Perfect Love: Casting out Fear.
'There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath punishment. And he thatfeareth is not made perfect in love.'—1 John iv. 18.
BENGEL says that in the religious life there are four steps: serving God without fear or love; with fear without love; with fear and love; with love without fear. And Augustine: Fear prepares the way for love: where there is no fear, there is no opening for love to enter. Fear is the medicine, love the healing. Fear leads to love; when love is perfected fear is done. Perfect love casteth out fear. Herein is love perfected, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as He is, even so are we in this world.
The day of judgment! What a day that will be! Many have no fear of that day, because they trust that they have been justified. They imagine that the same grace which justified the ungodly will give the passage into heaven. This is not what Scripture teaches. The reality of our having obtained forgiveness will be tested in that day by our having bestowed forgiveness on others. Our fitness for entering the kingdom, by the way in which we have served Jesus in the ministry of love to the sick and the hungry. In our justification all this had no part: in the judgment it will be the all-important element. If we are to see Him as He is, and to be like Him, we must have purified ourselves as He is pure. It is perfect love, it is to be in this world even as He is, that casts out fear, and gives us boldness in the day of judgment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.
The day of judgment! What a day! What a blessed thing to have boldness in that day! To meet the burning, fiery furnace of God's holiness, to be ready to be judged by our conformity to Christ's likeness and image, and to have no fear, what blessedness! It is this that makes what Scripture reveals of perfection and of love perfected in us of such immediate and vital interest to each one of us.
We have come to the close of our meditations on what Scripture teaches of the perfection attainable in this life. We began with the perfect heart, the heart wholly set upon God, as the mark of the man whom God counts a perfect man. We saw the perfect man walking in a perfect way, 'walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless.' We found with the New Testament the standard at once infinitely raised. Perfect as the Father, the child's standard; perfected as the Master, the disciple's model; perfect in all the will of God, the Christian's aim and hope. And then to meet this high demand, the word came to us: perfect in Christ, perfected by Christ, God Himself perfecting us in every good thing. And now John, the beloved disciple, has summed up all the teaching of the word with his perfect love. Keeping Christ's word, loving the brethren, abiding in God, filled with the Spirit, being even as Christ is, we can live perfected in love. With a heart that does not condemn us, we have boldness before God, because we keep His commandments, and do the things that are pleasing in His sight. With God's love perfected in us we have boldness in the day of judgment.
Beloved fellow-Christian! To have the love of God perfected in us; to be perfected in love; perfect love: these all are a Divine possibility, a Divine reality, the ripened fruit of the perfect life. We know now the tree on which this fruit grows. Its root is a heart perfect with God, walking before Him and being perfect. Let us be perfect in our surrender to Him in obedience and trust. Let deep dependence on Him, let faith in Him, let a patient waiting, having our expectation from Him alone, be the spirit of our daily life. It is God Himself must give it. Let us count upon Him for nothing less than to be perfected in love and to have God abiding in us. This is what Ho longs to do for us.
The tree that grows on this root is a life in union with Christ, aiming at perfect conformity to Him. Perfect in Christ, perfected by Christ, perfected by God like Christ and through Christ: when these words, pregnant with the will and love of God and the mystery of redemption, become the daily life of the soul, the perfect heart rules the life, and the believer learns to stand perfect in all the will of God. The tree brings forth fruit abundantly.
Even unto perfection. Obedience and brotherly love, fellowship with God and likeness to Christ, and the unhindered flow and rule of the Holy Spirit, lead the soul into a life of perfect love. The God of love gets His heart's desire; the love of God celebrates its triumph; the days of heaven are begun on earth; the soul is perfected in love.
'Finally, brethren, farewell! Be perfected.' Be 'perfect with God. Let nothing less be your aim. God will show Himself perfect with you, will perfectly reveal Himself, will perfectly possess you. Believe this. God shall Himself perfect you day by day, with each new morning you may claim it. Live in the surrender to this His work, and accept it. And fear not, nor be discouraged. God Himself will grant it you to know what it is: God dwelleth in us, and His love is perfected in us.
0 my Father! I would walk before Thee this day, and be perfect. Thou hast commanded it; Thou givest the enabling grace. I would be perfect with the Lord my God. I would serve Thee with a perfect heart. I would be perfect, as the Father is perfect.
These are Thine own words, O my God! I would accept and obey them in childlike simplicity and trust.
1 thank Thee for the unspeakable gift, Thy beloved Son, who was Himself perfected through suffering and obedience in His sacrifice on the cross, and by that sacrifice hath perfected us too. I thank Thee that through Him Thou dost now perfect me in every good thing, Thyself working in me that which is pleasing in Thy sight. Thou wilt show Thyself strong to them that are of a perfect heart.
I thank Thee, 0 my Father, for the blessed prospect Thy word holds out of being perfected in love here on earth; for the blessed witness of the beloved disciple to its truth in him and around him; for the power and light of the Holy Spirit that sheds abroad Thy love in our hearts, and makes it all a reality and a consciousness. The Lord will perfect that which concerneth me: to Him be the glory. Amen.