Sunday, July 28, 2019

The Spirit of Burning Love

Audio Message:

“You must love each other. You must love your soldiers. You must love poor sinners. You must love God. And that not after a fickle, cold, half-hearted fashion, but with a changeless, quenchless, burning love. The vast majority of this poor undone world are hopelessly sinking down into slavery, debauchery, idolatry, and all manner of iniquity. These things lead to every kind of wretchedness in this life and in the life to come. Luxury, law, wealth, science, learning, and no end of other human contrivances have failed to remedy this state of affairs, and have failed. Love is the remedy. Here is the divine panacea, this is the recipe for the millennium-love. Divine love. Oh, for a deluge of this blessed spirit. “ –the word of William Booth, the founder.

The quotation I just read was penned by William Booth and spoken to a congress long, long ago. It’s been recorded for us in a book called “The Seven Spirits” by William Booth. Over the next three weeks I’ll be sharing a series on three key mindsets of the holy born again Christian which are outlined in the Seven Spirits. Today, we consider the vitally important Spirit of Burning Love. If you recall at commissioning Dr. Bill and Diane Ury made mention of the Seven Spirits, and it’s a book that I love, so I thought it would wonderful to delve into this book. Let’s begin.

God is love. His heart burns with complete love for the world and the people in it. God’s love goes beyond anything we can imagine. We have only a poor understanding of God’s love as it truly exists. But we do have a picture of God’s love, when Jesus Christ bled and died on the cross, for the sins of the world, sins that he did not commit, He put on himself, all for the hope of bringing us to heaven pure and blameless.

But love is a word that gets tossed around in our culture a great deal. It’s a word that’s been abused and misused in our time. So it’s important that we consider what biblical Christian love really means. William Booth calls worldly love something of mere instinct at it’s best. It’s really just a give and take sort of affair. We love someone because they are nice to us. We “love” ice cream. We “love” our sports teams. But that is not what biblical Christian love is.

Biblical Christian love is an action.

This is how William Booth defines biblical love. He calls it a “Holy celestial flame which emanates from the heart of God, which unselfishly seeks the highest well being of it’s object, both for this world and the next.” It is a completely unselfish desire for the very best for someone else, here and in the world to come.

Today we try so hard not to offend anyone, not to say anything that might make someone feel hurt, or unhappy. But that is not biblical love. Biblical love cares so much for someone that is lost in sin, it warns them that they are on the wrong path and pleads with them in love to come to Jesus Christ for salvation.

Worldly love says don’t make a scene, just keep walking, be polite, don’t say anything. Don’t tell them they are wrong. Don’t try to convince them to come to Jesus. Just walk right on by. Then at least we didn’t cause a scene. Then at least we didn’t have to put ourselves out on a limb. But that’s not love. That’s disregard for our neighbors.

True biblical love is a selfless desire for the very best of that person we see. Even if it means we have to offend them. I’ll give you an example.

My friend Pam and Henry are stationed in Connor Creek. Great Godly people. But Pam told me this story once about how she came to know Jesus. She was out somewhere, in a very provocative outfit. And a woman came up to her, and gently placed her hand on Pam’s shoulder and said to her “My dear, you shouldn’t be dressed that way. God has better things for you than that. God loves you.” And Pamela turned around and glared at her and said, “Don’t you touch me. You don’t know me. Get away from me!” Now that person left having loved Pam with biblical love. Many of us might say, But who is this woman to tell Pam how to dress? That is the wrong reaction. This woman was sharing the truth in love with Pam. And I’ll tell you how it ended. Pam my dear friend, could not stop thinking about that phrase “God loves you.” It repeated in her mind for months, and months, and eventually she gave her life to Jesus. All because some lady was willing to be brave enough to talk to Pam, and get yelled at, and walk away feeling rejected. That woman who talked to Pam succeeded in her calling.

Many of us would never dream of doing something like that. It’s not polite. It’s not politically correct. But today Pam is a minister of the gospel. Imagine if that woman had been too afraid, and just decided to mind her own business.

It’s not quite what we might expect, this idea of Christian love. Christian love is to speak the truth in love.

Now we can feel love for people. I’ve felt love many times, for my family, for my session mates at training college, and for congregation members at the corps I’ve served in. That is a good thing. But we need more.

We as salvationists are in need of a burning passionate love, a continuous burden for the people of the world. Now this is not referring to a feeling. Biblical love is not chiefly a feeling. But this is an attitude of the mind, grounded in scripture, that entails emotion as it is practiced. Let me say that again: Burning love is an attitude of the mind, grounded in scripture, that entails emotions as it is practiced. Meaning we serve people in action, and the emotional response comes later.

Up to this point we have talked of this burning love as one we pour out to the people of the world, righteous and unrighteous, good and evil, but this burning love must first be found. Where does it come from? Not from us.

Burning love flows from God, to us, through Jesus. In effect God is the one who works in us, in the Holy Spirit, making us able to love with a love so far beyond what is possible in and of ourselves.

As Jesus said, you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. And also love your neighbor as yourself.

This burning love that flows from the throne of God, comes to us through Jesus Christ, applied to us by the Holy Spirit, and flies from our own souls back to the throne of God in our adoration of God, and from our souls to the souls about us, as love for our neighbor.

Now, do not be overly concerned if you do not at this time sense a great burning love flowing from your heart. But do pray earnestly, and study the scriptures diligently to seek after this burning love. For as we seek to love God, and to love others, prayerfully, and in scripture, the Holy Spirit will gradually begin to reveal this love in our lives.

Soon, after months, and years, we will realize, I love these people. I really love them. I love sinner. I love God. I love trees. I love good food. I love my cats. I love my dog. I love that homeless man. I love Jesus. I love the beautiful sunset, the sunrise, the rippling water on the lake. And we will realize over time that this love has been spread forth by the Holy Spirit within us into a rippling burst of sunlight, rays shining in a great circle from our soul bursting forth to everything and everyone around us, and bursting forth upward to the throne of God, to our great, glorious God whose love he provides to us, and whose love he receives again from us. Hallelujah, God be praised. He crafts us into love sick burning ones who burn with compassionate biblical love for the world.

Yet we also must add this caveat. As William Booth rightly put it “Nevertheless, with all this sympathy for men and goodness, the officer possessed of this burning love will be a fierce hater of evil. His love of God and truth and righteousness will make him the uncompromising opponent of sin. The more he loves God the more he will hate the devil. The more he loves purity, the more he will hate filthiness. His love of goodness will so educate him into the understanding of the hellish character of badness, and so inflame his heart with hatred of it, that at the Last Day he will consent, nay, rejoice in the everlasting banishment from God of those who will persevere in wickedness.”

In the heart of Jesus Christ was the deepest hatred for evil, so much so that he drove the tax collectors and money changers from the temple in a great fury that blazed in his eyes. Yet the word also says, that when Jesus saw the multitudes, lost in sin, as sheep without a shepherd, He had compassion on them. His heart ached for them, and he had great compassion them.

So William Booth also wrote, “You and I may condemn wickedness. We must condemn it. We cannot help but condemn and hate the drunkenness, the pride, the selfishness, the lust, and a thousand other devilish things that are carried on around us. But if we are possessed of this Burning Love we shall compassionate the guilty doers of these hateful things.”

I couldn’t agree more. The maxim is true, hate the sin, love the sinner. I hate sin. I hate how sin ruins homes. I hate how sin causes ugly divorces. I hate how sin brings about injustice, human trafficking, and domestic violence. I hate sin in all it’s forms. Sin has ravaged our world. It ruins us. But I love the sinner so much. I must have great mercy, great compassion, and great love for the people lost in sin. I don’t find this terribly hard actually. Because as you know from my story I’ve been in so many sins, up to the neck in the slimy pits of sin. I know how seductive it can be. I know how powerful it’s hold is. I know how addictive sins of the flesh can be. And I know how often times we are impacted negatively by circumstances beyond our control.

I’ve ministered to many people, from drug addicts, to those struggling with pride. It doesn’t matter what the sin is. Sin is sin, it’s God word, it doesn’t change. Every sin listed in the Bible is permanently forbidden. That’s just the truth. As much as some in our world want to change the word of God to suit their own opinions, it doesn’t change. But neither does God’s love, and our mandate to radically love those caught up in sins.

In conclusion, in our scripture today, Jesus said this: “5 The one who is victorious will be dressed in white. I will never blot out the name of that person from the book of life, but will acknowledge that name before my Father and his angels.

11 I am coming soon. Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take your crown. 12 The one who is victorious I will make a pillar in the temple of my God. Never again will they leave it. I will write on them the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which is coming down out of heaven from my God; and I will also write on them my new name." -Revelation 3:5-12

The one who is victorious, as Jesus Christ mentions twice in our scripture today, is the one who live a pure life in Christ Jesus, practicing the two great commands, to Love God, and love our neighbors. True, biblical love is a consistent, action oriented burning love, that flows from the throne of God, through Jesus, into us, and back out to God and to our neighbor. Love is not merely a feeling. Love is not a nice suggestion from Jesus. Love is a command from almighty God. Therefore, let us live biblical burning love in everything we do. Love the sinner, hate the sin, and take action to disturb the moment by interrupting people as they walk toward destruction, by inviting them to the path of salvation found in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Last night we had a bonfire in my backyard. And I watched the fire crackling and burning. Slowly around us darkness set. But it was still light enough to see the beautiful trees swaying in the wind. Birds swooped by flapping their wings through the air. The smell of freshly cut grass filled our nostrils. A rabbit hopped about in the neighbors yard. Then all at once, fireflies began bursting forth their lights across the grasses, bursting forth in waves, all at once, then darkness, then another wave, over the bushes, the grasses, and all about. They danced back and forth over the beautiful trees and grasses, plants, flowers, and bushes. Nature has a song, for those willing to hear it. The beauty of this world, the way is all fits together just right, is astonishing. If this is not evidence for God, I don’t know what is. As the darkness grew, we could only see the fire, and the fireflies. Sometimes, in our lives, we think the darkness has set in. And we can’t handle what is coming next. But in darkness is when we shine brightest. Like the fireflies, we must burst forth the light of God. We aren’t seen, but God is. That is the ultimate love, the love that comes from the Holy Spirit through us, to another. It’s not of us, it’s of another world. It’s supernatural. And if we do it right, we’re like the firefly, declaring God’s glory, but ourselves, we are invisible, and the light that is seen is God’s love, not our own. Be a vessel of that burning love, so that you burst forth so brightly, that in someone elses darkness, you become a light of hope, and glory, pointing them to Jesus Christ.