Practical Christian Love

Christian love

Christian Marriage ought to be the prime example of Christian love.

I find so many writers don’t really define what love is. If we want to exhort people to love we need to clarify just how they do that. The qualities of it are all in I Corinthians chapter 13, but what I have grasped over the years are these characteristics:
1. Love is outgoing, away from self to others in all situations. It is looking not on one’s own things/concerns but that of others (Phil.2:3,4-vital in conversation and fellowship).
2. Love serves others and takes the lower station if need be to help practically. Like Paul gathered sticks in Malta, Christ washed disciples feet. It is sacrificial of time and energy and money. Christ so loved that he came down to the lowest depths (Phil.2:5-9).
3. Love wants the best for the other and wants to bless them. That may mean a rebuke but is often encouragement from Scripture or experience. It builds up/edifies.
4. Love aims at God’s glory not self-glory.
5. Love is lifelong.

I hope this is a help and practical.

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Chastisement of Christians

Isaiah 27:7-9

Hath he smitten him, as he smote those that smote him? or is he slain according to the slaughter of them that are slain by him? In measure, when it shooteth forth, thou wilt debate with it: he stayeth his rough wind in the day of the east wind. By this therefore shall the iniquity of Jacob be purged; and this is all the fruit to take away his sin; when he maketh all the stones of the altar as chalkstones that are beaten in sunder, the groves and images shall not stand up.

Compare:  Hebrews 12:11 

Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.

When God sends forth an affliction on his people, or gives it a commission to them, as all are sent by him, he does it with moderation; he proportions it to their strength, and will not suffer them to be afflicted above what they are able to bear; and as, in afflicting, he debates and contends with his people, having a controversy with them, so he contends with the affliction he sends, and debates the point with it, and checks and corrects it, and will not suffer it to go beyond due bounds; and in this the afflictions of God’s people differ from the afflictions of others, about which he is careless and unconcerned: when afflictions, like a blustering and blasting east wind, threaten much mischief, and to carry all before them, Jehovah, from whom they have their commission, and who holds the winds in his fist, represses them, stops the violence of them, and gradually abates the force of them, and quite stills them, when they have answered the end for which they are sent: he speaketh,  “by his rough wind in the day of his east wind”; God sometimes meditates hard things against his people, and speaks unto them by the rough dispensations of his providence, admonishes them of their sins, and brings them to a sense and acknowledgment of them, which is his view in suffering them to befall them; or, “he removes by his rough wind”  their fruit, so the Lord, by afflictions, removes the unkind blossoms and bad fruit from his people, their sins and transgressions, as it follows.

By this therefore shall the iniquity of Jacob be purged,….  they are the means of bringing the Lord’s people to a sense of their sins, and to repentance and humiliation for them, and confession of them, and of leading them to the blood and sacrifice of Christ, by which they are expiated and atoned, and which the Spirit of God brings near, and applies unto them; whereby their sins, they are convicted of by means of afflictions, and which lay heavy upon their consciences, are purged away, and removed from them: to take away sin; this is the design and use of afflictions, the profit and advantage of them to the saints, that, being humbled for their sins, they depart from them, leave and forsake them; as well as the guilt of them is taken away from their consciences, through the application of pardoning grace, upon their repentance; see Job 36:8 this shows another difference between the afflictions of God’s people and of others: namely, in the use and end of them. When he maketh all the stones of the altar as chalkstones that are beaten in sunder; that is, when Jacob, or the people of the Jews, being convinced of their idolatry by their afflictions, shall pull down all their idolatrous altars; break them (and burn them-JK) as chalkstones for lime. (Adapted from John Gill’s commentary of the Bible)

Our faith

Our faith in Christ, a marvelous gift of God is the human side of our justification. God justified us by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ with into which we are baptized by the Spirit who simultaneously works faith in us. 

We are “kept by the power of God through faith (the means) unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations: That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ:” 

I Peter 1:5-7.

Note it is our faith in Christ, very precious faith, not as some posit, the faithfulness of Christ or our faith in the faithfulness of Christ. The object of our faith is Christ and it is we who believe and are kept believing till faith gives way to sight! Then faith and hope will be done away and only love, which is eternal, love between us and our Saviour will remain forever.

DO GOOD TO THOSE WHO HATE YOU.

So states Christ in Luke 6:27.

Helen Berhane who was imprisoned and tortured for her faith in Eritrea shares this exhortation.

The love of God shed abroad in our hearts enables us to do what is otherwise humanly impossible-to love our enemies.

” Every good gift that comes to us comes as a gift from our amazing Father in heaven. Sharing in the sufferings of Christ always brings us deeper into fellowship with Jesus-and for this gift we must be thankful.”

“Here is a great mystery: when we respond to hatred with the love of God , it sets us free!”

Can you guess what we are freed from? Free from slavery to fear, revenge and hatred.

” It enables us to be free even when in prison.”

“God so loved the world that he sent his son into the world to die for those who would hate him, harm him and ultimately put him to death.” AMAZING!

” There may be some who chose to hate me and harm me because I am a Christian-but God’s love complels me to do them good.”

AMAZING POWER OF GRACE!

Brothers and sisters reading this. May this be our experience too as it is soon coming our way!

Attitude to Persecution

Hear Cyprian:

Cyprian of Carthage (200-258AD), while suffering banishment, writes a letter to three of his church members (Nemesian, Felix, and Lucius), who were sent to work in the mines as punishment for their faith. Cyprian, who by all accounts, should be the recipient of letters of encouragement, writes one himself to his fellow suffering Christians. He writes, “That you have been grievously beaten with clubs, and have been initiated by that punishment in your Christian confession, is a thing not to be lamented. The body of a Christian trembles not on account of clubs: all his hope is in the wood (i.e., the cross of Christ). The servant of Christ acknowledges the emblem of his salvation: redeemed by wood to eternal life, by this wood he is advanced to his crown. O happy feet, shackled indeed at present with fetters, ye will quickly finish a glorious journey to Christ! Let malice and cruelty bind you as they please, ye will soon pass from earth and its sorrows to the kingdom of heaven. In the mines ye have not a bed on which the body may be refreshed; nevertheless, Christ is your rest and consolation: your limbs are fatigued with labour, and have only the ground to lie on; but so to lie down, when you have Christ with you, is no punishment. Filth and dirt defile your limbs, and ye have no baths at hand; but remember, ye are inwardly washed from all uncleanness: your allowance of bread is but scanty; be it so, ‘man doth not live by bread alone, but by the word of God: ye have no proper clothes to defend you from the cold; but he who has put on Christ, is clothed abundantly. How will all these deformities be compensated with honour proportioned to the disgrace! What a blessed exchange will be made of this transient punishment for an exceeding and eternal glory!… And though your travail be great, yet is the reward greater, which is most certain to follow: for God, beholding and looking down upon them that confess his name, in their willing mind approveth them, in their striving helpeth them, in their victory crowneth them; rewarding that in us which he hath performed, and crowning that which he hath perfected in us.”

Thanks to Andy Underhile.

A beautiful Psalm!

Psalm 16

Joy

Preserve me—keep me from my enemies and from sin. I trust thee. I can add nothing to thy being but I may do good to thy people (fellow Christians) in whom I delight. All who make an idol in which they trust, whether money, sex, drugs, alcohol, fame or power will have multiplied sorrows. Jehovah is my inheritance, he is all I need, he has blessed my life, he guides me and his Spirit moves me deep within. I pray about everything future. He is there for me continually so I am glad and one day he will redeem my body and make it incorruptible. I am confident he will show me the right path in life. He (and nothing else) is the source of fullness of joy and pleasures for ever (John 15:11, John 16:24).

This is the joy of the COVENANT—intimate friendship with God.

Resurrection blessing.

“…and he lift up his hands, and blessed them” (Luke 24:50).

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In this chapter two phrases stand out, “their eyes were opened”, that is Cleopas and his friend as they sat with Christ at supper and “then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures” (the disciples a short time later). There is a close link between the illumination granted and the blessing he bestowed.
“The lifting up of his hands (before he ascended) was like Aaron, his type, who lifted up his hands towards the people of Israel, and blessed them, when he had offered the offerings for them, ( Leviticus 9:22 ) so Christ, as the great high priest, having offered himself a sacrifice for the sins of his people, lift up his hands towards his apostles, and blessed them in an authoritative way, by bestowing blessings upon them: he blessed them with a larger measure of the Spirit; for though they were to wait some few days longer for the extraordinary effusion of the Spirit, yet, in the mean while, they received from him more of it than they had formerly had; for he breathed upon them, and said, receive the Holy Ghost, ( John 20:22 ) . He blessed them with larger measures of grace, and with more spiritual light, and understanding into the Scriptures of truth, and with much inward peace of mind, and with the fresh discoveries of pardoning love; and which seemed necessary, since by their conduct towards him, one by denying him, and the rest by forsaking him, the peace of their minds was broken, and they needed a fresh application of forgiving grace.”*

This is surely what we all need. Let us pray for it and for each other (Luke 11:13).

*John Gill commentary.

A limitless fountain of blessedness.

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“God’s all-sufficiency in himself is his absolute and universal perfection,
whereby nothing is wanting in him, nothing to him: No accession can
be made to his fullness, no decrease or wasting can happen thereunto.
There is also in him an all-sufficiency for others; which is his power
to impart and communicate his goodness and himself so to them as to
satisfy and fill them, in their utmost capacity, with whatever is good
and desirable to them. For the first of these—his all-sufficiency for the
communication of his goodness, that is, in the outward effect of it—God
abundantly manifested in the creation, in that he made all things good,
all things perfect; that is, to whom nothing was wanting in their own
kind—he put a stamp of his own goodness upon them all. But now for
the latter—his giving himself as an all-sufficient God, to be enjoyed by
the creatures, to hold out all that is in him for the satiating and making
them blessed—that is alone discovered by and in Christ. In him he is a
Father, a God in covenant, wherein he has promised to lay out himself
for them; in him has he promised to give himself into their everlasting
fruition, as their exceeding great reward.”                                                            John Owen in “Communion with the Triune God.”

We shall overcome!

 

The title of the song of the civil rights movement of the sixties and seventies in the US should apply to God’s people in every age. We are the true overcomers! We shall overcome all our enemies just as Christ overcomes all his.

A word study of “overcome” “overcame” and “overcometh” gives us 35 references half of which are in the books of I John and Revelation which is no coincidence as both were written in the context of persecution.

In the Old Testament history books you would expect the word to be used in the context of battle and so it is-Joshua hearing the people cavorting around the golden calf, sadly overcome by idolatry, says to Moses that it does not sound like the noise of battle and a people either overcoming or being overcome. Later Caleb encourages Israel to go up and possess the land by overcoming all her enemies (Num.13:30). Balak hires Balaam to curse Israel so he and the Moabites can overcome them ( Num.22:10).In  a much later civil war a confederacy of Israel and Syria could not overcome Judah under Ahaz (II Kings 16:5). The later Old Testament books of Song of Songs and the prophets Isaiah and Jeremiah have the word used of overpowering love (Song 6:5) and drunkenness where wine overcomes (Is.28:1 and Jer.23:9). In all these instances a powerful force seeks to vanquish a weaker one.

When we come to the gospels the first and very significant reference is used by Christ speaking to the Jewish leaders concerning exorcism of evil spirits in a parable where he, as the stronger man, overcomes Satan, the strong man, and plunders his house (Luke 11:22). The central work of the incarnate Christ was to destroy Satan and his works (Heb.2:14). Later in his ministry Christ clearly teaches that he has overcome the world-he has lived in it amongst all its sinful people  headed by Satan and overcome by never sinning. His overcoming included his being crowned with thorns !

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Evil spirits fight back and overcome the vagabond exorcist sons of Sceva  in the comical account of Acts 19:16!

The theology of overcoming  is Paul’s subject  in Romans where first he teaches that God can never be judged successfully and he is always justified in all his works (Rom.3:4). Later in the epistle he expounds the significance of Christ’s victory and shows how it is bequeathed to us. In  the marvellous verse Romans 8:37 we are called “hyper-conquerors,” the literal meaning of the Greek HUPERNIKAO , we gain a decisive victory through him that loved us, who overcame all his and our enemies in the cross! One way in which we overcome is by not returning evil done to us, for if we do, evil wins getting the sinful response it wants (Rom 12:24).

Before we come to the decisive verses in I John and Revelation, Peter reminds his readers that sin is a power that overcomes people and enslaves them (II Peter 2:19-20 c.f.Rom.6:16-17). This truth is key as humanity are either slaves to sin or slaves of righteousness (Rom.6:14).

The apostle John, the apostle of love, particularly addressing the young believing men, says they have overcome the wicked one, and I would guess this is in relation to their remaining pure from sexual sin (I John 2:13-14). When we come to I John 5:4-5 we reach the climactic core of our victory in Christ. Whoever is born again overcomes the world, sin and Satan by their faith, by their being united to Christ who also overcame defeating sin, death, hell and Satan by his perfect life and obedience unto death FOR US and then granted that same power TO US through his Spirit in regeneration.

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Incidentally when Paul or John wrote, the crown they would have been thinking about was the laurel wreath given to the victor in the Olympic stadium. As believers we strive honestly not just according to the rules of sport or of our government but by God’s rules in his word.

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Christ has, in principle, defeated all his enemies in the cross with Satan being  judged a  liar and murderer and death overcome, but his public victory is in the future  Rev.17:14, 20:14 (c.f. I Cor.15:24-28)

The reward for overcomers is a recurrent theme in Revelation (2:7, 11, 17, 26, 3:5, 12, 21, 21:7)

The rewards include eating of the tree of life and the hidden manna, being given a white stone and a new name, white raiment, power over the nations, having Christ confess us before the Father, being made a pillar, sitting on thrones and inheriting the new heaven and earth.

This victory is ours even though we are overcome physically and killed by antichrist (Rev.11:7 and 13:7). The gracious means of our overcoming are outlined in Rev.12:11 and are the blood of the lamb (our justification), the word of our testimony (confession) and not loving our lives unto death (in other words loving Christ more than life itself and being wholly consecrated to him).

Dear fellow Christian this is our heritage in Christ whether we live or die, we live and die unto the Lord. For however long we must battle against sin, the world, the flesh and the devil , we shall by his grace overcome, win the victory and be crowned, just as Christ our forerunner is gone ahead of us into glory.