Isa. 55:11 π Mt. 4:4 π Mt. 6:6 π Mt. 7:13-14 π Jn. 3:8 π Jn. 10:10 π Jn. 13:34 π 1 Cor. 10:24 π 2 Cor. 4:7 π Eph. 2:8-9 π Eph. 4:20-24 π Phlp. 2:4 π Col. 2:6 π 2 Tim. 3:5 π 2 Tim. 3:16-17 π Jas. 1:17 π 2 Pet. 1:5-7 π 1 Jn. 3:10-14 π 1 Jn. 3:14 π 1 Jn. 3:16 π 1 Jn. 3:18
In this the children of God and the children of the devil are manifest. Whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is he who does not love [agape] his brother. For this is the message that you heard from the beginning, that we should love one another, not as Cain who was of the wicked one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his works were evil and his brotherís righteous.
Do not marvel, my brethren, if the world hates you. We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love his brother abides in death. ( 1 Jn. 3:10-14; top )
If we would remain on the narrow road that leads to life (see Mt. 7:13-14 ), we must love our brothers in Christ. That is, we must set aside our self-centered agendas and lay down our lives so that not just we ourselves but also our brothers attain to Christís agenda for all our lives. ( 1 Jn. 3:16 ; Jn. 13:34 ) By this agape love we may know that we have passed from death to life because if we donít love our brother we abide in death as did Cain who, under an evil influence, murdered his brother and we do not abide in Christ who came to bring abundant life. ( Jn. 10:10; top ) Let he who has ears hear.
How do we attain to Christís agape love? Peter wrote:
For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, [agape] love. ( 2 Pet. 1:5-7 NIV; top)
We have seen these steps to spiritual maturity before. But let us look at them now for their original and ultimate purpose - to show us how to attain to Christís agape love.
1) First and throughout, we must be diligent to build on what God has already given us - our faith. ( Eph. 2:8-9 ; Col. 2:6; top ) It is inappropriate and even foolish for us to do nothing after we have been exposed to a greater light and truth of Christ. We must diligently receive, apply and obey His truth every time He brings us a new or expanded insight.
2) Then we must add to our faith goodness. In addition to our trust in God to bring us from darkness into His light, we must begin to do good. We do not leave our previous circle of influence (except under rare or perhaps dangerous circumstances) - rather we now bring the goodness of God to those who have always been around us so they might see the life-changing power of Christ.
3) Then we must add to our goodness knowledge. As we participate in the goodness of God ( Jas. 1:17 ), as we meet with (talking and listening to) the Father in the secret place ( Mt. 6:6 ) and as we read the Scriptures that equip us for godly living ( 2 Tim. 3:16-17 ), we will feed on what God is saying to us and we will spiritually live ( Mt. 4:4 ) and we will accomplish the will and purpose of God. ( Isa. 55:11; top )
4) Then we must add to our knowledge self-control. As we learn what God expects of us, we must obey that. This is not an embracing of Godí laws but a following after the leading of the Spirit of Christ. ( Jn. 3:8; top ) Our participation in Godís goodness and our growing knowledge of His revelations is the base upon which we build up our obedience to His commands.
5) Then we must add to our self-control perseverance. As we learn to live the life of the new man (see Eph. 4:20-24; top ), we will find it impossible to get it right on our first try. We will fail in trying to control ourselves. But as we persevere - keep on trying to live by Godís Spirit - we will be more self-controlled.
6) Then we must add to our perseverance godliness. As we persevere in our self-control, we will live lives that bear ever greater resemblance to the life of Christ. This is no mere form of godliness ( 2 Tim. 3:5 ) but is the actual life and power of God coming forth from our earthen vessel. ( 2 Cor. 4:7; top )
7) Then we must add to our godliness brotherly kindness. As we become more like God we must begin to reach out to our family in Christ. Just as we give preference to our natural family members, we must recognize and care for all our brothers and sisters in Christ. ( 1 Cor. 10:24 ; Phlp. 2:4; top )
8) Then we must add to our brotherly kindness agape love. As we give preference to our brothers, we must begin to sacrifice more of our own lives on their behalf and even on behalf of the people of the world around us. This is not a blind self-sacrifice, but rather done in obedience to the leading of Christís Spirit within our hearts. Without this laying down of our lives at Christís command, there is no evidence that we have passed from darkness into light. ( 1 Jn. 3:14; top )
Many have been deceived into departing from this process of attaining to true Christlikeness. Few indeed have truly attained to anything resembling self-sacrificing agape love - but many of these consider themselves ďeldersĒ and ďleadersĒ of the people of Christ! The few who have attained to this spiritual maturity will most likely recognize how they took these steps in hindsight, having been drawn by the Lord in spite of their religious background and handicaps. Most people exposed to the ďChristianĒ religion are quick to say to one another, ďWe love you,Ē but these do not follow up their words with self-sacrificing demonstrations of Christís agape love. These people, wrapped up as they are in false religious notions of following Christ, are more inclined to faithfully and self-sacrificially practice some hobby or sport or to simply disappear out of oneís life than they are to take time to attend to the needs and trials of the orphans, widows and the least of Christís brothers! Christís agape love is much, much more than words ( 1 Jn. 3:18; top ) and failure to act on oneís declarations is only deception, the native language of the devil and the demonic. Let he who has ears hear.
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