Jesus said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. This is my commandment: love one another as I have loved you” (John 15:12,15). Without love for God’s people and for the unsaved, and it must be in that order for the Christian, one cannot claim to be a Christian (Gal 6:10). This is because everyone born of God not only loves God but loves His child. (1 John 5:1). Of course, it is not the commandment to love but rather the motive, or origin, and the evince of love that is often the point of much debate amongst Christians. In recent years, I have noticed that a good deed is often the center of attention, while the origin of that so-called “loving” action (because that is how it gets described) is often disregarded. I mean, who cares about the thought process, the motive, or the core belief of what resulted in a million dollar donation? Or clothes handed out to the homeless? Or children saved from the sex slavery industry? What matters is that someone did something nice! Right?
This kind of logic inevitably leads to a neglect of the salient responsibility of scrutinizing motive in light of God’s truth, “God’s truth” being the key phrase here. It is in fact not enough that a kind deed was done. It absolutely matters what motivated it’s dispensation. Just like the disparity between light and darkness, there is a big difference between the individual who is kind out of simple altruism or humanism and the individual who is kind out of the love of Jesus. John wrote, “Dear friends let us love one another for love comes from God” and then he stated, “If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God.” (1 John 4:7,15). God is the only source of love. Having Him means having love; refusing to believe that Jesus is the Son of God means you do not have God. If you do not believe that Jesus is the Son of God, that He came in the flesh, you do not have God. God is the source of love. If you do not have God, you do not have love and you can only have God if you believe in His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ (1 John 4:3). Accepting and believing the Gospel is necessary, compulsory, mandatory, for an outward expression of true of love.
Outward appearances can be tricky though, especially because people caught up with just “being nice” also know how to oil you over with their words. This is nothing new. “By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naive people.” (Rom 16:18). But do not be naive. Study and search the Word of God for yourself. Even the prophet Samuel was very impressed with Eliab’s stature when he was at Jesse’s house to anoint the next king. But God said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things that people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Sam 16:7). We know this story and yet our propensity is to decide how loving a person is based on their donation amount or even the time they spend giving of themselves and others. “What a giver!” we say. And all the while, God may have rejected that individual and their giving. Let me put it this way. Every action has a motive but different motives, even ones that are opposed to each other in every way, can actually produce the same action. An example that comes to mind is a passage from Phil 2:15-17 “It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry but others out of goodwill. The latter do so out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains.” What is the action here? The preaching of Christ. This is the noblest of actions. However, Paul points out that it can be motivated by two dramatically irreconcilable and antithetical motives – love or selfish ambition. If we have any value for our eternal life and that of our hearers, we must let the fear of the Lord teach us how to carefully ensure that our actions have the right motive, the correct motive, the motive that makes that action acceptable in the eyes of God.
That was just the introduction. Now, having shared that, let me predicate the subsequent discussion with this thought – that it is very perplexing to me when I stop a moment and ponder the great gulf between a discussion of love and a demonstration of love. The matter is even more difficult to contemplate when I consider those cases where love seems to have been apprehended well by the mind, that is to say the intellect, but has not made its way to the pit of the bowels where compassion and pity move one to act on behalf of others. I have been in church all my life, so I have had plenty of time to make observations. I have attended many a bible study where love was discussed but people did not seem to be fundamentally altered, my self included. I have heard many sermons on love but I did not see them applied. I heard of and engaged in many social causes within Christian circles, but it only further impressed on me that true love was absent. It felt very ostentatious. I am writing about that true love discussed earlier; the love whose source is the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. Please do not allow yourself a cursory glance past this previous statement because the Gospel of Jesus Christ must be the heartbeat of the Christian’s love and I have often had it pointed out to me by the Spirit of God that it is possible to give all you have to the poor or become a martyr and not have love as you do it (1 Cor 13).
No, it is not love to refuse to give but giving does not mean that we are loving for real. Participation in social causes is not evidence of love. Indeed, I cannot think of a better example than this to typify the confusion about love. As soon as we hear of a social cause, we are galvanized and get carried away by reveries of saving the world and don’t stop to think about what is driving us to do it. My own experience has shown me that the combination of not knowing the Word of God and an immaturity in discerning God’s leading is lethal in these situations. You don’t know it, but your own arrogance blinds to you to the fact that you do not yet know how to sustain, contain and maintain this kind of work (Malachi 3:1-3). You can mislead and destroy both yourself and those you seek to help if you have not been persuaded by Jesus about His Gospel and planted by God in Jesus. Wrong motives in God’s work can destroy. I believe that is why God says, “‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit’ says the Lord.”
Our tendency however, is to ignore the small impressions of God that tell as we are not yet ready. Instead, we whisper pathetic prayers, just so we can say “we prayed about it”, but there is no sincere praying to seek God’s face and His strategies for tackling those issues. Fasting is simply out of the question. We don’t read the Word of God, but without any reverence for Spirit of Truth we pull out verses and misquote them as though we know Him, when in reality we have not spent any time allowing the Spirit of God to bring life to the Word of God in us. This is the most Biblically non-literate group of young people that I have ever been around. And when we do finally sit down to read it, we use worldly wisdom to interpret God’s Word when that same Bible clearly states that the world cannot know God through its own wisdom (1 Cor 1:21; 2 Cor 5:21). The reason you find yourself drawn to the world, to its logic, to its behavior is because you yourself are using worldly wisdom to understand God (1 John 4:5). We question His Word, doubt His promises, question His self-revelation through His Holy Scriptures and because this is not enough, we taint the name of God with our lifestyles and bring the “way of truth into disrepute” (2 Pet 2:2). Then, we have the nerve, the chutzpa, to post pictures and videos of our godless little efforts to help others on social media, often making critical remarks about the very same church folks that fed us, taught us, and educated us. If you have so much love bursting over for sex slaves, where’s some of that for the elderly folks in your church? But no, “they’re fundamentalists!” Is there no one who is stopping to ponder the fact that it doesn’t make sense for you to love a homeless man on the street when you can’t even obey your parents, be a responsible student, have discipline to wake up early and pray, stop fornicating or stop watching filth that dishonors God? Where is the generation that says “I won’t go unless you send me. I want to love for real!”? We don’t respect our pastors or fellow believers. We hardly spend time with God but we have so much to say about Him. Have we really become that delusional? I’m not buying what this age is selling. My own walk with God has shown me that often times, it is the illusion of heroism, whose origin is the inconspicuous and odious sinful nature of selfish ambition, that is the impetus for our good deeds. To make matters worse, the logic of the world knows just how to appeal to our sinful nature so that we do “good” under the guise of love and our fear of being considered intolerant hinders us from challenging the seemingly natural but unbiblical flow of logic. I like how Oswald Chambers puts it:
“Along with the sense of the heroic there is a base element of selfishness, a lurking desire to fix the scene of our own martyrdom” Chambers, Oswald. So Send I You / Workmen of God: Recognizing and Answering God’s Call to Service (Kindle Locations 493-494). Discovery House. Kindle Edition.
There it is. That hateful trait of selfish ambition. I hope you feel confronted by its disgusting nature. I hope you let God rip it out of you. It will be painful. I know because I have experienced it. But God hates selfish ambition. God is love but selfish ambition is not in His nature and He is very, very put off by it. He will NOT use it as the birth place of real love.
“But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.” James 3:14-16
So now, “acts of love” become an evil practice in the eyes of God because they are motivated by selfish ambition. The Father is not at all impressed by how nice we are, or how much we give and do. He is not broke and His own right hand will work out righteousness for Him. HE, not you or I, will establish a throne in justice and righteousness. (Isa 59: 16; 16:5). Our job is to be still and know that He is God, while He is exalted in the nations and in the earth. He searches the intent, the motive, the root (1 Chr 28:9; Ps 33:13-15). His intent to purify us of all ungodly inclinations and intents, known or unknown to us comes with him using us to change the world. We must have a pure heart that is motivated by heavenly wisdom (James 3:17; Eph 5:25-27). I will not look beyond the scriptures for examples of this. We need only to contrast the widow commended by Jesus for the two pennies she gave with the generous, yet selfish giving of Ananias and Sapphira. Judge for yourself who pleased God with their giving. I state again emphatically that the motive must be the love whose source is the Gospel of our Lord Jesus. I speak to the spiritually mature on what I write next. Little done on the basis of the love of Christ is by far, more superior than much done out of any other motive. When we give because of Jesus, it is not just that we give, but give what God wants and with the attitude He wants it given. Cain and Abel. Need I say more?
Let me end with what I learned from the aforementioned book by Oswald Chambers. I realize that most of us really do want to love, but as Chambers points out, we just don’t know ourselves well. We’re like Peter, promising to die to with Jesus and then fearing to acknowledge him before others when it counts. But hopefully, our weakness does not mean we are insincere about our desire to work for God or truly love. Thankfully, Jesus made it very simple. He said, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.” (John 6:29). This is where the work of God starts and ends. In the final verse of his Gospel account, John states that he wrote about the miracles that Jesus did so that we “may continue to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His name.” (John 20:31). What is the motive for love, for helping others? For giving? The motive for loving others is Jesus, the love of Jesus, God’s love for us in Jesus. May every good deed, every financial gift, every friendly conversation, every stranger welcomed, every meal shared, every mission trip, flow out of our continued belief that Jesus is the Son of God. 2 Cor 5:14-15 “For Christ’s love compels us because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died, and He died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for Him who died for them and was raised again.”