THE fruit of the Spirit is love. We believe Christianity is a ‘revolution of love’, and we are convinced that there is nothing more important in all the world than this. “God is love” (1 John 4:8). In other words, true love is from God … it does not exist apart from Him. We know that God is One. Therefore, we cannot think of God the Father without thinking of love; we cannot think of the Lord Jesus Christ without thinking of love; we cannot think of the Holy Spirit without thinking of love. There is no separation. God does not send love. God does not manufacture it. God is love.
As we see the state of the Church world-wide and the state of the average believer, it is easy to become discouraged. We look for discipleship; we look for those who are labouring together in unity, in prayer, in power … and we see quarrels and divisions, complacency and mediocrity. Many young people are asking: ‘Why is the Church in such a state? … Why is Christianity today making so little impact?’
Many talk about the ‘secret’. Somehow we have missed the secret, they feel, and therefore the Church is as it is. They think that perhaps what is needed is a new book that will reveal the secret and bring deliverance and restoration to the Church. Now it seems to me that it would not be very fair of God to keep secret the most basic ingredient of Christian effectiveness. And I do not believe that it is a secret.
The Basic Message
There is, I believe, a basic ingredient which is largely lacking in Christianity today, and the lack of it is the source of most of our problems. It is the cancer which is eating away at the Church, but it is no secret. In fact it is so non-secretive that it is written on almost every page of the New Testament. And yet, because the heart of man is so deceitful and desperately wicked, and because we are so bent on our own way we do not see (or seeing we do not believe) that the basic message of the New Testament is LOVE!
It is my absolute conviction that most of us miss this most obvious and most repeated message, even while laying great emphasis on ‘sound doctrine’. Well, I would like to ask you, ‘What is sound doctrine?’ We have long discussions on the Second Coming, on the Atoning Work of Christ, on the Church, the Holy Spirit, etc., etc. But what about love and humility and brokenness? These usually go into a separate category, but I want to tell you that if your doctrine does not include love and humility and brokenness, then your doctrine is not sound.
There are thousands, even millions, of people who claim to be ‘orthodox Christians’ because they cling to a certain set of beliefs in accord with the Bible. They are aware that they do not practise much humility, but they do not think that makes them any less orthodox. They are aware that they do not really love the brethren in Christ (especially those who are different from them), but that does not cause them to think their doctrine is not sound. They admit that they know nothing of ‘laying down their lives’ for the brethren and esteeming the other as better than themselves, and yet they consider themselves fundamental, orthodox Christians.
Oh, what an error is this! This false concept — thinking that we can be orthodox without having humility, thinking we can be sound in doctrine without having love, thinking we can be fundamental evangelicals though our lives do not show forth the fruit of the Spirit — this is the greatest error that has hit Christianity even before or since the Reformation! Doctrine cannot be separated from practical living. Brethren, I do not see Jesus Christ as a dual personality, partly doctrine and partly moral, trying to bring two separate realms of truth into our minds. He was not on the one hand trying to teach us what we call doctrine, and on the other hand trying to make us morally right. It is completely wrong to think of doctrine as being apart from living.
‘Oh’, someone says, ‘there is a good, evangelical Christian … he has good sound doctrine. He does not have much love for others, and he is not very humble, but he’s sound in doctrine.’ He is not sound in doctrine if he does not love the brethren. What do we read in 1 John 4:8? “He that loveth not knoweth not God”, There is no sounder doctrine than love, and apart from love there is no sound doctrine. This is the basis [1/2] of all Bible doctrine. You take the base out and everything you build will eventually collapse.
The Wise Man
“Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you?” (James 3:13). Well, who is he? Who is wise and endued with knowledge? Is he the one who knows all the answers? Is he the one who has the solution to every problem … the one who always knows which road to take, how to witness and lead souls to Christ, how to distribute literature? Is this the wise man in your midst? Possibly. But not necessarily. The Bible says: “Let him show out of a good conversation (or life) his works with meekness of wisdom”. In other words, God says to the man who has the correct theory and who knows what the Bible teaches, ‘All right, let’s see it in your life. First, above everything else, let’s see it lived out.’ If a man is truly wise, then he is truly meek.
Reading on in James, we find that certain factors disqualify a person from this wisdom. “But if you have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth.” When we claim to be sound in doctrine and to have New Testament truth, and yet our lives are not filled with meekness, but rather with bitterness, we are actually lying against the truth with our lives. This is the great problem everywhere today. Look at the next verse: “This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish”. Do you see what that means?
Let me illustrate this kind of earthly ‘wisdom’ with an incident that occurred recently. A brother made a mistake in a practical matter. One of his co-workers who lacked this revolution of love, knew that the other was in the wrong. Very quickly, he said, ‘This is wrong. You should not have done it.’ The other brother, in a bit of excitement said, ‘Well, I was told to do it this way.’ The first, a little more excitedly, said, ‘Well, I know it is not right. I will show you what you should have done.’ And soon they had a full-scale argument.
Later on I talked to the one who claimed to be right. I said to him, ‘Do you feel that you were right in that situation?’ ‘Absolutely’, he said, ‘I was right and everybody around here knows I was right.’ And he had managed to convince everyone else that he was right. Then I said, ‘Tell me, when you spoke to him, were you in the flesh or in the Spirit?’ He stopped at that and thought for a minute. ‘Well, I don’t suppose that I was really what you would call in the Spirit.’ I said, ‘Well then, you were in the flesh’. He was a bit hesitant but said, ‘All right, I admit that I was in the flesh! But I was right!’ I said, ‘But dear brother, doesn’t the Word of God say that from the flesh cometh no good thing?’
He wasn’t right! The way I think, the way I believe Christ thought, the way I believe the New Testament teaches, he was absolutely wrong because truth never comes without moral quality and you cannot tell the truth without love. The curse of today is orthodoxy without love, orthodoxy without power, orthodoxy without the life of our Lord Jesus Christ. When we move into the Catholic world or the Muslim world or the Communist world, remember that no matter how right we are about an issue, the minute we act without love, we are in the flesh and not abiding in Christ, and it is sin. No matter how much ‘truth’ comes from such a mouth; it is not truth.
That is what the Bible says here. This ‘wisdom’ that does not come with meekness and gentleness and love is not wisdom. It is sensual, devilish. Some of the most horrible and unbelievable situations arise in the ranks of Christianity amongst those who have ‘lip truth’ but do not live the truth. The next verse says, “For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work.” The moment that envy creeps into the picture, no matter how much ‘orthodoxy’ there is, or how much truth is floating around, the result will be just what is described here — confusion. And every evil work follows close behind.
Pure and Peaceable
“But the wisdom that is from above is first pure” (v.17). Do you see it? The wisdom that comes from above is first, not orthodox, but pure. And whenever what we say and do is not of the highest moral quality, then it is not from above, but is the earthly, sensual, devilish pseudo-wisdom of the world. God’s wisdom is first always pure, then it is peaceable. Alan Redpath says when you know that you are not in the Spirit, you know you are a little upset, then never open your mouth! I like the way he puts it: ‘At that moment, literally force yourself back into the will of God.’ Force yourself back into the will of God, and then speak. But never open your mouth when [2/3] you are not in the Spirit, for no matter how hard you try you will never speak with true wisdom. How many times have you hurt someone because you spoke too soon? Husbands, how many times have you hurt your wife because you did not keep quiet a few minutes longer? I know how many times I could have kicked myself all over our little room because I could not wait a little longer before I spoke.
The Bible says, “The wisdom that comes from above is first pure, then peaceable, then gentle”. Gentle! What do you know about that, young zealot? Of course it is easy to be zealous between the ages of 17 and 35. That’s right! It isn’t hard for energetic youth to be zealous. ‘Ho, I am out to conquer the world! Everybody is going to hear about Jesus Christ!’ And away we go in the zeal of the flesh until around the age of 30 or 35, or after the first child comes, and then we suddenly begin to discover that our ‘zeal thermometer’ has started to drop. Finally, we have to admit that we have been working in the energy of the flesh — Youthful lusts! Youthful lusts directed into Christian activity. Youthful zeal! Youthful enthusiasm! But where is the youthful gentleness? The wisdom that is from above is gentle.
How Do You Respond?
And it is ‘easy to be entreated’. What does that mean? It means easy to be taught and corrected. The way you respond to correction is a great test of what Jesus is doing in your life. When someone comes up and puts his arm around your shoulder and says, ‘Sorry, brother, but you are doing that all wrong’, what is your reaction? Do you thank God for the correction? One of the greatest tests in the Christian life comes when you are confronted with correction or criticism. Anyone can live for Christ when he is receiving pats on the back. As long as you are doing your job well and are being appreciated, you can lean on men’s praise as a psychological ‘crutch’. But when you are criticised, rightly or wrongly, then you can only lean on Jesus.
That is exactly what we need to do, and possibly that is why God sometimes allows the props to be knocked from under us, and puts us under fire in the form of criticism. We need to learn to work only for His “Well done, thou good and faithful servant”.
Other tests of true wisdom are that it comes from above and is full of mercy and good fruit, without partiality and without hypocrisy. Full of mercy … toward the weaker brother, toward the offending brother, toward the guilty brother; full of mercy and full of good fruit. It is without partiality and without hypocrisy. This is orthodox doctrine. And I pray that if anyone can show me that this is wrong thinking or that I am misinterpreting the New Testament and that it is possible for me to have sound doctrine without peace, purity, gentleness, etc. that he will show me. But please do not try to tell me that some dear brother has a miserable life but sound doctrine, because I just will not believe you. Sound doctrine and wisdom that comes from above always comes with a Bible-linked life. This conviction is the core of all true Christian work. The greatest desire of our hearts for the Church and for every believer is to see this linking of sound doctrine and sound life together.
God’s Work, Not Ours
A Christian is at all times indwelt by the Holy Spirit of God and so has all His potential for this tremendous revolution of love. Jesus Christ said, “Love thy neighbour as thyself!” This is not just talk. How did you love yourself this morning? Did you get out of bed, wipe the sleep from your eyes, go to the mirror and say, ‘Oh, how I love you! You are so wonderful. I love you so much?’ If you do that for many mornings someone might call in a psychiatrist for you. That is not the way we love ourselves. But it is often the way in which we love our neighbours. It is just a matter of words.
Perhaps we can understand love better if we use the word ‘care’. You have been caring for yourself all day long, ever since you woke up and your self-love went right into action. Perhaps you used soap and creams and lotions and put on the proper amount of clothes to keep your body warm. When you felt rather empty inside it was enough to get you into action, for immediately you started toward the coffee pot and the bread and jam. There is nothing wrong about this. God doesn’t say that you should not love yourself. But He does say that you should love your neighbour in the same way as you love yourself.
I know that I do not express myself well, but I just pray that the Spirit of God will show you what this revolution of love really is — what it means to obey the second commandment of Jesus Christ from the time you get up in the morning [3/4]until you go to bed at night. Only this will make an impact on such a materialistic age as this one. Our tracts will not do it. Our Bibles will not do it. Jesus said, “By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, if you have love one to another”. Not if you have sound doctrine and zeal. No! They will know it if you love the brethren. This is the greatest challenge in the Word of God — to love men as Christ loved them, to love them as we love ourselves, to care for men as we care for ourselves.
What I am trying to do is to create hunger. Hunger in your heart to be like Jesus. Hunger in your heart to know this life-changing love. I am convinced that the world will never be evangelised except we experience this revolution of love.