Growing Up Spiritually

Growing Up Spiritually - Chapter 3

Chapter 3: The Love-Walk

God wants us to grow up into strong mature Christians, but this does not happen by accident. Spiritual growth is really the PERFECTING OF GOD'S LOVE IN US, so that it controls our character, words and actions. In the New Birth God became the Father of our spirit, we were BORN OF GOD. Our spirit is a new creation possessing the life and nature of God. Growth comes by letting that new life be expressed and it depends on how much we let the love of God in us fill us and control us. 

God's nature is LOVE. “God is LOVE” (1John 4:8), so what He gives birth to (our spirit) must be made of LOVE. As children of God, His love-nature is already inside us, our spirit is made of love: “The LOVE of God is shed abroad (poured out) into our hearts by the Holy Spirit” (Romans 5:5). Jesus prayed that: “the LOVE You have loved me with may be IN THEM” (John 17:26). God's love is in us. Father and son have the same nature. We are a LOVE child of a LOVE God. Walking in love starts by receiving God's love and knowing His love is in us.

We have the capacity to love with God's LOVE. We do not have to get it, because we have it. Now by faith we must ACT on it, EXPRESS it, so that it is developed (PERFECTED) in us. A baby is born with great unseen potential. The process of growth happens as he begins to exercise his abilities (speaking, walking etc) and then his potential comes forth. His inner abilities are developed, and perfected by practice until they show on the outside. So, as we walk in the LOVE of God within us, it develops and shows and we get skilful at moving in it. In this way we grow out of babyhood. Living from our flesh (soul-life) our ability to love is limited. Our natural love runs out with people we do not like or have upset us. This is then an opportunity to draw by faith upon the Divine love in us, and live by this unconditional, unlimited love. As we do this God's love in us is perfected (matured and developed).

In 1Corinthians 3:1-3 the mark of BABY is described as being CARNAL (FLESH-RULED = self-centred). But A MATURE one is ruled by his spirit (love ruled). We have continual choices to act in love or operate in selfishness, to put own interests first or others, to deny self or not. A mature one has chosen to act in LOVE again and again so that it dominates his lifestyle (Hebrews 5:13,14). He is described as SPIRITUAL, for he is dominated by his spirit not his flesh. The more we chose LOVE the more our spirit takes control and LOVE is perfected (developed) in us. 

Carnality shows in envy, strife, and division where everyone fights for their own interests. We either give others what they deserve (justice) or we give love (mercy). If we dish out according to what others deserve they will do the same to us. 

Christians who act from the flesh, are living just like a mere unsaved men because they are not drawing on God's LOVE. Anyone can be nice to their friends, but Divine LOVE goes further showing goodness to all, including the undeserving whether we like them or not. Spiritual maturity is to be controlled by this kind of unconditional, undeserved LOVE.

“Be ye therefore PERFECT (MATURE), even as your FATHER is PERFECT” (Matthew 5:48). God wants us to be perfect! This means to 'be mature.' As SONS we have Father's nature and are to grow up to be like Him. The ideal of maturity we aim for is exemplified by our Father in heaven. He shows us what true maturity is and expects us to become like Him.

In Matthew 5:44-47: Jesus shows us that the mark of maturity is unconditional love to all: “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, pray for them who despitefully use and persecute you that you may be the SONS OF YOUR FATHER in heaven: for He makes his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if ye love them who love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same? and if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so? Be ye therefore PERFECT (MATURE in love) even as your FATHER in heaven is PERFECT” (v48). So this PERFECTION is MATURITY in LOVE. 

It means showing unconditional love to all, even our 'enemy' who has hurt us, whom we don't like, treating him as a friend (this starts with forgiving him) This is how God is. He loves us even when we mess up. He responds to men's hatred and rejection with love and mercy. He has a big heart and He wants us to be same, to be His SONS (grown up children who are just like our Father). To take the initiative and show love whether deserved or not. This means being Actors not Reactors, not controlled by other's behaviour but walk in love regardless.

Is this 'putting on' an act? “Be followers (imitators) of God, as dear children; and walk in LOVE, as Christ LOVED us, and gave himself for us” (Ephesians 5:1,2). 

It is about acting in love as a child imitates his father. It is not hypocritical because His nature (LOVE) is in us. Hypocrisy is an outward face with no inner reality. Even if we cannot feel love, we know it is there and by faith we can draw on it. This love does not come naturally but supernaturally. The instinct of our flesh is the opposite, but we are not just natural but also supernatural beings. We are not just flesh, but also have a reborn spirit. Our natural love runs out, but if I know God's Love is in me, by faith I can lay hold of it and live from that love and find it flowing through me. It means denying our flesh reaction and acting out from our spirit. It may seem strange at first, but it is the better way.

How are we perfected in LOVE? Believing in God's Love in us, we choose to walk in love. By repeated practice love takes more and more control of our character, and we grow into maturity (sonship) LOVE is in us but must be perfected (this is the development of our character). Every time we act on and speak in that love, it is perfected and comes forth stronger. 

“Whoever keeps His Word (this word or command is to walk in love - see v7,8, John 13:34; 1 John 4:21) in him truly is the LOVE of God PERFECTED (matured,developed): by this we know (and prove) that we are in him (truly born again). He who says he abides in him (claims to be a Christian) ought to walk as he walked (in LOVE)” (1John 2:5,6).

1 John 4. As we act in LOVE, LOVE is perfected in us, taking dominance in our personality: “If we love one another, God dwells in us, and his LOVE is PERFECTED in us” (v12). “We have known and believed the LOVE that God has to us (walking in love starts by receiving His love - see v19). God IS LOVE; and he who dwells in love dwells in God, and God in him” (v16). We walk in God's will, if we walk in love. “When our LOVE is made PERFECT, we can have boldness (confidence, strength in our spiritual life)... because as He is, so are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but PERFECTED LOVE casts out fear for fear has torment. He who fears is not made PERFECT (mature) in love” (v17,18).

This MATURING process is the development of Christlike character from the inside. This is also described in the Bible as the FRUIT of the spirit. Fruit is PRODUCED from the flow of an inner life. As a branch brings forth fruit by letting the SAP flow through it, so as we let LOVE flow through us, from the inside of us is produced visible FRUIT that people can see and eat from. This is a PROCESS. The fruit is contrasted with 'the works of the flesh' (v20,21). These WORKS are plural (implying a divided, dissipated life), but the FRUIT is singular.

There is only ONE FRUIT (not 9): “The FRUIT of the (human reborn) SPIRIT is LOVE, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, meekness, self-control” (v22,23). The whole fruit is LOVE - the nine words describing the qualities of reborn spirit, are all different aspects of LOVE. LOVE is joy, peace, goodness, faithfulnes, humility etc. The whole requirement of God is summed up as the COMMAND to LOVE (v14). If the fruit of our spirit is LOVE then the nature of our spirit must be Love. If we let the spirit dominate then the fruit of LOVE will be produced and demonstrated in our life.

1 Corinthians 13 describes God's Love in all its 9 qualities. 

It is a Love-ometer to use and test on ourselves and our lives. If we are honest with ourselves we will not be able to judge others because of our own selfishness.

“LOVE is the more excellent WAY (ROAD to walk on)” (1Corinthians 12:31). 

“If I have not LOVE, I am as a sounding brass, or clanging cymbal” (v1). 

When we are moving in Love, to God we are making beautiful music, harmonising with others. But when in the flesh, just going after our own things we may look O.K to others, but God just hears a noisy gong, drawing attention to ourselves. True Love is not out to get praise and attention. The God-kind of love is not interested in what I can get but what I can give.

“Though I have all gifts and have not LOVE, I AM NOTHING” (v2). God's measure of our maturity is the measure of our love. The measure of a man is the quantity of love developed in his character. Some may put on a great show but in reality there is nothing there. They are still a baby. “If I have not LOVE, (whatever I do) it PROFITS ME NOTHING” (v3) Our love-walk governs our eternal rewards. The degree of God's love you possess is what you take into eternity. Your depth of character is your capacity for God's glory and hence determines your reward. Every time you act in love you gain treasure in heaven. Much is at stake!

AMPLIFIED VERSION (1Corinthians 13:4-8): 

“LOVE suffers and endures long.” 

LOVE is LONG-SUFFERING. 

Many endure, but do not keep a sweet disposition in the trial, but also: “LOVE is kind.” LOVE is KINDNESS.

“LOVE is never envious nor boils over with jealousy.”

Love is happy to see others succeed and be blessed. Thus LOVE is PEACE. It is content with God and His blessing. It does not compare with others. This either leads to envy if inferior or to pride and boasting if superior:

“LOVE is not boastful or vainglorious, does not display itself haughtily. It is not conceited - arrogant and inflated with pride” (v4). LOVE is MEEKNESS.

“It is not rude (unmannerly) and does not act unbecomingly” (v5). 

LOVE is SELF CONTROL. It does not act in an embarrassing way. 

“God's love in us does not insist on its own rights or its own way, for it seeks not her own, it is not self seeking” (v5).

God's LOVE is self-giving and willing to yield. MEEKNESS is not weakness or compromising on essentials, but is willing to fit in with others and learn, being flexible and open to reason. Meekness is having a submissive heart towards God’s authority, both in His Word, and in His delegated authorities on earth.

“LOVE is not touchy or fretful or resentful, it takes no account of the evil done to it - it pays no attention to a suffered wrong” (v5). It is not easily provoked or irritated, it thinks no evil. Thank God that He does not keep account (record) of our sin but forgives us! 

“LOVE doesn't rejoice at injustice and unrighteousness but rejoices in the truth (God and His Word), it rejoices when right and truth prevail” (v6). 

LOVE is JOY. It does not rejoice when others fail, for it wants them to be blessed. Joy is a manifestation of Love. If we walk in love joy will be produced in our life.

“LOVE bears all things (whatever happens), believes all things (God’s love in us is ever ready to believe the best of every person. Misunderstandings easily happen. Love puts best construction on people's words and actions) hopes all things, endures all things (without weakening)” (v7). 

LOVE is FAITHFULNESS. Under pressure the faithful keep going, you know they will be there. Faithfulness is the relentless strength of love. No matter what happens they will be there for you. You can depend on them. God's love is strong and solid and is still reliable even under great pressure. The Hebrew word for God's Covenant love is 'HESEED' (translated loving-kindness) meaning LOYALTY and FAITHFULNESS.

“LOVE never fails” (v8). If you walk in love you will not fail. Whatever hardships you face, at end of your life you will be a success in God’s eyes if you consistently responded in love. 

The character and glory that we take into eternity depends on how much love we have developed in this life (v13).

God's LOVE is impossible for our flesh, but when we are at the end of our own strength and ability to love someone, it is good, for then we've got to move into the spirit of faith and lay hold of God's unconditional LOVE and put it into practice causing it to then grow stronger in us. We have a choice when someone does us bad, to either move in selfishness and talk about them (tastes good to the flesh) or move in love (and pray for them). Remember if they are out of God's love, we should feel sorry for them and pray for them for they have a serious problem. Let us not do what comes naturally but what comes supernaturally!

“Beloved, keep yourselves in the LOVE of God” (Jude 20,21).

LOVE is like a road or river. Keep within its boundaries. 

HOW?

(1) Receive it

(2) Know it is in you.

(3) Walk in it. By faith act as if the Word is true. 

You are a love child of a love-God so walk in love.

Then you will feel it, and see that it is real and powerful.

When we are tempted to go outside it, say: “no- my blessing is within the LOVE of God even if means denying self.”

POEM: WHAT IS LOVE?

It's silence when your words would hurt,

It's patience when your neighbours curt,

It's deafness when the scandal flows,

It's thoughtfulness for another's woes,

It's promptness when stern duty calls,

It's courage when misfortune falls.

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