"Love is..." Series #2: "Love does not envy, love does not boast" May 15, 2011

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1 "Love is..." Series #2: "Love does not envy, love does not boast" May 15, 2011 I m going to start by giving you one half of the big idea. It s a simple little equation. Here it is: to be "full of yourself" = is to be empty inside. That s it: to be full of yourself is to be empty inside. Here s another way to put it: I any man who is full of himself is, in reality, a very, very little man. Benjamin Franklin put it like this. He said, "A man wrapped up in himself makes a very small bundle." That s not bad. Okay, I m going to get back to this idea later. (boast- suck in gut) Hi, look at me; this could be your man, but it s not. They call me Stud and I m 185 pounds of flat-out good looking. Some of you think I m losing my hair; no way, I just look good this way. I m ripped, solid down here, (abs). I run 3 miles a day, I go to the gym 3 days a week, can still bench 300. Guys, I look good. o (envy) But you know what bugs me? Some of the hot chicks out there pass on all this for some twit with money. Some pencil neck geek, or some guy with a keg instead of my 6 pack. I can t stand those guys. (boast- sports coat) Hi, look at me; this could be your man, but it s not. My name is Winston Percival Barrington III, and I ve got more money than most of you combined. I have a huge house, a very, very fast car, and I wear a new pair of socks every day. I just have more and better than most of you. o (envy) But you know what bugs me'? God made me kind of short, and God made me kind of chubby. Some hot chicks out there pass on everything I ve got for some dimwit with a pretty face and abs. It makes me sick. (boast-- glasses) Hi, look at me; this could be your man, but it s not. My name is Jerome, and I am flat out smart. I have an IQ of over 150. I know answers to questions you haven t even thought of. What most guys think bores me. What they do bores me. I just think faster and think better than most of you guys. o (envy) But you know what bugs me? Way too many chicks out there ignore me and follow some jerk with a pretty face or some guy with a fat wallet. I can t stand pretty boys, and I can t stand guys who think they are smart because they have money. They make me sick...

2 Now I know my characters are kind of cartoonish, but I II bet you all know people who are kind of like these guys. Now don t answer out loud, but who do you know guy or girl - who is just stuck on themselves, on how good they look, or how much they ve got, or how smart they are? I II bet you know a couple. I II bet some of you guys, if you were honest, would find a little of this junk in yourself. Or do you know anybody - guy or girlwho battles envy? Maybe they are kind of bitter because they are not as beautiful, or not as rich, or not as smart - so they kind of poke at people who are. I II bet you know some people like that. In fact, I ll bet there are traces of envy in some of you guys. There is in me. I struggle with both these I struggle with envy, I struggle with boasting. I have my whole life. I guess my whole life I have been good enough to be rather competitive, but I have never been the best at anything. I was a good enough athlete to make all the teams at our tiny little high school, but I wasn t good enough to be the star. There was always somebody a little faster, a little stronger, a little more agile than me. I am not a gifted athlete. I worked hard and was I adequate, and I struggled with envy towards those who were gifted. I was gifted academically, but there was always someone who was a little smarter, sometimes a whole lot smarter. When I got to Emory, quite a few. I know what envy feels like when someone does better than me. I remember feeling that stab of envy when a close friend of mine published his first book. I don t even like writing, but I was still envious that his name was in print, not mine. And I remember feeling stabs of envy when other friends were hired as professors at the seminary I graduated from. I was professoring at the time, but professoring at Emmanuel School of Religion had always been my dream, I suppose. So I quietly envied. I never wanted to be a preacher, so imagine my surprise when I felt a stab of envy when I read in the Christian Standard that we have 112 Christian churches out there with over 1000 in weekly attendance. (I counted ) There are 112 preachers out there in Christian churches a quite a bit bigger than mine. And I know some of those guys. They are not that smart. I struggle with envy. How about this one: I hate it when I see other churches in Frankfort struggling, I really do. A lot of churches in town have gone through rough times, and it hurts

3 me. I genuinely like to see God s churches prosper unless they are prospering a little more than we are, here at Capital City. Then I am tempted to envy, and sometimes I fall. We think envy is a little thing, a little sin if it is a sin at all. Did you know that envy has been called one of the cardinal sins, the mortal sins, the killing sins? And I struggle with it, a lot. And did you know that to the degree we envy, we do not love our neighbor or our God? Because I envy exterminates love. So does boasting. You see, if I love you, I focus on you; boasting is all about me. When we boast, we re full of ourselves. Now my boasting is usually more subtle, more sophisticated, than some of yours. Some of you guys aren t very good at boasting. Yours is obvious. Mine is more clever. Eventually when I meet someone they will learn that, unlike most preachers, I have a Ph.D. I m a Doctor! And somewhere in the conversation I will be tempted to let it be known that my Ph.D. is from Emory University, one of the more prestigious schools in our country. Aren t I special? And eventually they will learn that my church, Capital City, is pretty I good size. And somewhere in the conversation I will be tempted to I let it be known that, unlike some of those mega-churches, when I got here we were only running 265 on a Sunday and in decline. I have, I mean we have turned around and nearly tripled in size a 50 year old church. That doesn t happen often. Aren t I special? You see, I never wanted to be a preacher; but if I ve got to be one, then I want people to think I m really good at it. I want them to imagine how good I d be if I had really wanted this job! A lot of times I don t like my sermons very much; but it really bothers me when you don t. My mission is supposed to be to please God, not you; but I m tempted to measure myself not by what God thinks, but by what you think. I like people telling me how good I am. In fact I am tempted sometimes to understate my performance so that others will play it up. Did you know that that is a subtle way to boast?

4 These are sins I struggle with - this envy and this boasting; and these are killer sins. When I envy and when I boast, I am full of myself- instead of I God. Envy and boasting are exterminators of love; they will destroy your love for your neighbor, and they will destroy your love of God. Are they sins you struggle with? Do you even admit they are sins? Guys, anything that corrupts your love for each other, anything that corrupts your love for God is going to be sin. Did you get that? Anything that exterminates love is going to be a sin. And these are big ones for us. The Bible says, "Love does not envy," and "Love does not boast." The word that is used here for envy is kind of strange. It s not just that you want to be "better," it s that you want to be "better than." It s not just that you want to have "better," it s that you want to have better than. Now it s okay to want better sometimes. And it s always okay to want to be better; God put that kind of drive inside us. But this kind of envy is always comparing. I resent that you have a better body than me, or that you have a bigger house than me, or that you have a better job than me, or that you have better kids than me. Either I want as much as you have, or I want you to have as little as I have. Either one will work. You guys ever envy someone who has more money than you? You ever envy someone who has a better car than you? Better health? A better golf game? A cuter wife, or husband? The one who gets the bigger bonus? Or the better grades? Here s where the rubber hits the road with envy. When it s all about comparing, when I resent that you have more or better than I do, when I want as much as or more than you have - m not loving you. Envy is all about me. Love cares about you, how you are doing, how you are blessed. Envy is an exterminator of love, and some of us battle it every single day. Love does not envy, and then it says, love does not boast? The word for boasting is a very rare word. In fact in the New Testament it is only here. In my huge Greek Dictionary I could only find a couple places where it is used. We translate it with "boasting," or "bragging," but you could translate it "windbag" if you want. Someone who boasts is a windbag, full of hot air.

5 I found another word - it s spelled similarly in Greek, but I m not sure it s related. My dictionary translated it, "to break wind," which means "to pass gas." It kind of fits. That s kind of what boasting sounds like a lot - breaking wind. The best book I ve got on this stuff says that boasting is a way of trying to look good when we suspect we re not. People who boast a lot tend to be insecure, l think. Boasting is our private advertizing business, our campaign to create an image for ourselves. The Bible says, real love doesn t boast (I ll tell you why in a minute). We tend to boast for some pretty shallow reasons. Sometimes we boast because we are afraid people won t notice us. Boasting gets us attention, we think. Sometimes we boast because we are afraid that if people do notice us, they won t care. So with boasting we try to make ourselves look a little better than we really are. And sometimes we boast because we are afraid that who we really are just isn t good enough. A lot of boasting is really fear, in disguise, it is insecurity with a mask on. So we set up our own little advertising business. We want to make sure people notice, and we want to make sure that what they notice is impressive even when we fear it is not. So we boast, we brag Sometimes we boast about our things - like the clothes we wear, or the cars we drive, or the neighborhood we live in, or the size of our 401k. Maybe our things will make us look as good as, or better than other people. Sometimes we boast about people like who we know, or who we hang out with, or who we work with, or who our family is. Maybe the names we drop will make us look as good as, or batter than other people. We do like to compare! Sometimes we boast about our accomplishments - like the job we landed, or the club we joined, or the points we scored, or the grades we got. Maybe something we have done will make us look as good as, or better than other people.

6 Here s the deal, bragging is all about- me. Love is focused on you. If I am consumed with bragging about me, I m not consumed with loving on you. Boasting is an exterminator of love. These two are connected: this envy and this boasting. Both of them are all about comparing, we compare ourselves to someone else. When I envy, I am bitter because I don t have as much as you. When I boast, I try to look better than you. They are both about comparing. And they are both just full of self. It s all about what I want, what I deserve, what I have, what I need. Those who envy and boast are full of self. And here s the deal, to be full of self is to be empty inside. To be full of self is to be very, very little. To be full of self is to l worship a little God, a tiny little God, called "me." Love does not envy - it can t; love does not boast- it can t. Now some of you guys may still be pushing back a little. You re thinking, I do a little l envying and a little boasting, but I can still love." Well I don t think so. I don t think you are loving the one you are envying. I don t think you are loving the one you are comparing yourself to. Here s the deal: these two - envy and boasting - are indicators, these two are tests of how far we are from loving God with all our heart, all our strength, and all our mind, and on how far we are from loving our neighbors as ourselves. And here s another piece. These things not only exterminate our love, I they destroy us. Listen to what the Bible says. It says, Proverbs 27.4: "Anger is cruel and destroys like a flood, but no one can put up with jealousy" Angry people are hard to be around, it says; but jealous people, envious people are worse. If you don t deal with your envy, it could get very lonely. Proverbs 14.30: "Peace of mind makes the body healthy, but jealousy is like a cancer." Do you buy that? The physicians and the mental health people in this room do. It can destroy your health. James 4.2: "You want things, but you cannot have them, so you are ready to kill; you strongly desire things, but you cannot get them, so you quarrel and fight." It s stuff like envy and boasting that gets us into arguments and fights.

7 You see, God is challenging us to a different kind of love, a love that mirrors his, for us. He wants us to love each other the way we are loved by him. And it s powerful. God s kind of love is not self-centered. It s not about me. Instead of envying you for your gifts, your opportunities, your successes I m glad for you. Instead of being consumed with telling you about my gifts and my successes and my virtues, I take genuine pleasure in yours. I m happy that you got your raise. I m delighted that your kid is doing so well in school, or on the ball-field, I m excited that your church is I exploding, I m pleased that you got that house you ve been wanting, I m thrilled that your diet is so successful. I want you to do great. I am glad God has blessed you beyond my imagination. I want you to be happy, to be used by God, to be one of his success stories. That s real love, isn t it? God s kind of love? But to be perfectly honest, God s kind of love is hard for us. Maybe impossibly hard for us. We can t do it as long as we are full of ourselves. We can t do it as long as we are little inside. Something else, someone else has to be at our center. Guys... any man who is full of himself is very, very little; any man who is full of God, there are no boundaries to his love. So how do I change? How do I exterminate my envy and my boasting? Four ideas: One: Admit what you re doing; admit your sin. Quit making excuses. lf you struggle with envy or boasting admit. God can t heal what you refuse to acknowledge. Two: Repent. Ask God s forgiveness and ask him to help you turn around. Tell him you want to be different. By the way, he ll know whether you are lying to him or not. Three: Practice gratitude. Instead of envy and boasting, put gratitude in their place. Look for things to thank God for. You ll begin to realize how little you deserve, and how blessed you are. Four: Practice praise. Be generous with your praise. Look for ways to praise the people around you. It will change you, and it will change them.

8 Guys, we are amazingly blessed. Everything we have, everything we are - it s all more than we deserve. It really is true that the man who has everything except God, has nothing at all; but the man who has nothing except God, is infinitely rich. And if you try this path, you will discover contentment. You will become secure in who you are you won t need to brag and boast and swagger. And you will become secure in who other people are. You won t need to compare yourself with others, you won t need to compete when they tell their stories, you will taste contentment in who God has made you to be, and what God has called you to do. This stuff is powerful- a powerful kind of love. To genuinely rejoice with those who rejoice. To genuinely celebrate their successes. To cheer your neighbor on, even when you are struggling. Do you think that kind of love is powerful? Do you think it can change people forever? That s God s kind of love. The key is to fill yourself with God. He who is full of himself is very, very little; he who is full of God Listen to this, this is really important: God can t give you happiness and peace apart from himself. lf you want this kind of peace, this kind of contentment, you have to put God at your center. C. S. Lewis put it like this: "God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from himself, because it is not there. There is no such thing."

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