Christian perfection is that love of God and our neighbor… – John Wesley
Growing up, I was always under the impression that being a Christian was for the sake of going to heaven rather than hell. This was, and still is, a sad simplification. This “Jesus, to get to heaven” mentality has caused many to miss out on the fullness of the gospel, and others to simply reject it. It may even keep many of us from obeying the will of God. Let me explain.
Jesus often spoke of the importance of the Holy Spirit.
But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. (John 14:26 NIV).
On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command:
Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit. (Acts 1:4-5 NIV).
The Holy Spirit came down, as promised, during the following Pentecost. God poured out His Spirit, and walls of division were torn down. The people began to understand each other and unify. They were brought together under a single influence, the Holy Spirit. Some saw this event, then heard Peter’s explanation, and then asked what they should do. Peter replied:
Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. (Acts 2:38 NIV).
So, what is the gift of the Holy Spirit that Peter talks about? Paul says that love is poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit (Romans 5:5). John writes that we know we are truly with God when He fills us with the Holy Spirit (1 John 4:13). John goes on to write:
And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like him. (1 John 4:16-17 NIV).
There is, indeed, evidence of being filled with the Holy Spirit; it is the love of God within us. Love is important, it is powerful, and it is timeless. Paul writes about the importance of love for every believer (especially in 1 Corinthians 13):
Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears. (1 Corinthians 13:8-10 NIV).
It may be our fallen nature to seek those things that are temporary yet seem to satisfy our immediate needs. For that reason, perhaps, some place priority on the gifts that are temporary rather than the gift that is eternal. The evidence of being filled with the Spirit of God is the love of God. This is a gift beyond measure, why would we seek another above it?
Consider this, before He is arrested, Jesus prays. In His prayer Jesus prays for every person who believes in Him through the gospel message. He prays for the Christian and says:
As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. (John 17:18 NIV)
Every believer, regardless of denomination,
is sent into the world to proclaim the gospel. What is important to catch here, is that every believer is sent by Jesus the same way Jesus was sent by the Father. How was Jesus sent by the Father?
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. (John 3:16-17 NIV)
Jesus was sent as a response to the Father’s love for the world. Not for a perfect world, but for the lost, dark, struggling, and sinful world. The Father was quite aware that Jesus would be rejected, hated, murdered, and that those Jesus loved would also be persecuted. However, God’s love is so powerful that Jesus was sent, not to condemn the world, but to save it. Jesus’ prayer tells us that we are to go out that same way. We are to engage in sharing the gospel message of Jesus as a response to the love that God has poured out into us.
The love of God was manifest in the ultimate sacrifice for the sake of those who were lost, and for those who hated him. How do we, as Christians, measure up to that standard?
Does your life reflect the relentless and transforming love of God?
Grafted by His Grace,
Pastor Raul Granillo