This is the second to last post on this topic. Tomorrow I will write about Jonathan Edwards’ Distinguishing Marks of a Work of the Spirit of God.
In light of all that I have said regarding the characteristics of the believer, this last one might be the easiest to identify and the hardest to practice. We live in a culture that exalts a nebulous spirituality that has its head in the stars and its hands clean from isolated prayer. The Bible paints a different picture for what true spirituality is.
I was talking with the lady I work for today about this very topic. She made the observation that many people say they are Christian, but do not seem to be any different than the world. This is in part why I began this series. The name “Christian” has become a very hollow term. It can mean religious person, or antinomian who is ruled by what feels right. or regular church service attender…but these are all far from what the Bible identifies as a Christian. I know so many people who say they are Christian, but there is absolutely no conviction in their life for what that may mean. They don’t read the Bible, they don’t pray, they don’t pursue God, and they don’t love other Christians. In fact, they despise them.
The Church is not without her blemishes. But it is these very imperfections that attest to the beauty of grace. The Church is full of ugly people…but they seem to be gorgeous because of the transforming work of grace in their lives. Instead of pursuing selfish desires and making themselves look good, they bend over and wash other people’s stinky feet. Not to make themselves look righteous, but because they love the people of God.
Notice the previous post: The Christian Obeys. He obeys from a gratitudinous heart, not begrudgingly.
Look at these verses:
• John 13:34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.
• John 15:12 ”This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.
• John 15:17 These things I command you, so that you will love one another.
• Rom. 12:10 Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.
• 1Th. 4:9 Now concerning brotherly love you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love one another,
• 1Pet. 1:22 Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart,
• 1John 3:11 For this is the message that you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another.
• 1John 3:23 And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us.
• 1John 4:7 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.
• 1John 4:11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.
• 2John 5 And now I ask you, dear lady—not as though I were writing you a new commandment, but the one we have had from the beginning—that we love one another.
Especially the connection between Jesus new commandment and John’s definition of a Christian in 1 Jn 4.7, 11. We do not live in a bubble and should not pursue such kind of hermitage. Instead, we should pursue love and seek out new ways to serve the brethren. What a sad estate that the Christian prizes solitude as the highest virtue when true and undefiled religion is to care for the brethren (James 1.22-27).
The question remains for the recluse…How are you fulfilling Christ’s new command when you do not pursue love of the brethren? You can’t blame it on your introvertedness. You better find a way to pursue Christ in your active loving of the brethren. I say active because what is love if it does not take on flesh…it must be hate. How can you say you love the brethren and don’t take care of the physical needs? You cannot (James 2).
In fact, look at Jn 15.17 a little closer. The commandments serve to the higher end of loving one another. “These things I command you in order that you will love each other.” The commandments Jesus speaks to us should end in loving acts for the brethren. These loving acts serve to the greatest end of bringing glory to God (Jn 15.8). When we obey God and bear fruit that lasts it brings God glory. Therefore, we do not love to win favor with people. We do not serve to receive something from that person. We obey as God’s children from an overflowing heart so that God will receive glory from our acts and the love that overflows from the one receiving.