DELIBERATELY PURSUING GOD
LOVING AND CARING FOR EACH OTHER
Do you love Jesus? Well, of course I do, what kind of silly question is that? Mmmm… the same response that Peter had, right? We sing about loving God, and hear about others loving Him and know the stories that explain how He loves us but I believe there are “levels” of understanding love, just like we learn about everything else in life. For instance, if knowing about love is like knowing math, we might be able to add and subtract but not have a clue about calculus or trigonometry yet both are mathematics. We might “love” our new set of wheels but have never known romantic love. All things have layers of comprehension and each individual person may be at certain stages of perception in a particular field. In my personal development I heard the word “love” from the time my ears could function and as I became a teenager my progression of understanding was still very weak. Even when I married I honestly believe my understanding of love was elementary to say the least. I followed my heart with as much knowledge and wisdom I had about love and listened to my senses but my realization was very shallow. With experience and maturity my capacity to reason has developed somewhat but now I view love as more of a spiritual “revelation” than an emotional goose bump. I have learned from the Lord that true love must go beyond the “phileo” physical connection of consciousness and be seen through the deeper discernment of our spirit man. This “spirit love” is called “Agape” love and is not counseled through psychiatric theories but can only be appreciated, experienced and comprehended when God opens the eyes of our heart.
It is evident with so much divorce and violence that most of the world’s understanding about love is phileo. It is a no-brainer why there is such a need to sow the gospel 24/7 because the world is very ill and is sitting in God’s waiting room. Until men and women hear God’s Kingdom word and receive Christ as their Savior they cannot function or operate in the Holy Spirit which is the channel for learning and manifesting agape love. In other words no one can understand God’s feelings or allow Him to minister through Him without knowing Him within salvation. Even when we receive Christ as Lord we must study and pray constantly in order to evolve and progress in our knowledge of love. When Jesus was having a last minute farewell with Peter, it was more than just a hug and salute for good luck; it was to plant a seed within Peter’s heart that would “haunt” and inspire him the rest of his life. Jesus, (as God) knew that powerful questions can pierce the very soul of a person, triggering a spiritual avalanche that can change the world. (Go through the New Testament and notice how many questions Jesus asked so that His words might penetrate the mind and heart of the listener.) Jesus “provoked” Peter with his words and that is what Holy Ghost conviction is all about! Listen to the account again found in John 21:15-17, “So when they had dined, Jesus said to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonah, do you love me (loyally- willing to sacrifice) more than these? He said unto Him, yes, Lord; you know that I love you (have affection for you.) He said unto him – feed my sheep. He said unto him again the second time, Simon, son of Jonah, do you love me? (Agape spiritual love.) He said unto Him, yes, Lord; you know that I love you (have affection for you.) Jesus said unto him – feed my sheep. He said unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonah, do you love me? (affection – phileo love, are you even my friend?) Peter was grieved, (upset, hurt) because he said unto him the third time, do you love me. And Peter said unto Him, Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you. Jesus said unto him – feed my sheep.” What exactly does all that mean?
Actually, this is one of the most powerful exchanges between God and man. Jesus allows us to listen in on this conversation not just so we can know what He was telling Peter, but for the purpose of speaking to every Christian of all time. The driving force behind all of God’s children being a disciple and follower of Christ is walking in the Holy Spirit in obedience and submitting under the direction of the Father. Christianity is not just a set of religious rules or a 100 question exam that will be graded on judgment day. Works has nothing to do with going to heaven; it is “personally knowing” Christ as Lord. It is all about our love for God and allowing that love to spill over to people. God knows the only spiritual rewards for any deed will be based on the motive of love. Sadly, many have given their life to religious service in the name of tradition, doctrine and obligation without even having a personal relationship with Jesus. The Lord was trying to clarify the philosophical world view of the meaning of church – not as an organization but a living “organism.” God’s vision of feeding the sheep was a divine, holy revelation that was (and is) trying to reveal the difference between going through the motions of self-righteous deeds and actually “falling in love” with what God was already in love with. We are not like a pig farmer that throws the feed over the fence and walks away – that is not love – that is a task. Shepard’s lead the sheep to the best places, love the sheep dearly, they pet them, guide them and call each one by name. They live to care for the sheep, have a heart for them, they put medicine on them, are bonded to them, protects them, will fight for them and die for them. You see, we must try to understand where Jesus was coming from as He used His life as a demonstration and example for us because He knew He would eventually be using you and me as His hands, feet and mouth. These were not instructions to a future pastor – but to all of us.
To trust someone else to feed and care for the ones He came to sacrifice His life for would definitely be the most serious and emotional event imaginable. This is God’s precious creation in “His image” we are talking about. He has led them through the Old Testament and sent His Son to be crucified for them so they might be redeemed and be made righteous with His blood. Giving His Kingdom over into the hands of His disciples as the new caretaker was (and is now) the most important commission and responsibility the Good Shepard could ever give. Jesus had sealed the New Covenant and was now leaving the earth in His bodily form to go to heaven and is assigning orders to the new “under-shepherds”, to “minister” to the flock just like He would do. It is clearer to see what we have been called to do in this light and why it is so urgent and critical to God that we walk in His Spirit because He is constantly providing divine appointments for us to “take care” of people.
The first disciples lived a heavily persecuted life and through the centuries many have suffered with pain and death. I now see the Christian church in America as warriors that began running to the battle but the journey was long and tiring. The army was very determined at first but when they stopped along the way to be refreshed they became distracted with pleasure. The followers have become overweight and sleepy and willing to compromise instead of staying loyal God. Who will be strong and watch over God’s flock? Will you live each day with the purpose to lay down “your” life and pick up “His” staff? Since we are now God’s living sacrifices giving ourselves to mediate and connect all people with God, we can read the twenty third Psalm with not just a comfort in knowing who Jesus is but also with an awareness of our personal “love” responsibility. Follow me through verse one. We are to tell everyone who the true shepherd is and help (teach –provide spiritual nourishment) them to lie down in green (truth) pastures. We need to pray for them and help lead them beside quiet waters (comfort, encourage, edify, strengthen, console) where they can find and hear God. It is our calling to teach that God forgives and restores. We are to help them understand about the gift of the Lord’s righteousness and (justification) how He receives all glory and honor (leading them in praise and worship.) We are the ones that need to hold their hand in the valley of death, (we need to intercede and stand in the gap for their healing when our friends are under attack – confessing, decreeing and agreeing in faith) We need to remind everyone that God is near and His Name and authority is above all other powers in all the universe. We need to preach that God has our back (watching over us and has assigned angels to protect us) and will work on our behalf (binding and loosing – on earth as it is in heaven), bringing all blessings that we might walk in peace with all men even with our enemies. We are the ones to anoint the people with oil, praying for them, prophesying to them, supporting them and blessing them as they work in the harvest fields. (We do not just pat them on the back and say, “be blessed” but are led by the Spirit to help supply their needs for the gospel sake.) We rejoice with them – weep with them and embrace them as trusted Brothers and Sisters that will dwell with God forever.
Jesus goes on to tell Peter that his life will end in the destruction of his flesh but that no matter what happens he must embrace the command to follow Jesus. When the trials become severe and people turn against you in the battle – keep going forward. When the finances are gone and they turn out the lights and lock the doors – keep walking! Keep serving; keep teaching – keep worshipping the Lord and keep loving everyone. And if the wolves encircle the flock (or turn on you) confess out loud that you “know” you have pressed toward the mark for the prize of the high calling in Christ Jesus, that you have won the race, fulfilled your destiny and accomplished your mission – for His glory! “These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full. This is my commandment, that you love one another, as I have loved you. Greater love has no man than this – that a man lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends, if you do whatsoever I command you. From now on I call you not servants; for the servant does not know what his Lord does: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known to you.” John 15:11-15