Love That's Only Skin Deep



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Brothers and sisters in Christ, today we’re going to cover one of the most talked about words in the entire New Testament; Love. (John 13:34) A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. (35) By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” We are commanded to love one another and this love is the fruit of the Spirit, or the proof that we are disciples of Jesus Christ. It's not just going to church every Sunday; it’s that love of God that flows from our heart to others. Do we have this kind of love in our hearts for each other or is it only a shallow love that’s just “skin deep”?

Two Kinds of Love

There are generally two types of love spoken about in our New Covenant. The first is the Greek word phileō; it means a brotherly love, to be a friend, to have affection for. This is the most common type of love that we experience in this world and it’s an emotional love that occurs in almost every person to some degree. Whether they’re saved or unsaved, the average person today readily has this phileō, this emotional type of love within them.

The other Greek word for love is agape (ah-gah-pay) and sometimes agapaō. This is a much rarer type of love that only comes from our Father in Heaven through His Son Jesus Christ. Agape / agapaō love is the love of Jesus shining forth from our heart. It’s that divine love that’s related to being obedient to God’s Word. (John 14:23) Jesus answered him, "If anyone loves (agape) me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love (agape) him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. (24) Whoever does not love (agape) me does not keep my words. Agape / agapaō love is an action type of love which makes God’s Word come to life by acting on that Word. It’s an unconditional, self-sacrificing love that considers others before self. (Ephesians 5:1) Therefore be imitators of God as dear children. (2) And walk in love (agape), as Christ also has loved (agapaō) us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma. Agape / agapaō love is love put into action; a love not just of words but love put into actions. It’s a love that comes forth from your heart even when a person has done something to hurt you. (1 Cor 13:4) Love (agapaō) suffers long and is kind; love (agapaō) does not envy; love (agapaō) does not parade itself, is not puffed up; (5) does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil. Agape / agapaō is that love that God had for us, even when we were still sinners and didn’t deserve His love. (Romans 5:8) But God demonstrates His own love (agapaō) toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

We can see that this type of agape or agapaō love is much different than the phileō love that we may have for a friend. Phileō love is only that emotional “skin deep” love that when our friend hurts us deeply, we get upset or even break our friendship with them. Phileō love takes offense and stays offended for what the other person did or said. This is not the forgiving agape love that comes from God; it was only the phileō love, that emotional love that we could muster up as a human being. It’s that emotional love that’s only “skin deep”. Now it’s not at all bad to have that emotional phileō type of love because everyone who manifests that agape love also has this phileō love, but not everyone who has that emotional phileō love will manifest that agape love which comes from God. 

The Fruit of Jesus is Agape Love

As Christians, we must ask ourselves, “are we manifesting the fruit of Jesus?" Anybody can attend church or even read their Bibles, but not everybody has the fruit of love; God’s love which exudes from their innermost being and out toward others. In fact, if we just spend some time around other Christians we’ll know by their actions and we’ll know by what comes out of their mouths if they truly have Jesus in them. (1 Thess 4:9) Now as to the love of the brethren, you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves are taught by God to love (agapaō) one another. 

Why are our actions so important? Because we’ll be judged one day by our actions and not by the faith we thought we had. If you don’t believe that you'll be judged by your actions instead of your faith then let’s see what Jesus said on this matter. (Matthew 25:31) "When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. (32) Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. (33) And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. (34) Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. (35) For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, (36) I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.' (37) Then the righteous will answer him, saying, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? (38) And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? (39) And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?' (40) And the King will answer them, 'Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.' (41) "Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. (42) For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, (43) I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.' (44) Then they also will answer, saying, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?' (45) Then he will answer them, saying, 'Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.' (46) And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life."

One group of believers not only had faith but also showed the Lord’s agape love and didn’t even realize they were doing these things for Jesus. They just did unto others out of the pure agape love in their heart. They follow the golden rule: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Romans 13:9) These believers were manifesting the fruit of Jesus living in them, even being taught by God how to love. (1 Thess 4:9) Now as to the love of the brethren, you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves are taught by God to love (agapaō) one another. Yes, the true believer is taught by God to love while the other group of people who are either non-believers or “Christians” in name only. Yes, these “Christians” may have said they had faith but they only had the emotional phileō type of love for others. They had no agape love that welcomed a stranger, no agape love that fed or clothed others… They too didn’t even realize that it was Jesus whom they had rejected by not showing that self sacrificing love. (James 2:15) If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, (16) and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? These “goats” had hidden their eyes and hidden their love from those who needed it most. They may have said with their mouths that they loved their neighbor but with their actions they proved otherwise. (1 John 3:17) But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love (agape) of God abide in him? Yes, the Bible says there’s another requirement besides just believing in Jesus. (1 John 3:23) And this is his commandment, that we should believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, even as he gave us commandment. These “goats” did not love their selves; they only “said” they loved their fellow man. They only had a love that went “skin deep”. These “goats” did not show that agape love of “doing” for their fellow man that which Christ requires in order to enter the kingdom of heaven. (Luke 6:46) “But why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do the things which I say?” Let’s all let our love be manifested by our actions instead of just our words. If Jesus is truly our Lord and Master, then we should all strive to do what Jesus commands us to do.

Next we’ll look at the reasons most people only have that “skin deep” phileō type of love, then we’ll look at what it takes to have the agape love which God requires.

The Unsaved have no hope of manifesting agape love:

Whether one is an unbeliever or just a “Christian” by name only, the unsaved or unregenerate man has no hope of manifesting the agape love of God. The person who has never been “born again” and has never been given a new heart and a new Spirit has no hope of ever being able to love like Jesus. Without God changing us and giving us that new heart, we have no hope of showing God's agape love. “I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules (Ezekiel 36:25,26). This is what happens when we become born again. God gives us a new heart and a new Spirit. Jesus Christ living in us is the only reason we have a hope of having God’s love coming forth from us. Without that born again spirit of Jesus Christ living in us, we will have a very shallow love for others. We may even see those who call themselves “Christians” and those who say that they’re “saved” or “born again” but by their fruit they will prove they’re really not saved. Jesus says you’ll know them by their fruit. (Matthew 7:17-20) Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. (18) A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. (19) Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. (20) Therefore by their fruits you will know them. As Christians, do we have that good fruit growing on our tree, that self sacrificing agape love, or do we have the bad fruit of a very shallow, self serving love?

Unforgiveness and Bitterness will only manifest “skin deep” love

(Matthew 5:39) But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. A Christian who can truly forgive and turn the other cheek is showing that agape love by his actions. He is willing to take the evil coming against him and even turn the other cheek in order to get hurt again. That is what God does for us. He turns the other cheek, even when we keep hurting Him by our actions and our disobedience. God continues to give us opportunities to hurt Him while we try and get this walk of holiness down. That’s the type of love we must have for our fellow man.

Instead of agape love we see unforgiveness and bitterness from many who call themselves “Christians”. This unforgiveness and bitterness does not manifest God’s agape love, but manifests a love which is only “skin deep.” We may hear people say “I forgave them” but by their fruit they prove otherwise. Instead of turning the other cheek, they no longer talk or associate with that person who hurt them. Oh yes, with their mouths they confess they’ve forgiven that person but by their actions they confess the opposite. God sees right through this false forgiveness. He sees that they won’t associate nor speak to that person any longer. They say “I forgave them but I don’t forget.” This is not how God forgives us!  This is how our heavenly Father forgives His children: "For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more” (Hebrews 8:12).

Man’s type of love and forgiveness is not God’s agape / agapaō love that’s unconditional. God's love is that self-sacrificing love that considers others before themselves. The person who says that they forgive yet they still hold something against their neighbor has only a phileō love that’s only skin deep. We must all examine ourselves to see what’s in our hearts. If we have someone who we no longer associate with or we have someone who we no longer speak to because they’ve hurt us, we have unforgiveness in our heart and we do not have agape love. That's something very serious as only one unforgiven sin will keep us out of heaven. Jesus says that if we don’t forgive we will not be forgiven. (Matt 6:14) “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. (15) But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. True forgiveness is proven by our actions and not our words. When we have truthfully forgiven another from our heart we will agapaō love our enemies. (Luke 6:27) "But I say to you who hear, Love (agapaō) your enemies, do good to those who hate you, (28) bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. Truly loving someone who continually hurts you is not just saying you love and forgive them but it's doing good to those who hate you, blessing those who curse you and praying for those who abuse you. This is loving with our ACTIONS and not just with our WORDS. This is God’s love and this is the agapaō love He requires. If we have even a hint of unforgiveness in our hearts it will be impossible to manifest God’s love (agapaō / agape) towards others.

We must prove by our agape / agapaō love with our actions which includes forgiveness, otherwise we’re proving that we only have that human brotherly love that all men have. Even the vilest of men have this emotional “skin deep” phileō type of love for their friends. That’s why Jesus says that many are called (meaning invited) but few are chosen (elect) Matthew 22:14.The apostle Paul shows us what the elect, or chosen, of God will look like: (Col 3:12) Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; (13) bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. (14) But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection. Love is the bond that makes us perfect in Christ because if we’re truly loving our neighbor as ourselves, then all these actions of mercy, kindness, humility, patience and forgiveness will come as your first nature. This will be your nature because you are taking on the name of Jesus Christ. Remember "name", in Greek, means nature or character of Jesus Christ which is love.

Selfishness causes only a “skin deep” love 

(1 Cor 13:4) Love (agapaō) suffers long and is kind; love (agapaō) does not envy; love (agapaō) does not parade itself, is not puffed up; (5) does not behave rudely, does not seek its ownMost people who have trouble manifesting God’s love are very “self” oriented. They tend to think of themselves and seek their own interests above all others. If you would talk to one of these self serving individuals, they wouldn’t even realize that they’re so selfish. Serving themselves seems so natural that they’re blinded by their own wants and needs. Whether emotional or physical, their desire is to serve their own personal interests. These selfish “Christians” even believe they’re keeping this command; “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Romans 13:9) These people even think that they love their neighbor but it’s really only an emotional “skin deep” love. The agape love that God requires is this: "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same (Matthew 5:43-46)? In other words, if this type of love is only felt and exercised toward our children, our family members and friends who love us, what value is this to God? Don’t even the worst of people love their own? It’s easy to love those who love us but what reward will God give us for that?

If this selfishness describes you then you must repent of your self serving ways and start putting others before your own needs. Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others (Philippians 2:2-4). This is true agape or agapaō. It’s about that self sacrificing love through your actions and putting others first. It’s all about denying ourselves and taking up our cross. (Luke 9:23) And he said to all, "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. As we die to ourselves, Christ starts to grow in us. His love then starts to shine more and more through us, towards others.

What comes out of the heart manifests in our Tongue

As we progress in our understanding of what God’s agape love really is, we must continually examine what’s in our own heart. One can tell what’s in his heart because it will be manifested in his speech. (Luke 6:45) The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks. We must ask ourselves, “What’s coming out of our mouths when other believers are not listening?” "What’s coming out of our mouth when we’re only around our family or those closest to us?" Is it the love of Jesus coming out of our mouths or is it snapping and angry words? Yes, we can hide what’s in our heart while we’re in front of other Christians, but in front of those closest to us, that’s when the real person comes out. Is it Jesus coming out of our mouths or is it something other than Jesus? 

What we’ll find is that our tongue will control our whole body; as our tongue speaks our whole body follows. (James 3:2) If anyone does not stumble in word, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle the whole body. (3) Indeed, we put bits in horses’ mouths that they may obey us, and we turn their whole body. (4) Look also at ships: although they are so large and are driven by fierce winds, they are turned by a very small rudder wherever the pilot desires. (5) Even so the tongue is a little member and boasts great things. See how great a forest a little fire kindles! We can see how very small things control much larger things. A bit controls the whole horse, the rudder the whole ship, and of course our tongue controls our entire body. It will either cause us to manifest Jesus (love) to others or our tongue will cause us to stumble. (6) And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity. The tongue is so set among our members that it defiles the whole body, and sets on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire by hell. (7) For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and creature of the sea, is tamed and has been tamed by mankind. (8) But no man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. (9) With it we bless our God and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the similitude of God. (10) Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so. What often comes out of our mouths really shouldn’t come out, but the natural man has no ability to control his tongue. It’s only when Jesus truly lives in our heart that love will come out. We should look at our heart as a storehouse; the more of the Word of God we put into our heart, the more of the love of Jesus will fill our heart. The more of Jesus we have in us the more Jesus begins to overflow out of our mouths and produce the fruit of love toward others.The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good.” Let’s all strive to “be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love (agape), in spirit, in faith, in purity” (1 Tim 4:12).

Some have only a “skin deep” love for God

When asked if we love God, there aren’t many people who would say “no I don’t love God.” Yet, the Bible is very clear on who it is that really loves God and who it is that doesn’t. (John 14:15) "If you love (agapaō) me, you will keep my commandments.” Those who love Jesus will obey His commands. Remember this agapaō love requires action, that action is keeping God’s Word. Contrast that with the emotional feel good “phileō” love where people say they love the Lord but their actions and lack of obedience to His Word prove otherwise. Examples of this would be the person who has a lot of emotional love for Jesus; they sing and praise his name in church and have what seems a very big love for God. Yet, they refuse to completely obey His Word; they say “Jesus loves me and will forgive me” even though they know better; they disobey His word anyway. This, my friends, is not loving God and they are being deceived into thinking they love God when really they don’t. (John 3:36) "He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him." Even worse, those who don’t obey Jesus and His words will not see eternal life! Yes, those are hard words but please don’t get upset at me, as I am just repeating what Jesus told us in His Word. Just like when Jesus asked, “why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do the things which I say” (Luke 6:46)? Many Christians today like to call Jesus their Savior, but they refuse to make Him their Lord. They sure want the benefits of eternal life but still live life according to their standards instead of the Bible’s. The one who they call their Lord and Savior asks why we call Him our Lord and don’t do or obey what He says?

What are the things Jesus said? Here’s just a few of the things which He commanded us. "Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful" (Luke 6:36). Agapaō love obeys Jesus and doesn’t just pretend to be merciful but is merciful to others. "Bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you" (Luke 6:28). Agapaō love obeys Jesus by blessing and praying for those who mistreat them, it’s love put into action and it’s what Jesus requires of those who call themselves by His name. That “skin deep” love, that human emotional love cannot obey this command because it is offended when someone they know and care for says something hurtful to them. “Skin deep” phileō love gets upset and offended when it is treated unfairly by others. (1 John 4:20) If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen?

I’m afraid we live in a church age where “easy grace” and “God loves you” is the common teaching and where holiness and obedience is left out of sermons. Now just because our churches don’t preach obedience to God’s Word doesn’t mean that God doesn’t expect it from His children. (John 14:21) Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves (agapaō) me.

Over and over we see that, according to Jesus, we only love Him if we’re keeping what’s commanded in the Word of God. Loving Jesus takes more than just saying we love Jesus or singing about how much we love Him. That's only that humanistic emotional love for Jesus which anybody can do or say. Agape love takes action by the believer. (John 14:23) Jesus answered him, "If anyone loves (agapaō) me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love (agapaō) him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. (24) Whoever does not love (agapaō) me does not keep my words. As you’re beginning to see, man’s definition of love and God’s definition are two different things. Man is easily deceived into thinking that he loves God by what he FEELS, when really he doesn’t love God according to our Creator because he is not obeying. That's why the Bible says man is deceived into thinking he's on the right path but in reality it leads to eternal death. (Proverbs 14:12) There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death. We may remember from Scripture the man who, according to his understanding, thought he had made it into heaven but soon found out that he couldn’t enter in. (Matthew 7:21) “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. (22) Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ (23) And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’ No, not everyone who calls Jesus their Lord or says they know Him as their Savior will enter into the kingdom of heaven! It’s only those who do God’s will and do not practice lawlessness (Sin) who enter the kingdom of heaven. Notice how the Bible explains exactly what it means to “know Him”. (1 John 2:3) And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. (4) Whoever says "I know him" but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, (5) but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may be sure that we are in him: (6) whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked. To know Him, we must keep His commands; we must walk in the same way in which Jesus walked and if we keep His word the agape love of God is perfected in us. (Matthew 19:17) “If you want to enter life, obey the commandments." That’s why forgiveness, turning the other cheek, and not returning evil for evil are all so important to God. If we cannot obey Jesus by doing these little things then we only have an emotional love for Jesus because we only have a “skin deep” emotional love for our fellow man. We don’t have that real agapaō love, which God requires. (Romans 13:8) Owe no one anything except to love (agapaō) one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law... (10) Love (agape) does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love (agape) is the fulfillment of the law.

God tests us every day to see if we love Him

God tests us every day to see if we love Him. God does this by seeing if we’ll obey Him and His Word. (1 Peter 4:12) Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; (13) but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing. When we have another person coming up against us, persecuting and saying untrue or bad things about us, that’s a fiery ordeal in and of itself. Yet, when we’re obeying the Word of God and turning the other cheek, it seems even more painful. (Matthew 5:39) But I say to you, do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. It seems painful because we’re no longer defending ourselves but entrusting ourselves to our Father just like Jesus did. (1 Peter 2:22) He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. (23) When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. Jesus forgave; He did not threaten or revile others and He kept His words pure. I ask again, what’s coming out of our mouths when we’re facing our fiery trial?

God has always tested His people to see if they would obey Him. (Exodus 16:4) Then the LORD said to Moses, “Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you. And the people shall go out and gather a certain quota every day, that I may test them, whether they will walk in My law or not. Those who bear the name of “Christian” today, are they any different than God’s people back then? No, God still tests us every day in order to see if we really do agape (love) Him by obeying Him. (Mark 11:25-26) And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins. Each of us needs to ask the Lord if there is anyone in which we have bitterness against, or anyone that we have not forgiven. Once we wait on the Lord to place those people in our mind, we must act on those who come to mind and forgive those people from the heart; that is agape (love). (Romans 12:20) If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink… (21) Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. This is the Devine nature of God shining through us; this is agape (love). (Luke 6:30) Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Are we doing this with those who ask or those who take from us? (Matthew 5:40) And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. Cannot God replace what others take from us? Whether they steal our valuables or take them by the court system, by turning the other cheek and not fighting to get it back, cannot our Father who owns everything in this world replace those material goods for us? Cannot the Lord give us back seven times what was taken from us? Is not God looking for obedience in His people above all else? (Luke 11:27) As he said these things, a woman in the crowd raised her voice and said to him, "Blessed is the womb that bore you, and the breasts at which you nursed!" (28) But he said, "Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!" Jesus is looking for obedience and says that we are not blessed when we read or hear the Word of God; we are blessed only when we keep it. Those that love God will keep His Word, and by keeping God’s Word they will love their fellow brothers and sisters not in word but in deed. (John 15:12) My command is this: Love (agapaō) each other as I have loved (agapaō) you. (13) Greater love (agape) has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. (14) You are my friends if you do what I command. We are tested every day to see if we will love God and show that love for our fellow man. How are you doing? (Deut 8:2) And you shall remember that the LORD your God led you all the way these forty years in the wilderness, to humble you and test you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not… (16) who fed you in the wilderness with manna, which your fathers did not know, that He might humble you and that He might test you, to do you good in the end. Just like our spiritual ancestors were tested, we too are tested every day in order for God to see what’s in our hearts. What is God finding in our hearts?

We must decrease so Christ can increase

(John 3:30) He must increase, but I must decrease. These were the words of John the Baptist as Jesus started His ministry. Now that we are believers in Jesus, we too must be of the same mindset as John if we want to manifest that self sacrificing agape love of Christ. The more of ourselves that live, the less we have of Jesus living in us. The more of us that lives, the less of that agape love that we’ll have in us. That’s why Jesus continually commands us to lose our lives. (Matthew 16:25) For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. If we’re still finding ourselves being self-centered without much of that self sacrificing agape love, it just means that we really haven’t died to ourselves, because “love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things” (1 Cor 13:4-7). Is this the kind of love we have for others? As we decrease and Christ increases in our lives, this agape love starts to manifest in our lives. It’s Christ living in us and through us. (Luke 9:23) "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” In order to manifest the love of Christ in our lives, we must deny ourselves daily and take up our cross, crucifying our old nature which is that old selfish and self serving person. We need to decrease while Jesus increases.

Law of sowing and reaping

Doesn’t each one of us want to be loved? Then if it’s love we desire then it’s love we must first give to others. It’s the law of sowing and reaping and it cannot be broken. (Gal 6:7) Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. What we are sowing in our lives, we will get back. So how can we expect God to forgive and provide for us (show His agape love) when we are not sowing the same forgiveness or generosity to our fellow brothers and sisters? Remember that God’s love is a “doing love” and not just a “saying love”. What good would it be if our heavenly Father said He loved us and let us starve to death? What good would it be if God said He loved us and never forgave our sins, sending us to hell? God’s Word cannot come back void and His Word is very specific. “For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you (Luke 6:38). If we want to receive mercy from our Father in heaven then we must be showing mercy to others. If we show judgment for others we should expect judgment from God. (Matthew 7:2) For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. (3) And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? Do we not deserve much worse than what we get from the Lord? Yet, as we are merciful, the Lord is merciful with us. (1 Peter 4:7) But the end of all things is at hand; therefore be serious and watchful in your prayers. (8) And above all things have fervent love (agape) for one another, for “love (agape) will cover a multitude of sins. Why will agape love cover a multitude of sins? Because as we overlook other’s downfalls and their wrongdoings, God fails to see all of our imperfections. As we overlook people’s shortcomings and just love them, God does the same with us. What we sow, that shall we reap. (James 2:13) For judgment is without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.

We may be tempted to look at those who’ve been successful in life yet seem very selfish and self-centered, thinking that they are not reaping what they are sowing. These people are not filled with the agape love we’ve been talking about yet they seem to be rewarded. Why does it seem to work for them? Why is it the laws of sowing and reaping don't seem to apply to them… or do they? Could it be that some are storing up for the wrath to come? (Romans 2:5) But because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, (6) who WILL RENDER TO EACH PERSON ACCORDING TO HIS DEEDS: (7) to those who by perseverance in doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life; (8) but to those who are selfishly ambitious and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, wrath and indignation. Yes, many people are storing up for themselves judgment and will receive according to their deeds or lack thereof. Yet, we must not look at our neighbor and what he may be storing up. Instead we should be looking at ourselves to see if we too are selfishly ambitious and do not obey the truth.”

It could even happen that a person gives and gives, always showing that sacrificial love for others and yet they never seem appreciated, they never seem to receive that love back in return. Why doesn’t God’s law of sowing and reaping apply to them? These servants should not even concern themselves with not being repaid, because God’s Word cannot be broken and if they’re not repaid here on earth they’ll be repaid in eternity. (Matt 5:12) Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven. They sowed their love bountifully and they will receive it back bountifully in eternity. (2 Cor 9:6) But this I say: He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. In the mean time, God shows His bountiful love for these faithful servants by always taking care of them. Yet their real reward has been stored up in heaven and Jesus is coming to give them their reward for what they sowed in this life. "And behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to everyone ACCORDING TO HIS WORK" (Revelation 22:12).

Conclusions of love

(1 Cor 16:14) Let all that you do be done with (agape) love. I hope this study has helped all of you to understand the difference between man’s very shallow “love” and God’s self sacrificing love. We are commanded as believers to love one another. (2 John 1:5) And now I plead with you, lady, not as though I wrote a new commandment to you, but that which we have had from the beginning: that we love (agapaō) one another. (6) This is love (agape), that we walk according to His commandments.

Our instruction for life is to show our love by walking according to the Lord’s commandments. By following these commandments, we will naturally love one another and here is what that agape love will look like: (1 Cor 13:1) Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. (2) And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. (3) And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing. (4) Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; (5) does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; (6) does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; (7) bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. (8) Love never fails… (13) And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.  So there we are believers, we have our command and our marching orders. Go forth and walk in love.

God’s Blessings,

Mark, a servant of the Lord,



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