We want to think about a word that many people use - 'love,' but which most people don't understand. True love is unselfish. The love, which many people think of, is actually selfish lust. We want to consider what it means to really love as seen in the life of Jesus Christ, our Lord.
When we speak about holiness, many people think of holiness as dry, starchy religion or something repulsive, or hard, or strict. But that is not the holiness Jesus manifested. God is holy, absolutely holy. The Bible also says that God is love. Therefore true holiness is perfect love. I want to say that again: True holiness is perfect love. If you have holiness without love, it is not the holiness of Jesus Christ. It is the so-called holiness of the Pharisees. It is self-righteousness. It may be a disciplined life; maybe you pay your taxes, you pray, read the Bible, tithe, and do so many things, but you are like a skeleton.
You can't draw people if you are a skeleton; people are not attracted to a skeleton. Supposing you are walking down a dark street one night, and you see a skeleton walking towards you, just a skeleton - just skull and bones, walking towards you from the opposite direction, what would you do? Would you feel like embracing that one? Running forward to meet that? Or, would you feel like turning around and running away? That is how the Pharisees were. People felt like running away from them. Unfortunately that is how many self-righteous Christians are. Even many Christians who say, 'We are in the separated assemblies, we are not like the dead denomination, we are separated from all that, we are holy,' but they are like skeletons. People run away from them. They are like the Pharisees. But Jesus was not like that.
Yes, we need to be holy, we need to have truth. The Bible says in John 1:14 that the glory of God was seen in Jesus, full of grace and truth. There is a balance. Consider our body, do we need bones or not? If you didn't have bones you wouldn't be able to stand up, you wouldn't be able to sit down. You will collapse like a jellyfish that has got no bones in it. Spiritually speaking, some people are like that. You know there are certain disadvantages in having bones. For example, you cannot squeeze through a very narrow opening. But a jellyfish can squeeze through anything. It just becomes thin as it has no bones and slides through it. It is like a sponge. You can squeeze a sponge through any opening, any shape, and any size. But we can't go through because we got bones.
Some people, spiritually speaking, are like jellyfish; they compromise. They have no convictions. They don't stand for the truth. They don't stand for holiness. They are like people without any bones. That is certainly not God's will. On the other hand, if we are only bones, like I said, you will be like a skeleton; you will scare people away. But God has made this body so beautiful. What is it that makes our body attractive? The bones are covered over with flesh. When you say somebody is handsome, or a girl is pretty, what do you mean? It is not their skeleton you are talking about. I mean, if you pull off the flesh, the skeleton looks the same as the ugliest people in the world. It is the flesh on top of that skeleton, beautifully featured that makes somebody attractive.
Now apply this to the Christian life. It is not just truth. It is grace on top of the truth that makes the words attractive. It is love and holiness. God is light and God is love. The two are inseparable. True holiness is full of love, and true love is perfectly pure. So, in this sense, they are not different. I mean, people say they have great love for everybody, but if they don't live in purity and righteousness, that is just not divine love. That is just wishy-washy sentimentality. Those who claim to have great holiness, but don't have compassion and love for people, they are just Pharisees.
How is it with Jesus? He was not a skeleton, and He was not a jellyfish. He had all the truth. He stood for everything that the Law of God stood for, more than the Pharisees did. He was not just bones; the bones were covered over with flesh, as God intended human beings to be. This is the balance of the divine glory that the Holy Spirit has come to communicate to you and me. Not to make you like a skeleton, a Christian who drives other people away. Neither does God want us to be a wishy-washy jellyfish, just compromising and able to fit in to any type of opening. No, God doesn't want that either.
We read that Jesus spoke the truth, but He spoke it in love. His word had authority, but they were also gracious. When it says that God is love, it doesn't mean He just acts lovingly. Now, a person can act lovingly without any love in his heart. It could be just an external action which is done to impress others. Jesus did not just go around doing acts of love. We can imitate somebody and do acts of love, you know, like help the poor, do good. No, Jesus' love came from deep within His heart. Just like holiness and humility, love can be put on the outside. Then it is just a garment that a person can put on or take off.
Jesus said, "He who believes in Me, from his inner most being will flow rivers of living water." The spirit-filled man is a man from whose innermost being humility, holiness and love flow out. Our thoughts and our attitudes become holy and loving and not just the words and our actions. That can be just diplomacy. You know when we do something or say something, our thoughts and attitudes, towards that other person or toward those people, gives out a certain odour or smell of our life. Others can easily detect it. Words and actions of love count for nothing, if our thoughts and attitudes towards others are still critical and selfish. The Bible says in Psalm 51:6 (David said that after he had sinned), " God desires truth in the innermost being. "He wants love to flow from our hearts. That is how it was with Jesus.
So, as we look at the life of Jesus, we can see what the Holy Spirit wants to make of our life. Let me say, first of all, that if you love a person you will value him. You see, Jesus placed a very high value on all human beings. It didn't matter whether they were cultured, intelligent, clever, smart, or rich. It is very easy to place a great value on cultured, intelligent, rich people. But, a godly man would value all people; whether he is dressed in a suit and a tie, or he is a beggar. If you can't value a beggar as one of God's creation, as one who is made in the image of God, you will not love him. Do you know what the Bible says in James 3:9 that "All human beings are made in the image of God?" Yes, James says that in the context of use of our tongue in verse 8. Men have been made in the likeness of God.
What about a beggar with his ragged clothes, lack of culture, and illiteracy? Is he made in the image of God? If so, you will respect him. Jesus respected all people. He did not make any difference between the rich and the poor; educated and the uneducated; the cultured and the uncultured; or even between the righteous and the sinners. He valued everyone, because everyone was made by God. Everyone was loved by God. He came to die for everyone.
We can think that, when we start loving our fellow believers in our local church, that itself is something wonderful. It certainly is. But Jesus loved all men. Do you think He healed only the sick who believed in Him for salvation from sin? No, He healed so many sick people who were not interested in receiving anything further from Him. That was how His goodness was. Jesus never despised anyone because they were poor, or ignorant, or ugly. No, Jesus once said that the whole world was not as valuable as one human soul. That is how He valued men.
You know, just think you value your treasures; your stocks and your shares, your house, land, bank account, gold bars, car, and whatever else you have, put it all together. For Jesus, one human soul is worth more than all that, and much more than that. He said it was worth more than the whole world. That is why He delighted in men; He valued them. He saw those men, those people who were being bound by Satan and deceived. He longed to bring them to the light, and to set them free.
And His love for man was so great that He was willing even to pay the ultimate price of death, in order to free men from sin's grip over their lives. Because He was willing to die for men, to save them from their sins, He had the right to preach against sin so forcefully. You know Jesus turned around to the Pharisees and said, "You generation of vipers." Do you think you and I can say that to religious people, even if they are as bad as the Pharisees? Well, you can say that if you love them enough to die for them; otherwise, you can't. It is very easy to get up and say it. Any fool can get up and say such words. But to say it in the spirit of Christ is quite another thing. Remember, He was willing to die to save them from their sin and, that is why, He had the right to use such strong words. We have no right to preach against sin if we are not willing to do anything to save people from their sin.
This is what it means to speak the truth in love. To speak the truth is easy. Anybody can do that. Some people think, "I am a great prophet; I am going to say the truth." But to be like Jesus, we got to do it in love. Let us look at the life of Jesus more carefully and see how this love came from His life, and ask the Holy Spirit to fill our heart with that same love.