“But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?”
“Little children, let us not love in words or talk but in deeds and in truth.”
1 John 3:17-18, ESV
Love is a noble idea, it’s admired and extolled by practically everyone–we see it in our music and poetry, ethics and religion. For the most part it’s a word for something decent and virtuous and honorable. It’s a good thing, but I’m afraid it’s not always scriptural.
You see, Bible love wears work gloves.
It labors and sweats. Bible love has chores to do, and it actively looks and sees what needs to be done. 1 John 3 tells us that we shouldn’t deceive ourselves and only see the world’s definition. That love that a believer has is to be different.
Love, in John’s eyes, is most assuredly “doing.” It burns spiritual calories as it labors to serve our brothers and sisters. Love finds things it can do–it doesn’t just talk but it gets busy. Love sees the need and then gets down to serve.
“You must show sincere love to each other as brothers and sisters. Love each other deeply with all your heart.”
1 Peter 1:22
Working (serving) has nothing to do with our salvation, that is a free gift. We’re saved by grace through the blood of Jesus–that’s a given. And this love isn’t drudgery, as a matter of fact, working and serving each other is a joy. The deepest kind of joy there is.
Our words, although important, are really an insufficient way of proving our authenticity. The love we serve another with isn’t “pretty poetry” kind of love. It’s so easy to just shout out truth and never ever show a working, serving kind of love.
That disconnect is a bit disturbing.
When do we suppose we figure out that His love is actually a verb?
Our prayer and intercession really begins when we go to work for someone else. (Our lunch box is our Bible.) We read it and it energizes us to work for one another. When we pray we truly are loving another brother or sister. Work that they can’t or won’t do for themselves. At least not yet. So we pray.
John is calling believers to a much more real kind of love. Love that sweats.
“The church is made up of individuals. It can do nothing except as its members work, and work together.”
“They kept demanding an answer, so he stood up again and said, “All right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!”
(John 8:7, NLT)
“None knows the weight of another’s burden.”
Definitely, we must discern motives and false doctrine. We’re to be constantly aware of people and issues that swirl around us–of this, there is no doubt, we mustn’t be ignorant. This is a healthy “discernment.” But we must learn that having discernment isn’t a way that passes out a ‘guilty’ penalty? We are ‘seeing’ things these things–not to pass judgment, but that we might pray clearly and earnestly, and grow into His love for the weak.
But ‘condemning another’ is His exclusive jurisdiction.
It’s far beyond our ‘pay grade.’ He is the final judge in everything. He judges justly and lovingly. He alone knows and understands everything very clearly.
It becomes imperative that we understand this; that any real discernment given is only to intensify and escalate the calling of every ‘saint,’ intercessor, or pastor.
We discern, not to pass judgment, but to pray more clearly and effectively. What you see or sense is for the prayer closet, not before a judge’s bench.
And yet how foolish we are. Do we really have the ability to ascribe a penalty to someone else? Could it be when we decide to throw rocks at certain people we’re in terrible danger of forfeiting our own salvation? “But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” (Matt. 6:15.)
(If you have a ‘rock’ in your hand, you are in definite danger. Please consider this–it’s never easy, is it?)
“Don’t judge others, or you will be judged. 2 You will be judged in the same way that you judge others, and the amount you give to others will be given to you.
“Why do you notice the little piece of dust in your friend’s eye, but you don’t notice the big piece of wood in your own eye? (Matthew 7:1-3)
We are broken people. We struggle with many different things. Some of us are mentally or physically ill. We are not whole yet. Some of us must take meds to help us be ‘normal.’ We deal with issues that would devastate someone else. And we don’t have it anywhere near together.
And yet out of our ‘hot mess,’ we think we can penalize someone else? Really?
We really don’t have a problem with worldly people. We understand that they are lost in their sins, terribly wrapped up in their own personal darkness, and that should definitely disturb us. We must point to the Blood of Christ that forgives us. We share the good news of true repentance and faith. His Spirit teaches us to be witnesses of His love to everyone we meet.
But in light of this, is it not strange that almost all of our judgment is somehow directed at other believers! Why?! For some strange reason, it ‘seems,’ we think that we must pronounce guilt and (by doing so) we declare our own “holy” attitude to our place in the Body. In a weird sense, we think we have the supreme calling to condemn someone else’ walk, and by doing so exalt our own!
“The life of faith is a struggle enough in a broken world without us complicating it for other believers.”
It just may come as a shock to some, but it’s extremely difficult to throw stones at someone when we are busy “washing” their feet.
Granted, “we are to be wise as serpents,” But that same verse instructs us “to be as harmless as doves.” (Matt. 10:16.) A loving meekness and gentleness, need to be combined with intense spiritual power. We must embody “the fruits of the Spirit.” These things are the characteristics of the Spirit-saturated believer.
“The nature and end of judgment or sentence must be corrective, never vindictive; it is always for healing, and never for destruction.”
Perhaps when we judge others, we reveal that we don’t understand what ‘real’ discipleship with Jesus is? Somehow it seems, we really aren’t quite grasping the immensity of His grace on guilty people? Do we really understand His profound love for the fallen? “God so loved the World…” Have we had any idea how patient He is with us? Do we doubt His ability to correct others? (Again, these are awfully hard questions.)
“Judge not lest you be judged.” (Jesus’ words really do scare me sometimes. )
Certainly, I intend to confront the darkness. “You are the light, a city set on a hill!” I am His salt and light and I do shine into this black night. But that is His doing, not mine. I do not generate light on my own. The Bible declares me as ‘self-righteous’ when I try. I am a broken person, who is just starting to understand the scope of my own brokenness and weaknesses. I’m starting to realize I’m not in the position to Judge someone else. I’m not quite healed myself yet and I must not think I can point to someone else as being worse than me.
Quite simply, I can’t throw ‘rocks’ at other believers anymore. I can no longer pass out any condemnation from my own limited understanding. My chief concern right now is to be a humble, earnest Christian who is always ready to forgive those who, in their awful sin and confusion, are hurting others. I’m beginning to see that my calling is to be; a simple servant to my brothers and sisters, nothing more, and nothing less.
“But it is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant.”
I must admit that I’m processing something right now.
I suppose its implications could turn everything upside down,’ at least for me anyway. Some scientists have postulated that our planet is due for a complete magnetic switchover. This is when the north becomes south and vice versa. My issues at this moment are not quite that cosmic.
There are over 7,000,000,000 people now alive on this planet.
Sometimes I wonder if many of my issues come from not seeing this. It seems that there’s an intoxication of success when we become increasingly confused over ‘who’ we are. We think it’s about our efforts, our giftedness. Pride drives us, even among mature Christian believers.
3 “Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. 4 Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. 5 You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.”
Jesus was not driven like we seem to be.
We on the other hand, think we need to be assertive, (at least the Christian version of it) and push our way forward. However, Jesus’ message and teaching were all about emptying Himself of being God and becoming a servant of servants. This is the arresting fact we fail to consider–
Jesus did all of this while wearing a towel, not a crown.
Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come from God and was going to God, 4 rose from supper and laid aside His garments, took a towel and girded Himself. 5 After that, He poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet.
He could have just done a ‘teaching’ on servanthood and I’m reasonably certain it would have been more than sufficient. But instead, Jesus put ‘skin on His words’ and actually got down on His knees to wash dirty feet. His disciples freaked out when they saw him do this.
It was something they could never forget.
6 “Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to.
7 Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form,
8 he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross.”
How can we not do this? This is a hard question to ask, but to be perfectly honest, does our discipleship include emptying ourselves daily? Can we find peace and fulfillment by becoming an unknown? Is this what we’re missing in becoming Christlike? These are very hard questions.
“Humility is perfect quietness of heart, It is to expect nothing, to wonder at nothing that is done to me, to feel nothing done against me. It is to be at rest when nobody praises me, and when I am blamed or despised. It is to have a blessed home in the Lord, where I can go in and shut the door, and kneel to my Father in secret, and am at peace as in a deep sea of calmness, when all around and above is trouble.”
“I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them. 2 Pray this way for kings and all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity. 3 This is good and pleases God our Savior.”
1 Timothy 2:1-3, NLT
“The Church has not yet touched the fringe of the possibilities of intercessory prayer. Her largest victories will be witnessed when individual Christians everywhere come to recognize their priesthood unto God and day by day give themselves unto prayer.”
–John R. Mott
You are a priest without a collar. Your work is called “intercession.” It isn’t for cowards or the spiritual lazy. It needs to be ‘hidden’ in order to really work. No one should see, there will be no adulation or recognition. You may not even feel special. But God sees and hears you. Jesus told each one of us,
“But when you pray, go away by yourself, shut the door behind you, and pray to your Father in private. Then your Father, who sees everything, will reward you.”
When we ignite in prayer, we will see things as Jesus sees them. We will share His view and take part in His high priestly ministry. Jesus isn’t complacent, sitting on His throne, waiting for time to run out. I suppose that is the view of some, but it honestly isn’t real.
“So then, since we have a great High Priest who has entered heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to what we believe. 15 This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin. 16 So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most
Hebrews 4:14-16, NLT
“Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.”
When we start to really intercede we become a sort of a “sub-priest.” We serve under the Lord Jesus the High Priest’s direction. We engage our work under the Holy Spirit’s oversight, and we start to plead for those who need Him most. We are the one’s who make things happen when we stand with Jesus.
So who and what do we pray for?
Family and friends
the sick, those in distress
the stranger, the one who bags our groceries
the church we attend, the pastor and elders, the congregation
missions, or missionaries in a certain country, or in general
for ministries working under God’s direction
finances, supplies, for more workers in the ‘vineyard’
safety and protection from the evil one, cults and businesses that ‘traffic’ in evil
more wisdom and grace for all who are ministering God’s Word, for other intercessors
our government, police, soldiers–from the ‘dog catcher’ to the president
These ten are just a start to get you going, this list is not complete by no means, but it’s a beginning. As you start praying you will add and expand these things. Remember that faith is a key component in the work of intercession. You must come in harmony with His present ministry. You do this through:
praise and worship
Bible reading and thinking about the Word
listening and discerning what is happening around you
asking questions that really matter
being humble and broken, not haughty or proud as you pray
becoming alert to all of the needs around you, be sneaky but holy
instill in your heart the Kingdom of God and the supreme ministry of the King
exercise His authority over the earth, see things as they really are
personal prayer times that get you ready to pick up the ‘mantle’ of intercession
see yourself joined in this ministry of Jesus, who wants “all men to be saved”
Don’t be surprised if the Spirit draws you to a specific need. I believe that there are ‘specialists’ in the Body of Christ. One person will concentrate his attention on the sick or the demonized. Another may be dedicated to praying for the president or the Supreme Court, and someone else might pray for certain missionaries or countries. In short, you must listen to the High Priest, and get your cue from Him. He most certainly will direct you on where you should stand!
There is definite power in joining with another or in a group. It seems to me though that this can be a challenge as we can get disengaged or passive. Spiritual laziness extinguishes the fire of God. Yet if we are sincere our intercession can become ‘turbocharged’ when we are actively with another. It should be a skill we develop over time. It will take concentrated work on your part to stay focused.