By Andy Zoppelt
Understand this: "You must receive his love before
you can love Him."
We learn to love from those who are gracious to us
and therefore love them. In such a case we do not have to change, we
love because of the benefit of the one loving us. We become
emotionally attached because of our need attached to the one meeting
that need. God's love calls for something beyond that, He calls for a
love that is based on who He is and for what He is. To step into that
kind of life, there must be faith, there must be a willingness to
sacrifice every opinion, need, emotion, and cast it away and fall at
His feet and give Him the pure praise and adoration for the love He
has for us. We cannot have love until we recognize His love for us. If
we question His love, we block His love from coming to us.
Praise and worship is the road we must walk on, it
gives us the solid rock and sure footing to face every trial. It
removes us from the power and influence of every day cares. It
destroys the bitterness, resentment, unforgiveness, criticism, and
sweetens our spirit to enjoy the privilege of obeying Him. It detaches
us from facing the law and its condemnation and causes us to face
Jesus from where we are changed from glory to glory. As we turn away
from those sins and trials that so easily beset us daily and we turn
to behold His love in faith and sacrifice, He fills our spirit with
Himself. Until the Holy Spirit fills our spirit, we can never be
obedient and holy. For the definition of a saint is someone that is
holy. For "without holiness no one will see the Lord."
(Heb 12:14). The one who sees Him will find greater faith and greater
If we are struggling to see the Lord, check our
love. Are we loving self, focusing on our self and living by our
opinion of God and how He responds to our needs? Are we constantly
crying because our need is overwhelming us? Are we intimidated by the
thoughts that constantly plague our minds? Does faith allude us? Are
we living under the condemnation of our sins and character flaws? Does
our emotional disposition easily beset us? Are we out of control and
cannot see the light at the end of the tunnel? Are we tired of running
in circles and seeking for answers that do not work? Are we confused
in trying find the method, the prayer, the act of obedience to reach
the heart of God? Do we see a lack of power and a lack of growth in
our lives? Do we long to be filled with His Spirit and enjoy deep
fellowship with Him?
All of these are symptoms of not abiding in the
vine. To abide in the vine means that we have forsaken our life and
have attached our life to Christ life in a very unique way.
"When the foundations are being destroyed, what can
the righteous do?" (Ps 11:3, NIV)
Let us now take a look at the foundations of which
most of us were probably never taught. First, salvation can only be
entered by faith operating in repentance. Repentance is a commitment
to turn from self and to turn to Christ. Second, baptism is the public
testimony in which a person is stating they are committed to putting
to death the life of self and have chosen to live by faith a
resurrected life through Christ. Thirdly, the walk is a walk by faith
and not by sight, need or anything else. And lastly, it is a life of
receiving and recognizing His love. If these things haven't
happened and are not happening, then the "receiving Jesus" is a life
centered on self. Jesus can not receive a person center on and living
While self is seeking Christ to fill its
expectations, their will be a constant conflict. The person will be
constantly focusing on themselves and evaluating God from a "need" and
self basis. Tears and time won't change God into an acceptance of
anything less than a salvation based on self-denial. We must realize
we all have one problem… self. Self-interest, our self-centered
opinions. Self judging God by the condition of whether He is
ministering to our needs. Self judging our brothers by our standards
of obedience and ethics, and self focusing on its lack of abilities
and weaknesses. If we abide in those self seeking conditions, we are
not abiding in Him and therefore lack the Spirit to change.
So where do we begin?
We begin by repentance and living by faith in the
Son of God who loved us and gave Himself for us. He did not die to
promote "us," He died to demote "us" and promote Himself "in" us. Our
new focus is on God's word, the very source that directs us to His
love and therefore causes us to love. The Word of God is the very
source describing His nature, His loving-kindness, etc., all of which
is based on His love…. "For God is Love."
God is looking at the heart of man, not the
outward. Many men have an "obedient" appearance outside, but inside,
there is not love. Consider this verse found in 2 Chron 16:9, "For the
eyes of the LORD range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose
hearts are fully committed to him."
God is not missing a person. He is examining every
heart. He is examining every motive, every intention and every
relationship. He is looking for His reflection, His presence, His
worship, for it is in that person He will fellowship and manifest His
presence and power.
There is such a war inside us to find obedience,
strength and an abiding fellowship with Him. Somehow obedience and
love don't connect. Many say they love Him, but find excuses for their
disobedience. Others seem to obey Him, yet show no sensitivity rooted
in love. But listen to the fresh excitement coming from the heart of
Nehemiah the prophet, "O LORD, God of heaven, the great and awesome
God, who keeps his covenant of love with those who love
him and obey his commands." (1:5)
He sounds like someone who just got saved. "Are God
is an awesome God." God intends to fill the heart with wonder and awe.
That is why some new converts speak about God with such adjectives.
Later they are often found either being disappointed or religious.
Joshua warns us, "So be very careful to love the LORD your God." (Josh
On the other hand, how would you like if someone
kept doubting you, misjudging and misrepresenting your character?
Would that person be able to obey you? It is detrimental to a
relationship to constantly judge a person's heart. To extend your
paranoia to the behavior of others, this is not the gift of
discernment, this is the gift of discouragement. To return to our
first love, is to return to the place where we think our God is an
awesome God. To return to the childish simplicity of the exaltation of
having a wonderful Father that loves us.
When Love possess a man's soul, it streams in fruit
out of his spirit. Love fills us with faith and obedience. Love looks
on others and situations through the eyes of Jesus. Love finds a way
to reconcile, forgive and heal. Love has hope when others quit and
others are full of criticism and condemnation. Love's greatest joy is
to please the one it loves. Loves is loyal, love believes the best of
others. Love finds reason to give when others are crying to get.
I remember a story I heard from Juan Carlos Ortiz
about 30 years ago. He said there was a young man in his fellowship
that was missing many of the meetings. He ask him why, and the young
man responded by giving him the details of his schedule: work, school
and chores around the house… he was just too busy. Then one day he met
a girl, he spent much of his time with her. Juan Carlos ask him how he
found time to fit her into his busy schedule, he gave numerous
reasons. Juan Carlos realized, love finds a way.
Love rids us of many excuses, love will cause us to
defend people we shouldn't defend. Love will cause us to take a hit
across the cheek without retaliation. Love will cause us to meet with
our brothers and sisters when others find excuses to miss. Everything
God has designed for man is built on love.
Consider 1 Corinthians 12 and 13, in chapter twelve
Paul speaks of the function of the Godhead, and the function of the
body and the gifts granted through the operation of the Holy Spirit.
At the end of chapter twelve we read, "But eagerly desire the
greater gifts. And now I will show you the most excellent way."
(1 Cor 12:31, NIV)
Paul was a "love" man, here he was imparting two
very important points in our walk with Christ and in His body. First,
our relationship with one another should be supernaturally gifted by
the manifestation of the Holy Spirit. We should pour the gifts upon
one another, expressing God's love through the supernatural love of
God. But Paul wanted to express the channel for which those gifts have
been designed by God. It is the channel of Love. He starts 1
Corinthians 13 by comparing those things we all "eagerly" desire.
"If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels,
but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging
cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries
and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but
have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the
poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I
gain nothing." (1 Cor 13:1-3, NIV)
In the church today, we are so quick to exalt those
possessing such giftings. Our lack of seeing the real manifestation
has caused us to worship anyone with charisma and gifting. We honor
much of the visual, audible and experiential. Though the gifts hold a
high priority with God, God looks at the heart. He looks for men
motivated by love. He looks for weeping men, broken men, humble men,
men filled with love.
This was precisely the point Jesus made when He
said, "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the
kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is
in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not
prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform
many miracles?' Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away
from me, you evildoers!'" (Matt 7:21-23, NIV)
Many are convinced that their gifts or efforts
establishes their relationship with Jesus. Gifts must flow from love
or they are nothing according to 1 Corinthians 13. God looks for love
in the heart, not gifts in the actions. Labor doesn't preceded love.
Paul then proceed to define love, just in case
their was someone who had their own corner on love's definition, a
love defined by their own agenda and matching their own behavior.
Let's read Paul's definition and compare it to ours and where we stand
with our brothers and sisters.
"Love is patient, love is
kind. It does not envy, it does not boast,
it is not proud. It is not rude, it
is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it
keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil
but rejoices with the truth. It always protects,
always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Love never fails." (1 Cor 13:4-8,NIV)
If we are mature, we will be able to relate to all
of these divine qualities of Love. Love is the absolute in the
Christian experience. John stated that Love reveals whether or not we
are a Christian.
Paul stated it is a healthy thing to "Examine
yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do
you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you-unless, of course,
you fail the test?" (2 Cor 13:5, NIV)
John makes the basis of our being in Christ very
"We know that we have passed from death to life,
(How?) because we love our brothers. Anyone who does not love
remains in death. Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you
know that no murderer has eternal life in him. (1 John 3:14-15, NIV)
John's logic follows this pattern of thinking, a
person who does not love is one who hates and one who hates is a
murderer and a murder (one who hates) does not have eternal life. John
is transferring the outward sin of murder to the inner hidden sin of
the heart of hate; similar to Jesus' analogy to the adulterer. The
outward behavior of the adulterer is equal to the inner hidden sin of
adultery in the one who looks with lust in his heart.
John goes on and reasons the importance of Love
Dear friends, let us love one another, (Why) for
love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows
God. Whoever does not love does not know God, (Why
again?) because God is love." (1 John 4:7-9, NIV)
"God is love. Whoever lives in love lives
in God, and God in him. In this way, love is made complete
among us (true Christians) so that we will have
confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are
like him. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out
fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not
made perfect in love." (1 John 4:16-18
Living is Love is living in God, how simple. That
is why Jesus said, "So in everything, do to others what
you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law
and the Prophets." (Matt 7:12, NIV)
Ask the question to yourself, are you doing to that
brother what you would want that brother to do to you. If not, you are
hating him, and haters are murders. Even our civil laws recognizes the
value of this principle, if you slander a person, you are guilty and
must pay damages or retribution. In a sense you damaged the person's
John continues his reasoning with the saints.
"We love because he first loved us. If
anyone says, 'I love God,' yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For
anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love
God, whom he has not seen. And he has given us this command: Whoever
loves God must also love his brother." 1 John 4:19-21, NIV)
The acid test:
"If anyone has material possessions and sees his
brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of
God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue
but with actions and in truth." (1 John 3:17, 18, NIV)
James stated that "faith without works is dead."
Jesus said, "Why do you call me, 'Lord, Lord,' and do not do what I
say?" (Luke 6:46, NIV)
Love bids you to extend your life to others and
your possessions included.
When the heart is in love with Jesus, everything
else will flow out in proper balance. Religion can segment aspects of
Christianity, but it cannot incorporate them in one balanced person.
The religion focuses on the importance of teaching while ignoring the
other gifts expressed when we come together. It develops forms in
order to replace the function of the body as a whole.
One does not lay down the law to a wife who loves
her husband. She finds no struggle in pleasing him. It is easy because
she loves him. Love is more concerned in the well being of the other
than in self-interest. Love moves with passion and protects the one
loved. Death is no barrier to love.
"For love is as strong as death, its jealousy
unyielding as the grave. It burns like blazing fire, like a mighty
flame. Many waters cannot quench love; rivers cannot wash it away. If
one were to give all the wealth of his house for love, it would be
utterly scorned." (Song 8:6-7, NIV)
You can't buy love. Love has no price tag. Love
considers no sacrifice too great. Many tales have been told of people
lifting object impossible to lift in order to rescue a loved one.
Jesus refuses to relate to a church without love. He cares little of
the great works and ministries.
The Ephesians church was a great church (people),
they had a love for one another. Listen to what Paul had to say about
"For this reason, ever since I heard about your
faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the
saints, I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in
my prayers. I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the
glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so
that you may know him better. I pray also that the eyes of your heart
may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has
called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and
his incomparably great power for us who believe." (Eph 1:15-19, NIV)
The Ephesian church began to "perfect" the works
without perfecting their love. Jesus had this to say about this once
"I know your deeds, your hard work and your
perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked men, that you
have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found
them false. You have persevered and have endured hardships for my
name, and have not grown weary. Yet I hold this against you:
You have forsaken your first love. Remember the height from
which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first.
If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your
lampstand from its place." (Rev 2:2-6, NIV)
You can be certain this was no idle threat. Nor did
Jesus make idle threats to the Laodicean church with its prosperity.
Perfect works and financial blessing are a mask Satan uses to deceives
the church in being religious without love. A church void of love and
passion, is not church at all. It matters little of its charisma,
teaching, size, structure, outreach and programs, if there is not the
love among the saints…. it is no church of His.
A lesson from Shakespeare
No, I am not talking about the 17 century English
poet and dramatist. I am referring to my dog. Three years ago my
daughter purchased a Pomeranian pup. A breed I disliked because of
past experiences. As time went on, the dog slept with us, ate with us
and yes, fellowshipped with us. If others saw my short comings, he
didn't. When I was discouraged and was not in pursuit of the mighty
wisdom of counseling, he would stand on his back legs and moving his
front paws in the air wanting me to be pick him up. He would then
proceed to kiss and lick my face. I swear this dog could smile. He did
something that few could do. He got passed my intellect and went
straight to my heart. There was no cost I would withhold to spare his
life. I fell in love with an animal which God created. That dog
demonstrate to me something I have rarely found in mankind… love!
I realized that God blessed dogs with desiring
simple things, things like food, shelter and love. They had no great
expectations for things, but responded to love and affection. I often
could not understand why people would spend hundreds of dollars on vet
bills. I just figured when the cost got too high, you put the dog to
sleep. When Shakespeare died, my logic went out the door. My pocket
book, my budget, everything I had. I wanted him and I wanted him
alive. I even did something I never did before, I asked the saints to
help me purchase another dog… I was desperate. My finances had tumbled
in the past four years and I didn't have the money to buy another dog.
I am certain others thought and judged me as thoughtless and immature.
The brokenness and humility has taught me much of the actions of
others I once disagreed. Humble pie is good for you.
Loving God is not another method of getting from
God. We often see our prayers unanswered because our focus is on our
needs instead of our need for Him.
"You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss,
that you may spend it on your pleasures." (James 4:3, NKJV)
God will not have any mate before Him, any ministry
before Him, any goal before Him and any god before Him. Love will set
Jesus as the first and the last. We must have first love if we are
going to be acceptable to Him and of benefit to one another. We must
recognize Him as loving us and willing to care for us. Our faith must
be on His love for us. WE MUST FOCUS ON HIS LOVING US, I CAN'T SAY
Let me close with a man after God's own heart …..
David. Imitate and emulate his walk.
Ps 48:9, "Within your temple, O God, we meditate
on your unfailing love." NIV
Ps 26:8, "I love the house where you live, O LORD,
the place where your glory dwells." NIV
Ps 59:16-17, "But I will sing of your strength, in
the morning I will sing of your love; for you are my fortress,
my refuge in times of trouble. O my Strength, I sing praise to you;
you, O God, are my fortress, my loving God." NIV
Ps 25:6-10, "Remember, O LORD, your great mercy and
love, for they are from of old. Remember not the sins of my youth and
my rebellious ways; according to your love remember me, for you
are good, O LORD. Good and upright is the LORD; therefore he instructs
sinners in his ways. He guides the humble in what is right and teaches
them his way. All the ways of the LORD are loving and faithful for
those who keep the demands of his covenant." NIV
Ps 5:11-12, "But let all who take refuge in
you be glad; let them ever sing for joy. Spread your protection
over them, that those who love your name may rejoice in you.
For surely, O LORD, you bless the righteous; you surround them with
your favor as with a shield." NIV
Ps 33:18, "But the eyes of the LORD are on those
who fear him, on those whose hope is in his unfailing love,"
Ps 18:1-3, "I love you, O LORD, my strength.
The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock,
in whom I take refuge. He is my shield and the horn of my salvation,
my stronghold. I call to the LORD, who is worthy of praise." NIV
Ps 36:5-7, "Your love, O LORD, reaches to
the heavens, your faithfulness to the skies. Your righteousness is
like the mighty mountains, your justice like the great deep. O LORD,
you preserve both man and beast. How priceless is your unfailing
love! Both high and low among men find refuge in the shadow of
your wings." NIV
Ps 86:5, "You are forgiving and good, O Lord,
abounding in love to all who call to you." NIV
Ps 89:2, "I will declare that your love stands
firm forever, that you established your faithfulness in heaven
Ps 109:26-27, "Help me, O LORD my God; save me in
accordance with your love. Let them know that it is your hand,
that you, O LORD, have done it." NIV
Ps 119:47-48, "for I delight in your commands
because I love them. I lift up my hands to your commands, which
I love, and I meditate on your decrees." NIV
Ps 145:20, "The LORD watches over all who love
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