From Death to Love
Robert Wurtz II
We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love his brother abides in death. Whoever hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him (1 John 3:14-15).
Then one of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, and saying, “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?” Jesus said to him, ‘YOU SHALL 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 it: ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 22:36-40).
Jesus spoke of lighting a lamp and placing it on a lampstand so the whole room can receive its light (Luke 8:16). It’s a metaphor for fire and oil as a picture of love emanating from a person by the Holy Spirit. Before somebody added oil and lit the lamp, it was cold and dark. In other words, before we are born again, we don’t love like God wants us to love.
In modern times, people make a profession of faith and are typically told by someone they are saved based on God’s word’s authority. However, assurance of salvation cannot be known by such measures. How can a person know that they are saved? The answer is simple, “Did love come in?” John said clearly, “We know that we have passed from death to life because we love the brethren. He who does not love his brother abides in death.” There is no guessing here. The question is simple, “Do you love everyone? or Do you selectively love some and hate the rest. ”
I tremble to think that I have encountered people over the last thirty years who professed Christ, and some I even knew personally, who I wondered why they were so selfish and blind to the needs of others. Did they ever genuinely repent of their sins in the “John the Baptist” sense. Do you remember what John preached? If you have two coats, give one away. Don’t do violence to people and be content (with your wages). These are basic things and “beginning” things. Some of these people were “raised in Church” and never seemed to get even the basics.
Giving and Forgiving
If a person isn’t a giving person, they are likely not a forgiving person either. Why? Because offenses are like debts, and greedy (selfish and covetous) people don’t like releasing debts. This is one of the reasons why we pray, “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who are indebted to us.” We need to consciously release people when we are offended. Yet, some are unwilling to forgive — much less reconcile when there has been a disagreement. They go on feuding with people they esteem to be their enemy and are like a cold dark lamp with no oil or fire. If there is no oil, there will be no fire. If there is no fire, there is no love. If there is no love, there is no salvation.
One hasn’t passed from death to life because they speak in tongues or prophesy. I recently heard an old sermon by the late G.W. North, who stated that he must have listened to a thousand prophesies given by demonic utterance in his lifetime. How can this happen? It happens when people fail to understand that the basis of spirituality is the fruit of the Spirit and not the gifts of the Spirit. Satan can imitate nearly every gift and make the one who is is counterfeiting it believe that they are operating under the Holy Spirit’s power.
When I received the Holy Spirit in 1991, one of the first things the Spirit impressed on me was to reconcile with my enemies. God gave me direction to write a letter to one individual I had feuded with to the point of physical violence on more than one occasion. I never felt like I was in the wrong; nevertheless, the Lord dealt with me to make the first move, and I brought the letter to the church, and we prayed over it. I mailed it, and a process of reconciliation started. The person never apologized to me for all the stuff they did—but I left that between them and God. This person has long ago passed and made a profession of faith before they died.
What am I saying? Sometimes you will love, but that love won’t be returned. Love anyway. Sometimes you will go to great lengths to help people who will never be thankful or even acknowledge what you did. Love anyway. Some people will take advantage of your goodness and view your desire to reconcile or “get along” as an admission of guilt on your part. Love anyway. Sometimes people who profess Christ will hate you because your life makes them face the truth of the Gospel. Love anyway.
Sometimes people claim to love, but their actions speak otherwise. In modern times we speak of “lip service.” This is when a person does something in words only. John stated, Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth (1 John 3:18). It’s not enough to just preach love or teach love. We’ve got to back those words with actions. Not selectively either. Our love needs to be universal—even towards people who treat us as their enemy.
All of the Old Testament teachings and prophecies boil down to the two loves Jesus described in Matthew 22:36-40. A person’s offering to the Lord isn’t acceptable unless they are willing to reconcile with people. Jesus said to leave your gift at the altar and go and reconcile (Matthew 5:23-24). Why? Because God is more concerned about His children walking in love than He is receiving worship, gifts, or anything else we offer Him. If I had ten megaphones in my hands, I couldn’t possibly shout this truth loud enough to penetrate some professing believers thinking. God doesn’t want anything from us if we are unwilling to walk in love with people.
Excuses to Be Unloving
One of the most preposterous excuses for non-love in full Gospel type circles is to label someone as “having a spirit.” This type of foolishness is liable to send numerous people to hell. Satan himself possessed Judas, and yet Jesus called him a friend and treated him lovingly to the end. I have often wondered if these discerning types ever asked if they may be the demon-possessed one? After all, if we can’t love our fellow man, what assurance have we that we ever passed from death to life?
There will be times in our lives when we reach out in reconciliation (send a letter, email, text, make a call, etc.), and the so-called brother or sister will not reciprocate. Love anyway. There will be times that they work ill towards you and do everything they can to make life hard for you. Love anyway. They will speak behind your back and destroy your good name. Love anyway. They will interpret your desire to eliminate all compromise from your life as a “religious spirit.” Love anyway.
Jesus said, “You shall love…” Do you speak in tongues? Good. Do you prophesy? Good. But are you feuding with fellow believers? If so, you need to repent, or you risk going to hell. We can’t hate our fellow man (especially a brother or sister) and then pretend to love God. It is false. If we hate people, we are murderers, and we know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in them.
The Rule of Gold or the Golden Rule?
Paul said that love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law (Romans 13:10 ESV). Ask yourself, Do I look for opportunities to take advantage of people and rip them off? Do I try to sting people in business? Do I take advantage of people who are “down on the luck” (as the world calls it) and take away their goods for pennies on the dollar? If we answered yes to those questions, then we are a transgressor of the law. Would we want to be treated like that? Of course, we wouldn’t. If you treat a person in a way you wouldn’t want to be treated you are sinning and moving in non-love.
If our instinct isn’t to love everyone (in deeds and in truth), then we have no assurance whatsoever that we are saved. The religious leaders were always seeking to justify their bad and unloving behavior with loopholes in the law. They even went as far as to make a law that allowed them to defraud their own parents or children from resources by committing them to God (Mark 7:9-13). They made void the law by their tradition. Why? Because they didn’t have love in their hearts for even their own parents (Romans 1:31, 2 Timothy 3:3).
What do people who are unloving need to do? What if they have been attending church for fifty years? They all need to do the same things: repent, turn to God, and do works befitting repentance (Acts 26:20). The ax is laid to the trees’ root, and God will cast every tree into the fire that does not bring forth good fruit (Matthew 3:10). The first fruit we can yield is fruit worthy of repentance. Give away your excess goods as evidence that you are no longer selfish. Read the words of John the Baptist and let God deal with your heart. John the Baptist was preaching to selfish — unloving people. And when you have fully repented, ask God to fill you with His Spirit so that His love will fill your heart (Romans 5:5), and you can know you have passed from death to life—that is to say, from death to love.