Threat to society
Perfect Love for imperfect people
Adapted from Perfect Love: A + Living in a C- World by
Drury, David Holdren, Jimmy Johnson, David Keith, Blair Ritchey, Jim
Watkins and Dick Wynn (Wesley Press, 1987)
Kevin and Jennifer
show up at every youth meeting. Whether it's for pizza or prayer, roller
skating or revival, movies or missions, you can count on then to be there.
But Kevin and
Jennifer don't want to just please their youth sponsor. They
sincerely want to please God. But both are discouraged.
Kevin has "committed,"
"recommitted," "totally committed," and "totally
recommitted" his life to Christ--at least five times. He's really
trying to live a disciplined life for the Lord, but it seems he fails almost
trusts God to work through her. "Hey, just keep in the Spirit and
let the Lord has His way!" But she, too, seems to find herself with
the wrong crowd doing the wrong things.
Kevin and Jennifer
are looking for perfect love in two different ways. Kevin believes holiness
comes from discipline and commitment. He's right. Jennifer believes that
holiness is a gift from God that we ask for in faith. And she's right.
But both are only half right.
a tendency to stress God's part in "entire sanctification (purity,
power, and perfect love) or our part (commitment and faith). But
both are essential! God's perfect love comes through a combination
of our willpower and His power.
In fact, the
word "sanctification" has a two-part meaning: set apart for
holy use and cleansed.
Let's say a priest
wanted to sanctify a bowl for use in the Jewish temple. That bowl was dedicated
for temple use--and only for temple use. Never again could it be used to
serve snacks, pot a fern, or set under the chariot when he changed the
oil. It was only for God's usage. The priest then gave it a good scrubbing
and set it in the temple.
In the same way,
we need to set ourselves apart for God's sole use. That's the human element
in sanctification. God helps us see the joy and privileges we're missing
by not experiencing perfect love. He will show us areas that need His lordship.
But He can't dedicate us to himself.
We can't do God's
part either. Only the blood of Jesus Christ
can purify our attitudes and motives. Only He can give us power to live
purely. And He alone can fill us with His perfect love. Let's take a look
at how we obtain God's perfect love.
When we first
come to Christ, there is the same cooperation between God and ourselves.
God first loved
us and sent His Son to buy us back (John 3:16, Romans 5:6-8), and sent
His Spirit to show us we need His salvation (John 16:8). He loves us, reveals
himself to us, and convicts us our sins.
But that's as
far as God will go, unless we confess our sins, believe on Him, and repent
But once we do,
He eagerly forgives us (Acts 2:38), makes us a new creation (2 Corinthians
5:17), adopts us as His kids (Romans 8:14, 15), and gives us His Spirit
to live inside us. We accept all this by faith.
that's where many Christians stop. But in Romans 12:1 and 2, Paul writes
to his Christian friends:
I urge you . . . brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies
as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God--this is your spiritual
act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world,
but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able
to test and approve what God's will is--his good, pleasing and perfect
The first step
to experiencing God's perfect love is salvation. The next step is
1. Set apart
for holy use
When we come
to personally know Christ, His Spirit begins revealing areas that need
attention. We then begin allowing Him access to those areas of our lives:
I need Your help in getting along with my kid brother."
help me with algebra."
like to use my talent for You in some way."
As we grow in
Christ, we discover new areas that need His help and guidance: our thought
life; our relationships; our drives and desires; our goals; our ambitions;
Dick Wynn speaks
of this process as "giving all you know about yourself to all that
you know about God."
But in our growth
in Christ, there is usually a part of ourselves that keeps crawling off
the altar--or that can't seem to get on the altar at all. (That's the trouble
with "living" sacrifices!)
You may have
seen Kevin really struggling at the altar with that one area of his life.
He knows he should turn it over to the Lord. He wants to be "holy
and pleasing to God." But there's something that holds him back. It
may be he's lacking in trust that God's way is really best. Often, it's
a selfish attitude: "Look, Lord, You've got everything else. Let me
have ownership of this one area."
But often, we
act like the problem is God's. "Please, Lord, please sanctify me!
I'm begging you!" God must be frustrated, too. He want to pour out
His power and perfect love into our lives, but we refuse to accept until
we have completely surrendered ourselves to Him.
We need to ask
our selves an old question, "Is everything on the altar? Our "body"?
Our "mind"? Our "spiritual" area? Our social area?
Or are we conforming "to the pattern of this world"?
discouraged, though. John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, claimed this
process of commitment generally takes "a long time, even many years."
But God doesn't
ask us to load all our lives on the altar so He can douse them with lighter
fluid and turn them into a pile of ash. Read again that last sentence of
Romans 12:2. He asks us to commitment everything to Him so we can discover
His good, pleasing and perfect will.
2. Set apart
give us a chance to catch our breath. Right after instructing us to be
living sacrifices, he hits us withdo not conform any longer to
the pattern of this world. (J. B. Phillips paraphrases it, "Don't
let the world squeeze you into its mold.").
problem. She figures that Christ is in her life, so it's His problem to
keep her safe from sin. But in Colossians 3:5 and 8, Paul makes it clear
that best set apart from sin is partially our responsibility:
Put to death,
therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality,
impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry.
But now you
must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander,
and filthy language from your lips.
some things in our lives that we need to put a match to. After the evening
service, the folks in Ephesis had a big bonfire to destroy their occult
paraphernalia. There may be some magazines, paperback books, TV programs,
or CD's that do need some lighter fluid. There may be some places that
a living sacrifice shouldn't go. But, again, the purpose of setting
ourselves apart is not to live a dry, burned out life. God's will is good,
pleasing, and perfect. But these adjectives just aren't compatible
with some nouns:
(1) Visible sin
In Romans 6:11-14,
In the same
way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore
do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires.
Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness,
but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from
death to life; and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of
righteousness. For sin shall not be your master . . .
are pretty easy to spot: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery;
idolatry and witchcraft . . . drunkenness, orgies, and the like. But
right in the middle of those obvious sins, Galatians 5:19-21 also lists:
hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions,
factions and envy.
(2) Invisible sin
Wow, that's the
toughie! Most new Christians immediately realize that sexual immorality
and drunkenness are not part of God's will. But jealously, selfish ambition,
and envy can hide in the cracks and crevices of our souls for weeks, months,
even years. There are the sins, hidden from public view, that are the hardest
to keep on the altar.
John Wesley taught
that inviting Christ into our lives was the start of growing more
like Christ, a gradual process of dying to sin.
We need to point
out that even in the process of presenting ourselves as living sacrifices,
God is working in harmony with us.
As we read and
concentrate every day on Word, God reveals areas in our lives that still
need to be put on the altar. The Bible is essential in pointing out these
concerns. Jesus prays for you and me in John 17:18: Sanctify them by
the truth; your word is truth.
His Spirit also
shows us areas that are (or will be) destructive in our lives (John 16:8-10,
13). He will keep revealing, and we will keep discovering, more areas that
need to be turned over to the lordship of Christ.
But once we let
go of that last part of ourselves we've been holding onto, God is able
to have total access to our lives. Then--and only then--can God entirely
5:23 and 24 promises that: God himself, the God of peace, [will] sanctify
you through and through. Your whole spirit, soul and body [will] be kept
blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you
is faithful and he will do it.
This total commitment
may bring about a new sense of purity, power, and perfect love. It may
create a feeling of special peace. But it may be accompanied with absolutely
no feeling. People have different reactions after receiving Jesus as Savior.
and there are different feelings when He becomes Lord of all your
life. You accept salvation by faiths, not feelings. Accept this special
experience by faith also. Whether you feel anything or not, you can be
assured of His:
a bad reputation before she became a Christian. Because of this, she sometimes
thinks "holiness" and "purity" can't be for her. But
look at some of the backgrounds of the First Church of Corinth:
. . . the
sexually immoral . . . idolaters . . . adulterers . . . male prostitutes
. . . homosexual offenders . . . thieves . . . the greedy . . . drunkards
. . . slanderers . . . But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were
justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our
God (1 Corinthians 6:9-11).
God is able to
take corrupt people and transform them into holy people. Part of this change
is in purifying (getting the garbage out of) old thought patterns, habits,
attitudes, and motives.
John the Baptist
speaks of separating the good from the bad in our lives:
you with water for repentance. But after me will come one who is more powerful
than I . . . He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire . .
. burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire" (Matthew 3:11,
Paul calls this
the transforming of your mind. The Spirit cleans up our attitudes and motives
and gives us the mind of Christ!
Does this mean,
then, that we'll never again fail God? Unfortunately, non.
There will be
times when we fall short of God's perfect love, simply because we're human.
Our motives can be absolutely pure, and so can our desires. But,
we don't have perfect wisdom, perfect maturity, perfect diplomacy, or perfect
knowledge, so we're bound to say imperfect words and do imperfect acts.
And purity does
not make us immune to temptation. In fact, the closer we get to Christ,
the more we'll be tempted by our enemy. Remember when Christ was severely
tested? It was right after He spent forty days alone with His Father, fasting.
Now that's getting close to God! But that's also when Satan really poured
it on. So, look out! The more you become like Christ, the more intense--and
the more subtle--temptation will become!
That's why we
Kevin's big problem
is lack of power. He's trying to live the Christian life by his own effort.
But there's plenty of power available for Kevin to keep his commitments.
And there is strength for Jennifer to keep pure.
(1) Power to obey
The perfect love
life is a life of obedience--doing what God commands us to do. If we love
Him completely, we will want to obey Him completely.
heard Jennifer testify by blubbering out something life this:
looooove God so much. He means everything in the world to me, and even
though I fail Him so often, He still loves me."
It's true that
God still loves Jennifer, even though she fails Him and sins. However,
the question is: How much does she love God? It doesn't fit to say, "I
love Him so much" and in the same breath say, "I fail Him so
often." If we love Him, we want to obey Him. Jesus said, "If
you love me, keep my commandments."
should have said is: "God loves me so much, but my love for Him is
so weak that I often fail Him and sin. Pray that I'll learn to love God
more, so I can obey Him better."
See the point?
We can try harder to love God, and we can try harder to obey Him. Neither
will work. Our only hope is in God. Perfect love comes from Him. And when
He gives us perfect love and we love God completely, then we can obey Him
The perfect love
life is living about deliberate disobedience to God.
(2) Power over sin
When the Spirit
cleanses and fills us, the hunger to sin is cleaned away. Certainly we
all know what this hungering is--that deep down desire to disobey God.
My dad had an
old pickup truck with the front wheels sadly out of alignment. It constantly
pulled to the left whenever I drove it. Just to keep it out of the ditch,
I had to grab the steering wheel and crank it to the right. That's the
way I drove down a straight path.
This is the way
we humans are. There's a rebellious hunger deep within us. Left alone,
we are inclined toward the ditch. We hunger for sin; and after we are saved,
there's still a desire to get over into the ditch and play around with
the sinful gunk from our past lives.
But when the
Holy Spirit cleanses and fills our life, this rebellious hunger is corrected.
It's as if your heart gets an alignment job. We'll be "hungry"
then to love, not just for love--and we'll want to obey God.
(3) Power of wisdom
is available to His children through our transformed minds.
But even at this
stage, we need to keep our thought life on the altar. Romans 5:8 warns
us to keep our mind set on what the Spirit desires. Philippians 4:7-9 promises
God's protection for our minds and emotions if we dwell only on those things
that are true . . . noble . . . right . . . pure . . . lovely . . .
admirable . . . excellent . . . praiseworthy.
(4) Power to witness
Acts 1:8 promises
you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will
be my witnesses
a normal, natural part of your life as you witness with your actions, attitudes,
(5) Power to overcome
Paul must have
been a great sports fan. Throughout his letters, he talks about the Christian
life as running, boxing, and even wrestling: We are hard pressed on
every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted,
but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed (2 Corinthians 4:8,
is a grappling term in the Greek. It mean "pressed flat on the mat."
And there are times we feel like the enemy has body-slammed us onto the
There are times
we feel "punch drunk"--Satan's rights and lefts leave us confused
and perplexed. Sometimes we feel like we've been knocked clear out of the
Paul gives hope,
though, with two little words: but not. We're pinned but not
crushed. We're confused, but not in despair. Persecuted, but
not abandoned. Knocked out, but not destroyed.
The life of holiness
is not a spectator sport. It's not even "sporting." It's a life-and-death
struggled. But His Spirit gives special power to each committed Christian.
It's one rough game, but not a losing one!
(6) Power in prayer
times of disorientation or perplexity, we have special help form the Spirit.
Romans 8:26 and 27 promise:
In the same
way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought
to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that
words cannot express. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of
the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance
with God's will.
There are times
when we feel depressed, confused, or just empty, and we have no idea where
those feelings are coming from. We could pray about the cause if we just
knew what it was! During those times, God the Spirit takes our needs directly
to God the Father. The Spirit knows exactly what's wrong, so He prays for
us when we don't know what or how to pray.
(7) Power to love
That brings us
to God's third area of transformation:
3. Perfect love
And that is what
"total commitment," "sanctification," "holiness,"
"second blessing" or whatever your group call it is all about!
Kevin and Jennifer
discovered that the Spirit-filled life comes from cooperation between God
and themselves. He can only act when they allow Him access, by faith, into
an increase in purity, power, and perfect love in their lives. There will
be times of "falling short" of God's perfect love, but they are
on their way to growing more and more like Christ each day. God has promised
to do His part. And they are determined to do theirs.
Copyright © 1987 James N. Watkins
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