The Missing Ingredient
January 1, 2017
The Missing Ingredient
Most of us are familiar with making things of which all the prescribed ingredients are essential to the desired outcome. A cake baked without the sugar may look nice but its taste will be unpleasant. A glass of lemonade may look ever so inviting but, if the sugar is left out, it will be sour! The Bible speaks of walls built with untempered mortar with the result that the walls crumble when under stress.
In all of our Christian living and ministry, there is often one ingredient left out which causes a distortion of our best efforts no matter how good they may look to others. The missing ingredient is usually not such things as talent or hard work. These things we often give ample attention to.
The missing ingredient is the love of God! It is, “…the love of God shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit which is given unto us” (Rom. 5:5). It is true that, when we trust Christ as Savior, we receive the Holy Spirit. One of the evident fruits of the Spirit is the love of God. If we know God by faith, we know something of His love for us. John said, “…for love is of God; and everyone that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love” (I Jn. 4:7-8).
The problem for many believers is that they know little or nothing of abiding in Christ. Jesus said, “I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in Me, and I in Him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing” (Jn. 15:5). For the one who does not maintain a close personal relationship with the Lord, his life and ministry are mostly an expression of his own heart, mind, talent, and maybe hard work. The problem is, all of those things can be little more than the efforts of the flesh. (I am thinking here of the flesh as opposed to the Spirit.) Yes, hard work is commendable, but if it is just that, there is nothing to commend it to God! To be truly effective for God, all of our efforts must be bathed in the love of God. It is thus that Paul wrote, “Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children; and walk in love, as Christ hath also loved us, and given Himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet smelling savor” (Eph. 5:1-2). Indeed, it is the love of God that makes our living and ministry to be a sweet smelling savor to God!
Now, let’s consider some of the practical results of life and ministry where the love of God may be lacking in our own lives.
When the love of God is lacking, our worship will be insufficient. We may go through all the expected motions, but without much heart for what we are doing. Motions of worship apart from the love of God are really an abomination to God. God said to His people Israel, “Your new moons and your appointed feasts My soul hateth: they are a trouble unto Me; I am weary to bear them. And when you spread forth your hands, I will hide Mine eyes from you: yes, when ye make many prayers, I will not hear: your hands are full of blood” (Isa. 1:14-15).
Cannot going to church, singing the songs, and listening to the message become a habit with little significance or meaning?! The singing, teaching and preaching really have significance because of what the Lord has done in our own heart. We experience the blessing and joy of the music and message because of the reality of God in our hearts.
Consider, what is there to praise God for if He has not already done a work in our hearts? It would be like admiring a beautiful house without being able to enter it and enjoy all of its comforts. The best you could do is to admire it from the outside. So with Christianity. If we have not trusted Jesus to do a work in our own heart, Christianity is but a form to be admired from without. Our love and worship of God is because He first loved us, “We love Him because He first loved us” (I Jn. 4:19).
This is true of unbelievers, but is also true of many believers whose love for God has grown cold. Consider Jesus’ rebuke of the Ephesian church. After commending them for many good things, He brings a sharp rebuke in saying, “Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee because thou hast left thy first love” (Rev. 2:4). If Jesus rebuked the Ephesian church, what do you think He might say to many of today’s churches? This is not a minor problem to be swept aside. Jesus further said to the same church, “Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works…” (Rev. 2:5).
When the love of God is lacking, our relationships with other people will be tarnished. This will be seen in our relationships at home, in the church, and wherever we rub shoulders with other people. It is the love of God within that enables us to love other people as we should. The Bible speaks eloquently of this need for the love of God in reference to others, “For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh„ but by love serve one another. For all the law is fulfilled in one word; thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. But if ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed of one another” (Gal. 5:13-15).
It is the love of God in our hearts that enables us to love as God Himself would love. The love of God sees beyond the problem to what God can do in the lives of others. Human love loves for what it can get in return. It is often self- centered and short sighted. The love of God sees the needs of others and seeks to minister to those needs. The account of the good Samaritan comes to mind.
Whatever else the Christian life is, it is love for others. The word of God says, “Owe no man anything, but to love one another: for he that loveth another, hath fulfilled the law. For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery, thou shalt not kill, thou halt not steal, thou shalt not bear false witness, thou shalt not covet; and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. Love worketh no ill to his neighbor: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law” (Rom. 13:8-10).
When the love of God is lacking, there is often harshness in our speech and actions. This is similar to the above, but yet a little different. Love takes the feelings of others into consideration. It does not just act on its own apart from how our words or actions may affect others. Certainly there is a time to correct others and to show them where they may have failed us. Yet, when we must show others the error of their way, we must do so in the love of God. Paul speaks of, “…speaking the truth in love…” (Eph. 4:15). To the point that we do not speak the truth in love, we leave God out of the picture! The result is the fruit of self with its attending carnage and wounded spirits. How much better to take Paul’s admonition of, “…forbearing one another in love” (Eph. 4:2).
This is sometimes very difficult because we want to see instant results and on our own terms. It is well for all of us to remember, “…walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh” (Gal. 5:16).
Where the love of God is lacking, our ministering will be diminutive. That is, it will be performed more out of a sense of duty than love. Indeed, it may well become a kind of drudgery. When the love of God fills our heart, ministry will be a delight in spite of some of the inherent difficulties we may encounter. Remember, God ministers to us out of love. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son…” (Jn. 3:16). “But God commendeth His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8). “But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd” (Matt. 9:36).
In ministering to others, love is essential. Paul made this so plain when he said, “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity [love], I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. 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, and have not charity [love], I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity [love], it profiteth me nothing” (I Cor. 13:1-3).
One of the lessons we do well to learn in ministry is that we have no good within ourselves to communicate to others. We are, in a sense, empty vessels without the presence and reality of God. Yes, we can do things which may be good and helpful in themselves, but if they are not done in the name of Jesus Christ and with the fulness of His Spirit, they become an end in themselves. The end of Christian ministry is not only to be a help to others but to be a witness of His presence in our lives. Thus, “…whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by Him” (Col. 3:17).
Let’s remember, “…we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us” (II Cor. 4:7).
Where the love of God is lacking, there will be a diminishing of purpose for life. Without the love of God, life generally becomes self-centered and without great significance. Even when our own objectives are realized, life may still fall short of our expectations. The point is, self does not satisfy self! Does that sound strange? I think it is true because only God can satisfy the deepest longings of the human heart. Remember the words of David, “Delight thyself also in the Lord; and He shall give thee the desires of thine heart. Commit thy way unto the Lord; trust also in Him; and He shall bring it to pass” (Prov. 37:4-5). God Himself is the satisfaction of the human heart.
Sometimes we fail to see God’s purpose for our lives because we fail to see our need for Him. Yes, we need Him for our salvation, but do we not need Him for every aspect of our lives? Is He not to be our sufficiency for all things needful? Jesus taught His disciples, “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matt. 6:33). David said, “My soul, wait thou only upon God; for my expectation is from Him” (Psa. 62:5).
Part of seeing our need for God is seeing the emptiness of self. Only people who know Christ as Savior comprehend this truth. For those who know not the Lord Jesus as Savior, self is everything. When we begin to see the futility of the self life, we begin to see the truth David uttered, “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and contrite heart, O God, Thou wilt not despise” (Psa. 51:17). Where there is a brokkeness of heart for our sins there can begin to be something of the fulness of God. It is in the fulness of God that we experience more of the love of God and His will for our lives, indeed, a will that we can rejoice in!
Where the love of God is lacking, there is an indifference to spiritual truth. Indifference is a blight on many Christian lives. Indifference treats the truth of God, including the teaching and preaching of God’s word, with a certain tolerance but not with appreciation and rejoicing. It is, in a sense, put up with. It is a necessary part of what we do in church but it is not really necessary for our individual lives. It is kind of like putting on our good clothes for church and taking them off as soon as we get home. Their only real purpose is for public display. It reminds one of what the Lord said to the Pharisees “This people draweth nigh unto Me with their mouth, and honoreth Me with their lips; but their heart is far from Me” (Matt. 15:8).
Where the love of God is lacking, there is a diminishing hope for the future. God Himself is the believer’s hope. The leadership and circumstances of the world have their significant place, but nothing or no one can bring peace regarding the future. The circumstances of the world will continue to deteriorate because that is the nature of a people who have turned their hearts against God. However, where the love of God is genuine in one’s heart, there will be genuine trust in God Himself and His promises. Is it not the love of God in one’s heart that enables him to believe, “O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (I Cor. 15:55-57).
The question is, what are we to do if we perceive that there is a lack of genuine love for God in our heart? First, this is a truth that can only be brought to us by the ministry of the Holy Spirit. It is not so much an intellectual matter. That is, it is not a matter of comparison of ourselves with others or just a personal determination to do better. Rather, it is a recognition that only God can do the work of God! Paul reminds us, “For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do His good pleasure” (Phil. 2:13). God especially uses His own word to bring conviction to our hearts. The preaching of God’s word is very significant here. Preaching must be Spirit brought through the word of God and preached in the power of the Spirit. Preaching that is mostly intellectual does little to move the hearts of men - at least in most cases. It is the Spirt that needs to bring conviction for our sins, including one’s lack of love for God. When we are truly moved by God, we must come to Christ, to the cross, and seek His forgiveness which He is always willing and eager to give. Personal Bible study and prayer are also essential if we would, in our hearts, know the reality of God’s love.
I am finishing this article under some duress because of a recent injury. However, I trust the essence of the article is caught. I know of nothing more important in the believer’s life than the assurance and manifestation of the love of God. Indeed, the love of God conditions all that we are and all that we do.
December! What an interesting and most often wonderful month. While we had a mild fall, the weather has suddenly turned cold and snowy. I enjoy the scenes of winter including the drifting snow. The ice - not so much! After arriving home from church on December 4th, I decided to shovel the small amount of snow off the drive way. Without knowing what happened, I suddenly found myself on the blacktop with a roaring ache in my head. Somehow I was able to get up and into the house. BJ saw the blood running down from my head and so got me to the emergency room of the local hospital. After a c-scan, they glued the wound in my head together. I had a concussion with a bit of bleeding on the brain. I spent the rest of the day and most of Monday in the hospital. I have had strong headaches ever since, but with an ample amount of Tylenol, I am surviving. My activities have been pretty much suspended, but I sense some improvement. To the many who have prayed and sent cards, flowers, food etc, I extend my most grateful thanks. BJ has done just an excellent job of caring for me, for which I am very grateful.
Some words from BJ
The fall on the driveway has meant real challenges to our “normal” Christmas activities. We already had a Christmas tree in place before the fall with some strands of lights and our “Marie Donnelly angel” on top. Focusing on being the help mate has meant BJ has had to forgo not only more decorating, but baking, Christmas shopping, addressing cards, etc. Besides the initial hospital stay, we also spent December 7 in the Er getting fluids via IV. Then came a wound clinic trip to United Hospital in St. Paul to see a neurosurgeon. We somehow did fit in attendance at a choir cantata [wonderful] at our church, our Sunday School program, and a wedding and reception.
Christmas eve and Christmas Day services are on the schedule along with family gatherings. Through it all, God is good all the time!!
We trust that all of our readers have had a very Merry Christmas and that your new year will be especially blessed of the Lord. My prayer is that all of us will know what it is to walk heart to heart with the Lord, to be strengthened inwardly with His might, to walk in the fulness of faith, and to be anticipating the promise of His glorious return. This life has little to offer compared to the reality of eternal life in heaven with the Lord Jesus. However, we must be prepared by trusting the One who came to die for our sins, the Lord Jesus Christ. He indeed, is “…the Way, The Truth, and the Life” (Jun. 14:6). Yes, for the believer, the best is yet to be!