Love and Forgive

Leviticus 19:18 (NIV)

Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord.

This is a very familiar verse … but do we really pay attention to what it says?  Do we practice what is commands? Notice the text says “anyone among your people.”  Do that mean within our church?  Or community? Or country?  In the context of the Old Testament, I believe this would have referred to the nation of Israel or the community of fellow Hebrews.  They were called to love another as fellow citizens and heirs of the covenant.  By implication, Christians, have a similar command to love another within the community of believers (brothers and sisters). (Cf. 1 John 3:16; 3:23) And so it follows, love does not seek revenge or hold a grudge against a fellow believer.  Love goes beyond what our human nature … our sinful human nature … would seek to do when we feel wronged, harmed, or otherwise disrespected….

Paul shares with us “the more excellent way” to relate with one another:

1 Corinthians 13:4-8 (NIV)

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.

What I sense is this really all gets down to the issue of forgiveness.  And we need to examine how that manifests itself in our relationships with one another. Knowing our own imperfection and capacity for disobedience … our propensity to sin and miss the mark … our insensitivity to grieve the Holy Spirit … and yet we ask the Lord to forgive us our trespasses.  Are we so self-righteous and better than others that we are unwilling to forgive someone who wrongs us … who wounds us … who is insensitive to our feelings?  Jesus has some strong words for us in this regard:

Matthew 6:14-15 (NIV)

14 For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.

And consider the parable that Jesus shared in Matthew 18:21-35 – especially His commentary on the parable found in Verse 35.  I firmly believe this is an area in our walk … in our journey of faith … that can become a major stumbling block for wholeness and healing in our own lives.  The bitter roots of anger we often harbor against others at work or at church, or yes, even within our own families are destructive to no one but ourselves.  And worse … we separate ourselves from the compassion of God we all need and pray to receive.  And comparing the sin(s) of another to your own is a futile exercise.  “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Cf. Romans 3:23)  Consider these strong words of caution from the inspired writer of the Letter to the Hebrews:

Hebrews 12:14-17 (NKJV)

14 Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord: 15 looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled; 16 lest there be any fornicator or godless person like Esau, who for one morsel of food sold his birthright. 17 For you know that afterward, when he wanted to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no place for repentance, though he sought it diligently with tears.

Well, I just sense that there is a need for us to examine forgiveness.  We need to forgive others and we need to forgive ourselves as well.  The Apostle Paul had much to share in this regard, so I will end with his exhortations:

Colossians 3:12-14 (NKJV)

12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

Ephesians 4:31-32 (NKJV)

31 Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. 32 And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

Forgive As God Forgave You

Colossians 3:13

Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.

The message of forgiveness is at the forefront of building strong relationships.  I suppose we always need a reminder to be patient and to bear with one another in the midst of differences, grievances, and disagreements.  Christ Jesus bore our sins upon Himself and took the chastisement and punishment for them … yes, even dying in our place to pay the sin debt we owed.  This is the context and the example of “Forgive as the Lord forgave you!”  It was complete and full forgiveness; far beyond what the human mind can grasp at times.

Romans 5:6-8 (NKJV)

For when we were still without strength, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

There is a “right time” for us to forgive each other.  There is a “right time” for us to forgive those who wronged us in the past.  There is a “right time” for us to extricate a root of bitterness towards another person and release them from the debt they might owe us.  The “right time” is now … today! I assure you, there is no debt owed to us that is greater than the debt we owed to God for our own rebellion and sin.  If God chose to release (forgive) us, then we ought to choose forgiveness and release those who have sinned against us.  It is the most spiritually healthy thing you will ever do for yourself – forgiving others as God through Christ forgave you.

While I am thinking about it, I would like to comment on the nature of forgiveness because many of us have been “victims” of mental, physical, sexual, or emotional abuse at the hands of others.  We need to always understand that forgiveness does not excuse or condone what happened to us … the pain, the suffering, the distress, or the despair that it might have caused.  It does not meet that we “tolerate” the abuses or excuse or exonerate the person(s) who wronged us.  What is does mean is that we make a conscious, deliberate decision to “release” feelings of resentment or vengeance toward the person or group who has harmed you, regardless of whether they actually deserve your forgiveness.  We would do well to remember Romans 12:19: “Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. (Cf. Deuteronomy 32:35; 1 Samuel 24:12; Proverbs 20:22; Hebrews 10:30)

When you forgive another, you do not necessarily overlook or deny the seriousness of an offense against you. Forgiveness does not mean forgetting the brokenness you have experienced. And though forgiveness can help repair a damaged relationship, it does not obligate you to make amends with the person who harmed you, or to release them from legal accountability if implicated. What forgiveness can do is bring you peace of mind and free you from corrosive anger. It does not require you to have positive feelings toward the offender, but it at least involves letting go of deeply held negative feelings. In that way, it empowers you to recognize the pain you suffered without letting that pain define you.  Forgiveness will enable you to heal and move on with your life.  In that context, forgiveness will afford you “reconciliation” for the well-being of your own life….

Here are a few additional Scripture passages addressing the matter of forgiveness:

Matthew 5:23-24 (NKJV) – God is more concern about your relationships than your religious acts

23 Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.

Matthew 6:12 (NKJV) – The Lord’s Prayer

 12 And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.

Matthew 6:14-15 (NKJV) – The measure you give is the measure you receive

14 “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

Matthew 18:21-22 (NKJV) – Read the Parable of the Unforgiving Servant which follows (Matthew 18:23-35)

21 Then Peter came to Him and said, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” 22 Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.

I think you get the picture here just from what Matthew recorded in his Gospel concerning the teachings that Jesus gave His followers on this issue.  And I would like to say, that I believe Jesus urges us to forgive for our own well-being … “for our own sakes”.  And that rationale would be consistent with the “motive” for which God forgives.  As declared by the Prophet Isaiah:  “I, even I, am He who blots out your transgressions for My own sake; and I will not remember your sins.” (Cf. Isaiah 43:25) So there is a dynamic to forgiveness and not holding trespasses or sins against one another that appears to afford an underlying personal good associated with the “release” you will experience.

Romans 4:5-8 (NKJV) – The Blessing of Forgiveness

But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness, just as David also describes the blessedness of the man to whom God imputes righteousness apart from works: “Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; Blessed is the man to whom the Lord shall not impute sin.” (Cf. Psalm 32:1-2)

So if you need to forgive someone, I pray that you will do so today – for your own sake and well-being. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you. (Cf. Ephesians 4:32) You have been blessed in this regard, and we are called to be a blessing to each other.  God set the standard and modeled it for us.  “Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” Amen.

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

Wisdom From Heaven

James 3:17-18

But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.

Wisdom….  We all need it.  We are urged by the Apostle James to ask for it.  “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” (James 1:5) But we need to distinguish the wisdom that comes from God … and the wisdom that comes from the world and human intellect.  In seeking the wisdom for living that comes from God, James writes:

James 3:13-18 (NIV)

13 Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. 14 But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. 15 Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. 16 For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice. 17 But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. 18 Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.

Here we have a challenge … that our very lives should emulate the character of Christ Jesus. And James has some fairly salient points for us to consider.  He starts with the premise that those who are wise and have spiritual understanding demonstrate their “depth of faith” by living a “good life”.  And then he defines a “good life” as “deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom”.  So as to further explain his instruction, James then contrasts the differences between the “earthly” or “carnal” wisdom of the world with the “heavenly” or “spiritual” wisdom that comes from God.  I think it might be useful to breakdown these “distinctions” James brings to our attention:

Wisdom that does NOT come down from heaven is labeled earthly, unspiritual, and demonic. It is manifested in human conduct such as “harboring bitter envy” or “selfish ambition” in your heart.  He goes on to observe that wherever you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.”  In other words, envy, jealousy, pride, covetousness, idolatry, and greed proceed from a pattern of life that is sensual, brutish, and of this world.  Such behavior is inconsistent with a life rooted in the love of God. By contrast, we see that those who live a “good life” through the wisdom that God gives are:

            Pure                            (i.e. seek holiness and self-control)

            Peace-Loving             (i.e. seek resolution to conflict and reconciliation)

            Considerate               (i.e. seek the good of others above themselves)

            Submissive                 (i.e. not only to God but to each other)

            Full of Mercy             (i.e. readily forgiving)

            Full of Good Fruit    (i.e. acts of service and compassion)

            Impartial                    (i.e. righteous judgement; unbiased)

            Sincere                       (i.e. genuine; unpretentious, faithful)

So we can infer from these “distinctions” in wisdom for living what is best, good, and wholesome in our relationships with others versus what is immoral, destructive, and unrestrained to the extent that physical, emotional, and spiritual harm ensues to another.  Only the wisdom that comes from above equips a person to live the righteous life God intends for each of us to live!  Perhaps that is the very reason God has drawn us to believe in His Son – so that we might be filled with His Spirit … the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord. (Cf. Isaiah 11:2).

No doubt, to be filled with the Spirit of God is essential to living a “good life” as James envisions it.  And I can almost hear Paul chime in with his Letter to the Galatians on this matter … parsing out the same contrasts as James:

Galatians 5:13-26 (NIV)

13 You, my brothers and sisters, have been called to liberty. But do not use your liberty to indulge the flesh (and its nature); rather, serve one another humbly in love. 14 For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Cf. Leviticus 19:1815 If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other. 16 So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. 19 The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. (Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic.)

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires (the wisdom that comes from heaven). 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.

So my prayer is that we will seek wisdom … ask for wisdom … and apply wisdom to our hearts so that our lives will be good and beneficial to others.  This is HOW we are to love one another as we ourselves have been loved by God through our Lord Jesus Christ.  So I will conclude with an excerpt of the prayer Paul offered up for the believers in Colossae: “I do not cease to pray for you, and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; that you may walk worthy of the Lord, pleasing Him in every way, bearing fruit in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God.” (Cf. Colossians 1:9-10)

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

Love As You Are Loved

Romans 12:10

Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.

I know we have seen/read this particular verse before – but it is always a good reminder for us because it is based in the commandments of God.  We know from Jesus that the commandments of God are summed up into two “great” commands – basically: Love God. Love People.

Matthew 22:34-40 (NIV)

34 Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together.35 One of them, an expert in the law, tested Him with this question: 36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” 37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ (Cf. Deuteronomy 6:5); 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ (Cf. Leviticus 19:18) 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.

Luke 10:25-28 (NIV)

25 On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 26 “What is written in the Law?” Jesus replied. “How do you read it?” 27 He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’ (Cf. Deuteronomy 6:5); and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” (Cf. Leviticus 19:18) 28 “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”

The Apostle Paul would go on to refine distill these two commandments into one:

Romans 13:8-10 (NIV)

Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law. The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not covet,” (Cf. Exodus 20:13-17; Deuteronomy 5:17-21) and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Cf. Leviticus 19:18) 10 Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.

The Apostle Peter affords us with the same perspective:

1 Peter 1:17-23 (NIV)

17 Since you call on a Father who judges each person’s work impartially, live out your time as foreigners here in reverent fear. 18 For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. 20 He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake. 21 Through Him you believe in God, who raised Him from the dead and glorified Him, and so your faith and hope are in God. 22 Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for each other, love one another deeply, from a pure heart.   23 For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God. 

But I would like to remind us of the greater expectation and demonstration of love that Jesus “commanded” us as recounted by the Apostle John:

John 13:34-35 (NIV)

34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another35 By this everyone will know that you are My disciples, if you love one another.”

Reflection:     “To love one another” was not a new commandment (Cf. Leviticus. 19:18). What was “new” was that believers were to love each other as Jesus loved them. Jesus commanded that we MUST love one another as He loved us. There is no ambiguity as to His command: “Love each other as God has loved you!” And John often resonated this “imperative” throughout his writings:

John 15:12,17 (NIV)

12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. 17 This is My command: Love each other.

1 John 2:3-10 (NIV)

We know that we have come to know Him if we keep His commands. Whoever says, “I know Him,” but does not do what He commands is a liar, and the truth is not in that person. But if anyone obeys His word, love for God is truly made complete in them. This is how we know we are in Him: Whoever claims to live in Him must live as Jesus did. Dear friends, I am not writing you a new command but an old one, which you have had since the beginning. This old command is the message you have heard.Yet I am writing you a new command; its truth is seen in him and in you, because the darkness is passing and the true light is already shining. Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates a brother or sister is still in the darkness. 10 Anyone who loves their brother and sister lives in the light, and there is nothing in them to make them stumble. 11 But anyone who hates a brother or sister is in the darkness and walks around in the darkness. They do not know where they are going, because the darkness has blinded them.

1 John 3:11-18 (NIV)

11 For this is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love one another. 12 Do not be like Cain, who belonged to the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own actions were evil and his brother’s actions were righteous. 13 Do not be surprised, my brothers and sisters,  if the world hates you. 14 We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love each other. Anyone who does not love remains in death. 15 Anyone who hates a brother or sister is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life residing in him. 16 This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. 17 If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? 18 Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.

1 John 4:7-12,19-21

Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed His love among us: He sent His one and only Son into the world that we might live through Him. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and His love is made complete in us.

19 We love because He first loved us. 20 Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. 21 And He has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.

2 John 5:4-6 (NIV)

It has given me great joy to find some of your children walking in the truth, just as the Father commanded us. And now, dear lady, I am not writing you a new command but one we have had from the beginning. I ask that we love one another. And this is love: that we walk in obedience to His commands. As you have heard from the beginning, His command is that you walk in love.

I realize that I have been quite exhaustive with this list of Scriptures in response to a single verse.  But I just find in my soul that loving one another is so central to the life and teachings of our Lord Jesus and a manifestation of HOW we show our love and devotion to Him as His disciples – how we demonstrate love as His Body in the earth – through loving one another.  Jesus said, “By this everyone will know that you are My disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:35)  So Paul urges us to be devoted to one another in love … to honor one another above ourselves.  And Paul will go on to write “practical applications” to encourage us in this pursuit to “walk as Jesus walked.” 

2 Corinthians 13:11 (NIV)

11 Finally, brothers and sisters, rejoice! Strive for full restoration, encourage one another, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you.

Galatians 5:13-14 (NIV)

13 You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh[a]; rather, serve one another humbly in love. 14 For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

Ephesians 4:1-6 (NIV)

As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

1 Thessalonians 4:3-10 (NIV)

It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control your own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the pagans, who do not know God; and that in this matter no one should wrong or take advantage of a brother or sister.  The Lord will punish all those who commit such sins, as we told you and warned you before. For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life. Therefore, anyone who rejects this instruction does not reject a human being but God, the very God who gives you his Holy Spirit. Now about your love for one another we do not need to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love each other. 10 And in fact, you do love all of God’s family throughout Macedonia. Yet we urge you, brothers and sisters, to do so more and more….

So why have I delved so deeply into this topic? I’m not sure.  I have mediated and reflected for hours now.  Perhaps, this is something I just needed to “preach” to myself …  to remind myself that love … sincere love for others … is not optional for a life in pursuit of Christ-likeness.  When it hurts to love because someone has hurt us … when it is not convenient to love because it takes of our time … when it is difficult to love because we disagree on politics, theology, or other personal differences … when love requires financial sacrifice to provide for the needs of others … I often wonder HOW I will ever live up to His standard? I am reminded of His command to love as He has loved me … and I feel so inadequate.  As much as I would like to think that I live in the light of His love, I sometimes feel deflated knowing that I fall short of loving others with the same love that I have received from God. I hear Paul affirm, “God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8) So how do I put that unmerited, compassionate, agape love into action – in real terms?  Then I considered that Jesus addressed this issue for us in great detail in His “Sermon on the Mount”:

Luke 6:27-38 (NIV)

27 “But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. 29 If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them. 30 Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. 31 Do to others as you would have them do to you. 32 “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. 33 And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. 34 And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. 35 But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most-High, because He is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. 36 Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. 37 “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. 38 Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”

(See Also Matthew 5:43-48)

I think the key thought for me to remember is that the love God has expressed toward me in His Son is “unmerited”.  His love for me was unmerited.  There is nothing I did to earn it or deserve it.  I am a sinner saved by grace alone.  And so I believe it follows that I am to love others without consideration of “merit”.  We should love others regardless of whether we think or feel that they merit or deserve our love, forgiveness, or compassion.  Just as God causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends His rain on the righteous and the unrighteous (Cf. Matthew 5:45), so we are to love others and be merciful to them fully for the sake of love itself (as modeled by Christ Jesus) … while they too are yet sinners (such as we were before coming to faith).  That is HOW God has loved us … without merit!

Philippians 2:1-5 (NIV)

Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from His love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus….

When Paul instructs us to “do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit,” I think there can be a tendency within any Christian to be filled with “spiritual pride” because of their “knowledge” … not remembering … “And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” (Cf. 1 Corinthians 6:11).  In humility, we need to show the love of God which we ourselves “received” by His grace! As Paul concluded, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. (Cf. Ephesians 2:8-9)

So I conclude that I must keep all these points in mind as I self-examine and as I consider HOW to best emulate to others the love which I have received from God through our Lord Jesus Christ. It means to be devoted to others.  It means to encourage others.  It means to honor others.  It means to empty myself of myself for the well-being of others.  It means to be steadfast and faithful to others.  It means that I need to pursue holiness in my own life – not to feel superior to others but to be “sincere” in my relationships and not covetous. If I have no self-discipline or self-control, how can I truly be an effective witness for the glory of God?

Well, if you have read this far, I thank you for your time and indulgence.  I hope that something in this meditation challenges you or encourages you to reflect on His command to “love one another as I have loved you.” While straightforward in principal, it is not so simple in practice. We still have our human nature to wrestle, and we need spiritual power to have the same mindset as Christ Jesus. As John insisted: “He who says he abides in Him (Jesus) ought himself also to walk just as He walked.” (Cf. 1 John 2:6) I believe it is possible for us to do so … or at least a worthwhile pursuit.  So I pray for the courage to try … for the ability to perform … and for the wisdom to live worthy of His calling.  I pray for each of you to likewise progress in your journey of faith.  For I am confident of this very thing … that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.  (Cf. Philippians 1:6)

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

A Gentle Answer

Colossians 4:5-6

Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.

I think this passage is familiar to most of us … and its message is one of humility in our attitude and conduct.  Too often, I have seen Christians view themselves or project themselves to others as “superior” because they have come to a knowledge of the truth and believe that Jesus is the Son of God … sent to be our Savior, to redeem us, and to reconcile us to God the Father.  Sometimes they allow themselves to become filled with pride over their salvation … forgetting they did nothing to earn or deserve the unmerited kindness and mercy shown by God.  Salvation, at its core, is the most humbling experience a human being can undergo because we are utterly dependent on what God has done for us and there is nothing that we can add to it….  Salvation does not make us superior; rather, it makes us indebted to the One who gave us freedom from the penalty and power of sin.

That said … when we encounter other people, and especially those who are non-believers, Paul instructs us to be wise in how we act and speak toward them.  We are to approach others with the same attitude and grace as Christ Jesus:

Philippians 2:1-8 (NIV)

Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from His love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to His own advantage;rather, He made Himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross!

Why is this important?  Why does Paul instruct us to be careful in how we approach seekers and non-believers?  Because we ourselves received Jesus Christ through faith … and this was not of our ourselves … it was the gift of God. (Cf. Ephesians 2:8).  It was the kindness of God that led us to repentance in the first place. (Cf. Romans 2:4) So we are to be kind to one another … compassionate … forgiving … just as in Christ Jesus God forgave us. (Cf. Ephesians 4:32) As Paul related to Timothy, the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, and not resentful. (Cf. 2 Timothy 2:24) So let our conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that we may know how to answer everyone.  This will equip us to make the most of every opportunity we are given to lead others to salvation through faith in Jesus Christ….

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

The Debt of Love

Romans 13:8

Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law.

We have studied this verse before, but it is a great reminder of the great command of our Lord Jesus – that we should love one another. For love fulfills the will of God for our lives….

John 13:34-36 (NIV)

34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

2 Corinthians 13:11 (NIV)

11 Finally, brothers and sisters, rejoice! Strive for full restoration, encourage one another, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you.

1 John 3:11 (NIV)

11 For this is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love one another.

1 John 3:23-24 (NIV)

23 And this is His command: to believe in the name of His Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as He commanded us. 24 The one who keeps God’s commands lives in Him, and He in them. And this is how we know that He lives in us: We know it by the Spirit He gave us.

1 John 4:7-8 (NIV)

Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.

1 John 4:11-13 (NIV)

11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and His love is made complete in us. 13 This is how we know that we live in Him and He in us: He has given us of His Spirit.

When you look at the Gospel … the key message (the will) of God is to believe in His Son, Jesus … who is the Messiah … the Christ! When you consider it … the key message (the will) of Christ Jesus is that we love one another as He has loved us. It is evident to see that His love is a sacrificial love … a love based in compassion and forgiveness. Jesus joyfully paid the debt that we owed. He calls us to do so for one another. This is HOW we demonstrate our love for Him. We continue His work of love … as members of His Body … and manifest His presence in the world.

Lord Jesus, I pray we will be in truth the Light of the world you have commissioned us to be. (Cf. Matthew 5:14) As your servants … as your heart, hands, and feet in this world … grant that through us that those who are lost will encounter you and be change through the power of your great love. For if we love one another, God lives in us and His love is made complete in us. Amen.

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

Radiant Son

Hebrews 1:3

The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of His being, sustaining all things by His powerful word. After He had provided purification for sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.

We have discussed this verse before … but in light of the recent tide of verses we have received in these days approaching Easter, I cannot help but believe the message here is something the Spirit wants to draw to our attention.  Yesterday, our verse focused on the mercies and forgiveness granted to us through Christ Jesus. Paul explained to us that God demonstrates His own love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8) In 1 John 4:8-16, the Apostle John declares, “We know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love.” And here the writer of the Book of Hebrews asserts that Jesus, the Son of God, is the “exact representation of God’s being.”  God is love … therefore … Jesus encompasses and embodies the love of God in all of its fullness.  If anyone ever wants to know how much God deeply loves them … he or she need look no farther than Jesus … who is the image of God. (Cf. 2 Corinthians 4:4; Colossians 1:15)

John 15:9-17 (NIV) – Jesus is speaking:

“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 10 If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in His love. 11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. 12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command. 15 I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. 17 This is my command: Love each other.

Verse 13 reveals how “great” the love of God is towards us.  Jesus was willing to lay down His own life for us.  And Jesus called us friends because He has made known to us the heart of the Father.  As His friends, we should do what He commands.  In Verse 17, Jesus said, “This is my command: Love each other.”  In doing so, we bear the image of Him who loved us and gave Himself for us!  In doing so, we demonstrate our gratitude and thanksgiving for His mercies upon us.  In doing so, we bear fruit – fruit that will last!  Oh, I pray we will somehow better grasp the radiance and power of our Lord Jesus Christ – who sustains all things by His Word.  I pray we will consider how best to serve Him … how best to live worthy of Him and His calling upon our lives. (Cf. Colossians 1:10)  And I believe this is a great verse to inspire us toward that goal as we revere Him in our hearts….

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!