This past Thursday morning, the Dream Center LE staff met for our weekly staff meeting. Such meetings are a great source of encouragement, as the staff members transparently, supportively, and lovingly share “life” together, share the Lord together, and discuss the opportunities God has graciously placed before us. Before we went to prayer Thursday morning, April shared a devotional passage from Jude, verses 20-21, where it is written:
“But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, KEEP YOURSELVES in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.” (Jude 20-21)
The message begins, “Beloved!” Wow, what a tender and affectionate term God uses to address you and me! (Yes, ultimately, it was God's Spirit inspiring these chosen, endearing words.) And, what a “meaty,” and useful passage of scripture for us, both to digest, and to walk-out. Therein are supremely wise directions from our Creator, the One who actually knows how LIFE WORKS. These inspired words are practical instructions from the One who wrote the “Manual.”
Through Jude, God, knowing that we would so easily get off-track these days, and knowing that we would be so easily distracted by ALL of the “stuff” of life (stuff like wants, and needs, and worries, and responsibilities, etc.), simply directed our attention back to just ONE essential focus. It is to “keep ourselves in the love of God.” Just as soon as we lose sight of God's life-giving, life-empowering love for each of us, we're LOST! That's the truth, and I suspect you'll agree. Been there, done that. If we’re not genuinely dwelling in, and operating in, God’s life-giving love, whatever we do won’t be the kingdom of God, nor will it last.
Now, let's consider a few things here, because it's SO easy for us to “miss the mark” completely in this simple instruction. First of all, let's acknowledge that God didn't say to us to just “think about” His love, as though it's some theory, or concept. No! That's not enough for us! Many, many times I've had people, even unbelievers, look me in the eye and say, “Oh, I know God loves us.” Still their lives are fraught with worry, shame, unresolved anger, anxiety, jealousy, uncertainty, deception, and denial, to name a few.
God's Word doesn't say to us to just “imagine” there's a loving God up in heaven somewhere, who wants to make our lives delightful and wonderful. God's love is not a “concept” to be understood in the head. It's a essential life-substance to be received from God by the faith-filled heart...a river flowing from the throne, and heart, of God, which actually overflows our hearts, and our lives, and then flows-on to the nations.
Speaking to those who are in Christ, through their faith, and the mercy of God, God said to you and me, “KEEP YOURSELVES in My love.” The love of God, for you and me, is an AVAILABLE substance. And, it is also a sphere, wherein our lives may dwell at any, and all times.
Yet, according to the Word of God, in Jude 20-21, whose responsibility is it to position ourselves there in God's love? Does it depend upon others around us? Is it up to the pastor? Does it depend upon our leaders? Is it up to circumstance? Is it up to God? Uh-oh, the truth is the buck stops here, with you and me, doesn't it? God says, “Keep yourself!” In other words, it is our own responsibility.
So, IF we are to do such a thing (and we ARE), then HOW are we to do it? Will good intentions do it for us? Will trying hard get the job done? To be sure that we would know just HOW to keep ourselves IN GOD'S LOVE, He clearly, and specifically spelled it out for us. (And therefore, we are without excuse.)
There are three intentional actions…three “active participles” in the passage, chosen by God for us here to do; BUILDING, PRAYING, and LOOKING. Let's look at them in context:
1. “BUILDING YOURSELVES UP in your most holy FAITH,”
2. “PRAYING in the HOLY SPIRIT,” and,
3. “LOOKING for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.”
First, we are to build ourselves up in pure FAITH, and not once, but continually. True faith comes from “hearing” the Word of God (Rom 10:17). Other forms of faith are fickle, and quite vulnerable to deception, confusion, and the whims and attacks of our eternal enemy. On the other hand, the Word of God (revealing God's love) stands firm! When it is planted in our lives, being received with true faith, and empowered by the Spirit of God, it produces fruit, in kind...fruit that lasts. And, what does the Word of God say to “the hearing of faith?”
“God DEMONSTRATES His own LOVE toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Rom 5:8)
Next, why is it “necessary” to specifically “PRAY IN THE HOLY SPIRIT,” and what does that mean, anyway? "Praying in the Spirit" is specifically described in the Bible as praying in an unknown tongue, led and empowered by the Holy Spirit, and is available to every believer. (1 Cor 14:14-15)
There are several reasons why we must pray this way. First, and most importantly, it is because God directed us to do it. Why would we want to hinder the Holy Spirit? Secondly, because God chose to pour out His love into our hearts by the vehicle of the Holy Spirit's indwelling Presence. (Rom 5:5) THAT'S how God’s love comes! It is the Holy Spirit's purpose, and power, ever since the creation, to “manifest” the Word and Will of God in our lives. Thirdly, “praying in the Holy Spirit” is a biblical way (of God's choosing) for a Spirit filled believer to EDIFY himself. (1 Cor 14.4 & 14-15) That’s exactly how we build ourselves up. Only the devil would cause such a profound blessing to become controversial in the Body of Jesus Christ today.
And, finally, in order to keep ourselves in God's marvelous, life-giving love, we must always approach life through the glorious, God-given avenue of MERCY...mercy received, and mercy given to others! Mercy triumphs always, and forever. We must look at life through God’s eyes of mercy!
Speaking of mercy, I was driving to this morning's staff meeting in Lake Elsinore, making my way through busy, yet fast-moving, rush-hour traffic. Yet, I was listening to my favorite worship CD, enjoying God's Presence, and praising Him for the beautiful morning I was witnessing. Suddenly, a slow-moving truck was immediately before me, in the fast lane. I quickly hit my right-turn signal, and prepared to move over to the lane to my right, where there was “temporarily” a quickly disappearing opening just at that moment. As I began my hurried lane change, without warning, the woman driving right behind me in a big SUV, darted into the opening next to us, cutting me off, and causing me to brake hard, and tuck back in behind the slow-moving truck. I almost hit it.
The woman was gone in an instant, and I was stuck behind the slow-moving truck for a brief, but agonizing mile, or so. In a nanosecond, my worship was replaced with carnal anger, and an instantaneous fantasy about the revenge I wanted. “Where is a cop when I need one,” I exclaimed out loud.
“Be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful,” the Spirit reminded me. (Luke 6:36) Like a blinding bolt of lightning, conviction ripped through by mind and heart. “What was I thinking,” I cried. “Father, there I was proclaiming my love for You, and in less than a heartbeat, I was proclaiming vengeful wrath upon another person. Oh God, have mercy on me,” I earnestly prayed.
The rest of the way to the staff meeting, I marveled at God's merciful ways with all of us, and praised His tender forgiveness, found in the Lord, Jesus. Looking at the mercy of Jesus Christ, which has brought me into His life eternal, brought me back to the place of worship, and to the love and peace of God.
Once again, there are three doors that will KEEP our lives firmly rooted in the lavish, life-giving LOVE of our heavenly Father. There are three essential actions we must take: “BUILDING YOURSELVES UP in your most holy FAITH,” “PRAYING in the HOLY SPIRIT,” and, “LOOKING for the MERCY of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Will you be a “keeper?”