I have been thinking about this today and it is a challenge. What am I hoping/expecting to receive from God when I pray to Him or seek Him for direction in my life?
Do I have a confident expectation in the goodness of God?
I sense God is saying– What is your expectation of me? Don’t be limited by past experiences. Widen your expectation – expect the unexpected.
God can do immeasurably more than we can do or think. Do I come to Him with a limited expectation based on past experiences or disappointments and a misunderstanding of His word and character? The truth is that God can do awesome things & totally surprise us by His grace & mercy.
It is easy to get in a rut and expect the same to happen all the time. Expectation can be stifled through habit & tradition. I am being encouraged to look for the new and expect something different – After all – God’s ways are far above our ways.
God reminded me of the story in the Acts of the Apostles of the lame man who was seated outside of the gate Beautiful begging for money. He must have sat there day in and day out holding out his hands expecting to receive money from the people going into the temple. He had the same expectation of Peter & John, but they gave the lame man so much more than he expected. They gave him healing & restoration by the power of Jesus Christ.
It was interesting that the story also says that the people around did not expect a miracle of healing either because the man was said to be “old” – he was above 40 years of age – goodness what an expectation. Does our age and what other people think of us affect our expectation of God – that we are too old or don’t qualify for him to move in our lives in power. God forbid.
The beautiful aspect of this story is that the lame man received so much more than he expected to receive. It is such an amazing demonstration of God’s abundant love & mercy.
I pray for a right expectation in the goodness of God, not limited by my past experiences but to be inspired by the Holy Spirit to increase my expectation and expect the unexpected.
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.
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.
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.
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”
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.
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.
The message bible translation of Zechariah 3 v 10 is “At that time, everyone will get along with one another, with friendly visits across the fence; friendly visits on one another’s porches.” What a lovely picture of peacefulness.
We all long, I am sure, for a day when peace reigns in our neighbourhoods and cities. When people can rub along together despite “fences ” -the differences that separate them. The Bible talks here of just such a day when this can happen. I want that in my neighbourhood and I am sure you do too.
A day when knife crime and violence is not the words we see and read about in our newspapers and TV but instead there is genuine friendship and love for one another. Love your neighbour as yourself is one of the commandments in the bible and Jesus emphasised it in His teaching. As we come into this season of Lent what is it that we can do for our neighbours as a friendly gesture that will show God’s love for them through us.
What could it be? A friendly greeting, a smile, a bunch of flowers, a catch up with a cup of tea, an invitation for a meal? Showing friendship to those who are alone and lonely. I am sure that God will show us and open up the door of opportunity to us in this season of Lent.
We were taking communion on Sunday and I was reminded of God’s banqueting table and that His banner over us there is love. The words are from the Song of Solomon but we also sing a worship song about God bringing us to His banqueting table. It is only through that act of selfless love when Christ died on the cross that we have the ability to come to that banqueting table and to the place prepared for us there. Christ issued the invitation and I accepted. Christ’s banner of love is over me and all around me when I am there. I have a place at the banqueting table and so I have access to the full provision of God. I am dressed appropriately for the banquet with the garments of salvation and the robes of righteousness because I have accepted Christ as my saviour, so there is no chance that I will be refused entry, but how often I can neglect to go there and take hold of and enjoy all that Christ has obtained for me at the Cross. Thankfully, the invitation from God is always open to come at any time – 24/7. There is always a welcome and my place will never be filled by anyone else so there is always a guarantee that I will have a place at the banqueting table. God can do exceedingly above all that I ask or imagine there because he is a God of abundance. The banquet is a picture of abundance and plenty for everyone. The best food and drink are laid on at the banquet for the guests. Let’s not neglect to ask God for the things that we need and to trust Him to provide for us and sustain us. It might be physical or spiritual sustenance that we need and we can be sure that whatever it is, He will be faithful to meet our needs. Allow Him to fill us there with His love there so that we can be changed and overflow that love to others. There was a time a few years ago when we were away on retreat and the leader encouraged us all to take up the invitation to come to God’s banqueting table. He pulled up a physical chair and invited us to take our seat at the table. We did so and as we did that physical act we saw and imagined ourselves seated at the table feasting on all the provision of God that Christ had obtained for us. It had a profound effect on me. I encourage you to take up your place at God’s banqueting table today. Don’t leave it empty.
In church today we were singing a song about God’s love for us, how overwhelming and awesome it is. I felt God say that some people need a fresh understanding of His love. We expect it to be a feel good, warm feeling all the time but God’s love also disciplines us and corrects us when we need it.
The bible says that we know we are his children because he disciplines us. God’s love expressed itself in the purest way when Christ died on the Cross and it requires us to bring death to our flesh. It can even require some things in our lives to be cut off, wither and die. God’s love will discipline and corrects us when we need it. Hebrews 12 v 3-11 tells us this.
When this happens and we are going through a time of discipline it is painful, uncomfortable, frustrating and doesn’t feel good. We can be confused, discouraged and start to think all sorts of wrong things and can lose our way. Don’t be discouraged and don’t try to short cut the process otherwise Paul tells us we will miss the fruit of righteousness that this process will produce in us.
God wants to encourage you today. If you are in a difficult season then you may be experiencing God’s love being expressed in this way. Ask God to reveal to you what is happening in your life. If you are going through a period of discipline or pruning then hold on firm to the truth. Reject any lie that says if God loved you then you wouldn’t be feeling like this or going through this. God is love and He loves you. Submit to Him and let Him bring His good work in you to fruition so that you can grow and mature in your faith. Hold on fast to the truth which is the Word of God and don’t be swayed by feelings or what is happening around you. Ask other christians to support you in prayer during this time. Strengthen yourself in God and in His Word.