Sunday, November 21, 2010

Love: Part Five

This is the fifth installment in our series on Love.

There is so much that can be said about love that it would fill a library. Everyone wants to know about love. We want to know if what we feel is the real thing. There is little in the volumes of books that can tell us how love is supposed to feel to us. We can read about the way love should operate, according to the particular author we are reading. We can decipher the actions of others in their relationships to see how love should or should not act. We can interpret acts based on love (or so claimed) to try to understand what is and is not healthy in a relationship. We cannot, however, find something that is going to tell us whether the feeling someone has for us is love or not. More importantly, we cannot tell if what we feel in our hearts is genuine love or not.

The best that any book on love can do is get you to ask the right questions about your own feelings and get you to recognize the feelings in others that are harmful or detrimental to your heart. The purpose of this study is to cause us to examine our actions and interpret our feelings. We have an example of love in Christ. He tells us in His word that His love is shed abroad in our hearts. We are to have and exhibit the same type of love that He has and exhibits.

It is more than just knowing God and knowing His love. It is an infilling of God’s Spirit and thereby, an infilling of his love as well. When we are filled with God’s Spirit, we are filled with the all the fullness of God’s love. Romans 5:5 “And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.” This is part of the litany of experiences building up the life of the Child of God. Paul tells us that we glory in tribulations, because tribulations make us patient. Patience gives us experience. Experience gives us hope. Then, as sited in the reference above, hope does not make us ashamed because of the love of God that is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost, which is given to us.

Then Paul tells us, “For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.” This is the highest example of the love that we are to manifest through the Spirit of God, freely given and dwelling within us. This is the love that prefers the needs of others above the wants and needs of oneself. In this study, we will address the humility of love. It is part of the continuing list of characteristics of the love that we, as Children of The Most High are to express to those near to and far from us.

As stated in previous installments, the phrase ‘ye have love’ in John is ‘echeete agapeen’. The bases of these words are ‘echo’ and ‘agape’.

‘Agape’ should be familiar to anyone that reads my studies. It was in the intro to the last installment. It conveys a sacrificial love. It is a love that asks nothing in return. It is a love that is based on no action of the recipient. It is the ‘give/give’ love of God.

‘Echo’ is a word in English we are familiar with. It means, ‘the repetition of a sound caused by the reflection of sound waves.’ In simple terms, it is a sound bounced off of some solid barrier. We can remember as kids yelling into a canyon or enclosed area and hearing the sound of our own voice coming back to us. It also means, ‘to closely imitate or repeat another's words, ideas, or acts’.

By this, the echoing of the sacrificial love of Christ, expressed in humility, preferring others above yourself, will all men know that you are my Child. Your Discipleship will be made manifest by the giving love you express and exhibit in word and deed.

Is not puffed up

Love is humble.

Luke 14:7-11

7. And he put forth a parable to those which were bidden, when he marked how they chose out the chief rooms; saying unto them,

8. When thou art bidden of any man to a wedding, sit not down in the highest room; lest a more honourable man than thou be bidden of him;

9. And he that bade thee and him come and say to thee, Give this man place; and thou begin with shame to take the lowest room.

10. But when thou art bidden, go and sit down in the lowest room; that when he that bade thee cometh, he may say unto thee, Friend, go up higher: then shalt thou have worship in the presence of them that sit at meat with thee.

11. For whosoever exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.

Jesus is recounting the advice of Solomon, at this time. In the form of this parable, He relates the words of Proverbs, which says, Stand not in the place of great men, for better it is that it be said unto thee, Come up hither, than that thou shouldest be put lower.

It is in the nature of mankind to want to be exalted. We all want to feel like we are important in some way, to someone. There is nothing wrong with occupying a position of honor or respect. I don’t want to imply that being in a high office or place of authority is inherently wrong. There are many people in such places that still maintain their humility. The problem occurs generally when the position becomes more important than the help the position can afford others.

Jesus noted the actions of the lawyers and the Pharisees in taking the most prestigious seats near the head of the table. It was their efforts to seem important to others. Jesus stated that the greater honor was found in taking the lower seats. In the act of taking the lower seats, you acknowledge that there are those which may be attending which have greater honor.

1Peter 5:5Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble.”

We are to put on humility like we would put on a coat to protect us against the cold. The Word tells us that we are given the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness. When we are depressed (heaviness) we are to put on the garment of praise. Jesus tells us that we are to put on the garment of humility. As stated before, it is not part of our human nature to be humble, but we can put on the garment of humility.

If the active verb, for a person being humbled, is “humble yourself,” the passive verb is “God humbles you.” If we chose to be humble (active) we will be exalted (passive.)

I have met great men of God that were clothed in humility. A person can be confident in their ability and still be humble. These men know they are carrying the Word of God, but they also know that God has an unnumbered multitude that is carrying it as well. They realize the power is in the word and not in their ability.

There are exceptions. There are false apostles, flaky prophets, greedy evangelists, deceitful pastors, and self serving teachers.

If you chose to exalt yourself (active,) then, sooner or later, you will be humbled (passive.)

Colossians 2:18 Let no man beguile you of your reward in a voluntary humility and worshipping of angels, intruding into those things which he hath not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind,

There is such emptiness in this pretension. Proverbs warns us that this precedes the fall. The mind was full of vain conceit, and self-confident, carnal wisdom. Is it any wonder that Paul, in his letter to the church at Rome, told them to be transformed by the renewing of their minds. For every action in the spiritual realm that involves the heart, this one involves the mind. He goes on to tell them to think soberly of themselves. We are to be very clear in our own self perception as to exactly who God created us to be.

We are a new creature in Christ. Old things are passed away. All things become new. It is inherent in our old nature to prefer ourselves above the needs of others. However, Paul tells us that we are to “Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another;” (Romans 12.20)

How are we, in our humanity, going to pull this off? How are we going to do something that is not in our nature? We can pull off an act for a time, but eventually, who we are will shine through. There must be a change, not in deed only, but in our hearts. One writer tells people to ‘rend their hearts, and not their garments only’. In that day, when a person was grieved by something, they would tear their garments to express the anguish of their hearts. There were those that knew this was the feeling they should have when the priest would preach the conviction of God to the people for their apostasy. They knew it was the reaction the priest expected to see as the expression of the grieving of their hearts by the sins of the people against God. However, they were not convicted in their hearts. They only expressed the outward show. There was no inward change. Joel told the people that there needed to be an inward change.

We can know the right thing to do. We can express it for a time. Until there is an inward change, it is merely a show for the public. God looks upon and sees the heart. How will we, humanity, do this?

It comes by the change brought about by the infilling of God’s Spirit and the echoing of His love through us. It is only in this can we sustain humility. Paul said, “I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live. Yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2.20)

There can be much debate on just what it means to be humble. Some people think that humility is a sign of weakness. When I was a young boy, following a scrape I had with another boy, a wise person told me the stronger person walks away from the fight. As a child, I never really understood that. I considered it a weakness to back down. Now, I know the truth. Whether a person could or would win that fight is irrelevant. What is relevant is the strength it takes to turn your back on your anger. Anger is a powerful tool. It is a devastating emotion if un-channeled. The strength is in the humility.

2nd Corinthians 10:5 “Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;”

Love brings every thought to the obedience of Christ. Love conquers anger. Love does not suppress anger. To suppress something is simply to hold it down. Love does not hold down anger. Love conquers it. Love destroys it. Anger seeks to puff up. Love tears that down. Pride seeks to puff up. Vanity seeks to puff up.

Love is not inflated with a sense of its own self importance. Love prefers another. The scripture tells us that we are to prefer our brother over ourselves

Pride is the enemy of the soul. Pride says it is of our own devices that we can be delivered. There is a religion that has its members do works to become worthy of baptism. This defeats the entire purpose of the baptism. If I can make myself worthy of this cleansing of my soul by some action or deed of my own, then Christ died on the cross for nothing. It is the very fact that I could do nothing to redeem myself from sin that caused God to come in the form of a man, to live certain days, to preach and go about doing good, to be unjustly crucified, to die and to rise again the third day. It is nothing in me that will bring about my redemption. It is when I can put away my pride and cry out in repentance to a Holy God, that I have hope.

True humility comes when I have poured out the all of me and allowed His Spirit to come fully in. There is no man as humble as the man whose heart has been cleansed of sin. Once that Spirit fills my life, I am overwhelmed by the love that brought about the sacrifice. That love covers my once proud heart. That love conquers anger and vanity. That love destroys my sense of self worth.

I have heard people talk about the attack of Satan on their lives. They say, “He says I am not worthy.” Well, bless God, you are not worthy. Jesus did not die because you were worthy; He died because you were not worthy. For this cause, love is humble.

All that I have is because of God. All that I am; all that I may enjoy; all that I may possess; and all that I might obtain, is through and by the mercies of God. For this cause, love is humble.

Love is not puffed up.

“He must increase, but I must decrease.” (John 3.30)

There must be less of me and more of him shining through me.

Pride is the opposite of humility. We stated earlier that we are to be clothed in humility. The same verse goes on to tell us the God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble. The last thing we would want would be for God to stand against us.

Pride is defined as ‘having a high or inordinate opinion of one’s own dignity, importance, merit, or superiority, whether in the mind or as displayed in bearing, conduct, etc. (Webster’s New Universal Unabridged Dictionary)

Some words we use to describe facets of pride are: arrogance, haughtiness, vainglory, conceit, stuck-up, vanity, and self-admiration.

There are numerous signs along the road to pride. We can call the warning signs. They are:

· Yearning for praise or human accolades.

When you let yourself get an emotional high from praise, it can be addictive. It can lead to you believing you deserve the praise. It can create an appetite for more. It will lead you to doing things, not for God’s glory, but for more praise. Love’s motive is never praise.

· Keeping score

When we begin keeping score of how many prestige point we amass against the amount others do not amass, we are travelling on the road of pride, to an undesirable destination. Love doesn’t keep score.

· Cultivating a creator complex

We have developed the creator complex when we begin to look at the lives of other in comparison to who we are and what we do. Love doesn’t compare.

· Rejoicing in others’ failures and resenting others’ successes

We live in a competitive society. Everything is a competition. While competition has its place on the field or on the court, it does not have a place in the lives of Children of God. The scripture tells us that the eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you.” We will discuss in more detail in a later study, but one of the characteristics of love is that it does not rejoice in iniquity. Love does not glory in the failings of others.

· Compulsively defending yourself against criticism

Criticism is hurtful. Our natural (fleshly) inclination is to strike back. The more they say we are wrong, the more we feel the need to prove we are right. Love does not strike back.

There are also signs along the road to humility. They include:

· Adhering to the biblical rules for submission

By the Word, we know we must submit to our government. “Therefore submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake.” Employees must submit to their supervisors. “Servants, be submissive to your masters with all fear.” Wives must submit to their husbands.”Wives, likewise, be submissive to your own husbands.” Young people must submit to older people. “Likewise, ye younger people, submit yourselves to your elders.” Believers must submit to their pastors. “Obey those who rule over you and be submissive.”

· Understanding the role of the Holy Ghost in our lives day to day

He seeks to guide us daily. He seeks to take us to the places where our souls will be best nourished. As the shepherds led their flocks to the greenest pastures and to the sheepfold for protection; so does God’s Spirit seek to lead and guide us today.

· Discovering our Spiritual gifts

God has distributed gifts in the church severally as deemed necessary for the profit of the body. You may not be called to pastor. You may not be called to the mission fields. You may not be called to be an evangelist. Your gifts may lie in another place. The Word tells us all to covet earnestly the best gifts. Find you gift. It will make a place for itself.

· Knowing your place in the Body

Disharmony occurs when someone tries to do the work another is called to do. God places us into the body as He sees fit. We must seek out our place and operate therein.

· Recognizing the difference between your strengths and weaknesses

John Stott said, “Humility is not another word for hypocrisy; it is another word for honesty. Humility is not pretending to be other than what we are, but acknowledging the truth about what we are.”We must recognize and face our weaknesses and utilize our strengths.

· Being realistic about your successes and failures

I told someone recently, in response to their claiming to be a failure, “Failure is an event, not a person.” We all possess the potential to fail. We all possess the chance to fall. Humility sees these realistically. Humility credits success to the God that allowed it and created it. That same humility recognizes failures as stepping stones. Do not be tied down by your failures. Let them teach you. It is said that Thomas Edison said of his 2000 failed attempts before creating the light bulb, “I did not fail; I just discovered 2000 way not to make a light bulb.”

· Taking risks

Let me talk about walking. Walking is falling. Walking is taking a risk. In order to walk, one must lift one leg and lean forward, falling, and catching oneself before you actually fall. Then, you do it all over again. Life is about risks. Sometimes, serving god is about stepping out of the boat, in the midst of a boisterous storm, simply because Jesus says, “Come.”

· Accepting praise but rejecting flattery

If you do something that is truly worthy of praise, accept it with dignity. If someone is trying to woo your favor with insincere flattery, humility will shy away from it.

· Avoiding living in past achievements

The present is just a stepping stone to the future. There is no future living in the past. The Word tell us to take no thought (worry) for the morrow, for sufficient for today is the evil thereof. It should warn us also about living in the past. Humility does not stand on the mountain tops of past achievements.

· Being able to pass your glory on to others

Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself.” Philippians 2.3

(Partially compiled from Humility by C. Peter Wagner ISBN 0-8307-2935-6)

Whosever humbles themselves will be exalted

Whosoever exalts themselves will be humbled.

Love is not puffed up.

Next: Love does not behave itself unseemly.

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