Abiding in the Love of the Father and the Son

Twin fawns in our back yard – photo by Michael Clark

And having been asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God is coming, He responded to them and said, “The kingdom of God is not coming with observation, nor will they say, ‘Behold— here it is’, or, ‘There it is’. For behold— the kingdom of God is within you.” (Luke 17:20-21, DLNT)

All of Israel was waiting for a Messiah who would come and set up an earthly kingdom on Mount Zion, the city of the Great King, and the Pharisees and Saducees were expecting to be made His heads of state and rule with Him. When Jesus made it clear that His Father’s kingdom was not going to fulfill their desires, they had no use for Him and looked on Him as an impostor. Even until the very end He was trying to get His disciples to see that the Kingdom of God was not a government setup like those of men on this earth. Even two of them who were brothers were hoping to sit at His right hand and the other on His left. Imagine what the others felt when they made this request? Is our motivation any different today as we vie for positions on the pastor’s staff or seats of power in our denominations? Jesus told His disciples, “Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Matt 10:39, ESV2011). We spend way too much time trying to establish our earthly lives instead of our lives in the Kingdom of God. He went on to say, “The greatest among you shall be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted” (Matt 23:11-12, ESV2011).

The Kingdom of God is a family not an organization and He is our Father, the Son of God is our brother and who believe in Christ are all the Father’s children. In light of this consider the following verses.

Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. (John 14:1-3, ESV2011)

Notice that He said, “I will take you to myself, that where I AM there you will be also.” Where was Jesus in that moment? Yes, He was in Jerusalem, but He was IN the Father and His Father was in Him. It was God’s design for us to have the same relationship that Jesus has with the Father for He is the Firstborn of many brethren (see Romans 8:29). In His final prayer for those who would believe into Him He said, “That they all may be one; as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that you have sent me” (John 17:21, KJ2000). The sickness of organized religion is manifest in the fact that there are over 41,000 different Christian denominations and sects. Our hope for heavenly unity has to be outside that system if we are to love one another in the unity of Jesus and His Father. The disunity of the Christian religion has destroyed any unity in heavenly love that could be a witness that Jesus is the Son of God.

Jesus was going to the cross in a few short hours from the time He said these words. By dying for our sins and releasing the Holy Spirit to be poured out within us, He was preparing a place in the Father’s “house” for us. The Greek word translated as “mansions” or “rooms” in chapter 14 simply means abode. With that in mind consider His following words:

I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.” (John 14:18-21, ESV2011)

We who abide in His love are each the abode of the Father and the Son and it is here that we abide in one another. We do not have to wait until we die to abide with them in their love. All too much of Christian thought and doctrine is all about “pie in the sky, by and by.” The deep truths of the Kingdom of God are always put off in our thinking for another time after we are dead and another place. His kingdom is not on the other side of the universe. It is in the middle of us, in our hearts if we abide in their love.

So many Christians read, “In my Father’s house are many mansions” as I once did and all they can see is their garish mansion they will live in for eternity that is waiting for them. The kingdom of Heaven is a Spirit kingdom, not one made of bricks and boards. We are all members of Christ’s body. The Christian life is all about a loving relationship with the Father and the Son as they abide in us and as such our relationships with one another are filled with their love. Love is our whole motivation when it comes to sharing the Gospel of His kingdom.

Jesus said, “If a man loves me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him” (John 14:23, KJV). Here the word translated “abode” is the same one that was translated “mansions” in verse two. We who love Jesus are the house of God and this experience is totally life changing. He is constantly drawing us ever higher into the reality of heaven here on earth.

Jesus also said, “Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him” (John 14:21, ESV2011). Once again we see that in His kingdom ours is a love centered relationship with the Father and the Son. Love is the one unifying force that streams out from the Father for all His creation. Without His love for us and in us, there is no family of God and there is no unity among us as their abode. And how does Jesus manifest Himself to us? It is by His love abiding in us, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35, ESV2011). Yet, there are many cases where Jesus has appeared in visions and dreams and in person to those who love Him and are seeking Him. He is the Light of the World and He is also the Son of Man and in most of these cases, He appears as a bright and shining light in the form of a man who radiates the love of God. One time in the beginning of my Christian walk when my life was being threatened by Satan, Jesus appeared this way to me and immediately that demon was gone. I was most impressed by the tender love I felt radiating from Him for me as He manifest Himself to me. All I had prayed was, “Jesus, HELP!” and Satan was gone.

You might be asking how we keep the commands of Jesus when so much hinges on this? He explained:

As the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you. Remain in My love. If you keep My commands you will remain in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commands and remain in His love. I have spoken these things to you so that My joy may be in you and your joy may be complete. This is My command: Love one another as I have loved you. (John 15:9-12, HCSB – emphasis added)

I know of no greater joy than to be in a relationship with the saints of God who love Him and walk in His love for one another. Yes, it is a rare thing in our culture, but it is truly heavenly when we experience it. I hope you have also known this love and that you are complete in the Father and the Son. Dear saints,

May the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, as we do for you, so that he may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints. (1Thess 3:12-13, ESV2011)

We Are Individually Members One of Another

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As I was reading my daily devotional by T. Austin-Sparks [1] something jumped off the page and into my heart. The lead verse in this missive read,

For as in one body we have many members… so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. (Rom 12:4-5, ESV2011)

It was the word, “individually” that got my attention. God places us not only in Christ’s body in a general way, but in an individual way. Yes, we are part of what is called “the Church,” but this has been way over-emphasized, so much so that we can’t see the trees for the forest. When we think of “church” we think of a mass of people coming together on Sunday (Catholics even call this “the mass”) in a very impersonal way. We are arranged in rows facing forward so we can see the face of the pastor and hear his words, only being allowed to see the backs of hundreds of heads which we call “church members.” And they call this fellowship? Is this really what Paul had in mind when he referred to us as being ONE in Christ’s body and members one of another?

In this system we call “doing church,” how much individual interconnection in Christ’s Spirit do we really have? Think about it–this system even divides families, God’s building block of humanity. Under its rule we have little time to be together as a family. As soon as we hit the door the children are ushered off to the nursery or “children’s church.” Then there is “teen church,” the “adult Sunday school class” and during the week there is “men’s fellowship,” the “women’s Bible study,” “Wednesday night prayer meeting,” etc. Everything is about division under the rigid control of an appointed leader. Let’s face it, most of the involvement we have in that system is controlled by a human head and is anything but an organic connection where we are “individually members one of another” with Christ’s Spirit leading and inspiring our fellowship.

So, as I was reading the above passage from Romans, the Spirit was making it clear that there is an inner-working of the individual members of Christ’s body where we, as in the case of a human body, are interconnected in an interdependent way, INDIVIDUALLY members of one another. Elsewhere, Paul wrote, “The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you,’ nor again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you.’” (1Cor 12:21, ESV2011), yet do we live that way with one another? Isn’t there a cold indifference in our church membership outside of our organized meetings?

Sparks went on to write about an even greater intimacy between members of the body of Christ where one member is suffering and we feel it in a personal way.

We are a part of a Body. Many of our sufferings are not on our own account at all. Many of the sufferings of the children of God have nothing whatever to do with their own faults or their own failing. They are suffering in a related way, they are suffering for the Body’s sake, they are entering into the battle; the conflict of this one great testimony. Sometimes it is almost uncanny when the Lord has something in view in relation to His testimony of Life, how for no reason whatever, on no account at all, we discover that we are involved and ours is not an isolated experience. All sorts of people all over the place are having the same kind of experience – a terrific sense of pressure, upset, annoyance, anything to frustrate – it is happening all round, testifying that in the spiritual realm, in the realm of the Spirit, there is a fine, sensitive oneness which matters to the Lord, and therefore matters to the enemy.

Do not always take your sufferings as some controversy that the Lord has with you. That is the twist the enemy often gives. Be open to the Lord to be checked up on anything, but do not always take it that the things which are happening to you and causing you trouble and suffering are due to your own failure or wrong. You are involved in something very much more than that. [2]

One time my wife and I were at a “couples weekend retreat” and the opening meeting was on a Friday night at a lodge on a scenic lake in north Idaho. As the meeting started, the leader of this function said he was feeling a heaviness in his spirit for some reason and asked us all to start by praying for the Lord’s direction as to what it could be. I also was feeling this heaviness and as I prayed, I heard the following words, “Rachel weeping for her children because they were not.” When we were through praying, he asked what we might have heard and I shared that verse. I sensed there had been a massacre somewhere, just as this passage was speaking of all those babies who were killed by Herod in Bethlehem that day (see Matthew 2:16-18). We were all puzzled until we got home and heard the news. That very day the massacre at Jonestown had taken place and we were feeling the tragedy of so many innocent people being killed by that maniacal cult’s leadership.

Yes, we who are members of Christ’s body ARE members one of another corporately as well as individually. Have you ever been so knit together with another member that you could feel their sorrow and their joy without even physically being with them or hearing from them to find out about it? You see, Paul spoke of us being individually members one of another. The members of Christ’s body that He has knit us together with in His Spirit have this happen quite often. If we have offended one of them, we can’t stand it until we make it right. We feel the heart-rending separation. We also feel their joy and rejoice. This is true most often with husbands and wives, but it can happen with others who He has brought together as “members one of another.” We can be so knit together that we often have the same thoughts or even find ourselves speaking the same words at the same time. This is where it gets exciting, being made one even as the Son is one with the Father. Jesus said, “I only speak the words that I hear my Father saying.” Isn’t this what Jesus was praying for us to experience as His last will and testament before He died?

The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. (John 17:22-23, ESV2011)

That we who are members of His body may become perfectly ONE in His love, this is His will for us. You see, dear saints, anything less than this is not normal Christianity. We who are Christians have settled for so much less in today’s Laodicean church system. Lukewarmness involves much more that a lackadaisical on again off again church attendance. Lukewarmness is being content with anything less than the unity among us of the Father and the Son. God is not satisfied with the status of today’s church and neither should we be content with it in our own lives. Some of us are driven to walk in the unity of the Father and the Son with other members of the body of Christ because we have tasted it. I pray that you all may experience this in the Spirit as well.

Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him! (Ps 34:8, ESV2011)

[1] http://austin-sparks.net/subscribe.html

[2] http://www.austin-sparks.net/english/books/002986.html