Tuesday, January 10, 2006

# 119: The Mystery of God's Love Revealed

If one is just starting out in their examination of Christianity, or is just curious, it might be best to avoid this blog for the time being. It is relatively long and complex, and therefore may not be understood. In fact, I hesitated to publish it since it can only start to be understood by those who are already familiar, if even in a minute way, with the mysterious ways of God. Most posts in this blog are more down-to-earth/more easily understood by most people. Again, I suggest reading a few of them first.

Very little, if anything, can be known about Jesus Christ beyond words until one actually experiences, if even in a small way, the nature of God through His beloved Son, our Lord and Savior. None of us deserve or are worthy to share in God’s Holy Nature. Because of His gift of loving grace that comes to us through Jesus Christ, however, He counts us worthy and begins to satisfy our need and desire for Him. God allows us to share in something we could never otherwise acquire or receive apart from grace, no matter how holy, pure and loving we might be. God has been and still is waiting patiently, as it were, to display Himself to any and all who so desire. God has been hampered in giving Himself to desirous individuals, in that He can't be known or experienced so long as one’s desire is commingled with the desire to continue living in a worldly fashion where all the joys, aspirations, responsibilities, ambitions, and sorrows of one’s life are on the front burner as to what dominates their life.

For God to ask anyone to abandon one’s own desires in exchange for the standards and desires of another (Christ) may seem like an unreasonable thing to ask. However, as long as we continually desire to live for the good of self, as we have been taught from childhood, God cannot allow us to share in His love nature. This agapĂ© (Divine) love that is given to us never desires self-gratification, but only wants to give of self. What we must first change, or better yet, allow Him to change, is the desire. This is accomplished by God through His Holy Spirit, by bestowing Christ’s Spirit upon us. To take the name Christ's Spirit out of the abstract, what we are talking about is the motivating power that drove Jesus Christ and gave Him the desire to be and accomplish all that He did. That motivating power is nothing less than the life of His Father. With it, we too can become and accomplish what He did. Once we allow God to do that for us, then life will start to change according to our new desire. No doubt we may still have some desire to live for self, but the key question is which desire will be dominant. The prevalent desire will eventually drive the lesser desire out of our lives—the sooner the better for all concerned—until only one is in control. Since these two desires are totally contrary to one another, it becomes impossible to continue harboring these two viable dictators in one’s life. They are like black and white, the promotion of self-life and the destruction of self-life. There is no neutral zone, grey area or lukewarm lifestyle. Lukewarm attitudes, if not changed, will result in certain spiritual death. Revelation 3:16: "So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth." But what happened to grace, you may ask? Without grace, of course, we are left in the grips of the spiritual forces of the evil one. The dominating desire will, in every case, be the most evident as we grow in Christ. This is where grace continually takes up the slack.

Though I write this next statement in the usual way, it cannot be emphasized strongly enough: Our Loving Father is patient, merciful, and more tolerant than the human mind can possibly fathom—He has to be in order to put up with seemingly worthless stones like myself. Nevertheless, if we willfully and continually take advantage of that life—giving grace in whatever ways we can conjure up with our conniving minds—all that grace offers us will disappear in a flash, usually without our knowledge. What may be left is religion, morals, goodness, charity, human love, rules and regulations, if even that. Grace is not an excuse to legitimize our spiritual laziness and our diabolically inspired stupidity.

Who is living in the body of this author that he speaks as audaciously as he does? Without a shadow of a doubt it is the Holy Spirit of our Lord Jesus Christ. I will qualify this boast in humility with my next statement. My security, all I have in Christ, is wholly based on my trusting Him to inspire me and, if necessary, to manipulate circumstances and even my very conduct. If it is His will, He will do just that. He will remain in me and protect me from myself—a very sneaky and bossy enemy. Were it left up to me alone to be faithful to the end, I surely would fall, never to rise again. He is great, and even as He works in me, I am nothing, nothing, nothing! All He does in my life is to the detriment of self-glorification. To His glory. He has me write words that most people don't want to hear—on occasion not even me—because not many of us want our spiritual security, be what it may, shaken. That is what needs doing; however, only for those who desire to love and be loved by God, those who thus far have been deceived by false Christianity. The life of Christ is working in me to the extent that I simply don’t count anymore. The only thing that matters is that one day, all who take on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, and even those who don't yet know Him, will live such lives whereby our Lord can say, "Well done, my good and faithful servant."

How can we mortals speak of God's love? In reality, we can't, especially with human words. Talk is cheap, and religious talk is the cheapest of all. What we must do is use our lives as vehicles, expressed with deeds of unselfish love to any and all. Even this we can't do until God Himself, through His Holy Spirit, empowers us with His love, and God will not do this until we sacrifice our self-interest. It is an easy thing to write and talk about His love, but is meaningless and even harmful without God's life behind and amidst those words of love. Words of love, spoken or written by anyone without God's life, have little or no power to change or enrich lives.

“Each tree is recognized by its own fruit.” Luke 6:44. Once we possess God's love and His Holy Spirit, seemingly strange things will start to take place, things that don't seem normal to the ego compartment of our soul. (1) God will start to reveal some of His secrets to us, as they are hidden to all who don't really believe. (2) We won't recognize ourselves, as we will be a new creation. (3) Our concern will not be merely for our well-being, but more so for those around us. (4) For the first time, we will realize that God is in complete control of our lives, working through our free will, which is mysteriously becoming His Will. (5) We will become aware of the enormity of the job ahead of us: displaying Jesus Christ to all who don't know Him and those who think they know Him—this latter group is often the most difficult. (6) The joy and peace that we possess inwardly will have nothing to do with what we are and what we have outwardly. (7) We may actually feel invincible in a euphoric, benevolent way. (8) We won’t be able to devote enough time to prayer, to knowing God, and to tending to those in need. (9) Our job, our attitude, and all things of importance to us yesterday will grow strangely obscure with respect to their importance. (10) There will be absolutely nothing we won't do to advance the cause of making Christ known in truth. (11) Nearly everyone, except God's people, will think we have gone off our rocker. (12) It will not seem important what people in general think about us, as we will know that we are important to God, and that is all that matters. (13) As we grow in grace and in the love of God, we will start to realize how little we really know about God's love, and even more, how little we are experiencing His great love. Yet, that little will be visible in our life. When we are looked upon, God's love and life will shine through to others. (14) The clearer we see the beauty of who Christ is, the more we will see the rottenness of all we have previously attempted to do and be. (15) We will be able to distinguish the difference between our human love and God's love.

Love for others—even friends and family—arises from the human need to be loved and respected in return, to feel complete, to be looked on as important, and to belong so that we can recognize ourselves as good and important. On the other hand, God's love in us has little or no concern as to how we will make out when we love others. Another way we will distinguish our human love from God's love: Our love may stop when our need to feel valuable is satisfied, whereas the displaying of Godly love continues. This is because it does not arise from self-need, but out of a need to share our most valuable possession. The more we share, the more valuable it becomes. Therefore, it just lasts and lasts, building upon itself even into eternity.

As I write these words, it becomes evident that the major deficiency in our lives is the lack of God's love flowing out to our fellow man/woman. Most likely, one of the main reasons for this is that we do not make room for God's love to enter our soul. Why? Because self-love or self-interest is still in control of our actions, emotions, motives, and desires. This must not continue. Almost all of the commands Jesus Christ addresses to His people, directly and indirectly, aim at getting self-desire/love, THE ROOT OF ALL SIN, off of the throne. God has devised a way for this to take place; as with everything else in the Christian’s life, it is through faith, the belief process. We must believe—this is probably one of the most difficult Christian truths to believe, understand and put into practice that the “old man” (sinful nature)—the King James Bible uses the word "flesh"—has participated in Christ's death on His cross. With that death of the old man/woman, a new man in the likeness of Christ has risen. The biggest challenge of this blog has been trying to describe the reality and importance of this spiritually poignant event. Remember, time does not exist in God's way of doing things. There is no past and no future with God. They are both the present with God. What has not happened yet—the future, as we see it—is the present with God. And what happened 2,000 years ago to Christ is also in God's present. Even as I write this, and you read this, the walls of Jericho are falling, the Red Sea is parting, Jesus is excoriating the Pharisees, Daniel is walking unscathed from the lion den, Peter is brandishing his sword against the Roman soldiers led by Judas, Eve is biting into the apple, and Christ is saying, “It is finished.” I know that this concept is difficult, if not impossible, to conceptualize for us mortals who are governed by time, but it is critically imperative for us to live in that same timelessness of God, through faith, concerning our death and resurrection. Either our complete lives have already been lived and we are with Our Lord Jesus Christ, already enjoying each others’ company, or we are somewhere else entirely. When we see ourselves in this manner, it is much easier—though still very difficult—to live the resurrected life of love. We died with Christ so we can live and love with Christ's resurrected body. Praise you, Lord Jesus! Please, pray that God will give us the grace that will allow us to believe and live this truth unconditionally. It's the first step in giving God control of our life. Just to write this down or to say we truly believe this spiritual truth will do no good. This timeless concept may be extremely difficult for most to understand, let alone experience; I did the best I could to explain it.

We must always remember that our ego or selfish nature does not benefit from our loving others with God's love. Love, in fact, killed Jesus. Who benefits? The God who lives in us benefits, because His nature is to love, love, and love, even if the cost is our physical body. Why does God want to love to that extreme degree as He resides in us? Answer: to satisfy the love needs of others. Most—possibly including many of those with strong faith—are not truly aware of the need for God's love. Moreover, we are not aware that God’s love will make us what God intends: clones-of-Christ-in-the-making. Yes, God's love, and only God's love, can and will do the impossible. The more we allow this totally supernatural love to permeate our lives, the more power will flow from us, thus allowing Christ to live again. How? That is what this blog is all about. Read on.

As human beings, we cannot know for certain who is truly saved and who is not. God loves us all, whether saved or lost, but the love He has for the unsaved has no eternal value. It may have value for the unsaved in the way of enjoying His desire for them to be saved. At this time, He wishes them no harm and wants the best for them in every way. Nevertheless, that love will ultimately be voided if the unbeliever does not eventually accept His gift of life. The love God has for His own will not only bring them into eternity with Him but make them what was originally intended for ALL humankind. But when we are not aware of this great love or do not capitalize on it, we are not only cheating ourselves, but cheating God and others He wishes to reach through us. When we allow God to shower us continually with His love, then by His power we will make every effort to walk the narrow path of His life. This does not mean He loves us more, just that He enjoys us more!

The Christian scenario goes this way: belief that is active and genuine; death of self; obedience to God; trust in God. And then, finally, if all else is in order, we can enjoy and share His love with the world, not so much with empty religious words, but with a holy and pure life of love. That is a Christian. Any less and we become suspect.

As we experience this agape love, we will live a life of self-sacrifice. Though sacrifice is never pleasant, we will at the same time have such a joy that we will feel as though we are actually in heaven with God. This is not a contradiction. God's love in us shall build up Christ’s Church, His body, for outreach rather than for our personal well-being. The emotions that are produced by the presence of this super, powerful love keep us in paradise under all circumstances because we are not victims of circumstance. Remember, we are hopefully eternal beings; those of us He has chosen are already with Him. Circumstances, as we understand them, are God giving us, at the right time, exactly what we need. That doesn't mean that we will like it when the bumps and bruises of Christianity sting. I think I am starting to know what Jesus meant when He said, "The kingdom of God is within you."

“Consider others better than yourselves.” Philippians 2:4. When we allow God to put these words of love into action in our lives, this is conclusive proof that it is not human love empowering our Christian life. Christianity that operates on our human love—as good as it may seem—is not Christianity. The word “yourselves,” as Paul uses in this verse, includes family: the most precious people in one's self-driven life. Jesus says in Luke 14:26 that the love we feel for the most valuable things in our lives, usually family, self and job, we must consider as hate in comparison to the agape love we have for others in need. This action of considering others better than self is one, if not the only, distinguishing mark of the existence of God's love in our lives. Now, you might be saying, "I must care for my family first. How can I serve God if I abandon my family?" God doesn’t want anyone to abandon their family, but they must come third. The right order is: Love God first, others second, self and family third. This principle of love must be carried out in all walks of our Christian life in order for it to qualify as God's love and not human love. Human love—even if given in the name of Christ–will always care for self and family before all else—because that is the law: survival of the fittest.

I am sure that many will say, "This type of teaching is unheard of. Who could or would even want to live this way?” Well, I’ll ask you this: When self and family come first, are we any different than the rest of the world? How much different are we than the lioness caring for her cubs when we care for ourselves and our kids before all others? The truth of the matter is that the most unnatural thing for a human being to do is love others with selfless, Godly love. When one tries to live the Christian life with human love, it is like calling night the same as day. It's like NASA trying to launch a sophisticated rocket on ordinary kerosene. Impossible! No matter how it is described, human love will always fall short of demonstrating agape love.

As powerful as God's love is, it is powerless to operate in the midst of human self-love. When mingled with human love, it has no power to perform. Human love must be destroyed before Divine love can start to take over. This God-type love is the necessary ingredient that dominates a Christian life; it breaks my heart to say that it may be the most common missing element in all Christianity. It is at the core of the old Christian clichĂ© “we must die to self.” If this post is true, and it is, who really would want to be a true Bible-based Christian? I understand that this post may easily be the most difficult to accept and put into practice. That is the reason I hesitated to use it in this blog; nevertheless, I was compelled for everyone’s sake to use it.

Well, God's Word says, only a few are chosen. Are you and I among those chosen few? We can give our life on the stake, give all our possessions to the poor, be a missionary in deepest Africa, and go to church every Sunday, but if we have not His love, it will count for nothing.

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