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.

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  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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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 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.

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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 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.  

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The Fish Gate

The fish Gate was another gate which Nehemiah rebuilt.  As followers of Christ we are called like the disciples of Jesus to be fishers of men.   We have been given the great commission to go out and make disciples. It is the mandate from Christ to His church.     If however we just put all of our efforts into catching the fish and seeing converts, but don’t disciple them properly afterwards, then we shouldn’t be surprised if we don’t see any growth or maturity.

Discipleship requires service, commitment, love and sacrifice.    In order to walk alongside people,  especially people who are hurting, we can need grace, patience and love in great abundance.   The Holy Spirit can help us to develop the fruit of the Spirit in discipleship and teach us how to disciple others.     We need to know the truth of the gospel ourselves in order that we can help others to mature in Christ and follow Him.    The Christian life can be one of suffering, hardship and persecution because of our faith in Jesus and preparing people for that is a key part of discipleship. 

Are the nets ready for the catch?    If there is to be a great harvest of souls then we need to get ready to disciple them.    If you are a follower of Christ then I encourage you to share your testimony and life with others who are new to the faith and disciple them.   Help them and strengthen them to grow and mature in Christ and share your experiences with them.    We all have something to offer in service to Jesus.   Is there someone that you can take under your wing today or give a supporting hand?

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Breakthrough

A visiting speaker encouraged us recently to be a bit of kindling and allow the Lord to set fire to us.   A little fire can be all it takes – it can spread like wildfire as nature has shown us with the wildfires which took hold last year in various places. At this time we are to press in and not be discouraged.  Don’t settle where you are but press on in faith.     The breakthrough or miracle you have been waiting for or seeing in faith could be just around the corner.

We may face opposition just before we see the promise and answer come to pass.    When Jesus was on the way to heal the sick daughter of the leader, Jairus, people came to tell him not to bother because the girl was already dead.     Jesus refused to accept that and told them that she was not dead only sleeping.   The people ridiculed him but Jesus silenced them, pressed ahead and the girl was raised up. People may ridicule you or try to stop you pressing in to what God has for you and the vision He has shown you.

When we step out in faith we are His vessels.  It is the oil of His Presence and the power of the Holy Spirit flowing through us to do His good works which He prepared beforehand for us to do.    The people who know their God will be strong and do mighty things.   You may have people telling you opposite things to the promises of God and what God has revealed to you by His Holy Spirit.   Do not listen to them and refuse to believe them.  Stand on the Word of God.    You may have to be bold and silence them.   Fix your eyes on Christ.  Lift up your head and see the King of Glory

In scripture John the Baptist said that Jesus was the one who would baptise with the Holy Spirit and fire.     Tongues of fire appeared on the heads of those who first received the baptism of the Holy Spirit.   I have been baptised in the Holy Spirit but I want to be on fire for Jesus.   I believe this fire is purifying and empowering to enable the Holy Spirit to flow through us in power in signs and wonders to give a powerful witness to the gospel message of Christ.     The Holy Spirit convicts of sin and glorifies Jesus Christ. People are saved and those who are suffering to healed and restored. Hold on to your promise and vision today and believe in faith. It will happen in His appointed time.

Prepare, (Re-)Position, Let Go

As we have been praying recently there has been a great sense of God speaking again about His Fire and Oil being poured out on believers in an incredible way.   A mighty outpouring of the Holy Spirit to come suddenly and deluge us just as the rain came in the day of Elijah following years of drought.   The fire first and then rain with a river of His Presence, Power & Glory.    This will see many people being brought into the Kingdom as the gospel of Jesus Christ is preached with power.

I sense in my spirit that the Lord is saying Prepare and Position yourself ready to give and receive.     The Lord gave me this word “Hitch up your garments and take up your position ready”.       I believe preparation and positioning are keys for this season.    In each of our lives we can prepare and position ourselves ready to give and receive and birth as the Lord shows each one of us by His Holy Spirit.     Each of us has different gifts, callings and ministries and resources to use in the body of Christ and for the work of the gospel.     If we have put these down or let them get a bit rusty then perhaps now is the time to pick them up again and start practicing and get ready.

I pray God will show each and every one of us what we need to do to prepare.  I sense that for some people God is saying that you have to let go of the old in order to receive the new.   If you are holding on to something from the past then perhaps it is time to let it go in order that you can receive the new thing God wants to do.

I am reminded of people of faith in the bible who prepared – Joseph prepared provisions for a severe famine,  Esther prepared a whole year for a night with the King, the Jews prepared themselves with weapons to defend themselves against Haman’s plot to destroy them,   the widow in the time of Elisha prepared jars ready to receive the miraculous provision of oil which only stopped when all the jars were used.   At the wedding feast the jars were filled with water ready for Jesus’ miracle.    Jesus gives us the example of the virgins who were prepared for the bride groom’s return with sufficient oil in their lamps.   In times of difficulty God will use his people to be His voice and to help those who are in need.

In Isaiah 54 v 2 the word is “Enlarge the place of your tent, stretch out the curtains of your dwellings, do not spare, lengthen your cords and strengthen your stakes”.     This was a word on preparation.   The barren woman in this verse did not need room in her tent as she had no children but God was promising that the desolate would have children and to get ready to receive them.     You may feel barren at the moment and your ministry may look barren  but believe in faith that God is going to bring in a harvest and birth something new.  There are green shoots breaking through.      Let us make room to receive the harvest and put in place the necessary support systems so that the stakes are well and truly strengthened.      Let us mend the nets ready to receive the fish.

Some of us may need to re-position ourselves in this season.    Are we in the right place to receive or prepare for what God wants to do through us?   If you are in doubt then ask God to show you.   It may take boldness and a step of faith to move out of a place of comfort – out of the comfort zone and into the new place or ministry that God has for you.    Where does God want to position you for His glory to work through you.     It might be time to move out.

The instruction to “Hitch up my garments” reminded me of Elijah.     In the time of drought Elijah first heard the rain in the Spirit.   Before the rain even came he said to the King to go up and eat and drink “for there is the sound of an abundance of rain”.     Elijah sent his servant to keep looking for the cloud and eventually on the 7th time of looking there was a small cloud.     Elijah saw the sign and knew that the rain he had heard in the Spirit was on its way.    He prepared himself by hitching up his garments in order that he was prepared to run ahead of the rain and presumably the dangerous floods due to the dry and hard ground.   Elijah managed to outrun the chariot of the King over a great distance of about 25 miles.    The people of God will do great and mighty things in these times.  Elijah did something which was not possible in the natural.  He outran a chariot and over such a distance – God enabled it miraculously.

As the people of God, I believe this is a season to prepare ourselves and position ourselves ready to give and receive.     God use us for His glory.  Lord show us how to prepare and how to position ourselves so that we are ready for you.  Ready to go, Ready to run.