Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Love From the Heart

"Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply, from the heart" (1 Peter 1:22).

So far I've written some blog entries about topics like "Shocking" each other with our love and the need to have "Daily" relationships invested in helping each other become more like Christ. Hebrews 3:13 comes to mind: "exhort one another daily, lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin."

A church where EACH one is devoted to "coming alongside" others everyday to help keep each other from being hardened by deceitful sin is almost non-existent. Where are the people who put Hebrews 3:13 into practice? Where are the people who live like they did in Acts 2:42, "daily with one accord"?

Why don't people live this way? We desperately need "sincere love" for one another. But let us love one another deeply, FROM THE HEART.

When we seek to follow God or keep his commands, we must do so by faith. If we want to "exhort one another daily", if we want to love one another, it must be by faith and from the heart. We cannot merely invent a principle to live by and then try to adhere to the principle. In this case, we cannot merely read Hebrews 3:13 and say to ourselves, "OK, now I'm going to start hanging out with people every day." It goes deeper than that.

The believers in Acts 2 sold their possessions, were together daily, committed themselves to one another and to following the apostles' teaching, etc. They LIVED Christianity. Most of them hadn't heard nearly as many teachings or "sermons" as most Christians today, but their lives were unquestionably committed to Christ and to one another. They were "cut to the heart" (Acts 2:37) by God's word and the way they lived was the overflow of their hearts (i.e. Matt 12:34).

We desperately need to be cut to the heart by God's Word. It is sharper than any two edged sword (Heb. 4:12) and it is supposed to go much deeper than our brains. We cannot merely increase in knowledge of what "the church" is supposed to be and then try to walk it out as best as we can.

Here's an analogy. If a neglectful dad reads in the Bible that his heart should be turned toward his children (Malachi 4:6), he may feel guilty and decide to start spending more time with his children. Maybe he will begin spending more money on his children, buying them gifts. But unless his heart actually turns, unless his love and compassion actually increases, his efforts alone will not produce everything that God wants in that relationship. In fact, his actions will be reluctant at times and incomplete, sometimes motivated by guilt and duty rather than love. But the dad who loves his children from the heart can't wait to be with them. He rushes home from work. He invests into their lives and longs to do so more and more. Hundreds of "little" things about him change, from subtle attitudes and facial expressions to large sacrifices of his time and energy.

Applied toward the church, Christ's Body, we cannot be satisfied with an intellectual understanding. For example, we cannot merely read that we are supposed to need one another just like a hand needs a foot and that if one part suffers the rest suffers too (1 Cor. 12) and then change a few of our actions. Let's not merely "hang out" more with one another. Let's love one another deeply from the heart. If our hearts are for one another we will consider one another better than ourselves (Phil. 2). We will honor one another above ourselves (Rom. 12). We will labor to present each one mature in Christ (Col. 1:28). We will wrestle fervently in prayer for one another (Col. 4:12, Eph. 6:18).

"Get a new heart and a new spirit" (Ezekiel 18:31), not just some new actions. May our actions proceed out of a heart devoted to loving God and loving one another. God will do it; he who has promised is faithful. We, however, cannot be content with intellectual understanding. God will quickly put his word into our hearts if we will let him--this a promise of the new covenant. May God receive glory in his church!

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