Mentoring Ministry

Providing biblical teaching resources for the next generation.

His Presence Transforms the Heart

For quite some time, I have been aware that the primary motivation for God’s people, and especially those who are in full time ministry, should be the love of God. Loving as God loves has been a commandment to God’s people for thousands of years. Today, it remains as the core principle of Christian life. It will remain so until Jesus returns. Then, God’s people will not need to be commanded to love. We will all be overwhelmed with love’s presence among us. It will permeate our eternal existence. Until then, we have the Scriptures to remind us to “love one another.”

The Apostle John has been called the Apostle of Love. His writings show what a profound understanding he had of God’s love. 1 John 4:21 (NKJV) says, “And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also.” 2 John 1:5-6 (NKJV) says, “And now I plead with you, lady, not as though I wrote a new commandment to you, but that which we have had from the beginning: that we love one another. This is love, that we walk according to His commandments. This is the commandment, that as you have heard from the beginning, you should walk in it.”

As we walk in God’s love, there will be those unique, sometimes unexpected and always very special moments, when God does or says something that radically transforms our hearts. This transformation requires three conditions, working together, to make it happen. These are (1) God’s timing, (2) His voice, and (3) our willingness to receive what He says. I would like to share one of these rare and special moments in my life. 

During my early years of serving God, I pastored a single adult ministry at Trinity Church International, in Lake Worth, Florida (USA). We conducted services on Friday evenings. On one particular Friday, my wife Nancy and I were in the church sanctuary preparing for the evening service. No one else had yet arrived. We began praying for the service. What happened that evening was one of those moments that is vividly etched in my memory. It never seems to fade. Here is the story of what happened.

I was near the back wall on the left side of the platform. As was my custom, I was facing toward the wall, praying for the evening’s service. Suddenly, I felt the deep, overwhelming presence of God. It was so heavy that I could hardly stand and continue to pray. The Holy Spirit began to speak to me. I cannot say it was an audible voice, but I clearly heard within my heart a command from Him that took me by surprise. It was a command from which I have never retreated. He wrote these words on my heart. “Never preach to My people or pray for them until you find it in your heart to love them with My kind of love!” I was instantly smitten with conviction and sorrow. I realized how hardened my heart had been. I could only sink to my knees and weep. I was found out! The Holy Spirit’s message was simple. It was redemptive. It was delivered with love. His words revealed to me that I was filled with potential, with which I could achieve my destiny, but I had been a performer, and God wanted me to be a lover. From now on, it would be God’s kind of love or nothing… and nothing was not an option! In that moment, I was forever changed. There would be no turning back. I was a man on a mission. I would put on the garment of bond service to God. I would let my light shine with His kind of love.

This encounter with the Holy Spirit at the back of that altar happened many years ago. Yet, the memory of God’s words penetrating my heart is as fresh as the day He spoke them to me. His words struck me like lightning, with a million Holy Spirit volts released into my heart. I am grateful that God did not leave me in the prideful, arrogant and ignorant place I was in at the time. I realized that I had misunderstood ministry. I thought it to be all about performance, not love. Though I am sure I fail at times, I have tried my best since then, to let the compassion of God’s kind of love define my ministry these many years. My desire is that I will be known for having a compassionate heart, when all I have taught, preached or counseled is long forgotten.

I hope this story of the Holy Spirit speaking to me on the back of the platform will touch your heart as much as God touched mine when it happened. Please take the time to reflect on your life and the influence God’s compassionate love could have on those to whom you will minister and for whom you will care. My story illustrates the foundational point of this article. God’s kind of love is transformational. It is a powerful blessing to be received and shared. Now, let me share with you some transformational principles about power of love, through the Apostle Paul’s Epistle to the Philippians.

Transformational Love
Philippians 2:1-4 (NKJV) 

“Therefore if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, {2} fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. {3} Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. {4} Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.”

From Paul’s words in these verses, we may extract three timeless, highly descriptive foundations for this process of transformational love. Each of them begins with an “if.” This makes their outcomes conditional on our willingness to display these foundations to others. As you read, let the sum of their individual parts speak to you. These parts are (1) “consolation and comfort,” (2) “fellowship” and (3) “affection and mercy.” Add these parts together with daily worship of God, and they form the pattern for successful Christian living and loving.

1. “Therefore, if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love,”
The original Greek words Paul used for “consolation” is “paraklesis,” and for “comfort” is “paramuthion.” They are essentially synonymous. They both speak of God’s comfort through Christ and His love. The implication is that if these first two conditions are present in the believer’s interaction with others; and the other two “ifs accompany them, then unity will follow. (It is illuminating to note that the Greek word with which Jesus referred to the Holy Spirit as “Comforter” (KJV) is “Parakletos.” Other translations refer to Him as our “Helper” or “Counselor.”)

2. “…if any fellowship of the Spirit,”
The Apostle Paul was intimately aware of the difference between carnal living and living in the Spirit. (A reading of the Romans, Chapter 8 will confirm how intensely Paul felt about this subject.) When we add this element of “fellowship in the Spirit” to the comfort we enjoy through Christ and His love, it leads us to the third part of this pattern for successful Christian living.

3. “…if any affection and mercy,”
It is striking that this third part gets its meaning from two Greek words. The first, “splagchnon,” can be translated literally as, “bowels” or “innermost parts.” It speaks of affectionate feelings that come from our deepest, inward parts. The second, “oiktirmos,” speaks of compassion and mercy. Together, they define the character of a follower of Christ. The Lord’s desire is that “affection and mercy” come out from deep within us to make a difference all around us.

The quality of the fellowship with our brothers and sisters in Christ depends on whether our hearts are transformed and are a reflection of the Word of God.

We are to place a priority on providing each other with God’s kind of comfort and love in ways that can only come through us. Then, we are to walk consistently and peaceably with each other, as we walk with God. Finally, we are to give God’s compassionate mercy to each other. Look again at Philippians 2:3-4. As Verses 3-4 complete Paul’s thoughts, which began in Verses 1 and 2, they seem to offer both instructions in righteous action and a warning to us. Here is Verse 3:  “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. {4} Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.”

These two verses warn us not to allow our natural, carnal tendencies to influence or control our interactions with others. Paul cautions us to beware of selfish ambitions and prideful thinking. Then, He provides the contrast, which is to consider the well-being of others to be of higher importance than our own. Finally, Paul instructs us not to be self-centered and selfish. It is good to be concerned for ourselves, as we should be, but we are not to neglect giving a high regard to the interests of others.

Redemption, though instant, invites us into a process of progressive transformation that lasts for a lifetime. We call this sanctification. It means we are changing to become more like Jesus, on a daily basis, until we finally enter into eternity in the presence of God. Learning to love as God does is the foundation of this transformation. This love is displayed in our actions and words, which come from a softened and renewed heart. When there is an abundance of His kind of love, we become demonstrations of its power and potential. Consider what I have said and how it applies to you. Then, let love have its perfect work in you.

This has been a short excerpt from my newest book, “God’s Kind of Love – A Journey of the Heart.”