Love Is A Many Splendoured Thing

(Ephesians 3:19 NKJV) to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

Ephesians 3:19, quoted above, is my favorite bible verse. It never fails to make me gasp in awe and wonder, especially the last phrase “that you may be filled with all the fullness of God”. According to St. Paul you and I can be filled with all the fullness of God. That is absolutely mind-boggling. If this verse was not there in Scripture I would have called it heresy and never dared to invent it. It’s too much, and I cannot absorb it fully. God means us to become like Jesus who was the fullness of Deity in bodily form (Colossians 2:9). We partake of that sort of fullness and are to grow up in all aspects and be like Him.

I am saying that we can partake of the fullness of God and be filled with it. I am certainly not saying that we can become God. We will not be “Him who sitteth on the throne”. We will be the ones waving palm branches and having white robes and singing Alleluia in Heaven. Whatever being filled with all the fullness of God means, it does not turn us into an object of worship, or make us the Creator and sustainer of the Universe. Being filled with the fullness of God is sharing a nature, and is what theologians call “participating in the communicable attributes of God”. The incommunicable attributes such as the ‘omni’s” belong to God alone.

This promise that through love we can be filled with the fullness of God is a marvelous promise in the midst of a wonderful prayer. Lets look at the whole of Paul’s prayer and put it in its proper context.

(Ephesians 3:14-21 NKJV) For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, {15} from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, {16} that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner self, {17} that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, {18} may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height; {19} to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. {20} Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, {21} to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

There is a succession of ideas and “spiritual stages” here, each of which leads to the next and forms the foundation for the one to come:

1) We are strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner self.

2) This leads to Christ dwelling in our hearts by faith.

3) We then become rooted and grounded in love

4) We comprehend with all the saints the greatness of the love of Christ

5) That we may be filled with all the fullness of God.

The other chapters of this book have dealt with stage one - being strengthened in our inner self and, achieving personal mastery. They have also dealt with stage two and being focused firmly on Christ so He dwells in our heart by faith and we experience life and peace. Then in the last few chapters we have started exploring stage three and learned a bit being grounded in a loving lifestyle where we express ourselves in edifying ways.

In this last chapter I shall try and take you through the last three stages – becoming rooted and grounded in love, comprehending the greatness of the love of Christ and being filled with all the fullness of God. All three final stages involve the mystery called love. The practice and the experience of love, leads us to the fullness of God. The high reaches of the spiritual life are about perfecting our ability to love God and love one another. Love is the ultimate in biblical EQ. The ultimate use of our emotions is love of God expressed in worship and that is the use they will be put to in Heaven. The ultimate state of our emotions is pure love. The ultimate pitch of our emotions is when we can love our enemies.

(Matthew 5:43-48 NKJV) "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' {44} "But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, {45} "that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. {46} "For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? {47} "And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so? {48} "Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.

If we love our enemies we attain spiritual perfection. Loving our enemies and blessing those who curse us leads us to become sons of our Father in heaven (Matthew 5;43-45). In verse 48 Jesus’ apparently absurd command is “you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect”. This is as ‘ridiculous’ as saying we can be filled up with all the fullness of God. The two apparently absurd statements are of course connected. Love leads us to be in the fullness of God, and loving our enemies makes us perfect like our Father in heaven. Both perfections are attained through strenuous love. God desires us to dwell in perfect love where we can love friend and foe alike.

The path to spiritual perfection is the path of loving our enemies, overcoming our fight or flight response, exercising our biblical EQ skills and dwelling in a perfect benevolence towards all, free from animosity, hatred, revenge and the spiteful impulses of the flesh. That is high ground indeed. {Let me quickly add that as I said earlier in the book, Biblical EQ is only part of our sanctification and a portion of God’s work in us, however I think it is an important part.}

Love is of course the fulfillment of the law, the perfection of what I am calling Biblical EQ and the one great Attribute of the Christ-like nature. Every Christian agrees with that. Its part of what Americans call “motherhood and apple pie”. A global sentimental statement that makes us all feel warm and with which no-one dare disagree but which is apparently of little real consequence or practical value. In most bible studies everyone present can tell you love is a good thing and fulfills the law and we should be doing more of it, and the Good Samaritan was very nice and a wonderful example, and we should all love God and our neighbors and that means everyone, Amen. So I’m not going to say any of that. You already know it. I’m going to ask a few tough questions such as “Why don’t we love very well at all, why are we still mainly selfish and only love a little bit?” and “Paul talks of the love of God being poured out in our hearts and this love transforming us from glory to glory and even making us perfect and filling us with the fullness of God. Was he just joking? Is that just theological waffle? Or is it for real? If its for real how can we get hold of it?” They are some of the real, “where the rubber hits the road” questions of Christian living and this book is all about those sort of questions, especially where they intersect with our emotional life. But first a definition of love:

Love is a lawful and practical way of life, which we live out from Christ within us, in a common benevolent connection with God and with others.

Love is lawful. It rejoices in the truth and takes no pleasure in evil. (1 Corinthians 13:6) The true follower of God in the O.T. was someone who “loves Me and keeps My commandments” (Exodus 20:6, Deuteronomy 5:10). In the N.T. love is demonstrated in keeping the commandments of Jesus Christ.( John 14:15, 21; 15:10 1 John 5:3) In 2 John love is even defined by obedience: “This is love, that we walk according to His commandments” (2 John 1:6). Thus love is not some kind of maverick sentimentality that can ride roughshod over laws and do what it likes in pursuit of the grand passion. Love is God’s nature at work and God is lawful and holy so love is lawful also.

Love is practical. As we saw in the chapters on beliefs our emotions are meant to move us to Christian action. Faith working through love should move us to do the good deeds that God has prepared beforehand for us to do (Ephesians 2:8-10, Galatians 5:6). The parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10;29-37) shows that loving your neighbour often involves practical action. This is backed up in innumerable passages in Scripture most notably James chapters 2 and 3 and in 1 John, particularly 1 John 3:16-18.

(1 John 3:16-19 NKJV) By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. {17} But whoever has this world's goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him? {18} My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth. {19} And by this we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before Him.

The specific practical help we are to love our enemies with is given in the book of Romans.

(Romans 12:20-21 NKJV) Therefore "If your enemy is hungry, feed him; If he is thirsty, give him a drink; For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head." {21} Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Thus love is not a mere emotion detached from action. It is not a sentiment that we “can have in our hearts” without ever acting on. Love is a spur to action. Faith working through love moves us to do things of a practical nature

Love is a way of life. (Ephesians 5:1-2 NKJV) Therefore be imitators of God as dear children. {2} And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma.

To “walk in love” means to make it our lifestyle. This lifestyle is reflected in Acts chapters 2-7 where the early church is shown living in love, helping widows, healing the sick, preaching the gospel, obeying the commandments and enduring persecution in a noble and forgiving spirit. The lifestyle of the early church was one of constant worship, constant fellowship, unity of soul and spirit and an incredible desire to meet one another’s needs (Acts 4:31-37).. It was a lifestyle of love, empowered by the Holy Spirit and led by the apostles. This sort of lifestyle love is called ‘abiding in love” in 1 John and means dwelling from day to day in love so it totally characterises one’s life. The love we are called to, which perfects us, is thus not an occasional spurt of affection. Nobody can be made into the fullness of God by an occasional spurt of affection. Abiding love, that we can walk in and which transforms us, is not the warm gooey feeling you get singing Scripture choruses, though it is slightly related. Real love is a lot more solid and real and ethical and practical than that. Lets keep going and see if we can figure out what this abiding, transforming, lifestyle love is like.

Love is lived out from Christ within us Love is a Jesus thing. Love is what Jesus in us wants to do. Love flows from Christ within us. The natural man cannot attain to this sort of love, the love that cares for enemies, that abides in the commandments of God and makes us into the fullness of God. If the natural man could do that then God would have kept Jesus in heaven. If the natural man was adequate to become like God then there is no need for a cross, a resurrection, an indwelling Holy Spirit and a new nature. So if we need a new nature to love then the old nature is useless and the Law is useless. Law-keeping does not makes us loving it only makes us defeated and condemned because we are weak and the flesh always wins (Romans 5-8, Galatians 3&4). At best the Law is a holy, and righteous and good tutor that brings conviction of sin and leads us to repentance. The natural man under the tutelage of the holy, righteous and just law just ended up a sordid mess. The flesh ran rampant. God got locked out. So God instituted a new covenant, in Christ, where the law is written on our hearts by the Holy Spirit and the Christian life is lived from the inside out, not from the law book in.

Listen! You can only live the Christian life one way – from Jesus in you, out to others and the world. Love is not a feeling that comes into you. Love is living water that flows out of your inmost being because Christ dwells in your hearts by faith. Hear ye! Hear ye! Hear ye! Christ in you is THE hope of glory. The only hope, the sole hope, He is all you have got in the fight against sin and the quest for a godly character. Your strength, intellect, cleverness, willpower and rule-keeping cannot avail. They are not a ‘hope of glory”. They are certain and agonising defeat. It is God who is at work within you! Let the new man live the new life. Let Jesus in you love others through you.

But how? That was my question for years as people would talk about living the new life from Christ within us. How do we get in touch with Christ within us and how do we “do it”? It just seemed like so much theory to me, a bit of swift-handed exegetical fiddling, a holding out of a hope that there was no way to lay hold of. But the early church did know this love. It worked for them and it can work for us. The secret is connection. Forge the connection with God and with others, and maintain that connection like your life depended on it, which it does, and Christ will flow out of your inmost being. No connection, no flow, deep connection, deep flow. Lets look at that a bit further.

Love involves a common benevolent connection with God

(1 Corinthians 6:17 NKJV) But he who is joined to the Lord is one spirit with Him.

Many counseling theorists are now exploring the transformational power of love as it flows in direct personal connection to God and to others. Our selfish individuality has led us astray. For too long we have wanted counseling recipes we can work on our own without having to open up to God or man. We are discovering that God has designed His world to be firstly connected to Him and then to one another in a huge inter-connected cascade of love. In this regard I recommend the recent work of Larry Crabb and his book Connecting. I also recommend the work of Dr Ed Smith in Theophostics. These are just two people in a vast and growing movement trying to explore the transformational aspects of relationship to God and others. We are not islands, we are people and people need connection. This connection is a vital part of our EQ and a key to maturing in Christ.

“To know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge that you may be filled..” (Ephesians 3:19). The knowing of the love is vital. It’s the connection that is transformational. Its knowing Christ, and the extent of His love, that matures us. It’s the experiencing of that relationship, and being rooted and grounded in love, which stabilizes us. I commenced my Christian life believing that I should be “well grounded in the Scriptures” and that was good and helpful. However it was only much later that I saw the need to be rooted and grounded in love and in Christ. You and I are grounded in a personal relationship with our Saviour. Now even if my Bible was confiscated I would still have my rock solid foundation in my relationship with God. The Scriptures have contributed immensely to that relationship of course. However I relate to a Person not a set of Scriptures or even a set of elegant doctrines. Now its God’s Spirit within me, and His personal connection to me, that changes me from glory to glory.

(2 Corinthians 3:17-18 NKJV) Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. {18} But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.

The Jews had the Torah but we have Christ and with unveiled faces we behold Him and by the power of the Spirit we are transformed, rooted and grounded and perfected in love, and go from glory to glory until we reach the fullness of God.

Connection is everything and through it we receive the love that truly changes us. God is our greatest and only real need. We do not need to go on eating, or working or breathing, but we do need to stay in connection with God. We establish that connection at our conversion when we repent from sin and being disconnected and place our faith in Christ. We maintain that connection through setting our minds on the Spirit, on things above, and on Christ and the interests of God. We need to make a definite clear commitment to fix our minds in the right place. That’s the only thing we can do to keep the connection open. The mind is the only part of our consciousness we can control. Fixing it on God through prayer, meditation and concentrated love in the Spirit is all I can humanly do to maintain my transforming link with God.

Through the transforming work this connection works in me I gain mastery over the fight or flight response, over the flesh and all the wrong impulses it contains. Through this connection I find the power to be obedient and I obey, in the Spirit, not according to the letter. Over time the Spirit produces His fruit in me and I bear love, joy and peace and become humble, meek, patient, gentle, kind and full of self-control. I begin to love my enemies and pray for those who persecute me. I have the strength in the inner self not to retaliate. I become rooted and grounded in love and my world moves from being self-centred to God centred and other-serving. I start communicating with grace and ministering effectively and grasping the height and depth and width and length of the love of God until, many years from now, I am filled up with all the fullness of God.

This connection seems horribly fragile at first and the Devil tries his best to break it. He assails it with doubt, confusion, distraction, lust, and every spiritual attack he can manage. The first part of this book addresses those concerns and it is clear that we can damage our connection through sin and carnality. Now lets look at what the Scriptures say about the nature of our connection to God. As you read the Scriptures below notice: a) What God has done to establish the connection with us, and the nature of that connection. b) What we must do to maintain the connection, c) How our connection with God also means connection with other Christians.

(Romans 5:1-5 NKJV) Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, {2} through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. {3} And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; {4} and perseverance, character; and character, hope. {5} Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.

(1 Corinthians 6:17 NKJV) But he who is joined to the Lord is one spirit with Him.

(1 Corinthians 15:2 NKJV) by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you; unless you believed in vain.

(2 Corinthians 5:20 NKJV) Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ's behalf, be reconciled to God.

(Ephesians 2:13-22 NKJV) But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. {14} For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation, {15} having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace, {16} and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity. {17} And He came and preached peace to you who were afar off and to those who were near. {18} For through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father. {19} Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, {20} having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief corner stone, {21} in whom the whole building, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, {22} in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.

(Colossians 2:17-19 NKJV) which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ. {18} Let no one cheat you of your reward, taking delight in false humility and worship of angels, intruding into those things which he has not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind, {19} and not holding fast to the Head, from whom all the body, nourished and knit together by joints and ligaments, grows with the increase that is from God.

(1 Timothy 6:10-12 NKJV) For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. {11} But you, O man of God, flee these things and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, gentleness. {12} Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, to which you were also called and have confessed the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.

(James 4:8 NKJV) Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded.

(Revelation 2:13 NKJV) "I know your works, and where you dwell, where Satan's throne is. And you hold fast to My name, and did not deny My faith even in the days in which Antipas was My faithful martyr, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells.

God has done an enormous preparatory work. He has brought us near by the blood of Christ, which cleanses us from sin and allows us to approach the throne of grace in time of need (Hebrews 4:14-16). We have access to the Father through the Spirit and this access is so intimate that Paul says we are joined to the Lord and one spirit with Him (1 Corinthians 6:17). We are at peace with God (Romans 5:1-5) and the love of God pours into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who is given to us. Yet as we saw earlier we can grieve and quench and resist the Spirit by sinning. Maintaining the connection means maintaining a good relationship with the Holy Spirit who is our access to God (Ephesians 2:18). To keep that connection wide open and draw near to God we must purify our hearts if we are double-minded and put away sin (James 4:8). We also need to deal with speculative spirituality that can disconnect us from the Head which is Christ (Colossians 2:19). We have to flee greed and worldliness and the love of money and pursue virtue as Timothy did so that we may lay hold of eternal life (1 Timothy 6:10-12). Keeping our connection strong may involve some vigorous effort, in the midst of persecution we may have to hold fast and not deny the faith, an injunction that appears man times in the letters to the seven churches (Revelation 2:13).

What we are doing in all this is not inventing a new law but maintaining an existing relationship we have with God through faith according to His grace. Our relationship started with a faith connection to God and it is maintained by keeping that faith connection in good shape so that the Christian life can be said to be “from faith to faith”.

(Romans 1:17 NKJV) For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, "The just shall live by faith."

Now the faith connection is kept in good shape by intensely loving God, and having our minds fixed on Him so His Spirit can touch our consciousness, which is absolutely staked on things above. Christ in me wants to focus His entire attention on the Father and the things of the Spirit but for some reason that God has built into things, it requires my mind to be set on things above. There is an act of my will before Christ can most fully connect. As the Father communicates with His Son in me, by the Spirit which gives us access to the Father, I experience grace and am transformed.

This grace requires my faith. I must trust God and trust His word and launch out and rest myself on Him. As I draw near to God by faith I will naturally move away from sin. If I want to stay near to sin, it is very hard to draw near to God. Faith means trusting that God is a rewarder of those who seek Him. Faith is the inner pragmatic calculation that the goodness I will receive through my connection with God far outweighs the goodness I think I will receive through sin. It’s a decision that the word of God is reliable, and that the reward He promised will arrive, and that God is utterly trustworthy. God gives me a hint that this is so through the Holy Spirit, which is the guarantee of the inheritance to come. As I make this definite, tough, strong decision to seek my goodness in God and not in sin the Christ life within me is fully released.

This is “holding fast”. I do not mean that you need to hold fast or you will fall away. It’s not that sort of holding fast. You are not in a precarious relationship with an angry Creator. You stand forgiven in the love of God. The problem is “me”, not God, it is I who break the connection not Him. I hold fast in order not to disconnect myself from the Head or grieve the Holy Spirit that pours Himself out into my heart.

Lets try it another way. The relationship with God is rock solid on His side. I do not have to do anything to please Him. I am justified by faith alone and not by any works of the law. I am safe in grace. Its like a marriage here in the Philippines where there is no possibility of divorce. You can sin all your like in that marriage and theoretically and legally it will never rupture. It is rock solid. But I love my wife and I value our relationship and I have no wish to grieve her so I do not sin against her. Similarly I am safe with God, and legally speaking the relationship is rock solid, I can sin a great deal and still He will be faithful even though I am faithless (2 Timothy 2:13). But if I did so the transforming relationship of agape love would be in tatters. I have no desire to grieve Him, and so I choose not to sin, not because I “have to” in order to get into heaven, but because I want to in order to know Him more fully and because I want to be transformed by His love being poured out in my heart through the Holy Spirit. I have decided for the fullness of the Christ-like life. However sin grieves Him. Sin is disruptive to our relationship so it must go. I don’t want it.

What incentive do I have to make this tough decision? And what has it got to do with love, which after all is the subject of this chapter? This love that we abide in, and walk in, and which penetrates every corner of our being, is the royal highway to the highest reaches of the Christian life and the very ground of all that you and I will inherit in Christ.

As we love, we fulfill the Law (Romans 13:10), become imitators of God (Ephesians 5:1,2), and perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect (Matthew 5:43-48), we attain to all the fullness of God (Ephesians 3:19), and we abide in God and He abides in us (1 John 4:16), and we become like Him (1 John 3:1-3) and share key aspects of His nature so the apostle can say “as He is, we are”. (1 John 4:17). This is not heresy it is Scripture. God intends us to be like Jesus, in every aspect and to be full of love. That is, we are to be spiritual, eternal, loving, wise and mature like Jesus is. We are the redeemed (Revelation 5:8-10). We are the brands snatched from the fire (Zechariah 3). We are the ones clothed in white standing before the throne of God, and as we stand there we will realise that we are like Him (1 John 3:1-3). Our destiny is to bear his image (Romans 8:28-31) and we will be eternal, and immortal, and clothed in a spiritual body, (1 Corinthians 15: 42-54). We will be so like Him that Jesus will not be ashamed to call us brethren (Hebrews 2:11-17). God has done something magnificent in us by grace, and seated us in heavenly realms with himself that the succeeding ages may marvel (Ephesians 2:4-7). The inheritance I want is to be so transformed by God’s blazing love poured out in my heart that I am made utterly like Jesus Christ. That is something worth focussing on, and it makes leaving sin alone very worthwhile.

Love involves connecting with others

At this point some of you are probably saying something like “John, I thought this was going to be a wonderful, practical book, but you go and ruin it at the end with all that theology”. Aha! This is the point, I could have left it as a ‘wonderful how-to book” and you could have tried to put it into action in your own strength. And you would have done what you have always done and got what you have always got. Unless you learn to tap into the power of Jesus within you this book will only be a little bit useful to you. However if you get that connection going and God’s power is at work within you and you set your sights on having your emotions redeemed so you can be like Jesus and love people – then, guess what? You will make ten times the progress.

Now lets go back to our definition of love: Love is a lawful and practical way of life, which we live out from Christ within us, in a common benevolent connection with God and with others. What’s the “and others”? What is so special about the early church? How come people loved each other? How come my church is cold and dead and selfish? Going back to one of the questions I started this chapter with: “Why don’t we love very well at all, why are we still mainly selfish?”

Selfishness comes from people who believe in preserving themselves, at all costs, and being competitive. The selfish person who pushes into the queue at the ATM is self-preserving (of their time) and competitive (with the others in the queue). Selfishness results in envy and selfish ambition and a whole lists of rotten behaviors that cause disorder in churches and communities and are very well described in James 3 and Galatians 5. In direct contrast with this, love of others flows from self-giving via the cross. Lets look at a very famous passage of Scripture:

(John 3:16-18 NKJV) "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. {17} "For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. {18} "He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.

When God wanted to love the world He did not send a poem. He did not send an email with a nice graphic and a catchy tune. He sent His Son, thus He gave Himself. When we love others we send a bit of ourselves to them. When Christ loves others through us, He sends a bit of Himself to others through us. Early in my ministry I received a very nice note from a couple in the church who said, among other things “we see God’s love shining out through you.” I was flabbergasted and humbled. I had no idea that God’s love could be seen in me. All I could see was my mistakes. Somehow Jesus had given Himself to others through me. As Paul said, (2 Corinthians 4:7 NKJV) But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us. Thus when I love others I establish a connection and send a bit of myself along that connection to them, at the same time Christ uses that connection to send Himself to them. God is still sending His Son into the world – through you and I.

Just in case you think I have gone all mad and mystical, go over the metaphors for the Church in Scripture. Christ is the Head of the church, which is His body, and so when parts of his body love a person He is loving the person. When I hold my wife’s hand, it is not just my hand that is loving Minda, it is all of me, including my head and heart. Similarly when a part of Christ’s body loves someone it is also Jesus loving someone. I went through a very dark time in my life once that lasted for a few months. Every time I was at my lowest a certain chatty friend would appear from nowhere with some of my favourite junk food and restore my spirits. Anne was like an angel. She was Christ ministering to me. In her I saw and felt God’s love. God sent Jesus wrapped up in Anne. This identification between Christ and His people is so close that when Jesus revealed Himself to Saul on the Damascus Road , He said “Saul, Saul why are you persecuting Me?” and “I am Jesus who you are persecuting.” To persecute the church was to persecute Jesus.

(Acts 9:4-5 NKJV) Then he fell to the ground, and heard a voice saying to him, "Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?" {5} And he said, "Who are You, Lord?" Then the Lord said, "I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. It is hard for you to kick against the goads."

Christ is in His body. Where His body goes Jesus goes, what His body loves Jesus loves. What His body forgives, Jesus forgives. (John 20:23, James 5:15) What His body binds and looses on earth is bound and loosed in heaven. (Matthew 18:15-20). Thus there is a very intimate relationship between the love of Jesus and the love of His church. Jesus still loves the world in the sense of John 3:16, and Jesus wants to love the world, through His body the church. He wants to release His incredible love into His body that they in turn may release it to the world. The church in the early chapters of Acts was a community filled with the transformational love of Jesus that then went out and loved people and changed the world. The basic job of the Church is not evangelism, its loving people. Loving them into maturity in Christ. (Ephesians 4:11-16)

Ok why are so many churches cold and selfish or only lukewarm in their love? Here are a dozen or so reasons that may apply:

1) They have little idea of the Christ-centred and Spirit-filled life and are struggling along in legalism.

2) They have lost the vision or knowledge that the main task of the church is loving people into maturity in Christ.

3) Their concept of love is weak and little more than “being nice to people” combined with the odd affectionate statement. It lacks reality or practicality.

4) They have descended into fleshly behaviour or worldly behaviour and grieved the Spirit.

5) They have opted for control and respectability and quenched the Spirit.

6) They focus on the things of this world such as current events or politics or even good counseling theories rather than on Christ.

7) They have no mastery, no focus, no disciplined mental attitude, they are not steadily connected to Christ but are unstable, and are blown here and there by the latest fashions / “winds of doctrine”.

8) They have opted for liberal theology or New Age trends and follow the teachings of men, which have the appearance of wisdom and godliness, but lack any real transforming power.

9) They are riddled with disunity; this robs them of power and love.

10) They are spiritually lazy and hard of hearing or they opt for comfort and avoid the cross.

11) They are financially dishonest like Ananias and Sapphira.

12) There is gross sin or immorality in the leadership.

How then can the church be brought back to a place of burning blazing love where it loves Jesus above all and where we love one another with powerful agape love based in the Spirit so that Jesus is giving Himself away all day long in our midst? How can we get this “connecting with one another in the power of Christ and the love of the Holy Spirit” thing going?

1) Fix any of the above 12 faults that are wrong.

2) Renew worship so it is absolutely Christ-centred. Teach on the life and ministry of Jesus.

3) Fix their minds on eternity and seek the presence of the Holy Spirit.

4) Give people a vision for real biblical love as described in this chapter and get them thirsty for it.

5) Follow the leadings of the Holy Spirit.

6) Engage in real, helpful practical one-another ministry (see Gene Getz’s excellent book on the one another commands). Love one another in deed and truth, not just word and tongue.

7) Try and build an adventurous, faith-filled learning community as described earlier in this book.

All I am saying is connect the Church to God, and get them to release Christ in them to one another, then stand back. In a functioning Christian community the whole community is connected upwards to Jesus Christ who is the Head and then horizontally as Christ in us ministers to one another through an amazing network of interpersonal connections that carry the love of God. If each person is Christ-focused and self-giving then enormous power is present as they become one in the Spirit. I am not talking about the cultish Groupthink or group conformity, but a creative Spirit-filled diversity, where people are one in soul and spirit but as different as can be individually.

(Ephesians 4:11-16 NKJV) And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, {12} for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, {13} till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; {14} that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, {15} but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head; Christ; {16} from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.

Those who minister should edify the body of Christ into unity of the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ. We are back to where we began this chapter taking of the fullness of God. This fullness is achieved in community. Its something the body achieves for its members. We don’t do it to ourselves. We have to love people and be loved by people if the fullness is going to happen for us. How do we get there? By speaking the truth in love, (v.15) and speaking the truth in love is a pretty good definition of what biblical EQ enables us to do. THE END

Discussion Questions

1. What have you got out of this book? Have you changed?

2. Discuss the definition of love given in this chapter. What on earth is a benevolent connection?

3. How does love lead us to the high ground of the spiritual life? Why do you think Jesus says that loving our enemies will make us perfect as our Father in heaven is perfect?

4. What are the communicable and the incommunicable attributes of God? Which one can we participate in? How can we be “like Jesus”?

5. What are the five stages listed in Paul’s prayer? What is involved in entering into being filled with all the fullness of God? What does this extraordinary statement mean?

6. How important is Christ in us when it comes to loving effectively?

7. How can a Spirit-filled community be a place of great blessing and love? How did the early church get love right?