And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God. – Philippians 1:9-11 ESV
It was Paul’s prayer that those to whom he wrote would increase in love, but in a love that would be accompanied by knowledge and discernment. It was his desire that their love would be truth-based and God-directed. He knew that the kind of love God required was different than that found in the world. God’s brand of love produces a life that is pure and blameless. That doesn’t mean that we can live sinless, perfect lives on this earth, but as we learn to love as God loves, it produces an increasing degree of Christ-likeness in our lives. The love of God is selfless and sincere, not selfish and hypocritical. In his great “love chapter,” Paul describes God’s love in these terms: “Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance” (1 Corinthians 13:4-7 NLT). That is the kind of love that Paul prays will abound or increase more and more. It is that kind of love that will allow us to stand before Christ some day pure and blameless. And Paul reminds us that this kind of love is the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ. He must produce this kind of love within us. We can’t fake it or self-manufacture it. Paul describes the fruit of the Spirit as “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23 NLT). Love is a byproduct of righteousness. Righteousness is a gift provided to us by Jesus Christ. Isaiah reminds us that, “When we display our righteous deeds, they are nothing but filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6 NLT).
We must never forget that our righteousness comes from Christ. In the same way, our ability to love comes from Christ. We cannot love with the kind of love He did apart from Him. Jesus commanded us to “love one another: just as I have loved you” (John 13:34 ESV). The apostle John writes, “let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God” (1 John 4:7 ESV). So we are to love on God’s terms. We are to love with God’s love. That is the kind of love Paul prays will increase more and more in the lives of believers. And when we love like that, God gets all the praise, glory and honor. Why? Because, apart from Him, we couldn’t pull it off. Jesus made it very clear. “Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5 ESV). Bearing fruit – the fruit of righteousness – is what it is all about. And that fruit includes love – the kind of love that was modeled by God, comes through Christ, is made possible by the indwelling Holy Spirit and produces a pure and blameless life.
The reason Paul prayed for this to happen was because He knew that it was not going to be the norm for any believers. Our sin natures are constantly seeking to get us to love by our own standard, not God’s. We are prone to selfishness and self-centeredness. We seek our own way. We love only if we get love in return. We operate with a what’s-in-it-for-me mentality. So Paul prayed that our love would increase. But he wanted it to be God’s kind of love. For that to happen, he knew that God would have to produce it. That requires a knowledge of God and a willing reliance upon the Holy Spirit’s direction in our lives. To love what God loves, we must know Him well enough to understand where His heart lies. We must have knowledge and discernment to know the difference between our loves and His. As we grow to know Him better, we will end up loving what He loves. We will love like He loves. His love is always focused on righteousness and redemption. He loves in order to bring about change and transformation. His love has a purpose. It is always for our good and His glory. We must learn to love that way. It is His love, perfect in us and flowing through us, that will make a real difference in this world, and result in our lives being pure and blameless when we stand before Him some day.