Sunday, February 08, 2009

The After Glow

"Now the end of the commandment is charity out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned" (1 Timothy 1:5).

Paul is showing Timothy that the ultimate aim of any authentic minister is to produce the love which springs from a pure heart, a good conscience and a genuine faith.

Take a moment of do a little self-examination. Don't you find that a defiled heart, a bad conscience, and a pretentious faith constitute a real blockade to love -- both giving it to others, as well as receiving it for yourself?

We've just journeyed together over the past several days as we discussed the fruit of the Spirit, which is LOVE expressing itself in a variety of ways. The whole purpose of this was to aid each one of us in taking the steps toward becoming what Jesus wants us to be -- men and women who walk in love.

A pure heart, a good conscience, and a genuine faith are the keys to our success. Here is how it works.

Genuine faith is the first to act. It is the faith that comes from hearing God speak, which brings with it the desire to please Him. Faith steps out to do whatever God has said to do -- inwardly and outwardly. This leads to a good conscience.

Paul said, "Believe me, I do my level best to keep a clear conscience before God and my neighbors in everything I do" (Acts 24:16). A man or woman with a troubled conscience need only to take one step back to the place where genuine faith can complete its work in their souls.

A genuine faith produces a good conscience, and these two then work in concert to purify the heart. And the job is not easy. "The heart is deceitful above all things," Jeremiah tells us. "It is desperately wicked: who can know it?" (ch.17:9). This is the answer he heard from heaven, "I, the Lord, search the heart and examine the mind. I get to the heart of the human. I get to the root of things. I treat them as they really are, not as they pretend to be." (vs.10, the Message).

It is the Lord who alone holds the power to transform our lives. He speaks and gives us a genuine faith, which instills within us the desire to please Him. He leads us, and gives us a good conscience as we obey His will. And He purifies our hearts by the pervasive influence of His Holy Spirit, examining and cleansing us day by day.

And here is the payoff of this happy process -- LOVE!

Not LOVE imagined, but LOVE that is real, and lasting. Love that is experienced and expressed. Love that works no ill toward its neighbor, and thus fulfills the Royal Law.

It is the love that flows out of a pure heart, which is the product of a good conscience and a genuine faith working together.

Where are you in the process?


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