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Chapter 14- Love and Truth, an Active Relationship with God and Service to Others
There is an expression that comes to us from the Revolutionary War, 'Going off half-cocked'. This described someone in the heat of battle whose excitement led him to forget to prepare his rifle properly and as a result, he found himself in a dangerous situation.
It is not unusual for a new Christian to become similarly enthusiastic. A young man once, upon recently becoming a Christian, was so excited that he decided he would write down the superiority of his new faith in a format similar to his recent college experience (including with footnotes). He then gave this paper to his relatives so that they could also be similarly persuaded. It was not received well.
In this example the young man had the best of intentions, but was acting in his own strength, using worldly methods, and was insensitive to those he was trying to reach. The objective of the Christian life is activity. However, it has to be God directed activity. Some fearing doing something wrong end up doing nothing. This is not an acceptable alternative.
The young man in the illustration had several options. He could have done nothing, gone off half-cocked as he did, waited until he was more mature, or sought the counsel of an older and wiser Christian. Wisdom would counsel that people are more attracted by what they see in the life of someone they know than a well crafted scholarly thesis. Love is more clearly shown by treating others individually and not as a group. Also, to gauge the receptivity of a person by seeing if God is working in his heart.
No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day. - John 6:44
A Song of degrees for Solomon. Except the LORD build the house, they labour in vain that build it: except the LORD keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain. - Psalm 127:1
The objective of the Christian life is more than just getting to heaven. If this were the case, as soon as someone became a Christian, he would die. It would seem cruel to leave someone in this evil world when it was not necessary. The reason we remain is because there is work to do.
For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them. - Ephesians 2:10
Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven. - Matthew 5:16
Sometimes Christians can founder not sure of what to do or how to do it. One can move blindly in the Christian life and often encounter painful corrections. Some attempt to avoid painful consequences by parking themselves somewhere out of they way. However, not participating is not considered an acceptable Christian condition.
I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth. Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked: - Revelation 3:15-17
We are encouraged to activity in our Christian life. Even blind activity God can correct and redirect. It is when we are indolent that we give God little to work with.
But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass: For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was. - James 1:22-24
Sometimes as a Christian begins to grow in truth and love he listens to all sorts of teaching and participates in all sorts of worship experiences. He needs to be aware of the danger of living as a Christian consumer (self-directed activity). There are tremendously powerful and deep experiences in the Christian life. However, they are consequential. If we attempt to pursue them directly, we risk an ineffective Christian life that focuses on what we take in more than what we give out.
If we consider the activity of Jesus as our example, his first priority was not to enrich himself with experiences. He even put off necessary rest because of his compassion. He poured himself out for us.
And the apostles gathered themselves together unto Jesus, and told him all things, both what they had done, and what they had taught. And he said unto them, Come ye yourselves apart into a desert place, and rest a while: for there were many coming and going, and they had no leisure so much as to eat. And they departed into a desert place by ship privately. And the people saw them departing, and many knew him, and ran afoot thither out of all cities, and outwent them, and came together unto him. And Jesus, when he came out, saw much people, and was moved with compassion toward them, because they were as sheep not having a shepherd: and he began to teach them many things. - Mark 6:30-36
One of the first mistakes a Christian can make in acting on his desire to put his faith into practice is to rely on the inclinations of his flesh to determine what 'good' he should do. Another mistake is to rely on a leader to tell us what to do. The key to activity in the Christian life is to be led by the Spirit.
For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. - Romans 8:14
There is that within the heart of a Christian that illuminates and responds to things of the Spirit.
But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. - 1 Corinthians 2:14
It is the response of our spirit that aids us in discerning the actions we should take.
And they said one to another, Did not our heart burn within us, while he talked with us by the way, and while he opened to us the scriptures? - Luke 24:32
There is that in the heart of a Christian that 'burns' (resonates) with the word of God and the person of Jesus. The natural inclination of our heart is towards those things that serve self, ambition, lust, greed, fear, or vanity. In contrast, for the Christian, there should be a growing desire to draw nearer our Savior. Having been born again and receiving a spiritual nature, allows us to expand this new capacity we have so that it can be filled with the Holy Spirit. This investment allows us to hear a new source of motivation, those things Godís Spirit directs us towards.
A man once visiting a church at a fellowship time noticed an elderly woman sitting by herself off to the side. In conversation he asked how she was doing financially. Her hesitant response was that she was having some difficulties. He was able to provide her some small assistance.
This example illustrates the confluence of the opportunities God brings into each of our lives with the call we each have to love one another. Christianity is a call to action, but not as the world acts. In the example, the action was love. It was not so much the giving of a little bit of money as it was the concern that asked about needs. This illustrates love in action.
Love and truth are not two static destinations that once achieved can be checked off a list of accomplishments. They are rivers of living water that flow from God through us to others. Because they are dynamic and continuous, we need to maintain our connection with God by continously and diligently 'seeking'.
But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him. - Hebrews 11:6
The bible gives us a picture of the actions we should demonstrate in our 'seeking'.
My son, if thou wilt receive my words, and hide my commandments with thee; So that thou incline thine ear unto wisdom, and apply thine heart to understanding; Yea, if thou criest after knowledge, and liftest up thy voice for understanding; If thou seekest her as silver, and searchest for her as for hid treasures; Then shalt thou understand the fear of the LORD, and find the knowledge of God. For the LORD giveth wisdom: out of his mouth cometh knowledge and understanding. He layeth up sound wisdom for the righteous: he is a buckler to them that walk uprightly. He keepeth the paths of judgment, and preserveth the way of his saints. Then shalt thou understand righteousness, and judgment, and equity; yea, every good path. When wisdom entereth into thine heart, and knowledge is pleasant unto thy soul; Discretion shall preserve thee, understanding shall keep thee: To deliver thee from the way of the evil man, from the man that speaketh froward things; - Proverbs 2:1-12
If one considers the active verbs receive, hide, incline, apply, criest, liftest, seekest, and searchest, one can begin to get an idea of the level and type of activity expected from the Christian. Most of these verbs describe not only action, but also intensity. However, these exhortations to action are all related to the individual Christian in his relationship with God.
If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord. A double minded man is unstable in all his ways. - James 1:5-8
The Christian whose passions have been correctly directed towards his relationship with God is ready to recognize the opportunities to show love towards other Christians that the Lord may bring across his path. It is the life of Christ that begins to be seen in us,
I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. - Galatians 2:20
The ultimate expression of the Christian life is to show the love of God to others.
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