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Welcome to the final episode of our Evidence of Spiritual Life series where we have been looking for these evidences in our lives. If we haven’t easily found them, that may have meant that we didn’t possess spiritual life in the first place, or it represents the next step in our spiritual maturity.
I know that there isn’t enough time in a podcast episode to truly give these topics the scope and detail that is required, but I pray that you have been able to truly step back and look at your life in an honest, biblical way.
If you are truly born again by the Holy Spirit into Christ and an eternal relationship with God the Father, then these evidences will be in your life . . . and they will be growing. That’s so important to realize. We must not allow ourselves to believe the lie that spiritual life stagnates, plateaus, or slips backward.
No, spiritual life is sanctification from one degree of glory to another as we’re conformed to the image of Christ.
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And also be sure to check out CelebrationOfGod.com to sign up for our new Evermind App as well as access our episode notes, transcript, and life resources from our blog.
And—with that—let’s try to tackle the amazing, overwhelming, massive, and eternally important topic called love.
Let’s start by reading II Peter 1:5-7, “Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, 6 and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, 7 and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love.”
As I said earlier, we’re not going to be able to do much more than scratch the surface of this topic. So, what I hope this does is that a truly born again believer who is growing in their knowledge of God and the Bible should want to continue their study. This episode should whet your appetite and cause you to want to dive deeper into this gorgeous truth.
Also, please understand that the world has no idea what love is, and a spiritually dead person cannot exercise the love that we’re going to describe today. The best the world can do through common grace is a fleshly, self-focused affection that does not accomplish the purposes of God.
This is a warning on three levels . . .
A. As a child of God, your definition of love needs to be God’s definition.
B. If the best love you have has more in common with the world than it does the Bible, that may very well be an evidence of the fact that you don’t have spiritual life. And . . .
C. If you do have genuine biblical love in your life, it must be ever-maturing—moving further and further away from the fleshly version to the God-love the Lord pours into our lives.
Also by way of introduction, of the eight Greek words we’ve been studying in II Peter 1:5-7, the words translated moral excellence appear in the New Testament 5 times, knowledge 29 times, self-control 4 times, perseverance 32 times, godliness 15 times, and brotherly kindness 6 times. However, the Greek word translated “faith” is used 243 times in the New Testament. Given the absolutely foundational nature of faith, this makes perfect sense. But the word translated “love” in II Peter 1:7 shows up an amazing 115 times, and other forms of the same word show up another 200-some times. It’s clear that Peter bookends the trajectory of Christian maturity with the weightiest character traits known to man—faith and love.
Faith is how we enter into a relationship with God, and love is the warp and woof of that relationship. The two greatest commands are to love the Lord and love your neighbor because all the other commands of Scripture hang off these two. Faith is the root, and love is the necessary fruit.
Last week we looked at the importance of redemptive relationships—deep, connected, familial discipleship that results in the joint maturity of each in the relationship—but this week, we’re going to consider the personal responsibility of Christian love that exists even when others do not reciprocate our love. This love is the most mature, the most godly, and is the goal toward which all God’s people should be growing.
There is so much to be learned concerning this topic—because it touches every area of life—but we’re going to limit our study today to 4 main concepts: the source, necessity, character, and recipients of true love.
2. The Source of True Love
True love originates in God, flows from God, and is to return back to God.
A. True love finds its existence in God.
I John 4:8 tells us that, “God is love.” I believe this description is important lest we come to the wrong conclusion that love as we know it is something achieved or exercised by God. No, true love is intrinsically woven into the very character of God to the degree that the Bible says that God is love.
B. Humans can experience true love only as they access it in God.
I John 4:19 reads, “We love, because He first loved us.” If we have not first been loved by God, we cannot love others.
And, no, the fact that God so loved the world does not mean that the whole world can exercise the love of God. The love John is discussing here is the saving love of God in our lives. Yes, it can be argued that the world’s ability to exercise a fleshly version of love is the result of God’s love that pours His common grace out on them, but the love that is an evidence of spiritual life requires that we first have experienced God’s love in spiritual life.
C. A godly life is the evidence of true love.
I John 2:5, “Whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected.”
II John 1:6, “And this is love, that we walk according to his commandment.”
Matthew 22:37-40, “You shall love the Lord your God . . . . You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.”
A person who believes themselves to be loving, but who does not possess or is not growing in faith, moral excellence, knowledge, Spirit-control, perseverance, godliness, and brotherly kindness is lying to themselves.
This means that an ungodly life is the evidence of not being able to truly love.
In John 5:39-43 Jesus says, “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me; 40 and you are unwilling to come to Me so that you may have life. 41 I do not receive glory from men; 42 but I know you, that you do not have the love of God in yourselves. 43 I have come in My Father’s name, and you do not receive Me.”
And I John 4:20-21 reveals that, “If someone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen. 21 And this commandment we have from Him, that the one who loves God should love his brother also.”
The source of love is God Himself. Therefore, it’s impossible to imagine that we will love the way He loves if we don’t have new life in Christ and the power of the the Holy Spirit evidenced in the fact that we’re living the life of God.
What about you? Do you love because God has first loved you? Are you maturing in the spiritual disciplines and character of Christ?
3. The Necessity of True Love
If we do not love the way God commands us to love, life will not work the way He intends it to work. To not love is to sin, and sin always brings destruction. But when we love God and everyone else in our lives, we will thrive as God originally intended.
I Corinthians 13 is rightly known as the Love Chapter. We’re going to look briefly at the rest of the chapter later, but for now we must consider the introduction to the chapter.
I Corinthians 13:1-3, "If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing.”
A. According to verse 1, your communication will not work if the love of God is not alive in your life.
Think of all of your communication during an average week. If you’re anything like I, then it isn’t hard to remember an example of communication that was worthless because you didn’t love God and others the way you should.
B. According to verse 2, your religious expressions will not work if the love of God is not alive in your life.
Consider the practical outworking of your faith during an average week. This can include all “religious” activities as well as personal acts of devotion, etc. Again, I’m sure we all can give an example of a religious activity that was worthless because we didn’t love God and others the way we should as we participated in it.
C. According to verse 3, your relationships will not work if the love of God is not alive in your life.
Consider the plethora of relationships in your life. Can you think of an experience in a relationship where—even though you treated them well on the outside—it was empty because you weren’t loving God and them they way you should.
The big three—your communication, your faith, and your relationships—will all fail if you do not have true biblical love. If you don’t learn anything else today study, learn this: Life doesn’t work without True Love.
I know that may sound like a song from the 60’s or a cheesy motivational poster, but this is a biblical fact. Your life will absolutely not work in any meaningful way if you are not living it in God’s love.
4. The Character of True Love
Now, we’re going to skim through I Corinthians 13. Don’t shut down your brain because you’re familiar with this passage. Allow each character trait of love to shine its blinding rays into the hidden corners of your life. Grapple with these truths honestly and carefully. Don’t just say, “Yeah, that’s in my life; I’m good.”
A. Love is patient.
Verses 4 & 7 teach that love is patient and endures all things.
With whom are you the least patient? You’re not loving that person the way you should.
B. Love is kind.
Verse 4 teaches that love is kind.
The original word has the idea of “showing oneself useful,” and the adjectival form of this word means “serviceable, good, or gracious.”
With whom are you the least useful? In what relationship is your participation not accomplishing God’s will in that person’s life?
C. Love is humble.
Verse 4 also teaches that "love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude.”
Humility is living with an others-motivation. Nothing is done with self as the end goal.
With whom are you the least humble? In what relationships do you consider yourself before considering what’s best for them?
D. Love is selfless.
Verse 5 teaches that love “does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful.”
There’s a lot of overlap with this one of the one before it, but ask the question anyway, with whom are you the least selfless? The answer is a person you do not love.
E. Love is holy.
Verse 5 also teaches that love “does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.”
With whom are you the least holy? What relationships in your life either thrive off of sin or do not discuss and pursue the righteousness of God? Those are the relationships in your life that are most hateful.
F. Love is strong.
Verse 7 teaches that, “Love bears all things, [and] endures all things.”
With whom are you the weakest? We could ask it this way, which relationships in your life tire you out the most? With which people do you think, “I just can’t handle them right now”?
G. Love is optimistic.
Verse 7 also teaches that, “Love . . . believes all things, [and] hopes all things.”
Love is not foolish or undiscerning, but since it knows the power of God, it recognizes that anything God expects is possible from anyone from whom He expects it.
With whom are you the most pessimistic? Pessimism is not realism. Realism says that we can accomplish anything and everything God wants for us. To look at someone and think they will never change or that they’re hopeless is pessimism, and it’s not love
H. Love is eternal.
Verse 7 goes on to teach that, ”Love . . . endures all things,” and verse 8 reveals that, “Love never ends.”
True love is not capricious and wavering. With whom are you the most inconsistent? What relationships in your life are on-again, off-again not because of legitimate scheduling issues and the busyness of life, but because you don’t consistently love them the way you should?
I know these are hard questions, and I don’t want you to think that failures in any of these categories mean that you’re not born again. I think I’ve solidly explained how we will still sin on and off as long as we are in these unredeemed bodies.
But there are two clear signs of a lack of spiritual life: first, an absence of God’s love in our lives, and second, if we really have to contrive the love in our lives to fit it into these categories. If you’re trying to beat your square shaped love into God’s circle shaped love, that needs to concern you.
And, if you thought that was hard, buckle up because now we’re going to look at the relationships where your love absolutely must mature.
5. The Recipients of True Love
Who does God want you to love in the ways we just described? Are there people you don’t have to love? These are vital questions we need to answer.
Simply put, God commands us to love Him, our neighbors (those who love us), and our enemies (those who don’t love us). There is no one you’re allowed to not love!
We don’t have time to read Luke 10:25-37 and Matthew 5:43-48. I strongly encourage you to do so when you have time. And when you’re done reading them, ask yourself the following questions:
In what ways do you find it hard to love God? In what ways do you find it hard to love your neighbors? And in what ways do you find it hard to love your enemies?
It never ceases to amaze me how easy it is for us to justify hating people. Now, when I say “hate,” I’m talking about not loving them the way God loves us. That’s what hate is. Even the selfish, fleshly love of the world is biblical hate because it’s working at cross-purposes with God.
How can I say that? Here’s my favorite definition of biblical love: True love flows from a relationship with Christ whereby it’s empowered to want and to work toward God's greatest good for the one loved regardless of how they treat you.
Each one of those ideas is the same area in which we justify not loving others. When I ask people why they don’t love someone in their lives, these are the kinds of answers I receive . . . even in marriages.
“I don’t want to.”
“I believe God wants me to treat them this way.”
“Have you seen how they treat me?”
My friends, it doesn’t matter. If you are truly born again, you’re not going to love perfectly, but you absolutely need to be growing in your love for everyone in your life.
Now, that was a much more superficial overview than I would have liked, but it’s the extent we can cover right now.
Listen, my friends, if you are not wanting and working toward God’s best interest in the life of the people around you, you’re not a disciple of Christ. That’s what Jesus Himself said. People are going to know you’re His disciple because you love the way He loved.
So, though none of us will be able to love perfectly, that means that those of us who have spiritual life absolutely must be maturing in it.
We have to love our friends and our neighbors and our family and our pastors and those really annoying people at church and even our enemies. We need to love them the exact same way that the Father loves the Son.
Now excuses. No plateauing. No going back.
Now, we don’t have the time to schedule one more episode to put a concluding bow on this series, so I want to take our last few minutes to do that now.
6. Your Spiritual Maturity from Spiritual Life to Physical Death
II Peter 1:1-15 is a gloriously concise explanation of how a Christian is to grow in his or her maturity.
Peter starts in verse 1 introducing himself this way, “Simon Peter, a bond-servant and apostle of Jesus Christ.” Though none of us are apostles, it’s important that to understand that if Peter were a bond-servant of Christ, we are too.
Peter then addresses his readers and explains that he is writing to “those who have received a faith of the same kind as ours, by the righteousness of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ.” Spiritual growth cannot occur if there isn’t first spiritual life, and spiritual life comes as a result of the gift of faith that comes from our righteous God.
Verse two says, “Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.” After we have been born again into a relationship with God, we are recipients of the multiplied grace and peace that is ours in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.
But what is the goal of this grace and peace? Verse 3 tells us: “that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.”
Praise the Lord that He gives us access to everything we need for life and godliness! And praise God that He tells us exactly where to find everything we need—we discover it in the knowledge of God. Only as we learn, understand, and live in the knowledge of God can we access faith, peace, and grace, and grow in godliness.
But where do we find the knowledge of God? Is it revealed in nature? Do we learn it in dreams? Do we rely on holy men to tell it to us? No, it comes through God’s revealed Word, the Bible.
Verse 4 then explains “For by [His own glory and excellence] He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust.” It’s through God’s glory and excellence that we receive the precious and magnificent promises that God gives to everyone who is born again.
And what are those promises? Whereas previously we were corrupted by the world and our lusts, we now have everything we need to grow in grace and peace, that is—spiritual maturity. And that is why verse 5 begins, “For this very reason also, applying all diligence . . . .”
Because Christians are bond-servants of God, and because He has given us faith, grace, and peace that come through knowing Him and which results in life and godliness, we obviously must be growing, but it’s not something that’s just going to “happen to us.” We must apply all diligence to the process.
Diligence is an earnest, urgent effort. It carries the idea of something being done in haste; not sloppily or partially, but passionately in order to be sure the action happens in a timely manner.
To all of you listening to my voice today who are—without a doubt—servants of Jesus who have been given faith by our righteous God, know that grace and peace are being poured on you in the knowledge of Christ our Lord since God designs to use that knowledge to provide everything you need for life and godliness.
That is ultimate goal for which He has chosen you. His glory and excellence has granted to you the precious and magnificent promise that you no longer should live in the corruption of your former lusts, but that you should become a partaker of His divine nature. Since God has given you everything you need to achieve His greatest goal for you life—conformity to His holiness—work diligently to grow in Christlikeness.
So, here’s the question for you today. Do you believe that this is a non-negotiable requirement for your life? If your answer is, “No,” then you’re not believing what God’s Word abundantly commands and illustrates.
But if you say, “Yes,” but your life isn’t the exemplary fulfillment of what you say you believe, then there’s a very good chance that you’re wicked heart is deceiving you. It’s easy to say we believe something, but if we’re not living in conformity to what we say we believe, it’s all a lie.
So, here’s a followup question. Have your thoughts, words, and actions today exhibited a moral excellence that only a Christian can have in the power of God? If yes, that’s wonderful. Praise the Lord! If no, what does your lack of moral excellence reveal about your faith in God? That’s an important question.
In order to grow in your excellence, you will need to study God’s Word in order to learn what is righteous, what is wicked, what needs to be pursued, and what needs to be put off.
So, which of the following descriptions best encapsulates your interaction with the knowledge of God?
1. Casual, Occasional Reading
2. Consistent, Thoughtful Reading
3. Involved Study across Various Cross References
4. Immersive Study Involving Word Studies and Additional Study Aids
This is going to reveal exactly how seriously you’re pursuing spiritual maturity.
So, then as you learn how God would have you live, you need to exercise Spirit-filled self-control to only do those things that please Him and reject those things that steal His glory.
Now, consider this scary question. If those who know you best selected a description of your level of self-control, which would they choose?
1. You lack self-control. You frequently think, say, and do things you shouldn’t think, say, and do.
2. You have self-control, but it’s not inherently spiritual. Unbelievers exhibit the same self-control.
3. Your self-control is deeply rooted in God’s expectations for your life.
As you consistently participate in your sanctification by trusting God’s Word to the degree that you deny your flesh and submit to the spirit and thereby grow in your moral excellence, you will persevere steadfastly in greater and greater consistency.
So, since we started this series two months ago, in which spiritual disciplines can you honestly say you are maturing?
If you’re having a hard time thinking of one that has shown a marked change, that may be an issue.
But as you consistently participate in your sanctification by trusting God’s Word to the degree that you deny your flesh and submit to the spirit and thereby grow in your moral excellence, you will persevere steadfastly in greater and greater consistency.
The more consistently you choose God’s will for your life and reject your own, you will become more and more godly.
On a scale from 1-100 (1 being low, and 100 being perfect), how God-like in character (godly) are you compared to what you know about God’s expectations?
This transformation into the character and behavior of the Lord Jesus Christ will drive you to build redemptive, discipleship relationships with other believers.
How would those who know you best describe you?
3. Friendly but Superficial
4. Quick to give help, but avoids receiving help.
5. Someone who invests a lot relationally, but avoids spiritual engagement.
6. Someone who consistently leads the people in your life into a deeper relationship with Christ.
Because of your conformity to Christ you will continue to multiply in the greatest of all divine attributes—true, Christ-honoring love. You will want and work toward God’s best for everyone in your life (God, friends, enemies, strangers) whether they want you to or not
Now, in conclusion, after outlining the trajectory of Spirit-filled, Christ-honoring spiritual growth, Peter gives the following instructions starting in verse 8: “For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
No one likes to consider themselves “useless,” but in order to truly be useful in God’s economy, you must possess these evidences of spiritual life and be maturing in them.
Continuing in verse 9, we read, “For he who lacks these qualities is blind or short-sighted, having forgotten his purification from his former sins.”
Regardless of the character traits in which you struggle the most, you aren’t flourishing in them because—in one way or another—you are not seeing God, the resources He provides you, His plan, and/or the life for which He’s saved you.
And then in verse 10 we read, “Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble; 11 for in this way the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you.”
Once again, Peter (under the inspiration of God) is commanding you to be diligent to grow in Christlikeness. And then Peter makes a truly disturbing claim—he says that your saving relationship with God (or lack thereof) is going to be evidently seen in whether or not you possess and are growing in faith, moral excellence, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness, and love. The existence of true salvation will always be seen in a person’s life.
And then Peter ends this thought by saying, “Therefore, I will always be ready to remind you of these things, even though you already know them, and have been established in the truth which is present with you. 13 I consider it right, as long as I am in this earthly dwelling, to stir you up by way of reminder, 14 knowing that the laying aside of my earthly dwelling is imminent, as also our Lord Jesus Christ has made clear to me. 15 And I will also be diligent that at any time after my departure you will be able to call these things to mind.”
Peter’s highest calling on this earth was to always be ready to vigorously remind the people in his life of these truths—even though they already knew them and were established in them! In fact, he was so committed to the task of diligently keeping these truths ever before his fellow disciple’s eyes that he was confident that after he died, his fellow disciples would be able to easily remember them on their own.
Peter was a servant of Christ just like you are. Peter was a born again believer and a recipient of God’s transforming grace just like you may profess to be. Peter was responsible to God to be engaged in spiritually profitable redemptive relationships just like you are. So, there are two more important questions to consider:
1. Who is repeatedly, consistently, and diligently reminding you and challenging you in your spiritual growth?
2. Who are you repeatedly, consistently, and diligently reminding and challenging in their spiritual growth?
I hope you have names that you can honestly attach to those questions.
I suppose, if nothing else, that’s what we at The Year Long Celebration of God want to be for you. We want to continue reminding you, sharpening you, and equipping you. But we also recognize our limitations. We function best as the material and instruction through which you work with other people. Whether they’re discipling you, you’re discipling them, or it’s mutual. You really need to have your local community of born again followers of Christ doing life-on-life discipleship with you.
Well, we made it. Praise God for giving us everything we need for life and godliness! We pray this series has challenged and equipped you, and we pray that it will continue to do so for years to come.
If you have any questions or concerns, if you would like more detailed assistance in addressing the practical steps necessary to grow in any of the concepts we’ve studied, please don’t hesitate to contact us at Counselor@CelebrationOfGod.com.
Also, please take full advantage of the resources available at CelebrationOfGod.com and make sure to revisit EvermindMinistries.com as we add more ministries that will help keep God and His Word at the center of your daily experience.
Please share this series on your favorite social media outlets so that more people can look for the evidences of spiritual life and grow in them.
And join us next time as we seek to better know, love, and worship God and help the people in our lives do the same.
To that end, we’ll be starting the final Season in The Year Long Celebration of God—the Season of Power. And were going to start by learning about the power of God.
The Year Long Celebration of God is a discipleship experience designed to equip followers of Christ to better know, love, and worship Him as they help others in their lives do the same. We exalt God, teach His people how to practically worship Him every day of the year, and train them to disciple others.
Whether it's a small group, church, classroom, one-on-one, or community relationship, this resource is guaranteed to draw people closer together as they draw closer to God.
AMBrewster is the creator of The Year Long Celebration of God and host of its podcast.