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Reduce Me to LoveUnlocking the Secret to Lasting Joy
By Joyce Meyer
Harrison HouseCopyright © 2000 Joyce Meyer
All right reserved.
THE GREATEST OF THESE IS LOVE
But earnestly desire and zealously cultivate the greatest and best gifts and graces (the higher gifts and the choicest graces). And yet I will show you a still more excellent way [one that is better by far and the highest of them all - love].
-1 CORINTHIANS 12:31
Where does love fit into your list of priorities? Jesus said, A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you ... (John 13:34 NKJV). It seems to me that Jesus was saying love is the main thing on which we should concentrate.
The apostle Paul stated that ... faith, hope, love abide ... but the greatest of these is love (1 Corinthians 13:13).
Love should be number one on our spiritual priority list. We should study love, pray about love and develop the fruit of love (according to Galatians 5:22,23, one of the nine fruit of the Spirit available to those in whom Gods Holy Spirit lives) by practicing loving others.
God is love, so when we walk in His love we abide in Him. Because we walk in God's love by receiving and expressing it, we should not deceive ourselves into thinking we can love God while we hate other people. (See 1 John 4:20.)
Love is the greatest thing in the world. It is the best thing to commit our life to, to seek to excel in.
We seek many things in the course of our lifetime. We hope to find fulfillment in each one, but most of them fall short of the desired goal. When we put our time and energy into things that do not fulfill us, we feel frustrated.
It took me about forty-five years to realize that my priorities were mixed up and that I was not making love the main thing in my life. It was not my first priority. The commitment to learn how to walk in love has been the single best decision I have ever made as a Christian.
Love not only blesses others; it also blesses the one doing the loving. Concentrating on being a blessing to others has brought me joy. I find it exciting. It challenges me.
All of us must become students of love; we must pray that God will reduce us to love.
FAITH WORKS BY LOVE
For [if we are] in Christ Jesus, neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith activated and energized and expressed and working through love.
We are normally taught that faith is the pinnacle of Christian virtues. We study it, try to exercise it, preach sermons on it, write books about it and encourage one another in it all the time.
Faith is vital; without it we cannot please God. (Hebrews 11:6.) Faith is not the price that buys the blessings of God, but it is the hand that receives them. "By grace, through faith" is how the blessings of our Lord and Savior come to His children. (Ephesians 2:8 KJV.)
Faith is very important, and yet according to 1 Corinthians 13:2 if we have enough faith to move mountains and have not love, we are nothing.
Galatians 5:6 says faith works (is energized) by love. Knowing the love of God for us as individuals, and learning to allow His love to flow through us to others, is the power behind faith. How can we place faith in God unless we are assured He loves us? How can we ask God to help us, and have confidence He will do so, if we are mistreating others? Our personal love walk gives us confidence before God and enables us to receive from Him what we ask for in prayer. (1 John 3:18-23.)
Love is also a distinguishing characteristic of the disciples of Christ. (John 13:35.)
LET YOUR LIGHT SHINE
By this shall all [men] know that you are My disciples, if you love one another [if you keep on showing love among yourselves].
We need to show the world Jesus. We do that by walking in His love-the love of the Father that was first revealed and expressed in His Son Jesus and is now manifested in us: Let your light so shine before men that they may see your moral excellence and your praiseworthy, noble, and good deeds and recognize and honor and praise and glorify your Father Who is in heaven (Matthew 5:16).
Jesus Himself taught on love and walked in love. He said, "If you have seen Me, you have seen the Father." (John 14:9.) The world is looking for something real, something tangible. They are looking for love, and God is love. (1 John 4:8.)
Many people have gone to church looking for God and have been met with the rules and regulations of religion. After encountering some of the Christians who "talk the talk" but who did not "walk the walk," they left without encountering God. Instead of drawing them in, many people's experience with churches and Christians has driven them away.
The fields are ... white already to harvest, (John 4:35 KJV), but the Lord needs laborers. (Luke 10:2 KJV.) He needs Christians who are committed to developing the character of Jesus Christ in their own lives. According to 2 Corinthians 5:20, you and I are Christ's ambassadors-His personal representatives. The Lord is making His appeal to the world through us.
As previously stated, Jesus said that it is by love that all men will know who His disciples are:
I give you a new commandment: that you should love one another. Just as I have loved you, so you too should love one another. By this shall all [men] Iznow that you are My disciples, if you love one another [if you keep on showing love among yourselves].
Love is the trademark (distinctive sign or characteristic) of the Christian. Before we purchase something we like to check its quality. As we shop, we read labels or we look for certain trademarks (brand names) that have a reputation for being good. That is what people should be able to do with us as disciples of Christ. They should be able to identify us not only by our talk, but also by our walk.
I want people to think of me as someone who loves them. I want to make them thirsty (have a strong desire) for God. I want to be a light in their dark places.
There was a time when I wanted to be known as a powerful minister, a person who was successful and popular. I finally came to realize that true power and success is love.
CHANGING YOUR FOCUS
And this I pray: that your love may abound yet more and more and extend to its fullest development in knowledge and all keen insight [that your love may display itself in greater depth of acquaintance and more comprehensive discernment], So that you may surely learn to sense what is vital, and approve and prize what is excellent and of real value....
Do you need to readjust your priorities or change your focus?
In Philippians 1:9,10, Paul prayed that the church in Philippi would abound in love and that their love would display itself in a greater way. He prayed they would learn to choose what was excellent and of real value. In 1 Corinthians 12:31, he wrote that love is the more excellent way.
Paul was praying that these believers would focus on love. We cannot have powerful, victorious lives unless we love people.
Are you willing and ready to become a student of the love walk? If so, you need to know that it requires education and commitment.
We must have our minds renewed to what love really is. It is not a feeling we have; it is a decision we make-a decision to treat people the way Jesus would treat them.
When we make a true commitment to walk in love, it usually causes a huge shift in our lifestyle. Many of our ways-our thoughts, our conversation, our habits-have to change. For instance, we may be accustomed to spending all our extra money on ourselves only to discover that walking in love requires that we spend it on others.
Love is tangible; it is not just an emotional feeling, a spiritual thing that cannot be seen or touched. It is evident to everyone who comes in contact with it.
A love walk does not come easily or without personal sacrifice. Each time we choose to love someone, it will cost us something-time, money or effort. That's why we are told to count the cost before we make the commitment. (Luke 14:25-33.)
PURSUE AND SEEK LOVE
Eagerly pursue and seek to acquire [this] love [make it your aim, your great quest]....
-1 CORINTHIANS 14:1
Developing a love walk like the one displayed in the life of Jesus is like digging for gold. True Christlike love is not found on the surface of life. It cannot just be seen and picked up. The Bible tells us that we must eagerly pursue and seek> it. These are both strong words.
The word pursue means "to follow in an effort to capture or overtake." The word seek means "to try to find or discover; search for." In other words, we need to go after love with all our might and act as if we cannot live without it!
There are degrees of desire. We want many things, but there are only a few things in life we actually want so much that we are willing to sacrifice to have them.
If you and I want to learn about love, we will have to study it. We will have to read books about it, listen to teaching tapes on it, familiarize ourselves with everything Jesus and the apostles said about it.
If you want to know about love, try to find someone who operates in love and study that individual. Watch how he handles people and difficult or tense situations. Observe how he gives. Examine the fruit in his life.
All of us must not only learn about love but also seek, pursue and acquire it, because God's Word boldly tells us that without it we are absolutely nothing.
THE GREATEST OF THESE IS LOVE
If I [can] speak in the tongues of men and [even] of angels, but have not love (that reasoning, intentional, spiritual devotion such as is inspired by God's love for and in us), I am only a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.
And if I have prophetic powers (the gift of interpreting the divine will and purpose), and understand all the secret truths and mysteries and possess all knowledge, and if I have [sufficient] faith so that I can remove mountains, but have not love (God's love in me) I am nothing (a useless nobody).
Even if I dole out all that I have [to the poor in providing food, and if I surrender my body to be burned or in order that I may glory, but have not love (God's love in me), I gain nothing.
-1 CORINTHIANS 13:1-3
This is strong language, but hopefully it will wake us up!
There are many people who think they are really something because of what they have accomplished in life, but according to God's Word they are nothing unless love has been a priority in their life.
A little girl who loved Jesus wanted to express her love for Him, so she asked her mother about it. She said that since she knew that Jesus lived in her heart she was wondering if she wrote "I love you" on a piece of paper and ate it, would He see it.
Of course, the way Jesus sees how much we love Him is by how much we obey Him. He has commanded us to love one another; if we are not doing that, then we are not showing Him that we love Him.
We can sacrifice without love, we can give without proper motive, we can build ministries and forget all about love, but there is nothing greater we can take to the unchurched world than love. There is nothing more convincing than God's love reflected in our own character.
Love is the universal language; everyone understands it. Even though the people of a remote village in India or Africa may not understand the language of the missionary who is sent to them, they can understand kindness, warmth and a caring attitude.
Why did Paul single out love as the greatest thing in the world? Because love never fails ... (1 Corinthians 13:8). Everything else may fail, but love will not.
Love can melt the hardest heart, it can heal the wounds of the broken heart and it can quiet the fears of the anxious heart.
Most of the things we devote our time and energy to are things that are currently passing away, things that will not last, things that are not eternal.
We strive to make money build businesses, achieve great accomplishments, excel in sports, be popular, own buildings, cars, clothes, jewelry. We want to expand our minds and see the world, yet all of these things are temporal. Only love never comes to an end. An act of love goes on and endures forever.
I want to put my time and energy into something lasting, don't you?
In his book, The Greatest Thing in the World, Henry Drummond says that "to love abundantly is to live abundantly, and to love for ever is to live for ever." In order to "love abundantly" and "love forever," you must learn to walk in love toward everyone. But to do that you must first receive God's love for you, because it is impossible to give to others something you do not have yourself.
Excerpted from Reduce Me to Love by Joyce Meyer Copyright © 2000 by Joyce Meyer. Excerpted by permission.
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