Tag Archives: Love one another

Without love, we are nothing. We are on this earth to learn how to love. Jesus showed us the way.

The Chain: Linked to the Body

“”I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me.” (John 17:23)

The focus of Jesus’s ministry was always to glorify the Father, and to demonstrate that He was the Son whom the Father had sent, because He loved it so much, to bring eternal life to all who accepted Him. His master plan – His only plan – was to build His church to destroy the works of the enemy and reveal the love of the Father that He poured out into the hearts of His children by the power of the Holy Spirit. The church is the chain that makes the wheels of the bike go round: unless we are linked in with other believers our discipleship is not going to progress.

Paul prays: “that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height— to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” (Eph 3: 15-17) The pre-requisite to knowing the love of Christ and being filed with all the fullness of God is being “rooted and grounded in love.” The arena in which we fulfll the command to love one another and keep pedalling forward (as I wrote earlier in this series) is the local church, where Jesus is Lord, the Father is glorified, and the life of the Holy Spirit flows; where believers pray for one another, serve one another, minister to one and other and are accountable to one another.

If there were a  prize for the most-quoted verse of scripture, Matthew 18:20 would probably be in contention for runner -up: (the winner, of course, being John 3:16.) “Where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” Jesus “in the midst” is the essence of church. I think if we all took discipleship a lot more seriously Jesus would probably be a lot more evident in the midst than He often is, but that’s not for this chapter. I think what is important here is for us always for us to remember where we are headed as we cycle up the mountain:

“In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace which He made to abound toward us in all wisdom and prudence, having made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself, that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth—in Him.” (Eph 1: 7-10)

God is gathering us together in Christ, and His vehicle is the church. “He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.” (Eph 1:22-23) This is the goal of our discipleship, and it’s why we cannot follow Jesus on our own. It’s why Jesus prayed “May they all be one as you and I are one” (John 17:21). And it’s why we cannot  be walking in the Spirit if we “bite and devour one another” (Galatians 5:15)

Because the heart of God breaks at division in His church. Revival will sweep the nations when brothers and sisters in Christ set aside petty doctrinal and stylistic differences and gather round the standard of our Saviour to destroy the works of the devil in His name. But when one ministry denounces or criticises another, they are allowing those very works of the devil into their own ranks. For what is more important: what we think we know about what God thinks, or whether we obey His commandment to love one another? Whether we criticise and condemn one another, or whether we  are “kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you?” (Ephesians 4:32)

The Lord needs His chain to be well-oiled. Jesus is always there, ready to pour the oil of the Holy Spirit onto each one of His links.  We need to be connected to one another with links that are supple and yielding. Without the oil of His anointing we become rusty and rigid, set in our ways, insensitive to one another and out of touch with the three cogs on the crankshaft – the  Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. It is for each one of us to keep seeking the Lord so that we remain well-oiled individually in order for the corporate chain of the life of the Body to function smoothly. Again, as I wrote above, it is not for one link to assess whether another is functioning as it should, or even whether or not it should be there. We are nothing on our own: it is only through our connections to those three cogs and to one another that we have purpose. Paul writes this to the Galatians:

“If anyone thinks himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. But let each one examine his own work, and then he will have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another. For each one shall bear his own load.” (Gal 6: 3-5)

Jesus says to the church at Sardis: “I know your works, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead. “Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die, for I have not found your works perfect before God.” (Rev 3: 1-2). The “things that remain” are Faith, Hope, and Love, and the greatest of these is Love. (1 Cor 13:13). These three are the gold, silver, and precious stones that remain from our works after the wood, hay and stubble have been consumed in the fire. (1 Cor 3:12) We are alive in Christ to the degree that we are linked to one another in Love, and the body of these connections is the Church of Christ. To be disciples we must be in the chain, and we must be vigilant to overcome any thoughts and attitudes that would tempt us to break our connections.

The Tyres: Be filled with the Holy Spirit.

 “For the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 14:17)

“But for those who are righteous,
the way is not steep and rough”
(Is 26: 7, NLT)

A bicycle is not going to get very far without tyres, and those tyres need to be filled with air. For us, as we cycle along the track on the Mountain of the Lord, the air in the tyres is the breath, the Ruach, of the Holy Spirit. Without labouring the point made repeatedly on these pages, we do not progress far in our Christian walk unless we are filled with the Holy Spirit as instructed in Ephesians 5:18; and that filling has to be repeated and ongoing, as the tense of the Greek verb used translates as “be being filled…” We cannot move if our tyres are flat: they need to “be being filled” – pumped up – with the Ruach, the breath of God.

The old “penny farthing” cycles of the latter part of the nineteenth century had a massive single wheel above which the rider perched precariously, that was driven directly by pedals that were affixed to the axle and had a solid rubber tyre. In lots of ways it is a good picture of dead religion, running along a single wheel of the letter of the law, no chain (the connected body of Christ – that’s the next article), without the Holy Spirit, uncomfortable to ride, and certainly impossible to take onto the mountain track.

The penny farthing: a picture of religion.

For a more detailed study on the baptism of the Holy Spirit, see “The Name of the Father,” but for the purposes of this article we’ll just limit ourselves to some basic principles of what it means to be filled with the Spirit. And, as with the other parts of this series, these are just a few (relatively) concise notes for you to unpack further, either on your own or with other believers.

So what do we have in our tyres?

Love

“God’s love is  poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” (Romans 5:5) The pre-eminence of love in the life of the Christian disciple is a given: I don’t need to add here to the millions of words that are already written on the subject: it’s enough that Jesus has commanded us to love one another. What is relevant here is that we cannot love one another as commanded; or love the world as God did by sending His Son, unless it is with the love that He has filled us with. God’s love prefers others, serves , gives unstintingly, blesses, builds, and doesn’t seek approval or reward. These are not qualities of our flesh. If we have compassion on the poor and needy without reaching into the heart of God for His resources we are just another social action group whose work will, ultimately, not stand. God in Christ loved His friends by washing their feet, and reached out in compassion to the fallen world. We need to pray for His compassion to fill our hearts if we, as His disciples, are going to do the same.

Our identity

God has given us the Spirit of Adoption, by which we cry out “Abba, Father!” (Romans 8:15) The Holy Spirit fills us with the revelation of our identity in Christ: it is only by the Spirit’s power that we know that we are children of God. Anyone can believe in their heads that they are a child of God or call themselves by that name. Some religious worldviews would say that we are all God’s children, because we are His creation and man was made in His image. But sin marred that image and broke the spiritual bloodline. Every man and woman is God’s creation and is a child of the first Adam; but God is Spirit, and it is only as brothers and sisters of the second Adam, Jesus Christ the Son of God, that our original spiritual family line is restored. Galatians 3: 26 makes this clear: “For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.” Every Christian is of the Seed of Abraham (See Galatians 3: 29), yet when the Jews claimed that Abraham was their Father Jesus retorted that their father was actually the devil. (John 8:44) It is only by the Spirit of God, through the blood of Jesus, that we can be children of God. And as true children of God, let us be filled with the knowledge of His parenthood.

God’s faithfulness

Jesus told the disciples to wait in Jerusalem until “The Promise of the Father” was poured out from on high (Acts 1: 1-5). The promise was of redemption and blessing for himself and all his children, who would be numerous beyond count, and can be found in Genesis 12: 1-3. When the Holy Spirit was poured out at Pentecost this was like the uncorking of a great cask of blessing that had been stored up in Heaven since the time of Abraham, and it has been pouring ever since. Every time a believer is filled with the Spirit, whether for the first time or subsequently, God is re-affirming that He keeps His promises. And this affirmation is in itself another promise: it’s the very promise of Heaven, the deposit or guarantee of our eternal inheritance (Ephesians 1:14; 2 Cor 1:22). Meanwhile in this life, the promise that fills us is the promise to bless. Whatever obstacles or pitfalls might lay across our path, it tells us that He that is in us is greater than he that is in the world. (1 John 4:4) We carry within us the promise that, by the power of His Spirit, “in all things, we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” (Romans 8:37) Filled with blessing, faithfulness and promise, our tyres will take us over everything that comes our way on Earth, and they will carry us on to our eternal destiny in Heaven.

Power

Paul tells Timothy – and us –“You do not have a spirit of fear, but of love, power and a sound mind.” (2 Tim 1:7) The Spirit that is in us is the same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead. We all know this Bible verse in our heads, but do we have it in our hearts? If we have within us a deposit of the power of the God who created all things, we don’t want to just know this truth as a fact, but we want to experience it as an aspect of the breath that fills our tyres, the ruach that we are riding on. What did I experience today of the power that raised Jesus from the dead dwelling in me? When I prayed, did I just mumble the first thing that came into my head that matched the need I was considering, or did I wait for the Spirit of God to reveal His perspective and release His provision?  What interactions have I had with other people, in or outside the church, that Jesus may have wanted to touch supernaturally through the operation of a gift of the Holy spirit? Paul says to the Corinthians: “Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?” (2 Cor 13:5) Many of us in the church today could probably benefit from following the same injunction.

A sound mind

The word translated as “sound mind” is sophronismos. Sometimes translated as self-control or sobriety, it is more than that: it is actually an admonition to walk in full control of one’s faculties; to be disciplined. The full set of meanings listed in Strong’s concordance under the verb sophronizo are 1) restore one to his senses,” 2) “to moderate, control, curb, disciple,” 3) “to hold one to his duty,” and 4) “to admonish, to exhort earnestly.” Did you spot the word “disciple” tucked into the list? I don’t have an Amplified Bible translation to hand, but if we used the Strong’s definition of the original Greek for the noun translated as “self control,” or “a sound mind” to do our own amplified version, we could say that the Holy Spirit gives us “a restored mind that responds to an earnest exhortation to stay on course and not to wander out of control and go off track.” In other words, a renewed mind that responds to being discipled. Or quite simply, a discipled mind.

As well as filling us with God’s love and power, His fatherhood and His faithfulness, it is the Holy Spirit who disciples us. Jesus called Him the Counsellor or The Paraclete, the One who Comes Alongside. But it is up to us to keep our tyres pumped up.

Hold on at all times: the handlebars

“Giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love.” (2 Peter 1: 5-7)

We have all seen cyclists – usually young men or boys – cycle along without holding the handlebars. I remember when I was a boy and first learnt the skill. I also remember that, as a rule, it was only a skill I employed when I knew other people were watching…  But there are two circumstances that every cyclist riding “no hands” has in common: this particular skill can only be accomplished on as smooth terrain, generally a road or another paved surface; and it is not something that can realistically be attempted when cycling uphill. As Christians, we have left the paved surface of the road, and are heading up the mountain on a dirt track. If there is one thing we need to do, it is to keep hold of the handlebars.

There are many exhortations in the New Testament, whether from Jesus, Paul or any of the other writers, to persevere in our faith. Perhaps the most frequently quoted is from Pauls’ letter to the Philippians:

“Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Phil 3: 13-14)

The word translated as “diligence” in the introductory passage is spoude, which means earnestness, eagerness, being full-on, not just in the desire to accomplish something but in the energy and persistence applied to carrying it out. Elsewhere Peter writes be diligent to be found by Him in peace, without spot and blameless.” (2 Pe 3:14) Paul exhorts Timothy to be diligent in pursuing godliness “so that (his) progress may be seen by all,” (1 Tim 4:15), and to the Galatians he writes “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” (Gal 6:9). References to being committed and wholehearted are set like precious stones throughout Proverbs. The rewards held out by the Lord to the seven churches in the Book of Revelation are all for those who “endure.” And these references only scratch the surface of what is a very deep-veined theme running through the whole of Scripture. Diligence is the name written on our handlebars: if we don’t hold on, we will fall off.

At this point there might appear to be a tension between the fundamental truth that we are saved by Grace (the Cross of Christ) and not by works (staying on the bike) However there isn’t one. The bike itself is a gift from God. The desire to ride it and to stay on is a gift from God, just as faith itself is a gift from God (Eph. 2:8; 2 Peter 1:1). And Psalm 37:24 tells us: “Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down: for the Lord upholds him with His hand,” so even our ability to stay on the bike is by the Grace of God. The very words that are given to us by the Holy Spirit encouraging us to be diligent and to endure also give us the desire and the ability to carry them out. I think it can reasonably be said that those who to fall away are the ones who never really got on the bike in the first place – who confessed with their mouths that Jesus Christ is Lord, but never really believed it in their hearts. (Romans 10: 9) So if you, like me, are picking your bike off the ground and getting on again for the fiftieth time this week, don’t beat yourself up over it and call yourself a failure. The good news is, you never were a success in the first place! All of that glory belongs to the Lord. The fact that you are getting on your bike again is proof that you are, by the grace of God, being diligent.

So, holding onto the handlebars, we press on towards the goal of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. We carry on pedalling along the mountain track. Sometimes there are downhill stretches and easier sections, but the call is upward and the overall direction of the track is always to take us ultimately “further up and further in,” as Aslan says in the final book of the Chronicles of Narnia. And this leads us to the other essential function of the handelbars: they are what gives the bike direction. We don’t just hold on “with all diligence” in order to stay on the bike; we hold on to stay on the path. And we always look forward: looking back brings disaster. With our eyes fixed on Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith, we steer along His track to  the top of the mountain.

Being born again isn’t about boarding a train in this life and stepping onto Heaven’s platform in the next one: it’s about the slow process of growing to maturity in Christ as we consistently reveal to the watching world that He is the one who is keeping us on track. The higher up and further in we go, the closer to Him we get and the more like Him we become, so that “Many peoples will come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the temple of the God of Jacob. He will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths.” (Isaiah 2:3)

The Mountain of God is the Mountain of His presence, where Love rules and His Glory dwells. It’s where He met with Moses and gave the Old Covenant to His people, and it’s where He meets with us to lead us forward by His Spirit today. There is one simple test that will tell us if we are on our bikes or completely off track, and it’s the question I referred to in the chapter on the pedals: are we learning to love? Jesus has individualised lessons for each one of us, and they will all be somewhere along the route that Peter maps out in the scripture that opens this section. But learn them we must if we are to progress up the mountain, because

They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea. (Isaiah 11:9)

This is where our direction must be set. We can keep moving, with both wheels on the ground, our feet on the pedals and our hands close to the brakes, gripping the handlebars tightly. But whenever we hurt or destroy we’ve lost our way.

Pedal Power: Compelled by Love

“Let everything you do be done in love” (1 Cor 16:14)

One of my grandchildren, who is not yet three, has a balance bike. It is a toddler’s bike without pedals, on which she takes her first steps in learning to keep her balance before graduating to a “proper” bicycle. She can’t go far on it, but she is learning the first principles of riding a bike.

For us, the pedals of discipleship are love. The heart of Christ is the love of the Father, who sent Jesus into the world to pay the price for our sin so that we could spend eternity with Him. Sometimes I forget that God didn’t give me eternal life just so that I can have a blissful time in Heaven when my life on this earth is over, but so that I can spend eternity with Him, as He will spend eternity with all of His children. I cannot be a disciple of Jesus unless I carry His love, the love of the Father, in my heart. Unless I do, I have no power to move forward on the path.

I write a lot about the gifts and the power of the Holy Spirit, but we must always see that power as an expression of God’s love. He heals, makes whole, and delivers because He has compassion on our pain, our  brokenness and bondage. He speaks prophetically into our lives because He wants us to see that He has a plan and a purpose for our lives, to give us a hope and a future (Jer 29:11). He brings revelation through words of knowledge and words of wisdom because He knows we cannot see the way or the truth for ourselves. He gives us the gift of tongues because He loves to see the edification that comes to His children from that connection between His Spirit within us and our own. He gives us faith for miracles because He loves to see us reaching into His abundance and believing that He is who He says He is, and will do all that He has promised to do. But He makes it clear (1 Cor 13) that all of these gifts are worthless without Love. It’s a love that serves without pride, seeks only to bless and to give, and thinks only of the well-being of others, even those whom we consider our enemies. It’s the love that has died to the flesh. Prophesy, faith, miracles, tongues, all the supernatural manifestations of the life of the Holy Spirit within us, are absolutely worthless unless they are delivered and expressed from its heart.

God has already seated us in heavenly places in Christ, and it is His good pleasure to give us the Kingdom. In Him we have everything we need as we move along His paths to bring His Kingdom to others, but it is only love that matures us, and it is only love that can take us forward. The late Bob Jones, who was a senior prophet with a ministry attested by many miraculous signs, died (for the first time – he died finally in 2014) and went to heaven in 1975. He saw a line of people on what looked like a conveyor belt on their way to eternal darkness, and a very much smaller line, the one that he was part of, walking towards Jesus. The Lord asked each person just one question, and it was the same question every time. It was this: “Did you learn to love?”

Are we learning to love? Without love we have no pedals, and we are no more than toddlers on a balance bike.

“For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died; and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again. Therefore, from now on, we regard no one according to the flesh.”(2 Cor 5: 14-16)

Next: the brakes.

Love your neighbour as Yourself (and more…)

Love your neighbour as you love yourself…

We were considering what we had learned individually during lockdown and the various journeys it has brought, when the Holy Spirit prompted the question “How much do we love ourselves? Because if we don’t love ourselves much, we can’t love our neighbour much either.”

When we asked Him what He meant, I felt He gave an answer. I’ll put it into the First Person, although it wasn’t received as a direct prophesy, more an unfolding revelation of how, and why, we can – and indeed should – love ourselves. God would say something like this (some of it is in psalm 139):

“You can love yourself because I created you in my image, and you are fearfully and wonderfully made. I knew you before you were formed in the womb, and what I saw was beautiful. Although sin and the powers of darkness have damaged you in the flesh, I have lifted you out of the miry clay and you are seated in glory with my Son in the Spirit. Through Him I see the perfection I put into you. I want you to see, and love, what I see: holiness, light, truth, and life. I am not asking you to love what is dead in you, which is your body if sin and death; but what is alive in you: the uniqueness and beauty which I created and which my Son has redeemed. This you can love, and when you do you can reach out to your neighbours with the love for all that I have created and purposed for them as well.”

If we will let the wind of the Spirit blow the ashes off our coals (see “Where is your fire?”), we can see, and love, what God has put into us and what He has created us for, and burst into flame again. Marion reminded us that repentance precedes revival. Let’s repent of letting dead ashes cover our glowing hearts, in the words of the David Ruiz song from the 1994 Toronto revival: “Come, sweet wind, come and blow over me!”

In various ways and through different journeys, we have all felt that God has been drawing us closer to Him so that His character can be more formed in us, and so that we can hear His word more clearly, whenever He wants to speak to us – not just in the parts of the day that we have set aside for Him. Our hearts need to be the good ground where His seed can take root and multiply, as we heard through the preaching recently. But for that to happen, we have to allow the gardener to pull up the weeds that grow all to easily.

A key question is this: what is GOD’s call on our time? If the devil can’t tempt us with worldly distractions, he will try and weigh us down with seemingly good, spiritual ones so that we end up burdened with a lot of fruitless running around and “hard” praying that is not Spirit led and just causes weds to grow in the good soil. We are exhorted not just to pray at all times, but to pray “in the Spirit” at all times. (Eph 6:18)  Muyiwa put it so succinctly: if we aren’t praying in the Spirit we are just “worrying on our knees.”

In this context we talked a little about Elisha and the Shunammite woman: we need to “shut the door” on what is troubling us and seek Jesus; not try and break through the cloud of troubles and fears by praying harder than them! (See John 14:1) Sometimes a fear we need to leave behind is actually the fear of our prayers not being answered. When the presence of the Lord is real, this fear evaporates. But every situation has a different prayer, and this only comes from the presence of God and not from a formula we have learned or a habit we have formed. So to pray in the Spirit at all times, we need to be filled with the Spirit at all times, and walking with Him at all times, not just in our quiet times.

Shalom!