Last week we began discussing the necessary inseparability of love and righteousness. We also discussed the “doing” of love, which is needed if we ever want true depth in our relationship with God, and not merely a Hallmark card sentimentality of talk. Again, love and righteousness (right living) are the sure expressions of true faith:
“This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not a child of God; nor is anyone who does not love his brother” (1 John 3:10, emphasis mine).
Right living is a litmus test of true faith in Christ. But our “law abiding” comes only as a byproduct of holy love, not as a means of attaining it. As we draw close to the heart of God, we have a burning desire to put away every sin, every hindrance that spoils the expression of intimacy between us and our Lover. We suddenly want to chase away even the “little” sins and wrong motives that corrupt the fruit of that communion.
In Song of Solomon 2:15, the Lover says to me, “Catch for us the foxes, the little foxes / that ruin the vineyards, our vineyards that are in bloom.”
As children, we learn the discipline of the Lord concerning sin, as a father disciplines a son. We can never fully exhaust the Father heart of God toward us as sons. But I believe that the Bridegroom Lover aspect of God reaches dimensions even beyond the loving, patriarchal expression of the Father. In Jewish tradition, a young man was not even allowed to read the Song of Solomon until he was about 12 years old – the age of maturity. This Song was also considered the holiest book of the Old Testament. There is a mature expression of love that is reserved for those who have trained their senses to distinguish between good and evil. It is this place of divine intimacy where we truly realize that even minor sin is tantamount to spiritual adultery with the Lord.
God is not wringing his hands over the actuality of our sin. God always looks on the heart, and not the outer form. The reasons for God’s judgments are rarely tied to the outward manifestation of our actions. They are primarily tied to the corrupt state of our hearts that produces such sin. A good tree never bears bad fruit. The very reason for His judgments is that He wants to remove every hindrance to love. Clean hands and pure hearts are inextricably connected. We must learn to “put on” love. Mature love.
God is fiercely jealous for his bride. As we mature in love, we begin to take the perspective that sin is only the product of a heart that has already been seduced away from the Lover of its soul. A heart that has forgotten the ecstasies of His presence – the pleasures of His right hand. Holiness is not about exterior action and legality. It is about a heart fully devoted to the loving kindness of God. Holiness has nothing to do with legalism, and everything to do with love.
During the deepest visitations I have ever had with the Lord, one thing always tends to stand out above everything else: His eyes. Just as the apostle John said, his eyes are truly a flame of fire. The eyes of the Lord are deep, purging and penetrating. As you are sitting with Him, you know He sees right through the very core of you. Nothing is hidden. There are no little foxes. You are completely vulnerable and your inner heart of hearts is always revealed in that gaze. And at the same time, I am overtaken by passion in that place, to my utmost limit. I am undone.
As much as we want to gaze into those eyes, it is so intense that we can only take a little of it at a time. The first time I saw the Lord face to face in a vision, I was overwhelmed and told him, “I understand why Peter said, ‘Turn away from me Lord, for I am a sinful man.’” I was unable to stand in that level of glory. Immediately, the vision was over. Otherwise, I may have died.
The Lord’s love and beauty is so severe, that we hardly have the capacity to handle it. Mike Bickle compares it to trying to plug a million volts of power through a five-volt fuse. Our capacity to experience the love of God is so limited, that his beauty and awe actually strikes fear and paralysis into us! God is not frightening because He is evil. It is actually the intensity of His beauty that makes him so terrible! His goodness is so extreme that it wrecks us.
So how do we increase our ability to experience this higher love? Know this: It does not come through the law. Living right and obeying God will not produce love, but love will always produce obedience. Love is a gift, not a paycheck that is earned. And all good and perfect gifts come from the Father above:
“For from him and through him and to him are all things. …” (Rom. 11:35-36).
Love comes from God; He is the channel, and love is ultimately given so we can return it back to Him. To know God is to love him. Our first step toward love is to set our gaze on Him. It is by first considering His love for me, that I am empowered to then love God in return. It is by looking at Him that our eye becomes full of light, and thus our entire body becomes full of light. And we look at Him with the eyes of faith. This is why worship is so critical, as is the act of waiting in His presence. We spend time with Him, in order to see Him and know Him better.
“The Faith and the hope and the Love are all in the waiting,” said T.S. Eliot.
I must pull aside and look into those eyes of fire, and consider His passion for me, broken open on the cross. The first step toward love is to contemplate His love for me. When I consider the advances of my Lover, my heart is captured and I, too, am broken open.