Love without deeds and actions is no love at all, but only a hollow word. The true love of God in you will be seen in concrete deeds, in how you live, in a life of obedience to God.
That is true of God’s love. Its reality is seen in what it did, for God’s love did not remain in Himself (if it had we would have perished) but moved God to act, to give His Son to death for us. (See I John 3:16).
So also the true love of God in us is not simply a warm and fuzzy feeling, not simply a matter of words, but must and will be seen in our life. (See I John 3:18). A wife understands this. Her husband may say: “I love you,” but if he is not faithful, is never at home, never talks to her, then she will not believe him. A parent understands this. A son may say: “Mom and Dad; I love you,” but if he does not obey his parents but rather brings upon them misery and suffering, they will find it hard to believe. You understand this, if someone loves you it will show in words and deeds. Otherwise, they can profess all the love they want, they are only using you.
So true is it that the love of God in us will be seen in words and deeds that without this genuine walk in God’s love we cannot have the assurance of God’s love to us. (See I John 3:18.) It is not enough to say: “love, love”, and then to live contrary to God’s commands in uncleanness, fornication, envy, hatred, jealousy. Rather, it is in doing the things God has commanded that we receive the assurance of God’s love to us. Only by a walk in love, (that is, in a chaste life, forgiving one another, holding no grudge, living in peace) can we know and rejoice in the love of God towards us.
But how will love act? What does it really mean to live in the love of God?
There is no word so abused as the word love. There is no area of life with more confusion and outright deception of the Devil as the area of the Christian’s walk in love. Love becomes the justification for almost any act. Homosexuality is defended as love. Abortion is advocated as a loving thing to do. Sex outside the bond of marriage is defined as love. Love for many is understood in terms of human passion, a great desire to do something or towards someone. And, they say, you simply can’t stand in its way; in the name of love you may do anything you want.
We must understand that love is defined by God, can be known only from God, acts as God acts, and is a gift of grace which only God can give. The Word of God pulls love out of the sinking, confusing, tangled mass of mere human passion and directs it solely to God. (I John 4:7, 8). If one is to walk in love he must pray with Samuel, “speak Lord, for thy servant heareth.”
Consider with me “OUR CALLING TO WALK IN LOVE
So far as I know, there is only one passage in the Bible where we find the phrase, “walk in love,” and that is Eph. 5:2. In the context we are called to live not as unbelievers in the vanity of their mind, but as those who have learned Christ and been taught the truth in Him. We are to put off the old man and his deeds of corruption and to put on the new man renewed in the image of Christ. This means in concrete terms that we will put away lying and speak the truth; we will allow no corrupt communication (putrid speech) to go out of our mouths, but only that which is good and edifying; we will put away all malice, bitterness, wrath and evil speaking and be kind, tenderhearted, forgiving one another. And then to summarize it all we read “Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children,” literally, “imitate God”! And how do we imitate God? By walking in love! We read: “And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and sacrifice to God for a sweet smelling savour.” Take God as your pattern, and do so by walking in His love.
What then is it to walk in love?
Your walk is your life as you live it from your heart. It is not just your life as it becomes seen in your acts and words, but it is your life as you live it from your heart. The outward part of life is often deceiving, especially when it comes to love. You are what you are in your heart. If you are hateful in your heart and bear an ugly grudge against another, you are a hater no matter how sweet your smile may be or how honeyed your words may sound. Behind every word, action, thought and deed lies that heart of ours, and as it is so we are. If your heart is God-centered and loves God, then you will walk in love. And if your heart is void of God’s love, then no matter how pleasant your outward life may appear, you walk in hate. Your walk, then, is your life as it starts in the heart and bears fruit in word and deed towards all around you.
Walk in love! That means that the love of God has been placed in your heart by a sovereign work of the Holy Spirit. That love of God poured out upon us (Romans 5:5) dominates the born again heart, so that every action, thought and word reflects the presence of the love of God in that heart. God must be seated on the throne of your heart if you are to walk in love. That means that when you find in yourself strife against the brother, lust, envy, desire of revenge, you will be miserable and your heart will tell you that you are not in harmony with the God you worship. You will deplore that with a grieving heart. And positively, it will be the passion of your heart to be in harmony with God; to think, do and speak out of a heart which has been given to know the love of God.
To walk in love is, therefore, to love God first.
Do you? Do you love Him first and supremely? Do you fall on your knees before Him with trembling fear and reverential awe? To walk in love is to love Him because He first loved you, and to love Him unashamedly, joyfully and with all the powers of your heart, mind and soul.
No human relationship can fill the void that is in us. We were created with the need to have someone; that is, to live in fellowship with God. St. Augustine said it: “we were made for God Himself, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in thee.” Or we may take the words of Ps. 16:11: “In thy presence is fullness of joy, at thy right hand there are pleasures forevermore.” If we are to walk in love one with another, God must by, and He alone can be, the love of our hearts.
Have you ever felt even mild panic at the thought that there is no person particularly interested in you? And then you fell into the world’s trap, that you can find joy and fulfillment only in a relationship with someone? And there resulted a frantic search for someone, lest you be left alone and rejected?
You and I must understand that we were made for God first and foremost, and in Him we are made complete. If you think that you will find fulfillment only in a relationship with someone, you can only be disappointed. Only God is indispensable. Only God deserves to be first. Anytime we allow a person to be foremost in our thought and to be the goal of our life, we are heading for disaster. First, there must be the love of God and love for God. Only then can there be love for one another.
Love God! Know the Scriptures personally so that your thinking is changed by them and your behavior controlled by them. Love for God can be the only acceptable motive for all our actions. That at its heart is what it means to walk in love.
Love for God will always be seen in loving one another. Devotion to God finds its outward expression in loving one another in the body of Christ. To the person who says: “I love God, I love Him supremely, I love His Truth,” but this person lives in hatred of his brother, unforgiveness, lust, envy, etc., the Bible calls him a liar. (I John 4:20, 21) He who loves God will love his brother also.
But how will this be done?
Eph. 5:2 furnishes the clear and unmistakable answer: “As Christ also hath loved us and given Himself for us.” To walk in love is to walk as He walked, especially in His total self-denial and self-abasement for us. Christ will be the study of our life, the pattern of our living and our constant meditation. Study Him as He is seen on the pages of the Scriptures! I have often thought, in this connection, that the gospel narratives would be especially good books to study in Young People’s Society.
More specifically, there are at least five characteristics of a genuine walk in the love of God.
HOLINESS: God’s love, and all true love for God, is Holy Love. It will be pure as He is pure. Or we may put it this way; it will be a love which keeps God’s commandments.
We may define God’s love as a cleaving in holiness, (See Col. 1:15). The love of God is clean and undefiled. It is sexually clean. There is no love of God in fornication or in premarital sex. All sexual uncleanness, all sex outside of marriage is nothing but self-love and self-centered, destructive lust. It is sin.
That means to walk in love is to be chaste, holy and clean in all our relationships. If what we do or think is contrary to the will and law of God, it is not love no matter what we may say or our profane society would say in defense of it. Rather all which is done, thought, or imagined contrary to the Ten Commandments is lust, hatred and pride. If you or I break the 7th commandment which calls us to be sexually clean, which tells us that our bodies belong to Christ Who has purchased them and to be kept for the person God brings to us in the bond of marriage, then we walk the very opposite way of God’s love but rather go the way of lust, darkness, pride, vanity and destruction in hell. If we base our relationships on the physical and tempt ourselves with how far we can go so that lust roars in us as a river which cannot be stopped, then we walk in the darkness of the Devil and the way of death and the chambers of hell. (See Proverbs 7) Keep yourself from sinful lust which war against the soul! (I Peter 2:11) Such “love” is nothing but vain and carnal passion which brings ruin and the heaviest scars on your soul.
To walk in the love of God is to govern your desires, thoughts and emotions by the holiness of God. The gate to our heart is primarily our ears and eyes. Everything you have ever heard or seen has left a permanent mark upon your soul, for good or bad. Walking in love means that you guard your heart by controlling your ears and eyes. The world blares and parades all kinds of the grossest sexual uncleanness before you in its music and television. Most of television programming today along with most music on the radio is nothing else than a pipeline straight to hell, a channel to bring up before you the grossest and most shameless forms of uncleanness for which men shall burn an eternity in hell fire. Guard your heart! Flee youthful lusts!
To indulge in, to excuse, and worse, to defend that which leads to or entices one to break the holiness of God is to walk as an enemy of God. For a child of God it is to bring shame on the worthy name of Christian, dishonor to God and deepest, heaviest guilt upon one’s soul. Will you walk in love? True shining love of God? Will you leap and rejoice in the power and beauty of God’s love? Then, “be ye holy, for I am holy saith your God.” I Peter 1:15.
SACRIFICIALLY: Seldom can the Bible mention the love of God without talking about God’s giving of His Son for us. (See Eph. 5:2) This is the theme which so captures the Apostle John in his epistle and which he applies so wonderfully to us. (See I John 3:16, 4:10 & 11)
So the love of God in us is seen in self-denial and self-sacrifice. The Apostle John tells us that as He laid down His life for us, we ought also to lay down our lives for the brethren, and to love one another in very deed and truth. At every point the love of God cuts clean contrary to our sinful nature and against the grain of our society. Today the emphasis is what you can get for yourself. Everything is geared for me and for my right to enjoy the pleasure of the moment if that is what I want. If angry, explode! If it feels good, do it! If it seems okay and you can gratify your lusts, give in and indulge! To the least little want you may have, to any impulse or urge of your flesh, surrender, do it! And the name of love is placed over the top of it.
God’s Word speaks of discipline, self-control, restraint, waiting, responsibility and commitment. God does not place the emphasis on the now (the moment of carnal satisfaction), but on keeping yourself under His control and of being conformed after the image of Christ. The love of God in us denies self and gives of its time, talents, money, etc. for the good of the other members of the body of Christ. There is always a cost involved when we walk in love; ourselves, our time, advantage, ease, pleasure, possessions, etc. Hollow love is always cheap, doesn’t cost you anything but is self-centered. God’s love in us gives us not simply things but self in order to serve the good and interests of the brother or sister.
A common complaint parents have of young people (and perhaps parents bring this on themselves by over indulging their teenager when a child) is that young people think only of themselves, expect everything and give nothing. Walking in the love of God opens your eyes to see the pile of dirty dishes (and wash them), to see that Dad could use a hand without being asked, to see that a friend needs a listening ear. Those walking in the love of God don’t spend their time thinking of how number one is going to make out, but is concerned in its thought (followed by concrete deeds) for the good of the members of your family and church.
FORGIVING: This, too, is the great action of God’s love; He forgave us our debts in the death of His beloved Son. Walking in the love of God means we will keep our lives clean of grudges, envy, resentments, false judgments, backbiting and slander.
Forgiving one another costs us our carnal sense of justice. We have an innate sense of justice, one which is perverted because of our sinful nature. The justice we envision satisfies our interests. “They did this to me they said that about me and justice is that the last ounce I have coming is paid with interest.” The love of God surrenders that perverted justice and in the way of reconciliation, confession and humility embraces those who have offended us. It delivers us from being eaten alive by resentment, revenge and envy and it imitates the heavenly Father in that it forgives one another their trespasses.
COMPASSION: How compassionately God loves us! God’s compassion is His Father’s pity, the truth that He is touched with our misery and infirmities. Is. 63:9 profoundly tells us that He was afflicted in all the afflictions of His people, that in love and pity He redeemed His people!
So the love of God is not cold and aloof, but is touched by one another’s sorrows and needs. The love of God is not bland, ho-hum. It is not: “well I have to say I love them, but I don’t particularly love them.” There is a fervency to this love, we will be highly affectioned one to each other and in honor prefer one another, Rom. 12:10. That means we will purge ourselves from the attitude: “well that’s her problem, I am not going to get my hands dirty with that. If they had been like me, they would not have gotten themselves into that mess.” Rather something of the compassion of Him Who is touched with all our infirmities will be seen in us.
How often we hurt each other by simple, gross insensitivity and total self-absorption in our own feelings, wants and wishes. How blind we can be to the feelings of others, barging around with words about someone else, smashing and breaking the feelings of another. To walk in the love of God means you will think before you speak. You will put yourself in the other person’s shoes! You will prayerfully develop the gift of empathy and understanding. It is exactly because the true love of God is compassionate that the environment of those who possess it becomes a haven of rest and refuge from a cruel and biting world.
WISE: You must love with discernment. Your friends will not be those who only talk of the love of God, but those who walk in the love of God. Your dating will be in the love of God. It will not be characterized by heated passion, but by talking, by getting to know each other, and by respect. Satan wages an incredibly deceptive war in the matter of your heart, and in the tender issue of dating. Compromise is her strategy. Be wise! Build on the true love of God and not on mere physical attraction. Who you marry determines the remainder of your life. Don’t be foolish at so vital a point in your life. Don’t trust on anything but the love of God which is seen in a person who lives a holy life and is truly devoted (unashamedly!) to God.
To be married to a man or woman who loves the Lord truly and lives to serve God is one of life’s greatest privileges. It is worth whatever the wait, whatever the cost.
Only one reason can be advanced to answer the question: “Why must we walk in the love of God?” That answer is: The glory of God. In the words of Eph. 5:2, “it is sweet smelling savor to God.” God is glorified in the life of His people, especially in this: that they walk in love one for another. (See John 13:34 & 35)
That is why some of the strongest statements in the Bible about living the true Christian life are found in connection with our calling to walk in the love of God. (See I Cor. 13:1-3) You may distinguish yourself head and shoulders above your fellow believers in the degree of knowledge you attain, in your ability to speak of things spiritual, and in your acts of self-denial. But if the true love of God is not at the heart of us all and you do not love your brother and sister, you are a big zero. We manage to make lots of noise, the noise of a hollow drum. There is nothing to us.
God is glorified in the sincere walk of love! That which pleased God more than anything was when from Calvary His Son said, “I love thee.” That which pleases God more than anything else is when His children walk in love.