Sunday, February 12, 2023, the Year of Our Lord

Pastor Carolyn Sissom


1 John 4:18: Perfect love casts out fear.


I have at least 35+ messages on “Love” for the thirty-three years I have been a pastor.  Last year the “love” message was “Perfection of Love.”


Today, I will attempt to show an example of how love is perfected in us through suffering, just as it was perfected in Jesus.


Hebrews 2:10 It was fitting for Him, for whom are all things and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to make the captain of their salvation PERFECT through suffering.


This week, some of the saints in our congregation were able to attend the Elijah Rising Gala featuring Andrew Brunson as the key-note speaker.  Pastor Brunson’s story of being a political-hostage in a Turkish prison from 2016-2018 was front page news all over the world.  President Donald J. Trump negotiated his release with direct contact with President Erdogan.  However, the negotiations took several months with agreements broken by Erdogan. 


I was honored to meet Pastor Brunson and he gave me his book, “God’s Hostage.”   I picked the book up just to glance over it Friday morning.  The gala was Thursday evening.  The first glance became a page-turner and I finished the book in one day. 


The book is raw with the brokenness of emotions, fears, terrors, grief and thoughts of suicide of a young man in his 40’s fighting for his sanity, his faith, his life, and his relationship with God.  There are multiple victories of his faithfulness through suffering.  However, at his lowest depth, he wrote:


“I lay there alone, fearful, and with terrible grief pouring down my cheeks.  The thoughts kept going through my mind: ‘where are you, God?  Why have you let them return me to this awful place?  Why have you not intervened for me?  Why are you so far away, so silent?’ I opened my mouth, weeping aloud, and the words I heard murmured stunned me: ‘I love you Jesus!’ And again, ‘I love you, Jesus! I love you, Jesus!’  Immediately I realized, “Here is my victory! In my lowest point the cry of my heart was one of love to Jesus.  I was elated.  This was a triumph in my heart, a response to God that showed me how different things were for me now.  When I was in Sakran (Prison) before I had been so full of fear and pain.  I still had fear and pain, but I had just discovered how deep my devotions was.  It had been tried and proven true.”


1 John 4:18: There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment.  But he who fears has not been made perfect in love.


In Brother Brunson’s journey to perfect love, he drank from Jesus’ cup, he walked through the dark-night-of-the soul, enduring grief, suffering wrongfully, and falsely accused which is the journey of taking up the cross and following Jesus.


In his summation, he wrote, “What really broke me was unmet expectations.  I expected that God would intervene to carry me above my circumstances into joy, that even in grief I would feel strength and an infusion of grace, and most importantly, that I would have a sense of His presence.  Instead, I felt abandoned by God.  The truth is, God’s faithfulness, loyalty and love are never put to the test in our difficulties, it was my faithfulness, my loyalty, my love for him that was being tested” (Andrew Brunson).


I would use the word proven instead of tested.  God knew what He had in him.


God is love!


1 John 4:16: We have known and believed the love that God has to us.  God is love, and he that dwells in love, dwells in God, and God in him. 


Love is nothing less than the very realm of God, ---abiding in Him; and participating in His own heart of long suffering, goodness, kindness, humility, meekness, unselfishness, and truth.


God continually reveals to us His glory, love and goodness.  The Church seems to imagine that the blessing of God is a sure sign of His approval of our ways.  God’s blessing in no way indicates His approval; rather His blessing is His love and mercy.  


The realm of God’s love is total victory and fruitfulness.  It is the metaphorical fruitfulness of Canaan’s land: Deut. 8:7-9: a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and depths that spring out of valleys and hills; a land of wheat, and barley, and vines, and fig trees, and pomegranates, a land of olive oil, and honey; a land wherein you shall eat bread without scarceness.  You shall not lack anything in it


It is the heritage of PERFECT LOVE, that realm in God where love is not only used occasionally as God supplies the grace---but where LOVE DOMINATES; where the thoughts and intents of the heart are motivated by Love, and all action proceeds from Love, even as in the ministry of Jesus Himself.


In that realm, there is no failure, because, “love never fails(1 Co. 13:8).


The fruit of the Spirit abides perpetually, bringing life and blessing and sustenance to all in need.  In this realm even the gifts of the Holy Spirit lose their significance, just as the moon loses its brightness in the dawning of the morning.  The part gives way to the whole, the seed breaks forth into the blade, the ear, and the full corn.  Faith proceeds unto hope, and hope buds forth in Love.  Without faith it is impossible to please God, but God is Love; and when Love is formed in His people, God walks in them, thinking His thoughts, leading His way, doing His will, and manifesting His wisdom, knowledge, purity and righteousness in this world of sin and darkness.


1 John 4:17-18: Love has been perfected among us in this; that we may have boldness in the day of judgment; because as He is, so are we in this world.  There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment.  He who fears has not been made perfect in love.     


 God is not in the least concerned about PERFECT LOVE reigning in Heaven.  Nothing less could even exist in that realm of PURE LIGHT.  He does want, and He will yet have, PERFECT LOVE reigning in the hearts of His people.


1 John 4:12: If we love one another, God abides in us, and His love has been perfected in us. 


Heaven is full of love now, but God wants it here.  Jesus taught us to pray, “thy will be done in earth as it is in heaven.”  Jesus taught us that prayer because it is God’s intention to answer that prayer.  Prayers that are ordained by the LORD are birthed in the spirit of man by the travail of the Spirit of God within us to bring forth unto birth and full manifestation the express will of God. 


Jesus was able to say, the prince of this world cometh, and has nothing in me (Jn. 14:30).  There was no place for a Satanic foothold in His being. There was no ground for defeating Him.  The warfare in the “heavenlies” has for its battleground the body, soul, and spirit of man.  As we grow up “unto Him” in all things, we must also come to that place where there is no standing-room for Satan.  There is nothing within us where he can take his position.


There is no place for boasting in our own security, or standing in judgment of others.  Let him that thinks he stands, take heed lest he fall (1 Co. 10:12).


The Son of Man was sinless and spotless from His birth until His death, but He was not declared perfect until He had learned obedience by the things which He suffered.  Christ had to be made “perfect through suffering.”


The Holy Spirit shows the Father unto us in such a way that we know Him, and knowing Him means abiding in His love and nature.  Will we escape the suffering and woe that is coming up the earth?  No, rather, He uses troubles and tribulations for the completion of His great work.  We, too, must learn obedience by the things which we suffer.  We too must walk in the pathway of obedience as a servant, obedience unto death, obedience that leads us eventually into complete identification and surrender with His very own Cross.  He has sent forth the Word, the Spirit of Truth, concerning the perfection of the Body of Christ, and the manifestation of His many sons.


The Word shall not return unto Him void.  It shall prosper in the thing whereunto He sent it forth.  It will bring fruitfulness to the earth, that it may give “seed to the sower,


and bread to the eater.”  It shall bring blessing and deliverance to a groaning Creation.  For you shall go out with joy, and be led forth with peace; the mountains and the hills shall break forth before you into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.  Instead of the thorn shall come up the fir tree, and instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle tree, and it shall be to the LORD for a name, for an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off (Isa. 55:12-13).


Pastor Brunson wrote of his spiritual battle “As I look back on my prison-time and I am still processing it---I see a pattern.  I would get hit with a test, break and go low, and then work slowly toward a point of surrender to God, only to face a harder blow and go even lower.  But each time, I started to climb again and eventually made it back to surrender---a deeper surrender, because now I was more aware of the price.  There were many ups and downs, but there was a gradual upward trajectory.  This was a choice.”


His great reward is “perfect love casts out all fear.”  He entered that realm of perfect love made perfect by suffering.  In his speech, he called his spiritual journey the dark-night-of-the soul.  In his book, he speaks of knowing when the Lord asks him to drink from his “cup.”


1 Co. 13:4-8:  Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.  Love never fails.


Heaven will not require of us to be longsuffering and to be kind.  There will be no rudeness, pride, boasting, iniquity, lies or evil in Heaven.  It is on earth that we are to learn to love.  We will not envy our brothers and sisters in Heaven when the rewards are handed out.  We will rejoice with them because love will be perfect in Heaven.  We will all abide in perfect love.  


2 Co. 13:11: Finally brethren, be perfect, be of good comfort, be of one mind, live in peace, and the God of love and peace shall be with you.


Carolyn Sissom, Pastor

Eastgate Ministries Church, 10155 West Hidden Lakes Lane, Richmond, TX

Scripture from N.K.J.V. – I entered into the labors of Evening and Morning by George H. Warnock (1912-2012). Comments and conclusions are my own and not meant to reflect the views of those who I entered into their labors.

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