Marks of a True Move of God
How can we as Christians rightly determine a true move of God? While much has been written about this important endeavor, there is a specific section of Scripture that provides a helpful rubric to begin discerning the genuine from the artificial. In the book of Romans, chapter 12 marks a turning point in Paul’s letter, following the typical pattern of defining and describing key theological themes and then flowing into applying what that theology looks like in practice. And in Romans 12:9-21 we are ushered into a marvelous blueprint for the church in terms of who God wants us to be and what He desires us to do.
This section has often been given the summary title of “Marks of the True Christian,” which I think is a good summary. However, the summary of this section of Scripture implies that there is a type of “false” Christianity that is contrasted with “true” Christianity.
So while there are marks of true Christianity, there are also marks of false Christianity. In other words, for every mark of true Christianity listed in this section (products of the Holy Spirit’s work), there are counterfeit marks (products of the flesh). This tension is not only true with Christianity in general, but also with every extraordinary movement within the church that claims to be generated by God.
Our attention is tipped towards this tension between what is real and fake as Paul writes to Roman believers with the exhortation, “Let love be genuine (v.9),” which literally reads, “Love without hypocrisy.” What are the marks of genuine love? The succeeding verses spell out a kind of love without pretense, fronting, flexing, or playacting. A type of love that is sincere and supernatural.
The litmus test of genuine Christianity and a true move of God is love.
The litmus test of genuine Christianity and a true move of God is love.
A true move of God will always have the key focus of turning His people from counterfeit love toward genuine love.
The Right Ingredients
Some commentators can see in Romans 12:9-16 only a ragbag of miscellaneous instructions, a series of staccato-like commands with little or no connection to each other. But each imperative adds a fresh ingredient to the apostle’s recipe for love.
Several years ago I stumbled into a newfound love of baking bread. As I was learning how to perfect a recipe, I made several mistakes. When I made my first loaf of bread I accidentally left out the yeast. Another time, I omitted the oil. Yet another time, I left out the salt. While each of those things are small, they are key ingredients, without which the whole loaf tastes off. But we must be careful not to lose sight of the loaf in the list of ingredients, so I am going to focus on three key ingredients Paul lists that pull everything else together.
These ingredients are among the numerous “one another” statements we find in the New Testament. They function like a main artery that carries the love of God to and through His people. Each of the three specific statements mentioned in this passage cascade to the next one. They serve as the “key ingredients” that hold together all of the other ingredients of genuine, Christ-like love.
1) A True Move of God Will Restore the Church to Love One Another With Familial Affection
We move from distance to devoted discernment. Like leaven in the bread, this ingredient of genuine love is the one that causes all the others to rise and be full, and without it, everything else would fall flat.
It may seem strange that the command to love genuinely is followed by a command to hate, but we ought to remember that love is not blind sentimentality. It’s discerning. It is so passionately devoted to the object of love that it hates every evil that hinders our highest welfare. In other words, love will always loathe any evil that seeks to thwart the flourishing of the beloved. We are called to hate anything that hinders love so that we can hold onto the One who is love and love as He loves!
I believe we’ve been in a season where we have distanced ourselves from one another in such a way that we may have lost a sense of discernment. In these past few years of pandemic and polarity, we as Christians have expended a lot of energy attacking one another, being critical of one another, assuming the worst about one another, or simply becoming indifferent towards one another rather than loving one another with family-like affection. You cannot discern from a distance, and love requires us to move close—even closer to those who may be different from us.
May we be reminded that Jesus said our love for one another authenticates our devotion to Christ as His followers (John 13:34-35). When this happens, the world can’t help but take notice.
2) A True Move of God Will Restore Honor in Our Relationships
We move from validating our opinions to valuing others above ourselves. This ingredient is like the oil or fat in bread, which helps bind all the ingredients together into a cohesive whole.
The main idea conveyed by the word “honor” is revealing the amount at which something or someone is valued. We often determine the value of something by the price we are willing to pay for it. When it comes to objects, there is a physical price tag that prompts a transaction. But when it comes to people, we must recognize and call forth the God-given dignity and worth that the Lord gives to all of humanity, as those created in His image, and as ones for whom Christ has died by paying the highest cost—His own blood on the cross. Do we value people the way God does? You matter most to the ONE who matters most.
You matter most to the ONE who matters most.
Paul goes on in his ingredient list of genuine love by showing some ways we can “outdo” one another in showing honor. Here’s a sample of his divinely ordained “competition.”
We honor one another when we generously share with those in need. The word used here to “contribute” or “share” speaks of the fellowship we have with other believers where we share both our lives and possessions so that none are without need (Romans 12:13). We also honor one another when we practice and pursue hospitality. If generosity is shown to the needy, hospitality is shown to visitors. Philadelphia (love of sisters and brothers) has to be balanced by philoxenia (love of strangers). Both are indispensable expressions of love. Hospitality is what makes space for strangers and even enemies to become friends and family.
We also honor one another when we practice supernatural sympathy. Love never stands aloof or far off from others in their pain, but draws near in joy. We must suffer and sing together in supernatural solidarity (Romans 12:15).
Love never stands aloof or far off from others in their pain, but draws near in joy. We must suffer and sing together in supernatural solidarity.
3) A True Move of God Will Restore Our Relational Harmony With One Another
We move from haughtiness to humbleness. This ingredient of genuine love is like the salt in bread, giving a subtle yet necessary flavor, keeping the bread fresh instead of bland.
Humility and harmony go hand in hand. Humility is all about knowing your place in relation to others. We are not to be concerned with the snobbery of status, but instead, be content with our role in God’s divine chorus.
Each of us is given a place, a role, and a voice that the Holy Spirit is conducting to be included in Jesus’ song of redemption. But so often we get tripped up by comparing our voice or part with those of others. We assign disproportionate value to certain voices or perspectives, which results in dissonance, not harmony. We often try to compete with one another to take the lead on the melody, when only Jesus can sing that part. We are all called to harmonize with our lives to the melody of the gospel.
We are all called to harmonize with our lives to the melody of the gospel.
To put it another way, the Greek sentence literally reads, “Think the same thing toward one another.” This kind of harmony requires wisdom. In our world—with so many competing ideologies, voices, static, and noise—how do we cut through it all so we can hear from God and from one another with clarity? We pray Romans 12 into action.
Participating in a True Move of God
As pastor and author Rich Villodas once observed, “If the greatest commandment in Scripture is rooted in love, the greatest sin must be a failure to love.” A true move of God is marked by repentance for all the ways we fail to love, and restores the Bride of Christ to a genuine first love for her Savior—which then wells up as a fountain, spilling over into the world.
A true move of God is marked by repentance for all the ways we fail to love, and restores the Bride of Christ to a genuine first love for her Savior—which then wells up as a fountain, spilling over into the world.
Beloved, the Christian life is not a hard life to live. It’s an impossible one! These marks cannot be authentically produced by our own effort—they must be born out of the enabling grace of the indwelling Spirit of Christ. What is impossible with man is always possible with God. May we partner with the grace of God to see these marks of love become a reality through a continued true move of God in our day!
Copyright © 2023 Justin Jeppesen. All rights reserved.