The Secret to the Life You’ve Always Wanted: A More Excellent Way
Do you have the life you really want? This is a question worth asking.
And it’s not about what you have or don’t have. All those ‘things’ you think are so important are really very shallow, superficial and empty. Yes, they make life easier, more comfortable, and they bring a measure of pleasure and enjoyment, but they will not make your life a legacy. Nor will they bring inner fulfillment and satisfaction.
Let’s go deeper. Because life is not about things – it’s about people. When you take your last breath you’re not going to care how much money is in the bank, how large your estate is, how many degrees you’ve earned, or how much property you own. Your life will ultimately be measured in the quality of the relationships you’ve made and the effect you’ve had on people. This is what your personal legacy will be all about. What you leave behind should outlive you far beyond your years. It should keep multiplying for generations yet to come. People who are yet to be born should be able to talk about you.
In short, your life has the power to change the world when it’s well spent.
The Best Gift: A More Excellent Way
So let’s talk about a more excellent way. Christ shows us the secret to the life all of us truly want. Or, as it should be more accurately said, the life we were created to live. It’s the secret to the abundant life Christ promises. And although it’s strangely elusive in our western culture, by no means is it obscure. In fact, it’s right under our noses.
Are all apostles? are all prophets? are all teachers? are all workers of miracles? Have all the gifts of healing? do all speak with tongues? do all interpret? But covet earnestly the best gifts: and yet shew I unto you a more excellent way. Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as a sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing… And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity (1 Corinthians 12:28- 13:3 & 13, KJV, emphasis mine).
Of all the gifts we could desire and pursue, we are instructed to seek the best.
Do you have enough joy in your life? Enough peace? How about faith? Perhaps hope? What about love? All of these are intangible things. Yet they are the most valuable. However, we somehow strive for them by working harder in an attempt to satisfy a void only Christ can fill. And while it’s certainly a blessing to enjoy the pleasures of life, we erroneously convince ourselves that pleasure = joy. Yet they are not the same. All that you long for on your bucket list is not going to make the grade. You could experience and accomplish all those things, but if you truly think about what you want in life – I would venture to say very few of them would bring you lasting joy, peace, love – or even a legacy, for that matter.
Pleasure cannot and will not ever bring the lasting satisfaction that loving relationships will bring. Christ designed us to need each other. We were not created to live for ourselves or by ourselves. The people in our lives are what fulfill us and make life worth living.
In today’s busy society full of responsibilities, obligations, and backward priorities, we do not experience the inner fulfillment Christ created for us to enjoy which yields a fruitful life. In fact, life often drains us, leaving us with very few energies to expend upon those we truly love, or those to whom we are called.
I remember when Christ changed my life. This specific change I am referring to did not happen when I was born again. It didn’t occur when I was baptized. And it wasn’t when I finally had enough biblical knowledge to satisfy my spiritual curiosities. No. It wasn’t in any of these things.
Christ Jesus changed my life when I began to obey His command to love. It was like experiencing a personal revolution. I’m not talking about just being nice. I’m not talking about people-pleasing and being a pushover – far from it. I’m talking about taking Him at His word in loving others as He loved them. That kind of love requires selfless sacrifice.
Wow… do you wanna talk about CHANGE.
I remember praying this prayer, “Lord, I don’t care if I ever accomplish anything ever again – because if I don’t learn how to love it’s for nothing. So I’m asking You to give me this gift – the best gift. I want to be excellent at it. I want to love other people the way You love them.”
When I made loving others my very highest aim it changed my life. It changed my walk with God. It changed me, and it changed others. Ten years ago a light bulb finally clicked on for me – and I got it. When you boil it all down to the scum on the pan, our walk with God is centered in God’s love. Everything else can pass away, and this will be all that’s left.
Right now you may be shaking your head with intellectual agreement, saying to yourself, “I already knew that. Tell me something I don’t know.” Granted, I would have said the same. But until we are able to connect the proverbial dots, our lives will remain dull and largely unsatisfying. We only know the truth to the degree we are walking in it.
Sometimes that truth comes hard.
So, here is my question – and it’s the same one I had to answer for myself: Are you walking in love?
There was a season in my life when I came to a spiritual impasse. And I’d like to share it with you. Because as a result, Christ led me into a startling truth that was incredibly liberating. But before I do, you need to understand the why behind it, and how I arrived upon the truth that set me free.
As a Spirit-filled believer who was part of the charismatic community, I had experienced nearly every spiritual phenomenon in the Church. I speak in generalities. It was quite common to attend meetings, conferences and church services that focused on miracles, signs and wonders. That was a big thing – and for years it was the only thing. But it didn’t take long to realize that what I experienced was a loveless, self-centered, arrogant Church. And in due time, I began to realize that many of these “signs and wonders” were manufactured by empty and spiritually immature individuals who were deeply longing to be filled. As a result, this opened a door to demonic manifestations that often left people confused, oppressed, wounded, deceived and misled. I watched people’s lives derail. Some even grew sick and died. There was fierce competition and jealousy. All of this troubled me deeply. I knew something was wrong – and it went much deeper than the typical church issues. This was a pervasive problem that became heretical, and the teaching surrounding it was spreading like wildfire. I sought the Lord diligently for answers and took a personal six month sabbatical of prayer and fasting. What I am about to share with you, the Lord had revealed to me in a startling gut-wrenching truth. And when He did it hit me square between the eyes.
An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas (Matthew 12:39).
Christ makes this declaration three times in the Gospel accounts (also see Matthew 16:4 and Mark 8:38). I don’t think that is a mistake (as the number three has great significance by which every word is confirmed). And I assure you, nothing has changed. That generation is still alive and well. This present generation is still doing what Israel did in Christ’s generation.
The Church I encountered was no longer seeking the person of Christ. Nor was it seeking to love others. Instead it was seeking the supernatural wonders that can be easily devised by demons of every kind and dark powers masquerading as light. They sought money, fame, and power. People were used and abused. And the motivations behind the pulpit were perverse. I’ve watched entire churches split, fold, and die. Time fails me to tell of all I’ve witnessed in some of those meetings.
The fear of the Lord was nowhere to be found, and the horror of what happened was tragic.
For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work (James 3:16, KJV).
The greatest evidence of Christ is not found in signs and wonders.
It’s found in His love.
As painful as it was to see this unfold among many charismatic churches, I’m thankful for what Christ revealed. As a result of this truth my walk with God did a swift 180 degree turn.
By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another (John 13:35, KJV).
Christ makes it impeccably clear that we will know one another by our love. He tells us that we will know a tree by its fruit (see Matthew 7:20). He also tells us that many who perform signs and wonders in his name are “workers of iniquity” whom He “never knew” (see Matthew 7:22-23). In no way do I want to be counted among them. And I bet it’s safe to say that you don’t either. Yet I fear “many” will be, even as He says. So we must beware of this evil adultery that is so pervasive in the modern church.
Those who are filled with the Spirit of God have no need to seek a sign. They are FULL. No one seeks something they already have. Spirit-filled believers demonstrate and exude the love of Christ, the presence of Christ, and the power of Christ in ways that happen naturally apart from any human effort. This is the process Christ speaks of in John 15. He calls it “bearing fruit” as one “abides in the Vine”. Abiding in Christ is a lifestyle.
Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing. If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love. These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full (John 15:4-5, 10-11, KJV).
Do I still believe in miracles, signs and wonders? Absolutely. Yes. But do I seek them? NO.
Instead, I have learned to simply ask for and expect them as I walk in Jesus by faith. ( For more on this topic please see my post, The Extraordinary, the Abundant, and the Miraculous: Letting God Be Who He Really Is.)
If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you. Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples (John 15:7-8, KJV).
So what or whom are we to seek? What is the secret to the life Christ calls us to live? What is the secret to the abundant, fulfilled life? The Bible makes it so plain, and so impeccably clear that we miss it. And we miss it because it’s so utterly simple and uncomplicated. This is not rocket science. Yet for all it simplicity, the command of loving others many times is difficult. Simple does not equate with easy. True Christian love goes against our human nature. It requires the divine to fulfill it, because we are not called to merely love those who love us. No, we are called to love our enemies as well. That is HARDCORE. But that is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. That is the grit of His teaching. And if we’re going to follow Him, bear His fruit, and live a fulfilled life, this selfless sacrificial love is the key.
Seeking Jesus and Pursuing Love
The Greek translation for the word “charity” found in 1 Corinthians 13 is “agape”. According to Thayer’s definition it means, “1. brotherly love, affection, good will, love, benevolence” and “2. love feasts”. A love feast is a feast held in charity for brethren. (Strong’s definition echoes this very closely.)
When we seek Jesus, He fulfills what He orders. He calls us to love. I no longer pay attention to those who make high spiritual claims or toot their own horn. I have no affinity for show-and-tell Christianity. In fact, it turns me off. This kind of behavior in itself is evidence of the ignorance that is so prevalent today. It is the earmark of the Laodicean church (see Revelation 3:14-22) which is loveless, naked, and proud. Those who truly know Jesus Christ seek to glorify Him alone. Their lives are marked by humility. They delight in being servants and long to glorify the Lord. They love others and they bear good fruit.
The Bible makes it clear whom we are to seek, and what we are to pursue. So let’s boil it down, shall we? Surprisingly, the list is short:
• We are to seek the LORD Jesus Christ. To know Him is to love Him. And to love Him is to serve Him. (Psalm 14:2, 22:26 and 27:4).
• We are to seek righteousness. (Matthew 5:6)
• We are to pursue peace. (1 Peter 3:10-11)
• We are to seek first the kingdom of God. (Matthew 6:33)
• We are to seek love. (1 Corinthians 12:31)
These are the basics. These are the fundamentals intended to guide the pursuit of every Christian life.
The Life You’ve Been Created to Live: The Life You’ve Always Wanted
Before I go any further, please know… In no way do I want to pretend that I have this all down. I don’t. I’m far from perfect, and I find myself tripping and stumbling through this like any other. I have seasons where I drift and I’m dry. It’s easy to do, because living this is not easy. We must choose it. Living this does not happen accidentally – it happens intentionally, deliberately, and on purpose. So please don’t think I’m brow-beating. Absolutely not. Never. I wouldn’t dare.
What I do want to do is share with you that same truth Christ shared with me – and do it in a way that somehow “turns the light on” for you and allows you to begin connecting the dots. Because you get to choose. And although we know these things are true, and hear them repeated, we fail to exercise them and live them out effectively.
The fulfilled Christian life is not a pipe dream. It’s for everyone who believes. If you’re reading this, I’m assuming that would be you.
With all of this being said, I experienced a time when Christ transformed my walk with Him. After experiencing such devastation in the Church I pulled in the reins pretty hard. And after that six month fast the Lord and I came to a reckoning with some hardcore conclusions that have never left me – which I strive to live by to this day. Signs and wonders no longer impress me. But when someone exudes the presence of Christ and His character, I pay attention. That is an individual who is walking in the Spirit of the LORD. Their character and the fruit of their life is evidence that they are abiding in the Vine. Their life bears the hard evidence which can not be refuted. These are the ones the Bible calls “blameless”. Such individuals have a reputation in which no word spoken against them is able to stand.
I’m now going to share my personal list of what I diligently sought from God when He changed my life, with the hopes that you would do the same. And you may add to this list, creating your very own.
• I asked Him to let me see others as He sees them. Not only did He grant me spiritual discernment in people, but He allowed me to have an amazing compassion upon them in their areas of weakness and sin. I was able to discern the good as well as the bad. We need to see both.
• I asked Him that I would exude His presence to others; that when people encountered me (even in passing) that they would find themselves in His presence. I found that people were drawn to me for reasons they could not explain. This began to happen frequently.
• I asked that He would be present in my countenance; that when people saw me they would not see me, but see Jesus. People at random would make remarks telling me that I “glowed”, that they “saw Jesus” in me, and that I was “full of light”. These remarks astounded me at the time, and oddly they came when I did not feel “glowing” or “light” at all.
• I asked Him to change my heart and enlarge it; creating in me a love for others that was genuine. I began to feel things for people that I could have never even liked – let alone loved.
• I asked that every single person I encountered would be better when I left them than when I first saw them. I found that people were touched by things I’d say or do. Comments would come full circle to me, and I found that Christ had transformed my reputation.
• I asked that every single person I encountered would feel love, respect, and acceptance – regardless of who they were or what they had done.
• I continually asked the Lord to fill me with His Spirit. And I didn’t strive for it. I asked and believed and acted upon that faith with the belief that I had precisely what I asked of Him – every single day. As a result, I began walking in the Spirit of God on a whole new level. I was bearing true spiritual fruit – the kind that brings glory to the Father.
These things became my core focus and I avidly pursued them. I sought Christ Jesus diligently and consistently with my whole heart. I told Him, “If you give me nothing else – give me this. This is the gift I want. Because I already know that if I can’t get this right, then nothing else matters.”
It was a hot and holy pursuit.
As a result I found myself changing day by day, little by little. A joy unspeakable and full of glory permeated me – regardless of circumstance or situation. It was a joy that transcended all understanding. I was smiling all the time, and people wondered why. I laughed more than I ever had. My perspective on things changed. My head cleared. My character changed in that I demonstrated the virtues of love found in 1 Corinthians 13 more than I ever had before. People became attracted to me, often for no reason. It was strange. It was almost magnetic. And although I knew what Christ was doing, it felt so very awkward at times. For no reason at all, people were touched by Him in ways I cannot even explain – and I didn’t even know them. And they would say things like, “Something’s different about you,” or “You’re glowing.” Others would take me aside and say, “You’re a Christian aren’t you? I see Jesus all over you.” Such opportunities afforded me a witness for Christ, and were so humbling. He was the One living through me. I take credit for nothing.
As I began to surrender my heart fully to Christ, He yielded His own to me as well. This changed everything. I began to experience Him. I began to experience His emotions, His thoughts, His heart, His motivations, and His intentions. The more I surrendered, the greater He became. I was finally living. (For more on this topic please see the post, The Power of Conversational Prayer: Meeting God Face to Face).
As I began to truly walk in Christ’s love, my personal life changed as well. I found myself walking in the Spirit in ways I did not even expect. My prayers were answered before I even said them. I heard the voice of the Lord more clearly and more frequently. I had an enormous peace and joy. My heart was light. I had a delight that I cannot even explain. I had favor with God and man. Blessings seemed to chase me. My cup ran over.
I want you to know that I have only begun to taste what this life in Christ is really all about. And He’s convinced me there is so much more…
I want to plead with you today. I beg you… if you are at all frustrated in your walk with God; if you feel your life is not at all what you’ve wanted it to be; if you wonder why you’re unfulfilled or dissatisfied, please begin to seek God for one thing: LOVE. Abide in the Vine. Determine today that you will pursue Christ Jesus and no other. Determine today that you will seek no other thing than to love as He loved you.
It will change you. It will change your life. And it will change all those you touch.
That is the secret to the life you’ve always wanted. That is the life you were created to live. That is the more excellent way. That is the straight and narrow way that leads to life everlasting.
It’s simple. Just love.
Cheers & Shalom,