Where is the Love of God in our land? Where are the genuine Christians who really walk in His truth? Isn't there anyone who "knows" God intimately?
These were the same three questions that God asked His people in the Old Testament. In the fourth chapter of Hosea, God asks the Israelites, "Where's the Love? Where's the truth? And, where's the intimate knowledge of God in the land?"
I believe the exact same questions can be asked of God's people today. Many of us go to church; we pray and we attend Bible studies, but if we are really honest with ourselves we, too, must ask, "Where's God's Love? Where are those who truly live Christ's Life? And, where are those who know God so well that they are not moved (away from Him) when difficulties arise?"
Over the last few years, this Scripture in Hosea has really ministered to me, because it lays out for us exactly what God identifies as His three essentials for living the abundant Christian life.
1) Knowing His Love, not only for ourselves, but also so that we can
pass it on to others.
2) Knowing how to walk in His truth by the renewing of our minds. And,
3) Knowing how to have unshakeable faith so that we can experience intimacy with Him.
Interestingly enough, the three books that God has led me to write over the last ten years, The King's High Way Trilogy, describe how we can acquire these exact same three essentials-His Love, His Truth and intimate knowledge of Him. It's not because of any foresight on my part; these studies are simply a chronology of my own spiritual journey and the things I have learned after walking with Him for 42 years.
The first study, The Way of Agape, explores God's Love (Agape) - how we get His Love and how His Love is completely different from our own human love, and, most importantly, what it means to love Him, so that we can love others. The next study is called Be Ye Transformed and it examines how we renew our minds on a daily basis, so that we can walk in God's truth and genuinely show forth His Life. And the last volume of the trilogy is called Faith in the Night Seasons, and it teaches us how we can have such an unshakeable faith in God that we'll be able to always "foresee Him before our face and not be moved." This article, then, is an overview of the three essentials that God considers crucial to our Christian walk.
Since our birth, everything within us wants to feel loved, to be satisfied, to be stroked and complimented, and above all, to be needed. This is a natural feeling in all of us, and it never goes away. It doesn't matter if we are married, single, widowed or divorced, we are all desperate for this kind of unconditional Love.
In reality, however, this desperate need for love demands something from others that they may not have to give us, or that they may not choose to give us. Herein lies the conflict. Do we leave these kinds of relationships and search for others who can fill this need? Or, do we stay in these difficult situations and become bitter and resentful until, finally, it corrodes our very being and our personality? What do we do?
In essence, we have designed our "own meaning" for what we want love to be. And, thus, we have missed out on what real Love is. We have confused our own human love with God's Love and, thus, we've been looking in all the wrong places for "real" Love. Love, as God meant it to be, is a supernatural Love. I say supernatural because "we" are not capable of loving as only God can. He has told us this from the very beginning.. "Your love will never satisfy...your love will never work...your love will always fail. This is why you must experience Love as I designed it in order to find the completion, the fulfillment and the satisfaction that you are so desperately searching for.
He asks us the question, "How would you like to be loved with a Love that originates in My heart and that keeps on pouring forth through you, no matter how you feel, no matter what your circumstances are and no matter how that other person responds to you." In other words, a Love that will never fail you, never let you down and never disappoint you...an unconditional Love. In the Bible, God describes this kind of Love like this, "My Love is patient and kind, never jealous, envious, boastful or proud, never selfish or rude. It does not demand its own way, it is not irritable, nor does it hold grudges and it will not even notice when others do wrong. It is never glad when injustice happens, but instead rejoices when truth wins out. It is loyal, it never turns against you and you can always expect the best out of it. [God's Love] never fails..." (1 Corinthians 13:4-8)
God's Love (Agape) is not a human love or a human feeling, it's simply God, Himself, loving through us. God is the One doing the loving, not us. And all He desires from you and I is the willingness to set ourselves aside (surrender ourselves), so that He can love His Love through us. All the things that we choose to hold on to and not surrender to Him (bitterness, resentment, hurt, unforgiveness, fear, etc.), blocks His Love in our hearts and causes it to "grow cold in our lives." (Matthew 24:12) Therefore, the key to God's Love flowing freely through us, is that we must first choose to be an open and cleansed vessel.
In other words, all Christians have God's Love in their hearts (if they are true believers), but not all Christians are willing to set themselves aside to let it flow. This is what the Bible tells us it means to "love God." The Greek word agapao means "to totally give ourselves over to" someone or something. The way we love God, then, is to surrender and relinquish "self."
Think of The Way of Agape like a triangle. God is at the top of the triangle. We are on the bottom of one side of the triangle and the person we are "trying to love" is on the bottom of the other side. As we surrender ourselves to God (and become that open and cleansed vessel), He then pours His Love (through us) to that other person and, prayerfully, that other person will eventually return that love.
Love, then, is the first essential that we must "know" in order to live the abundant Christian life as God would have us.
The next essential building block that God says is critical, is being able to walk in His "truth." Let's define exactly what this means. "Truth" is where what we say and what we do match and become one. It's where our words and our deeds are the very same. A person walking in God's truth is someone who is genuinely "living" Christ's Life - genuinely showing forth His Love. He is not just talking about Christ, he is actually manifesting His Life in his daily actions. In other words, he doesn't have to put up a facade or a front, everyone can see "Jesus' Life" - God's Love - through him.
Only when we "live the truth," can the Gospel truly be passed on. For example, we cannot tell our teenagers, "Do as I say" (trust Christ in everything) and not expect them to look at our actions to see if it works for us. If this is not shown in our lives, then we can't expect them to want it either. Our lives need to be examples of what we say! Otherwise, it's not the truth! (Now, this does not mean we have to be "perfect." There is only One who is perfect and that, of course, is Jesus. But, we should, at least, be running to Jesus as the answer to all of our problems. This, in itself, is the genuine witness that we want to pass along to our children.)
How does this genuineness occur in our lives? Romans 12:2 tells us that the "key" to our transformation - truly showing forth Christ's Life - is a "renewed mind." Only by learning how to renew our minds on a daily basis will our lives ever be changed. A renewed mind is one that has done two things: it has put off any sin, any thought or any emotion that is not of faith, and has put on Christ. (Colossians 3:8-14)
The reason "mind renewal" is so important is because if there is no mind change, then there will never be any life change either. Without renewing our minds, our lives will remain the same as they always have been, no mater what we do or try. No matter how many Scriptures we read, no matter how often we go to church and no matter how often we pray, if we don't renew our minds, our lives will still have the same problems, the same failures and the same defeats as always. Thus, our efforts to change should not be focused on our wrong actions, but on our wrong thinking.
"To renew" simply means to restore, to renovate, or the definition I really like, is to reset to zero. The way we "reset to zero" is by putting off self and putting on Christ. If, however, we don't surrender ourselves to God but instead choose to hold on to our hurts, our unforgivenesses and fears, then we'll become those phoney-baloney Christians saying one thing and yet doing another in our lives.
2 Corinthians 10:5-6 exhorts us to "take every thought captive" and be ready to deal with any thought that is not of faith. No matter how long we've been Christians, we all will have negative and ungodly thoughts until we see Jesus. This is what makes us human. The first, original, ungodly thought is not sin. It's what we choose to do with that thought that makes it sin or not. If we can recognize it and choose to give it over to God, then we have not sinned and God's Life - God's Love - can continue to flow from our hearts. If, however, we choose to hold on to that ungodly thought, mull it over and entertain it, then it will eventually be pushed down and cause God's Spirit in our hearts to be quenched.
Thus, we need to know "how" to renew our minds on a daily basis. In other words, how do we give our hurts and fears over to God, without taking them back five minutes later? It's not enough to simply say to God, "Lord, give me Your thoughts" and expect Him to somehow automatically do it. We must first put off our old self-centered thinking by confessing it, repenting of it and then, giving it to God. When we learn how to do this on a daily basis, then we'll be able to live the truth and genuinely show forth God's Life and His Love.
Walking in God's truth, then, is the second essential that we must "know" in order to live the abundant Christian life.
Intimate Knowledge of God
Knowing God's Love and being able to walk in His Truth are critical foundation blocks for God's third "essential," which is intimate knowledge of God - knowing Him in His fulness.
Oh, yes, we all talk about "intimacy" with God and even exhort others to it, but how many of us really have that daily, personal, intimate union with God that the Bible talks about? Intimacy with Jesus means sensing His presence continually - knowing He is always there beside us, no matter what is going on in our life (Acts 2:25); it's constantly fellowshiping, talking and communing with Him; it's hearing His still, small voice, and even His correction when a thought or motive is not of Him; it's seeing Him lead and guide us and give us supernatural discernment in things we never would see on our own; it's experiencing continual worship and praise flowing from our inner being as never before; and, it's knowing, without a shadow of doubt, that He will never leave us or forsake us, no matter what we see, hear, think, feel or experience.
This kind of love relationship is available to every single one of us. We were designed for this kind of Love, for this kind of intimacy and for this kind of fellowship. God desires that we not only receive His Gift of Love (Jesus) into our hearts and allow that Love to flow through us to others, but also that we return that love and worship to Him.
The only way this kind of intimacy can ever be experienced, however, is through "naked faith." Faith that is not dependent upon anything or anyone else but Jesus Himself. The presence of God can only be seen through the "eyes of faith," not through our own abilities, our own feelings or our own understanding. Only by faith, can we see Him in every circumstance; only by faith, can we be conscious of His closeness all the time; and only by faith can we know His personal leading and guiding.
Even though we all long to have the kind of intimacy Jesus had with the Father, many of us have, instead, settled for a pale imitation of Christianity. We have become imprisoned by our "soulish" (and emotional) understanding of God. We declare that we are willing to pay the price for a deeper relationship with Him, yet we writhe in agony when He begins to rearrange our lives. Until we are willing to let our precious alabaster boxes be completely broken and Jesus' Life formed in us, we will never fully experience the intimacy, the fulness and the oneness with God that He desires.
God is teaching each of us to have "faith" like Job: "Though You slay me, yet will I trust You." (Job 13:15) He wants each of us to be able to say and mean (by faith, not feelings), "Though everything in my life is upside down and I don't understand a thing You are doing, I still choose by faith to unconditionally abandon myself to You and trust You."
God wants us to know Him so intimately and so completely that we won't be moved away from Him when difficulties arise in our lives. As David said, "I foresaw the Lord always before my face; for He is on my right hand, that I should not be moved [away]." (Acts 2:25) This is the kind of faith that overcomes the world and this is the kind of faith that brings with it a "peace that passes all understanding."
Most of us (even as mature Christians), however, still walk by the "flesh" - by our own feelings and through the eyes of our own natural understanding. We want to be able to see and understand what God is doing in our lives; why He is doing it; what the outcome will be; and when exactly the end will occur! This, unfortunately, is not faith, but simply presumption on our part. Real faith is not seeing, not understanding, not feeling and not knowing. Real faith is allowing God to do in our lives all that He needs to do (good or bad from our point of view), in order to accomplish His perfect will. Faith is allowing God to strip, flay and crucify us, if that's what is needed to accomplish His will in us. Real faith is simply trusting, no matter what we see happening, no matter what we understand to be true, and no matter what we feel like, that God will be faithful to His Word and perform His promises to us in His timing and in His way.
The inward life of the spirit can only be gained by a passionate and consuming love for God. How much do you love Him - enough to surrender everything to Him? This is a question each of us must answer for ourselves. The walk of faith towards experiencing His presence and His fulness is not easy. It means not only going through the narrow gate, but also walking along that hard path.
"Straight is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it." (Matthew 7:14)
How about you? Do you love God enough to open that narrow gate and to walk along that hard path? If you do, then God will surely begin to teach you His three essentials for living the abundant Christian life - His Love, His truth and intimate knowledge of Him.
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. My series on
Faith in the Night Seasons will continue next