From the desk of Steve Shultz:
This is one potent and spot-on word about LOVE. I'm telling you, Francis Frangipane digs deep into the heart of the matter and you will feel burdens and strongholds of unforgiveness or bitterness break off as you read this.
We ARE to forgive and love, just as our Father has done for us. I pray this word by Francis will cause you to take action in the areas the Holy Spirit shows you.
First, I highly recommend that you get these awesome resources by Francis:
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 within you.
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 previously.
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 24:10-12
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 mean gentle, 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 yourself'" (Mark 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 love others.
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 Christ.
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 Himself.
The preceding message is adapted from a chapter in Francis' book, The Three Battlegrounds.
Ministries of Francis Frangipane