Practical Application of the Word of God
Christianity, in general, is in love with the concept of love. It is seen as the one thing that is the key to being a Christian. We hear it rehearsed over and over in sermons until it becomes a mantra (I personally hear The Beatles’ “All You Need Is Love” running through my mind every time I hear the subject discussed because the topic is often discussed in the same superficial way that the song discusses it).
Please understand that I’m not dissing the fact that love is a vital part of living, active Christianity. But it is not the superficial and trite “love” that is often preached. It is not something we just have.
Instead, love must be an integrated part of who we are in relationship to God and Jesus Christ and every single member of humanity (including our real or perceived enemies).
This is the hard work of godly love (and something that seldom, if ever, gets addressed). It’s a constant battle that we must be actively engaged in, with God’s help, to overcome and, ultimately, be victorious in.
We are told in I John 4:8 that God is love. So, if we want to be like God, then we must be love, not just have love.
And, therein, lies the problem with the singular focus on having love we often find among Christians.
There is a big difference between being love and having love, which often focuses on the physical relationships we have with others in the body of Christ.
Fellowship with our local congregations and service attendance are emphasized as being the key to having Christian love, which gets translated into unity in the body.
There is a serious and very flawed fundamental problem with this idea in isolation from the bigger picture of God’s word.
You and I can be in unity with a group of people, but the pitfall is that we can all be in agreement about things that are erroneous or outright unbiblical and ungodly (in other words, we may be in unity with each other, but not with God and Jesus Christ, so what is missing is unity in the Spirit of God).
That is because the big picture of God’s word is what’s missing in all these discussions about love and we must get back to that before we can be love.
So what do we really need as Christians to be love as God is love?
We need righteousness. That is the top-level, big-picture need of every Christian.
Where does righteousness – understanding, doing, and being – for Christians begin?
With the very mind and power of God – His spirit, given to us by Him upon our repentance from dead works (the works of the flesh), our commitment to continue to zealously repent from those same works as we see and understand them more deeply and see how deeply they are rooted in our hearts, souls, and mind until we are transformed by Jesus Christ into incorruption (no more dead works are possible), and baptism.
Without God’s spirit, we cannot be godly. Without God’s spirit, we cannot be righteous. Without God’s spirit, we cannot be love.
Yes, without God’s spirit, we can read God’s word (however, many in the ekklesia, it seems, don’t even bother to do that, preferring instead to substitute human words, ideas, and opinions as God’s word, which is not only extremely foolish and ignorant, but spiritually dangerous and destructive), but we don’t understand God’s word the way God understands it.
It doesn’t mean we can’t take we do understand and apply it and be good people. But being a mostly-spiritually ignorant good person is not being godly and righteous.
God’s standard of goodness is not our best efforts at human goodness (which, more and more, seems to have vanished from most of humanity because of our total self-absorption and “it’s all about me” way of being that we’ve embraced wholeheartedly) and if that’s all we have, it is not enough. Ever.
Without God’s spirit, we can only apply it in an extremely limited human and physical way, which is often what the love mantra of Christianity focuses on.
Therefore, we may have a form of love (which is often selective, prejudicial, and selfish or self-centered in its expression), but we cannot become love as God is love.
Because righteousness includes all the fruit of God’s spirit. Godly love doesn’t exist in a vacuum. It coexists and is indelibly linked with the other attributes (fruit) of the mind of God (His spirit).
One note: we often here Galatians 5:22-25 referred to as the fruits of God’s spirit. That’s wrong. These attributes are not separate fruits. Instead, they are a single fruit.
So, to cherry-pick, as the human tendency is to (which is, I believe, why we read and hear the word fruits instead of the correct word fruit), among these attributes and come to the conclusion that if we possess and are some of them that we must be doing okay in God’s eyes is an erroneous conclusion.
We must possess and be all of them in their fullness to be mature godly fruit in God’s eyes. This is the work of our lives, in cooperation and with the heavy lifting of God and Jesus Christ working interactively with our hearts, souls, and minds, until the day we no longer breathe as a human.
And the fruit will not be fully mature until Jesus Christ returns and makes it so when He changes us from corruptible to incorruptible.
We simply cannot, as humans, achieve the standard of God and be love as God is love without Jesus Christ giving us that spiritual heart transplant, the completion of the good work God has started, and the perfecting of all things concerning each one of us.
However, we must be fully engaged in this process of growth with God and Jesus Christ for this final spiritual maturation process to occur.
Jesus Christ said Himself that He is the Vine that our branches are attached to and God is the Gardener who oversees the production of the fruit of the Vine, pruning the branches to produce more mature fruit and removing the branches that are not producing any fruit.
Therefore, our full and total participation is this process, although ultimately it is the work of God and Jesus Christ that brings us to full spiritual maturity, is absolutely critical and essential.
We must be wholeheartedly and actively committed to this maturation process and putting all of our effort into it continuously (this is the contractual agreement we made in our baptism covenant with God and Jesus Christ). Otherwise, we will not be part of the kingdom of God.
Too often, it seems that we Christians believe that we can just keep being what we humanly are (corrupt) with a little lip service to following God and Jesus Christ, but no substantive and evident action toward these deep things of God, and somehow a switch will be flipped when Christ returns and suddenly we will be like Him and God.
Nothing could be further from the truth. This is the hard work that God has called us as Christians to now and to which He will eventually call all humanity.
It requires our 24/7 attention, effort, and involvement, along with the continual growth in the intimacy of our relationship with God and Jesus Christ through constant fellowship with them (that’s where fellowship begins, not just with other people who say they follow God and Jesus Christ, while in reality some do and some don’t, which their actions bear out [fruit]).
Most of us Christians, sadly, tend to eschew the hard work we’ve been called to do, deceiving ourselves into believing that just because we “belong” to a group or because we agree with the majority of our fellow Christians then we’re doing enough.
It is not even close to what is required of us by God and Jesus Christ. If we’ve allowed ourselves to be lulled into thinking that, now is the time to wake up out of our lethargy and be serious, sober, and vigilant about making our calling and election sure.
The fruit of God’s spirit, then, must be the righteousness that we put on and grow in throughout our physical lives.
Love is a component of that fruit. But equally so is joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (like the 10 commandments, the last listed is the underpinning to the rest: when we break any of God’s commandments, there is always covetousness involved; likewise, without self-control, it is impossible have and grow the other components in the fruit of God’s spirit).
Where we lack any of these components – whether completely or in part – we lack the mature fruit of God’s spirit.
In reality, we as Christians all lack the mature fruit of God’s spirit.
We are not fully grown into measure of the stature of the fullness of Jesus Christ (and will not be until Christ does the transforming finishing work that only He can do at His return, which is why all the credit, all the glory, and all the honor belongs to Him and Him only), but that is our goal and the goal that we must be fully engaged in as we traverse our individual journeys to the kingdom of God.
This is the work of God. It’s personal between us and God. It’s customized for each one of us by God. The end result will be a collective (the body) of individuals who have yielded, submitted to, participated in, and persevered in the unique and personal work that God and Jesus Christ have engaged in with each one of us for their plan and their purpose, which is eternal and far beyond anything we can really grasp as humans.
It is far bigger and more important than anything here and now and that we can physically perceive with our senses in the material world.
Too often, we redefine the work of God to a mere physical, transient, and sidelines (for most of Christianity) thing (which is not accurate) and we ignore what God tells each of us His work in humans, individually and collectively, consists of and will produce in His purpose and plan.
If we buy into that redefinition alone, then we have missed the boat entirely.
And we are in danger of hearing what I consider the most dreaded words in the Bible and the words I never want to hear out of the mouth of Jesus Christ: “I never knew you.”