15. Love is

Meditations in 1 Peter : 15 :  Love is

1 Pet 1:22 Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply, from the heart

In recent years I have concluded that the most important characteristic of the Christian is love – and yet it doesn’t seem to get the amount of air-time that it deserves. I’ll start by suggesting you love as much as you have been loved, as John said, This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us.” (1 Jn 4:10) but perhaps I should temper what I’ve just said by saying we love as much as we realise how much we’re loved.

Peter obviously thinks similarly because he is going to encourage us to love one another: love one another deeply, from the heart.” The last three words are interesting. How else can we love, we might ask? Well we might love with our mind, an intellectual love. We know love is what should be in us and so we declare that it will be. But love is far more than a mere mental assent. Perhaps that is why the commandments about God are summed up as “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” (Mt 22:37). Put most simply, our love is to be whole hearted, mind and emotions together, if you like.

But in this verse there is an order of events: obey the truth – purify yourself – love for others.

The truth is simply that which has been revealed to us – the Gospel – which includes the truth that Jesus is both Lord and Saviour. As we have recently noted, he calls us out of the dominion of darkness into the kingdom of God where the rule of God prevails. The Gospel is first all about surrender to God. We give up our own rights to rule our lives because we realise (with the convicting help of the Holy Spirit) that we have made a mess of them, we are hopeless and we need saving. It is only then about what God does for us and in us. John the Baptist came preaching, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.” (Mt 3:2) and Jesus followed preaching, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.” (Mt 4:17) It was exactly the same message: do a one hundred and eighty degree turn and submit to the rule of God which is about to come. “Jesus answered, “I am the …. truth.” (Jn 14:6)  Everything Jesus speaks is the truth for he is the very expression of The Truth – God! . Jesus never said anything that was not the truth. That’s why, again and again, we find him saying, “I tell you the truth.” (Jn 3:3,5,11, 5:19,24,25 etc. etc.) Thus to obey the Father, we obey everything the Son has told us. The Christian life is first about submission and obedience.

But part of our obedience is moving into a life of purity. Jesus taught, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.” (Mt 5:8) When we think of something that is pure – e.g. gold, silver etc. – we mean that it is free from impurities. Impurities in the Christian life are any forms of sin, or anything that mars our relationship with the Lord. The ‘pure in heart’ do not let anything taint their heart that might spoil their relationship with the Lord. A heart that allows pride to reside in it is a tainted heart and not pure, and the pride will turn the heart hard. A heart that allows covetousness to reside in it is a tainted heart and not pure, and will cause the heart to be restless, discontented and critical of God’s provision. There are a myriad of ways that our hearts can be tainted and not pure, but these are not the ways of the Christian for the Christian has submitted to Jesus and allows his rule to prevail, and that means the Christian realises their weakness and frailty and there is not room for pride. They also rest in their Saviour for he is alone is the means of their ongoing daily salvation.

As this purity comes to us at salvation and we are cleansed from our old life and empowered for a new one by the presence of the Holy Spirit, He wipes away all self and all opposition to other people. It is only as the enemy comes and we listen to him, do those things take hold again if we let them. But that is not what the rule of Jesus wants in our lives. He wants them to be as pristine clean as they were at the moment of our conversion when we were born again. At that moment at least we were utterly surrendered to him, at that moment we were utterly pure, and at that moment utterly open to him we were open to all others; there was within us this love for others that Peter speaks about. It was a natural part of the new us when we were born again, for we received the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Jesus, and he expresses the love of the Father to all. It is only as we take hold of our lives again and start thinking and rationalizing and reasoning, that we think negatively about others and forget that of ourselves we have nothing to commend us.

That is how we are naturally in Christ, is what Peter is implying and so, he says, let that work out in you and love one another deeply, from the heart. Now we see another reason why it is from the heart, because that is where purity resides and there it is that is the motivation that we have. Our hearts were surrendered to him, and our hearts are made pure and that purity means in respect of how we view others as well, with the eyes of Jesus. Oh how easy it is to stray from the truth and take up the rights of self again, and as soon as we do that we find negatives about other people rising within us. It should not be so, for it means we have been listening to the enemy and not to our Lord. Let’s check out who we’ve been listening to!

Advertisements

8. The Pure in Heart

MEDITATIONS IN THE BEATITUDES – 8

Mt 5:8 Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.

Many of the key words in the Beatitudes are not words in common usage today. Perhaps this says more about us today than about the beatitudes. The idea of purity, or the word ‘pure’ is one such example. Purity is something that only gets referred to when we are talking about gold or silver, very rarely about qualities of our lives. However, that concept, of purity of gold or silver, does help us understand something more about what is being said in today’s verse. All of the early uses of ‘pure’ in the Bible are to do with “pure gold” that was used in the construction of the tabernacle. Forty times in the historical books in the first half of the Old Testament there are references to “pure gold”, gold without any impurities, the very best, the very finest gold possible. That was to be the quality of material used in connection with the worship place of God.

But our verse refers to purity of heart. Now Vines Expository Dictionary identifies ‘heart’ as meaning, the ‘inner man’ (Deut 30:14), and the seat of ‘desire or inclination’ (Ex 7:14), the ‘emotions’ (Deut 6:5), ‘knowledge and wisdom’ (Deut 8:5), ‘conscience and moral character’ (Job 27:6), ‘rebellion and pride’ (Gen 8:21 ).

Now remember we have said again and again that we must see each verse in context, as a follow on from what has gone before. In the previous meditations we said that there was a submission to the will of God and a desire to receive God’s righteousness, and then having a merciful attitude towards all others as an indication of the reality of understanding of our spiritual poverty and need for God. One of the key verses in the Old Testament that is pertinent here is, “Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart” (1 Sam 16:7). As we come to God to receive His salvation, the Lord closely examines us to see how effective the convicting work of His Holy Spirit is. Having a merciful attitude towards others is one good indicator, but our attitude towards God is the key thing, and that is where this verse applies.

So, to quote what we said about what we find in Vines Dictionary, the Lord looks on the inner person (as our verse above says). He looks to see the reality of the desire that is there. It is only when our desire for his salvation is pure or real, that He gives it to us, and of course He is the only one who can see that reality. Perhaps that is why some people appear to come to a place of commitment but don’t seem to ‘come through’.

The Lord also looks at the reality of our emotions. How pure are they? Are our tears, tears of remorse, tears of having been found out, revealed for who we are, or are they tears of genuine contrition, tears of anguish over the awfulness of who we are? The Lord alone knows the reality of our emotions at that point.

The Lord also examines our knowledge, the awareness of our state. Some people in big meetings have an emotional experience but there is no content to it. They do not know why they are feeling what they are feeling, but when we truly come to Christ under the conviction of his Holy Spirit, we know that we are sinners, we know that we are lost, we know that we are helpless and we know that only God can help us.

The Lord also looks at our conscience, our desire for moral standing. This is very similar to the previous one – He looks to see that we are going beyond mere emotions, that our cry is a genuine cry from deep down to be put morally right.

Finally the Lord looks deep inside us to see if, at the moment of conviction, there is a genuine dying to the old rebellious nature. When the Lord sees that, He knows that we are truly sincere and willing to forsake the past and let Him bring us a new life.

The second half of the verse gives us an amazing promise: they will see God .. The first implication is that when God sees this heart purity we have been considering, He then reveals Himself to us. By His own Holy Spirit coming to indwell us (Jn 14:17, 1 Cor 3:16) He enables us to have the most intimate relationship possible. “See” in that sense would simply mean ‘experience’. In the longer term, the promise of the New Testament is that when we die we will go to heaven and there we will see the Lord face to face. Purity of heart opens the way for the Lord to bring us His salvation, the ultimate expression of which is eternal life with Him in heaven. Yes, we have years to live out that relationship here on earth and possibly through dreams and visions we will ‘see’ the Lord, but the final outworking of that relationship is a face to face encounter in eternity in heaven. That is our destiny; that is the destiny of those who come to the place of purity of heart.