We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love each other. Anyone who does not love remains in death. Anyone who hates a brother or sister is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life residing in him.
This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.
1 John 3:14-18
Here we return to the heart of the matter. When Jesus truly lives in us real transformation takes place. We take on the heart and mind of Jesus. We become more like Him. We are conformed to His very image. Jesus laid down his life for us, and we are called to lay down our lives for others.
But, the transformation does not result from the strength of our will, our determination or even our self-discipline. It is Jesus whose exposes us to his refining fire, slowly and methodically separating the impurities and leaving behind hearts of pure gold and pure silver. It is Jesus himself who changes us.
In a very real sense, when we answer the call to serve him, our love for other people becomes the proxy for our love for Jesus. “Whatever you did for the least of these …” must ring through our ears – like that song that we never seem to be able to get out of our head.
I remember well the moment that Jesus called me into His service. Bishop Jack DeHart was praying for me in front of the church. God’s presence was so real in that moment, and I can remember praying that God would use me – and specifically that he would bring me into his army. I don’t know why I used those words. Perhaps I was thinking of the words from a hymn from my childhood … “onward Christian soldiers.” Perhaps the Spirit of God was reminding me that He is Adonai Tzva’ot – the Lord of armies.
It would not be until years later that I became “officially” involved in “ministry.” More accurately, it would not be until years later that ministry found me. I had no desire or even thought of ever being on staff at a church. But that day was still the turning point. That day my life was changed forever … even if I didn’t realize in that moment how profoundly it had and would change in in the future.
I hope that all of us who truly follow Jesus have had those kinds of moments in our lives. In fact, I actually think that most of us have had many of those moments. That Sunday or church camp or whatever, when you were thinking business as usual but God showed up in a way that was anything but usual. That moment when he was so overwhelming that you wanted to devote everything in your life to him.
Just think about what that moment was like for Isaiah!
In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord, high and exalted, seated on a throne; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him were seraphim, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. And they were calling to one another:
“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty;
the whole earth is full of his glory.”
the whole earth is full of his glory.”
At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke.
“Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.”
Then one of the seraphim flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. With it he touched my mouth and said, “See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.”
Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?”
And I said, “Here am I. Send me!”
How do we know that those are experiences are real? And how do we know that Jesus is really in us? What is the litmus test? I would say it starts with our love for others. We begin to love in a way that is so much more than the words coming out of our mouths. It is love that expresses itself in action and in truth. It is patient and kind. It does not envy or boast, and it is not proud. It does not dishonor others and, in sharp contrast to our world today, it is not self-seeking. It is not easily angered, and it keeps no record of wrongs – it is forgiving and merciful. “It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, and always perseveres.” It never fails.
And, by the way, I for one am grateful that love is always patient. I thank God that he is patient with me. I am grateful that he waited so long for me to be ready, when it would have been so much easier to give up on me long ago.
As we continue on this journey together, I do think it important to celebrate the change God has already made in our lives – instead of either wallowing in our guilt from the past or being overwhelmed by the thought of how much further we have to go. (Although either of those is probably better than complacency or thinking we have already arrived!!)
Let’s praise God for what he has already done, and look forward with hopeful expectation to the work he has yet to do in each of us!
I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.
Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 3: 10-14