Following last week’s reference to the revival in Rwanda, we find these verses from the first epistle of John:
But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanses us from all sin. (1 John 1:7)
And intermingling slightly the Authorised Version and the New Living Translation:
He that says he is in the light, and hates his brother, is in the darkness even until now. He that loves his brother abides in the light and does not cause others to stumble (there is none occasion of stumbling in him). (1 John 2:9-10)
If you have read anything about the Rwanda revival you will know that almost the hallmark of it was the phrase ‘walking in the light’. They very early discovered that walking in the light before God meant walking in fellowship one with another, and the only way to be in real fellowship one with another was to walk in love. That in fact is what John is saying. We are to walk in the light and have fellowship with one another. The one who that says he is in the light but hates his brother is not walking in the light; he has to love his brother, and then he’ll abide in the light.
This is a truth that we are very familiar with in the evangelical Christian world and even in broader Christian belief. Had it been adhered to through the centuries, the history of the church of Jesus Christ would be entirely different. But we come down to where we are, and we think, well, we know this.
We do know it, and I think many put it into practice up to a level. But the level that God requires, and what He means by walking in the light and walking in love one to another, refers to a much higher standard than ours.
Sometimes for me it’s as if a shutter opens in the spiritual world so that I catch just a glimpse behind it for a moment or two, and a truth comes home at a deeper level. When it happened in this instance, I suppose it was in thinking of the revival in Rwanda, but also of various situations that keep occurring in our walk with God and in a church, that can interfere with our peace. It is what the enemy has always sought to do in the church of Christ: to sow discord and disunity. I thank God for all the unity that is amongst us as a church and as a fellowship. It’s very strong; the bonds are very deep and very strong. But God always calls us to come up higher, and there is a quality in that love He would have us have one for another that empties us of any judgmental or critical spirit. Not that we don’t see the truth clearly, but we can see the truth as simply as we can see it, say, in our own child, and it does not interfere with our love for them. There is a love that covers and seeks to protect, though we might want to change them. God is the One who can effect changes in us.
We think: ‘That sounds good,’ and I hope if you are reading this today that you too will catch a glimpse of an even deeper way of walking in love.
But then we think, ‘How do we do this far more than we already are?’
I think the only way is to have been the recipient of love, and not primarily love to one another, but love from God. For love begets love, and it’s in the love of God shed abroad in our hearts that we learn how to walk truly in the light. The light is beautiful. As I noted at the time, it was a sunny morning when this talk was originally recorded. Sunshine lifts the spirits. But what is the light of God like? And what is it like when we discover that living in the light means living first of all in the heart of the love of God? The apostle Paul speaks of it. And John of course speaks of it not only in his letter, but earlier on in his gospel:
Now before the feast of the passover, when Jesus knew that his hour was come that he should depart out of this world unto the Father, having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end (or: he began to show them the full extent of his love). (John 13:1)
The occasion is the last Passover that leads into the Last Supper, when He took a towel and washed their feet. He began to show them the full extent of His love. Such is that love that we need the Holy Spirit to reveal it to us and to give us softened hearts and receptive spirits to truly receive it. It is when we become recipients of that love that we understand more about really walking in it, and one with another.
One of the most famous converts of that Rwanda revival, used ultimately all over the world, was Festo Kivingere. He hated everything to do with the revival and was quite violent to any of his family who were for it, but when confronted wonderfully in vision with the cross of Christ he broke to God and was flooded with His love. As I was thinking of all these matters I opened a book about him, and this was actually where it opened. He says in describing his conversion:
There is no qualification for the love of God other than that you are a sinner, completely finished. God in love has taken the initiative to
meet you where you are.
A whole new world had opened before me. Love ran through me and filled me with such a sense of freedom and joy that I wondered what to do.
I got off my knees, still crying, but now with joy.
He sang all the little songs that he thought he had forgotten, like ‘Jesus loves me, this I know’, in the sheer joy and freedom that the love of God brings.
And so He would have us imbibe it. Paul says:
I show unto you a more excellent way … Now abideth these three: faith, hope and love, but the greatest of these is love.
(1 Corinthians 12:31; 13:13)
Paul was the recipient of that love. Having been such a persecutor and sinner, he is so changed, and his letters breathe the love of a spiritual father to his spiritual children – love and forgiveness.
These two go together. Forgiveness is not enough. We can forgive another’s faults, but be quite cold about it, doing it in a merely dutiful way. One time my father had been deeply wronged by someone. He knew he was meant to forgive, and he felt he could forgive only at the end of a hatchet. It came to a place where he said to God he was willing to forgive, and God said: ‘I’m not interested in your forgiveness; you have got to love him.’ He broke to God and he loved the person. (Many years later he was able to do a very good turn for the man in question.) I believe from that day on he entertained no bitterness towards any human being. The love of God did fill his heart. It can fill our hearts too.
You might never have really been flooded with that love. You’ve been afraid to believe, you didn’t quite know it was there for you as an individual. He loves to be sought for, He loves to show Himself to us. Ask Him. Think about Him, think about Christ, and your heart will begin to be open to that deep love of God. Perhaps you do know it (many of you, I know, do), but it keeps getting spoiled by the difficulties of the way, by our own reactions, by things that disturbs our peace. Have a resolve between you and God that you’re going to stay in that secret place where the love of God is filling you and causing you to return love to Him. You’re going to stay in there whatever happens outside, around you, even affecting you, but it’s not getting inside to disturb your peace that is rooted in the mutual love between God and the soul.
They went on that night to the first Communion as Christ began to show them the full extent of His love that would open to them on Calvary. The road into deep communion with God and His Son is as we believe that the Father has loved us, that He loves us and will love us to the very end. But Christ emptied Himself of all but love, and He would show to us this most excellent way. So shall we walk in the light and in love one to another. It’s not sentimental love, but that love of God that is unbreakable and unquenchable – many waters cannot quench it. Blessed be His Name. Come and drink, come and feast on Him.
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