What It Is All About
I want you to picture this scene: A door shuts; a man goes out into the night. Without him, there are twelve men left in the room: Jesus and eleven of his disciples around a table. Together they have shared the bread and wine of the Passover Dinner, but there are deep things he could not say until Judas left. Some special truths the Lord will only give to the faithful when others are not around.
In John 13:31-16:33 we see Jesus giving his deepest and final truths to his eleven before he goes to the cross. The very first thing he says, as if it were the most important thing in his mind and he could hardly wait for Judas to leave to say it, is “Let me give you a new command: Love one another. In the same way I loved you, you must love one another. This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples—when they see the love you have for each other.”
Here were these men, so diverse in personality and thinking! One had been a semi-traitor, a collaborator with Rome, a tax collector; another was a red-hot Jewish Zealot. That was worse than putting together a liberal Democrat with a Reagan Republican! What would be the glue that would hold them together when he left? Love.
It took me quite a while to understand what love was, but when I read several books from Juan Carlos Ortiz, I learned how to experience real love. Through his writings, I discovered that love is not one of the virtues of the Christian life. Love is the Christian life.
When we talk about eternal life, we always seem to think about its length. We never seem to think about its quality. If eternal life only means never-ending life, then hell is a form of eternal life, isn’t it?
However, the quality of eternal life that Jesus gives is love. To borrow the imagery of Ortiz, Love is the Oxygen of God’s kingdom. There is no life without it. Love is the only eternal element. The other things like tongues, gifts, prophecies, wisdom, knowledge, Bible reading, prayer, will all end. The only thing that will go through death into the eternal is love.
I will go even further than that and say that love is the proof of our salvation. Some people think the proof is in how we dress, whether we smoke or whether we do or do not do many other things. They may be important, but not as important as love.
Listen to what John says: “To you whom I love I say, let us go on loving one another, for love comes from God. Every man who truly loves is God’s son and has some knowledge of him. But the man who does not love cannot know him at all, for God is love” (I John 4:7-8). John also says, we know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love abides in death (I John 3:14).
Since I am on a roll, I may as well stick my neck out even further. If we loved the way God wanted us to love, we would not have to depend on the commands of the Bible so much. Because, as Paul tells us, love is the fulfillment of the law (Romans 13:10). This is what the new covenant is all about: I will put My law within them, and on their heart I will write it . . . (Jeremiah 31:33).
When we generate love from the inside, it solves all kinds of problems. The fruit of the Born-again human Spirit is love, as well as joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). Why do we preach so much? We preach about it because it doesn’t come natural, and we want to build love and these other qualities in the lives of Christians. However, if love were growing as it is supposed to grow, we wouldn’t need so many sermons. Love isn’t one of the elements of the Christian life; it is the element. Love is the life itself.
Some people frustrate themselves by constantly seeking the gifts instead of the fruit. Although we appreciate the gifts, we must be careful where we put the emphasis. Jesus never said, “You will know them by their gifts.” He said, “You will know them by their fruits” (Matthew 7:20).
Gifts don’t indicate spirituality because gifts on a person are no different from gifts under a Christmas tree. On Christmas day, they are beautiful with all their ribbons and wrapping paper, but on December 26 all the glitter and color is in the garbage. So you cannot say much about the gifts. The gifts do not indicate what kind of tree it is.
Only the fruit will tell you what species of tree you have. If the apples are good, you can say you have a good apple tree. So, we cannot excuse ourselves for not having love. If we are full of the Spirit of God, the natural thing is for us to be loving.
With these Morning Messages, I take you on guided tours to, as Bunyan described, the Celestial City. At times we linger at corners familiar and unseen. And explore the depths of our faith along the way.
The trail is long, but there’s no hurry. Though we do need to stock up on supplies for the way, and that’s where I need your help. If you enjoy these messages, please consider becoming a contributing member of this tour group. It will be very much appreciated.