This three week journey has taken us from an exploration of the cross, Christ’s sacrifice, and what it really represents; to the knowledge of what our debt to Him – our continuous debt- really is. We learned that this debt can only be repaid with Love. Love God. Love our neighbors. Because it is in loving our neighbors that we prove our love for God.
Now, the journey has now brought us to this point. The point of “how”? How exactly do we do this.
I will not be sharing with you today anything that you have not heard preached before. My prayer is that I share it with you in a way that hopefully you have never considered it before.
I’m in my sixth year of writing the Handmaid’s Blog. The sixth year began in September of 2014. The following month, I came to a decision. That I was no longer going to publish the Handmaid’s Blog through this particular forum. The decision was based on the belief that I had to find other avenues where it could get a wider, and possibly more interactive exposure. As a result, there was no posting in November.
I’d prayed about this decision, and I truly felt that the Lord was in agreement, therefore, I was at peace. At least I thought I was.
One day I was having a discussion with my friend. During the course of the discussion, we talked about many things pertaining to human behavior and the expectations of Christianity. Primarily, service, and the way the Lord really requires us to serve Him. We came to a common conclusion: We’ve been following the wrong Blueprint.
As I stated in part 2 of this series, Followers of Christ are constantly being asked to “live in Christ”, “Be like Christ”. We also established in Part 2 that, “Being like Christ” is humanly impossible. Another thing that followers are constantly being urged to do is to “Pursue Righteousness”. Which literally translates to “Stop living sinful lives”. It’s very good and biblically accurate advice. The only problem that accompanies those particular sermons is that the “righteousness” that we are being asked to pursue is usually “Acts of righteousness”. Let’s be honest. When we see someone who we consider to be doing it correctly, or someone we call in Christianese “A mighty man/woman of God”, we base that summation of their spiritual gifts: preaching, evangelism, gifts of prophecy, humanitarianism, zeal for service, courage to “speak out for Christ and for the faith”, boldness to call people out on their sinfulness, and so on. It is these attributes that cause us to look at someone with admiration and have us desiring to be as they are.
Is that truly what the Word of God instructs us to do? Are those what the Lord is really asking us to emulate? The acts? These were the questions that we asked ourselves.
Did the Lord, with regard to these references that I made about “Being like Christ” and “Acts of Righteousness, not already give us a Blueprint for living? For Christianity? For righteousness?
1 Corinthians 13: 1-3 tells us:
Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing.
According to the Word of God, His gifts do not save us. The gift of prophecy, evangelism, zeal, faith, philanthropy, humanitarianism, discipline, wisdom, courage, dedication, etc, do not save us. Those things are all given to us. Unmerited. By God. Therefore, in and of themselves, they cannot save us, or even lead us to righteousness. No matter how well we excel in them.
But, the one thing that can save us is the one thing that we are not necessarily born in, but do come into the knowledge of at some point in our lives. This thing is also something that is and has been widely, over the years, been attributed to different feelings and emotions. But the one spoken of here in 1 Corinthians 13 is the one true definition of the word.
The word is Love. Or Charity, as used in some translations of the bible. But the definition of that term Love/Charity, is synonymous with the personality of God. It means “Giving”. It means “For the sake of others”. It means “For another’s benefit”.
There’s been a resounding theme for many months as far as the inspiration for many of the Blog posts of this year. It was in the past few weeks that I made the connection. The topics in the past few months include:
In Love We are Saved
Love: God’s Way
Casters of Stones
I posted a Blog in August titled “In Christ We Conquer Ourselves”. You may find it a tad strange, but, I’d completely forgotten about this Blog post and the testimony that inspired it. It was a piece about no longer fighting our own battles, instead, surrendering every weakness to Christ.
But, I realized today that I left out one vital key in that Blog post.
You might be asking what the “How” component of surrender really is. Doesn’t it mean simply giving it all to Christ?
My response to that would be:
What is the “all” exactly, that we are giving to Christ? And how do we surrender this “all”?
I mentioned a “Blueprint” earlier. I also mentioned that I’d taken steps to no longer post this Blog on this forum. But in that discussion with my friend that day, the Lord revealed two things to me:
1.The resounding message of the importance of Love is not an accident. Nor is it coincidental. Just when I wanted to give up this assignment: when the enemy was about to succeed in causing me to despair and question whether I was being effective, God reminded me yet again of this message of love and why it needs to be shared.
2. Surrendering to Christ is not a passive act. Surrender is very active. It means to cease and desist from an action. The truth about ceasing one act however means that another act is to be initiated simultaneously in its place. To surrender also means to give one’s self over to another to do with them what they will. So, in my Blog post, I mentioned what I knew the Lord was asking me do desist from. But, I never considered what He was asking me to begin doing instead. That is where the “Blueprint” comes in.
1 Corinthians 13:4-12
Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away.
When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things. For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known.
In order to forgive and not retaliate, and not lose my temper, I have to learn to suffer long, and be patient. In order to not complain, or revenge, I must learn to endure and be humble. In order to not demand the things that I feel I am deserving of, or be impatient with the mannerisms of others, I must learn to be tolerant, and not self-seeking. In order to not reach my wits end, or get easily provoked, I must learn to endure.
The problem with stopping an action, and not replacing that stopped action with a new action is that there is a void that gets created. And if that space is not filled with something good, we will, in a short time, revert to those bad actions that we supposedly stopped. If we do not practice the new actions and let them become our nature, then, those old actions that we are far more familiar with will always come back.
The “Blueprint”, the pattern, the “Way” is God’s Love. It tells us what to do, and what not to do. Better still, it tells us how to do it..
Because these are the attributes of Love. The attributes of God.
We serve One God in 3 persons. God the father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. And just to prove the unity of the Trinity, even in this message of Love, let’s take a look at:
The Beatitudes, Christ’s sermon on the Mount taken from Matthew 5:
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled.
Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
The Fruit of the Spirit taken from Galatians 5:22
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.
Do we see the unity of the 3 messages? All messages that are centered on denying one’s self, while simultaneously, acting on behalf of another.
That is the “How” of God’s Love.
We do not receive Christ in love. We receive Him in faith. We first believe. It is only as we come to know Him better, that we come to love Him.
We are born with spiritual gifts, talents and abilities. We don’t choose them. They’re given to us. If we do not possess them, no matter how much we desire them, we can’t have them.
But, unlike spiritual gifts which we either have or not have, we are born with both the capacity to love, and the capacity to hate. It is here, that a choice is required. It is here that what we desire makes all the difference.
Deuteronomy 30:19 says:
I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live.
That is why that 1 Corinthians tells us in the first 3 verses that none of those spiritual gifts that are bestowed upon us can save us or make us righteous. It is only in the conscious choice to love or not love that we are either saved or condemned.
Brethren, James 2 tells us that faith without works is dead. By works, Christ is not referring to acts of charity. Even unbelievers do that. He’s referring to acts that come from a heart of charity. A heart of love. A selfless heart. A heart like God’s. Those are the works that prove that we believe!
1 Corinthians 13:14 says:
And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
Why is love the greatest? Have you ever asked yourself?
God does not have faith. He is God. He doesn’t need to believe in anything.
God does not need to hope in anything. Again, He is God.
But, God loves. He has love. He is Love. He created us with love. Jesus bought us back from a death sentence with Love. So, love is life. That’s why He asks us to choose life! Choose love! That we may live!
Love is not burdensome, brethren. If we say we can’t do it, it’s not for lack of ability. It’s for lack of desire. Unfortunately, if we refuse to choose life; to choose Love, then by default, we truly are choosing death. May His Spirit keep us from such a choice.
As we go into this new year, by His divine grace, brethren, let us come to God and ask God to return our hearts back to Him. To return our focus to Him. To what His Word truly says. We spend our entire lives learning ways to be, to act, to take care of ourselves, to protect ourselves, to fight our battles, to win our battles, to judge, to condemn, to criticize, to demand, focusing on the temporal things. We have to now unlearn “our” ways and start learning “Christ’s” ways. As followers, we are desperate to be righteous. We are eager to wear that banner of Christianity. But Christ did not come to earth to live. He came to die! He came to give Himself away. Step by step, piece by piece, word by word, miracle by miracle, message by message, revelation by revelation, lash by lash, stagger by stagger, nail by nail, until his last breath. Our old ways, our comfortable ways, the ways that are not part of His Blueprint, have to die. His way, the way of God’s love, our new way, is how we now have to live. He’s already given us the Blueprint. He’s already given us the empowerment. What are we waiting for?
Now to Him who is able to keep us from falling, and to present us faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy. To God our Savior, who alone is wise, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and forever. Amen.
As always, please share your thoughts that you might encourage your brethren.
The handmaid at His feet.