The School of Love

I won’t repeat what I wrote a few days ago: we do not know the day or the hour, but there are abundant signs – in the world, and for those who look upward, in the heavens also – that the return of the King really is at hand. Our mandate is to go into all the world and preach the gospel, preparing the way for that time. Our priority must be to reach the lost. Our light must increase as the darkness deepens. It will do, because Isaiah 60 1-11 says it will: the question that each of us have to face is whether we want to be part of that brilliance or not. To do so we need to grow in three areas: faith, power, and love.

Faith: for ourselves
We will need to grow in faith –we will need it as individuals, to depend increasingly on Jehovah Jireh as the provision of the world fails. If, as Revelation 13:17 says will happen, we are forced to choose between trading in the system of the world and its banking and being true to our King and His Kingdom, we will need to walk day by day in the expectation and experience of God’s supernatural provision. I wrote a couple of years ago about the time at the beginning of lockdown when everyone was panic-buying toilet rolls and there were none in the shops:  God told us not to join the panic but to rely on Him, and when we were down to our last one a delivery van full of them pulled up next to my wife at the local petrol station. God delights to show His little flock that they need not fear. (Luke 12:32) But this is just one example of God’s faithfulness and practical care out of three years of living by our bank cards and not by faith. How prepared are we for this to be a way of life?

The Bible verses abound, beginning a small selection with Hebrews 10:38 : “The just shall live by faith.” Paul reminds us that “We walk by faith and not by sight.” (2 Cor 5:7) “The prayer of faith will heal the sick,” declares James. (James 5:15). Hebrews again: “Without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him,” (Heb 11:6) and to finish, Paul’s pithy statement to the Romans: “Whatever is not of faith is sin.” However we choose to look at our walk with God in these last days, there is one truth that is paramount: every step we take has to be a step of faith.

Power: for the world
Faith is not just for our daily bread of course: we will need it to grow in power, the second area of need. The world will need to see us move in the power of the Holy Spirit if the multitudes who are in the valley of decision are to see the word of the gospel confirmed in signs and wonders and come to faith. Romans 1:16 tells us that the gospel  “is the power of God unto salvation to everyone who believes…” As I wrote in Rainbows and Chickens,” those who believe that God moves in signs and wonders today need to preach the gospel to see the power of God at work; and those who regularly preach the gospel need to have an expectation of God to confirm that word with signs and wonders. Word and Spirit must work together. Hebrews 4:2 is a key verse:

For indeed the gospel was preached to us as well as to them; but the word which they heard did not profit them,  not being mixed with faith in those who heard it.”

So here is the equation: Faith + the gospel = power to save. Paul wrote this to the Galatians: “For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.” (Gal 3:17) This is not theoretical language; this is truth. To be baptized in the Holy Spirit is to be immersed, soaked, in the Spirit of Christ. Being “in Christ” isn’t just theology; it’s the reality of being soaked in Him.  And if we are soaked, we can expect people to get wet when we touch them – wet with the miraculous life of Christ. Jesus told us that the way to increase our faith is to understand that we are just “unprofitable servants; we have only done what we were told to do.” (Luke 17:10.) So if we couple the faith of simple obedience with believing the reality of who we really are – who God says we are – in Christ, we can expect to leave a trail of the soaking wet Life of Christ behind us whenever we “go” and preach the gospel. And when those signs and wonders happen, faith rises in many hearts and mixes with the word that was preached, and souls are born again into eternal life.

Love: for the Church
And finally we will need to grow in love – the church will need it, because it’s the unity that commands the blessing and it’s by our love that the world will know that we are disciples of Christ. Faith and love are the two poles of the magnet that powers the dynamo of Kingdom growth. We have all read 1 Corinthians 13 (I am speaking to Christians here: if you aren’t one yet, now is your time), and we know that even faith that moves mountains is nothing without love. To the Galatians Paul says: “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but faith working through love.” (Gal 5:6) Without love we are nothing, and our faith and our gifting are to no avail. I don’t think Jesus commanded us to love one another just so that we could be a sort of spiritual shop window for His glory (although we are that: see Ephesians 3:10): the teaching of Jesus on Love puts His command to the church in a far more radical context:

You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbour and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.  If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that?  And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? (Matt 5: 43-46 NIV)

School of Love
I think the Church is our school of love: if we cannot learn to love one another in the church, what hope does the world have to receive what Christ has for them? As Peter writes: “For it is time for judgment to begin with God’s household; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God?” (1 Pe 4:7) We cannot  grow in faith and power unless we grow in love as well. Revival is messy and demanding. Converts need to become disciples. Just like the 5,000, the poor who have had the gospel preached to them need to be fed. The lonely and isolated need befriending. We will need to have compassion on the hungry crowd, not send them home – or to someone else’s church. So we need faith and power to see revival happen, but we need love to live with the results.

Jesus wants to come back for a loving bride that is on the same page as Him. I’m not sure if I’m ready for Him yet. What about you?

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