Classic Christianity – A Closer Look at Faith, Hope & Love P46 (08-03-20)
In this flesh of ours, we will have our struggles, this conflict between the Spirit who lives in us and our sin-indwelling flesh. We indeed are weak people. But that is what God wants us to realize about ourselves so that we may boast in Him, rely on Him. We are designed to trust Him, and that comes out of responding to Him. God is the initiator and we are the responder. That is so important for us to realize and understand. He truly is our life.
We love because He first loved us. God is love. God is Agape love. But sometimes, instead of operating in the Spirit, entering into that relationship we have with God, who is living in us, we rely on our feelings. We tend to drift to worldly wisdom, which is no wisdom at all. We think how much more fun it was when we were lost. What kind of thinking is that? That enslaved you, and made you so miserable that you came to Christ for life. Those thoughts are the enemy of our soul. God has so much better for us than that.
God comes and says to us, that if you are going to listen to the world, it is going to destroy you. God came to teach us what love is. Love is the way. But when you try to love, as you read the definition of love in 1 Corinthians 13, you find that that is something you just cannot do, not in your weakened flesh. But more than that, you were designed to be a conduit of God’s love. That is how man was originally created in the garden of Eden, to respond to all that God created, who breathed His life into you. We are beings created to be in a loving relationship with God. God initiates and we respond.
So God is the one who produces that love in and through you. God is love, and He is living in us. But instead of our focus being on God, we are thinking about how spiritual we need to be. We get into self absorption, of how much I am praying or how earlier I am getting up to get my quiet time, and in doing so we are comparing ourselves to one another, and are unwise. He who compares himself with others is not wise. We have taken our eyes off Jesus and onto ourselves. We have forgotten that Jesus said the only things that counts is faith expressing itself through love.
Faith in Christ is how we came to be born again, trusting in His provision for us. By his death on a cross, he took away our sins that separated us from God, providing a way out of that state of spiritual death we were in because of sin. So by his resurrection from the dead, he provided life for us, His resurrected life in us. We received Him, who is eternal life, as a gift, by faith alone.
Yet, somehow we drift from operating and living in faith. The just shall live by faith. Faith is trusting God that what He says is true is true, that He has given you everything you need for life and godliness. You do not get more spiritual, more holy, or more forgiven. The Spirit of Christ lives in you. You cannot get any more of the Spirit than you already have. That makes no sense. You are a forgiven person. You are holy. You have been made complete in Christ. When we know who you are in Christ and what His continual provision for us is, then we can start walking in the newness of life. Having been reconciled through the death of his son, how much more, then, are you saved through his life. You are continually being renewed because Christ lives in you.
We did not have any righteousness, we never did, nor did we have holiness or life or love. We were dead spiritually. Then when Christ revealed Himself to us, we responded to His love and became a child of God. We had nothing and now we have everything. We were enemies of God and now we have become a child of God, a new creation in Him. We have Christ’s righteousness and holiness. We have the very life of Christ living in us.
So, allow your mind to be renewed. He lives in you to reveal truth to you. You have the mind of Christ. Learn to access who is already in you. Let what knowledge you receive from Him, of His unconditional love and acceptance of you, come into your heart and transform you. Let truth be revealed to you through His word. The power of God is for revelation of the love of God, that you may be convinced of His love for you. For when you receive from Him, then that love of God will be expressed in and through you into the lives of others.
Can a Christian be duped into that? Of course we can. We always look at somebody fallen back into the filthy five and the dirty dozen. Yes, you can do that, but you also fall back into attitudes of fear, anger, resentment, seeking happiness somewhere except in the Lord. All of those things. Can we do that? Of course. Not only can we, but we do. We are weak people.
27 My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand.
Jesus called us sheep, the dumbest of animals on the face of the earth. We have to recognize the weakness we have so we can draw upon the strength of the Lord. I have no strength on my own. I am not going to find strength out here on my own. Neither am I going to find happiness out there on my own. My happiness will be converted to joy and my joy has to come from the Lord Jesus Christ. The world is always out there, and the world and Satan are pulling at you to always come back and get involved in this worldly thing.
1 John 2:16
16 For everything in the world – the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life – comes not from the Father but from the world.
You can go into a situation where I am convinced of where Jesus Himself, or the apostle Paul, could suddenly appear again on this earth. Do not write me a letter if I have seen the Lord. This is just an example. All of a sudden be here on this earth and start a bible study. You would have some people who would want to hear Jesus because he has something good to say. After a while, you are longing for stained glass, choirs, and orchestras. Those thoughts would start tugging at the old heart. Don’;t you remember how nice it was? Jesus is out there teaching on a rock. He was up there where we were in this big valley. All I got to sit on is rocks. It is a nice view looking down on the sea of Galilee, but it is outdoors, and at times the wind is blowing. Don’t you remember when you used to sit on those padded pews, with great orchestras and great choirs, and not only that but DiJohn goes there and the best attorney goes there. The only place in town where you can hob-nob with the rich and famous. That old tug starts tugging at you. I am convinced that by the thousands, people who would say, “That Jesus is nice. He has got some good teaching but after all everybody can teach a little good something. God uses everything”. God can use everything. Yes, God can use everything but that does not mean everything is good. God used any experience I had. He used the experience of a liberal church where I do not know a lamp from a lamp post. Yes, they sang songs and God used that, but would you send your children there? No, I do not think so.
I am convinced that because of that desire that something makes me feel good, and that is what I am looking for, then I would rather go some place that makes me feel good than where I would go and listen to the teaching of the Lord Jesus Christ. “That taught me how to serve. That is what he is going to be teaching. He is not going to be teaching how to feel good. He is going to teach you how to serve. That is about as popular as the Titanic sinking. I do not want a course on how to serve. I want a course on how to get”. What are the famous books? “Think and become a servant”? No, it is “Think and be rich” or “Grow rich”. “I want to go to a seminar that teaches me how to get. I do not want to go to a seminar to teach me how to serve.”
1 Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, 2 then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. 3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, 4 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.
5 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
6 Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
7 rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
8 And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death –
even death on a cross!
Whether the apostle Paul or Jesus or whoever it is, if you are concentrating on merely teaching people truth, then this old element is going to draw you away sooner or later. It is a shame, but it is true. Why? The flesh loves anything that makes him feel good. So, we live in a feel good society. Now, the issue is if you can get them both going, then you would really have something. “What am I going to do is start showing up at this huge church on the corner of walk and don’t walk and be there every Sunday, and then I will have choirs and orchestras and good teaching.” There is only one problem with that. Sooner or later, those activities become a substitute for instead of a supplement to. Sooner or later it is going to happen. What that does is attract the uncommitted. The uncommitted are not at all interested in listening to truth. They want to be entertained. So you have to build buildings to house people who want to be entertained. After a while, this happened to me in my early days with Christianity, where people would literally say, and I have been in ministries with them, “we have to cut down the talking about Jesus and make it more acceptable to the crowds”. “We have to water this message down because the people do not understand it and we just have to go along with it”. “We have to give them time”. So do they get saved by osmosis? That is where a preacher says, “I am into nickels and noses and I do not care about teaching. So let us compromise teaching to get the nickels and the noses”. Then of course you rationalize, thinking that once they are here, then we will get them to Jesus. That does not work.
What I am saying is this. That God comes and says to us, that if you are going to listen to the world, it is going to destroy you. The world is bent, whether the religious world, or the non-religious world, the world functions in one way, to get some things going that makes you feel good and people will love it. But Jesus says, “I am going to teach you what love is. Love is not feel good. Love is servitude ”. As a result of really substituting good feelings for love, and using the word love in regard to that I love these things that make me feel good, let us take a look at what God’s love is really all about and why we see such little of it in our daily experience.
As a result of our lack of love for one another, and we really do see we fail in that, and that is why in the Christian realm, we talk about people loving God but when you get down to loving one another, there just seems to be a silence on that type of thing. As a result of that, we attempt to develop our own definitions and our own interpretation of what love is and try to live up to our own definitions. As an example, because I know I cannot love people with 1 Corinthians 13 love and I do not have a clue that that kind of love is in me, if I am born again. It is already there. Those characteristics, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, and self control, are already there. That is not something I get. It is something that is already there. I do not know how to access it.
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.
It is like me on a computer. There is a lot of information in there, but I do not know how to get a hold of it. I do not know how to work it. If I can use that expression. It is there. I have been told it is there. I can get you to come in and press some buttons, and all of a sudden it is there. But I do not know how to get a hold of it. As a result of that, I cannot grab a hold of this thing, then we will make up other definitions of what love is. “Well, a witnessing Christian is a loving Chrisitan”. So I will go witness, and therefore, I will be loving. So we join in with all the different training courses that come along, the Evangelism Explosion, the James D. Kennedy program, the Crusade program, and we learn how to witness. And we think that is loving. “You are a really loving Christian and that is loving”. Well, you and I both know that you can be out witnessing all the time and be mean as a hornet. You can be out stepping over your whole family, trying to reach out to others with Christ. You can be sharing Christ with somebody and somebody over there is making a noise and you say, “Shut up. I am sharing Jesus.” We think that witnessing is a sign of being a loving Christian. A true loving Christian may witness, but witnessing does not necessarily mean you are a loving Christian.
Let us see another example. “I will be loving if I read the bible and pray”. So I will diligently read the bible and pray and that would be loving. How true is that? How many bible students do you see that look like they just ate a skunk? Some of the meanest people I know are some of the most educated people in bible knowledge. Just look at the Pharisees. Are they loving people? They had the Old Testament memorized and looked at what they did. That is no sign of loving at all. You can be a true loving Christian who studies the bible and prays, but studying the bible and praying does not make you a loving Christian.
“Loving people go to church, and therefore, I will be loving”. “I will exercise one of my gifts. I will speak in tongues, and therefore, I will be loving”. You and I know better than that as well. When people start promoting those gifts and you do not agree with them, you will see they are not a very loving person you are talking to.
1 John 4:9-11
9 This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.
So it becomes how to be spiritual rather than how to get into the New Testament emphasis on how to love. You find people constantly trying to be spiritual instead of how I can allow God to love through me. What is spirituality? People say, “I am a Spirit-filled Christian.” We talked about that one. There is no such thing as a Spirit-filled Christian at all times. It means to be filled or controlled by the Spirit. Being filled means being controlled by. It means to be continually to be controlled, and sometimes you are not. People will say that the evidence of spirituality is speaking in tongues. No, the evidence of spirituality is loving your neighbor. We want to substitute those because the person can say I can speak in tongues, therefore I must be loving. No. You can speak in a language of men and of angels but if you do not have love you are a noisy, clanging gong. How can you call somebody a Spirit-filled noisy, clanging gong? The evidence of being Spirit-filled is not some spiritual gift, but love. It says if you do not have love then you do not have anything.
23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God
23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
9 For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. 10 The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God.
11 In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.
We look at that and say, “Lord, I have really fallen short of the glory of God on this”. God says, “Now, you got it. What you have been doing is substituting everything for what I say is love”. One time in my life, I read if you love me you will obey me. I am not obeying God all the time. The two things He left me with is to love the Lord God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. Then He said, “love your neighbor as yourself”, and “I cannot stand my neighbor”. The only conclusion I can make of this is that “I do not love you, Lord”. You said if I did that I would obey you on these things and I am not.
36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’[Deuteronomy 6:5] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[Leviticus 19:18] 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
1 John 2:4-6
4 Whoever says, “I know him,” but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in that person. 5 But if anyone obeys his word, love for God is truly made complete in them. This is how we know we are in him: 6 Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did.
We have no other conclusion to say except that to say, “Evidently I do not love God”. I can remember the first time I was saved that I experienced that love. It was like God said, “Whew! At last. You have been out trying to work to get Me to love you for seven years. And you have been doing a good job at it. I admire your diligence and endurance. You have been working like a slave for My acceptance. Bob, you cannot work hard enough to get me to accept you. You are accepted already”. When you are accepted already, you cannot get accepted. You have got to understand what you already are.
1 John 4:19
19 We love because he first loved us.
It is not that we loved God but that He loved us first. There is a reason you are not experiencing what you did when you were first saved. Certainly you did not do anything. You did not get saved by saying you loved God. You got saved by getting to know He loved you. God so loved you, Bob, that He gave you His Son that if you would just believe in Him, you would have everlasting life. And you did that. You recognized His love for you. No one had to tell you, and you just loved Him back. It was a response.
“Then you got into the orientation of workmanship. And you started working for Me, and working for My acceptance, and working for My love. I love you too much to let you get away with that. The reason you are so miserable as you are, is I allowed that, for unless you got so miserable you would never get to know the truth of the unconditional love and acceptance I have already given you in Christ Jesus”. So I looked at that and said, “Lord, this is hard for me to say, but you are the one who said it. I am just echoing your words, that evidently I do not love you”. The Lord said, “At last, Bob, it is not that you loved Me, but I loved you. As long as you are trying to work for acceptance, you will never know My voice. That is not love. That is earning. My love is wrapped up in grace. My love is a giving love, not an earning love. I do not love you because or love you if. I just love you. That is a gift I have given to you. It is part of My character, when I, Jesus, came to live in you, My love came to indwell you. You cannot earn it”. Until you learn just to be a responder in all things, you are never going to understand this Christian life. As long as you think you are going to do something and then God will bless you, you are going to live in defeat.
Is this not what we are taught many times? “If you tithe, God will bless you”. “If your Sabbath is Saturday, instead of Sunday, God will bless you more than on Sunday”. What kind of God is that? “If you go on Sunday, then I like you”. You just want to scratch your head, “Where is your brain guys?” “Where is your brain, Bob?” That is the kind of thing I was under. “If I were to do this, God will be really happy with me”. “If I go to church on Sunday morning, well, that is semi-commitment. If you go on Sunday night, that is a pretty committed person. But if you hit Wednesday you are on your way to heaven. On top of that, if you ever go to visitation, then you already got that and you are just back here in your glorified body”. For some reason, you got a hold of that, and God has to get us to see that there is nothing that you do that causes God to bless you. “You are blessed because of everything I did. Nothing that you have done”. There is nothing righteous in you. The only righteousness you have had to be given to you. There is no holiness in you. The only holiness you have had to be given to you. There is no salvation in you. “The only salvation you will ever have is Mine and I gave it to you as you, by faith, received it. It is all Me and none of you”.
1 Corinthians 1:30
30 It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God – that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption.
Now, when we get down to those types of things, then we realize I have been substituting everything for His love you have been talking about. He says, “Yes, you sure have”. You think you are loving because you are witnessing. You think you are loving because you are praying, or because of this or that. That is all phileo love but it is not Agape love.
When you learn that you have been given everything you need for life and godliness, you are not going to get forgiveness. You already have it. You are not going to get redemption. You already have it. You are not going to get eternal life. You already have it. It started the moment you got the Son. The life you have is not your righteousness. The righteousness now is called eternal life. So you do not get it. You got it. When you learn that, then you are ready to walk by faith, and without faith it is impossible to please God. “The only thing I am looking for is faith in Me who has done it all and you recognizing you can do nothing apart from Me”.
5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”
We spend so much time trying to become spiritual instead of how to love. Love is God and God is love. Love of God is centered and therefore turns our eyes toward others rather than inward on how to make us happy. A preoccupation with one’s own spirituality is self-centered and therefore is all inward. How, as an example, can I be sitting here thinking how spiritual I am and coming to a conclusion that I am pretty spiritual? I could if I thought that I was really a spiritual dude, how could I not say, “How spiritual are you compared to Bob Davis, or to Steve Simons, or to Bob Christopher, or whoever else it might be. You cannot come to a conclusion of how wonderful you are unless you have come to a conclusion of how spiritual someone else is. That is called comparing yourself by himself. Scripture says a person who compares himself by himself is a fool.
2 Corinthians 10:12-13
12 We do not dare to classify or compare ourselves with some who commend themselves. When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise. 13 We, however, will not boast beyond proper limits, but will confine our boasting to the sphere of service God himself has assigned to us, a sphere that also includes you.
So if you are talking about how spiritual I am, and what you mean by that is, “How is my prayer life?” I have had people come by and say to me, “How is your prayer life?” You feel like saying this. First of all, it is none of your business. Second, why are you asking? Obviously, you think yours is pretty good or you would not be asking me. You would not be asking, “How is your prayer life?” You say, “not bad, Bob. How is yours?” “Oh, mine is terrible. That is why I was asking, so I can feel worse than I was before”. It is like going to a church conference and saying, “How big is your church?” Now someone with thirty people in their church does not ask that question. They try to avoid those people. It is only when you have thousands do you ask that, “How big is your church?” in comparison to my big one. So we are setting ourselves up in comparing ourselves with one another. “How is your prayer life?” “How is your quiet time?” Why would I ask that unless I had mine. Of course if you had yours and I had mine, “What time did you have yours?” 6:00. “Oh, I had mine at 5:30”. So I feel more spiritually because I got up earlier.
You have these self righteous people coming up. They look and talk self-righteous. They are always wanting to check if you are praying enough and are you this and are you that. In all those kinds of questions, am I really more spiritual this month than last. I remember in my early Christian experience I was engaging that. “Oh, I am a little better than January”. What that is is self absorption in your own spiritual life. There is no thought of whether you are loving others. You are too busy preoccupied with yourself. That sin mentality will bring that about.
When I came to Christ, it was keeping short accounts with God, spiritual breathing, keeping yourself clean. I did not know I had already been cleansed of all my righteousness, what Jesus did at the cross. What I missed in that is that I never did have any righteousness. There is not a person born in the world who is righteous. Is that not what scripture says?
10 As it is written: “There is no one righteous, not even one”
So I never had any righteousness. So what I needed to do was to be cleansed of my unrighteousness. I did not have any righteousness, so I had to be cleansed of what I had. Why did I need to be cleansed of unrighteousness so that having been cleansed of ALL unrighteousness, I can be indwelt by Jesus and His righteousness. I never had any. That is all He had. So if I was ever going to get righteousness, I had to have His, not mine. Today I do not have my righteousness. I am righteous in Christ Jesus. It was imputed to me. It was given to me. So when I really look at it, you say whose righteousness do you have? I have the righteousness of Christ Jesus. He lives in me and He is my righteousness. What does scripture say?
1 Corinthians 1:30
30 It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God – that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption.
So who is my righteousness? Jesus. There is an essence in which I can say in and of myself I still do not have anything except unrighteousness, outside of the fact that at the cross, Jesus cleansed me of all my unrighteousness. But the righteousness I possess is His. When I understand that truth, then am I going to go out trying to make myself more righteous when the Bible has already told me I do not have any. All the righteousness I have is His, so how do I think I am going to improve on His? How am I going to improve on Christ righteousness? He is my righteousness. How am I going to improve on His holiness? He made me holy.
We got people out putting buns on their heads, trying to make themselves more holy. What they are saying is, “your holiness, Lord, is not good enough. You just watch my smoke. You just watch how good I can be”. These are all substitutes caused by preoccupation. I am preoccupied with me and what I am doing. When you are preoccupied with you it is dark in there. Our preoccupation is to be on Him. It does not say turn your eyes on Bobby. It says turn your eyes upon Jesus and look full into His wonderful face.
Turn Yours Eyes Upon Jesus by Alan Jackson
O soul, are you weary and troubled?
No light in the darkness you see?
There’s light for a look at the Savior,
And life more abundant and free!
Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.
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