The Training of the Overcomer
III. Being selfless is love
“To love one another” is such a sweet and fragrant phrase. It should be echoed in everyone’s heart! However, reality is just the opposite. In the social circles in the world, you hear it but never see it practiced. Even the beloved and redeemed church, the Scriptural prophecy has also been fulfilled - “… in the last days difficult times will come. Few men will be lovers of self, lovers of money…” (James 1:1-2) All this is largely due to not understanding the truth about love. Love does not live by itself. Love grows from faith and hope (I Cor. 13:13) If the faith is not healthy, hope will not grow and there is no loving one another. When faith has correct belief and hope has solid expectation, then love can be pure. We know that ‘faith, hope’ will pass away, only ‘love’ is eternal. It is because in the future Kingdom of inheritance, there is no use for faith and hope because love will fill every corner just as water that fills the oceans! So, if we do not learn to love one another today, even if God allows us to inherit the Kingdom, we will feel that we are out of place! Many people have the idea that spiritual things are gifts that fall down from heaven and there is no need to apply for. In fact, even the gift of salvation requires faith to apply, to receive and then to enjoy. The wise God has never allowed His children to do whatever they please and be lazy people! The negative and positive sides of love will be briefly discussed as follows:
A. The negative side of love.
We all know the command God gave us in the New Testament has two aspects. One is to believe in the name of His Son Jesus Christ. Another is to love one another. (I John 3:23) In this part, we will discuss loving one another.
To love others and oneself is the way to happiness. But today, quite a few people’s love has caused sadness and pain in the family, woe and curse in society. This is all because of not understanding the truth of love. Love has a positive and a negative side. So often we only understand the positive side and do not know the negative side. At times, we have even reversed the positive and negative sides and don’t even know it! In other words, if we do not understand the negative side of love, it would be very difficult for our love to be pure. What is the negative side of love? The negative side of love is the positive side of sin!
1. The nature of sin.
What is sin? Is it smoking, drinking, cheating, or fighting? These are only the manifestations of sin. They are not the nature of sin. If we do not understand the nature of sin, it will be difficult to really love! We all know that everything has its nature. For a sword, its nature is steel. For a table, its nature is wood. If we Christians want to love God and people, we must first understand and realize the negative side of love – what is the nature of sin? Ordinarily, if we want to know the nature of a piece of material, we use the analytical method to analyze it. Students know that the chemistry teacher can separate water into two parts of hydrogen and one part of oxygen and tell us that the elements of water is two parts of hydrogen and one part of oxygen. Lets us now try to analyze the nature of sin using the analytical method.
Five ‘I will’s. Can the reader tell me where in the Scriptures is the first sin in the universe recorded? It is in Isaiah 14:12-14. Verse 12 tells that a bright star fell from heaven. Verses 13 to 14 tell the reason of the fall. The reason is in five sentences. (1) I will ascend to heaven. (2) I will raise my throne above the stars of God. (3) I will sit on the mount of assembly, in the recesses of the north. (4) I will ascend above the heights of the clouds. (5) I will make myself like the Most High. Now, let us analyze these five sentences. The verb and preposition of each short sentence are different except one. But the subject and verb to be are the same in each sentence. It is ‘I will’. Then, these ‘I will’s is the nature of the first sin in the universe. What Satan committed was not some horrendous crime. He did not set fire in heaven. The Scriptures did not say that he killed any angels. His sin is only ‘I will’! What is ‘I will’? The meaning of ‘I will’ is that in everything, the first and foremost is ‘myself’. The center of everything is ‘myself’. God was gracious to Satan. He gave him glory and allowed him to rule a planet. But he was unwilling to obey God. He was proud and haughty. He wanted his own desires to be satisfied first. So God declared, “You have sinned.” (Eze. 28:26 in the original) This is the first judgment in the universe. It is also the foremost reason why Satan is Satan! Then ‘I will’ or ‘for myself’ is the nature of the first sin in the universe. Overcomers, we often regard ‘ourselves’ as the center and don’t think much about it. We don’t know that ‘loving ourselves’ is sin!
Let us analyze the first sin on earth. This is in Genesis, Chapter 3. I don’t know if the readers wondered about it. All Adam did was to eat a fruit and God treated him like that. Even his descents were also dragged in. Isn’t it too severe? So, what kind of fruit did he eat? The Scriptures say, “but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it, you shall surely die.” (Gen. 2:17) Then, the fruit that Adam ate is the fruit of knowledge of good and evil. No matter what, it is only a fruit, what is the big deal? If a mother brings a bag of fruit home and tells the children not to eat until after dinner, but after she
leaves the house, a naughty child stole one and ate it. After she discovered it, the worst thing she would do is to scold him, I don’t think she would kick him out of the house! But God drove Adam out of the garden of Eden. Why was it? This tells us that God pays more attention to the principle of sin than the act of sin. From a material aspect, to eat the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil, it is eating a fruit that is not allowed. But from a principle standpoint, it is just as serious as the first sin in the universe. God wanted Adam to use His goodness as good and what He regards as evil as evil. But Adam was unwilling. Adam wanted to use his goodness as good and what he regards as evil as evil. In other words, Adam was unwilling to regard his creator as God. He wanted to be god himself! This is great treachery! So, the nature of first sin on earth is also ‘self’.
3. Turned to his own way.
If we examine the second sin on earth, it is also no other than ‘self’. Chapter 4 of Genesis tells us that a man murdered his younger brother because of jealousy. What is jealousy? Jealousy is when a person sees another better than he is and is unwilling to improve himself, he uses trickery to drag down the other person so that the other person cannot be better. Then, if the nature of jealousy is not ‘self’, what is it?
Overcomers, if we carefully analyze every sin in the Scriptures, we will discover than the nature of all sins is ‘self’. This is what God hate the most! The people of Israel committed many sins. God has no choice but to enforce justice and destroyed the kingdoms of Israel and Juda. The various styles and colors of sins can be summarized into two points: “For my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken Me, the foundation of living waters to hew for themselves cisterns, broken cisterns that can hold no water.” (Jer. 2:13) These two points are only the two sides of sin. On the negative side, they have forsaken their God. From the positive side, everything was for themselves. Israel has forgotten the God who led them out of Egypt and gave them Cannan. Everything was by ‘myself’, a hardened heart and in the end the country fell and the people died! Not only was Israel like this, even the entire world is like this. The Scriptures say, “ All of us like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way. But the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him.” (Is. 53:6) What is the sin of the entire world? It is that each of us has turned to his own way. In summary, overcomers, the nature of sin in the entire Scriptures is ‘myself’. The sin of the Israelites is this. The sin of the entire world is this!
Many people have indicated they have already dedicated themselves. Dedication is no longer living for oneself but living for the living Lord who dies and resurrected for us. This is basically the root of the fruit of the Holy Spirit – without self. Overcomers, if you want to Love God and love people, we must understand the negative side of love. No matter how spiritual you are but if you put yourself as the first and foremost in God’s sight, then you have sinned! You make a monetary offering but if you want to have your name plastered all over, you are committing sin. You sing hymns but you hope that people would praise your voice, you are committing sin. You preach but if you hope that people would commend your gift and oratory skill, you are committing sin. You are not glorifying God nor serving Him. Overcomers, may we immediately put a stop to such demonic obstruction! Why do we want to buy sin with a false pretense of glorifying God? Or use singing hymns and preaching to commit sin? Overcomers, please remember that everything that is centered on ‘self’, no matter you excuse yourself, how you defend yourself, it has never been allowed by God not as sin. Meanwhile, if we cannot overcome this point, how can we be called overcomers!
B. The positive side of love.
If the overcomers behave as mentioned above and always bring one self up as first and foremost, and compete for fame and fortune when occasions arise, God’s presence cannot be realized. If you are unwilling to love one another, take each other into your heart and soul, reflect each other’s thoughts, respond with the same amen and pray with one accord, God’s presence cannot be realized. It is because the Scriptures record: “No one has beheld God at anytime; if we love one another, God abides in us… “ (I John 4:12) In the early church, because the brothers and sisters loved one another, there was God’s presence. In one day there were three thousand and in one day there were five thousand, even it said, “ and all the more believers in the Lord, multitudes of men and women, were constantly added to their number.” (Acts 5:14) Then, the importance of loving one another in the lives of overcomers during the preparation period of the Kingdom needs no words of explanation.
1. God’s Command.
In the Old Testament, God gave the Israelites ten commandments. In the New Testament, He gave to the believers only one command. This command is: “We believe in the name of His Son Jesus Christ and love one another.” (I John 3:23) On the surface, this appears to be two commandments. In reality, they are the two aspects of one command. The reason is that the word ‘commandment’ is singular noun in the original language. Since it is singular, we know the importance of loving one another. In the viewpoint of average believers, believing in Jesus is an absolute necessity but loving one another is optional. But the Holy Spirit clearly reveals to us here that loving one another and believing in Jesus are of equal importance. Believing in Jesus is an absolute necessity. Loving one another is also an absolute necessity. They are the two sides of one commandment. We cannot take one seriously and disregard the other. May the church at the last days take it thoughtfully and seriously!
2. Lay down ourselves.
As to love, many people misunderstand or misinterpret the truth meaning of love. Today, in particular, most people confuse love with sex. Consequently, such animal acts are rampant and they disintegrate society, destroy families and remove the boundary between animals and people! What then is the true meaning of love? The Scriptures clearly tell us: “We know love by this that He laid down His life for us and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethern.” (I John 3:16) The first half of this verse is very easy to understand because the Lord personally gave us a demonstration. So we know that He loves us to the extent that He gave His life for us. However, the second half of the verse “we ought to lay down our lives for the brethern” is not that easy to understand. The reason is that we have only one life. Then, in our entire life, we can only love our brethern once? Such an interpretation is very difficult to accept. So, let us study the original language and see if there are any clearer hints. In the Greek language, the word ‘life’ is ‘soul’. So, the verse in the original reads, “… He laid down His soul for us and we ought to lay down our souls for the brethern.” Since the word ‘soul’ in the Scriptures often refers to the ‘self’ of a person, then this verse can be translated as: “We know love by this that He laid down Himself for us and we ought to lay down ourselves for the brethern.” In other words, love is to ‘lay down ourselves’. Loving one another is to mutually lay down oneself. This is exactly the opposite of the nature of sin. So, love that has an intent or purpose’ or in other words love that puts one as first or foremost is nothing but lust! (Young people please pay attention.) In other words, what is the positive side of love? The positive side of love is to lay down oneself.
Sometimes, some young people say to me, “He (or she) loves me very much but he (or she) is not willing to go to church with me!” My answer is, “If he really loves you, let alone church, even if it is going to jail, he would be more than willing to go with you!” If someone says he loves you but is unwilling to lay down himself a little for you, he is lying. Don’t believe him. So, don’t let him (or her) abuse your virginity and act in ways outside the boundary of marriage. It will cause never-ending problems later in life and regret beyond imagination.
There was a young couple that bought a beautiful vase for their house. The wife wanted to put it on the piano but the husband wanted it on his desk. So it ended in an argument. But as westerners, when they argue, the still call each other ‘honey.’ They continue to call other ‘honey’ and at the same time, they are unwilling to ‘lay down themselves’! Is this love or self- deception?
3. Imitate the gracious Lord.
Love is to lay down one’s soul. Since the soul has the function of knowing, feeling and desire, then the mutual love of the brethern is to be willing to lay down one’s personal happiness, anger, sadness, fear, love, evil and want for the brethern. Be willing to lay down one’s personal opinions, desires, expectations and anticipation. Be willing to lay down one’s personal choices, rules and opinions, et cetra. This is exactly what the Lord did. For His love to His parents, he lay down his own self’s love for learning and returned to Nazareth with His parents. For the love of His disciples, He laid down His own self’s superhuman understanding and always considered the needs for others. For the compassion of the Cananite woman, he laid down His own rule so that she can have the crumbs from the table. There is a secret that Jesus could love God and was sinless when He was on earth. That secret is that He was selfless. He said, “Truly, truly I say to you, the son can do nothing of Himself unless it is something He sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, these things the Son also does in like manner.” (John 5:19) He also said, “I can nothing on My own initiative. As I hear, I judge and My judgment is just because I do not seek My own will but the will of Him who sent Me.” (John 5:30) After He told the multitude that He is the bread of life, He said, “For I have come down from heaven not to do My own will but the will of Him who sent Me. (John 6:38) Before He went to pray at Gethsemane,
He said, “but that the world may know that I love the Father and as the Father gave Me commandment, even so I do.” (John 14:31) When Jesus was on earth, how he acted and treated people was centered on loving God. So He is able to say, “ Which one of you convict Me of sin?” (John 8:46) In summary, normal love does not have a single bit of ‘self’. Oh, great is the demonstration God has given us on love!
Overcomes, from this day on, we ought to live for God. We should live according to God’s will. No matter where God places us, we have to be faithful there. If we are to serve people, we need to them for God’s sake. As parents, we should bring up children for God’s sake. We entrust them to God through prayer and let God be responsible for them. If we raise our children just for our own sake, we will often be disappointed. As students, one should not study hard just for one’s own future. One should work hard to glorify the Lord. God will surely bless and the future is limitless! Brothers, when you get up in the morning to comb your hair and put on a tie, have you thought who you are doing it for? Sisters, sometimes you put on lips stick have you thought who you are doing it for? In the past, in the Quangsi province of China, the believers there felt that putting on lipstick is a sign that a person is not spiritual. A sister there used lips stick and was concerned that I would say that she was not spiritual. So, she told me that her face is very yellow and in order not to let non-believers think that believers were so hungry that their faces turned yellow, she wore lips stick. I told her, “Sister, use your lips stick. May god bless you for it!” All in all, as believers, we are no longer our own but purchased by the precious blood of the Lord. So we should not live for ourselves in everything we do. There is no love in everything done for the self. Everyone who lives for himself cannot enter into the Kingdom of God because in God’s Kingdom, there is no self. If the church can love one another like this, then the growth of such a church would “ be like flowers that blossom with abundance and the joy be added to joy!” May God have mercy on us so that we are able to apply for the salvation grace of being crucified together with Christ. We would not longer live for ourselves but the Lord who dies and resurrected for us. Amen!
4. To perfect God’s love.
The Scriptures tell us: “… that if we love one another, God abides in us and His love is perfected in us.” (I John 4:12) Loving one another is not only the requirement for having God’s presence in our lives, it is also to perfect God’s love. How do we know? It turned out that ‘His love’ is in the genitive case. The genitive case can be object or subject. The Chinese Bible translation uses the former and it becomes ‘our love for Him’. The English Bible translation uses the latter and it is “God’s love’. In these two translations, the English is more accurate because it refers to the function of ‘loving one another’. One function is to have God’s presence and the other is God’s love is perfected. As to how God’s love is perfected? The author will now explain briefly as follows:
5. Love has three things.
We all know that all normal or pure love has the following three: First, it has an object. Second, it has action. Third, it has extension. Since God is love, who is the object of His love? Christ! It is because the gracious Lord said, “ … for Thou didst loved Me before the foundation of the world.” (John 17:24) No wonder after His baptism, the voice from heaven said, “… This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” (Matt. 3:17) (‘Loved’ and ‘well pleased’ are both in simple aorist tense. Direct way of speech.) Then, what is the action of His love? The Scriptures say, “ The Father loves the Son, and has given all things into His hand.” (John 3:35) It also says, “ … appointed heir of all things.” (Heb. 1:2) This is the reason why God created everything just as the Scriptures say, “… all things have been created by Him and for Him.” (Col. 1:16) the gracious Lord enjoyed this great love and He also extended this holy love to us. So, He has told His disciples, “Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also love you.” Thanks be to the gracious Lord. The love He loved us is the extension of the Father’s love! This is such an exciting and lively fact! So, the reason Christ loves us is not just because He pities us and loves us. It is because He extends God’s love towards us. Hallelujah!
6. To complete God’s love.
Since the Father’s love extends and since we have enjoyed the Father’s love from the Lord, (refer to John 17:23) we also should extend the love of our gracious Lord to our brothers and sisters. This is just as He said, “This is My commandment that you love one another just as I loved you.” (John 15:12) So, if God’s children loves themselves only and are unwilling to love one another, it is the same as stopping the Father’s love given to us through Christ and not extending it out! In the end, the Father’s love cannot reach the object and cannot be completed. May the Lord be merciful and though our loving one another can the Father’s love be perfected in us.
By the constant reminding in their ears and the ordering face to face by the apostles to the believers in the early church, they came to know the importance of loving one another. They also continued to practice it. So, “Behold, how the Christians love one another!” became the admiration and praise of the Gentiles for the believers. But today, ‘loving one another’ is only a slogan at church spoken without meaning. Its reality seems to be at a far distance and cannot be achieved. This fulfilled the Lord’s prophecy. “And because lawlessness is increased, most people’s love will grow cold.” (Matt. 24:13) Why? It is none other than the church not holding on to the commandment given by the Lord. It is because of not understanding the real meaning of love and ignorance of the prerequisite of love. Consequently the Lord is not with the church and the church became a body without a head. (Refer to Eph. 1:22-23)
7. Example of genuine love.
On April 14, 1912 night, the Titanic stuck an iceberg. A total of fifteen hundred people lost their lives. One of them was John Harper, a well-known pastor en route to the Moody Memorial Church to deliver a sermon. When he was in the sea and struggling up and down in the waves, he bumped into a young man who was also in the water trying to stay alive. He asked, “Young man, are you saved?” The reply was: “No!” A wave separated the two of them. After a few minutes, another wave brought them back together. The pastor asked again, “Do you have peace with God?” The same answer came back, “No.” Another wave separated them. A little later, the pastor floated by him and told him, “Jesus is the way!” Then he gave the young man his wooden plank that he was holding on and drowned. Two weeks later, this young man was in a meeting in New York. He stood up and he said, “Because the pastor loved me so much I was able to have peace with God!”
Overcomers arise! May God strengthen us so that we can extend God’s love into every corner of every village on earth in order that the Kingdom would come early, Amen.