To love the Lord our God is the heart of a disciple's mission, ministry, and purpose. From this love will flow the desire, the anointing, and the ability to be His disciples. Many today are crying out to God, “Father, we once experienced your presence and passion, but our hearts have grown cold.” Like the disciples traveling to a village called Emmaus, our inability to perceive the presence of Jesus often stems from despair; despair comes from apathy and inactivity, and from mulling over what we have lost, or what we don’t have. Jesus said:
· Matthew 5:6 "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled."
Most of us have never experienced real hunger or real thirst. We have more than enough material things and we often times become complacent because there is no “want” in our affluent lives. Our days are filled with so many good things, blinding us to the simplicity of realizing there is only one BEST thing…to love, serve, worship, praise, and be thankful to God.
Jesus said that loving God with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength is the first and greatest commandment (Mark 12:28-29). This commandment, combined with the command to love our neighbor (Leviticus 19:18), encompasses all of the other Old Testament laws.
· Matthew 22:37-40 Jesus replied, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
In the New Testament, godly living is living in, through, and for Jesus. It is identified in these ways:
· Love for God, Jesus, and our neighbor
· Obedience to the truth of scripture
· Unity with God, Jesus, and our brethren in Christ
So many today desire God's power, the manifestation of His glory, or physical evidence of His presence. Jesus petitioned the Father to bring the unity of all believers for all generations to come. The oneness Jesus desired was for the church to share the same love for and obedience to the Father that he had. This oneness can only berecognized as such because it will bear witness to the very mission and heart of Christ.
· John 17:26 “I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.”
After his death, resurrection and ascension, Jesus returned as the Helper (Comforter (read John chapters 14, 15, 16). When he came back to his disciples, it was as the last Adam (1 Corinthians 15:45), and as the mediator between God and man (1 Timothy 2:5). He came to them on the Day of Pentecost as the life-giving spirit (Acts 1:8; 2:4), and imbued them with an unblemished life. His arrival was in the power of his Father’s spirit; that is, in a demonstration of power, judgment, and conviction.
This judgment was based on the morally blameless character of Jesus and it brought conviction for sin, bringing sincere worshippers to a state of repentance. Jesus was able to advocate on their behalf, and as they confessed their sins to the Father, he was able to cleanse their conscience from their unrighteousness and bring newness of purity and life to spirit and soul.
Jesus’ disciples were transformed, and their character was evidenced from the very beginning by charitable deeds. They no longer obeyed the ordinance of the Law given to Moses, which was written on tablets of stone. Rather, they obeyed God from within, because He had now written His laws upon the fleshly tablets of their hearts. The outward evidence demonstrated the inner righteousness they experienced.
Good works do not necessarily produce good character. Good character always produces good works.
Jesus says that if we truly love God and our neighbor, it will naturally follow that we keep the commandments. This is looking at God's law positively. Rather than worrying about all we should not do, we should concentrate on all we CAN do to demonstrate our love for God and others.
If our hearts have grown lukewarm, how do we get back to a burning passion for God? The complete obligation and direction for the disciple of Jesus is summed up in one word…LOVE. We love because God FIRST loved us, and gave His only begotten son as a ransom for our lives (1 John 4:19). The pathway to restoring our passion for God is to love one another as Christ loved us by laying down His life for us.
Jesus Christ gave up the normal comforts and joys of this life. He suffered beatings, insults, hatred, rough Roman nails in His hands, the spear in His side, the sharp burning spikes of twisted thorns in his scalp; all of which, bearing witness to the measure of His love for us, he did out of obedience to his Father’s will. In Jesus’ suffering we see his love for us, and a pattern and example for loving each other.
4:7 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is (springs) from God; and he who loves his fellowmen is begotten (born) of God and is coming progressively to know and understand God to perceive and recognize and get a better and clearer knowledge of Him.
The ONLY way a believer can progressively grow in his or her recognition and understanding of God is by loving each other sacrificially.
4:8 He who does not love has not become acquainted with God does not and never did know Him, for God is love.
God IS love, and so it automatically follows that if one does not love his brethren, he does not know God, nor can he become better acquainted with God.
4:9 In this the love of God was made manifest (displayed) where we are concerned: in that God sent His Son, the only begotten or unique Son, into the world so that we might live through Him.
4:10 In this is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation (the atoning sacrifice) for our sins.
Verses nine and ten presents a case for God; His display of love was to sacrifice His only begotten, His unique, one and only son for a bunch of ungrateful and messed up sinners. Can you imagine having one of your own children, let’s say your young adult son, brutally tortured, screaming in agony, crying out for help, and you watch, shaking from anger and the gut wrenching emotions; what would it be like for you as either father or mother to witness this? Maybe this illustration is a feeble one, but perhaps it can help us understand that God the Father felt great pain as He watched evil men brutalize His beloved Jesus, just so we could have eternal life.
4:11 Beloved, if God loved us so very much, we also ought to love one another.
The graphic image of God the Father watching His dearly beloved child Jesus suffer in agony, subjecting him to this kind of treatment, and willingly feeling the pain and grief because He loves us so very much should paint a clear picture of the way He expects us to love one another. Even the most loyal and sacrificial of saints should be humbled by the love that God the Father demonstrated, and affirm by saying, “I ought also to love my brother!”
4:12 No man has at any time yet seen God. But if we love one another, God abides (lives and remains) in us and His love (that love which is essentially His) is brought to completion (to its full maturity, runs its full course, is perfected) in us!
The burning passion for God who is UNSEEN can only be legitimately expressed in truth by loving those brethren in Jesus whom we CAN SEE. This simple principle has eluded most of the Christian churches throughout North America and the so-called free world. Christians are taught that a burning passion and love for God is found in their prayer closet, or in a worship service at church. Prayer is essential, but to have the love of God maturing in our hearts and lives, we simply must love one another.
4:13 By this we come to know (perceive, recognize, and understand) that we abide (live and remain) in Him and He in us: because He has given (imparted) to us of His Holy Spirit.
4:14 And besides we ourselves have seen (have deliberately and steadfastly contemplated) and bear witness that the Father has sent the Son as the Savior of the world.
4:15 Anyone who confesses (acknowledges, owns) that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides (lives, makes His home) in him and he abides, lives, makes his home in God.
4:16 And we know (understand, recognize, are conscious of, by observation and by experience) and believe (adhere to and put faith in and rely on) the love God cherishes for us. God is love, and he who dwells and continues in love dwells and continues in God, and God dwells and continues in him.
4:17 In this union and communion with Him love is brought to completion and attains perfection with us, that we may have confidence for the day of judgment with assurance and boldness to face Him, because as He is, so are we in this world.
How did Jesus live in this world? How was he treated, and how did he treat others? How did he respond to hatred, and the cruelty of those that despised him? What was his attitude toward the sinner? We are called to carry each other’s burdens, forgive one another’s sins, have our hearts and bodies inflicted with the stabbing pain of harsh treatment and cruel remarks and other mistreatment for the sake of the gospel. God commands us to forgive those that hate us, and to pray for our enemies. He wants us to sacrifice our time, feelings, and material possession as an increasing expression of love to each other and to the world. Consideri9ng our human-ness, our frailty, our tendency to fail, the task seems daunting, and even impossible. This simple deduction and conclusion helps to understand that ONLY with God’s help, and God’s strength, and God’s influence can we do the things He has called us to do. We can and we MUST ask God to help us, and to teach us HOW to receive His grace and guidance, which will give us the ability to love as Jesus loved. Then, having asked, we must ACT upon our faith, and put it into motion by doing what the hand finds to do, and meeting the need at hand.
4:18 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! For fear brings with it the thought of punishment, and so he who is afraid has not reached the full maturity of love is not yet grown into love's complete perfection.
4:19 We love Him, because He first loved us.
There is no fear in love that is EXPRESSED continually. Christians get afraid when they stop loving, or deviate from a life of love toward others.
· John 15:10 If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father's commands and remain in his love.”
Finally, to love God the Father is to love His only begotten son Jesus, and to love Jesus is to love his brethren, even the least of them. This is something we do from the heart. It is faith working through love; it is faith with works. It is the living and continual walk of obedience, listening to, and obediently responding to the voice of the Good Shepherd. It is not seeking a “ministry” but looking for, and readily meeting the needs of Jesus. This is true love for God…a burning passion.
· Matthew 25:31-40 But when the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne. And all the nations will be gathered before Him; and He will separate them from one another, as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats; and He will put the sheep on His right, and the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on His right, “Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.” Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, “Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You drink? And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? And when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You? And the King will answer and say to them, “Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.” (NAS)