The Bare Soul - November 21, 2010
The Excellency of Love

I Corinthians 13:13 - But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love.

Throughout the millennia, mankind has written about love and all its redeeming attributes. Philosophers, poets, and songwriters have either lamented our collective lack of love, or they've extolled the great possibilities if we would but only "love one another". My question to those who say "all we need is love" ... what is the origin of this panacea that can make the world right? If love is the answer, then why haven't we harnessed its power to create a veritable utopia here on earth? What most fail to understand is that man is a fallen creature, excluded from the love of the Father by his treasonous act of sin. The love of God which many think should bind us together in some type of "brotherhood" is in reality just theoretical nonsense in light of the rebellion of the human race. The only way to achieve a loving world is by embracing a loving God. However, to know God means that we must first confess our sin along with our lack of love and then to cling to His life. This is the only way to know true love. Everything else is merely a shadow of the reality. Only when we share the life of Christ Jesus will we know the true substance of love. Any so-called "affection" that does not come from the Lord is a mere counterfeit that is destined to perish along with everything else of this earth.

Paul's first letter to the Corinthians contains arguably the greatest chapter on love in the entire New Testament. Furthermore, it is not a coincidence that this chapter is situated between two chapters dealing specifically with spiritual gifts. Chapters 12 and 14 of Paul's letter instruct believers regarding the attaining of the fullness of Christ through the proper use of the gifts. However, Paul is quick to point out that these gifts are not the "end all". They are merely the catalysts that propel us into that spiritual dimension of love that he writes about in chapter 13. The church at Corinth found themselves in the same dilemma that many Christians as well as unbelievers do today. For instance, the world runs after pleasures and comforts of this earth, thinking that is the "end-all" to their existence. They believe this is the expression of God's love when in actuality it is merely the kindness of God pointing them to repentance (Romans 2:4). Many Christians also have this worldly mindset that has its origin in their unregenerate past. While pursuing the gifts of the Holy Spirit and the power of their manifestations, they forget what is the goal of their spiritual equipping, which is love from a pure heart (I Timothy 1:5). Everything else is merely a shadow of the reality -- which is the perfection of love. That's why Paul instructs both the church at Corinth and all believers in what is the apex of our pursuit in I Corinthians chapter 13. In Ephesians 3:19, Paul tells us ... to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God. Beloved, to understand the fullness of God is to understand His love. The knowledge of God and of spiritual things pale in the light of knowing God's love. This, my friends, is the wisdom of God which supersedes any knowledge that is meant for this earth, but ascends to the very eternal wisdom of God.

 When we arrive on eternity's shore, faith and hope will give way to total love. As our lead verse states, we need to cling to or to abide in faith, hope, and love while on this earth. However, there will come a day when faith and hope will melt away in the presence of pure love. No longer will we look for that which is unseen (Hebrews 11:1) nor hope for His appearing (Romans 8:24-25), but we will see Christ in eternity and will be perfected in His love. Many believers reason that by perfecting their gifts and moving in some dramatic ministry that this will perfect them in the heart of the Father and they will know His love in a new way. We will never earn God's love or affection by performing for Him or by fulfilling what we believe is our "spiritual destiny". Our greatest goal in this lifetime is not self-discovery and finding out "who we are" but it is discovering "who God is". By abiding in faith and hope while earthbound, the Apostle John states that we purify ourselves for His great appearing (I John 3:3). Our supreme goal in life will never cease to be less than what Jesus stated as the greatest commandment: And He said to him, " YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND". (Matthew 22:37) This, beloved, is our destiny and our eternal heritage. Our aim should be to become so enraptured with the love of God on this earth that it will be a small change as we cross through the veil. After all, we will be drinking from His fountain of love for eternity. Why not learn to love the refreshing of His springs of eternal love while here on the earth?

The LORD appeared to him from afar, saying, 'I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have drawn you with lovingkindness. (Jeremiah 31:3) Can we begin to fathom coming face to face with Everlasting Love someday, beloved? How about a waterfall of liquid love washing over and through us until we drown in His Presence? While we cannot know exactly how it will be we can only imagine. Through our imagination, we can perfect love through faith and hope, knowing that our Loving Father is desiring the perfection of His child-bride for His Son. The world will continue to bemoan our lack of collective love as a species, yet it is still our responsibility as believers to perfect the Body of Christ through love's maturation. May we all forsake the desire to become "somebody" in Christ through the gifts He so abundantly gives and may we seek to be known only to Him as a lover of God in all that we do. In so doing, we will not fail to fulfill His desire for our lives. We will overflow with His presence to others as we submit to His perfect love, both now and forevermore!

Lord Jesus, I pray the prayer of Paul for us all: For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God. - Ephesians 3:14-19

Your Barefoot Servant,

Rick

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