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Love fills man’s deepest need according to the Bible. And this is a radical idea in a consumer culture that screams at us to live for overachievement in order to attain status and purchasing power. Sensual appetites should be king our world tells us. Prominence and importance in the pecking order make one significant. So we compete and pit ourselves against each other. Enter Jesus to show us a wholly opposite way – the way of self-denial and laying our lives down for others which leads to the rich experience of God’s love within and through us. It is this heavenly way of love known as the way of the cross that we will explore. Definition of Love What exactly is love? The dictionary defines it several ways: (1) strong affection for another arising out of kinship or personal ties (2) the affection and tenderness felt by lovers (3) affection based on admiration, benevolence, or common interests (4) warm attachment, enthusiasm or devotion and (5) unselfish loyal and benevolent concern for the good of another (a) the fatherly concern of God for humankind (b) brotherly concern for others.1 It is love in its unselfish and unconditional dimensions that we will look at. How does the Bible define love? The love that the Bible describes is so much of divine nature and origin that the New Testament writers had to coin a new word to capture it: agape. Agape is not found in classical Greek but only in the Christian revelation. Zodhiates in his Keyword Study Bible says of agape love, “It is that self-giving divine love which emanates from God and is to be seen reflected in believers.”2 The King James translates it charity meaning benevolent love or love that wills the good of its recipient. Zodhiates’ lexicon adds, “Its benevolence, however, is not shown by doing what the person loved desires but what the one who loves deems as needed by the one loved.”3 John 3:16 sums up the picture of God’s love: “For God so greatly loved and dearly prized the world that He [even] gave up His only begotten (unique) Son, so that whoever believes in (trusts in, clings to, relies on) Him shall not perish (come to destruction, be lost) but have eternal (everlasting) life.”4 Zodhiates adds, “What did He give? Not what man wanted but what man needed as God perceived His need. His Son to bring forgiveness to man. God’s love for man is God doing what He thinks best for man and not what he desires. It is God’s willful direction toward man. But for man to show love to God, he must first appropriate God’s agape, for only God has such an unselfish love.”5 And we might add as we look at love in God’s Word that it is only as we appropriate agape that we can truly love one another on an unselfish plane. When we love each other with agape love, we further experience a kinship or familial love (phileo in Greek) because of this common spiritual bond. Thus a supernatural brotherhood is born. We see how foreign this nature in I Corinthians envious, never boastful not demand its own way. love is to the natural human heart as we read about its 13: “Love is very patient and kind, never jealous or nor proud, never haughty nor selfish nor rude. Love does It is not irritable or touchy. It does not hold grudges
and will hardly even notice when others do it wrong. It is never glad about injustice, but rejoices whenever truth wins out. If you love someone you will be loyal to him no matter what the cost. You will believe in him, always expect the best of him, and always stand your ground in defending him.”6 The Amplified translation adds the helpful phrase “God’s love in us” to clarify how all these traits are actually lived out. Absolute Necessity of Love Love is so much the whole thing that God is after that the Holy Spirit speaking through Paul goes on to say, “If I had the gift of being able to speak in other languages without learning them, and could speak in every language there is in all of heaven and earth, but didn’t love others, I would only be making noise. If I had the gift of prophecy and knew all about what is going to happen in the future, knew everything about everything, but didn’t love others, what good would it do? Even if I had the gift of faith so that I could speak to a mountain and make it move, I would still be worth nothing at all without love. If I gave everything I have to poor people, and if I were burned alive for preaching the Gospel but didn’t love others, it would be of no value whatever.”7 Love is the sine qua non of the Christian life. To understand something further about the absolute necessity of a radical practice of love, it is helpful to look at how the Father has set up the situation with forgiveness. God has so arranged it that withholding forgiveness when we have been wronged is not an option. Though it may be very hard to forgive, if we hold back, God Himself will not release us from our many debts against Him. Matthew 6:14-15 states unequivocally, “Your heavenly Father will forgive you if you forgive those who sin against you, but if you refuse to forgive them, He will not forgive you.” 8 God’s love for us is unchanging. We can bank on the truth that He never withholds His love. “God is love.”9 God even loved us before we ever entered into a relationship with Him as Romans 5:8 testifies: “But God…clearly proves His [own] love for us by the fact that while we were still sinners, Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed One) died for us.”10 Nonetheless T. Austin-Sparks writing in His Great Love makes the case that in a sense a similar relationship holds true for love. Our experience of God’s love is choked when we say no to giving love to others. Austin-Sparks pens this primary truth about love such that we really see it: “…if you should have reservation of love toward another child or other children of God, some attitude of criticism, suspicion, or prejudice, within you something dies or seems to die. Your joy goes, you feel something has gone wrong, and within you there is a sense of grief….But in this case it is not you at all who is grieving over that unlove, but there is Someone within you who is grieving: there is a sob at the center of your being.”11 He names the Holy Spirit by His nature, “The Spirit is…pre-eminently the Spirit of Divine love, and as such He is very sensitive and easily grieved. ‘Grieve not the Holy Spirit of God’ is the exhortation.”12 What is the Spirit’s response to a believer’s blocked heart? “When we grieve that love, we know that in us the Spirit says, ‘I cannot go on in happy fellowship with you, I am grieved, I am pained.’”13 Thus Austin-Sparks instructs us, “We need to be made sensitive to the Spirit of love so that our lips and hearts are purged by the fire of love, and so that it is not easy for us to be superior and pass superior judgments and to be of a criticizing and suspicious spirit. We shall never get anywhere with God if there is anything like that.”14 The cost of a blocked heart is pronounced. It shuts down the very life flow from the indwelling Holy Spirit. Fruit is ruined. T. Austin-Sparks declares the consequences thus, “Paul said ‘The fruit of the Spirit is – love’ and then he went on to tell…what love is – ‘joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, meekness, self-control.’ Kill love and you kill all the rest; injure
love and you injure all the rest. You cannot have all the others, without…-love.”15 And the blocked heart cuts off communication with the Godhead. Sparks says, “We shall never be able to... pray through…(be) led…into the presence of God, and take right hold on Him, and get a situation established by prayer…unless this basic relationship with God is established, expressing itself in love for all those whom He loves, no matter what they are. Prayer life will be interfered with, and the Word of God will be closed to us. The Lord will not go on if the foundation is hurt.”16 The love walk is not some advanced stage of spiritual attainment but it is the very measure of all growth in God. It is the measure of our yieldedness to the Holy Spirit’s promptings commanded in Romans 6:13, “But offer and yield yourselves to God…as implements of righteousness.”17 The Living Bible employs the phrase “tools in the hands of God”18 for this same verse. The promised living water of John 14 flowing continually from one’s belly or inmost man is a flow of love. And the promise is if we let it flow we will never thirst; we will be carried into eternal life by it. Austin-Sparks words give insight, “’We love, because He first loved us.’ The challenge is there. The measure of my love for others is the measure of my apprehension of God’s love for me....It is herein that we know the love of God, in that we love the brethren. There is the test of our apprehension, the test of our relationship, and it is the basis of everything for the child of God.”19 T. Austin-Sparks continues with his case that all growth is growth in love: “If I am going to grow spiritually, I shall only do so on the basis of love. I shall never grow because I get a lot more teaching. You do not grow by teaching. That is the tragedy of attending conferences – that you may attend them for years and years and still be of the same measure afterward, and never grow: still making no greater contribution to the measure of Christ in the church, still not counting any more than you did years ago in the spiritual battle.”20 Love must inform ministry. “…Nothing of usefulness to the Lord is possible except on the basis of God’s love shed abroad in our hearts. It must be this Holy Ghost love for the people to whom we would minister: love for them even to the laying down of our lives for them, suffering unto death for their sakes: love to the point of being brokenhearted …over people for whom you have spiritual concern and in whom you have spiritual interest; love like that. No ministry will be ministry to the Lord that is not born of that; no testimony, no life, except as rooted and grounded in the love of God. You can have all the rest, a mass of Bible knowledge, a wealth of Biblical instruction and doctrinal information... but it is all without any value unless its exercise is in a love, a passion, a heart beating with the heart of God for His great love wherewith He loved us.”21 So we now understand Paul’s words to the Corinthians, “Eagerly pursue and seek to acquire [this] love [make it your aim, your great quest]”22 All That Hinges on Love We have seen the necessity of love and that love is the measure of all progress in Christ. We now turn to the many dimensions of the Christian life that hinge on growth in love. It’s as we love that we come to know God experientially. Colossians 1:10 correlates our acts of love with our knowledge of God, “That the way you live will always please the Lord and honor Him, that you will always be doing good, kind things for others, all the time learning to know God better and better.”23 It’s seen as well in 2:2, “That you will be encouraged and knit together by strong ties of love, and that you will have the rich experience of knowing Christ with real certainty and clear understanding.”24 John wrote of this truth, too. “Dear friends, let us practice loving each other, for love comes from God and those who
are loving and kind show that they are the children of God, and that they are getting to know Him better....for God is love.”25 It can even be said that releasing love to others is a key to actually loving and being loved by God. John, who so stayed close to Jesus’ heart, said, “But those who do what Christ tells them to will learn to love God more and more. That is the way to know whether or not you are a Christian.”26 God, in His predominant desire that His life flow out from us, openly infuses us with the Spirit when we fully act as conduits. According to John, “For though we have never yet seen God, when we love each other God lives in us and His love within us grows ever stronger.”27 God knows that in this release we will experience the fulfillment we were designed for. The Amplified Bible in Ephesians 3:16-19 pictures the fullness of indwelling love that is readily possible upon the embrace of a life given to love actions: “May He grant you out of the rich treasury of His glory to be strengthened and reinforced with mighty power in the inner man by the [Holy] Spirit [Himself indwelling your innermost being and personality]. May Christ through your faith [actually] dwell (settle down, abide, make His permanent home) in your hearts! May you be rooted deep in love and founded securely on love, that you may have the power and be strong to apprehend and grasp with all the saints [God’s devoted people, the experience of that love] what is the breadth and length and height and depth [of it]; [That you may really come to know [practically, through experience for yourselves] the love of Christ, which far surpasses mere knowledge [without experience]; that you may be filled [through all your being] unto all the fullness of God [may have the richest measure of the divine Presence, and become a body wholly filled and flooded with God Himself]!”28 Another truth is that growing in love brings increase in spiritual knowledge and insight. Development in love is the doorway into the mysteries of God. Gwen Shaw in her Love The Law of the Angels writes, “Love is the key to the deep secrets of God.”29 Hebrews 5:14 expresses this truth, “You will never be able to eat solid spiritual food and understand the deeper things of God’s Word until you become better Christians and learn right from wrong by practicing doing right.”30 The Amplified Bible describes those practiced in love as “those whose senses and mental faculties are trained by practice to discriminate between what is morally good and noble and what is evil and contrary either to divine or human law.”31 Jesus’ words to His disciples also teach this, “Oh, there is so much more I want to tell you, but you can’t understand it now.”32 “Their minds were unable to receive them (the deeper truths). It was not because they had a limited education, but because they were unable to receive the deep things of God which are only understood by deep love. A deep love will unveil the mysteries of God to you, and you will…understand…in a flash things that you did not see in many years of Christian living. As we yield ourselves to God, He will pour His heart’s love into our hearts and in that love will be the fullness of the revelation of God for mankind.”33 So states Shaw. And this truth caused Paul to declare, “My prayer for you is that you will overflow more and more with love for others, and at the same time keep on growing in spiritual knowledge and insight, for I want you always to see clearly the difference between right and wrong, and to be inwardly clean….”34 As we members of Christ’s Body grow in love for one another, the church will arise fully alive in God. The Living Bible puts it succinctly, “what we really need to build the church is love.”35 And in Ephesians 4:16 the building up of the Body of Christ, the church, is again stated as being based on love, “From whom the whole Body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the Body unto the edifying of itself in love.”36 To edify is to instruct or improve especially in moral knowledge. The love of the early church was so marked by love that its unity was noteworthy.
Acts 4:32 describes the scene this way, “Now the company of believers was of one heart and soul, and not one of them claimed that anything which he possessed was [exclusively] his own, but everything they had was in common and for the use of all.”37 In Philippians 2:2 and Colossians 3:14 Paul appealed for a great love knowing that a Body life surging in the Holy Spirit would result. He requests in 2:2, “Make me truly happy by loving each other and agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, working together with one heart and mind and purpose.”38 In 3:14 the apostle emphasizes, “Most of all let love guide your life for then the whole church will stay together in perfect harmony.”39 And Colossians 1:8 mentions “the great love for others which the Holy Spirit has given you.”40 The first believers sowed love and reaped unity. Without love the precious life they shared could disintegrate. Paul warned them, and we must stand warned, “But if you bite and devour one another, be careful that you are not consumed by one another.”41 Love being so critical to the bonds the first Christians shared, Paul schooled them in it. He wrote, “All we need is faith… expressed and working through love.”42 In other words, radical dependence on the Godhead or faith would keep them free from sin’s desire to dominate them and keep their love flowing. Paul noted of the Galatians, “For dear brothers, you have been given freedom to love and serve each other.”43 God wants an intense and increasing love among us. Peter pictured a functional family experience for the church. “And now this word to each of you: be as one big family, full of sympathy towards each other; full of love for one another with tender hearts and humble minds….Most important of all, continue to show deep love for each other, for love makes up for many of your faults.”44 The Amplified says, “have intense and unfailing love for one another for love covers a multitude of sins [forgives and disregards the offenses of others].”45 In I Peter 1, Kenneth Wuest translates the language powerfully: “from the heart love each other with an intense reciprocal love that springs from your hearts because of your estimation of the preciousness of the brethren, and which is divinely self-sacrificial in its essence….”46 The Thessalonians were marked by such a strong love. Their secret: they listened and responded to God’s tutoring. “But what of the pure brotherly love there is among God’s people? ...For God Himself is teaching you to love one another. Indeed, your love is strong for all the brethren throughout your whole nation. Even so, dear friends, we beg you to love them more and more.”47 Here phileo love resulted from allowing agape love. There are further dimensions of love taught in the New Testament writings. Flowing in God’s love heals spiritual blindness and deafness. God is working to restore our spiritual senses so that we might be enlightened as to truth and find Jesus as our only Way. And God wants us to hear Him and declare His thoughts in inspired utterance (prophecy). We see in I John 2:8 that love is a key to light: “As we obey this commandment to love one another, the darkness in our lives disappears and the new light of life in Christ shines in.”48 The Amplified Bible adds, “because the darkness (moral blindness) is clearing away and the true Light (the revelation of God in Christ) is already shining.”49 John explains in verses 10-11, “But whoever loves his brother Christian is ‘walking in the light’ and can see his way without stumbling around in darkness and sin. For he who dislikes his brother is wandering in spiritual darkness and doesn’t know where he is going, for the darkness has made him blind so that he cannot see the way.”50 Regarding hearing, we hear the Teacher, the Holy Spirit, as our hearts are trued by love. The Word remains alive to us. And we stay receptive to His thoughts. In contrast, “[the scribes] failed to hear because they failed in their love for the Father. Their motive for studying the Scriptures was more out of love for themselves, personal pride in their accomplishment....It was a great virtue for them to be recognized as scholars of the Scriptures. They wanted to have a “big name.”…It is only in walking in His footsteps that we know Him, and we cannot walk in His footsteps,
unless we love Him....”51 As Hosea penned it, “Then shall we know, if we follow on to know the Lord.”52 And as we’ve noted, we increasingly realize this knowledge of God and love for God as we love others. Love is so central that God says it is a litmus test of our position before Him. John’s first letter holds, “If we love other Christians it proves that we have been delivered from hell and given eternal life in heaven. But a person who doesn’t have love for others is headed for eternal death. Anyone who hates his Christian brother is really a murderer at heart; and you know that no one wanting to murder has eternal life within.”53 Love for our Christian brethren is also a test of our love for God. John explains, “So you see, our love for Him comes as a result of His loving us first. If anyone says, “I love God,” but keeps on hating his brother, he is a liar; for if he doesn’t love his brother who is right there in front of him how can he love God Whom he has never seen? And God Himself has said that one must not only love God, but his brother too. If you believe that Jesus is the Christ – that He is God’s Son and your Savior – then you are a child of God. And all who love the Father love His children too. So you can find out how much you love God’s children – your brothers and sisters in the Lord – by how much you love and obey God. Loving God means doing what He tells us to….”54 “And He has told us from the very first to love each other.”55 Thus we see how connected the two greatest commandments are. Jesus and John hang everything on love. (See Matthew 22:37, 39.)56 We must daily ask the Spirit to search our hearts that we not obstruct the required outflow of God’s love. Love keeps our consciences clear. I John 3:18-19 and 3:21-24 confirms this: “Little children, let us stop just saying we love people; let us really love them, and show it by our actions. Then we will know for sure, by our actions, that we are on God’s side and our consciences will be clear, even when we stand before the Lord. …But, dearly loved friends, if our consciences are clear, we can come to the Lord with perfect assurance and trust, and get whatever we ask for because we are obeying Him and doing the things which please Him well. And this is what God says we must do: believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ, and love one another. Those who do what God says—they are living with God and He with them. We know this is true because the Holy Spirit He has given us tells us so.”57 Dependence on our source, the Spirit, comes first and then its outworking in the society of believers. In 2 Thessalonians1:3 we see that growth in faith is related to growth in love. Paul cites thankfulness for “…the really wonderful way your faith has grown, and… your growing love for each other.”58 Because the presence of agape love equals the presence of God, the reality of the indwelling Christ in and among them expressed in kinship love continually reminded them that God’s kingdom had come to them. Thus their faith was bolstered by a tangible actuality – a love not found in the world. Paul encouraged this same love that would strengthen faith in his first epistle to Timothy. “What I am eager for is that all the Christians there will be filled with love that comes from pure hearts, and that their minds will be clean and their faith strong.”59 We, too, can more easily dare to believe for things yet unseen as our hearts are revived in God’s love. Love actually strengthens the Christian’s heart. Ephesians 3:16 refers to “might in the inner man by the Holy Spirit indwelling the …personality.”60 Paul wrote to the Thessalonians: “And may the Lord make your love to grow and overflow to each other and everyone else, just as our love does to you. This will result in your hearts being made strong, sinless and holy by God our Father….”61 This increasing inner might brings freedom from insecurity and produces bold witnesses for Christ. “For the Lord does not want you to be afraid of people, but to be wise and strong, and to love them and enjoy being with them. If you will stir up this inner power, you will never be afraid to tell others about our Lord.”62 We can know that the
people God has put in our lives need our love and our light. We can be confident as we operate in “the ministry of reconciliation”63 through love. Moreover maturing in the knowledge of and experience of God’s love delivers us from all fear. This promise is stated in I John 4:16-18: “We know how much God loves us because we have felt His love and because we believe Him when He tells us that He loves us dearly. God is love, and anyone who lives in love is living with God and God is living in him. And as we live with Christ, our love grows more perfect and complete; and so we will not be ashamed and embarrassed at the day of judgment, but can face Him with confidence and joy, because He loves us and we love Him too. We need have no fear of Someone Who loves us perfectly; His perfect love for us eliminates all dread of what He might do to us. If we are afraid, it is for fear of what He might do to us, and shows that we are not fully convinced that He really loves us.”64 The Amplified Bible is even more emphatic: “There is no fear in love [dread does not exist], but full-grown (complete, perfect) love turns fear out of doors and expels every trace of terror.”65 We see also from these verses that guarding our hearts against unbelief is a necessary component to living free from fear. We must remember that faith is not to be feeling-based. Rather it is an act of the will. Though faith is strengthened when our hearts are moved by preaching of the Word, ultimately it is a choice or decision. (See Romans 10:17.) Even when we feel doubtful we can believe. It is true, however, that staying centered in the experience of God’s love, what I call “walking in the embrace of the Trinity,” wards against unbelief and keeps one conscious of unseen spiritual realities and the higher truths that trump mere facts. Note also the important truth that the Godhead and to other people we forces. I Thessalonians 5:8 speaks The enemy of our souls can’t get a when we walk grounded in a flow of love from are protected against the adversary and his of “putting on the armor of faith and love.”66 foothold insofar as we walk in love.
God so much has our ultimate blessedness in view that He warns us not to love the wrong things. John pleads, “Stop loving this evil world and all that it offers you, for when you love these things you show that you do not really love God; For all these worldly things, these evil desires – the craze for sex, the ambition to buy everything that appeals to you and the pride that comes from wealth and importance – these are not from God. They are from this evil world itself. And this world is fading away, and these evil, forbidden things will go with it, but whoever keeps doing the will of God will remain forever.”67 God wants us aiming higher. He has heavenly experiences for us even here on earth. And He designed us such that we are only fully alive as we abide in His love and allow it to flow unblocked. Gwen Shaw writes, “As we grow into love we come into a state of maturity and perfection that will resemble the heavenly state.”68 Hebrews’ author writes, “And we are anxious that you keep right on loving others as long as life lasts, so that you will get your full reward. Then…you won’t become bored with being a Christian, nor become spiritually dull and indifferent….”69 The love walk results in a transcendent life and a heart fascinated with God. Finally, Colossians 1:27 tells us this secret: “that Christ in your hearts is your only hope of glory.”70 Gwen Shaw says it another way, “the key of our perfection is LOVE.”71 We must ever keep in view our end: “All shall be raised in different degrees of Glory, according to the degrees of love and righteousness that we lived in while we lived in our mortal body.”72 (See 1 Cor. 15:41-42). The Practice of Love The Bible says that we actually owe love to one another. It is an “ought to” or moral obligation. Love is a debt we can pay because (1) the Father has demonstrated His love to us in Christ’s atoning sacrifice and (2) Christ now
indwells our very beings as source and supply of love. What is impossible for natural men is very possible for regenerated, new creatures in Christ. John grounds our practice of love in the love of God: “God showed how much He loved us by sending His only Son down from heaven to bring us eternal life through His death. So now we know what real love is: it is not our love for God, but His love for us when He sent His Son to satisfy God’s anger against our sins. Dear friends, since God loved us as much as that, we surely ought to love each other too.”73 And Paul’s words in Romans also highlight love as a debt: “…the debt of love for others; never finish paying that! For if you love others you will be obeying all of God’s laws, fulfilling all His requirements. If you love your neighbor as much as you love yourself you will not want to harm or cheat him, or kill him [including with your thoughts and words - my emendation] or steal from him. And you won’t sin with his wife or want what is his, or do anything else the Ten Commandments say are wrong. All ten are wrapped up in this one, to love your neighbor as you love yourself. Love does no wrong to anyone. That’s why it fully satisfies all of God’s requirements. It is the only law you need.”74 How do we practice love? And how do we tap the Christ within so that we are able to love the difficult and irksome ones? The call is even to extend love to those who have abused us – our enemies. First we must function in a higher framework. Hannah Whitall Smith in her classic The Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life said, “The human beings around us are often the bottles that hold our medicine prescribed and given to us by the Great Physician of our souls to heal our spiritual diseases.”75 Graham Cooke in his book Approaching the Heart of Prophecy also points us to this higher plane: “It’s not easy to love everyone, but it is the call on every prophet’s life. To test us in this, God deliberately puts people around us who are meant to be loved by us. Often we will have to be very creative to love them; some of them, by design, are not easy to love. But those unlovable ones, ironically, teach us the most about God’s heart. I call people like these grace growers. They cultivate the grace in my life by forcing me to be intentional about loving them.”76 Cooke continues, “God puts these people in our lives to teach us about being Christlike….We all have difficult people around us, but they are going to teach us experientially how to discover and explore the love of God. It will kill us to love some of them; such struggle cracks open our heart to the Holy Spirit. God wants us to look at His children with the same love He feels. The harder they are to love, the more God will pour Himself out on us to accomplish that action. What a mystery this is! The very people we find the hardest to get along with can bring us the closest to Christ.”77 We must know God’s ways and perceive His hand in relational struggles. We must understand that God orchestrates things such that we must die to our natural reactions and draw on His supernatural grace in order to love. Death works life is the Scriptural principle. (See Galatians 2:20.) Secondly, to stay unblocked we must forgive continually all day long. When God is our Need-Meeter we can absolve others. We must look to Father, Son, and Spirit to hold us close, fill us, and satisfy our hearts. Then we have real riches or spiritual resources to draw from. It’s like this, “When you forgive, you release into God’s hands the person who has offended you. You drop the offense, let it go, and give up your right to hurt the person who hurt you. Then you become a candidate for the supernatural, the peace of God that passes all understanding guards your mind, and God Himself, in His own time and in His own way, vindicates you.”78 It helps to speak aloud until you sense that you are free and clear in your spirit, “I acquit, forgive, and release [the person] to the Lord.” In the hardest cases, such as living around verbal abusers, you can keep walls down and retaliation at bay by repeating under your breath, “I forgive, I forgive, I forgive….” Forgiveness mode must become our default mode. What we picture also has a governing effect on our behavior toward others. Step
one is to erase negative images by “casting down imaginations and every high thing that exalts itself against the true knowledge of God.”79 Then employ your imagination to see the hard people in your world as fully changed in Christ. Jesus has promised that “He will bring His work to full completion.”80 We can by faith include pre-Christians in this. Stay mentally in the not yet; abide in the realm of faith. The Bible calls it “walking by faith and not by sight.”81 Our love must be based on practicing the presence of God and continuously drawing on His grace. We can never love with Christian love in our own strength. Because Christ dwells within, we can ask Him to give us His heart and mind regarding others. We can even walk yielded to the emotions of God. Ever greater union with God facilitates greater appropriation and release of His love nature. Another discipline essential to operating in overcoming love is ingesting the Word. 2 Tim. 3:16-17 states that “The whole Bible…straightens us out….It fully equips us to do good to everyone.”82 And David declared, “Your word I have hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against you.”83 Whatever we need is in the Word. When we perceive an area in which we are failing the love tests God brings, we can be intentional in our feeding on it. For example if impatience creeps in, we can store promises such as, “In your patience possess ye your souls,”84 “Let patience have her perfect work,”85 and “I run with patience the race that is set before me.”86 Then the Holy Spirit has something to work with and can whisper the living Word to us when we face times of God’s testing. Right at the threshold of our thought-life we can take our natural, carnal thoughts “captive to the obedience of Christ”87 and choose to think and act on the truths that keep us free. We can as well purposefully think thoughts of love and goodwill. Gwen Shaw notes that people can sense each other’s “invisible vibrations.”88 When in ourselves we feel no love, we can think and confess, “I allow God’s love to flow to him or her” and draw on the living water that we know we have by promise. This practice stays any negative drift in our interior life. Hannah Hurnard said in Winged Life, “Change your thoughts about that difficult, exasperating, cranky or hardhearted person with whom you must live or work, and you are well on the way to helping them to a complete change too, without any need to buttonhole or tackle them. Love them in your thoughts and express that love, and in nine cases out of ten, when they are in your presence they will begin to be new people. You will have the effect upon them that people have on you when you know they love you.”89 She understood clearly the importance of our thought life. To counter our own resistance to selflessness, we can steer our wills with our mouths by saying: “I will love the unlovely.” Such “I will” confessions actually train the will to follow after Christ. And finally, one of the greatest ways we release love is by praying and entering into spiritual battle for others. Instead of condemning or judging a person in bondage, we can act as deliverer. We have the power to tear down strongholds in people through prayer. We also can use the keys of binding and loosing given us by Jesus. Matthew 16:19 quotes Christ, “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever you bind (declare to be improper and unlawful) on earth must be what is already bound in heaven; and whatever you loose (declare lawful) on earth must be what is already loosed in heaven.”90 Every time we see a brother’s darkened countenance or sense the adversary’s hold on someone, we can exercise this power. We should pray until we sense that they are free and clear. How love would flow in the Body if we all backed one another in this way. Finis To love others is to “fulfill the royal law.”91 Though its practice takes effort and energy in that we must conquer ourselves and overcome faults in others, we do
not walk the love walk alone. We walk it leaning on Jesus Christ, the Lover of our souls. He provides everything we need to learn to love as He does – “the riches of His free grace.”92 To walk in God’s kingdom ways is to grow in being loved and loving. We were designed to make love our “great quest.”93 We cannot function much less thrive without it. In its exercise is a foretaste of heaven on earth. Love, as found only in the Godhead, must mark us. Jesus said, “Love each other just as much as I love you. Your strong love for each other will prove to the world that you are My disciples.”94 Postscript As I, myself, have been in the Lord’s “love school” learning to walk at ever higher levels in the truths penned herein, I have noticed some significant changes in my communion with the Father, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit and in my fellowship with my brothers and sisters in the Body. God’s presence is more immediate and more intense. I’m feeling His embrace more. That He is right here with me is not just something by faith but I’m moving into a higher reality in Him. Ascent is occurring. I’m hearing His still, small voice more clearly; His direction is surer. Intentionally releasing love to all others is awakening greater passion for the Godhead in me. Greater trust is ensuing thus releasing me to greater abandonment to the Lord. And the Spirit is opening up the treasures stored in the Word. John wrote, “God is Light, and in Him is no darkness at all...But if we are living in the Light of God’s presence, just as Christ does, then we have wonderful fellowship and joy with each other… and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from every sin.”95 Mike Bickle, lead teacher at the International House of Prayer in Kansas City, puts it this way, “it takes light for the human spirit to connect.”96 The love walk is life in the light. I have learned to instruct myself before every gathering to “take the low place, serve, and wash feet.” Then I let the Holy Spirit order my steps and my conversations. I let Him coach me. Much richer relationships are resulting. My heart is growing more sensitive, and I am definitely connecting more deeply both with God and my Christian brothers and sisters. I’m coming to know different expressions of the ultimate love we all long for. Be spurred on. Love in Christ, Katherine
1Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary Eleventh Edition (Springfield, Mass.: Merriam-Webster, Inc., 2007), p. 737. 2Hebrew-Greek Key Word Study Bible, ed. Spiros Zodhiates (Chattanooga, TN: AMG, 1990), p. 1524. 3Zodhiates, p. 1796. 4The Amplified Bible, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1987), John 3:16. 5Zodhiates, p. 1796. 6The Living Bible, (Wheaton: Tyndale House, 1971), I Corinthians 13:4-6. 7The Living Bible, I Corinthians 13:1-3. 8The Living Bible, Matthew 6:14-15. 9The Living Bible, 1 John 4:8. 10The Amplified Bible, Romans 5:8. 11T. Austin-Sparks, His Great Love (Tulsa: Emmanuel Church), p. 41. 12Austin-Sparks, p. 42. 13Austin-Sparks, p. 42. 14Austin-Sparks, p. 43. 15Austin-Sparks, p. 42. 16Austin-Sparks, p. 43. 17The Amplified Bible, Romans 6:13. 18The Living Bible, Romans 6:13. 19Austin-Sparks, p. 44. 20Austin-Sparks, p. 45. 21Austin-Sparks, pp. 47-48. 22The Amplified Bible, I Corinthians 14:1. 23The Living Bible, Colossians 1:10. 24The Living Bible, Colossians 2:2. 25The Living Bible, I John 4:7. 26The Living Bible, 1 John 2:5. 27The Living Bible, I John 4:12. 28The Amplified Bible, Ephesians 3:16-19. 29Gwen Shaw, Love The Law of the Angels (Jasper, Arkansas: End-Time Handmaidens, 1979), p. 62. 30The Living Bible, Hebrews 5:14. 31The Amplified Bible, Hebrews 5:14. 32The Living Bible, John 16:12. 33Shaw, p. 62. 34The Living Bible, Philippians 1:9-10. 35The Living Bible, I Corinthians 8:1. 36King James Version Study Bible, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2002), Ephesians 4:16.
37The Amplified Bible, Acts 4:32. 38The Living Bible, Philippians 2:2. 39The Living Bible, Colossians 3:14. 40The Living Bible, Colossians 1:8. 41The Living Bible, Galatians 5:15. 42The Amplified Bible; The Living Bible, Galatians 5:6. 43The Living Bible, Galatians 5:13. 44The Living Bible, I Peter 3:8; 4:8. 45The Amplified Bible, I Peter 4:8. 46The New Testament An Expanded Translation, trans. Kenneth S. Wuest, (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1961), I Peter 1. 47The Living Bible, I Thessalonians 4:9-10. 48The Living Bible, I John 2:8. 49The Amplified Bible, I John 2:8. 50The Living Bible, I John 2:10-11. 51Shaw, p. 228. 52King James Version, Hosea 6:3. 53The Living Bible, I John 3:14. 54The Living Bible, I John 4:19-5:3. 55The Living Bible, 2 John 6. 56The Amplified Bible, Matthew 22:37, 39. 57The Living Bible, I John 3:18-19, 21-24. 58The Living Bible, 2 Thessalonians 1:3. 59The Living Bible, I Timothy 1:5. 60The Amplified Bible, Ephesians 3:16. 61The Living Bible, I Thessalonians 3:12-13. 62The Living Bible, 2 Timothy 1:7-8. 63King James Version, 2 Corinthians 5:18. 64The Living Bible, I John 4:16-18. 65The Amplified Bible, I John 4:18. 66The Living Bible, I Thessalonians 5:8. 67The Living Bible, I John 2:15-16. 68Shaw, p. 78. 69The Living Bible, Hebrews 6:11-12. 70The Living Bible, Colossians 1:27. 71Shaw, p. 4. 72Shaw, p. 174. 73The Living Bible, I John 4:9. 74The Living Bible, Romans 13:8-10. 75Hannah Whitall Smith, The Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life, ed. Harold J. Chadwick (Alachua, Florida: Bridge-Logos, 1998), p. 76Graham Cooke, Approaching the Heart of Prophecy (Winston-Salem, NC: Punch Press, 2006), pp. 27-28. 77Cooke, p. 31. 78New Day Restoration Outreach, Raleigh, NC, teaching notes, Pastors Donald and Judy Hassell. 79King James Version, 2 Corinthians 10:4. 80The Amplified Bible, Philippians 1:6. 81King James Version, 2 Corinthians 5:7. 82The Living Bible, 2 Timothy 3:16-17. 83New King James Version (www.biblegateway.com ), Psalm 119:11. 84King James Version, Luke 21:19. 85King James Version, James 1:4. 86King James Version, Hebrews 12:1. 87King James Version, 2 Corinthians 10:5. 88Shaw, p. 29. 89Hannah Hurnard, Winged Life (Wheaton: Tyndale House, 1978), p. 60. 90The Amplified Bible, Matthew 16:19.
91King James Version, James 2:8. 92The Amplified Bible, Ephesians 2:7. 93The Amplified Bible, I Corinthians 14:1. 94 The Living Bible, John 13:34-35. 95The Living Bible, I John 1:5, 7. 96 Mike Bickle, teaching notes, International House of Prayer, Kansas City.
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