Imagine the night before Jesus’ crucifixion. He has communion with His disciples and washes their feet. He reveals that Judas is the one who will betray Him. He tells the disciples that He is leaving and they can’t come. Then, He speaks these words:
A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another. (John 13:34-35)
By virtue of the fact that this would be, in part, His final words to the disciples, they had to be very important. And notice that what He said to them was in the form of a command, not a suggestion.
I am sure that everyone reading this letter has read or heard this passage many times. But in reality, most do not think that this is something they can actually do. It’s a goal that they may strive to reach with gritted teeth, but usually with little success. It begs the question – would Jesus give His disciples a command He knew they couldn’t keep? The answer is obviously no, so why is it so hard for us today to love other people? Could it be this simple – we can’t give what we don’t have? The majority of churches are teaching that God’s love for us is conditional. They are misrepresenting His love, and it is one of the main reasons that we as Christians are so judgmental and harsh toward other people. Consciously or not, we tend to treat people the way we believe God is treating us.
We must understand that God does not love us because we are lovely. He does not love us because we read the Bible, go to church, pay our tithes, or do our best to keep the command to love others as He loved us. The truth is that He loves us without conditions. That’s huge! I grew up in a Baptist church where all that was preached was the message of evangelism. They made me feel like I had to pay God back for saving me by leading others to Jesus. It became such a part of me that I used to say this: “The sole purpose for our existence here on this earth is to lead somebody else to Jesus.” Then the Lord spoke this to me – “If evangelism is the sole purpose for your existence, then what about Adam and Eve? They had no one to lead to the Lord, no Sunday school class to teach, no one to pray for, and no physical need of any kind.” The answer can be found in Revelation 4:11 –
Thou artworthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power; for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created. The original purpose of all creation was to give God pleasure. And that is still God’s purpose. Adam and Eve were created for fellowship with God. He wanted someone to love and for them to voluntarily love Him back. God’s purpose for creating human beings was all about relationship. But religion has succeeded at turning us from “human beings” into “human doings.” When that becomes the focus, we begin to tie God’s love for us to something that we do for Him. I did! But that was never His plan.
Over the years, I have prayed for thousands of people. The vast majority of those who come forward begin by telling me about their spiritual lives: “I’ve been praying, fasting, reading the Bible, and attending church, but I’m still not healed.” They don’t realize it, but they just told me why they weren’t healed. They’re pointing to what they are doing instead of what Jesus has done. The same is true about our relationship with the Lord and with other people. We have come to believe that God loves us and acts on our behalf based on our performance. Therefore, we hold others to the same standard – our love for them is in direct proportion to their works, or how they treat us.
Romans 5:8 says,
But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
God’s love has never been or ever will be conditional. He loved you at your worst, and most Christian churches would agree with that initially. They believe you are saved by grace through faith, no matter your history, but that is often where grace stops and religion starts. And religion always puts the emphasis on the external. Once you’re saved, religion says you must live holy, and the evidence of your holiness will likely be judged by the standards of your church: Do you dress the right way, do you say the right things, are you leading people to Jesus, and most important, are you tithing – just to give a few examples.
That is not how God sees us. God looks on the heart. First Samuel 16:6-7 says this:
And it came to pass, when they were come, that he looked on Eliab, and said, Surely the Lord’s anointed is before him. But the Lord said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart.Samuel was going to choose Eliab to replace King Saul because of the outward appearances. But God was not looking on the outside. The church today is judging believers in the same way. You might carouse in secret on Saturday night, but as long as you come to church the next morning well kempt and well dressed with a cheque in your hand, you’re accepted because you have the appearance of holiness. Under the New Covenant, God is still concerned about your actions and behaviour. It’s not okay to lie, to steal, to commit adultery, or any other sin. However, He knows that those are nothing more than the byproduct of a relationship – or the lack of one – with Him. So, He is focused on your heart. As long as you believe God is judging you according to your performance, you will never fully receive His love. Love is a decision, and God decided to love you even though you didn’t deserve it. There is nothing you can do to earn it or deserve it, so just receive it as a free gift.
When you understand how much God loves you, it becomes easy to love others. And when you love others as He has loved you, your behaviour will change toward them. If you loved your spouse the way that Christ loves you – unconditionally – you would never commit adultery. If you loved your neighbour as Christ loves you, you would never steal from them or bear false witness against them. How does the world know that we are disciples of Christ? John 13:35 says, “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” Did you know that the first-century church evangelised the known world in thirty years? They didn’t have television, the internet, smart phones, or texting. But they loved one another, and that love was so evident it attracted people like honey attracts bees.
A Pharisee who was a lawyer asked Jesus this question: “Which is the great commandment in the law?” Jesus answered this in Matthew 22:37-40. Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets. The Pharisees wanted Jesus to name the most important “Thou shalt not,” and instead, Jesus spoke “Thou shalt.” Many believers are still living under the Old Testament Law mentality. They are trying to earn the love of a God who already made the decision to love them unconditionally.
Once you begin to understand how much God loves you, love will flow out of you toward others like rivers of living water. Recently I taught a new series, called As I Have Loved You, at a Gospel Truth Seminar. I encourage you to order your copy of that album today. It will change the way you see God and, in turn, change the way you relate to people. To order, go to our website: www.awme.net, call our Helpline: +44(0)1922 473300, or complete and return the enclosed form.
Jamie and I thank you again for reaching out to others through your gifts and making it possible for them to hear the Good News. We love you,
Andrew and Jamie
P.S. The city and county permit process for building the new Charis Bible College facility in Woodland Park, CO, is nearing an end. Be watching our website for news of the groundbreaking. It should be soon.
Taking the Limits Off
Dear Friend and Partners,
I have had two major life-changing encounters with the Lord in my life. The first and most important took place on March 23, 1968. I was eighteen years old at the time. If you have watched the Gospel Truth for any length of time, you probably know how God changed my life that night.
The second most life-changing encounter I had with the Lord, which is the reason for this letter, took place over several weeks, beginning in December of 2001 and culminating on January 31, 2002. It was during that time that God spoke to me about how I was limiting what He wanted to do through my life.
With that revelation, I determined that no matter how long it took, I was going to change the image on the inside. For decades, the Lord had shown me many things He wanted me to do through this ministry. I had even told other people what they were. But the truth was that I just couldn’t see myself doing them, and that was limiting God.
To my surprise, when I made that decision, things began to change almost immediately. It released something in the spiritual realm when I began to see myself the way God sees me. And if somebody had told me ten years ago where we would be today, it probably would have shocked me.
What excites me most about this revelation is the fact that there is nothing special about me. My mother knew that better than anyone. Before she died at ninety-six years old in May 2009, I had a conversation with her about what God was doing in this ministry.
After I was finished, she pointed her finger at me and said, “Andy, you know that’s God.” I answered, “Yes, ma’am, I know it’s God.” Then she told me, “You aren’t smart enough to do that.” To that, I replied, “Guilty. I’m not that smart.” What God has led me to do is much bigger than me. And what He wants to do through you will always be beyond your own ability and talent. I’m telling you that if everything you have accomplished has been gained by your own strength and power, you have not yet tapped into God’s will for your life. Your life can be such a testimony that people will ask, “How did you do that?” And when they do, you’ll have to answer the same way I do—there is no explanation outside of God’s power. You won’t be able to attribute it to your charisma, education, or talent. You’ll know it was only possible because you took the limits off God and allowed Him to accomplish His purposes through you.
You might be thinking, I guess it’s too late for me—I’ve missed God. Well, that’s just not true, and it’s exactly that kind of thinking that will limit God. Proverbs 23:7 says, “As he thinketh in his heart, so is he.” In order to take the limits off, I had to change my thinking and so will you.
Not one of us has ever completely explored the depths of His plan for our lives. We are all limiting Him in some way, and the good news is that we can start removing the limits now. When the Lord first spoke this to me over ten years ago, I had no idea that I was limiting Him. And that was after I had been in the ministry for thirty-four years. I’m living proof that it is never too late.
Think about what happened to the children of Israel after they were delivered by God through Moses. Psalm 78:41 says, “Yea, they turned back and tempted God, and limited the Holy One of Israel.” God had delivered them miraculously, Moses had received the commandments that were written by the very hand of God, and they still refused to believe the promise.
They sent spies into the Promised Land where they found a land flowing with milk and honey. But there were giants in the land, and they were afraid to enter—therefore limiting God. This all took place after God had guaranteed them success, as you can read in Deuteronomy 7:17-18 and 23:
“If thou shalt say in thine heart, These nations are more than I; how can I dispossess them? Thou shalt not be afraid of them: but shalt well remember what the LORD thy God did unto Pharaoh, and unto all Egypt…. But the LORD thy God shall deliver them unto thee, and shall destroy them with a mighty destruction, until they be destroyed.”
God gave them a promise, but He was also saying to them that if they believed in their hearts that the nations were greater than they were, then He would not be able to dispossess them. Wow! They were the ones who would determine what God could do. That alone should be enough to silence the voices of those who believe God is absolutely sovereign.
Ephesians 3:20 says, “Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us.”
The phrase “according to” means in proportion to, or to the degree of, the power that is working in you. If you don’t have God’s love and faith and if you aren’t building yourself up, you will limit or even stop the power of God flowing through you.
I am saying that God wants to move in your life. He wants to bring you into your promised land. He wants to do something in your life that will cause you to wake up every morning excited about the day and full of His joy and peace. But it’s not up to Him if it comes to pass—it’s up to you.
One of the biggest factors that limits God in your life can be learned from Paul in 2 Corinthians 10:12. It says, “For we dare not make ourselves of the number, or compare ourselves with some that commend themselves: but they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise.”
Ten years ago, I limited God through my comparative unworthiness to other ministers. The problem was, that was the wrong measuring stick and it wasn’t wise.
Measuring yourself by others or the world’s standards is wrong. That is one of the reasons I don’t like to watch a lot of television. They are always trying to tell me I’m going to get sick or that I am going to experience financial difficulties. If you listen to that stuff long enough, it begins to change your thinking, and as a man thinks in his heart, so is he (Prov. 23:7).
I don’t care if everybody on the planet is suffering economically or has the flu—I refuse to participate in either and so should you. Hosea 4:6 says this in part: “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.” The knowledge we lack is the knowledge of the Word of God. He has promised us healing, and He has promised us prosperity.
If you want to compare something, then compare what the Word says about you to what you believe. Then focus on the Word, and what you think will change. We are supposed to be above only and not beneath, the head and not the tail (Deut. 28:13). We are supposed to be rejoicing in the midst of problems (John 16:33). Yes, there are reasons that we have problems, but there is no excuse to stay there. I am not condemning any person when I say this, and I am not saying that we live in a perfect world where everything always comes up roses; I am saying that God did not create you for mediocrity or failure. God created you to be a winner, and He wants to help you get there.
When you begin to change the way you think in your heart, something happens in the spiritual realm. Your life can be completely transformed, and it doesn’t have to take ten years. It may take a while for the full manifestation to be apparent, but it can begin within days or weeks. That’s what happened with me. I encourage you—take the limits off, beginning now.
Ten years ago, I recorded a teaching album called Don’t Limit God. Recently, at a Gospel Truth Seminar and on television, I taught this subject again but with ten years of hindsight. I call the new album Don’t Limit God ÃƒÂ— 10. I know it will help you understand how to take the limits off God, and when you do, it will change your life forever just as it has mine.
We love you,
Andrew and Jamie
P.S. The groundbreaking for our new Charis Bible College campus in Colorado is getting very close. Please check our website for the most up-to-date information about that project. The Word of God is the most powerful weapon in the universe, and we are preparing to touch more lives with in-depth ministry of God’s Word than ever before. Thanks for being a part of what the Lord is doing through this ministry.