

1 Corinthians 14:2 If you praise him in the private language of tongues, God understands you but no one else does, for you are sharing intimacies just between you and him. 3 But when you proclaim his truth in everyday speech, you’re letting others in on the truth so that they can grow and be strong and experience his presence with you. 4 The one who prays using a private “prayer language” certainly gets a lot out of it, but proclaiming God’s truth to the church in its common language brings the whole church into growth and strength. 5 I want all of you to develop intimacies with God in prayer, but please don’t stop with that. Go on and proclaim his clear truth to others. It’s more important that everyone have access to the knowledge and love of God in language everyone understands than that you go off and cultivate God’s presence in a mysterious prayer language — unless, of course, there is someone who can interpret what you are saying for the benefit of all. 6 Think, friends: If I come to you and all I do is pray privately to God in a way only he can understand, what are you going to get out of that? If I don’t address you plainly with some insight or truth or proclamation or teaching, what help am I to you? MSG

So TJ took us through this a few weeks ago, but these people are getting into spiritual gifts, and they are so into their spiritual gifts that they are losing track of the most important thing…a life of love.  Basically these people are using their gifts to elevate themselves…and the gifts aren’t helping others at all.  They are just doing whatever they can to push their way up inside the church setting.  Unfortunate as it is, this type of thing still goes on in our churches today.  Grand standing, trying to look important, all the weird levels of holiness and rankings we try to put on each other in the church today, none of them are centered on love.  All of them are centered on our own selfish ambitions, which is really what Paul is pushing in on time and time again.  Look at verse 3 their again to see teaching with a life of love at the center…

3 But when you proclaim his truth in everyday speech, you’re letting others in on the truth so that they can grow and be strong and experience his presence with you. MSG

What is Paul doing?  He is reminding them that a disciple of Jesus lives a life of love.  He is saying “Hey Christian, it’s just not about you.”  You can look as holy and amazing as you want, but in the end if we live a life of love, we won’t be grandstanding and trying to look more important than we are, we will care about others and their eternal destinations with the understanding of the love of Christ in us.  So I really see here in these first few verses a big time challenge from Paul to the church of Corinth and all of us.  GO AFTER A LIFE OF LOVE!  It’s just not about you!  Please remember that other people matter!  Help other people experience the same love and grace that you are experiencing in Jesus!

These them really continues through the first large chunk of this chapter where Paul keeps reminding them of how important it is to help others experience God’s love.  He wants them to stop living such self-centered lives and realize that other people matter too.  I love this line…

Vs 19 But when I’m in a church assembled for worship, I’d rather say five words that everyone can understand and learn from than say ten thousand that sound to others like gibberish. MSG

This is why we exist, to help people far from God experience Him right?  I mean we have been given so much in Jesus that we should want to share it and help others find Him too right?  So Paul here in Chapter 14 is right back to reminding them to stop performing for themselves and engage in the mission of Christ helping others experience Him.  It’s just not about you!  And here you thought MRC just made that saying up on our own. J

So the first challenge from Paul builds right out of Ken’s talk from last week.  Go after a life of love with everything you have!  And if we remember living a life of love may mean, that I do somethings that aren’t always best for me and my feelings right?  So yeah, I’d love to look popular or more important…I’d love for everyone to love me, but living a life of love is about doing what is right regardless of how I feel…there is another strong challenge from Paul in this chapter and it isn’t a new thought either, in fact Paul and Jesus bring this up often…

Challenge 2 – Grow up.  Paul wants to see us grow up.  He wants us to move past self-centered child like living and see that our actions actually affect others all around us!  If you think about it, that really defines immaturity or child like living well doesn’t it?  It’s just living a self-centered life, and as we grow up and mature we start to recognize that we aren’t the only people on this planet!  When you need this next line or two it’s pretty clear that Paul is getting tired of how selfish they are acting.  What is funny is they are doing a lot of good church stuff, but Paul is trying to get their focus off of themselves which from the tone here isn’t going all that well!  Check this out…

Vs 20 To be perfectly frank, I’m getting exasperated with your infantile thinking. How long before you grow up and use your head — your adult head? It’s all right to have a childlike unfamiliarity with evil; a simple no is all that’s needed there. But there’s far more to saying yes to something. Only mature and well-exercised intelligence can save you from falling into gullibility. MSG

Paul brings this up with the church of Corinth a lot.  He is saying again, “Hey your actions matter to people far from God!  Why can’t you see that everyone needs Jesus and you are repelling or hurting God’s children who need Jesus just like you do!?!?”  Do you remember from this came up in Chapter 10…and really impacted me.  Our actions matter!  This was such a powerful moment that I wanted to come back to it

1 Corinthians 10:24 Don’t think only of your own good. Think of other Christians and what is best for them. 25 Here’s what you should do. You may eat any meat that is sold in the marketplace. Don’t ask whether or not it was offered to idols, and then your conscience won’t be bothered. 26 For “the earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it.”   27 If someone who isn’t a Christian asks you home for dinner, go ahead; accept the invitation if you want to. Eat whatever is offered to you and don’t ask any questions about it. Your conscience should not be bothered by this. 28 But suppose someone warns you that this meat has been offered to an idol. Don’t eat it, out of consideration for the conscience of the one who told you. 29 It might not be a matter of conscience for you, but it is for the other person.  Now, why should my freedom be limited by what someone else thinks? 30 If I can thank God for the food and enjoy it, why should I be condemned for eating it? 31 Whatever you eat or drink or whatever you do, you must do all for the glory of God. 32 Don’t give offense to Jews or Gentiles or the church of God. 33 That is the plan I follow, too. I try to please everyone in everything I do. I don’t just do what I like or what is best for me, but what is best for them so they may be saved. NLT

This is so huge!  He is saying your actions matter to other Christians and maybe most importantly to people who do not yet know Jesus!  Are you relieved that he is only talking about foods offered to idols?  Maybe you are thinking well Sam, I don’t eat meat that was offered to idols, and I don’t speak loudly in tongues during church so this doesn’t apply to me!  Let me tell you something it absolutely applies to all of us!  Whether it’s what you eat, how you act at a sporting event, or even what you are posting on Facebook…listen to Paul!  Don’t think only of your own good!  Follow Paul’s plan from vs 33 here…

33 That is the plan I follow, too. I try to please everyone in everything I do. I don’t just do what I like or what is best for me, but what is best for them so they may be saved. NLT

And there it is, we once again see what living a life of love actually is…Paul says I don’t just do what I like or what is best for me, but what is best for them so that they can know Jesus too!  You know this idea of growing up seems harsh, but it’s not a new thought in scripture…in fact Jesus in His famous Sermon on The Mount challenges people the same way.  I want you to see this…Jesus speaks of loving your enemies just as Paul would speak later of living a life of love and how that is bigger than a feeling.

Matthew 5:43 “You’re familiar with the old written law, ‘Love your friend,’ and its unwritten companion, ‘Hate your enemy.’ 44 I’m challenging that. I’m telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer, 45 for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves. This is what God does. He gives his best — the sun to warm and the rain to nourish — to everyone, regardless: the good and bad, the nice and nasty. 46 If all you do is love the lovable, do you expect a bonus? Anybody can do that. 47 If you simply say hello to those who greet you, do you expect a medal? Any run-of-the-mill sinner does that.

Then Jesus challenges us to grow up, just as Paul would later challenge us to grow up.

Matthew 5:48 “In a word, what I’m saying is, Grow up. You’re kingdom subjects. Now live like it. Live out your God-created identity. Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you. MSG

Where does Jesus head next?  To trying to get people to stop acting and building themselves up…just as Paul has been doing and how to pray with simplicity.

Matthew 6:1 “Be especially careful when you are trying to be good so that you don’t make a performance out of it. It might be good theater, but the God who made you won’t be applauding. 2 “When you do something for someone else, don’t call attention to yourself. You’ve seen them in action, I’m sure — ‘playactors’ I call them — treating prayer meeting and street corner alike as a stage, acting compassionate as long as someone is watching, playing to the crowds. They get applause, true, but that’s all they get. 3 When you help someone out, don’t think about how it looks. 4 Just do it — quietly and unobtrusively. That is the way your God, who conceived you in love, working behind the scenes, helps you out. 5 “And when you come before God, don’t turn that into a theatrical production either. All these people making a regular show out of their prayers, hoping for stardom! Do you think God sits in a box seat? 6 “Here’s what I want you to do: Find a quiet, secluded place so you won’t be tempted to role-play before God. Just be there as simply and honestly as you can manage. The focus will shift from you to God, and you will begin to sense his grace. MSG

Basically as we grow up and realize that we aren’t the center of the universe we can be ourselves.  I love the way Paul seems to literally be walking them right back through Jesus’ teaching here!  Isn’t it amazing how clear this is?  It’s also amazing how we can read and study such things, and still struggle to simply be ourselves before God.  We really need to understand that Jesus and Paul love us…and because they love us they are willing to challenge us in ways that someone who doesn’t truly love us would not.  They want to see what is best for us, regardless of how people feel about them.  So they challenge us to live a life of love, and they challenge us to grow up.  This also shows us that they are willing to do the uncomfortable thing in love rather than the popular thing…because let’s face it, not everyone likes to be told that they need to grow up or that they are acting like a child…that isn’t how you gain followers or grow churches, but it is truth and again love is more than just a feeling.  They love us enough to speak truth regardless of the response.  So let’s go a little further in our study today…and keep pushing in on this idea, that we have to deal with truth in our hearts…each of us, and we don’t all like that.  Paul says this starting in verse 22…

1 Corinthians 14:22 So where does it get you, all this speaking in tongues no one understands? It doesn’t help believers, and it only gives unbelievers something to gawk at. Plain truth-speaking, on the other hand, goes straight to the heart of believers and doesn’t get in the way of unbelievers. 23 If you come together as a congregation and some unbelieving outsiders walk in on you as you’re all praying in tongues, unintelligible to each other and to them, won’t they assume you’ve taken leave of your senses and get out of there as fast as they can? 24 But if some unbelieving outsiders walk in on a service where people are speaking out God’s truth, the plain words will bring them up against the truth 25 and probe their hearts. Before you know it, they’re going to be on their faces before God, recognizing that God is among you. MSG

 This is something that I really want you to see today that I think really flies into the face of a lot of religious activity and settings.  Plain truth speaking goes straight to the heart of believers and doesn’t get in the way of unbelievers…this type of clarity will bring them up against the truth and before you know it they will be on their faces before God.  This is what it is all about!  But here’s what we know, not everyone wants to be challenged or come up against God’s truth.  It can be a little uncomfortable…but as we now know if we live a life of love, we will go right to the heart of the matter, regardless of how popular or unpopular that message may be.  We do this because we are living the life of love that Paul speaks of…regardless of the response we get from people.  Jesus and Paul model this well…one of my favorite stories is Jesus’ interaction with the rich young ruler.  This is so awesome and I want you to see a couple things about this.  First look at the religious spirit in this guy…second notice that it says Jesus looks at the young man and loved Him…and lastly notice that the young man walked away from the truth he was just confronted with.

Mark 10:17 As he went out into the street, a man came running up, greeted him with great reverence, and asked, “Good Teacher, what must I do to get eternal life?” 18 Jesus said, “Why are you calling me good? No one is good, only God. 19 You know the commandments: Don’t murder, don’t commit adultery, don’t steal, don’t lie, don’t cheat, honor your father and mother.” 20 He said, “Teacher, I have — from my youth — kept them all!” 21 Jesus looked him hard in the eye — and loved him! He said, “There’s one thing left: Go sell whatever you own and give it to the poor. All your wealth will then be heavenly wealth. And come follow me.” 22 The man’s face clouded over. This was the last thing he expected to hear, and he walked off with a heavy heart. He was holding on tight to a lot of things, and not about to let go. MSG

Do you see it?  Jesus wasn’t offending this man to be offensive.  Jesus looked at the young man and loved Him and brought truth to him.  Jesus wants this man to go to heaven.  Jesus I’m sure would have loved for this man to join his growing faction of disciples…and Jesus could have softened the message to gain another follower.  But that isn’t what love does.  Love is more than just a feeling it’s doing what is right, which doesn’t always mean what is popular or what feels the best to me.  A disciple of Jesus follows Jesus right down the path of living a life of love.  Which isn’t always easy.  Here at MRC we pray weekly that your church experience would be real.  We pray daily that we would be able to live the kind of life that Jesus lived, willing to love regardless of how people respond.  Paul really pushes in on us here in chapter 14, and I know that for many of us we can dismiss it because we don’t speak in tongues, but let’s not get lost in the details here…in reality I see a couple of challenges from Paul.  First I see Paul pushing us to live a life of love.  Which means we will do what is right, and move towards truth regardless of how people respond.  The second big challenge I see is Paul saying we need to grow up and understand that our actions matter.  We need to understand that this life of a disciple of Jesus is a life of serving others and helping others experience Jesus the same way that we are.  This means that what we do can actually effect other people and we need to recognize that.  Ok so we aren’t praying in tongues or eating foods that were offered to idols but what we do, what we say, how we act, even what we post can actually affect others!  This is why we need to grow up.  Because as we grow up we begin to understand that we aren’t the only people on this planet!  We don’t just do whatever we feel like doing because we aren’t the only people on this planet who need to know Jesus and the last thing we would ever want to do is push people away from Him!

I think as hard as it is to speak the truth through this life of love, it’s can be just as hard to receive it. Because it can be confronting things in our lives that we just would rather leave alone right?  I mean in many ways it is easier to not deal with anything real.  And for some people it’s easier to just take God’s truth and explain it away.  It’s easy to take a place committed to living a life of love and say it’s just a personality thing for them or it’s how they are, and box and label it away…but in the end we love you enough to commit to pushing in to the “real.”  Even if the truth is hard to hear we love you too much not to go there.  So if this is done in love, then the challenge isn’t the commitment to speak truth but how it is received.  Like Paul says here in verse 24….the plain words bring us up against the truth of God which probes our hearts…this can be challenging.

24 But if some unbelieving outsiders walk in on a service where people are speaking out God’s truth, the plain words will bring them up against the truth 25 and probe their hearts. Before you know it, they’re going to be on their faces before God, recognizing that God is among you. MSG

This is why we keep things real.  This is what it’s all about.  Our worship, our prayer, our church should be real…and our challenge as people inside the church community is to let our guards down and allow God’s truth in regardless of how challenging or uncomfortable that can be.

So today we were challenged by Paul to live a life of love just as Jesus did.  We were also challenged to grow up and understand that this life of love is lived to help others find Jesus…and my last challenge for you comes from me.  I challenge you to allow God’s truth in, let your guard down and allow the truth to probe your heart…because life change comes from accepting the truth and allowing it in…and that is when things get real and let’s face it, if this isn’t real there is probably better things we could be doing with our time and we love you enough to tell you that.