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Tom has recently published the book:  Holiness:  The Journey, The Joy, The Difference.

Do you feel dissatisfied with the way you are and long to be a better person?

Have you ever wanted to cry out to the Lord, "Lord, please change me?"

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Do you ever wonder how we can love God with our whole heart? In this key article, Dr. Hermiz explores the challenge that Christ gave to His followers: to follow Him and love Him with their entire heart.
 

A lawyer approached Christ and asked, "What is the greatest commandment in the law?"

Jesus replied, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.  This is the first and great commandment.  And the second is like unto it; love your neighbor as yourself.  All the law and the prophets hang on these two commandments."

The way of love, the more excellent way, is the way that leads to eternal life.   Loving God with all of your heart and your neighbor as yourself are the basic essentials of the Christian life.
 

Loving God


What does it mean to love God with all your heart?  In John 14:21, Jesus said, "Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me."  To love God is a passionate desire to obey and please Him.  We must know His commands and through the power of His Spirit, obey them.

It is far easier to speak of love for God in terms of some sort of emotional response to Him.  The love God desires is love expressed in wholehearted, down-to-earth, day-by-day obedience to His will.

When we love God with our whole heart, it impacts every area of our lives--our values, priorities, stewardship, vocation, and relationships.  Our love for God is demonstrated by our obedience to His lordship in all of these areas.

In the pages of the Old Testament God declared, "Thou shalt have no other gods before me."  What God said negatively in the Old Testament, Jesus reiterates positively in the New Testament when He tells us that we must love God with our whole being.  Anything less than full surrender and complete obedience to God is sin.

You can not love God with your whole heart in your own strength. The power and influence of sin is too great.  The pull to evil and selfish living is far too overwhelming.  The only way we can respond to this command is through the strength and grace of God. Through the power of His Holy Spirit we can make a full surrender and keep His commandments.

Human nature is such that we must all have a master.  We are going to serve something or someone.  God has given us complete freedom in choosing whom we will serve.  Some have enthroned their own ego.  They live a selfish, self-centered life.  They bow down to their own shrine and are totally enamored with themselves.   This is the very epitome of carnal pride.   Individuals in this con­dition have very little love for anyone else.  They simply use people to meet their own whims and wishes.  Frequently, after they have used people to meet their own needs, they throw them away like some kind of recyclable can.

There are others who worship another person or some philosophy of life.  Others are totally enamored with their vocational ambi­tions.   However, the more excellent way, the way of love, is allowing God to be the absolute Lord over every area of our lives. Each of us must answer the question, whom or what do we serve? What is the supreme affection of your life?

There is a wonderful sense in which God makes it easy for us to love Him by loving us first.  He did something for us that no one else could do.  "In that He commended His love toward us, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us."   When we consider the love, the holiness, and the fatherhood of God, it sets the sparks of love blazing within us.  Jesus made it very clear that if we truly love God, we will obey Him.  That which God wants from His people is obedience, regardless of the circumstances and in spite of how unknown the outcome may be.

The Apostle Paul gave himself to build the early church.  But as his life drew to a close, he could only see a string of tiny out­posts along the Mediterranean, many of them weakened by immoral indulgences or divided over doctrinal issues.  The very nature of the obedience that God demands is that it be given without regard to circumstances or results.

Obedience is the key to real faith.  Job lost his home, his family, his health, and even his hope.  The advice of friends was of little help.  No matter where he turned, he could not find any answers to his plight.   Eventually he stood alone.  Even though it appeared that God had abandoned him, Job held to the assurance that God is who He said He was.  Job confirmed his obedience with those classic words of faith; "Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him."

If we love God, we will obey His commandments.  The more excellent way is loving God with all of your heart and your neighbor as yourself.  Your love for God will be your primary motivation for keeping His commandments.

In his book, The Pursuit of Holiness, Jerry Bridges says "It is time for us Christians to face up to our responsibility for holiness. Too often we say we are defeated by this or that sin.  No, we are not defeated; we are simply disobedient.  It might be well if we stop using the terms 'victory' and 'defeat' to describe our progress in holiness.  Rather, we should use the terms 'obedience' and 'disobedience.'  The Christian life begins with obedience, depends on obedience, and results in obedience.  We can not escape it.  Jesus makes it very clear, 'Whoever has my commandments and obeys them, he is the one who loves me.'   Loving God means living out His commands no matter what the cost.  It means obeying him even when it is inconvenient.  It means obeying Him even when it is against our own interest."

John tells us that if our love for God is complete, we will 'have confidence on the Day of Judgement.  In I John 4:8, he declares that "perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment."  The man who fears is not made perfect in love. Perfect love will set us from self-centeredness and give us a complete confidence in God.  Perfect love means we are enabled, through the infilling of the Holy Spirit, to love God with all of our heart.  This is made possible because He has given us His own Spirit to dwell within us.

Although perfect love will not free us from the phobias we have acquired throughout the course of our lifetime, it will set us free from the fear of the judgement and the hereafter.  The way of love is truly the more excellent way.

Loving Your Neighbor


You can not separate loving God from loving others.  This is another reason why the way of love is the more excellent way.  It enables us to not only love God with all of our heart, but it gives us the power to love our neighbor as ourself.  In I John 4:20-21 we read, "If anyone says,  I love God, yet hates his brother, he is a liar.  Anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, can not love God, whom he has not seen.  And he has given us this command; whoever loves God must also love his brother."  It is a complete contradiction to say we love God with all of our heart and not to love our neighbor as ourself.

If you love your neighbor as yourself, you certainly are not going to harm them in any way.  We will gladly give them the benefit of the doubt and endeavor to always seek their highest good.

Christian love never intentionally sets out to hurt or harm another person.   It is a love that refuses to seek revenge.   It declares that regardless of what anyone has said about me or done to me, I will never endeavor to get even or to put them down. However, I will always endeavor to lift them up.  Christian love is a love that forgives and restores.

I must remind you that our forgiveness from God is not based on His willingness or unwillingness to forgive us.  It is based on our willingness to forgive those who despitefully use us.  If we are harboring ill will, unforgiveness, or resentment in our heart toward another person, we can not expect God to forgive us.

Christian love is more than just an emotion.  It is also an act of the will.  It is a love that states, "I will turn the other cheek. I will go the second mile.   I will forgive seventy times seven." This love is the fruit of the Spirit in the life of a Spirit-filled believer.  It is that divine ability to love your enemies and those who despitefully use you.

If we have the love of Christ in our hearts, we will be able to love not only those who love us and those who are lovable, but we will have the divine ability to love the unlovely and those who despise and hate us.

You may not like a person's personality or life style, but through the power of the Holy Spirit in your life, you can treat them right and seek to help them rather than ignoring them or putting them down.  There is a desperate need in our world for this kind of love.  The way of love is truly the more excellent way.

I have reached the place where I believe that our relationship with one another is a good indication of our relationship with Christ.  To say we are in Christ and be out of fellowship with one another is a reflection on the name and cause of our Saviour.  It is a dreadful contradiction to say that God's love is in our heart and yet still have bitterness, malice, and unforgiveness in our heart.  One of the ways to draw closer to Christ is to draw closer to one another.   Jesus said, "Whatever you do to the least of my brethren, you do to me."

Recently, I heard someone make the comment about a certain minister being very competent except for the fact that he did not get along very well with people.   The problem I have with this is that God has called us to work with people; not with dogs, cats, or animals, but with people.  It seems to me that if we are to be effective in the ministry, we must have the love of God so shed abroad in our hearts that we will be able to love not only the lovely and the lovable, but the unlovely and unlovable people around us.   When perfect love is a priority in our life, it will make a difference in the way we react toward those who disagree with us.  Instead of putting them down, we will listen to their views with courtesy and treat them with kindness and respect. Through the power of the Holy Spirit we will continue to love them even when they have rejected us.

A dose of Christian love would heal many of the divisions and schisms within the church.  I have the concern that we have some­times preached this doctrine at a higher level than we have experienced it.  Because of this, we have appeared to be phonies and hypocrites in the eyes of many.

If God has to bypass the holiness movement and raise up someone else to do the job we have been called to do, it will not be because of our doctrine.  We have a scriptural, well-balanced, sane, and sensible doctrine.  Our problem has been that we have not always experienced and demonstrated true Christian love.

Although perfect love will not solve all of our disagreements and misunderstandings, it will enable us to disagree agreeably.  It will enable us to rise above many of our differences and work together for the upbuilding of the kingdom.

Another reason that perfect love is the more excellent way is that it delivers us from envy.  Envy is the malignant feeling we have toward others because of their success and prosperity.  It mani­fests itself in little things, such as saying things that detract from the success of others, by saying things that bring a cloud over their reputation; by attributing their success to anything other than their own ability and hard work.

There are now many stories coming out of the Christian community in Eastern Europe.  In recent days the media has had much to say about Eric Honecker who was the Marxist leader in Eastern Germany for many years.  Presently, he has been allowed to live in Russia since his country wants him to stand trial for the murders he ordered.  It was Mr. Honecker who ordered his guards to shoot to kill anyone trying to get over the wall that divided Eastern and Western Germany.

Mrs. Honecker was the minister of education for many years in Eastern Germany.   When Pastor Hugh Homer and his wife wanted to send each of their eight children to college, they were denied higher education by Mrs. Honecker simply because of their commitment to Christ.

When the Marxist government in East Germany crumbled, the Honeckers were literally left on the streets of East Berlin.  No one, not even their Marxist friends, wanted to be identified with them.  When Pastor Hugh Homer learned that the Honeckers were on the street without any place to go, he went out and found them. He invited the Honeckers to come to the parsonage to stay with them until they could make other arrangements.  The Honeckers accepted Pastor Homer's invitation and moved into the parsonage with the family they had denied the privilege of higher education on eight different occasions.  After several days, Pastor Hugh Homer said that, although the Honeckers had not renounced their Marxist beliefs, they were now bowing their heads and folding their hands when the family prayed around the dinner table.

Although the Honeckers are now living in exile in Russia, I am confident they will never forget this powerful demonstration of Christian love.  It is this kind of love which enables us to return good for evil, blessing for cursing, and love for hatred. I remind you of the words of our Saviour when He said, "You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven.  He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the right­eous and the unrighteous.  If you love those who love you, what reward will you get?  Are not even tax collectors doing that?  And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others?  Do not even pagans do that?  Be perfect, therefore, as your Heavenly Father is perfect."  Matt. 5:43-48.

We are under enormous pressure from the world around us to be pressed into their mold.  We hear so much of man and his philos­ophies and ideologies and there is a tendency to become like him in our attitudes and life styles.  May God help us to resist that temptation and live a life that is Christ-centered and Spirit-filled--a life that reflects the beauty of Christ's love within us.

When Paul said, "Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus," he was telling us that we could have the same attitudes or the same disposition that Christ possessed.  To be like Christ should be the deep, burning, consuming passion within our hearts. The life of Christ was characterized by oneness with the Father-­perfect love for the Father and humanity, and a spirit of peace. When our hearts have been cleansed from all sin and Christ is Lord, the atmosphere of our lives will not be one of strife and discord, but it will be characterized by love and peace.

The evidence is overwhelming that the way of love is the more excellent way.