Monday Night, January 12, 1998
Have you ever experienced that goofy sensation of holding somebody’s hand and getting a tingle up your spine and a lump in your throat? Some of us have, and it’s a hard-to-explain-falling-in-love phenomenon. : ) As the years roll by, we come to learn that even though it’s a lot of fun, it isn’t anything to build a relationship on. But it is true that even that faint version of love can actually change your personality.
In the movie Shadowlands, C.S. Lewis unexpectedly falls in love with a woman named Joy. As the movie goes on, she teaches him how to love, and that’s when he becomes a real person, in a sense. The man had knowledge before and he could understand and fathom great mysteries...but he didn’t know love. It’s like in 1 Corinthians 13 where Paul speaks of being able to prophesy and know the future. What a great gift that would be, right? It’d be great to know the future, and to have a prophetic insight. To have faith that does miraculous things as phenomenal as throwing mountains into the sea and making the sun stand still. Those are great gifts, aren’t they?
But as Paul said, all those things are meaningless unless you are primarily a Holy “lover”—one who is first and foremost filled with deep love as the very wind in your sails. Do you want to be a “great man” or a “great woman” in God’s sight? Well...God is love. So how can we be endued with power from on High if we are not primarily lovers? A “great man” or “great woman” is NOT primarily one who performs miracles, or understands or teaches all the great mysteries, or is willing to give their body to be burned. According to God, a great man or woman is one who primarily loves very, very much.
When you fall in love, your personality changes—you do goofy stuff! You go dancing through the meadow barefoot and all the other things you read about in the poems. There’s a certain something inside of you that has the courage to say things you wouldn’t have said. You yell up to someone on the balcony in the middle of the night, “Come marry me!” You’re willing to take a chance and do crazy stuff even though you might get a shotgun poked in your face. You sing a special song you’ve written to someone, when you can’t even sing or write songs! I’m just reminding you of some things that you know poetically or that you’ve felt or seen in your own experience somewhere. I’m talking about “falling in love” in the trivial sense, but it’s so you can understand the Truth of it on the important level.
I think we’re all aware that even just the shadow of love in the human form changes our personality. When we really love, there’s something about us that changes. We’re more sensitive, more kind, more forgiving. We’re more patient, and we’re not easily irritated. We’re not grumpy or pushy, and we don’t demand that someone “go get us something” all the time. Instead, we want to find a way to get it for them. What do you “do” when you really have love—when you’re primarily a lover? Well...you do stuff! Don’t tell me you love me if you’re telling me to leave and “be warm and well fed.” That’s not love. True love wants to find ways to manifest itself. True love is always groping and grasping for a way to manifest itself. Love isn’t going to happen in a vacuum. There’s desire and courage and creativity.
Love More...And Be Changed
Many or maybe even ALL the problems that any of us would ever have would be taken care of if we Loved more! As Jesus said, all the law and the commandments are summed up in these two things: Love God and love everybody else. Besides that, you don’t need any other commands. Why is that? Because if you fall in love with God and with everyone else, you’ll not be a self-centered person anymore. You’ll not be so concerned about prophesying the future or casting mountains into the sea. If you’re primarily a lover, you’ll want to LOVE PEOPLE. You will find ways to give and ways to be creative. Your personality, your patience level, your pain-tolerance level, and many things will drastically change. Your personality will change. Like if you’re basically a fearful person, there may come a time when Real Love begins to bloom and blossom and manifest itself—and then maybe you just won’t be so fearful anymore. You won’t be so self-centered and inward, thinking about yourself all the time. “Phooey on all that!” You’ll just bust out of that when Real Love comes in.
So many different things have caused us to fall short over time, like being totally intellectual or getting caught in our thoughts all the time. You’re not going to do that if your passion is for loving people around you. If that’s your primary purpose in life—to love people—you won’t be caught in this intellectual cycle and three-ring circus in your mind that you’ve been a slave to. The mind games in your head and so many other things just won’t be important anymore, when you love. That doesn’t mean everything else is without meaning or value. But on the other hand, if the primary force in your life is to be a lover—one who’s desperate to find ways to express the love of Jesus—then most of the other stuff goes by the wayside. Name your sin: whether legalism, selfishness, vices, or whatever. If you’ve really opened yourself up to the Father’s Love for people (brothers and sisters, people in your neighborhood, your city, country, or planet), you’ll be HIGHLY motivated to put aside foolish sin in your life.
If you can feel a true love in your heart for those who God has redeemed by the Blood of His Son, then you know there’s a part you can play in their lives. And you can play a part by sanctifying yourself for them. As Jesus said, “For them I sanctify myself.” By putting aside your vices—the way you think, the stuff you permit into your eyes and ears and thoughts—you can actually contribute to someone’s life on the other side of the world. You put sins aside because you LOVE them and you want the best for them. They are more important to you than your own selfish things. If you really love, you’re going to have an impact on other people’s lives. You’ll even have an impact on people you’ve never met because of that principle of sanctifying ourselves for others.
Jesus said that all the law and the prophets, and everything that ever was and ever will be can all be summed up in loving. There’s something very real and extraordinary and mostly untested about that. As we’re abandoned to love, the other stuff tends to take care of itself. We know how to act and we know how to “be.” A person who’s so dull and lifeless will definitely change when they’re in love. A spark of life will be there! Something will be regenerated in them, and something in their eyes will connect. They’re going to care, and the dullness, lifelessness and lethargy will fall by the wayside. Their personality changes when they fall in love with God and His people. Name your error, name your sin, name your character problem. Nothing will fail to be totally smashed to smithereens if we just Loved more. We wouldn’t be so fearful. We wouldn’t be so caught up in legalism. We wouldn’t be caught up in weird hyperspiritualism. None of that stuff would entangle us because it’s all PHONEY. It’s not real. It doesn’t compare in any way to what love is. It doesn’t connect; it doesn’t mean anything. It doesn’t change lives. It has no power and there’s no life in it. Only love can generate the personality of Jesus that accomplishes the work of Jesus on the basis and the ground of Jesus. Only love can do that. You can go out and give your body to be burned—all these good deeds that the Scriptures say you can do. But it’s powerless, it’s lifeless, it’s meaningless, it’s boring, it’s yucky! It’s religious and it means nothing if the foundation isn’t love. All that other stuff is just gunk.
True Love, not Gushy or Compromising
If you were introduced to a total stranger, the primary thing they ought to notice isn’t how much you “know.” They ought to primarily notice that you love. But it’s not a love that is mushy, worldly or compromising, of course. That’s an abomination. Lukewarmness makes Jesus sick (Rev. 3) and MUST make us sick, as well, if we’re truly “connected to the Head.” False love that covers carnal sympathy or our own insecurities, or our own worldliness makes Jesus sick and makes us an “enemy of God.” Jesus was clear with the “rich young ruler” and could not accept him as he was—not because the ruler wasn’t perfect, but because he still wanted control of part of his life. But still, Jesus saw something in the young man that He could “look at him and love him.” And so, to be a lover as Jesus was, we may have to say to a compromiser, “Sorry, but we can’t walk with you”...just as Jesus did with the rich young ruler. So what if we can throw mountains into the sea and know everything about all the deep mysteries? So what if we’re so sacrificial for other countries that we’d sell our cars or give up food to care for them? It doesn’t mean anything and it’s just a clanging gong if the foundation isn’t Love. Love will seep through in all those other ways—in sacrifice, in a prophetic insight, and in faith to see things change. But let’s not get the cart before the horse.
In your times with God in the morning or whenever, there are many things you may talk to Him about. But first and foremost, ask Him to make you a lover. Ask Him that you’d be filled totally in your heart with His love, that you might see things as He sees them and respond to them as He would. It might be that this love results in something like “turning over tables.” Or it might express itself with, “Go and sin no more; neither do I condemn you.” Love will take a lot of different forms. But it is not just gushiness. The point is that we’re going to break free from all bondages and set captives free when we are primarily lovers in our hearts in the clearest, Christ-centered sort of way.
Make Me a Lover!
“If I could speak in tongues of men and even of angels but have not love—that reasoning, intentional, spiritual devotion and passion, such as inspired by God’s love for and in us—I’m only a noisy gong or clanging cymbal. If I have prophetic powers, a gift of interpreting divine will and purpose and understand all the secret truths and all the mysteries and possess all knowledge, or if I am sufficient in faith so that I can remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing...a useless nobody. Even if I dole out all that I have to the poor in providing food, if I surrender my body to be burned but have not love—God’s love in me—I gain nothing.”
“Love endures long and is patient and kind. Love is never envious, never boils over with jealousy. It’s not boastful or vainglorious nor does it display itself haughtily. It is not conceited, arrogant and inflated with pride. It’s not rude, unmannerly. It does not act unbecomingly. God’s love in us does not insist on its own rights or its own way for it is not self-seeking. It’s not touchy or fretful or resentful. It takes no account of the evil done to it. It pays no attention to suffering wrong. It does not rejoice in injustice and unrighteousness but rejoices when right and truth prevail. Love bears up under anything and everything that comes, is ever-ready to believe the best of every person. Its hopes are fadeless under all circumstances and it endures everything without weakening. Love never fails and never fades out or becomes obsolete or comes to an end.”
“When I was a child I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child, I loved like a child. Now that I have become a man, I’m done with childish ways and have put them aside.”
Now I will grow up and learn to give away my life...to truly love God and others more than myself. I will no longer be a mere child—I will walk like a true man.
It’s a CHOICE that we make, the Holy Spirit says, to stop being babies, to stop being children. We try to entertain ourselves with our own childish trinkets, and our own childish ways of thinking and acting. Sometimes we find ourselves bored in an evening or frustrated in some situation at home...fill in the blank with whatever it is. But if you’re basking with love, LOVE will find a way through that. It will find a way to overcome and to conquer. You can add to that list in 1 Corinthians 13: Love is never bored. Why is love never bored? Because a religious person gets bored when they don’t have anything to DO, but a lover simply LOVES! A lover is going to find a way and doesn’t need to be entertained, doesn’t need to be busy, doesn’t need to have religious stuff lined up in front of them. A lover doesn’t need an ego boost of something to accomplish.
A lover finds fullness and satisfaction in loving, and that loving can take a lot of different forms. It might be “in a closet,” basking and wallowing in tears and prayer for someone—for their difficult financial, relational or work-related circumstance. There’s a satisfaction and a fullness in loving, because that’s where GOD is found. God is love...that’s where you find love. Our frustrations and our vices, sins, and problems are all a testimony of a lack of love. It doesn’t matter how many mountains are cast into the sea...we will be unfulfilled, if not bored and frustrated, and 1,000 other little problems will begin to creep up. Bad habits are formed, relationships turn cliquey and self-serving, and all these problems flow from a lack of love. Without seeing the whole landscape of God’s Beauty and Glory and all the parts that make the whole...without loving all of that with all your heart, we get caught in all these little traps. That’s why love is the fulfillment of all the prophets and all the commands you could ever think of. All those commands and prophecies by themselves mean nothing. To fulfill every one of them to the “nth” degree would mean nothing if love wasn’t the glue that held them all together. Love is what gives form and substance, making the picture complete and bringing color and music to it all. Without love, it’s just religion. It’s a form of godliness and it’s meaningless, boring and frustrating.
New Every Morning
Is exciting new “knowledge” what keeps your spiritual engine running? Do you get new jollies with a new type or shadow or Greek word? I’m telling you that after awhile you will run out of excitement about ideas. You can only know and have capacity for so much before you get bored with “yet another new thing” (like the Athenians) or it’s a repeat of something you already knew. I’m not saying that reading something doesn’t move me or help me or change me. That happens every day, but I know it’s not brand new. I know it’s not a concept I was unfamiliar with, or something I hadn’t read or thought about or felt someplace along the line. The idea isn’t that new. I can’t rely on external concepts or thoughts to thrill me forever. The fact is, the thing that makes life new every morning and every day is LOVE—it’s not information! It’s not deeds. All those things run out of steam after a while. They’re exciting initially...a new thought, Wow! This is great! Something else to chew on and we can talk and get excited and banter about it after dinner. Big deal. After a while it gets boring. So then you find a few mountains to cast into the sea, and see some people raised from the dead...then what? You encounter some other kind of miracle or evangelize the nation of whatever land, and after a while you realize that even that doesn’t mean anything on a surface level.
And yet, as you come to love one person someplace...that lasts forever. And it gets deeper and deeper. You become more and more acquainted with the love of the Body of Christ and the Vision and His heart for His bride. And as you pour your heart and your life and your mind into that, it grows and matures and flowers and blossoms. Like a plant, new life springs up continually with a new blossom and a new bud that’s always changing. It’s always better and more mature. The roots are deeper and the life is greener and the flowers are more fragrant, and it grows. Love does that. Nothing else does that. Everything else vanishes. Tongues cease and prophecies pass away and fade. Everything else vanishes and diminishes, but love grows and grows. That IS pure religion! That IS what it’s about. The other stuff is great. But only as it’s a blossom out of the vine of God’s love, out of the plant of God’s planting and His vineyard.
This is a vision for you to uphold and to plead with God for! It’s the True Love of God. It isn’t something that can be attained, but it’s certainly something you can beg God for. You can beg God to open your heart and put that sparkle in your eyes of a genuine love. Beg Him for that, instead of living with the competing thoughts that drive you out of your mind (whether the boredom or the extreme thoughts that need to get more extreme in order to keep us entertained). Love makes all that stuff obsolete and unnecessary. As you grow in His Love, you’ll grow in patience and kindness. Your thoughts and doctrines will make sense, and they’ll hang themselves in the proper place in your heart and mind. Your “doctrine” will begin to form very patiently and carefully in your heart, rather than be acquired through mental gymnastics and comparisons. “The Life” still becomes “the Light of men”! God forms His life and His mind and His thinking in us through the medium of love. It takes some time and it can’t be done in a vacuum. We’ve got to live it out with others every day. But it’s very real. He’s real. Yet, we will never really know how real He is, or be real ourselves—men and women in His fullness—until we daily LIVE a true love in the midst of His Church and the world He died for. That’s His full intent. Just as it was so for Jesus, so it is for us.