Perfect Love. Perfect Purpose.

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

Love never brings fear, for fear is always related to punishment. But love’s perfection drives the fear of punishment far from our hearts. Whoever walks constantly afraid of punishment has not reached love’s perfection.

1 John 4:18 The Passion Translation (TPT)

I have always thought of this verse only as far as meaning that perfect love will eliminate fear of the future, the unknown, fear of what will happen if I move outside God’s will and fear of what He might ask if I commit myself to Him completely. I only thought of how I would be free from fear if I understood how much God really loves me. I did not realise how He intends to free me of insecurity if I truly loved Him. I did not know how much less I would be concerned with who I am, how I am perceived and what I am good at, if it was no longer about me at all.

C.S. Lewis concludes Mere Christianity with this thought. He addresses our fears of losing ourselves – our originality – if we submit to Christ fully. He uses a beautiful illustration and makes his point by saying that even though the same light shines on all of us, it does not make us look the same, but shows how different we really are. He puts it this way: “The very first step is to try to forget about the self altogether. Your real, new self (which is Christ’s and also yours, and yours just because it is His) will not come as long as you are looking for it. It will come when you are looking for Him.”

For if you choose self-sacrifice and lose your lives for my glory, you will continually discover true life. But if you choose to keep your lives for yourselves, you will forfeit what you try to keep.

Matthew 16:25 TPT

I have experienced how this verse does not only apply to the eternal life that awaits us, but also to our lives while on earth. When we are no longer concerned with how I come across, with how I distinguish myself, with what people think and say about me, He can make us into who He really intended us to be. The only way we can be free to be ourselves without fear is if we draw people’s eyes to Him and not to ourselves.

We are not perfect, but He is – and the more of Him we allow to manifest in us, the less our own imperfections will matter. We are either concerned with what the world thinks or with what God wants to do in us. We can’t have both. If we care about what the world thinks, we will lose more and more of ourselves by trying to conform to what is acceptable in the world’s eyes – we will become more and more like everyone else – even if we think we are original. When we are united with Christ, we will allow him to make us new and, little by little, become the one-of-a-kind creation He made us to be. He gave you an original appearance and He is the only one who can give you an original heart.

Look for yourself, and you will find in the long run only hatred, loneliness, despair, rage, ruin and decay. But look for Christ and you will find Him, and with Him everything else thrown in.

Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis

When your life, and your testimony, is truly no longer about you, you are free from fear of judgement or rejection. Of course, in a world where we are encouraged to distinguish ourselves, to matter, to make a difference, we need to constantly remind ourselves of who is truly important. Whether I make a difference does not matter at all, much less whether I will be remembered for it. God makes all the difference, in our own hearts and in how we live our faith. If we follow Him, we get purpose thrown in and the best part is that we don’t even have to go looking for it. It doesn’t have to be one big thing, it can be a million little things that no-one remembers, but that mattered to God and that mattered in his great design.

Cause all that really mattered

Did I live the truth to the ones I love?

Was my life the proof that there is only One

Whose name will last forever?

Source: LyricFind
Songwriters: Bernie Herms / John Mark Hall / Matthew Joseph West
Only Jesus lyrics © Kobalt Music Publishing Ltd., Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Royalty Network, Capitol Christian Music Group, BMG Rights Management

The Harvest of Wisdom, Faith and Obedience

But the wisdom from above is always pure, filled with peace, considerate and teachable. It is filled with love and never displays prejudice or hypocrisy in any from and it always bears the beautiful harvest of righteousness! God’s seeds of wisdom’s fruit will be planted with peaceful acts of those who cherish making peace.

James 3: 17 – 18 The Passion Translation

Photo by Radoslav Bali on Unsplash

Reaping a good return from any endeavour requires applying wisdom. James says that the fruit of wisdom starts in a seed – a seed that we need to plant and nurture. Therefore the wisdom that comes from God must be sown and sustained by us in obedience in order to produce the intended harvest. I also believe that, just like plant seeds are intended for certain soils and climates, God entrusts us with different seeds depending on where He places us and how He equips us. If we then fail to nurture these seeds, we fail God. James puts in this way: “So, if you know of an opportunity to do the right thing today, yet you refrain from doing it, you are guilty of sin” (James 4:17 TPT). Yet, if we put our faith in Him, he promises to give us wisdom and “overwhelm our failures with his generous grace” (James 1:5 TPT).

Don’t just listen to the Word of Truth and not respond to it, for that is the essence of self-deception. So always let his Word become like poetry written and fulfilled by your life.

James 1:22 The Passion Translation

So why do we let so many opportunities go by? Yes, we are often selfish and preoccupied, but I think this neglect has a deeper root. The excuse goes as far back as Moses when he told God that sending him to lead the Israelites out of Egypt is a mistake. Jesus also touches on this when he tells the Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25: 14 – 30). Because the servant with one coin was too afraid to use what he was entrusted with, he reaped no return. And again, his master was not pleased. The parable is also clear on the fact that the servant knew his master well (he had the necessary wisdom), yet he failed to do what he knew was expected because he felt inadequate. James describes it beautifully when he says: “You perceive how God sees you in the mirror of the Word, but then you go out and forget your divine origin” (James 1:24).

My fellow believers, when it seems like you are facing nothing but difficulties see it as an invaluable opportunity to experience the greatest joy that you can! For you know that when your faith is tested it stirs up power within you to endure all things. And when your endurance grows even stronger it will release perfection into every part of your being until there is nothing missing and nothing lacking.

James 1: 2 – 4 The Passion Translation

I find it fascinating how God’s ways are often the reverse of what seems logical to us. Just like we have to believe before we see, we often have to be obedient before he equips us. I am reminded of the quote by Mark Batterson “God doesn’t call the qualified, He qualifies the called” which has been linked to 1 Corinthians 1:27 – 29 where it says that God chooses “the things that are not, to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before Him.” C.S Lewis captures the essence of this when he says: “It cures our illusions about ourselves and teaches us to depend on God. We learn, on the one hand, that we cannot trust ourselves even in our best moments, and, on the other, that we need not despair even in our worst, for our failures are forgiven. The only fatal thing is to sit down content with anything less than perfection.” James 3:17 also says that wisdom from above is teachable – and that’s the whole point. If we obediently step out in faith, God not only equips us, but reveals himself to us even more.

God was delighted to give us birth by the truth of his infallible Word so that we would fulfill his chosen destiny for us and become the favorite ones out of all his creation.

James 1: 18 The Passion Translation

Even though we often feel inadequate, the relationship between faith and action (obedience) is non-negotiable. James uses Abraham as an example when he says: “Can’t you see how his action cooperated with his faith and by his action faith found its full expression?” (James 2:22 TPT). God’s Word gives birth to the new person we are in faith – but this Word, this Wisdom, has a destiny to fulfill through us and that is the full expression of our faith. Jesus is without a doubt the best example: If He hadn’t trusted and obeyed God in walking the path of the cross, there would be no harvest at all.

There is beautiful poetry in the fact that when we step out in faith, faith comes to life. When we plant the seed of wisdom in the fertile ground of faith, and nurture it in obedience, we reap the harvest that God intended. But God does not give us only his Word, he also gives us his Spirit to remind us of his promises and strengthen our faith. Faith also means that we need never do anything on our own.

Your spirit is a whispering
When all the lies are deafening
You speak to the very heart of me
And fear cannot remain

Your spirit is the light ahead
Calling me into the depths
And daring me to take a step
And let you lead the way

Source: LyricFind
Songwriters: Mark Hall / Jason Ingram
The Change in Me lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

Faith is Evidence Enough

Now faith brings our hopes into reality and becomes the foundation needed to acquire the things we long for. It is all the evidence required to prove what is still unseen. This testimony of faith is what previous generations were commended for. Faith empowers us to see that the universe was created and beautifully coordinated by the power of God’s words! He spoke and the invisible realm gave birth to all that is seen.

Hebrews 11:1 – 3 The Passion Translation

Photo by Guilherme Stecanella on Unsplash

Reading Hebrews, I am struck by the clear connection made between God’s Word, faith and hope. In fact, chapter 4 verse 3 says that “faith activates the promise” so that we can “experience the realm of confident rest.” After listing the powerful examples of faith in Hebrews 11, it goes on to describe how they stood by their faith. It says that their faith “fastened onto their promises and pulled them into reality” (v33); “sparked courage” (v34); enabled them to endure great atrocities” (v35) and most importantly, it allowed them to “live in hope without receiving the fullness of what was promised to them” (v39).

Because these heroes saw God’s words through eyes of faith, their actions of faith, and the hope they carried because of it, could play a part in pulling God’s ultimate promise into reality. And again the promise of salvation can only be obtained by faith. And it can only be passed on by faith. For without faith, how will we be an example that sparks faith in others? How will we be courageous, how will we endure and how will we live in the hope we profess?

So do not lose your bold, courageous faith, for you are destined for a great reward! You need the strength of endurance to reveal the poetry of God’s will and then you receive the promise in full.

Hebrews 10: 35 – 36 The Passion Translation

There is beautiful poetry in the fact that we don’t believe because we see, but see because we believe. This is written in the present tense specifically: We don’t believe and only see it realised one day. We see it now, in faith – that is true hope. We live in the hope that the blood of Jesus cleansed us of all sins and we are “fully convinced by faith that nothing will keep us at a distance from him” (Heb 10:21). Thus, even though we eagerly await Jesus’s return, we have already entered the “the realm of confident rest”. This makes us true witnesses of his love for everyone. Anyone who will look at his words with eyes of faith will receive his salvation. But in Corinthians 13, Paul adds another vital ingredient – faith, hope and… LOVE. Faith and hope also inspires us to love as He loves.

We will show mercy to the poor and not miss an opportunity to do acts of kindness for others, for these are the true sacrifices that delight God’s hearts.

Hebrews 13: 16 The Passion Translation

Those who cannot see God’s words with faith yet, will read it in the love we show them. As those in the old testament made animal sacrifices in faith to obtain forgiveness for their sins, so we must take every opportunity to make sacrifices of love because we have faith that God calls us and wants to bring everyone home to him.

For hasn’t he promised you, “I will never leave you alone, never! And I will not loosen my grip on your life!”

Hebrews 13: 5 The Passion Translation

More that the fact that Jesus will be waiting for you one day when you finish the race, he is with you now as you share his promises and he promises that if you “keep walking forward on God’s paths all your stumbling ways will be divinely healed!” (Heb 12:12).

When all hope is gone and Your word is all I’ve got, I have to believe You still bring water from the rock to satisfy my thirst, to love me at my worst and even when I don’t remember, You remind me of my worth.

Spirit Lead Me
Songwriter: Gabriel Wilson

Seeing the struggle before you see the choice

Think for a moment, how much of your conversations and thought life is consumed by passing judgement on others and comparing yourself to others? We discuss what he said, where she went and we silently think our ways superior to how they do things. We use this to divert attention from our own weakness and to emphasise the occasions where we come out on top by comparison. In science and business we are warned against drawing conclusions without having all the facts. According to C.S. Lewis, the affairs of others are no different.

That is why Christians are told not to judge. We see only the results which a man’s choices make out of his raw material. But God does not judge him on the raw material at all, but on what he has done with it. Most of the man’s psychological makeup is probably due to his body: when his body dies all that will fall off him, and the real central man, the thing that chose, that made the best of the worst out of this material, will stand naked.

C.S. Lewis
Mere Christianity

One of my favourite TV series characters, Reddington from The Blacklist, puts it this way: “The line between good and evil cuts through the hearts of all of us”. Think about it, if even killing someone could be self-defence in one scenario and cold blooded murder in another, how can we still think that any sin is a matter of black and white? Just as you cannot judge the act of killing someone by looking only at the dead body, you can’t judge someone by their actions alone.

Sometimes doing what is right one-dimensionally, comes at a huge cost to self and others, creating a myriad of grey areas that are difficult, and often painful, to navigate. To you declining a cigarette might be second nature; to a recovering heroine addict it might be a matter of breaking the camel’s back. Cigarettes may very well be bad for everyone’s health, but avoiding them is infinitely easier for some than it is for others. The same goes for sin. We all make our choices based on our own struggles, and although God hates all sin, he doesn’t separate the struggle from the choice. He judges with all the facts, as well as from a place of perfection.

No matter who you are, before you judge the wickedness of others, you had better remember this: you are also without excuse, for you too are guilty of the same kind of things! When you judge others, and then do the same things they do, you condemn yourself. We know that God’s judgement falls upon those who practice these things, God is always right, because he has all the facts. And no matter who you think you are, when you judge others who do these things and then do the same things yourself, what makes you think that you will escape God’s judgement?

Romans 2:1 – 3
The Passion Translation

Paul further calls us on our hypocrisy when he says in verse 18, 22 and 23: “And you claim to know the will of God, and to have the moral high ground… Why don’t you practice what you preach? You are swift to tell others.” He in fact goes as far as to say that “your actions seem to fulfill what is written: God’s precious name is cursed among the nations because of you” in verse 24. Our only hope lies in Christ and in the Holy Spirit working within us. He is the only one that can help us radiate with hope instead of reek of judgement.

Now, may God, the inspiration and fountain of hope, fill you to overflowing with uncontainable joy and perfect peace as you trust in him. and may the power of the Holy Spirit continually surround your life with his super abundance until you radiate with hope!

Romans 15:13
The Passion Translation

You see, the most beautiful part of looking at others without judgement is that it helps us look at ourselves in the same way. While looking for the good in others, we are able to see the good in ourselves and we ultimately realise that every good thing in us exists only by the grace of God. And therefore no-one really has anything of their own to be proud of.

It cures our illusions about ourselves and teaches us to depend on God. We learn, on the one hand, that we cannot trust ourselves even in our best moments, and, on the other, that we need not despair even in our worst, for our failures are forgiven. The only fatal thing is to sit down content with anything less than perfection.

C.S. Lewis
Mere Christianity

May we truly radiate the hope we find in Christ to illuminate the dark corners in the lives of those we meet, rather than cast a shadow of judgement. May our lives resound the prayer below – “Let them see, Lord, let them see.”

But knowing just how far You came for me

Gives me hope for every soul I meet

There’s no one so far gone that You can’t reach

So reach through me

Let them see, Lord, let them see

Source: LyricFind
Songwriters: Mark John Hall / Bernie Herms / Seth David Mosley / Matthew Joseph West
The Bridge lyrics © Kobalt Music Publishing Ltd., Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, BMG Rights Management

Photo by Michal Vrba on Unsplash

Fighting for Me

Will you fight to restore faith?

Riley Clemmons makes a powerful proclamation of trust when she sings: “You will never stop fighting for me”. It’s sad to think how few of us really trust that God will never stop fighting for us. The reason? I think it’s us – we are the source of each other’s doubt. We love imperfectly and sometimes not at all. Riley starts the song by saying “I need a kind of love that outlasts the night.” Have you experienced this kind of love – a love that never gives up on you? Perhaps more importantly, have you ever thought of being this kind of love?

You will never stop fighting for me
When I can’t fight for myself
Every word is a promise You keep
Cause You love me like nobody else

Fighting For Me
Songwriters: Jordan Sapp / Riley Clemmons / Ethan Hulse
Fighting For Me lyrics © S.I.A.E. Direzione Generale, Be Essential Songs

Are you willing to fight and love when everyone else has given up? Is your every word an oath? This might seem like an extreme level of honesty and commitment, but our faith was always meant to move us.

The gospel unveils a continual revelation of God’s righteousness – a perfect righteousness given to us when we believe. And it moves us from receiving life through faith, to the power of living by faith.

The Passion Translation: Romans 1:17

God is perfect, our efforts don’t need to be. Living by faith is about revealing God, not ourselves. God wants everyone to know how passionately HE has been fighting for them since the beginning of time. As the song describes it: “This battle for my heart, You took on from the start.” Even more amazing is the fact that he chooses to reveal himself through us, just as imperfect as we are. In Paul’s words, he chooses to put this glorious treasure of salvation in jars of clay.

We are like common clay jars that carry this glorious treasure within, so that the extraordinary overflow of power will be seen as God’s, not ours.

The Passion Translation: 2 Corinthians 4:7

Another song that expresses this beautifully is Love Moved First by Casting Crowns. It is NEVER too late for someone to reach out to God, His grace knows no bounds. But how will they know if we don’t move?

When anybody else would’ve turned and left me at my worst – Love moved first

Love Moved First
Songwriters: Mark Hall / Matthew West / Bernie Herms
Love Moved First lyrics © Kobalt Music Publishing Ltd., Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

Only God can love each and every individual like nobody else – we are only imperfect jars of clay – but we hold the love that can outlast the night within us. We MUST share it, no matter the cost. God’s love exists independent of us, but if we are open to it, it chooses to move through us. God loves through his Spirit and through our combined, imperfect efforts. Are you willing to reach out and do your part? Will you fight?

Photo by Gift Habeshaw on Unsplash