Saturday, April 30

THE LOVE OF GOD

THE LOVE OF GOD --
KNOW God, KNOW Love; NO God, NO Love!

"People who walk in integrity always leave legacies that live on long after they're gone!  'The just man walketh in his integrity: his children are blessed after him.' (Proverbs 20:7)"

This chapter, "The Love of God", is from our book, "The Crisis of Eroding Integrity" which is dedicated to those who: moment by moment, day by day, and year after year fight all manner of opposition to hold high the standard of Godly integrity in their lives; to those who are passionate about truth; and to those who have given up houses, lands, relationships, jobs, and their very lives to diligently pursue both God and His will.
THE CRISIS OF ERODING INTEGRITY  by Keith Shealy and Toward The Mark Inc. is a 12-chapter message:
What Is Integrity?
The Power Of The Tongue
Feed My Sheep!
You'll Know A Tree By Its Fruit
The Wrong Anointing
The Deceivers
Smiting The Shepherds
Perilous Times
Integrity Is A Gift and Result!
The Word of God
The Love of God;
Conclusion

"Keith talks about 'The Church' or 'The Body of Followers of Christ' in his introduction of his book saying, 'When there is a breakdown in the integrity of God’s design for the most important of institutions, it is, in fact, headed for, at best, a lukewarm and lifeless future....' I wish I could testify differently but, in a few communities I joined in my military assignment locations, with many military church-goers, I encountered this 'breakdown' in the 'love' and 'integrity' of brothers and sisters in the family of faith, and it sucked the life out of the entire family until issues were confronted, bonds became stronger, and hearts were healed."
As we consider man's definition of "love" and God's definition, we're sure you would agree that there is a significant difference between the two. Do you see the two views being "universes" apart? Now, if we compare the meaning of the words "love" and "integrity", what do they have in common with each other? How about in comparing how people in Jesus' day demonstrated "love" and "integrity", what do we see is different, or similar, to how people demonstrate "love" and "integrity" in today's society?
Having the kind of close relationship with God that enables us to hear His voice includes being obedient to His Word. “But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. ” (James 1:22) Remember, we are no longer our own, but are servants of the most high God. “But Jesus called them unto him, and said, Ye know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them. But it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister; And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant: Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:25-28) "And he sat down, and called the twelve, and saith unto them, If any man desire to be first, the same shall be last of all, and servant of all.” (Mark 9:35)
I was recently at lunch with a missionary friend of mine, and we were talking about the success the Japanese people have had in the global market place. Having managed several companies myself, I shared with him something I read several years before, something that I believe is the principle reason for the success of Japanese industry, especially in their automotive production. When I was studying various management techniques for new ways to help increase production in one of the companies I was managing, what I ran across really captured my attention. The Japanese take a completely different approach to leadership than we do in the United States, particularly in personnel management. Supervisors are trained and assigned to meet every need of each of the employees under their leadership.
Unlike corporate customs in America, where employees in the workforce are subservient to their supervisors who often disregard individual needs, each production-line employee in the Japanese workforce is ‘served’ by the bosses under whom they serve. No matter what the laborers and their families need - food, shelter, etc. - management makes it a priority to make it happen. Secondly, adding to the booming success, employees also get paid bonuses if they come up with innovative and useful ideas for improving products and efficiency. No wonder Japanese products lead in quality and sales, world-wide! The management not only serves their people, but they reward them as well. The Japanese have grasped the Biblical truth of "serving and caring for others" that has revolutionized, not only, their production capabilities but their entire gross national product as well. "But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant. And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted.” (Matthew 23:11-12)
The basis for all that we do, as servants of The Most High God, is supposed to be love! It does not matter what your vocation is, or how prosperous you have become in the eyes of the world; if you do not have a genuine love for people, nothing that you do will be pleasing to God. Paul addressed this very thing in his letter to the church in Corinth saying, “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing. Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away. For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away. When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity. ” (1 Corinthians 13:1-13)
“Charity” is defined in Webster’s as, “1) love for one’s fellow man 2) leniency in judging others 3) generosity toward the needy.” Jesus, in the book of John, describes the one identifying trait that determines whether or not someone is truly His student or disciple. He said, “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” (John 13:34-35)
Just think of what it would be like if everyone saw everything and everybody through the loving eyes of God. To say the least, this world would be a completely different place altogether! We would no longer see different races of people for anything other than the beauty that God intended them to be. We would never hold grudges against anyone! We would be quick to forgive, and would always have the best interest of everyone in both mind and heart, and, all the while, without having selfish ulterior motives anywhere along the way. Though contrary to the life that most people live, that is exactly what God expects of all of us! But, before we are going to be able to love one another in the same way that Jesus loves us, it is imperative that we first be able to see our own selves through the eyes of God!
God IS "Love”. "Love" is actually what He is made of. And "Love" is from what He has made us - IN Him. Because He gave Himself to us, Love IS what made us what we ARE. The sooner we realize this, the sooner we can become able to see ourselves the way He does. Hence, the sooner we are able to see ourselves as He sees us and Loves us, the sooner we can get about His Business of Loving others in the same way in which He Loves us. “Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is Love.” (1 John 4:7-8) In other words, we can say that to "know" God is to "know" Love; If we have "NO" God we have "NO" Love! In the words of Christ Jesus, “As the Father hath Loved me, so have I Loved you: continue ye in My Love. If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in My Love; even as I have kept My Father’s commandments, and abide in His Love. These things have I spoken unto you, that My Joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full. This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have Loved you. Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. Ye are My friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you.” (John 15:9-14)
Notice that Jesus has linked the way we love God with the way we live in obedience to The Word of God. So, with regard to Jesus Christ's demonstration of absolute Love for God, and of absolute Obedience to God, is there a link between Christ Jesus and the meaning of "integrity"? “Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law. For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt not covet; and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law. And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light. Let us walk honestly, as in the day; not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying. But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfill the lusts thereof.” (Romans 13:8-14)
"Integrity" is so much more than simply saying what you mean and meaning what you say. Webster’s Dictionary defines it as, “The entire, unimpaired state of anything, particularly of mind; moral soundness or purity; incorruptness; uprightness; honesty. Integrity comprehends the whole moral character, but has a special reference to uprightness in mutual dealings, transfers of property, and agencies for others.” As good as this definition may be, it still falls short of the way God defines it. "Integrity" in God’s eyes is, precisely, “the very Character, and Nature, of the Lord Jesus Christ” Who died for us on the Cross of Calvary to pay the penalty for our sins, and to provide the way for us to live godly lives. “For He hath made Him to be sin for us, Who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.” (2 Corinthians 5:21)
With regard to the deeds we do, some might say, "Well, I make sure I include regular church attendance in my life, and honesty in my business dealings and my personal and family matters." In Matthew 12:35, it talks about Integrity as a matter of the heart saying, “A good man out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth good things.” How would you explain a person who models what it means to walk out a life of integrity?
People who walk in love and integrity leave legacies that live on in those who follow in their footsteps and continue on in their example even long after they are gone.The just man walketh in his integrity: his children are blessed after him.” (Proverbs 20:7)
Since 1978, God has blessed me, in my life as a whole, with a senior Pastor who meets the Biblical standard of a true shepherd. Our relationship has been a wonderfully anointed one, and the quality time I have spent under his Christian leadership, and that of his wonderful "Proverbs 31" wife, over the past 35+ years has been a great privilege to me. Those two folks are a godly couple of faith who have modeled for me, and for many others, just what it means to walk out a life of integrity through the various situations that come up in their life. They are passionate about truth. They love others unconditionally. They are selfless, and they have “in deed” laid down their lives for the purpose of seeing God’s perfect will and plan fulfilled in all that they do.  When they tell you they are going to do something, you can take it to the bank!  Folks like them are truly priceless gifts our wonderful, loving God has given to us, and they are rightfully due the utmost honor and respect!  “And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.” (Ephesians 4:11-12)

The Scripture also reveals that this kind of person is quite rare, “Most men will proclaim every one his own goodness: but a faithful man who can find?” (Proverbs 20:6) The apostle Paul even wrote, “For I have no man like-minded, who will naturally care for your state. For all seek their own, not the things which are Jesus Christ’s.” (Philippians 2:20-21)
Of course, we can see the fruit in the lives of those who reflect God-like character. But then, on the other hand, what we CAN'T see in people, is how they behave when others aren't looking, or aren't around. How many times have we heard stories in the local news about leaders who appear honorable when others are watching, but have then been found demonstrating something else "behind the scenes" or where they're NOT clearly seen by people?
Whether the truth comes out about a Pastor who has robbed the church (in more ways than one), about a “Christian” businessman who manipulates or cheats his or her clients and/or employees, or about any other thing that is grievous, people hear these stories and wag their fingers at the church, saying, “Christians are all just a bunch of hypocrites.” This is so often the reason why people refuse to believe the message of the Gospel, not realizing that the name of Jesus Christ is being slandered by people who are falsely associated with the Body of Christ whose members rightly walk in love and integrity. Having, at best, very little regard for truth, these people have left a trail of broken promises behind them rather than wonderfully life-giving examples of Christ-likeness. Those people are "imposters" and are the examples of what Jesus says we are NOT to be and are NOT to do. Ironically, many of these same people actually think they are serving God.
You may be saying something to the effect that, "Whether we are in leadership or not, we must become serious about better protecting the hearts of anyone God places in our lives." Clearly, one way we do this is simply by using our words to reflect our love for God and others by keeping our word. To do otherwise is lying. Webster’s Dictionary defines “lying” as, “To make a statement one knows is false; to bring, put, accomplish, etc. by lying—a false statement made with the intent to deceive.” When a person makes a statement that they "INTEND" to make true, is that considered different from intentionally telling someone you are going to do something, and then not doing it? Good intentions will never make up for failure to follow through.
We noticed that the writer of Ecclesiastes actually talks about a person who breaks their word to God as being "a fool". In chapter 5, verses 4-5, he says, “When thou vows a vow (makes a promise) to God, defer not to pay it (don't put off your responsibility); for he has no pleasure in fools: pay that which thou hast vowed. Better is it that thou should not vow, than that thou should vow and not pay.” (Ecclesiastes 5:4-5) Jesus most certainly wouldn’t!
Jesus, Himself, gives us the sternest warning in all of the scriptures, saying, “And whoso shall receive one such little child in my name receives me. But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea. Woe unto the world because of offences! for it must needs be that offences come; but woe to that man by whom the offence cometh!” (Matthew 18:5-7) People who repeatedly break their word frequently cause others to doubt God and, thereby, open the door for the others to stumble (the literal meaning of the Greek word translated “offend" in the passage quoted above).
So, if you are leading a group of God’s people in any capacity, and have fallen into the trap of thinking that you are exempt from fulfilling your obligations to them because of your own perceived loftiness or the importance of your work or position, you are not only deceived, but you are also setting yourself up for a terrible fall. “Pride goes before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall.” (Proverbs 16:18) “And he (Jesus) said unto them, The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and they that exercise authority upon them are called benefactors. But ye shall not be so: but he that is greatest among you, let him be as the younger; and he that is chief, as he that doth serve. For whether is greater, he that sits at meat, or he that serveth? is not he that sitteth at meat? but I am among you as he that serveth.” (Luke 22:25-27)
There is no way around it: Integrity must be the hallmark of our lives if we are going to be effective at modeling and verbally relaying the love of God to people!  Even our worship depends upon this. “But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.” (John 4:23-24)
It is our heartfelt prayer, and the prayer of the Toward The Mark sponsors, that this message will serve to—in a big way—strengthen, preserve, and ensure the role of Godly integrity in lives everywhere!
Would you write and let us know if this message has fanned the flame in your heart for Christ Jesus, His wonder-full Ways, and His Plan and Purpose for you in this life? Would you also share your testimony of faith, and/or any prayer request we can stand with you in praying? Just click here to e-mail us  or feel free to write us a letter and mail it to:  Toward The Mark, Inc., P.O. Box 1152, Yorktown, VA  23692-1152.
Read this study, "The Love of God", and eleven others by ordering your copy of "THE CRISIS OF ERODING INTEGRITY" online.  You can also ask questions about our work, make a special tax-deductible donation, or place orders for any of our audio, wearable, or print resources by visiting our website: TowardTheMark.com or by writing a request for details by e-mail or by writing a letter and mailing it to:  TOWARD THE MARK INC., P.O. Box 1152, Yorktown, VA  23692-1152. **For group study, please ask us about our case-lot special of 96 copies/case.
We pray God bless you greatly as you carry this truth in your heart. We are eternally grateful to our loving Toward The Mark Family of Sponsors who make this blog, and all of our resources, possible by their faithful prayer and monthly financial support!
Your friends and servants in Christ,

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