Walking In The Spirit
The Truth of Love
Paul, in his first letter to the Corinthians, spoke gently in chapter 3, almost apologetically, as to why they were in the condition they were in. "Brothers, I could not speak to you as if you were spiritual, but only in a worldly manner, as if you were babies just learning. I have give you a little easy to digest food, milk as it were, but not with meaty spiritual things, because you were not able to understand it. Even now, you remain like babies, unable to grasp more important things. You are still worldly. How do I know this? Because as long as there is envying among you, and fighting, and separation one from the other: as long as you do not love one another, you are still worldly, and concerned about the things of the flesh, and walk like the other men of the world".
The church of today is little different from that of the Corinthians, indeed possibly worse. While many claim to be "going on with God", or "doing Gods will", and are even doing some good works, the church as a whole is missing the will of God completely. Well, you say, how do YOU know what Gods will is? Simple. The Bible tells me. God expressed His love for and to me (and you) by sending His son, Jesus, in the flesh to die on the cross as payment for MY sins (and yours). Jesus expressed His love for me (and you) by willingly dying, and bearing my burden of sin, even though I did not love Him (and neither did you). In the process, He further expressed His love by asking His Father to "forgive them..." even though they were hatefully torturing Him, and crucifying Him for no reason. Jesus has also said that we are, when forgiven by accepting His work, to EXPRESS THE SAME LOVE that He has already expressed to us. How? By loving the unlovable. By forgiving the unforgivable. By speaking the Truth, living the LIFE of Jesus, walking in HIS shoes just as He walked, and NEVER, NEVER, NEVER judging or condemning another.
Love is a subject easily misunderstood in this day and age, just as it was in the time of Jesus, and even before. Most of us, especially in western society, apprehend love to essentially mean "something given-something returned", or as a two way thing. Whether by social conditioning, or the fact that one word, love, covers the multitude of meanings in other languages, we must accept that we do not properly understand what love, the way God means it, actually means. Love (Gr. Agapao, or Agape), speaks to the issue of Godly love, or the kind of love that God displays. Understood by the early church, Godly love was a uni-directional, or one way love. It flows out from, but does not expect return. Therefore, this type of love is the highest expression of care that can be tendered toward another. Also understood early on was the fact that this expression of one way love took on many forms, just as God has many facets. God is love. God is jealous. God is patient. God is vengeful. God is forgiveness. God is provision, and so on. For every facet or side of God that can be discovered, there is also a corresponding "opposite" side, with one exception. God is NOT EVIL. In understanding these sides of love, we begin to gain an understanding of how today's church, and today's preachers miss communicating the Gospel of God not only to each other, but also to the world. Hellfire and brimstone preaching have gone out of style, and been replaced with "you are loved". While very true that you are loved, the hellfire and brimstone is part of expressing that love. Remember the words of Jude 4,"...and some save with fear..". Do we tell someone of their condemnation because we hate them, or delight in their downward spiral? No, we tell them because we love them, and desire for them to have understanding of their fate should they NOT OBEY THE GOSPEL OF GOD! Further, we tell them knowing that, in most instances, we will be made fun of, rejected or rebuked, and most certainly that love will not be returned.
The true Christian expression of love is not just "I love you", but "I love you so much, it hurts". Why else would James say "if a brother or sister is in need, and you say peace, and send them on their way, and don't give to them what they need, what good has that done". This is not love, this is not faith, it is an empty prattling of vain words. John says much the same by saying "if you have anything, and you see another in need, and don't give them what you have (even if you have to do without), then the LOVE OF GOD IS NOT IN YOU" Many of us in this day and time do not have much in the way of money, or things, but what we do have we OWE TO THOSE WHO DO NOT HAVE. To fail in this respect is to admit before men and God that we do not have His love within us. Can you imagine at this moment what thing a person of the world needs the most that they do not have? Do you have it? If you belong to Christ, you do. And that is exactly what the worldly person needs. What good does it do to say to a friend, or acquaintance, or fellow worker "have a nice day", or "have a good weekend", or "I sure wish you would come to church with me". YOU OWE to them, because of Jesus, the words of life..."God loves you...Jesus loves you...I love you... God has proved His love by sacrificing His only Son, Jesus proved it by dying on the cross for you, and I will prove it by doing WHATEVER is necessary, so that YOU may have redemption and forgiveness and eternal life and joy". Not all situations lend themselves to exactly this kind of outburst, but that is the essential thing that we must do to truly express the love of God that should be within us. To the world and society around us that is thumbing its nose at God, mocking and ridiculing Him, and is constantly looking for a way out of its economic, social, and moral mess, we must say "the nation that does not obey God shall perish", and "fall on your knees before God and REPENT before it is too late".
Only one nation exists today as it did in the distant past, and that is the nation Israel, and even they had to take a forced 2000 year vacation. What makes us think that we can continue our slide into the moral abyss without God taking an active hand in our destruction? TAKE HEED, CHURCH! Before we can change the moral climate of our nation, or this world, we must change our own moral climate, that withing the church, and we can only do that when we take to heart the Word of God in 2Chr.7:14; "if my people, which are called by My name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land". God is not speaking of the heathen, He is speaking about us church people who claim to be Christian. He is telling us that we are not humble, that we exalt ourselves and our own ways, and ignore Him. He is telling us that we do not pray. Sure, we utter a lot of fine words that bounce off the roof, but that is as far as it gets. Praying is seeking the will of God, not telling Him what we want, or what we need, or asking His blessings on our meals, or our meeting, or to help the preacher preach. When we pray the way God wants us to we will be seeking Him, His Holiness, His Righteousness, His Will, and His Way of doing things! Above all, when we do all of these things right, we must turn from our own wicked ways. NO MORE can we "hate" a brother or sister, or even dislike them, or turn away from them. NO MORE can we presume to give to God or the Church only what we want to turn loose of, or 10%, whichever is lesser, be it time, talent, or money. NO MORE can we consider ourselves "spiritual" and "led of God", because if we really look carefully at the Perfect Law of Liberty, we will see how far short we truly fall, every day and every hour. When we, The Church, begin doing these things, desiring and seeking God alone above all else, THEN will He hear, THEN will He forgive, THEN will He heal. Want revival? Begin with yourself, begin at the house of God, THEN we will see.
When God forgives us, He casts all remembrances about that sin into the sea of forgetfulness. Are we not supposed to do the same? Forget the wrongs, imagined or real, that someone else has ever done to you. Holding on to them, remembering them, can only produce distrust of that person, or others, and fear that the same thing may reoccur, neither being from God. Well, they could at least admit they were wrong, and ask me to forgive and forget, couldn't they? Not one of the crucifiers of Jesus asked Him to forgive them, but He did anyway. Should we not do the same? Friends, this world and all who are in it are, for the most part, unlikable, but Jesus didn't ask us to like them. He said "love them".
Paul, John, Luke, Peter, James, and so many others have tried so hard to tell us what it means to "walk in the Spirit", or "walk in truth". Walking in the Spirit, far from being a state of just singing to oneself, or praising God, or meditating on scripture, is "living in a constant state of agape love for others". Walking in truth does not mean constantly spouting scripture in response to every situation, but "living according to what scripture says, and speaking with agape love toward others". Walking in love does not mean telling everyone you love them, and being peaceful and calm and beatific, but being "ready at an instant to give all, even your life, to do all, no matter what it is, for the sake of someone else". Paul, after being vilified by the Jews, stoned and left for dead, beaten with rods, and generally run out of town on a rail, wept tears of sadness, wishing that "for the sake of the Jews, that THEY might be saved", he himself would be willing to be separated from Jesus forever. This for those who had beaten him, tried to kill him, who considered him to be their enemy. This, from a man filled with the love of Christ, obedient to His will, and His way of doing things.
In my humble opinion, the greatest literary expression of agape love which is the Spirit of Truth is to be found in Pau's writing of 1Cor.13. (using my paraphrase).
Love is tender, and yet love is tough. Love can laugh and be joyful, and yet mourn and weep bitter tears. Love can be humorous, yet it is always sober. Love can be patient, and still be exasperating. Love can be all things to all people through all time for all reasons, and that is why it is the most important of all things. My faith is possible because of love. My hope remains, because of love. I have peace, because of love.
Friends, the world will not notice The Church until the day that The Church stands up. When The Church stands up, beginning in its own house which properly is the House of God, then and only then will the world notice that something right is going on. The world needs Jesus, and it is through His Church that He has chosen to be known to the world. We do not need any more "ecumenical councils", or "world cooperative church organizations", or conferences on spiritual awakening, etc., etc., etc.. All we need is for The Church to begin understanding the weapons with which God has equipped us for the fight, to determine not only to understand the weapons, but to use them.
God has given us His written Word, and it is profitable in every situation so that the man of God (any believer) is furnished to every good work. We need to learn that Word for ourselves, and quit letting someone else tell us what it says. God has given to us the Holy Spirit so that the child of God may be brought to the fullness of Christ. We need to start paying more attention to Him, and less to man. God has given to us gifts, ranging from the gifts of the Spirit (pneumatika) to the gifts of Jesus Christ (doma). We need to recognize those gifts, discerning proper and improper usage, and to exercise those gifts to the edification and growth of the Body.
Satan will not change his ways, no matter what we may wish or desire. He will continue to use the Word, and if we don't know it, how can we fight against the perversion of it? He will continue to place error in front of us, and temptation to follow that error. If we do not know the Word, and exercise discernment, how can we fight against it? If we do not understand the necessity for "tough love", how can we maintain a Church that is free of heresy and error, therefore unbeatable in the fight? Paul said "we are not ignorant of his devices", speaking of satan, and that if we were ignorant, then satan would have an advantage of us (2Cor.2:11). We must stop acting like we are ignorant, and begin acting like the person (new) and soldier (ready to do battle) that Christ has made of us.Who are you, Christian, what are you, and most importantly: WHERE ARE YOU?