by Lynette Woods
We... are going to love—love and be loved. First we were loved, now we love. He loved us first. 1 John 4:19.
All of us have an innate need and desire to be loved and appreciated simply for who we are; not because of what we do or can give another person. Use does not define importance or acceptance; Love IS acceptance and importance! To be loved builds a person up; iIt is only when we know we are loved, that we in turn can truly love! Our culture speaks often of love, but it is more a sentimental and emotional substitute for real love - and therefore unstable and untrue.
Grace, love and mercy are all attributes of God but there are also our natural versions of all of these which we create and feel as emotions. Emotions are not the source though; our emotions are merely our reactions to outward stimuli; eg we see someone hurting so we react by feeling merciful, or someone takes advantage of us and we react by feeling angry. Even on the best of days our feelings and emotions can be fickle and unreliable but I also know that Father can really use them so I asked Him about this. He told me that our feelings are like water: easily swayed, easily changed; peaceful or turbulent - depending upon which circumstances or people may stimulate the water at any given moment in time.
Water can be heated and feel hot, or chilled and feel cold; but it is still water regardless of how it feels. It is liquid and conforms to the shape of its container. We are like containers for this water/emotions. Some of us have holes caused by circumstances and are emptier than others when it comes to emotions, others of us are full to the brim and ready to splash out at the least bit of movement on our containers. But both of those examples are controlled by what happens to us, ie controlled by outward circumstances and not by Christ. He was not affected by His own emotions even though He was human like us; not when His mother came to see Him nor when Lazarus died, He wasn't moved by His own emotions or other people's emotions; it wasn't until the Holy Spirit moved Him that He wept...
In Him we need to learn to not allow the waters of our emotions to be stirred or to react to anything other than the Spirit of God moving upon the water... If we rely on our feelings, we will be all over the place because they are not stable and cannot be relied upon, nor are they a source but merely a reaction to surroundings. When we walk by our own nature, then our emotions will be governed by our natural belief system and what we think; our emotions will react accordingly to "confirm" our beliefs even if our beliefs are completely wrong! When we walk by the Holy Spirit and are stirred by Him, then our emotions won't be governed by what we think and believe to be true, but by what God knows as Truth and that is so often completely the opposite to what we'd think!
In organized religion there are usually two extremes; "you can't trust your feelings", through to "this feels like God therefore it IS God". Both extremes are just another form of bondage to Self. Our emotions need to be redeemed through death and resurrection; just like everything else about us. "There are those who think that fellowship with Christ in His death means a lessening of sensitiveness and power to feel, while others rebel against this thought and say they do not believe in the eliminating of the "emotional" in spiritual experience. The life of the Lord Himself, and especially the letters of Paul, show us clearly the true balance between these two extremes. In the first case, the truth is that fellowship with Christ in His death simply delivers us from undue self-sensitiveness and sets us free to be increasingly and acutely sensitive for all that concerns Christ and others! And in the second case, all that is needed is that the surface emotionalism be taken away, so that the very deepest depths of the whole inmost being may be opened for the life of God to be poured out for souls." (Jessie Penn-Lewis).
Religion is very good at stimulating and stirring our emotions... and the results can look for all the world like the real thing and yet be a completely false substitute. Religion is all about man trying to please God through what we do so we think if we do the right thing, we are righteous. It is clear that there needs to be a separation between what is of God and what is just us and this is brought about through the ultimate separation: death. If we have not died to what we want and to what we think should be done, we will continue to be governed by Self instead of by our new Life: Christ.
Often we deceive ourselves into thinking that we are good and righteous by our "right" actions; there may be a situation or circumstance which always upsets us but we can choose, through our own self control and will power, not to let those emotions be seen or act upon them. But inside is where the real person is. If the attitude is in our hearts then it is as though we had acted upon it. It is our hearts that need dealing with! Jesus was very clear about this - see Mark 7:21-23, also: Matt. 5:21-22, 27-28; 15:8; Mark 10:20-22 - as a man thinks in his heart, so is he! We usually try in our own strength to do the right thing when all the time it is the heart that is not right. When our heart has been dealt with, then the right actions and emotions follow.
Since we can control our actions it can all be just an act; but our reactions often reveal what is really in the heart. We may act loving and appear to be full of grace and yet the whole time we may be thinking ungracious and unloving thoughts because of what is really in the heart. If our hearts are right and pure, then our actions and reactions will be right and pure. Clearly we cannot do this; it is NOT in us. We can't help who we are and cannot change our hearts or our nature; it is impossible. Only God can do this miracle, and when He does, all we can do is stand back in awe and admire what He has done, knowing full well that this is His work and not our own! What is created and produced by God is eternal and of a completely different nature than the best we can come up with; what He produces is living and reproductive whereas what we produce is temporal and dies.
Some people say that being loving, gracious, kind etc are choices; but I know that I cannot truly be any of those, even if I choose them. I cannot love as God loves just because I choose to; I cannot be gracious as God is gracious just because I choose to. It is not in me! And if I could do it, then it would be man-made and I could control it. If I choose to be gracious, loving, merciful or whatever, then to me that is artificial and is from me: it is my choice and the result of my work and my will power. If I can choose to love others, and do it, then who is the source of it? And if it was my choice then who can take the credit and glory for it? Conversely, if I know it has nothing to do with me and is God's work in changing me from the inside out, then He and He alone gets all the credit.
Jesus said we did not choose Him but He chose us. If I choose, then who, really, is in control and who is governing my life? But that said, we do make choices all the time; often without being aware of it. How do we make those unconscious choices? From who we are. And this is what God is always after: the heart issues, the internal before the external. Those choices or heart responses come from somewhere much deeper than just our head and our will power.
While we do appear to make choices for Christ, I see that that happens not because I have the will power to choose, but because He has first chosen me and loved me and my heart is simply smitten through Love and so chooses Him by default! I cannot help but "choose" Him... those "choices" come from my heart and my desire for Him rather than from me. True Love cannot be forced or enforced; by its very nature it must be given freely and willingly.
The picture which beautifully illustrates this is Mary and Martha. Jesus said of Mary that she had chosen the best thing. I don't think it was a conscious choice on her part though: "I choose to annoy my sister and choose to sit at Jesus' feet"! No, it was a heart choice, a simple heart response because of her love for Him... she couldn't help but be found at His feet because her heart had chosen for her; in one sense she had no choice, she had to be at His side!
When our heart chooses like that, then there is real freedom and life, but when WE decide to choose (usually because we feel we should!), then it is a bondage because our heart is not really in it and we are the "strength" and "source" instead of God. Religion is all too good at getting us to make that kind of choice with many "should's" (thou shalt) and "should not's" which the Old Covenant was full of. But God promised that in the New Covenant things would be different: "But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel: After those days, says the Lord, I will put My law within them, and on their hearts I will write it; and I will be their God, and they will be My people." (Jer 31:33). Today it is about what HE will do in us and through us; we cannot keep the law, we cannot be righteous, we cannot love... but HE WILL be faithful to do that work in us which He has begun!
God is always, always all the way through the Bible, after the heart! The Bible teaches us that the issues of Life come from the heart, rivers of living water flow from the heart, and out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks... and perhaps the heart chooses also. We naturally think of choosing as being a head function but I suggest that it may really be a heart function. When the heart is right, then the whole life is right. But for the heart to be right there must come a separation between what is from God, and what is from me.
The picture of creation in Genesis is an example of what needs to happen in M.E. - My Earth. My emotions are like the waters with the Spirit of God hovering over them. God says "Light BE!" and there is Light and I see some things. Then God says "Let there be a separation between the waters above from the waters below" and the expanse between the two is separated by the Spirit; the Air or the Wind.
It is only after this separation of the heavenly from the earthly that fruit is brought forth: "God said, Let the earth put forth vegetation: plants yielding seed and fruit trees yielding fruit whose seed is in itself, each according to its kind, upon the earth. And it was so." It is the same in M.E. It is only when God has made the separation in me between what is of Him and what is of my earthly nature, that He can then release me and create His Garden in me to bear His fruit.
The fruit He bears in any of us is far greater and deeper and fuller than any of our human substitute "fruits".
Grace is much more than an emotion
stimulated by compassion.
These fruits of the Spirit must be the results of His Life and not ours. God must be the Stimulator, Originator, Creator and Source of our emotions rather than them being the fruit of our own cultivation and simulation. All of these fruits are so, so much deeper and larger and greater than any person's emotions, because they are attributes of God Himself; characteristics which He desires to stir up and reproduce in the emotions of His children by and through His Spirit.
When my emotions are governed by my own Self (as we all are naturally) I am imprisoned and tortured. When my emotions are governed by God (the work He does in me) then I am released and free to live daily in amazing Peace and Rest - Christ - Who is the Author and Completer of this work!
How does He do this? One of the most effective ways I have seen Him do this in me and others, is by opening our eyes to increasingly see and experience Who He is: He is unending, unlimited, incomprehensible Love! While we may "know" in our head that He loves us, it is only when we truly begin to personally experience being loved by Him in so many ways, that we are able to extend this same Love to others! There is something about Him and His Love which just reproduces itself. Being loved, enables us to love. Now it is all about what He does and has done and will do rather than what we should do; we are simply the recipients and responders of unlimited Grace and Love!
Being loved and accepted is absolutely crucial to every human being and our Father knows this; He also knows that He is the only one who loves perfectly. Good fathers want to simply enjoy their children and do things with them and for them rather than selfishly use them. And there is a world of difference between a child voluntarily and spontaneously doing something nice for his or her father out of love rather than out of duty or obligation. He is our Father and He loves us with a passion and wants to bring us into communion with Himself, to work alongside Him, to cooperate with Him - isn't that amazing?!
To experience being loved by Him is to know true Love and true Love is irresistible! God is Love. Love gives; it does not use. To use somebody suggests that the person isn't important; only that they can be of some use and benefit to you. Being used makes the used person feel inferior (which feeds a desire to be worthy and valued) while it makes the user feel superior (which feeds a desire to be in control).
To walk in partnership (koinonia) with somebody means that you learn to accept and appreciate them simply for who they are; not for what they can do for you or can give you. The father does not expect the child to do more than what he knows they are capable of for their age, instead the father delights in having his child work with him, learning from his example, because they thoroughly enjoy each other's company and because they love each other.
Many people say they want to be used by God but this can be just a natural, carnal desire to feel useful and valued. Not many people say they want to be loved by God... and yet to be loved by God is something very precious indeed. It is only by experiencing His Love that we will begin to understand something of our true value to Him. Love simply loves without needing a reason to love!
However, even though I don't much like the word "use", I still use it! If we're thinking individually then 'use' is not a good word, but if we're thinking corporately, as in corpus Christi, the body of Christ, then the word "use" is not only okay, it is absolutely vital and necessary. I am using my fingers to type this, my hands had to be used. You will be using your eyes to read it. That is not a negative thing, but a very positive thing because my hands are part of ME and were used spontaneously by my head! Your eyes are part of YOU! They are not something separate from you which you use. When we are part of Christ's body, it is essential and good that we are used as our Head decides (without consulting each part!). Every part of our human body gets used every day and we think nothing of it! And I think it ought to be like that in Christ's Body too, He uses different members to do or say different things and we think nothing of it because it is normal and right that it happens, it is a natural function of the one Body.
Our emotions are one way in which Christ can express Himself through us as His Body but only when we have allowed Him to pour our emotions out, to pour us into Himself and into His river where we become one with all the other water and are then governed not by what happens to our little container, but by the direction in which God has us flowing - we are one with Him in His emotions! It is easy to manipulate and cause havoc in a small bucket of water, it is not easy to move or disturb that water when it has been thrown into a large river.
Shallow waters are easily agitated, but down in the depths the waters rarely move much, only the surface gets disturbed. I'm reminded of when Jesus was sleeping in the boat getting tossed about in the storm... and He just spoke one phrase which brought absolute calm. It is a picture of looking and listening for Him in our storms! We're usually all agitated and saying "Wake up, can't You see I'm in trouble here? Don't You care???" instead of just knowing He is there, trusting Him and even falling asleep (resting) right along with Him instead of trying to save ourselves. Can you imagine one of the men on that boat not being anxious? It is not in us... really! As they said: "What kind of Man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey Him!" He can speak to nature and it obeys, He can also speak to our nature and bring Peace there too! The Greek words for "peace be still" are interesting when relating them to ourselves and our stormy seas or emotions because the two words He used fit perfectly: "Be silent, be muzzled". It means to stop the mouth, make speechless, reduce to silence; and to become speechless, to be kept in check.
I think it is very comforting to hear Jesus saying those words to me and to all my thoughts and emotions in the midst of a storm... reducing all to silence... experiencing instead the perfect peace and rest of His deep Love and care for me, so that I love, hear and see only Him...
Watch what God does, and then you do it, like children who learn proper behavior from their parents. Mostly what God does is love you. Keep company with him and learn a life of love. Observe how Christ loved us. His love was not cautious but extravagant. He didn't love in order to get something from us but to give everything of himself to us. Love like that. My response is to get down on my knees before the Father, this magnificent Father who parcels out all heaven and earth. I ask him to strengthen you by his Spirit—not a brute strength but a glorious inner strength—that Christ will live in you as you open the door and invite him in. And I ask him that with both feet planted firmly on love, you'll be able to take in with all followers of Jesus the extravagant dimensions of Christ's love. Reach out and experience the breadth! Test its length! Plumb the depths! Rise to the heights! Live full lives, full in the fullness of God. Ephesians 5:1; 3:14.