Contending for the faith | Making Disciples | Equipping the Saints for Ministry

Discipleship Series
by Rayola Kelley

Last month I talked about having the right motivation. Man is either motivated by the love of God or he is motivated by pride. It is easy to discern between these two motivations. They have different emphasis, attitudes and approaches. Ultimately, these two different motivations will establish the environment or breeding ground that will determine the types of fruit that will be produced in the person’s life and relationships.

In last month’s article, I contrasted the difference between pride and God’s charity or love. Such a contrast allows people to consider the type of breeding ground both of these motivations would produce in a person and in his or her relationships. As for pride, the best it can produce is tolerance and self-serving works. However, in the case of charity it will produce quality devotion and service that will bring glory to God.

Last month I used the word “charity” to set up the right premise concerning godly love. This month I am going to use the word “love.” Charity represents the state of being in which all matters are considered and approached. “State,” in this text, points to the inward condition of our disposition, which is comprised of spirit, attitudes and prevailing mood. On the other hand, love points to something that is alive and active. In fact, love is the living active fruit of godly charity. The fruit of love manifests itself in joy towards the truth of His Word, peace with God, long-suffering towards others, gentleness in approach, goodness in practice, faithfulness in service, meekness in attitude, and self-control in conduct. It is the active fruit of charity that fulfills the intent of God’s moral Law. Since love fulfills the Law of God, the Apostle Paul stated that there is no law that is able to judge or bring accusation against a life that bears such fruit(Romans 13:8-10; Galatians 5:22-23).

A good example between charity and love can be observed in God. In John’s first epistle, he tells us that God is love. In other words, God is a living, active revelation of what love is in action. Such active love is always ready to express itself in charitable ways to others. For example, God showed charity towards us by way of mercy and grace when He gave His only begotten Son as a means to ransom us.

Since each of us is born with a selfish disposition, we do not have such active love operating in us. The flesh’s definition of love comes down to how something or someone makes it feel about itself, or whether it stirs up sensual passion or emotional sentiment. In a sense, the flesh often identifies it as love when something creates an unrealistic, euphoric environment or expectation as to the happiness something can possibly bring to a relationship based on present feelings. However, such fickle love is based on outward stimulation, not on an inward condition that already exists. Because of this fleshly condition, Christians must first allow a state of charity to be developed within their inner man. Such a state is completely opposite of selfishness, but must be developed before there can be any genuine expression of godly love. From a charitable state, Christians are able to show God the love He deserves, as well as express such love to others through acceptable attitudes and service.

The active seeds of godly love must take root in our hearts. It must grow and develop as we take on the essence and likeness of Jesus Christ. As we take on the mind of Christ, and give way to His life, love will be the natural response to a matter. We will be able to speak the truth in love, as well as strive to increase the function, growth and health of the Body in love. As saints of the Most High, we will begin to serve and do His will from a heart of love. It is from the heart of love that all issues of life will be regarded (Proverbs 4:23; Romans 5:5; Ephesians 4:15-16; 6:5-7).

This brings us to a very important truth concerning our Christian life. Godly love is what makes something genuine and real. What does not come from the heart of love, regardless of whether it is attitude, deeds or conduct, will be considered hypocrisy. Hypocrites are big pretenders or actors. They give a false impression about a matter so they can look a certain way. However, pretending about a matter is not a true presentation, if you are not what you are presenting. For example, a person can present the appearance of love, but if he or she lacks it, then he or she is being a hypocrite. Such outward acts are mere pretenses, illusions, or imitations of what is real. Clearly, hypocrisy simply tries to create the same reality as that which it is trying to imitate, but there will be no spirit or life to it.

A good example of religious piety that was nothing more than an act were the Pharisees in Jesus’ day. Jesus referred to them as hypocrites or simply actors acting a religious part. Behind the self-righteous masks, religious robes, and empty words and platitudes were tombs of dead men’s bones. The stench of the decay of their dead religion had long dissipated, leaving the silent vacuum of the stifling empty darkness that had engulfed their lifeless ordinances and activities. Jesus stated that all these religious leaders could do was make converts to their hypocrisy, causing these converts to be two-fold the children of hell or destruction.

Due to the affects of sin upon our lives, we all have the potential to be hypocrites in our Christian walk. Whether we become practicing hypocrites depends on what decisions we make concerning our walk. If, as Christians, we settle for an outward religious façade that hides the real essence of any deviant character, selfish attitudes or self-centered moods, we will become nothing more than hypocrites. If we play the emotional or religious games to present a righteous appearance, rather than become godly in our lives, we will be nothing more than practicing hypocrites or religious actors.

The active fruit of godly love in our lives is what will make us genuine in our Christian walk. This is why the Apostle Paul made this statement in 1 Corinthians 12:31: “But covet earnestly the best gifts; and yet show I unto you a more excellent way.” An important word in this Scripture is the word “way.” The Apostle Paul agreed we could all pursue after and operate in spiritual gifts, but what he wanted each of us to understand is that there is a more excellent way in which to walk out the Christian life that will prove to be beneficial to everyone. He was saying if you do not walk in this excellent way that the gifts you may operate with will have no impact or significance.

We each are walking according to a particular way of doing things. In fact, our ways or terms seem clean in our own eyes. However, in many cases, most people are simply walking according to that which appeases and honors their self-life. Granted, it seems right to them, but it is still motivated by selfishness. Unbeknown to them, these people will naturally pursue that which will feed their high opinion of self, and will give way to that which brings them temporary satisfaction. However, God’s ways are higher. And, if we fail to come to terms with His way of doing things, we will err in our hearts about the issues of life, as well as fail to enter into the place of rest where we will experience personal contentment, spiritual satisfaction, and victory over the present age in which we are living. (Hebrews 3:10, 19)

In 1 Corinthians 13, the Apostle Paul described the way in which we must walk, that of love. In the state of charity, love will be the natural response to a situation. It will not be something we have to think about, because it will be present and active to respond in an honorable and upright way. Let us now consider how active love works and responds.

Commitment: Godly love is actually a commitment to do right, or be honorable in attitude, approach and conduct. For example, once reality challenges a married couple’s euphoria or expectations concerning their relationship, they must make a commitment to stay true to each other in spite of the challenges, disappointments or disillusionment they may feel towards one another or their relationship. Commitment is what makes love responsible to do what is right regardless of what is going on. This is why we are instructed to love God with all our mind, heart, soul, and strength. Clearly, we have to make a commitment to be responsible in our relationship with God by making Him the focus of our lives so we can walk in the way He has provided. We do this by being committed to direct the intents and affections of our hearts towards Him. We must also commit our souls to take on Jesus’ disposition, and out of love for Him, all of our strength must come into total subjection to the Holy Spirit to ensure its integrity in service to Him.

Faithful: Since godly love is committed, it will also prove to be faithful to God in all it does. Faithfulness is the main emphasis in godly love. The reason for this emphasis is that faithfulness will naturally require a person to be responsible to see a matter through regardless of the cost. This is why the Apostle Paul made this statement about active love: “Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things” (1 Corinthians 13:7).Faithfulness must be present in three areas to ensure purity and endurance in a matter.

The first area faithfulness must be present in is motive. If a person is faithful in his or her motives, he or she will not allow self to condone, justify or qualify any thought, approach or act that would compromise his or her responsibility. Godly love will always demand that as Christians we are always faithful to offer the best that we have to ensure that a matter is carried out in a most excellent way for the glory of God.

The second area faithfulness must be present in is our emotions. We must be faithful to not let emotions dictate what constitutes reality. We must rein in the momentum of the thoughts and desires of our emotions, discipline their focus, and direct their affections in order to emotionally land. It is only after people land emotionally that they can be faithful to discern if they are of a right mind towards a matter. Mind points to attitude and prevailing mood. It is only after people emotionally land that they can change their attitude towards something, as well as kick out any prevailing mood that is contrary to the excellent way of love. Once people are of the right mind, they can faithfully come into line with their charitable state in order to properly express love.

The third area of faithfulness has to do with behavior. The only way people can be faithful in their behavior is if they consecrate their bodies to be faithful. Faithfulness that comes out of consecrated lives in God’s kingdom expresses itself in obedience and service. This is why Jesus stated if we truly love Him, we will obey Him. He also stated that people would know we were His disciples because we have the same love for one another.

Sacrificial: Godly love is sacrificial. Jesus put sacrificial love in this text in John 15:12-14: “This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you. Greater love hath no man than this that a man lay down his life for his friends. Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you.” Love that has reached the pinnacle expression of selfless sacrifice proves to be a perfect love in motive, attitude and conduct.

       Agreement: Jesus stated that if we have sacrificial love, we would know what it means to be friends. True friends have a special bonding or agreement. Godly love will submit to that which is worthy, and show itself honorable as it prefers the well-being of others over itself. Agreement is what causes oneness or like-mindedness about a matter. After all, if people are coming from the same premise because they are motivated by love, they will always be able to come into agreement about a situation.

Do you possess such active love? Without such love, you will not be able to walk out sacrificial service. Love must be at the basis of all we do as Christians. In fact, it walks hand in hand with all the godly virtues. Next month we are going to talk about one of the Christian virtues that love must walk hand in hand with in our Christian life to ensure a victorious walk.