For many years, most of my Christian friends thought I had changed if I acted like it; they placed their faith about me in their view of me, in their assessment of me and how I seemed, rather than in how God had changed me. In other words, I held their view and He did not. Have you ever done that? Has that ever happened to you? What they saw determined their interaction with me, rather than what they knew about me—about me and God, and how we’d gotten together and were really close. Unfortunately, I believed they were right and that I hadn’t really been changed—changed by God—so we were all deceived. And that meant all of us were hurt because of it. But not anymore.
Today we see by faith in Christ, not by faith in appearances. Faith in Christ and in the profound changes He has made to us invigorates and fits us and leads us into the day—the sons of God. The other faith, assessing people and situations by appearances, confuses us and wears us out. It’s the only possible result. Christianity then seems to become impractical to us when we’re focused upon appearances, and we’ll say things like, “Well, I have to live in the real world; you know, in reality,” we’ll say. And that’s where the confusion takes hold of us, aliens in this world, and shakes us to misery. Even though we cannot live as this world does, we’re duped into believing we should make the attempt.
If you and I are going to enjoy eternal life—not life made longer, but the real life of God given to us in Christ—then we will want to accept the Spirit’s leading to view our days (and the people in our days) from our true vantage place—in Christ. It will be invigorating and adventurous for us, because we’ll be living by faith in Christ, which is normal for us now. And it will be encouraging to others, who will see upon our faces at least occasional glimpses of the hope of life by Jesus. We’ll know what’s actually going on—and that’s tremendous—and they’ll have the hope of something better than what they see alone.
That will open a whole new way of life to us. And that’s the life that counts—life by Jesus.
In my posts and videos, books and speaking gigs, I emphasize knowing God, more so than serving Him. That bothers some people, I know. Sorry.
While the two are certainly not contradictory—they go together—serving Him without knowing Him will drive you mad…and empty…and bitter…and broken. It’s the same with knowing God’s love. If you try to “be loving” without knowing His love for you, you’ll eventually go mad…and empty…and bitter…and broken. I’ve seen it. I’ve known it. Haven’t you?
Consider the famous love chapter, 1 Corinthians 13. Before the description of what God’s love is like (verses 4-8), the writer (Paul) emphasizes the same distinction: knowing or “having” God’s love is far more important than serving Him. In fact, doing anything without HAVING the love of God is worthless.
1 Corinthians 13:1 If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not HAVE LOVE, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not HAVE LOVE, I am nothing. 3 And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not HAVE LOVE, it profits me nothing. (Caps mine.)
Wow. That’s a lot of personal gifts, talents, knowledge, effort and self-sacrifice down the drain of worthlessness because someone was deluded into thinking that the love of God—the greatest joy and motivator of life—wasn’t worth having. Fortunately, you and I are not so deluded.
If just now you’ve gotten lost in this world’s insistence of measurable productivity and responsible contribution, and love—God’s love—has gotten away from you, I know what that’s like. I do. But much of the story that God is writing through your days is about His love for you and the result of it. He knows that, as you know and have His deeply satisfying love, you’ll do pretty much whatever it takes to remain in it—or come back to it. You won’t even need to worry about obedience and productivity and fruitfulness because you’ll be in love—God’s love for you. That makes everything work right.
Have you got that? That’s what our days are about. And what comes from that is the great work of Love with you.
For many years I have heard and read people’s warnings to uninvolved, passionless, heatless believers. Always the cure prescribed was to get more involved, to get heated and fired-up for Jesus by doing more things for Him. In other words, “Get busy. Here’s how . . .”
However, whatever is heatless, whatever is lukewarm, be it water or human, cannot heat itself. It requires something else for heat.
Works do not provide the heat for the non-Christian of what is lacking; belief in the gospel provides what is missing. Works do not provide the heat for the Christian of what is lacking; belief in the gospel provides what is missing.
Yes, it’s the same for both. Faith without works is certainly dead, but works without faith are just as dead.
A focus upon works requires the skilled judgment of motivation, effectiveness, frequency and number. Some church gatherings have postured heat through a works focus, and everybody examines everybody. What fun. Judgments galore. But even if the pastor or speaker tells the listener to examine his own works—not the works of anyone else—the works focused person will have put himself into the position of Pharisee to himself. Nobody does well from there. Who among us could accurately estimate works sufficient to pass a works or heat test with God? (Shudder.) The only test, and the only thing upon which we rest is whether or not we are “in the faith” (see 2 Corinthians 13:5-6). In other words, do you believe? That’s it.
If and when the “fire” or the motivation of passion for a Christian should grow cold, works are not the wood that will heat the hearth of the heart. Works are the result of the Holy Spirit fanning to flame the heart that takes in the truth of the good news of Jesus Christ.
Perhaps the worst thing we can do to a presumably passionless or “heatless” believer is to tell him to have heat. The best he can do is to try for the appearance of heat, which does nothing for the heart. What he needs, what we need, is the great gospel—over and over again. The gospel is that because of the cross and resurrection of Jesus, we have no worries with God; we may approach Him as a friend, with confidence and without fear, and have been given all things already in Christ for free. That is the wood for a genuine, heart-held fire made by the Spirit.
If you or someone you know, Christian or not, appears to lack heat, add the kindling that is the gospel of the grace of God in Jesus—take time with it and with them—and the Spirit will take care of the heat and the works. That’s what He does, and He’s pretty good at that. Right?
One should not believe that because I have not said anything about which candidate I support for the Presidency that I do not care which one is elected. I care. I will vote. Okay?
Sadly and tragically, it has been my experience that talking very much about current issues, specific candidates and the like quickly draws people into the shallow end of relationship, and it then becomes difficult, if not impossible, to talk deeply and of the heart. We lose each other and become “pancake people.” We become shallow, have heat only for a moment, and lack any real value.
We abandon our inner selves in favor of an attractive and nicely positioned look or prosecuted argument, which then becomes our exterior identity. Although the apostle Paul warned us against viewing people from a worldly and surface view because it isn’t true, it isn’t enough and it will hurt us if that’s all we get (2 Corinthians 5:16-21), we take hold of it anyway while our depths remain remote and malnourished. We’re starving ourselves.
Some of us have become quite accomplished as pancake makers, flattening people into shallow, issue-oriented identities like Republican and Democrat, conservative and liberal, heterosexual and homosexual, global warming alarmist, global warming skeptic, and on and on it goes. If I accept you as any one of those things, you’re a pancake to me.
There are those who have already made me into a pancake by placing me into a category (Republican, wacko-Christian, white male or whatever), and that has become for them more real and more important than my true, below the surface identity:
I am a son of God, who has been loved, hurt, rejected, rescued, betrayed, accepted, disappointed, hurt again, healed and loved again—both battered and buoyed over and over again. I’ve lived a lot. I have quite a story. And those people can’t know me or hear me anymore because they think of me with a worldly ID emblazoned upon my forehead: “Republican.” “Wacko Christian.” Whatever. Frankly, we’ve lost each other, even if we see each other every day. We’re pancake people, like it or not.
I don’t like it. Actually, I hate it. I despise it.
I post this in the hope that a few people will be awakened by a good kind of pain found in discovering that they, too, do not like pancake relationships—even if they’ve been the pancake makers, they recognize that they’re starving. Perhaps they will wonder why people do not talk heart to heart with them—maybe with you. Why they don’t share their inner fears. Why they’d never confess failure or admit weakness because they’ve never ventured into anything deeper than shallow-end stuff. Pancakes are the daily special, and the only thing on the menu. Is that clear enough?
I like playing around in the shallows of humor and cartoons, and post pictures of seasonal beauty and stuff like that, which you’ll sometimes see on my Facebook and Instagram. Some of you post pictures of your lunch, and I’m actually interested…a little…well, sometimes.
But I would much rather get out of the shallows with you so we can actually get somewhere that counts, somewhere that’s deeply true and real. Life is found there, and I want to share.
And if you and I can’t share because we’re too far apart or something, I hope you hunger enough to start telling Jesus how badly you want to be real with Him and with people. He will be with you in that! Oh, there’s fear and some pain involved—yes—but there’s real food for real life that you’re supposed to have and give away, because none of us can live on pancakes.
Let’s pretend there’s a conference today, and you’re in attendance—whether at the large venue (distancing and masks required, sanitizer everywhere), or at home via the internet. Everyone’s nervous. Fear is evident. Here’s why: the title of the conference is, “The Only End of Racism.” Jesus is the speaker.
Taking a large liberty, here’s what I think He would say.
“I’m glad you’ve come. I’ve come for you, too. I’ve not come to burden you, not to scold you, not to instruct you, not even to change your mind. I’ve come to change you. And you’ll be glad for it.
“I am what you seek. I am the end of racism—and much more.
“For centuries you and your forbears have squabbled and fought over who is superior and who is lesser. You have marked this argument by differences in color, differences in ability, practice, location, history, and more. Apart from me, this will not end, because it’s how you distinguish and identify yourselves. This is the mess of humanity—it’s the mess you’re in—and I am here to solve it and save it by creating another humanity. A new one—in me.
“You have heard that the change of being “born again” includes receiving me, and that is correct. I am happy to live in you, there to do everything together, you and me. But what you do not know is that I am here to receive you into me. As with so many things, you will not see it, but it is no less true. In me, I am making one new humanity. Here, in me, you cannot judge yourselves according to your color—there is only mine. In me, you cannot judge yourselves by your abilities, you cannot judge yourselves by your faithfulness, you cannot judge yourselves by your righteousness, your practice or history. There is only mine.
“All that I am is perfect, and when you believe and receive me, I include you in me. In me, there is nothing you must achieve, nothing you should fear, nothing you must conquer, nothing you can lose. In me, all is given and all is yours. In me is where you live. At the cross, I brought you into me, and through death, put an end to your former humanity and its judgmental hostility. Through the resurrection, I have made you into a new humanity, where you are in union and nothing angers nor divides, because you are at peace in me. I have made it so. In here, you are not foreigners, you are not strangers to each other; you are intimately and literally connected together in my body. You are fellow citizens in a new kingdom, where judgment and debate have forever ended, and all is well.
“In me, I have built a new home, and have been adding believers to my building for centuries; apostles, prophets, servants, teachers, encouragers, givers, leaders, and more—all who have gifts from my house that enable me to express myself in the world. This is the new humanity, created in me, serving and inviting the old to become the new. This is how it is with me because it’s how it is in me.
“I want many of you to become more familiar with life in me—to know yourselves here so you can more confidently know yourselves in the world. I am with you! But more importantly, you are with me. You know that nothing separates us; not now, not ever. It cannot happen
“I want many of you to welcome me and to find your life with me. I will come to you and make my earthly home in you, and you will find rest for your souls. And I will prove to you that you are secure with me, because you live in me, and I will never forsake you, let alone my body. How could I? It’s you I offer to make new; I in you, and you in me.
“This is why I am here today; I am speaking to my body. Rethink where you are and how it is where you are—in me—and with the new humanity of my body, and live by faith from here. This is my building.
“I am speaking to those not yet part of my body; think again of what I am offering you. Believe me, and I will live in you, making you well. And we will do everything together—you and I. Believe me, and you will live in me, and you will know perfect security, perfect identity, and perfect relationship with me and with my new humanity. Here, in my building.
“I have already opened the way to you. I am what you seek—and I am for you. I’ll be seeing you.”
And with that, the conference ends. Amen.
Here’s the passage of scripture that you should have:
Ephesians 2:11 Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called ‘uncircumcised’ by those who call themselves ‘the circumcision’ (which is done in the body by human hands) – 12 remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ.
14 For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, 15 by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, 16 and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. 17 He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.
19 Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. 21 In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. 22 And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.
Chapter 2 of Paul’s letter to the Colossians strongly warns against being made captives. How does that happen?
“See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ” (Colossians 2:8).
The way by which many of us are imprisoned today is by an accusation that suggests a false “you,” a fake “you,” and which then prosecutes it. For example: “You are fat.” “You are stupid.” “You are ugly.” “You are lazy.” “You are dirty.” “You are sinful.” “You are far from God.” If we are induced to believe the accusation that the “you” we most truly are is any of those things, then, thinking it’s the truth, we will be deceived. And then we’ll be deceived into behaviors in keeping with lies. It’s inescapable, and no one lives well from there.
The verses surrounding Colossians 2:8 shed more light, and read this way:
6 Therefore as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, 7 having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith, just as you were instructed, and overflowing with gratitude.
9 For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form, 10 and in Him you have been made complete, and He is the head over all rule and authority;
So if there is any excess weight on the frame that you’re in, if you could benefit by taking a class or two, or if you would be rewarded by exercising a bit, that’s fine. But the real you, the one made by God Himself through faith in Christ, the you made “complete”, is forever beyond prosecution. The “you” that God made is perfectly well-off with Him, has no fat(!), is entirely brilliant and beautiful, and lives in the power and authority of God. That “you,” the real “you,” is pure, forever forgiven, and united with God Himself.
That’s how you are, and that’s where you are. And that’s why you look at Jesus to find yourself. He’ll show you “you.” And that’s really good.
A friend recently told me that an otherwise sweet and gentle person apologized for having been gossiping about her, and then took advantage of the difficult and fragile moment to find fault with her in a deeply hurtful manner. In fact, faultfinding seemed to have been her intent all along. My friend asked, “How can this be? What should I do?”
Here is my response: That’s a great question. You have met someone who fancies herself to be accurate in her shallow judgments of others, and who then gathers a twisted courage to wrongly point out and heal wounds falsely. But you can survive the evil of judgmentalness.
People will come to you in personal judgmentalness dressed up as caring concern, and offer you an olive branch that you will discover is actually a knife. Out of your presence, they have already been cutting on you, and they’re about to continue in your presence. They might say something like, “I have noticed how immature you are (or some such thing), and I’m sorry that I let it affect our relationship for so long without saying anything to you. I apologize. But don’t you think you should be concerned about this immaturity? I mean, I sure know of some ways that you could be better . . .” They are suddenly the doctor, you are the patient. However, they care less about who you actually are than about what bothers them. They have gone blind and want to share their blindness with you.
Look away. They cannot truly help you.
Here’s what I’ve done when a member of The Judgment Doctors (TJD hereafter) has approached me, suggesting healing but offering harm:
1) I listen to TJD while thinking toward the Spirit. I think something like, “Well, Holy Spirit/Jesus/Lord, I’m glad you’re with me to keep me to the truth. You know me, so what do you think?” While I listen to TJD, I’m listening beyond, I’m listening through. I do not want to submit my identity and focus to anyone who cannot see me as Jesus does, but I do want to listen. This keeps me both present and aware of God, who made me His son and who holds me securely in Christ. This also allows Jesus in me to take the accusations, cuts and otherwise wounds from TJD. He’s very good at that.
2) I take what I can from TJD. Whenever someone approaches me with criticism and they do not know me personally or (and especially) do not know me as I truly am, in Christ, they might still have something to say from which I can learn or go forward better than before. That’s valuable. They have a surface view of me, but perhaps there is a way I come across to them that I can easily correct without believing that I have to change who I already am. God doesn’t want me to actually change, since He already made all of the change necessary. And since I am His workmanship, what chance do I have at improving upon His work anyway? I want to grow up in who I am, not alter who I am. I’ve learned a few things from TJD over the years; very few were valuable, but some helped me to consider how I might be better understood or interpreted at the surface.
3) I offer myself to God for a Spirit-led response to TJD. Most often that has meant that I thanked them for their input: I might say, “I know this could not have been easy for you, so I appreciate your effort to help me. I’ll take what you’ve said and consider it with Jesus. I know you’d want me to do that.” Other times this has meant something more direct and less gracious. I might say, “I think you see poorly and it bothers you, of course, and you’ve stumbled into this moment as a way to get relief. If you knew me, if you knew the real me, the new creation that God has made, then that would have your focus, you would see truly, and both of us would be better for it. Instead, you are shallow and trapped in blind judgmentalness, from which God will certainly want to free you.” Since God knows the person talking with me, I listen for what He’d like them to hear from me: something kind (maybe they’re only dabbling in judgmentalness, and He is about to do something with them to save them and to prevent them from becoming a full-fledged member of TJD), or something more like a harpoon—right to it. He knows what’s needed, and I offer myself to Him for that.
4) I don’t quickly run away from TJD. But I do consider it a viable option! If TJD are going to be helped, then the opportunity might be when they show up to be judgmental about you. Twisted in their thinking, they believe they’re being spiritual in coming to you, but they’re in danger of navigating perhaps all of their days in the blindness of judgmentalness. That’s not going to go well! That’s going to hurt—themselves and others. TJD are often pretty friendless because no one wants their “help” anymore—it’s too painful and ineffective, because it’s focused upon the flesh. It’s from their flesh directed at your flesh, and that’s not going to benefit anyone. Maybe they can be helped by someone who cares about them . . . but maybe not. Sometimes you’ve gotta get away from them, simply put.
5) I can be re-afflicted by the verbal assaults of TJD days later, so I reflect upon the truth and ask the Spirit what He thinks of me. This is important! If we’re going to remain open around people, and not barricade our hearts and proceed to navigate relationships by template or method but by the Spirit, then we will want to involve Him in the messy aftermath of a bout with TJD.
The Spirit often sounds a lot like Colossians 2 and 3, where Paul strongly advised the perfect sons and daughters of God to remember to “live your lives in Christ, rooted and built up in Him,” to let no one take them captive by suggesting a “false person,” a “lesser person” than who they had become in Christ, since they had already been made perfectly complete and full in Him. The Spirit reminds me that not only have all of my sins already been forgiven, but that the Law that proved my violations with evidence in support has been cancelled, having been nailed to the cross. I am free of it, and so are you. He tells me that I must let no one give me my personal identity based upon what earthly things they see me do or by what quirks they might see in my behavior.
People who are falsely humble and who offer themselves as spiritual specialists will come after me and they will come after you, but we must not buy into their delusion. You and I have died to the shallow estimations and pretended religionists of this world, and we are in Christ—perfect, righteous, holy and secure. There is a lot that sets us up to need Him in our days, and I have found some of the best of life in Christ through ugly moments with TJD. You can, too.
All of us have fleshly quirks and odd behavioral characteristics about ourselves; we don’t cover them over or pretend they do not exist. No one who ignores reality will escape paying the cost of it. And that’s my point: the reality of who I am and who you are in Christ is transcendently important. It’s crucial. We live truly and only when we live from there, quirks and odd characteristics notwithstanding. Don’t let anyone focus you where God is not focused. There is no life there, only confusion, and maybe years and years of it lost in lesser identities. You and I live around people who cannot see us and who do not actually make the attempt to trust that Jesus made us new creation sons and daughters. While they have little to offer the real you, listen to them but live in Christ.
I hope this helps you in your relationships and in how God offers “wellness,” rest and freedom to people through you. He thinks that He has made them well off with Himself and with others, and it’s our “work” to help them enjoy that. Keep your heart and eyes open, my friend. He fills them both.
I have always been bothered when people “lead people to Jesus” by threatening them with hell so they’ll want to go to heaven. While I believe both places are real and you’ve got to be saved from the former in order to go to the latter, I’ve always thought the offer of life—a life you don’t have—is a better offer (see John 10:10). That’s why Jesus came—to give life. Since my new birth with God’s life, that’s been my emphasis. Here’s why.
I’ve met scads of people who “made a confession” to avoid hell and hope for heaven, but who hadn’t yet realized they had received a new life, the life of God, in the place of their former form of life—which was no life at all.
While our hearts beat and blood coursed through our veins, our condition before our second birth was dead in Adam and not yet alive in Christ (see 1 Corinthians 15:22). That means I crawled and then walked, slept, ate, drank, went to class, learned to communicate, learned to drive, got a job, all without the life of God, which I received when I was 24. It’s no wonder that when the Spirit brought me out of death and into life, I knew I was different—way different. But what if I didn’t pay attention to “way different”? Instead, what if I thought and believed, “Well, I got saved. That’s good. Now I’m a Christian, and I’ve got a whole lot of Christianish things to learn to do, and a whole lot of non-Christianish things to learn not to do.” What if that became my focus?
How long before new life became just another new groove? New manners for old? How long before the thrill was gone, and the greatest adventure of life—God’s life in me for my days—was left behind in favor of reliable and Christianized navigation skills? How long before I accepted a faux life as the Tin Man, even though I had a new heart where God lived? That would be the crime of the millennia, which only Satan could pull off. In other words, “Ignore what and who you have—life—and pay attention to what you can do to get what you want. That’s life instead.” But it isn’t.
This is what I believe has happened to people who once “made a confession”, or who “came to the altar,” but didn’t really know what they were doing except getting out of hell. And now they’ve grown weary of the manners they were taught to follow in the place of the life that would lead—life by the Spirit in them. After doing something undeniably awful, they wonder, “What’s wrong with me? I knew better. Why did I do that?” I think I know. They’ve been induced to attempt to live as though God didn’t live in them. That cannot work. That’s a ludicrous attempt to live in the way they once did when they didn’t have life. They’re terribly confused and act like it. Of course. If we tell them to behave better because “you know better,” they actually might—for a time.
But what if, instead, we taught crazy behaving believers about life? You know, God’s life? God’s life in them? What if we helped them to know their struggles to behave are understandable because they’re attempting to live well by a form of living without the One who has His own designs for life. We’d have their attention. And then we’d direct them to the Living One who is worthy of their attention and who is Perfect with them and in them. That’d be life, wouldn’t it? I think so. What do you think?
Question: How’s your eyesight? How reliable is it? I’m not an ophthalmologist and I’m not an optician. I’m just wondering about your eyes and what they’re saying to you.
If you accept only what your eyes tell you, particularly about people, you’ll soon wonder why the thrill of being a son or daughter of God has seemingly leaked from your heart. “Where’s the joy I once knew?” In my years of pastoring, that is one of the top reasons that sons and daughters of God begin to lose vigor and joy—they believe what their eyes say about their neighbors. When they see people from an exterior view only, they cannot approach them by faith in what God says is actually true of them because of what He did through the cross and resurrection. So their Christianity becomes relatively impractical, frustrated by the faulty angle of appearances. From that view, they can’t help but grow “dry” or bored in their walk with Jesus because their eyes are out of focus. They’ve essentially gone blind to the truth.
Here’s the normal view, the invigorating and healthy view for a Christian:
2 Corinthians 4:18 “So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary (it’s a passing away façade), but what is unseen is eternal (it’s what is forever true about God and about us).” (Parenthesis mine.)
Your mind, renewed by the truth that transforms you and that brings the real you out, must become the primary influence of your eyes. That is how you’ll see what’s really real . . . and live by faith in Christ. That’s also what will affect you best—you’ll like it! Think of going through your days with the sunglasses of truth over your otherwise lying eyes, and you’ve got it.
This is why we set our hearts and minds on things above, not on earthly things (Colossians 3:1-3). We don’t focus upon the unseen so we’ll feel better and have a happy day, though it’s likely that we will. We do it because that’s where we find ourselves, that’s how we discover who God is and how well off He has made us in relation to Himself and to each other—perfect! Holy people, righteous people, recognized throughout the heavens as well-fit with God. Looking to the “unseen” is where we find that, and it’s going to affect us. This is our approach to life, not because we’re pretending, but because it’s accurate! We’re seeing the truth. From that focus, our lying eyes cannot lead us astray and foul our approach to life.
Grow accustomed to relying upon the unseen when you’re with people. They probably won’t “see” what you do, but they can. And at least you’ll be seeing how they actually are—in truth—and that’s going to affect you beautifully.
Ephesians 1:18 I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe.
Is being “loving” the #1 thing in relationships, or is there something before that?
To put it plainly, the #1 thing I want is to walk by the Spirit (Galatians 5:16-25). That’s where security is, that’s where love is, and that’s where I am most truly myself—with Him, in Him. I love that. The #1 thing is not to walk in love, but by the Spirit, because the Spirit produces love—pure, genuine and perfect. I want Him more than anything, because in that I’ll have everything else. Otherwise, to walk “lovingly” becomes a self-defined action and look—manners—that cannot be maintained. Have you noticed?
We, ourselves, are not the source of love – Jesus is. God is love, but love is not God. That distinction is important; think about it. In the same way that water is wet, but not everything that is wet is water (consider poison), so it is that not everything that’s described as love or loving is God. People have weird and twisted ideas about love—no doubt you’ve made that distinction by now.
It’s the same thing with “life.” Although we often describe what goes on around us as life—“How’s your life going?”—we understand that Jesus promised something altogether different when He said, “I have come that you may have life and have it to the full” (John 10:10). He meant life on your inside, where He would come to live as the way, the truth, and the life. He is life. Right?
We make that distinction about life. So it is with love. It’s Him. God.
You and I are invited to know and drink deeply from the source of love, because love comes from God, as 1 John 4 tells us. We know that drink will powerfully affect us and those around us. It’s supposed to—that’s the design. The affect might be God-produced humility and gentleness, qualities most everyone wants to be around. Consider what Jesus said we would find if we took His yoke upon us; that He is gentle and humble in heart, and we’ll find rest. That’s beautiful. That’s Him.
Or the affect of drinking from the source of love, God, might be a God-produced, firm rebuke that you give to someone, which might make us nervous. “Could that happen to me?” Well, maybe. But consider how Jesus loved the momentarily deceived apostle Peter. Have you read what He said to Peter? “Get thee behind me, Satan” (Matthew 16:23). Wow. That’s strong! Was it love? Here’s a better question: Was it God? Yes. It was. That’s the qualifier. That’s love and that’s perfect because that’s Him.
Look, I want to walk in love (Ephesians 5:1) – Duh. Don’t you? But I know that love disconnected from the source all too easily becomes an act in order to secure a desired outcome in a relationship, whether with a relative, a friend, a co-worker, someone I’m just meeting for the first time, etc. Some people have said that, “Walking in love is the key.” But I think walking by the Spirit is the key that opens the door in me and in you for God and His love—pure, genuine and perfect. It’s then that our confidence is in Him, rather than in the properly selected style of behavior we put on, which is always subject to the pressure of assessment and judgment. In Him, we’re free of that.
So drink deeply from Him and enjoy His affect. Whatever that is, it will be love. All of our days are set up for us to know and enjoy Him, #1, who is and who produces love.