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EMBRACE THE FIRE OF GOD'S HOLY LOVE
Here in the United States, we celebrate February as the month of love. Most celebrate love as romantic love. Others celebrate family and friendships. But what is love to God? Is it merely an emotional "I love you" in times of exhilarating worship? Or is it something deeper?
Jesus said, "If you love me, keep my commandmentsÖHe that has My commandments, and keeps them, he it is that loves Me: and he that loves Me shall be loved of My Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to himÖIf a man love Me, he will keep My words: and My Father will love him, and We will come unto him, and make our abode with him. He that loves Me not keeps not My sayings: and the word which you hear is not Mine, but the Fatherís which sent Me." (John 14.15-24) 1 John 5.20, 21 says, "If a man say, I love God, and hates his brother, he is a liar: for he that loves not his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen? And this commandment have we from him, That he who loves God love his brother also."
Jesus said, "Whosoever therefore shall confess Me before men, him will I confess also before My Father which is in heaven. But whosoever shall deny Me before men, him will I also deny before My Father which is in heaven." (Matthew 10.32, 33; cf. Luke 12.8)
Love to God is not great swelling words of affection. Peter came to understand that! He was tested for his words to Jesus, "Although all shall be offended, yet will not I." (Mark 14.29) When Jesus told him that he would deny Him, Peter disagreed. He said, "If I should die with You, I will not deny You in any wise." (Mark 14.31) Peter said, "Lord, I am ready to go with You, both into prison, and to death." (Luke 22.33)
Satan demanded to sift Peter like wheat. Peterís words sounded wonderful, like he really loved Jesus and would follow Him anywhere, surrendering all to Jesus. Satan came desiring to test these words, to see just how faithful Peter really would be, how loyal, how loving.
Jesus prayed for Peter that his faith fail not, and when (not if) Peter had turned back again, he was to go and strengthen his brethren. (Luke 22.32) This was not a "repentance unto salvation" kind of turning around. It was more like a "when you have come through this and are back on course" type of turning. The faith here has more to do with loyalty, holding fast, commitment. In the crunch, all would flee. It had been prophesied, and every word of God as prophesied would come to pass. (Matthew 26.31)
Peter stopped deceiving himself. He ceased making grandiose statements of affection and unfeigned faith. John 21 records how lovingly Jesus restores Peter. This time, Peter does not lie. When Jesus asks if Peter has agape love for Him, Peter says, "You know I phileo You." Peter had brotherly love for Jesus. Nevertheless, the commandment came to "Feed My sheep." Peter was kept by the power of God, and as you read 1 and 2 Peter, you come to see how much he came to understand of suffering and of the trial of faith and of salvation.
I took a careful look at the mailing list of Mary Craig Ministries. I saw servants of the Lord there. Most of you are pastors, teachers, evangelists, ministers, missionaries. Some of you function as apostles and prophets to the Body. Many of you write books, preach, teach, lead worship, witness, feed the poor, etc. In a myriad of ways, you carry the gospel of Jesus Christ to the hurting and broken of a fallen world. And yet you, like Paul, sometimes say,
"For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also abounds by Christ. And whether we be afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation, which is effectual in the enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer: or whether we be comforted, it is for your consolation and salvation." (2 Corinthians 1.5, 6)
You identify with Paul, who wrote:
"But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us. We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed; always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body. For we which live are always delivered unto death for Jesusí sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh." (2 Corinthians 4.7-11)
What compels you? Where do you derive strength to continue in season and out of season? Paul says it. "The love of Christ constrains us." His love compels us.
Paul told Agrippa (Acts 16) the whole story of his being a Pharisee, how he persecuted Christians, how he encountered Jesus on the road to Damascus, how he was not disobedient unto the heavenly vision. His apostleship constantly under attack, his body raked, imprisoned, beaten, left as dead, narrowly escaping, Paul continued.
It takes grace to know Christ and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings. It takes embracing the fire of Godís holy love to be buried with Christ in baptism, to take up the cross daily, to lay down your life for the brethren.
Peter and Paul both would come to write of the baptism of fire that would judge every manís work. Jesus will come, separating what is living from what is dead, separating wheat from tares.
Through the fire of Godís holy passion for His Name, for His glory, for His Son, go our words and our works. Through the fire go hearts and souls, tested, refined, purified. Through the fire of holy love, you come clean, even as you have been declared clean according to the gospel of grace.
We make our efforts to love. We experience how feeble our love is. Every success and every failure should lead us and draw us on to Jesus on the Throne. In Him the love of God is revealed and glorified and rendered accessible to us. The love of God can come down as a fire that will consume and destroy self and make our love fervent. Godís perfect love can be shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit.
Andrew Murray says, "There is love seeking, struggling, and doing its best to obey, and ever failing. And there is love finding, resting, rejoicing, and ever triumphing." As Christ dwells in our hearts, we are rooted and grounded in love. We come to know that love that passes knowledge. As God dwells in us, His love is perfected in us. As His love abides in us, we love one another. (1 John 4.12, 13) In loyalty, in obeying God, our fellowship with God strengthens. We step out to minister to those around us. As Jesus is, so are we in this world. (1 John 4.17)
Holiness is the fire of love. The fire of Godís holy love purifies, perfects, pervades. God chastens us for our profit that we might be partakers of His holiness. (Hebrews 12.10) This process of purifying leads to union with Godís own will, union with Himself and His love. Chastening causes us to cling to God more, trusting in His love, enjoying Him in the mutual indwelling of love. Every believer can partake of Godís holiness by embracing the fire of Godís holy love.
- Embrace the covenant love of God that will not let you go. (Hebrews 12) Be consumed by the fire of Godís love.
- Embrace holiness without which you will not see God. (2 Corinthians 7.1; 1 Thessalonians 4.7; 1 Timothy 2.15; Hebrews 12.14)
- Embrace the confession of the gospel that Jesus Christ is the new and living way by which one must be saved. (Hebrews 10)
- Embrace the cross, Christ crucified. (1 Corinthians 1.23; Galatians 2.20; Galatians 5.24, 6.14)
- Embrace oneness with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. (John 17; Revelation 21.7)
- Embrace the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit in your life. (Hebrews 12.10, 14) Separate yourself unto Him and His love.
- Embrace God as your Father. Let Him be Father to you. Worship Him in the beauty of holiness. Hide yourself in Him. (Romans 8; Psalm 96.9)
As Godís redeemed one, you are in Christ. His holy presence and love are around you. You are in the enclosure of His tender love, a holy love that encircles you with His holy fire. That holy fire consumes all that separates you from Him. That holy fire protects you from His enemies. That holy fire causes you to yield to the Spirit of Holiness and to Godís fiery burning zeal against all that is sin. His infinite self-sacrificing love frees you and brings you to the blessedness of His glory.
Embracing the fire with you,
For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments:
And His commandments are not grievous. For whatsoever is born of God overcomes the world: and this is the victory that overcomes the world, even our faith. (1 John 5.3, 4)
© 2001 Mary Craig Ministries, Inc.
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