Love, the Only Place God is Found
Sunday Night, April 26, 1998
“If I could speak in any language in heaven or on earth, but I didn’t love others, it would be like making meaningless noise, like a loud gong or clanging cymbal. If I had the gift of prophecy and I knew all the mysteries of the future and knew everything about everything, but didn’t love others, what good would I be? And if I had the gift of faith so that I could speak to a mountain and make it move, without love I would be no good to anybody. If I gave everything I have to the poor, and even sacrifice my body to the flames, I could boast about it, but if I didn’t love others, I would be of no value whatsoever” (1 Corinthians 13).
The beginning of this thing we call a “chapter” in Paul’s letter is really clear about one fact: loving others is not an additional thing that we do alongside the other important works, such as conquering the world for Christ, throwing mountains into the sea, healing the sick, and all these other things. It’s not an additional thing. It is the root issue and substance of existence. All of that “Christian” stuff is total rubbish, totally worthless, of no value whatsoever…if it is not rooted in the basis of intimate love for others because of the blood of Jesus. Not an “additional thing to work on,” but the very basis of our existence, our decisions, and our actions. This is the only way the Father can be pleased, and without it we’ll never have the slightest idea of how to “walk as Jesus walked,” doing “nothing that we do not see the Father doing.”
This is as fundamental as the difference between eating from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, and eating from the Tree of LIFE! What IS a “good work for Jesus”? Do you really know? You cannot possibly know, apart from what we are discussing here. Your mind is not the basis of knowing. Like Peter, we’ll say right to God’s face, “Surely NOT, Lord!” if we are living by our mind’s perception of what is “right,” and what we have read somewhere must surely please God. We must eat from the Tree of Life, not the tree where we think we’ve studied enough to “know.” This is a place of perpetual dependency (a very unpopular idea to the proud religious man). This is a place of abandoned love. This is the only place God may be found. That is, the TRUE God. The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The Father of the Master, Jesus Christ. God doesn’t teach love, or command it, alone. God is Love, and He can ONLY be found there. Not the externals. This is what Paul is saying in the passage we just read about Love. Learn to love deeply, from the heart! Please?
Now, in practical terms (about measuring ourselves by “externals”), someone says, “The Bible says, ‘Greater works than these shall you do,’ right? So, if I can’t experience important and miraculous things, then I have the right to be frustrated, disappointed, and go through mid-life crises.” No way. The demons just might not submit in His Name in this particular instance because of a foggy, arrogant understanding of what the Scriptures mean. Wrong tree. Riddle me this: How many miracles did Jeremiah do? How about Isaiah? Are these men so deficient with God that the “externals” might be limited to twenty-three years with no one listening, and getting thrown into a well to die? John the Baptist did no miracles. Were these men failures? Did they not know God?
Other men did “external” miracles, right? Elijah did a whole truckload of them. Elisha did a bunch. Jesus certainly did a bunch. Paul and Peter and John did their share. But it’s not a “given” that if you can’t do miracles or if you never see one in your entire lifetime that you are a failure. I’m all for miracles, and have been the humbled recipient of miracles of His grace in several areas (the forgiveness of sin, for starters). Yet, if we think we can demand of God our understanding and timing of any externals, such as “greater works than these shall you do,” then we’re no better than “a wicked and adulterous generation.”
It’s a very shallow and foolish understanding to demand externals in order to validate your relationship with God, and we are headed for shipwreck or deception (or self-deception) in one form or another. That’s much like a self-centered relationship with another human where our “measurement” of love is, “What have you done for me lately?”. Pretty pathetic, eh?
Emotionally, if you live this way with God or man (trusting and needing externals rather than the “invisible” foundations of LOVE and the Tree of LIFE), you are going to come unglued at some point. You have an idol in your life. If you don’t find your identity in deep love for Jesus and deep love for others, you will find your identity in externals. Someone says, “Now you have to add love, of course. But surely we have the right to expect a), b), c) and d)…because after all the scriptures say this and that…” The Scriptures also say that you don’t have to see it in your lifetime. Four hundred years of silence from God. Four hundred years of no miracles, no healings that we are aware of, no prophets, no leaders that we are aware of, and then the Messiah shows up. Four hundred years of bondage in Egypt—twice as long as “the United States of America” has even existed! Massive problems, from lashes on your back regularly, to heatstroke and family members dying of disease, to mistreatment and cursings by superiors that are Egyptian pagan false-god worshippers who hate you and despise you and mistreat you and abuse you. “Where is God? Isn’t a mid-life crisis appropriate here? I’ve read my Bible. I’ve read His Promises. Where is God in all this? I need a Plan B. God is letting us down here. ‘It’ isn’t working.”
Someone might say, “Don’t I have the right to expect that He will be my Redeemer, my Deliverer?” Four hundred years is a long time, and I guarantee you no one lived to see the beginning and the end of that four hundred years. There wasn’t one single person alive who saw the beginning of captivity who also saw the end of captivity. No one was four hundred years old when Moses showed up. Point being, a lot of people died in what would have been total poverty, a total contradiction of their interpretation of the Scriptures, in total frustration and agony over this God that “let them down and didn’t do things the way He said He would.” They could have died in misery or they could have died in peace. If they died in peace it was because their priority was not in what they accomplished, or based on what they thought the promises were to be for them. A lot of people died, as we read earlier, “without having seen the promises fulfilled.” Yet, they could die in peace, and they can die in satisfaction of the heart and soul if they experienced and distributed the love of God. That’s what it is about.
Give your body to be burned. Big deal! Cast a mountain into the sea. So what? That’s what the Scriptures say. That is, if you don’t have agape love as a basis for your existence, loving people from the heart just as Jesus did with “the rich young ruler,” looking at them with eyes of redemptive love, even in the “tough love” that Jesus demonstrated with him. Remember how Jesus responded with Lazarus? Is that how you respond? Not crying for yourself, your “loneliness,” the “injustices” you suffer, but tears welling up in your eyes because you love others so deeply. If that is not what you are about in your own home, in your neighborhood, in the local Church (the Body of Jesus Himself!) and the world at large—if that’s not what you are about, you are headed for shipwreck. You will eventually come unraveled and unglued. You will have a mid-life, and a three-quarter life and a four-fifths life crisis. You are going to have all kinds of crises, and you deserve them because God has not yet taught you because you are not listening to what life is really about.
God IS love. God doesn’t do love. He doesn’t give love. He doesn’t command love. He is love. And you don’t have God if you don’t have love. If that’s not what you are about, you are going to have this war in your mind constantly—a frustrating, agonizing battle—and God is going to make sure you have it! If He loves you, He’ll see that you live with it and that your existence is marked with misery and unrest if you don’t get the idea straight that God is not primarily “command giver” or “rule maker” or “creator of all stuff” or “author of all true religion.” God is Love. He doesn’t just command it. He doesn’t just encourage it. He doesn’t just generate it because of the good things He is. He IS Love, and that is what it is about. Everything else, no matter how noble is meaningless! And we have no right, in answer to the question directly, to any expectations whatsoever apart from LOVE as the root basis of what life is about. Everything else—all knowledge, all good works, all prophetic insight or “commitment” and everything else—comes along only as God authors it in His own place and time. Nothing else is a “given”!
Nothing? Really?! Well, let’s just say that fallen, religious man has gotten himself into a lot of trouble by eating from “the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” We tend to say, “This is a good thing to do and that is a bad thing to do. I read that in the Bible!” Actually, believe it or not, it is arrogant to think in the narrow, finite terms we commonly think in! Surely you realize that our perceptions of “Truth” are biased by our time and space and definition, limited experience, limited intellect, as well as by the grotesqueness and blinding nature of our sin?! That’s where Ishmael came from. Think about it. Abraham clearly had good intentions for God, responding “obediently” to His Word…but a sincerely wrong interpretation of that Word. God spoke to Abraham later and said, “Your son, your only son, Isaac.” Ishmael was not considered a “son” as Isaac was. Clearly God did not honor Abraham’s “honest mistake.”
As for us? That “eating from the wrong tree,” “making ourselves to be gods, knowing good and evil” is where a lot of the fallacies and the corruptions of the denominational world and all of biblical history have found their origin. People are regularly sure they know exactly what God meant when He said thus and such, and “so I’m just going to go out and do it.” Thus was born the scourge of Ishmael, always “persecuting the child born of the Spirit.” And, as Paul said, “It is the same now.”
An example or two? God gave His People a Promised Land, and the “ten spies” messed up and had a “bad report.” When they learned they had blown it and were now sentenced to wandering in waterless places, they said (not because they loved God, but because they didn’t like the consequences of their sin and unbelief), “Okay, I was wrong. I’ll go do it. If it was a good “promise” before, and even a command, then surely I should go on up to the Promised Land!” No. It doesn’t work that way. It’s on GOD’S timing or not at all. “Promises” are not like that. God defines them, not our “claiming” them. You’re a dead man if you “go take the Land” without God’s Timing. And that’s what happened.
Another “New Testament” example? God commanded Peter to, “Take, kill and eat.” Peter, out of his perception of Truth, “accidentally” in defiance of the Living God, said, “Surely not, Lord! Don’t you know the Scriptures, God? The Scriptures say right here, ‘____.’ You know I’ll never disobey You and eat unclean animals. It’s right here in black and white! No, no, no, I can’t do this thing.” That lack of flexibility, that lack of “Spiritual depth perception” put Peter in a dangerous place. His attempt to obey God from his brain and his experience’s perception of “Truth” almost caused him to rebel face-to-face against God Himself! Wow. His communion was with his brain about God rather than communion with God Himself. The Scriptures are to be a road map towards God instead of a substitute for a living God (Jn. 5). God will not bless our external attempts to “please Him.” He will not grant His peace and prosperity of soul and heart and mind when we are looking at external stuff and having external “expectations” that will either satisfy or dissatisfy us. We’ll find ourselves in competition with ourselves, with others, or with some perceived “standard.” We’ll be arrogant and prideful if our human flesh is “successful,” and discouraged if we are “not.” There is no end to it all. God Himself—not perceived “good Christian objectives”—must be our only goal. The rest takes care of itself. He will confirm only what He is: LOVE. All else will find unrest and Ishmael’s fruit, in time: “Fading Glory.”
Father desires a Family that is in harmony with His feeling about things. Like any father or mother, it’s not of any great satisfaction to Him that His children would simply “do what they are supposed to do” apart from communion with His heart and intent. Our connection to Him and to what His heart longs for is what brings Him joy and satisfaction. People who do the right thing are a dime a dozen. (Well, maybe not, but you get the point.) People who feel what God feels are the rarest of gems. That’s what He is after. He is not asking for a bunch of robots to try to figure out mathematically what He wants and then go do it in order to prove that they love Him or to prove they are good disciples. “If you love Me, well, you’ll keep My commandments because you will be able to hear Me. You will be able to experience Me. You will be able to feel what I feel.” And when something happens, you will be able to respond to it. Not with a, “Surely not Lord, after all, I know better.” But rather, like Mary, when visited by the stranger Gabriel, “Whatever you want, Lord! I don’t get it, I don’t understand it, but that’s Your will. Let it be so.” That is the one fit to be the mother of the Messiah, the person who birthed the Son of God. The creator of the universe lived in her womb and in her home. Why did God favor her in this way, of all women? Her heart and life was, “At your word. Let it be so. I don’t have to understand it in order to fully embrace it and love it.”
That’s the kind of heart He is looking for. Someone who can feel what He feels. Not just think you know what He knows, not just think you are doing what He wants you to do (because you are probably wrong—“Surely not, Lord.”) You think you know, but the point is you don’t always know. You think you do, and surely you are not just intentionally going against what you think is God’s will, but surely if you are after God rather than just things about God, you are going to be much more open to, “Really, Lord?” as opposed to, “Surely not, Lord.” This radically different response can only happen when we are rooted in a love affair with the Person that is speaking. We cannot be rooted in our arrogant little brains—brains that one could extract from your body, put on a scale and the needle would barely move. In the whole universe of Creation, our personal, decisive, adamant conclusions from the wrong tree should not weigh very much, even to ourselves! That’s not what life is about—your understanding about this or that. That has gotten a lot of people in trouble over the years. The mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace. The issue of Life is not about “doing christian things,” but having an intimate, personal experience of God and His love, and also dispensing that love to those around you. To see what He sees, to feel what He feels and to respond willingly to His heart, case by case, day by day, that’s what Christianity is really about. You see, with that kind of attitude you can live your whole life in His Peace having never necessarily done any great and mighty “thing,” but you have experienced the Godhead!
“My Father and I will come and make Our home in you!” That experience brings a deep sense of belonging and a deep sense of worth, and a deep stability that is unshakable. “My Father and I will come and make Our home in you.” What else do you need but that? If that is true, you will also execute. You will also do what He calls you to do. You will also respond to Him case by case and situation by situation. Of course you will. Just like Jesus did. But the basis of the whole thing is the Father and the Son have come to make Their home in you. And you experience that Indwelling. It’s not just a theology. You didn’t read that someplace. You are experiencing that, and if you are experiencing that, then it will guide your whole existence. It will guide how you feel, how you think, how you respond to things. You are not going to jump to arrogant conclusions based on your finite experiences of what you think is true. And when you fail, you are not going to unravel and you are not going to fall apart because you didn’t have some assumption that it had to be some certain way anyway. You are looking for love, for the peace that flows out of the Father’s heart and mind at this moment in time. “The mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace.” You are looking for a sense of fellowship and the satisfaction and the love that comes from the Father and the Son living in you and affirming Themselves to you.
If you ask anything knowing, feeling, and experiencing the Father, it will be done. There is a process of fellowship and this love communion that is at the root of the Christian existence in its purest form. Not many people have ever lived that way, unfortunately. Therefore, mid-life crises or instability mark more than 99% of the existence of so-called Christians, and even true Christians because they are not living out of the Life of God, out of the Love of God, out of the supply of the Father, out of communion with the Godhead, out of desperate love one for another.
They don’t yet know truly what it is to feel the Father’s love and experience the love of God in others. Their experience of “church” or the “Body of Christ” is still primarily academic. Lord haste the Day when the Faith shall be sight! When the clouds over our eyes are rolled back like a scroll. When the Bride has truly “made herself ready” by being the Church Jesus died to birth—an equal yoke ready for His Return. This is the Purpose of all that we’re speaking of: a gift “from Him and through Him and to Him!” Living in love rather than externals alone. Or even less than that. “Thank you Father, for being patient with us on the Journey towards You, but not so patient that we lose our way!” : )