Love & Holiness – A Beautiful Picture

Holiness – it’s a word we don’t generally feel comfortable using these days.    The Bible says  in 1 Peter  1:15 “But as He called you is Holy, you also be Holy in all your conduct”.  Our Pastor says when you think of being Holy just think it’s being different to the world because of Jesus.

It seems to me that when we try to be Holy ourselves (apart from Jesus) then it just becomes a religious list of dos/don’ts which can then lead to frustration and guilt when we fail.     We can end up doing lots of works with little fruit.

A wise person said. “Holiness will take care of itself when we see ourselves as the Holy people of God with a Holy destiny”.    The way of holiness is living through Jesus.

In Revelation 2 Jesus says to the Church at Ephesus:

“I know your works, your labour, your patience and that you cannot bear those who are evil, and you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not and have found them liars, and you have persevered and have patience and have laboured for My name’s sake and have not become weary, Nevertheless I have this against you; that you have left your first love. Remember therefore from where you have fallen and repent and do the first works”

Jesus said they were patient, hardworking, persistent, hated evil – but they no longer had a fervent love for Christ and God out of which their works should have flowed.   They had lost their first love.

The greatest commandment is “to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and mind” and then “to love your neighbour as yourself”:     In effect Holiness in action.

Love

In my life,  it seems to me that Love has been key to living out a practical holy life.

Love acts as a true motivation for holiness.  Love is, in its true actions, a true outworking of holiness.

  1. Love for God

The Bible says Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul & mind. – Do not worship any other idols.

When we are mature in faith, it is good to stop and consider,  whether our hearts still burn with a fervent love for God and for Jesus, our saviour?  What is it that motivates us daily in the things we do and say?   Remember that first time you became a Christian and how you were so hungry for the things of God?

If that fervent love is not still there, then what has taken the place which God had in our lives?

Idolatry is putting something before God – we can make idols of money, careers, other people -worshipping anything other than God.    Idolatry is one of the areas I believe Holy Spirit is bringing conviction to us as the Body of Christ.

The Holy Spirit can reveal the true nature of our hearts and what it is that is actually taking the first place in our lives, our thoughts, prompting our actions.  Sometimes, we are just blind to what or who is really sitting on the throne in our hearts.

We love God because He first loved us and gave His son to die for us while we were still sinners.

Love for God will manifest itself in spending time in His word and in fellowship with Him through prayer and praise. Times of fellowship with God; being obedient to His Will; allowing His Holy Spirit to fill us and mould us.

pexels-photo-267559-e1557645909858.jpeg
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

 

 

 

  1. Love for each other

Thessalonians Ch 3 v 12-13 says “and may the Lord make you increase and abound in love to one another and to all; just as we do to you so that He (God) may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all His saints:

Love for one another  – loving other Christians.

Love for all – everybody.

We all see this love expressed in Peter’s first letter to the church.  Peter was concerned with how Christians should live their daily lives – with each other and also in front of non-Christians.

Peter confirms that we express holiness to one another through love.  First Peter encourages us in Ch 1 v 15-16 “but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written “Be holy, for I am holy”

V22 – Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit in sincere love of the brethren, love one another fervently with a pure heart” or other translations  “so that you have a genuine mutual love, love one another deeply from the heart”

Pure Heart – Ch 2 “laying aside all malice, all deceit, hypocrisy, envy and all evil speaking”

No hypocrisy, no jealousy, no gossip – all this rubbish has no place in us and needs to come out of the body of Christ.

Someone said “where love abounds in a fellowship of Christians, many small offences, and even some large ones are readily overlooked and forgotten. But where love is lacking every word is viewed with suspicion, every action is liable to misunderstanding and conflicts abound to satan’s perverse delight”

Humility will help in our relationships with one another.  Peter goes on to say that there should be “unity of spirit, sympathy, love for one another, a tender heart and a humble mind”

Is loving each other as Christians optional?   According to the Word the answer must be NO.

As Christians we can’t really opt out of loving one another if we are followers of Jesus – it was Christ’s commandment to us – to love each other as He loved us.  It’s a commandment – if we love Christ then we ought to love one another.

We recall Jesus’ teaching at the last supper.   This was his last opportunity to talk to his disciples before He went to the Cross.   Jesus reiterates 4 times his new commandment to love one another.    He didn’t remind the disciples of all the great miracles they had witnessed – it was love which was important.

JN 13:34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

JN15:12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command. 17 This is my command: Love each other.

Jesus said “if you love me then you will obey my commandments.”

JN 2:3 We know that we have come to know him if we obey his commands. 4 The man who says, “I know him,” but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him. 5 But if anyone obeys his word, God’s love is truly made complete in him. This is how we know we are in him: 6 Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did.

1JN 3:11 This is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love one another.

As Jesus said to the church – Have we lost our first love? Have you lost your first love?

It takes us back full circle – if we love Christ and he is our first love then out of this love will flow love for one another.  Let us start with love for God first and the rest will follow.

John Wesley said that “Holiness misses the mark if the essence of godliness found in purity of heart expressed in love is missing” His favourite saying was “The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself in love”

So HOW?

I don’t believe we can manufacture this love successfully.   We could perhaps do it for a while but it will stagnate and eventually die – it must develop naturally out of relationship with God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit.

Romans 5: the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit which is given unto us and love is created in us by the Holy Spirit Galatians 5: 22 says it is a “fruit of the Spirit”

So instead of striving to do it in our own strength and with our own love – let the love of Christ come through us – let the fruit be produced – How – by abiding in Him & receiving God’s love.

Jesus tells us:

JN 15:1 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2 He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. 3 You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. 4 Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.

JN 15:5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. 7 If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. 8 This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.

JN 15:9 “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 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. 11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.

So How is love evidenced practically in holy living?

1JN 3:16 This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. 17 If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? 18 Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.

Love will manifest itself in generosity, meeting others’ needs, unselfish giving.   This can be truly testing when we are going through our own times of difficulty.

Our reward is not earthly but heavenly:

M.T 25:34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, `Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

MT 25:37 “Then the righteous will answer him, `Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

MT 25:40 “The King will reply, `I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.

Conclusion

I believe that Love for God is holiness which is then expressed in love for those in the body of Christ and others. Love in its actions is the true outworking of holiness.

The Apostle Paul said:

1 Corinthians 13

1CO 13:1 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.

1CO 13:4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

1CO 13:8 Love never fails.

If we as the body of Christ are serious about living holy lives then let’s ensure that we have not lost our first love and that we truly love one another. Then the light will shine from us and men will see our good deeds and praise our father in heaven.     If we want to see people come to Christ then one of the keys is to obey His commandment to love.

In Isaiah Ch 5 – we read about :God’s disappointing vineyard” – ‘My well beloved has a vineyard, on a very fruitful hill, He dug it up and cleared out its stones, and planted it with the choicest vine. He built a tower in its midst, and also made a winepress in it; so he expected it to bring forth good grapes but it brought forth wild grapes”

God’s expectation is that you will produce good grapes – good fruit for Him.  He has a plan for you individually and for your fellowship.  You are important to Him.  God never gives up – He never slumbers or sleeps – He is always working with you to produce god fruit.   Let the fruit of His Love grow and develop in us.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

God’s Perfect Plan

God reminded me today that even though at times my life seems chaotic and overwhelming to me when I am trying to balance work, family, home and many other things which distract me, the truth is that He is always right there with me and I am made right with Him through Jesus.   I am living out His perfect plan for my life because He is in it.     I don’t have to earn it or work at it – I just have to accept the greatest gift which Jesus has given to me – the gift of relationship with God.

I wrote down the following words which came to me as I spent some time with God today:

“My children,  From the very foundation of the world I had a plan and My plan has not altered.    It is a plan set in the heavenly realm and My son Jesus achieved and accomplished in perfect obedience and perfect sacrifice and in perfect timing that plan.   Every person on earth who has ever lived and was created with life has a place in My perfect plan.    There is no-one who has ever lived who is not able to partake.  None has been left out.   I long that all would come into My perfect plan for their lives.   My plan is simple.  It consists of relationship between Father, Son, Holy Spirit and you in perfect harmony of relationship.  There is nothing which can stop you being part of My plan.   All that is necessary is humble acceptance of My son’s sacrifice and offering of Himself for you.  He has obtained by His death and resurrection the keys of death and hell so that the door is open to walk into the perfect plan for your life.   No other plan will bring you the desires of your heart for no other plan can bring you into perfect harmony with Me.  It is simple and it is true.  There is only one plan which is perfect and so why accept anything less for yourselves.”

sky sunset person silhouette
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

 

 

The Inspection Gate

The Miphkad Gate or The inspection Gate

The bible teach us that Jesus is coming back and we should live today with that in mind.     Whatever we are doing -let us do it with an eye to the future and make it count.

 

This gate reminds me of the judgement seat of Christ.  The bible teaches us that one day we, as Christians, will give an account of ourselves to Christ. We will appear before His throne and Christ will judge our works.   Our sins are paid for by His blood but we will give an account for our works or in other words how have we have lived out our lives for him.

Paul teaches on this in 2 Corinthians Ch 5 – v 9  “Therefore we make it our aim, whether present or absent, to be well pleasing to Him. 10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad”.

What is Christ looking for?  I believe it is His character and how it has manifested in our lives through the fruit of the Holy Spirit.

Matthew 7 – v 17 – “Every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit”.

This takes us right back to the Sheep Gate where we started our journey around the gates – We have to be rooted in Christ to bear good fruit.

John 15 talks of the true vine and Jesus says:

“Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, and you are the branches. He who abides in Me and I in him, bears much fruit, for without Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned. If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. By this My father is glorified, that you bear much fruit, so you will be My disciples.”

The fruit of the Holy Spirit working in our lives is:  Galatians 5: 22 – ” 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 are rooted in Him then the good fruit will be produced naturally by the Holy Spirit working in our lives and what we do will be good and pleasing to Jesus.

 

The Horse Gate

This gate speaks of battles and as Christians we are in a spiritual battle.     We have an enemy, Satan,  who doesn’t want us to mature spiritually and discover the fullness of who we are in Christ.     The enemy will try and discourage you, hinder you and stop you.     He will do what he can to put thoughts into your mind and build strongholds there to frustrate your Christian walk.     He will try and deceive you, tempt you, cause you to be fearful,  to give up because you are weary, frustrated, anxious and being a Christian just seems too difficult.

Let us not give up but let us fight the good fight.    Ephesians 6 says “Finally, my bretheren be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armour of God that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood but against principalities against powers against the rulers of darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armour of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all to stand.

Stand therefore having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace, and above all taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one and take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit which is the word of God praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints.

God has equipped us through the power of the Holy Spirit and the authority of the word and Christ with the ability to stand against and overcome our enemy.   The bible says that when we submit to God, resist the enemy then the promise of God is that “he will flee”.      Jesus said that he overcame the world and so we can too.

The Fountain & Water Gates

The Fountain Gate –   Nehemiah repaired the Fountain Gate.   This gate reminds me of Jesus – who is the fountain of living water- and also the daily power of the Holy Spirit working in our lives.    There is a living well of spiritual water for us to draw from daily.    It is an inexhaustible supply that will never run dry.      Jesus said we never need to thirst again when we come to Him because He is the living water.   He can satisfy our thirst in all areas and bring refreshing to us.    When we are tired, weary or discouraged then we can come to the Fountain Gate and be refreshed.    We can drink deeply of Jesus and be restored.      If we forsake the living water then we will be dry and empty with nothing to give.  Our source of spiritual life is Jesus.

timelapse photography off water fountain
Photo by Gabriel Peter on Pexels.com

 

The Water Gate –    This gate speaks to me of the power of the word of God which is at work in our lives.    The bible teaches us that we are washed by the word of God.      The word of God is powerful and true – a test of our thoughts and intentions.   When we read, meditate and act on the Word of God then we see the fruit if its out-working in our lives and it keeps us on the right path.

The Water Gate was the only gate which didn’t need repair.    The word of God endures for ever.     God’s word doesn’t need to be improved,  added to or altered – it is complete just as it is.   It is the best manual for a successful and fulfilling life.

The Valley Gate

Nehemiah re-built The Valley Gate.       This is a difficult gate and one that we don’t generally want to go through- the valley experiences which no-one likes.    We would all (myself included) much rather stay on the mountain top and enjoy those experiences with God but I don’t believe that we can stay there forever if we are to grow, mature and move on.

The valley gate can be a necessary part of following our path to achieve what God is preparing us for.   It develops our faith and trust in God and we learn from the experience that God is faithful.    I believe that Jesus had to go through the valley gate when he went from Mt Olives through the Kidron Gate into Garden of Gethsemane and then to the Cross.   He was in agony in the garden but He yielded to God’s will to be done.   Generally, in life we will all go through valley experiences but the encouragement is that we are never alone at those times and we can get through them.   Jesus promised that He will never leave us or forsake us. He will lead us through the valley – even the valley of death.   The words of Psalm 23 encourages that God is with us and will not forsake us and will comfort us in time of difficulty and pain. 

If you are in a valley situation right now – keep going, don’t give up and ask for God’s help.  Sometimes the valley situations teach us far more than the mountain top experiences and our faith in God grows. God will show you the way through to the other side.  Humility and the valley gate in my experience can sometimes go together hand in hand.   I have had to humble myself under God’s mighty hand before I realise that I can’t handle situations on my own or with my own wisdom or little understanding.    If I submit and surrender to God and acknowledge my dependence on Him then I have felt His peace even in the most difficult of situations.

 

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

 

The Rubbish Gate

Just as the name suggests this gate which Nehemiah rebuilt was the one used to get rid of the rubbish and dung.      I don’t know about you but even after being a Christian for over 40 years, I am still a work in progress and I still sin (even when I don’t want to or intend to) and get things wrong.       However, I don’t write myself off.   Even though I still sin, I know that the power of sin over me has been broken because of the work of Christ at the Cross.    I repent when I know I have done wrong and the Holy Spirit convicts me and I am cleansed by the power of the blood of Christ.    The rubbish is swept out of the door.   When the accuser comes to me I just point to the blood of Jesus and he has nothing on me.   The slate is wiped clean.    I don’t use the grace of Christ as a licence to sin but I rely on the grace of God in my life to convict me of sin.

If there is still rubbish in your life or you are carrying it around then I encourage you to get rid of it.   It is only choking the word of God and the fruit of the Spirit maturing in you.   If we allow the Holy Spirit to work in our lives then He will convict us of sin. Keeping our hearts soft and not hardened by disobedience.   What rubbish needs to be out of our lives today?  Let’s be ruthless with it and get rid of it – once and for all.  

Photo by Emmet on Pexels.com