Love One Another
NCCG-India Youth Seminar, Andhra Pradesh, March 2002
Dearly beloved young men and women of the New Covenant Church of God in India. I am writing to you some thoughts which are in my heart whilst you gather together to fellowship, praise and learn more of our precious Saviour, Yah'shua the Messiah (Jesus Christ).
Long ago there was a young man whose name was Yochanan. He came from a humble but respectable background as a fisherman and worked hard to serve his father and to honour the Most High God. He was diligent, considerate, and faithful. There was something very special about this young man for though, like all youth, he could be tempremental at times, he had a heart for people and an admirable dedication to Yahweh, his Father in Heaven. His story is a great one, for whilst still a youth he rose to a position of great responsibility and has come to be loved by millions over the generations. He possessed great sensitivity and wisdom. His one message, which he repeated time and time again, was "love one another", a commandment which he received from his Master (John 13:34-35: 1 Jn.3:11,23: 4:7,11-12; 2 Jn.1:5).
If you have not already guessed, I am speaking of the apostle John. He was the youngest of the apostles, believed by many scholars to have been a teenager like yourselves when Yah'shua (Jesus) called him by the Sea of Galilee. Because of the purity of his heart he was known amongst the first Christians as "the disciple whom Yah'shua (Jesus) loved" (Jn.13:23; 19:26; 20:2; 21:7,20,24) and was to eventually rise to become the chief apostle after the martyrdom of Peter and the two James'. This young man, whose heart was focussed on Yahweh, became the author of a Gospel, three letters, and the Book of Revelation which contain some of the most profound writings of the Bible.
This young man was called to be an apostle when he was a teenager before there was even a beard on his face, a rare privilege indeed. Moreover, he came from a background of great poverty. He learned to trust Yahweh to provide his daily bread each day because he never knew what the next day would bring. We remember, don't we, that on more than one occasion he was out fishing with his brothers and how they couldn't catch a single fish. They were despondent and hungry, and knew that their hungry families would be waiting for the catch which might never have come. Finally, Yah'shua (Jesus), who knows all things, instructed them where to drop their nets. The catch was so large that they had to summonse extra help as the nets were breaking.
Good and faithful young men and women are a wonderful blessing to their fathers and mothers, and Yahweh uses them mightily both while they are young and as they mature to become men and women. But it is not easy to be a youth. Young people lack experience and yet they often feel great confidence and think they can conquer the world. New and strange feelings assault their bodies as they are driven by powerful forces which at first seem hard to control. And I will not try to minimise the problems - there is great spiritual danger for young people. The apostle Paul said:
"Flee the evil desires of youth, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord (Yahweh) out of a pure heart" (2 Timothy 2:22, NIV).
To be a youth is both a time of enormous spiritual potential as well as danger. Probably at no other time in your life will you wrestle so intensely with your carnal nature. It is a time when the flesh wishes to exercise control of the spirit and so set the pattern for the rest of your life. And though all the temptations which afflict youth also cause great trouble to adults, when you are young they all seem to gang up and attack you at once. You do not, I am sure, need me to recite all these temptations, for you know them - egotism (absorption with self), impure sexual thoughts and feelings, the desire for power and control over others, idolatry (viewing both lawful and unlawful desires as being more important than the first commandment to love God above all else), rudeness, disobedience, and rebellion. These are just some of them. They all seem to bubble to the surface when you least expect it. And they at times appear overwhelming.
However, remember this: that Yahweh permits no temptation to afflict us, whether we are young or old, that we are not able to deal with. We can never say: "It was too much and I couldn't help myself!" This statement is never true. The first sign of wisdom in a young man or woman is when they are able to admit this and to take responsibility for all that they do.
So why do young people go astray? It is very simply because they try to find their self-worth in what other people think of them instead of what Yahweh thinks of them. There is a wise saying which goes: "He who fears Yahweh will fear no man." If we fear God and keep His commandments in love, we will not be concerned about what others think of us. We will instead be trying to please our Heavenly Father, whose expectations of us are always righteous, instead of trying to appease people who will never be satisfied. For if your friends, family and acquaintances are making unrighteous demands of you, then you will never be able to satisfy them. Unrighteousness breeds more unrighteousness. Sin is never satisfied. To appease someone who wants you to sin is like giving a never ending stream of presents and getting nothing in return. The result is that you become a slave to their whims. For their goal - conscious or unconscious - is to bring you under their conrtrol. They want from you the worship that belongs to Yahweh alone. They want you to make them into gods and goddesses. They want to make you their possession.
Every young person wants to feel of worth. But our worth is not ultimately defined by what other people think or feel about is. Our worth is defined by our salvation in Christ. It is defined by the inescapable fact that the Most High God, the King of kings, descended from the highest heaven to be born as a mere mortal to serve us as a mere slave, and then to die for us so that we could have the greatest gift of all - eternal life. That is how our worth is defined. If we are important it is because God in Christ gave everything up for us in the ultimate sacrifice. So if anyone asks you, "Who are you?" You can reply: "I am so loved that God Himself was willing to become my servant and die for me."
Once we come to know, understand and appreciate what Yahweh has done for us, we never need to have another crisis about our self-worth. If the Infinite One died for little me, then it follows we are of infinite worth. It means that the Almighty Creator was willing to surrender everything to prove that I am of great, great worth - far more worth than even wonderful, loving parents can give us, or even Yahweh's servants in the Church/Assembly.
How much do you trust Yahweh to see you right? Have you taken the time to get to really know Him? And to get to really know someone, you need to work alongside them - to share in life's joys and sorrows, to give of yourself, and to think continuously of the welfare of your brothers and sisters..
Please do not think of Christianity as a boring faith. We are not called to be monks and nuns. Yahweh does not want us to lock ourselves away in monasteries or temples, or bury ourselves in the ground, or cut ourselves off from people. Such things do not gain a soul merit in Yahweh's eyes. Indeed, we do not need to earn merit at all! It has all been done for us, and all that is required is that we become channels for the love and grace of Yah'shua (Jesus) by letting Him do His works through us.
The apostle John wrote:
"Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world - the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does - comes not from the Father but from the world" (1 John 2:15-16, NIV).
Where do your ambitions lie, brothers and sisters? Are you being led by selfish forces - cravings - after wealth, fame, or power? I hope not. But rather, our minds and hearts should be focussed on more humble things where peace and everlasting happiness lie. Like Tabitha (Dorcas) we should "always [be] doing good and helping the poor" (Acts 9:36). Look around you at all the suffering - there is so much good you can be doing! By sharing the Good News of Christ as John did all his life and by ministering to the poor, the hungry, and the grieving, we are fulfilling Yahweh's greatest call to us. The Ruach haQodesh (Holy Spirit) will be poured out in abundance when we are doing these things.
"But how can I know if God is with me?" you may ask. It is simple. John says:
"But if anyone obeys his word, God's love is truly made complete in him. This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus (Yah'shua) did" (1 John 2:5, NIV).
When we are being obedient, in love - and not just out of a slave mentality - then we know that Yahweh's love is being completed in us. And if that is not enough, then we must simply imitate the way of Yah'shua (Jesus).
Some of you may have heard of the Indian your man who was named Virtue and who is said to have mastered all branches of knowledge by the time he was 16, and who, upon his father's death, became the righteous ruler of Benares and was known as King Great Virtue. He ordered special halls to be built in his palace where the poor could receive alms. He advocated a doctrine of non-violence and always answered evil acts with kind ones. He had a powerful army of 1,000 brave and dauntless warriors, the kind of men who would not flinch at the charge of a maddened elephant. They were so loyal and devoted that they would have willingly conquered the whole of India for him.
You may remember that John was like that in the beginning. When a town in Samaria would not repent and receive the Gospel, youthful John wanted to call down fire from heaven to destroy them! He was that angry! But Yah'shua would not let him. Instead, he got a stern rebuke. He was told that the Son of Man had not come to destroy souls but save them. The "Son of Thunder", as John was known, was taught an important lesson (Luke 9:54).
Well, the Kingdom of Benares was invaded by the Kingdom of Kosala but King Great Virtue did not lift a finger to stop the aggressor. His 1,000 crack troops remained unused and his country was occupied. The enemy buried him and his ministers alive in a graveyard with their heads poking above the ground, to be left to the vultures to finish them off.
The details of the rest of the story are not important, for they are a little fanciful and not particularly spiritual or godly. But the point is that King Great Virtue won his kingdom back from the evil King of Kosala without violence such that the King of Kosala was converted by his goodness and gave him his kingdom back which he had forcibly seized.
There was once a woman called Abigail who possessed such goodness. She was married to an evil husband called Nabal who refused to support the youthful David who at that time was on the run from a wicked King called Saul. David was an upright and good man. His bravery against the pagan giant Goliath is well known to you. Abigail was greatly attracted to this goodness and purity in him and so she sought to help this young fugitive and his men as much as she was able, in spite of her husband's opposition. In the end God struck her evil husband dead and she at once presented herself to David to be one of his wives. Though married originally to an evil man, which must have caused her some considerable suffering, she remained virtuous and Yahweh rewarded her with a good husband (1 Samuel 25:2ff).
You young people have the potential to do much good and to bring glory and honour to the Name of the one true God, Yahweh-Elohim, and His Son Yah'shua (Jesus). You have the chance to set a good example to the lost youth around you by showing kindness, patience, and love to them. Let them see that Yah'shua (Jesus) makes a difference to your life. Let them be attracted by the goodness in your lives, for the power of attraction will win you eternal friends. Force never works.
Now let me ask you all a question. (Perhaps someone can do this as an illustration). If you light a match and just hold it, what will happen to you? <pause> Yes, it will burn your finger! And that is not very pleasant, is it? Let me ask you another question: If you light a match and hold it, and you don't want to burn your finger, you must do one of two things. What are they? <pause> (a) You must blow it out, or (b) use the flame to light something else and then drop the match.
Well, sin is like that lighted match. Inflamed passions may look and feel good in the beginning but pretty soon they will burn you. A wise person drops the match before he seriously burns himself - a foolish and stubborn one will hold on to it whilst it roasts his flesh alive. So you can (i) blow it out immediately; (ii) blow it out as soon as it starts burning your finger; or (iii) Hold on to it until it puts itself out as it burns your fingers badly. Who of the three is the wisest person? <pause> Of course, the one who blows it out before any pain is caused.
But there is a fourth category of person, and this person is the most dangerous of all. This is the person who uses the lighted match to inflame the passions of other people. Then sin begins to spread. And once it spreads, it spreads fast!
The Bible warns us strictly to control our speech. Listen to what the apostle James says about it:
"...the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell" (James 3:5-6, NIV).
Human beings are very dangerous when they are controlled by their passions., what the Bible calls the "flesh" or the carnal nature. And it's not something that you can ignore. You can't suppress it. If you do, it will return with a vengeance, like an earthquake or a flood. It has to be delt with, and it has to be dealt with decisively.
What do you do to a rogue elephant or a mad tiger? Do you try to capture it? No, you do not. You shoot it dead, and you do so as quickly as possible before more and more people are injured or killed. These uncontrolled human passions are deadly and cannot be allowed to rule us, let alone remain in any form whatsoever. The apostle Paul makes it quite clear when he says:
"Those who belong to Christ Jesus (Messiah Yah'shua) have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires" (Gal.5:23, NIV).
Anger, hatred, jealosy, selfish ambition, impure sexual urges, and all that is evil ... What are we to do with it? Lock it away inside? No, we are to bring it to a complete and final end. We are commanded to CRUCIFY it.
This is a strong word. It means it has to be put to death. But since we cannot put this evil nature to death in our own strength, we need supernatural help. And there Yah'shua stands ready to extinguish this unruly nature for us. So how do we do it? Before I answer that, we need to know what the signs are of someone who has successfully crucified the sinful nature. So how will we know that? Paul explains in the verse before:
"...the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control" (vv.22-23, NIV).
This is the measuring stick of our salvation. Our bodies cannot be possessed by two spirits - the carnal nature and the Ruach haQodesh (Holy Spirit). If we are possessed by the carnal nature, then the Ruach (Spirit) is not in us, and we will know it because of the spiritual fruits in our lives.
Crucifixion is a violent word. It is a humiliating word. It is a painful, torturous word. But that is the word the apostle used. The only way to deal with this carnal tendency is CRUCIFIXION - not literal, but spiritual.
There are two ways we can deal with this problem: (a) the easier way; or (b) the harder way. Notice I didn't say "easy" But "easier". It is hard. But the easier way is not nearly as hard as the hard way. Yahweh uses the hard method to discipline the stubborn, rebellious and unteachable. And He may do so in many ways: by sending sickness, pain, catastrophe, or any amount of difficulty. Hardships can humble iu. It is hard but sometimes necessary.
The easier method - hard though it is - is much quicker, but it requires the voluntary death of something we are all rather fond of: PRIDE. Yahweh hates pride. He actively opposes it. From pride come all the evils in the universe. Pride is what caused Lucifer to fall and become the Adversary (Satan). Pride breeds rebellion, disobedience, false religion, and murder. And there are not many people who are willing to let go of it.
"God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble" (James 4:6, NIV).
Pride is the root of the carnal nature. And it is deeply embedded in us. But how to deal it a death blow?
The answer is simple: full and complete contrition. Placing yourself under obedience. Sons and daughters fully and completely submitted to their fathers and mothers, wives fully and completely submitted to husbands, new disciples to Deacons, new disciples and Deacons to Elders, new disciples, Deacons, and Elders to Pastors, Pastors to Bishops, Bishops to Apostles, and all to Christ.
Now I am not talking about blind obedience, but obedience to righteousness and to the officers that Yahweh has established in the local Church/Assembly. Our first loyalty is to the truth, which means obedience to Yahweh's commandments. But that is not the end of it. Thereafter we are supposed to be loyal to those whom He has set over us, whether parents, pastors or husbands.
People don't like to be obedient. They want to do their "own thing". But this kind of disobedience is not a small matter:
"For rebellion is like the sin of divination, and arrogance like the evil of idolatry" (1 Sam.15:23, NIV).
There is no better cure for rebellion and arrogance than learning to submit to authority. Such behaviour has a tendency to chip away at pride and to reduce it to its proper proportions. And though such may be a bitter pill to swallow at first, and leave one far from joyful initially, it must be done if that carnal nature is going to be crucified. But consider this: it is far better that you crucify it yourself than to force Yahweh to do it for you through circumstances such as unfriendly human agents.
"Flee the evil desires of youth, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord (Yahweh) out of a pure heart" (2 Timothy 2:22, NIV).
To flee does not mean to walk away but to run as though you were being chased by a mad elephant or a hungry tiger. This is not something you can casually do at your convenience. You have to react quickly and decisively like a soldier in a combat situation. For behind evil desires is not just human carnal nature, but demons. And you can guess what their plans are.
So go and put yourself under authority - not just with your mouth but with your heart and in very deed. And do so of your own free will, in the love of Yah'shua (Jesus) as you learn how blessed it is to serve. Start making plans to train as a Deacon or a Deaconess. Talk to your parents or guardians (if they are in the Church) and/or your Pastor. Find out what your spiritual gifts are and cultivate them eagerly. Ask Yahweh in prayer what He wants you to do with your life and how you can become a good servant. For truly there is nothing more wonderful than the privilege of being able to serve like Yah'shua (Jesus) did.
"Keep yourselves in God's love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ (Yah'shua the Messiah) to bring you to eternal life" (Jude 1:21, NIV).
"To him who overcomes, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God" (Revelation 2:7, NIV).
"This calls for patient endurance on the part of the saints who obey God's commandments and remain faithful to Jesus (Yah'shua)" (Revelation 14:12, NIV).
May Yahweh bless and prosper you all as you choose the rightand may you be filled with His love and grace as His true servants. Amen.
This page was created on 3 March 2002
Last updated on 3 March 2002
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