|Is Your Christianity Real? By Francis Frangipane, December 1, 2010|
Your Christianity is Only as Real as Your Love
*Is your love growing and becoming softer, brighter, more daring and more
visible? Or is it becoming more discriminating, more calculating, less
vulnerable and less available?* This is a very important issue, for your
Christianity is only as real as your love. A measurable decrease in your
ability to love is evidence that a stronghold of cold love is developing
Guard Against Unforgiveness!
"Because lawlessness is increased, most people's love will grow cold" (Matthew
24:12). A major area of spiritual warfare that has come against the Church
is the sphere of *church relationships*. Satan knows that a church divided
against itself cannot stand. We may enjoy temporary blessings and seasonal
breakthroughs, but *to win a citywide war, Jesus is raising up a united,
citywide Church*. An earmark of this corporate, overcoming Church will be
its commitment to love. Yet, because of the increasing iniquity in the end
of this age, true Christian love will be severely assaulted.
There is no spiritual unity, and hence no lasting victory, without love.
Love is a passion for oneness. Bitterness, on the other hand, is
characterized by a noticeable *lack of love*. This cold love is a demonic
stronghold. In our generation cold love is becoming increasingly more
common. It shuts down the power of prayer and disables the flow of healing
and outreach. In fact, where there is persistent and hardened unforgiveness
in a person or church, the demonic world (known in Matthew 18:34 as
"torturers") has unhindered access.
The Scriptures warn that even a little root of bitterness springing up in a
person's life can defile many (see Hebrews 12:15). Bitterness is unfulfilled
revenge. Another's thoughtlessness or cruelty may have wounded us deeply. It
is inevitable that, in a world of increasing harshness and cruelty, we will
at some point be hurt. *But if we fail to react with love and forgiveness,
if we retain in our spirit the debt the offender owes, that offense will rob
our hearts of their capacity to love*. Imperceptibly, we will become a
member of the majority of end-time Christians whose love is growing cold.
*Bitterness* is the most visible symptom of the stronghold of cold love. To
deal with cold love, we must repent and forgive the one who hurt us. *Painful
experiences are allowed by God to teach us how to love our enemies*. If we
still have unforgiveness toward someone, we have failed this test.
Fortunately, it was just a test, not a final exam. *We actually need to
thank God for the opportunity to grow in divine love*. Thank Him that your
whole life is not being swallowed up in bitterness and resentment. Millions
of souls are swept off into eternal judgment every day without any hope of
escaping from embitterment, but you have been given God's answer for your
pain. *God gives you a way out: love!*
As we embrace God's love and begin to walk in Christlike forgiveness, we are
actually pulling down the stronghold of cold love in our lives. Because of
this experience, we will soon possess more of the love of Christ than we had
Love Without Commitment Is Not Love
"And at that time many will fall away and will betray one another and hate
one another. Many false prophets will arise and will mislead many. Because
lawlessness is increased, most people's love will grow cold." Matthew
Allow me to be perfectly clear: *there is no such thing as love without
commitment*. The measure of one's love is found in the depth of his or her
commitment to others. How often we have heard people say, "I loved once, but
I was hurt." Or, "I was committed to Christian service, but they used me."
When someone withdraws his commitment to a relationship, he is withdrawing
his love. It is not one's commitment that grows cold; it is their love. It
may not seem like they have become cold—they may still attend church, sing
and look "Christian"—but inside they have become hard and separated from
others. They have withdrawn from love. Because their commitment is shallow,
they will be easily offended.
Jesus said, "It is inevitable that stumbling blocks come" (Matthew 18:7). In
your walk there will be times when even good people have bad days. As long
as you live on earth, there will never be a time when "stumbling blocks"
cease to be found upon your path. People do not stumble over boulders but
over stones—little things. To stumble is to stop walking and fall. Have you
stumbled over someone's weakness or sin lately? *Have you gotten back up and
continued loving as you did before, or has that fall caused you to withdraw
somewhat from walking after love?* To preserve the quality of love in your
heart, you must forgive those who have caused you to stumble.
Every time you refuse to forgive or fail to overlook a weakness in another,
your heart not only hardens toward them, it hardens toward God. You cannot
form a negative opinion of someone (even though you think they may deserve
it!) and allow that opinion to crystallize into an attitude; for every time
you do, an aspect of your heart will cool toward God. You may still think
you are open to God, but the Scriptures are clear: "The one who does not
love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen" (1
John 4:20). You may not like what someone has done, but you do not have an
option to stop loving them. Love is your only choice.
What do I mean by love? First, I do not merely mean "tough love." I
affectionate, sensitive, open, persistent love*. God will be tough when He
needs to be, and we will be firm when He tells us to be, but beneath our
firmness must be an underground river of love waiting to spring into action.
By love, I mean a compassion that is empowered by faith and prayer to see
God's best come forth in the people I love. *When I have love for someone, I
have predetermined that I am going to stand with them, regardless of what
they are going through*. I am committed.
*We each need people who love us, who are committed to us in spite of our
imperfections*. The fullness of Christ will not come without Christians
standing with each other in love. We are not talking about salvation, but
growing in salvation until we care for each other, even as Christ has
committed Himself to us.
Many people will stumble over little faults and human weaknesses. These
minor things are quickly pumped up by the enemy into great big problems. Oh,
how frail are the excuses people use to justify withdrawing from others. In
reality, these problems, often with a church or pastor, are a smokescreen
which masks the person's lack of love.
We need to overcome our hang-ups about commitment, for no one will attain
the fullness of God's purposes on earth without being committed to imperfect
people along the way.
"Well, as soon as I find a church that believes as I do, I will be
committed." This is a dangerous excuse, because as soon as you decide you do
not want to forgive, or God begins to deal with the quality of your love,
you will blame your withdrawing on some minor doctrinal difference. *The
Kingdom of God is not based on mere doctrines, it is founded upon
relationships —relationships with God and, because of God, with one another*.
Doctrines only help define those relationships. We are not anti-doctrine,
but we are against empty doctrines which seem like virtues but are simply
excuses that justify cold love.
The Greatest Commandments
An expert in the Law once asked Jesus which was the greatest commandment.
His reply was wonderful: "'You shall love the Lord your God with all your
heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your
strength.' The second is this, 'You shall love your neighbor as
12:30-31). Jesus said that the second commandment is like the first. When
you love God, your love for others will actually be like your love for God.
*The more you unconditionally love God, the more you will unconditionally
To those whose attitude is, "I am content with just Jesus and me," I say it
is wonderful you found Jesus. But you cannot truly have Jesus and
simultaneously not do what He says. The outgrowth of love and faith in
Christ is love and faith like Christ's, which means *we are committed, even
as He is, to His people*.
You see, the Kingdom of God is most perfectly revealed in our relationships
with one another. We are being perfected into a unit (see John 17). To have
the Kingdom, we must be committed to one another as individuals and as
churches. If Christ accepts us while we are still imperfect, we must also
accept one another. The people who possess the Kingdom of God in its reality
are people who overcome the obstacles of each other's faults. They help each
other become what God has called them to be: the living Body of Jesus
Remember, *the goal of pulling down the stronghold of cold love is to see
the oneness of Christ's Body revealed*. You will be challenged in this, but
if you persist, you will discover the height and depth, the length and
breadth of Christ's love. You will become a Body filled and flooded with God
The preceding message is adapted from a chapter in Francis' book, The Three