Dear Beloved of God,
Well, it’s February, and the sugar cane workers have been hacking away furiously in order to meet the massive need for candy this month. The floral industry is flying in 747s full of roses. Greeting card companies are pumping out age-old messages dressed in new rhymes. Why? Because once upon a time someone who owned stock in each of those businesses came up with the idea of “Valentine’s Day.” This month, LOVE is both King and Queen, and “romance” is the order of the day. Be still, my heart.
Whose idea was it to create a male and a female and set up the first blind date? Whose idea was “true love”? Uh, that would be GOD, the Ultimate Lover, the One whose total purity of nature and character dictates that HE, and thus everything He thinks, says, and does, “IS LOVE.” God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son, and that Son chose to so perfectly internalize God’s character, as expressed in His Word, that he flawlessly mirrored the heart of God to mankind. Jesus vividly showed us that true love is laying down one’s life for the benefit of another. He did it by dying; we do it by “dying to self,” i.e., becoming “self-less,” which means serving others at the expense of our time, our energy, our resources, and often our pride.
Remember that one reason God gave man free will is because without it, love would not be a choice. Despite Valentine’s Day rhetoric to the contrary about “falling in love,” loving another person most certainly is a choice. Often, it is a hard choice, but we are free to love even those who do not love us. Were man not free not to love, and even to hate, love would be only programmed, and meaningless, action. Again, Jesus Christ was the epitome of selfless love, even asking God to forgive those who were murdering him.
In last month’s FRUIT OF D’VINE, we noted the WAR motif in Scripture from Genesis 3:15 onward. The Word makes it crystal clear that what is taking place on earth is a manifestation of the spiritual battle raging between two absolutely antithetical beings, God, who is all go(o)d, and the Devil, who is all (d)evil. It’s kind of a spelling thing. This month, let’s look at love from a different angle. Let’s think about love as the driving force to destroy evil.
In so doing, let us keep in mind that it is God and Jesus Christ who define love, and that we must look to them for direction in how to love. To begin, let’s look at God’s definition of the name He gave Himself. Having no parents to name Him, He chose the name “Yahweh.” Its first biblical use is in Genesis 2:4, but not until about 2500 years later did God define it:
Exodus 34:6 and 7a
(6) And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, “The Lord [Yahweh], the Lord [Yahweh], the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness,
(7) maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished…
What do we see in those verses? We see that justice is an integral component of true love, and that justice is impossible without judgment and the correspondingly appropriate punishment. In other words, God’s perfect judgment and justice is directly proportional to His perfect love. Without love, there is no judgment, and without judgment, there is no justice. Romans 16:20 expresses the same truth when it says that, “The God of peace will soon crush Satan…” under our feet. God must destroy evil in order to bring peace.
Don’t you just hate movies in which the bad guys win? Or even those in which there is no clear triumph of good over evil? I do. If we have at all educated our conscience with God’s truth, something in us is rankled by such injustice. In fact, we should despise it so strongly that we do what we can to stop it. Guess who else felt that way when he looked around at the state of his world? Uh, that would be JESUS. As 1 John 3:8b states: “…The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work.”
Knowing the Old Testament as he did (e.g. Gen. 3:15), Jesus understood that during his earthly ministry, as the “Lamb of God,” he would be able to show mankind only some “previews of coming attractions.” In other words, his destroying some sickness, some death, and some injustice was a kind of “In your face!” reminder to Satan that one day, as the “Lion of Judah” (aka “Lambo”), Jesus would destroy him, the Author of such atrocities. And Jesus LOVED healing people, raising the dead, and setting people free with the truth. Well, don’t you? By the way, he still loves doing those things.
Here are some of the hundreds of verses Jesus held in mind as a part of his hope:
(1) A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.
(2) The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him— the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of power, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord—
(3) and he will delight in the fear of the Lord. He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes, or decide by what he hears with his ears;
(4) but with righteousness he will judge the needy, with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth. He will strike the earth with the rod of his mouth; with the breath of his lips he will slay the wicked.
For the Lord loves the just and will not forsake his faithful ones. They will be protected forever, but the offspring of the wicked will be cut off;
“Surely the day is coming; it will burn like a furnace. All the arrogant and every evildoer will be stubble, and that day that is coming will set them on fire,” says the Lord Almighty. “Not a root or a branch will be left to them.
Such verses were part of “…the joy set before him…” (Heb. 12:2) that motivated Jesus to endure the Cross. He understood that if he “went the distance” unto death, God would raise him to newness of life, and that one day he would be the one to rid the world of evil and suffering forever. As the Word tells us, it is JESUS who will raise all men from the dead, judge all men, reward all good, destroy all evil, create a new heaven and earth, and finally report to God: “Mission accomplished. Paradise regained.” And God will say, “Way to go, Son! Have a seat” (Rev. 22:3).
Today, “tolerance” is often promoted most vigorously by those who are the most intolerant. The ungodly aspect of that idea has insidiously permeated the Church and diluted the resolve of many Christians to stand up against wickedness. There is a fruit of the spirit called “longsuffering,” which means patience, forbearance, endurance, but it does not mean condoning evil. Too often Christians are afraid to “call a spade a spade” (with which a friend is digging his own grave) or to “rock the boat” (which is sinking); in other words, to stand up for what is right. If you see that someone is walking off a cliff, i.e., believing a lie, it is love to appropriately inform him of that.
That’s what Jesus did, and as the Body of Christ on earth today, we are to follow his lead in “destroying” some of the works of the Devil by first putting the truth into our own hearts and then sharing it with others. We cannot allow ourselves to become complacent about wickedness and ungodliness, and the first place we must look for those is within ourselves. Consider David’s attitude toward wickedness, both around him and within him:
(21) Do I not hate those who hate you, O Lord [Yahweh] and abhor those who rise up against you?
(22) I have nothing but hatred for them; I count them my enemies.
(23) Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.
(24) See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.
Talk about a dangerous prayer! I trust you know how painful it is when God answers it, which He will if you really mean it. I must hate the sin within me enough to endure the “pain” of destroying it, with the Lord’s help. When he shows me sin in my heart, and when I take steps to destroy it, that hurts! But doing what it takes to “mortify” the deeds of the sin nature (Rom. 8:13; Col. 3:5) is worth it, for when we do, the Lord raises us up to a new quality of Christ-likeness. And that increases our faith that he will do the same at our next opportunity to “die to self,” which is probably not far off (see Rom. 7:14ff. Yikes!).
The battle we fight moment-by-moment is between our ears. As Romans 8 says, we “mind” either the flesh or the spirit, and we achieve the latter by holding the Word in our hearts and consciously doing our best to think, say, and do it. Then, at least within our own hearts, and also within our sphere of spiritual influence, we destroy some of the works of the Devil.
2 Corinthians 10:3–5
(3) For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does.
(4) The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.
(5) We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.
These verses are speaking both about the lies being fed to the Corinthians by the false apostles Paul mentions several times, and about each believer taking the responsibility to hold the truth in his mind. Yes, it is easy to get tired of the fight, so we must relentlessly do as Hebrews 12:2 says: “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
We can meet aggression with aggression as the early Christians did when, in the face of persecution, they prayed: “Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. Stretch out your hand to heal and perform miraculous signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus” (Acts 4:29–30). And then, like Paul, we too will be able to say: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Tim. 4:7).
True love is all about risk, for the sake of someone else. When God gave the first Adam free will, He risked being hurt by Adam’s choosing to turn away from Him. Yet God so loved that He risked once more, also giving “the Last Adam” free will. Throughout his ministry, Jesus continued to risk people’s opposition and hatred by being true to Truth and always giving people the opportunity to do what was right. He knew experientially that God “had his back,” and the glorious moment of his resurrection proved him right! Surely they each simultaneously exclaimed to the other: “THANK YOU!”
And “THANK YOU!” (1 Pet. 1:7) is exactly what both will say to you on that glorious day when God finally gives Jesus the green light: “GO TO CHURCH!” (1 Thess. 4:16 and 17).