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!

Verse of the Day – 02/27/19

1 John 3:18 (NIV)

Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.

No matter how much we profess to love God or to love one another, the evidence of love is in the actions taken to demonstrate it.  God not only tells us that He loves us, but God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8).  John reminds us here that actions speak louder than words.  Even Jesus requires action on our part to show or demonstrate our love for Him: “If you love Me, keep my commandments.” (Cf. John 14:15; 1 John 5:3) Yes, love is a verb! Love is service oriented. Love is something we “do”.  (Love is: 1 Corinthians 13).

On a similar note, I am reminded that the Apostle James frankly addresses this point with regard to our faith.  Faith is not profession alone either.  No matter how much we “believe,” the evidence of faith is in the actions that demonstrate it as well.  Here James distinguishes between faith as a concept and faith as a reality:    

James 2:14-17 (NIV)

14 What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? 15 Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? 17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

I pray that our Verse of the Day will challenge us to “live” like we “love” and to “befriend” like we “believe”.  As Paul challenges us:

Romans 12:1-2 (NKJV)

I urge you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service (spiritual worship). And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.

And as a reminder, I will reprint this verse for us as well:

1 John 4:20-21 (NKJV)

20 If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen? 21 And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also.

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

Verse of the Day – 02/25/19

Matthew 22:37-39

Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’

I’m just going to pass this one along.  I think Jesus said it all … and He is a lot less verbose than I am….

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

Verse of the Day – 02/21/19

Romans 13:9-10 (NIV)

The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not covet,” and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.

“Love your neighbor as yourself.” Easier said than done. This precept was first recorded in the Book of Leviticus: Chapter 19 Verse 18

17 “‘Do not hate a fellow Israelite in your heart. Rebuke your neighbor frankly so you will not share in their guilt. 18 “‘Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord.

Jesus quoted this Scripture in Matthew 22:35-40 (NIV)

35 One of them, an expert in the law, tested Jesus 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 6:538 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.

So we see here that Jesus elevated the exhortation to love others from a precept under Levitical Law to a “commandment” of equal weight with the first commandment of all – to love God. In fact, the first four of the Ten Commandments are focused on our vertical relationship … our fellowship with God:

Exodus 20:1-17 – The Ten Commandments

And God spoke all these words: I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. “You shall have no other gods before me.

“You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.

You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses His name.

Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. 11 For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.

And we can see that the next six commandments are focused on horizontal relationships with other people. It is noteworthy that the first people we are to love (honor) is our parents. Note, also, that it is the first commandment with a promise. (Cf. Ephesians 6:2)

12 “Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.

13 “You shall not murder.

14 “You shall not commit adultery.

15 “You shall not steal.

16 “You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.

17 “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”

Paul, in our Verse of the Day, summarizes how loving our neighbor … loving one another fulfills these commandments directed at our horizontal relationships with one anther. Paul corroborates the teachings of Jesus when he affirms: “Love is the fulfillment of the Law.” When you and I love one another as God has loved us, we know that we abide in Him and He abides in us. Our fellowship with God is complete and full. The Apostle John has shared these truths with us multiple times:

1 John 2:4-6 (NIV)

Whoever says, “I know God,” 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 HimWhoever claims to live in Him must live as Jesus did.

1 John 4:7-21 (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. 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. 13 This is how we know that we live in Him and He in us: He has given us of His Spirit. 14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent His Son to be the Savior of the world. 15 If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God. 16 And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. 17 This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. 18 There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. 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.

Verse 21 makes it clear: God has given us this command that we must love God and love one another! The two are inseparable … and therefore … Paul concluded, “Love is the fulfillment of the Law – the Commandments“. I will conclude with the final passage of Scripture for us:

1 John 5:1-4 (NIV)

Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves His child as well. This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out His commands. In fact, this is love for God: to keep His commands. And His commands are not burdensome,for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith.

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

Verse of the Day – 02/20/19

Proverbs 17:9 (NIV)

Whoever would foster love covers over an offense, but whoever repeats the matter separates close friends.

Our passage comes from the Book of Proverbs.  There is definitely a great message here for us … however hard it might be to implement.  Although I read this verse on Wednesday morning, I did not have time to write any commentary – thinking that I would do so later in the day.  As it turned out, later in the day, I found myself listening to one of my employees recount a telephone conversation with a client who was “in a rage” and berating some of our employees as well as verbally assaulting me to this subordinate.  Needless to say, I became quite incensed.  I simmered (no probably boiled is a better description) the rest of the day … repeating the matter to others (mostly immediate family) and then prayed about the matter that night … wondering what had happened to my relationship with this client that I and a couple of my devoted employees would be so denigrated.  I will share more in a moment about my prayer time; but to finish, I was rushed to get ready and off to the office on Thursday morning for an all-day staff meeting … and then I worked at the office afterwards until about 7:00 p.m.  Yesterday, I had a tooth extracted, so I am just now getting back to this particular Verse of the Day.

As I read this verse again today … I was reminded how my emotions and attitude had gotten the best of me earlier this week.  Whoever would foster love covers over an offense, but whoever repeats the matter separates close friends.  Although this client and I are not “close” friends, we have known each other for 25 years.  And regardless of the level of affinity, I always want to consider myself someone who would endeavor to “foster love” toward anyone … someone who would always strive to demonstrate Christian character in all circumstances … someone who would endeavor to cover over an offense of any magnitude.  But I have to confess, this circumstance has taken me a couple of days to get there, and I regret that my immediate attitude was not more Christ-like.  Pondering this verse again reminded me of the convictions I felt during my prayer time Wednesday night while the incident was still fresh in my mind.  And I am “repeating the matter” here only to share the spiritual lessons I learned through this experience:

Sometimes it is best to remain silent when we become charged with emotion.  Unfortunately, in my “anger” over what had transpired with my employee, I called the client an “explicative” that describes the hind side of a donkey.  I regret the lapse of character in front of an employee who has otherwise seen a more noble display of leadership. I was ashamed because it felt no different to me than if I had done so in front of my children. Yes, we are adults. Yes, we are humans. Yes, the employee most likely overlooked my indiscretion in the heat of the moment.  But NO; I should be mindful not to bring the slightest potential reproach to our Lord Jesus nor be flippant about a seemingly harmless, understandable show of emotion. In truth, I was the opposite of what Jesus expected me to be. I was out of character.  Though Spirit-filled … that was my character none the less in that moment. So I had to question the inclinations of my own heart.  Why was I so quick to anger … when it should have been slow to anger? (Cf. Proverbs 15:18; 16:32; 19:11) And, besides, we had just reviewed this passage from Matthew 5 a week or so ago:

Matthew 5:38-45 (ESV)

38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ 39 But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. 40 And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. 41 And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. 42 Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you. 43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.

As I prayed Wednesday night and “repeated the matter” to God, He reminded me of my need for repentance. The Lord reminded me of His faithfulness to me my entire life.  I thought about His Word: “The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in mercy.” (Cf. Psalm 103:8) I felt convicted and realized that I have been called to be merciful, gracious, and long-suffering towards others.  I am expected to “foster” or promote love. Yes, someone I had expected to respect me for my faithful service to them had hurt me.  Yet, in my complaint, God showed me a greater truth – the hurt that I felt in that moment was no different than the hurt or disappointment God feels when I fail to be faithful to Him and His Word.

In his epistles, Paul often reminds us of how we should conduct ourselves with others. And notice in the following passage how our failures to conduct ourselves in a right manner causes us to “grieve the Holy Spirit” who dwells within us.  Perhaps the conviction I felt Wednesday night was the expression of grief by the Holy Spirit:

Ephesians 4:29-32 (NIV)

29 Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. 32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

So in my prayer time, forgiveness was the recurrent theme.  God has forgiven me … I need to forgive others.  If I want to facilitate love in and through my life, forgiveness is a great place to start. Forgiveness does not dismiss what happened. It does not condone the hurt caused. Rather, forgiveness simply releases the person from any debt. Jesus paid my sin debt.  I should choose to do the same with others who wrong me.  As Paul instructed us: “Love keeps no record of wrongs.” (Cf. 1 Corinthians 13:5)

Dr. David Jeremiah of Turning Point wrote: “The hardest part of forgiving another person is acting like the offense never occurred. But that is what forgiving someone means – restoring relationships to the status they had before the offense took place.  It’s one thing to say, “I forgive you,” but it’s another to act like all the effects of an offense are completely erased.” Yet, we need to realize that is how God has forgiven us.  (Cf. Jeremiah 31:31-34; Hebrews 10:16-18) The offense I felt from the lips of a friend absolutely pales in comparison to the offenses and transgressions I have committed against the One who created me, loved me, and saved me according to His great love.

Micah 7:18-19 (ESV)

18 Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of His inheritance? You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy. 19 You will again have compassion on us; you will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea.

So I pray that each of us would consider the depth of forgiveness we have received in Christ Jesus … and remember that we have been called to forgive others in the same manner as the Lord forgave each of us.  However difficult to put into practice, we have to remember that forgiveness is the foundation of our relationship with God.  Without His forgiveness, we would have no life within us at all.  As Paul wrote: “When we were dead in our sins and under the power of our flesh, God made us alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; He has taken it (our legal indebtedness) away, nailing it to the cross. (Cf. Colossians 2:13-14)

 It might sound strange, but I am somewhat grateful that this offense and a slip of my tongue has jolted me with a greater truth – there is no offense committed against me that could be greater that the offense of my own sin before God.  The sins of mankind required a sacrifice no one but God Himself could offer to atone for it. (Cf. 1 John 4:10-11) So I am thankful for this reminder as I continue to learn how to “foster” love as Jesus taught us to do. Again, as Paul wrote, “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another.  If any of you has a grievance against someone, forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.” (Cf. Colossians 3:12-14)

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

Verse of the Day – 02/18/19

Romans 8:38-39

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

So our Verse of the Day continues in Romans 8.  I had included this passage in the commentary yesterday to share Paul’s personal conviction regarding his keen awareness and understanding of the love of God expressed to us in Christ Jesus!  Paul swells with emotion as he contemplates what possibilities might exist that could remove the love of God for His creation.  Paul concludes: “There is nothing!”  There is nothing with the power to dissolve or diminish the love of God for us. There is nothing you or I can do or not do that will change or annul the love of God for us. He is not subjected to our mortal ideas, thoughts, or personal wills.  His love is eternally existent!

Let’s consider these thoughts for a moment.  The Bible is filled with physical metaphors to help us comprehend spiritual realities.  For example, Jesus is called the Word who was with God in the beginning. (Cf. John 1:1-3) Jesus is called the Lamb of God. (Cf. John 1:29; 1:36) He was the unblemished, spotless lamb God provided for Himself to be the final, ultimate sacrifice for the sin of all humans.  Yet, we read this Lamb (Jesus) who removed the sins of the world was slain before the foundation of the world!  The names of all believers were written in the Lamb’s Book of Life before the earth was created. (Cf. Revelation 5:12; 13:8) So if God loved us (and He did) before you and I were ever born … and died to impute His holiness and righteousness upon us (and He did) because we were condemned and without hope because of our sinful nature … then we need to join Paul and ask: “What can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord?”  Will our sin now separate us from His love?  Was it not for your sin and mine that Jesus died in order to make atonement for us? (Cf. Romans 5:8) That is the love of God in action!  That is the salvation of God in truth!  You and I cannot save ourselves.  It was HIS LOVE that saved us.  O, now I have to go back to Ephesians 2!

Ephesians 2:1-10 (NKJV)

And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others. But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.

My conviction is that ALL of this was done on our behalf by God … all this was done for us because of His great love with which He loved us … even before we were born into this world … and before we were born-again of the Spirit.  So if we had no opportunity or ability to cause God to love us, what would make us think that we can separate ourselves from His love at all?  His love IS!  To me, the more pressing question we should ask is, “Why would anyone reject this great love of God?” It seems God permits human beings to have the capacity (free will) to reject the love of God.  We find evidence of this rejection throughout the Old and New Testaments.  For example, Israel forsook the love of God by “turning to other gods and worshipping them; rejecting God and breaking His covenant .” (Cf. Deuteronomy 31:20) God did not cease to love Israel or separate Himself from them. They refused His love for them! They broke His covenant of love with them. They rejected His call to repentance in order to obtain mercy.  And we still find this state of the human heart in our time … people still in darkness who dismiss the Word of God … whose hearts are hardened and ungrateful for what God Himself has done for them.

“Know therefore that the Lord your God is God; He is the faithful God, keeping His covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love Him and keep His commandments.” (Cf. Deuteronomy 7:9) Yes, God is faithful to keep His covenant of love with those who love Him.  It is our response to the love of God that establishes this bond.  Paul is correct that nothing can separate us from the love God has poured out upon His creation. It is immutable! It is everlasting! It is unfailing! And it is always available! But for purposes known only to God, He permits us to reject Him and His love.  He allows us to separate our hearts from Him … not the other way around.  And this brings me back to what the Apostle John wrote:

John 3:16-20 (NKJV)

16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. 17 For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. 18 He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. 19 And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. 20 For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. 

God has given us His love!  And this love is in His Son, Christ Jesus! Through Jesus … in Jesus … is the love of God the Father both revealed and manifested! We cannot be separated from it, but we can reject it.  It is evident we have the free will to not believe the testimony of God regarding His Son. We can refuse to believe in Him and we can live our lives with total disregard for the love God has bestowed on us through Jesus.  And I wonder even now … how could I have ever done so?  How could I have been so reckless … so arrogant … so ungrateful in my own heart before I came to saving faith in Jesus? Even now … I can scarcely fathom why God would have been so merciful to me.  Why would He enter His covenant of love with me? Why would He redeem a wretched sinner like me?  The only answer is: LOVE! And who among us can truly understand this kind of love? So can anything separate me from the love of God?  Anything?  Absolutely not!  The sacrificial blood of Christ Jesus covers me for all eternity!

Hebrews 9:11-15 (NIV)

11 But when Christ came as high priest of the good things that are now already here, He went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not made with human hands, that is to say, is not a part of this creation. 12 He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but He entered the Most Holy Place once for all by His own blood, thus having obtained eternal redemption13 For if the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctifies them so that they are outwardly clean; 14 how much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts (useless rituals) that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God! 15 For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance—now that He has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant.

In light of this good news … what are the implications for us?  Here are some things that come to mind:

Romans 6:1-7 (NIV)

1 What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? We were therefore buried with Him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. For if we have been united with Him in a death like His, we will certainly also be united with Him in a resurrection like His. For we know that our old self was crucified with Him so that the body ruled by sin might be rendered powerless, that we should no longer be slaves to sin— because anyone who has died has been set free from sin.

1 John 3:4-10 (NIV)

Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness. But you know that He appeared so that He might take away our sins. And in Him is no sin. No one who lives in Him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen Him or known Him. Dear children, do not let anyone lead you astray. The one who does what is right is righteous, just as He is righteous. The one who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work. No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in them; they cannot go on sinning, because they have been born of God. 10 This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not God’s child, nor is anyone who does not love their brother and sister.

You see, the love of God has called us to transformed lives … transformed by the same power that raised Jesus to life again!  We are to abide in Him and He in us: 

1 John 3:23-24 (NKJV)

23 And this is His commandment: that we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ and love one another, as He gave us commandment. 24 Now he who keeps His commandments abides in Him, and He in him. And by this we know that He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us.

1 John 4:12-14 (NKJV)

12 No one has seen God at any time. If we love one another, God abides in us, and His love has been perfected in us. 13 By this we know that we abide in Him, and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit.

With these things in mind, I believe the theological corroboration of Romans 5:8 can be better understood and appreciated now:

Romans 5:1-11 (ESV)

1 Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, let us have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through Him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and let us rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by His blood, much more shall we be saved by Him from the wrath of God. 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by His life. 11 More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation!

I just feel led to pray:

Father God, how incredible it is to know your love is inseparable … immutable … and everlasting in Christ Jesus!  How can we show our gratitude for your mercies?  How can we live lives worthy of what you have done for us?  I pray each one of us, in view of your mercy, will offer ourselves as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to you Father as our true and spiritual worship.  I pray each of us will not be conformed to the deception of this fallen world, but will be transformed in our minds through your living Word.  Lord God, I pray that everyone, everywhere will come to know your great love so that Christ will dwell in our hearts through faith … so we might have the power and ability to comprehend how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ – and to know this love that surpasses knowledge so that we might be filled with the measure of all the fullness of God. O Lord, remind us again and again that your love never fails … that you will keep us in perfect peace whose minds are steadfast because we trust in you alone. Let our gratitude for your life and love in us be shown through our love of one another.  Let us be ambassadors of reconciliation to those who do not know your great love.  And let us seek holiness in our lives … that we might see you and have confidence when we stand before you when you return!  Grant us all these things, Father, in the name of your Son, Jesus.  Amen.

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

Verse of the Day – 02/17/19

Romans 8:35,37

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.

When I first read this Verse of the Day, I just had to smile….  This is one of my “go-to” passages when I need affirmation … when I need to be reminded that the love of God in Christ Jesus is unconditional and everlasting.  In fact, to me, all of Romans Chapter 8 is uplifting.  It is here that I am told there is no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus.  It is here that God affirms His Son met the righteous requirement of law for me and sent His Holy Spirit to live in me.  It is here that I come to understand how a life lived in the Spirit sets me free from the bondage of sin and unites me to God … and confirms to me that I am His child.  It is here that I find trust in the hand of God over my life … that He works all things for my good because I love Him and have been called according to His purpose.  Yes, it is here that God affirms that He is for me … that He loves me with an inseparable, unfailing love because He gave me to His Son….  I’m overwhelmed!

In Verse 35, Paul asks “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?”  Well, another question might be, “Who joined us … who united us to His love?”  We have to understand that our relationship with God through His Son is totally 100% HIS work.  He is the initiator!  God loved us first! This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. (Cf. 1 John 4:10) His love was not a response to our goodness or righteousness.  His love was not merited or earned by any of us.  We were dead in our trespasses and sins! But God made us alive in Christ! He resurrected us in Christ! (Cf. Ephesians 2:1-10; Colossians 2:13-14) Why?  Because God, in Christ, was reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses against them. (Cf. 2 Corinthians 5:19) So if God has the will and power to join us to Himself; then the answer to the question of who can separate us from Him is ‘No one!”.  No one can separate us from His love!

Paul then moves on to the question: “What can separate us from the love of Christ?” “Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?”  In other words, we as Christians will have problems in this world.  But these troubles, trials, sufferings, nor afflictions of evil cannot separate us from God.  It is not possible.  Jesus affirms that promise:

John 10:27-30 (NKJV)

27 My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. 28 And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand30 I and My Father are one.”

So what is the implication of these assertions communicated to us through Paul?  Well, let’s read the conclusion Paul brings to us:

Romans 8:37-39 (NIV)

37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Is this not the greatest news you could hear today?  God commends His love to us … He demonstrates His love in this:

Romans 5:6-8 (NKJV)

You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

I pray you will never question the love that God has for you.  His love is not dependent upon your performance. It is not given based upon your perfection. His love is given because of your imperfection!  God simply wants you and me to come to Him through the way He has prepared for us to come to Him: Christ Jesus His Son!  And NOTHING can ever separate you from His love! Amen!

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!