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 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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Prayer and The Holy Spirit

The Holy Spirit is part of the Trinity – The GodHead. God is revealed as Father, Son & Holy Spirit.

Jesus said “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit”.  Matt 28:19

“May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.” 2 Corinthians 13:14

Fellowship = [Koinonia] which means 7 things: presence, sharing, company enjoyed, co-worker, intimacy, confidentiality, comradeship.

This is the relationship which God wants us to have with the Holy Spirit – It is to our disadvantage when we neglect or take the Holy Spirit for granted particularly in our prayer lives.

1.Who is & what is the role of the Holy Spirit?

In our prayer lives it is important to understand the role of the Holy Spirit and I believe the importance of being baptised in the Holy Spirit and praying in the Spirit.

a)The Holy Spirit is our Helper/Comforter.

John 14:16 “And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter (Parakletos), that he may abide with you forever; “

The Holy Spirit is the friend who is always at your side to help you particularly in times of intercession and prayer.

b) The Holy Spirit is our Teacher.

John 14:26 ”But the Counsellor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.”

Do you think you have a bad memory? – pray and ask the Holy Spirit to help you and remind you of scripture so that you can recall the word of God when needed in prayer.

c)  The Holy Spirit brings conviction of sin.

John 16:8” When he comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment:”

d)  The Holy Spirit guides us into the truth & prophecy

John 16:13 “But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come.”

e)  The Holy Spirit glorifies Jesus & brings revelation of Jesus

John 16:14 “He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you.”

John 15:26 “When the Counsellor comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father, he will testify about me”.

Ephesians 1:17 “I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better.”

f) The Holy Spirit helps us to overcome temptation

Galatians 5:16 “So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. 17 For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want”.

g) The Holy Spirit produces fruit in us to be more like Jesus

Galatians 5:22 “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control”

h) The Holy Spirit blesses us with the gifts of the Spirit

A spiritual gift is a special attribute/ability given by the Holy Spirit to every Christian according to God’s grace. The scriptures tell us the various spiritual gifts which God has for the believers in Christ. 1 Corinthians Ch 12, Ephesians Ch 4, Romans Ch 12.

The gifts include: prophecy, service to others, teaching, encouragement, giving, leadership, mercy, wisdom, knowledge, faith, healing, miracles, discernment, tongues, interpretation of tongues, apostle, evangelist, pastor

The gifts are for every believer in Christ. The scriptures tell us that every Christian has received at least one gift and can have more than one gift.   The gifts are given “to each one individually as He wills” So, if you are a Christian – be confident – the word says you have a spiritual gift so believe that you have one and find it. 1 Peter Ch 4 v 10. It is God’s intention that every Christian should find and exercise their gift. They are not earned, or rewards, you don’t have to be a Christian for so many years etc. before you get one – They are given by God’s grace to those who desire them with a pure heart.

1 Corinthians Ch 12 v 7 says “the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all” The gifts are given to edify others. They are for the glory of God and given so that as Christians we can mature and grow closer in our walk with God.   They should not be confused with natural talents and abilities. They are not given to us so that we can get proud or puffed up – to gloat or to be jealous of anyone’s gift. We must exercise the gifts with pure motives and with love. Paul clearly says this in 1 Corinthians Ch 13 when he talks of love.   The gifts are functional – They are there to equip God’s church.

It is such a help and a blessing to use the spiritual gifts in our private prayer time and when we pray for others – to give words of knowledge, encouragement & prophecy.

I find it helpful to use these scriptural truths about the Holy Spirit and his role to help me in times of prayer: e.g. If am praying for someone who is not saved then I can ask the Holy Spirit to bring conviction of sin, the need for salvation because of judgement and revelation of Jesus as being the only way to be reconciled to God.

If  I am,  or someone I know is struggling with temptation,  then I can pray and ask the Holy Spirit to draw alongside them to help them overcome temptation and for the fruit of self control to be produced in their lives.

If someone is grieving or in pain then for the Holy Spirit to draw alongside them to bring comfort at such times.

The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of truth and leads us into all truth.  In times such as these when we can be led into error or deceived by false teachings, may we ask that the Holy Spirit leads us into truth and not error and keeps our feet on the right path.Prayer – Is God hearing my prayers?

 

 

 

 

God’s love

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.