The Love of Christ

Ephesians 3:17-19 (NIV)

so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

We have studied this Verse of the Day in recent weeks; so I will just put a larger portion of the passage out there for our consideration.  It really becomes a beautiful prayer of Paul for the Ephesian believers; and I like the deep messages it conveys regarding God’s purposes and Christ’s love. 

Ephesians 3:7-21 (NIV)

I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God’s grace given me through the working of His power. Although I am less than the least of all the Lord’s people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the boundless riches of Christ, and to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery, which for ages past was kept hidden in God, who created all things. 10 His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, 11 according to His eternal purpose that He accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord. 12 In Him (Jesus) and through faith in Him we may approach God with freedom and confidence. 13 I ask you, therefore, not to be discouraged because of my sufferings for you, which are your glory.

14 For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. 16 I pray that out of His glorious riches He may strengthen you with power through His Spirit in your inner being17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. 20 Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, 21 to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

Indeed, each of us is a servant of the Gospel by the gift of God’s grace … through the working of His power.  We may not feel qualified, but His grace indeed qualifies each of us.  Through the CHURCH, God intends for His wisdom to be made known – to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms.  You see, your life of faith in the Body of Christ impacts the heavenly realms as much as it does here on earth.  What God has accomplished IN Christ Jesus our Lord is what we have been called by His grace to declare … with our mouths, but more importantly, with our lives.  And so Paul prays for believers to be strengthen with power through His Spirit in our inner beings.  “For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.” (Cf. 2 Timothy 1:7) It is through the power of His Spirit that we know the deep love of Christ … a love that surpasses knowledge … a love that imparts the fullness of God to those who believe in Him!

Yes, to know the love of God through Christ Jesus is the greatest grace of all!  It is available! It is receivable! It changes the hearts of those encountered! God is able to do immeasurably more that all we ask or imagine.  Yes, we are more than adequately equipped through His grace to be servants of the Gospel!  Christ Jesus dwelling in our hearts is more than sufficient!  So, I pray we will let the intent of His great love empower us for service….

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

An Everlasting Love …

Psalm 103:17-18 (NIV)

But from everlasting to everlasting the Lord’s love is with those who fear Him, and His righteousness with their children’s children— with those who keep His covenant and remember to obey His precepts.

Our verse today affords us some theological precepts for covenant relationship with God; and I think we should examine these concepts a little deeper.

Psalm 103 is a beautiful meditation of David. In its 22 verses, he explores the foundations and depths upon which intimacy with God is established.  Here we find David speaking to his own soul … addressing his inner being with truths about the nature and character of God that can only be understood and appreciated by the soul.  As God is Spirit, our relationship with Him must be in the spirit realm … in a transparent form where nothing is hidden and truth abides.  Psalm 103 invites us to think deeply and introspectively about the God who created us and His relationship with us:

Praise the Lord, my soul; all my inmost being, praise His holy name.
Praise the Lord, my soul, and forget not all His benefits—
Who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases,
Who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion,
Who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

The Lord works righteousness and justice for all the oppressed.

He made known his ways to Moses, His deeds to the people of Israel:
The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love.
He will not always accuse, nor will He harbor His anger forever;
10 He does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities.
11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is His love for those who fear Him;
12 As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.

13 As a father has compassion on His children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear Him;
14 For He knows how we are formed; He remembers that we are dust.
15 The life of mortals is like grass; they flourish like a flower of the field;
16 The wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more.
17 But from everlasting to everlastingthe Lord’s love is with those who fear Him,and His righteousness with their children’s children—
18 With those who keep His covenant and remember to obey His precepts.

19 The Lord has established His throne in heaven, and His kingdom rules over all.

20 Praise the Lord, you his angels, you mighty ones who do His bidding, who obey His word.
21 Praise the Lord, all His heavenly hosts, you His servants who do His will.
22 Praise the Lord, all His works everywhere in His dominion. Praise the Lord, my soul.

(Verses 1-6)

I really glad that David began this Psalm with praise for the nature of God.  He tells his soul, “Praise the Lord.” In my view, David “commands” his soul to praise God as he unfolds the “reasons” for doing so.  He says to himself, “Do not forget all the benefits that the Father has bestowed your life.” God forgives ALL your sins and heals ALL your diseases.  He redeems your life from the pit … the dark abyss of sin.  He crowns you … He intentionally places His love and compassion upon you.  His favor promotes good things to bless your life.  He works righteousness and justice for those who have been oppressed by others….  And that is just the beginning of how God acts on our behalf.  I’m reminded of what Paul wrote with similar zeal: “Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” (Cf. Ephesians 3:20-21)

(Verses 7-13)

David now continues to explore how God manifests His character.  God revealed His ways to Moses and displayed His works among His covenant people.  From what has been reveal and demonstrated, David concludes that the Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love.  David observes the kindness of God in that He does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities.  David senses in his soul that the love of God … the forgiveness of God … the compassion of God surpasses our ability to comprehend.  Again, I’m reminded of what Paul wrote with great passion: “For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Cf. Romans 8:38-39) Indeed, the love of Christ Jesus for us … which surpasses knowledge … encompasses all the fullness of God.  (Cf. Ephesians 3:18-19)

(Verses 13-18)

David shares that what He experiences in His relationship with God is special.  The intimacy he has come to know with the Creator … the benefits of fellowship with God the Father … is for those who fear Him! Indeed, His great love is for those who fear Him. (Verse 11). The Lord has compassion on those who fear Him (Verse 13).  Yes, His love is with those who fear Him … with those who keep His covenant … with those who remember to obey His precepts. (Verses 17-18) As David wrote in another Psalm: “Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge (trusts) in Him.Fear the Lord, you His holy people, for those who fear Him lack nothing. The lions may grow weak and hungry, but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.” (Psalm 34:8-10) To fear the Lord is to exalt and reverence Him.  And we can only do so through faith … in spirit and in truth. (Cf. John 4:23-24) It is through faith that we are joined with the Father. “Without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him. (Cf. Hebrews 11:6) There are no benefits for life; there are no rewards except for those who fear the Lord … for those who keep His covenant and obey His command.

(Verses 19-22)

David concludes this meditation within his soul with a declaration of the sovereignty of God.  His throne is established in heaven! His Kingdom is the only authority throughout the universe He created. And this conviction ignites praise and worship within David again.  David sees that ALL creation is subjected to the Lord God. ALL are commanded to obedience … ALL are enjoined to worship the Almighty God!  His Word … His Will … His Works have been revealed to ALL creation. So David commands his soul, “Praise the Lord!”  And, perhaps, we should do so ourselves this morning as well. For the soul of every living being WILL bow before Him; and every tongue will acknowledge Him. (Cf. Isaiah 45:22-24; Romans 14:10-12; Philippians 2:9-11)

So here is the application I have found.  I cannot know the blessings or rewards of the Creator apart from an intimate relationship with Him. And it is a covenant relationship that He initiated (for He knows how I am formed and He remembers that I am dust) and conferred upon me through His Son, Christ Jesus. The Apostle John explains, “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) As Paul wrote: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Cf. Ephesians 2:8-9) So, there is nothing I have done to earn it or deserve it … but I am compelled in my innermost being (my soul) to respond to His irresistible grace and love with great reverence. For I am convinced that His desire for relationship with me is knowable. And the thought of such love overwhelms me!

David said the love of God is everlasting with those who fear Him. His compassion is on those who fear Him. So I am quite motivated to understand this “fear” … this “reverence” … for God our Creator. To show reverence is an intentional act; and it encompasses how I regard God with the highest honor and deepest respect. Shall I not humble myself, and repent, and submit to Him in faith? Shall I not observe His commandments which reveal His will? God said, “Keep my commands and follow them. I am the Lord.” (Cf. Leviticus 22:31) Jesus said, “If you love me, keep my commands.” (Cf. John 14:15, 14:21; 15:10) Shall I not worship (love) in the manner that God has ordained? Obedience demonstrates our love. Obedience reveals truth. And obedience is better than sacrifice. (Cf. 1 Samuel 15:22) Isaiah recorded, “The Lord says: “These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is based on merely human rules they have been taught.” (Cf. Isaiah 29:13) But Jesus said, “God is Spirit, and His worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.” (Cf. John 4:24) To be sure,  reverence must be sincere. And so love must be sincere. Genuine love cannot be hidden.  God did not hide or conceal His love for us. Thus, we should not hide or veil our love for Him. Love must be evident to all. “And this is His command: to believe in the name of His Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as He commanded us.” (Cf. 1 John 3:23)

Well, I hope that something said here will resonate with your soul. What King David imparted in his Psalms is prophetic of the intimate relationship God desires with us in Christ Jesus. Indeed, the grace of God we know and experience in Christ Jesus should elicit an overwhelming desire within us to love and adore Him … which is manifested in truth through obedience. Reverence IS obedience … because the New Covenant has not been written on tablets of stone; rather, through the blood of Jesus it has been written on our hearts.  The Covenant of Love is this: God loves us and we love Him.  God demonstrates His love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Cf. Romans 5:8) In return, we demonstrate our love for God in this: Keeping His commandments. (Cf. 1 John 5:3)

So Now You Know ….

Have a Blessed Day!

Sent To Save…

John 3:17 (NIV)

For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him.

This verse is perhaps the greatest news to share with anyone who is struggling with their past failures and feeling unworthy of the redemption and reconciliation God the Father has offered to us through Jesus Christ!  Self-condemnation can be a vicious stronghold to break if our concept of a God is one of judgment and wrath alone.  To be sure, Scripture reveals both the judgment and wrath of God … but both are reserved for those who reject Christ Jesus … and do not place their faith in Him.  Indeed, this verse declares the kindness and love of God so that each person is given the opportunity to repent of their sins and failures.  Let’s look at this verse in context:

John 3:16-21 (NIV)

16 For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him. 18 Whoever believes in Him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. 19 This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 20 Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. 21 But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.

God sent Jesus to be the atonement for the sins of the world. That is the purpose for which God gave Him.  It is the atonement of His blood that we are to believe and receive … to place our faith in Him and to proclaim His self-sacrifice as all-sufficient to pay our sin debt … to redeem us from the condemnation of sin.  Whoever believes in Him is no longer condemned! They have been set free … forgiven … released.  They are no longer under the law of sin (Cf. Romans 7:23-25) … but now abide under the law of liberty! (Cf. James 1:25) So the application here is to believe!  Believe the testimony of God regarding His Son whom He sent to be our Savior. “Or do you show contempt for the riches of His kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance? (Cf. Romans 2:4) As the Apostle John expounded: when we reject the testimony of God about His Son, Jesus, we have in essence called God a liar….

1 John 5:9-12 (NIV)

We accept human testimony, but God’s testimony is greater because it is the testimony of God, which He has given about His Son. 10 Whoever believes in the Son of God accepts this testimony. Whoever does not believe God has made Him out to be a liar, because they have not believed the testimony God has given about His Son. 11 And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. 12 Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.

God does not want us to live under the weight of condemnation, but God has made it clear the decision that each human must make about Jesus.  Believe and receive eternal life OR reject and remain in condemnation.  God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Cf. Romans 5:8) A person is not condemned for what they have done … the sin they have committed … or their failure to live up to the moral law God has decreed; rather, a person remains under condemnation for rejection of God’s grace … for refusing the forgiveness and redemption He has offered to us through the death of His Son.  Think about it a moment.  God willingly sacrificed His One and Only Son for the sin of the world.  Jesus is the only atonement God would accept because of His own holiness.  The blood of an animal sacrifice is insufficient to purge sin. (Cf. Isaiah 1:11; Isaiah 66:1-4; Hebrews 10) So when a person rejects what God has done … what has God ordained for true life in Him … He allows that person to receive the condemnation they refused to have propitiated on their behalf. When a person rejects Jesus Christ … they reject the Father as well. (Cf. John 5:22-24; 1 John 2:22-23) It is not a loving God that sends a person to hell; rather, it is a loving God who makes provision for a person to be saved from the condemnation and wrath of sin. That provision is His Son … Jesus!

Romans 8:1-10 (NIV)

1Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesusbecause through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set us free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so He condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God. You, however, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ. 10 But if Christ is in you, then even though your body is subject to death because of sin, the Spirit gives life because of righteousness.

Do you know anyone who feels condemned or has fallen into self-condemnation?  Share this good news with them!  God has made provision to remove all condemnation through Christ Jesus. Let condemnation be replaced with conviction! Yes, let conviction bring confession … so that we agree with God that His word and righteous decrees are holy and just. Oh, there is hope for the sinner who feels condemned! There is freedom for the captive and the broken-hearted! For the kindness of God is intended to lead us to repentance! God sent His light into the world, and His light has overcome the darkness! (Cf. John 1:5) Let us share that light with whoever will believe…. Amen.

So Now You Know ….

Have a Blessed Day!

The Mighty Warrior

Zephaniah 3:17 (NIV)

The Lord your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in His love He will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.

This is quite an intriguing verse for us to ponder.  And, of course, we should examine it within the surrounding context…. I encourage you to read the entire chapter.

In Zephaniah 3, the prophet is dealing with the “character” of the city of Jerusalem, and its inhabitants in general. Even more pointed, he calls out the princes, judges, prophets, and priests – leaders of the people and exposes their hardness, impenitence, and shamelessness.  The prophet indicates that these people knew better (the Lord being among them); who taught them through His Word and warned them of judgment and punishment through His Prophet if repentance did not ensue. Yet despite His attempts at correction; Jerusalem remained unrepentant, and God declared a day of wrath would come upon them.  Yet, the prophet reveals the heart of God is to preserve those who fear Him … the remnant who trust in the name of the Lord … who clothe themselves in righteousness. When God gathers and restores His people, we see how compassionate God is with those who love Him … the excitement He “feels” for them … the grace He lavishes upon them … and the restoration He will initiate for all that was lost!

To me, this chapter (and this verse in particular) is a reflection of how God longs for His people to seek and respond to Him. God delights in our obedience more than sacrifice. (Cf. 1 Samuel 15:22) His commandments are intended for wisdom and light. His discipline is for our understanding and correction. His presence is for our protection; and His power is for our salvation! Think about how awesome the love of God is that He will rejoice over you with singing!  Now consider some related parables that Jesus taught:

Luke 15:1-7 (NIV) Parable of the Lost Sheep

Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.” Then Jesus told them this parable: “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Does he not leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.

Luke 15:8-10 (NIV) Parable of the Lost Coin

“Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Does she not light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.’ 10 In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”

Luke 15:11-31 (NIV) Parable of the Prodigal Son

17 “When he came to his senses, the son said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! 18 I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’ 20 So he got up and went to his father. “But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. 21 “The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ 22 “But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. 24 For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to rejoice.

Throughout His Word, God affords us insight into His nature and character.  God is holy; and He has ordained for us to be holy. His commandments communicate how sincere love is the standard. Yet, God is compassionate, gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness; and forgiving of the disobedience, rebellion, and sin committed against Him. God knows how we are formed and remembers that we are but dust. (Cf. Psalm 103:14) He knows we are imperfect, but His desire is that we would but turn our hearts toward Him and respond to correction. This is the message God has sent to His people through all generations; and in these last days, He offers this grace to those who will place their faith in Christ Jesus – His Son … the One whom He sent!  Every prodigal … every wayward sheep … needs to know the Father will rejoice over them when they return to Him. Jesus said, “The Son of Man came to seek and to save that which is lost!” (Cf. Luke 19:10) And that purpose has not changed.  The will of the Father has not changed.  Jesus has commissioned His Church to be His Body upon the earth.  He charges every disciple … every follower … to “go and make disciples of all nations.” (Cf. Matthew 28:19)

So, I pray that as we meditate upon the Word of God brought to us by the Prophet Zephaniah, we will see its relevance in historical terms and its application for us today.  God rejoices over those who respond to His correction.  He delights in those who repent and place their trust in the name of the Lord. Yes, the Father is concerned for each lost soul He sent Jesus to find and save! In Zephaniah 3, I believe we can see a picture of Jesus – who has taken away our punishment and turned back our enemy.  We can see He is for us; and we should no longer fear the surrounding armies.  He is our Savior … the Mighty Warrior who for the joy set before Him, endured the cross, despising its shame, and has taken His seat at the right hand of the throne of God. (Cf. Hebrews 12:2) In His love, He will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing! Jesus said, “Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is the Father’s good pleasure to give you the Kingdom. (Cf. Luke 12:32) Even so, Lord, your Kingdom come and your will be done on earth as it is in heaven…. Amen.

So Now You Know ….

Have a Blessed Day!

The Work of Your Hands…

Psalm 139:13-14 (NIV)

For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.

I find Psalm 139 one of the most insightful meditations on the nature of God. I thought it would be useful for us to discuss our verse in the broader context of the full Psalm. David considers the sovereignty of God: His omniscience … His omnipresence … His omnificence … His omnipotence.  David captures the essence of each attribute and personalizes it; meaning, he brings perspective on how we as created beings can relate to our Creator in personal terms. So I have reprinted it here:

Psalm 139 For the director of music. Of David. A Psalm.

You have searched me, Lord, and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely.
You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain.

Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea,
10 even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,”
12 even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.

13 For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful – I know that full well.

15 My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.
17 How amazing are your thoughts concerning me, God! How vast is the sum of them!
18 Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand— when I awake, I am still with you.

19 If only you, God, would slay the wicked! Away from me, you who are bloodthirsty!
20 They speak of you with evil intent; your adversaries misuse your name.
21 Do I not hate those who hate you, Lord, and abhor those who are in rebellion against you?
22 I have nothing but hatred for them; I count them my enemies.
23 Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.
24 See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.

Wow!  Such a powerful meditation … filled with humbled emotion.  When I read this Psalm, I feel overwhelmed with the divine power and presence of our Creator … a God who expresses deep concern and love for a mere speck of dust on a speck of solar dust traversing through one of billions of interstellar spirals within the infinite expanse of what we call the universe…. Yes, like David, I find such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain. Yet, this infinite God is an intimate being.  He knows each of us … every detail from conception through all the days ordained for each one. The gift of life each one of us receives is wholly an experience of grace … which is why we should feel nothing less than deep reverence for Him.  Our lives are 100% in His hands from beginning to end whether we desire to accept this truth or not. There are no surprises for God. Nothing has ever happened or will happen in your life that He is not aware.   He is unmoved, unshaken by anything within His created order.  Stars are formed … and they are scattered in supernova fashion.  Galaxies spin and collide to produce new formations. This brings to mind another Psalm in which David shares additional perspective on our purpose with the created order.  Again, the emphasis becomes focused on our relationship with God:

Psalm 8

1 O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory in the heavens. Through the praise of children and infants you have established a stronghold against your enemies, to silence the foe and the avenger. When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them? You have made them a little lower than the angels and crowned them with glory and honor. You made them rulers over the works of your hands; you put everything under their feet: all flocks and herds, and the animals of the wild, the birds in the sky, and the fish in the sea, all that swim the paths of the seas. O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!

David appeals to that inner knowing we can experience when we are at a loss for words … when only our spirits can express with groans what our hearts feel.  It is in that quiet contemplative moment we ponder: “Lord, what is man, that You take knowledge of him? Or the son of man, that You are mindful of him? Man is like a breath; his days are like a passing shadow.” (Cf. Psalm 144:3-4) King Solomon, David’s son and successor, often contemplated the observance of creation and its profound mystery as the manifestation of a personal, relational Creator. God enables human beings to see the handiwork of His Word in all of its majesty; yet, we cannot find out the work that God does from beginning to end. (Cf. Ecclesiastes 3:11) And Solomon wrote: “As you do not know the path of the wind, or how the spirit enters the body being formed in a mother’s womb, so you cannot understand the work of God, the Maker of all things. (Cf. Ecclesiastes 11:5) I think the mysteries of God and His Creation are designed to intrigue us and to activate our faith in Him. 

But for all the awe-inspiring mystery and visual splendor of creation we can observe, there is a greater work of God in our inner being that should rapture our hearts like nothing else: “To believe in the One He has sent.” (Cf. John 6:29) Jesus implored people to believe in Him! He said to know Him is to know the Father! To abide in Him is to abide in the Father! Indeed, Jesus embodies the eternal love and passionate concern of God for all who are created in His image. Jesus answered the question David asked: “What is man that You take thought of him, and the son of man that You visit him? Jesus asserted, “For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of Him who sent me.” (Cf. John 6:38) Jesus shared, “I have come that people may have life, and have it to the full.” (Cf. John 10:10) And Jesus declared, “I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness” (Cf. John 12:46) I have to emphasize here that Paul explained how those who believe in Jesus are the handiwork or workmanship of God: “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Cf. Ephesians 2:10).  Indeed, all of creation exists for the pleasure of God.  As the Apostle John recorded in the Book of Revelation:

Revelation 4:8b – 11 (NIV)

Day and night they never stop saying: “‘Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God Almighty,’ (Cf. Isaiah 6:3) who was, and is, and is to come.” Whenever the living creatures give glory, honor and thanks to Him who sits on the throne and who lives for ever and ever, 10 the twenty-four elders fall down before Him who sits on the throne and worship Him who lives for ever and ever. They lay their crowns before the throne and say: 11 “You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will (for your pleasure) they were created and have their being.”

Oh, how I pray that every heart would receive and respond to the manifold revelations of God … through His creation … through His Word … and through His Son!  For His creation reveals His eternal power and divine nature. (Cf. Romans 1:20) His Word reveals His will and purpose. (Cf. Isaiah 46:10) And His Son reveals the exact representation of His being. (Cf. Hebrews 1:3) In addition, we are surrounded by such a great cloud of faithful witnesses! “Therefore,let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.  (Cf. Hebrews 12:1-2a)  I have long felt convicted that the “sin that so easily entangles” is the sin of unbelief or a lack of faith. Why? “Everything that does not come from faith is sin.” (Cf. Romans 14:23) And while I realize the context of Romans 14 explores the matter of conscience concerning food, the spiritual principle is there nonetheless.  Evaluate any specific sin, and you will discover its origins in darkness. As the Apostle John wrote: “This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.” (Cf. John 3:19)

So what is the application here?  What is the conclusion?

First, God has revealed Himself through His Creation.  He has manifested His incredible attributes:

His Omniscience                    He is the Knower of all things                   Psalm 139:1-6

His Omnipresence                  He is the Being of all things                      Psalm 139:7-12

His Omnificence                     He is the Creator of all things                   Psalm 139:13-18                                

His Omnipotence.                   He is the Authority of all things.              Psalm 139:19-24

Second, God has revealed Himself through His Word.  He has manifested His desire for relationship with us from Genesis through Revelation.

Third, God has revealed Himself through His Son.  He manifested His everlasting, immutable love for us through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.

Yes, there is a multitude of mysteries we will never understand in this life. The mysteries of God will forever remain in our quest for understanding because there is knowledge too high for us to attain. But Moses attested: “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but those things which are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.” (Cf. Deuteronomy 29:29) Yes, it is clear that our Father wants us to know Him through what He has revealed through His creation … His Word … and His Son.  To me, it is no mystery that God exists … that I AM is Spirit … and that He cannot be seen with human eyes. Yet, the Father has ordained for us to see Him through the eyes of faith alone … with spiritual eyes and ears to discern and know Him.  And the greatest visual image we will ever have of the Father is His One and Only Son … Jesus.  Jesus embodied the Word of God. Indeed, He is the living Word of God! (Cf. John 1:1-5) Jesus declared, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. (Cf. Matthew 5:17)

If people would consider these truths in their hearts, what can be known of God should move their hearts to repentance and reverence.  God has made known His covenant of love … His compassion … and His desire for fellowship with those He created in His image. Yes, God has visited us and even borne the judgment for our sin of unbelief upon the cross. The purpose of all His works is this: God wants us to believe in the One He sent.  It is only through faith in Jesus that we will come to perfect faith in God the Father.  It is only through Jesus that we will understand the unsurpassed love of God … the riches of His grace … and the desire of His heart for our sanctification and holiness.  Through faith in Christ, we become new creatures!  The old is gone.  The new has come. (Cf. 2 Corinthians 5:17) We become the handiwork of God! And this is the message we need to share with the prodigal, the wayward, and the lost: “Consider all that God has made known, and believe in the One He sent!” The Lord God declares: “You are my witnesses,” declares the Lord, “and my servant whom I have chosen, so that you may know and believe me and understand that I am He. Before me no god was formed, nor will there be one after me. I, even I, am the Lord, and apart from me there is no Savior. I have revealed and saved and proclaimed— I, and not some foreign god among you. You are my witnesses,” declares the Lord, “that I am God. Yes, and from ancient days I am He. No one can deliver out of my hand. When I act, who can reverse it?” (Cf. Isaiah 43:10-13)

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

Just The Right Time

Romans 5:6-8 (NIV)

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.

This passage from Romans 5 is still as powerful today as it was when the Apostle Paul penned it for the Church.  Verse 8 is quite profound, and it gives us a clear understanding of the depth of God’s love for us. While we were still sinners, Christ died for us … the ungodly … those without hope of salvation! Indeed, Jesus was crucified because we are all sinners! “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Cf. Romans 3:23)

Psalm 14:2-3; Psalm 53:2-3; Romans 3:11-12

The Lord looks down from heaven upon the children of men to see if there are any who understand, who seek God. They have all turned aside. They have together become corrupt; there is none who does good … No, not one.

God saw our condition … our state of darkness … our need for salvation! But we are assured: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” (Cf. John 3:16) “In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” (Cf. 1 John 4:9-10) And as Paul concluded: “For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Cf. Romans 8:38-39)

God has manifested, demonstrated, and confirmed His love for us!  The love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us! (Cf. Romans 5:5) How could anyone ever doubt the love of God? The love of God provided His own Passover Lamb as a sin offering for us! You can readily see this presented and prophetically revealed in Genesis 22 which tells the story of when God tested Abraham with the sin offering (sacrifice) of Isaac (his first-born and only son of Sarah) on Mount Moriah. The narrative reveals the intense faith Abraham had in God … a faith demonstrated by a sincere love and trust in God such that Abraham was willing to sacrifice his son in obedience to the command he had received:

Genesis 22:6-13 (NIV)

Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and placed it on his son Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the knife. As the two of them went on together, Isaac spoke up and said to his father Abraham, “Father?” “Yes, my son?” Abraham replied. “The fire and wood are here,” Isaac said, “but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” Abraham answered, “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” And the two of them went on together. When they reached the place God had told him about, Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it. He bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. 10 Then he reached out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. 11 But the angel of the Lord called out to him from heaven, “Abraham! Abraham!” “Here I am,” he replied. 12 “Do not lay a hand on the boy,” he said. “Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.” 13 Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram (behind him) caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son. 14 So Abraham called that place The Lord Will Provide. And to this day it is said, “On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided.”

But unlike Isaac, who was bound by his father and then placed on the altar for sacrifice, Jesus was willing to die.  Indeed, it was for this purpose that He was sent by His Father. And Jesus was not bound and then placed on the cross of sacrifice; He was nailed to it after He had been violently abused, brutalized, and humiliated.  And here is the explanation that Jesus gave before the betrayal and trial and execution ever occurred:

John 10:14-18 (NIV)

14 “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me— 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16 I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd. 17 The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life—only to take it up again. 18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.”

A thought just came to mind.  There is a song by a band named Foreigner entitled: I Want to Know What Love Is. The chorus goes: “I want to know what love is, I want you to show me. I want to feel what love is, I know you can show me.” If a person made this his/her prayer to God, I believe God would respond: “I have shown you what love is.  You can know what love is.  You can feel what love is.  I have demonstrated my passionate, everlasting love to you and for you.  I have made known my love for you. His name is Jesus!”  The Apostle Paul prayed that believers would know this love:

Ephesians 3:16-19 (NIV)

16 I pray that out of His glorious riches He (God) may strengthen you with power through His Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

Yes, we can know the depth of His love … even though it surpasses our comprehension….  The Apostle John affirms this same knowledge:

1 John 4:10-16 (NIV)

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.

Indeed, “God has delivered us from the power (dominion) of darkness and transferred (brought) us into the Kingdom of the Son of His love,  in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins. He (Jesus, the Son) is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.” (Cf. Colossians 1:13-15) And this is the reason for the cross. Jesus is the revelation of the heart of God: of rescue … of redemption … of resurrection … of reconciliation. God sent His Son to accomplish ALL of these things because He loves us! Yes, the cross of Christ was ordained! It was commanded by the Father.  It was His will. The Lamb of God was slain before the foundation of the world. (Cf. Revelation 13:8) And what does He require?  A Response. Repentance. Reformation.  He says to us: “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—His good, pleasing and perfect will.” (Cf. Romans 12:2) And, “Therefore, prepare your minds for action; discipline yourselves; set all your hope on the grace that Jesus Christ will bring you when He is revealed. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. Instead, just as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct;for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.” (Cf. 1 Peter 1:13-16)

We remember the cross because it is an eternal symbol of God’s love for His creation.  We remember the cross because it is where Jesus was sent by the Father to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins … even the sins of the whole world. (Cf. 1 John 2:2) We remember the cross because there is, therefore, now no condemnation for our sins. (Cf. Romans 8:1) But I pray we are reminded: “Jesus Himself bore our sins in HIS Body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness.” (Cf. 1 Peter 2:24) As Paul asked: “How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?” (Cf. Romans 6:2) And Paul exhorted: “Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.” (Cf. Colossians 3:2-4)

I truly want us to remember the purpose of the cross … the crucifixion … that God would send His Son to die for us. I believe the purpose is evoke a response; and I think Paul articulates the response that God desires from each of us quite well:

Romans 6:1-14 (NRSV)

1 What then are we to say? Should we continue in sin in order that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin go on living in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we have been buried with Him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with Him so that the body of sin might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sinFor whoever has died is freed from sin. But if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with Him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over Him. 10 The death He died, He died to sin, once for all; but the life He lives, He lives to God. 11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. 12 Therefore, do not let sin exercise dominion in your mortal bodies, to make you obey their passions. 13 No longer present your members to sin as instruments of wickedness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and present your members to God as instruments of righteousness. 14 For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.

So, I will close with this passage:

Luke 9:23-24 (NIV)

Then Jesus said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it.

So Now You Know!

Have a Blessed Day!

Losing Your Soul…

Mark 8:36 (NIV)

What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?

We have read and studied this verse before; but in light of our recent series of Scriptures focusing on the spiritual health of men, I believe we should look at it again in that context….

Generally, I think men are more challenged with keeping a balanced perspective on their career and financial goals because we tend to be occupational or vocational centric … meaning we place a high value on what we do and accomplish in our jobs and professions – the money we earn from doing so – and the self-esteem we attach to our careers and bank accounts.  It is normal to have an interest or concern about household finances because of our deep-seated desire to be successful and consistent providers for our families.  But Jesus asks us a very pointed question: “What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?”  Another related question for men might be: “What good is it to “prosper” yourself in your work but lose your marriage or your children or your health in the process?”  In other words, Jesus calls us to give consideration to the greatest priorities we have in our lives and to not lose sight of what has more eternal impact on ourselves and those we love.

The Apostle Paul shared this perspective with a young man named Timothy – who he mentored and discipled in the faith.  Paul said, “For we brought nothing into the word, and we can take nothing out of it.” (Cf. 1 Timothy 6:7) Perhaps that is the sobering reminder we need to form a healthier view of the life God has granted to each of us. Life is a gift.  Everything we have is a gift. And while work and the enjoyment it brings to our lives is an important aspect of it … it is really only a context for us to discover, learn, and grow in the knowledge of God’s will for our us.  Consider a parable that Jesus shared with His followers:

Luke 12:16-21 (NIV)

16 And He (Jesus) told them this parable: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest. 17 He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’ 18 “Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain. 19 And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”’ 20 “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’ 21 “This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.” 22 Then Jesus said to his disciples: “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. 23 For life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. 24 Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap; they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds! 25 Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life? 26 Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest? 27 “Consider how the wild flowers grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 28 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you—you of little faith! 29 And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it. 30 For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them. 31 But seek His Kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.

Men … we need to take this lesson and its wisdom to heart.  God wants to do so much in our lives and through our lives … not only to conform us to the image of His Son … but to develop us for the good and well-being of others; especially our wives and children.  So our spiritual health is critical; and we need to exercise it regularly each day in prayer and study of the Word.  Every once and a while, you and I might need to reset our mindsets as my pastor has often encouraged me to do.  And as the Apostle Paul admonished, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—His good, pleasing and perfect will.” (Cf. Romans 12:2) So when life gets out of balance and when begin to focus more on work and career more than focusing on God, I pray we will set more time aside from our work and personal ambitions to rekindle His Kingdom in our hearts so we can truly flourish in our spirits for the positive influence it will have on our marriages, our children, and our relationships with others.  I assure you; it will be time well spent.  As the Apostle John wrote, “I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in good health – just as your soul prospers. (Cf. 3 John 2:2) Amen.

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

A Prayer For Power

Ephesians 3:14-21

14 For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15 from whom the whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. 16 I pray that out of His glorious riches He may strengthen you with power through His Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to comprehend how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. 20 Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all (exceedingly, abundantly above all – NKJV) we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, 21 to Him be glory in the Church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

We have a “power” full passage from the Book of Ephesians. Paul uses some exuberant language here to get believers focused on a core issue; namely, the POWER of the Holy Spirit and His function in your life.  Paul’s prayer is for us to be strengthened with the power of God’s Spirit in our inner beings … our souls.  Why?  “So that Christ may dwell in our hearts through faith!”  That is the bottom line of how we abide in Christ and He in us.  It is through His Spirit and no other avenue.  As Paul taught, “If anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, s/he is not His.” (Cf. Romans 8:9) And Paul goes on to pray that we might have this power of the Holy Spirit within us “to comprehend and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge – so that we may be will with all the fullness of God.” (Verses 18-19) This is incredible truth for us to examine and to incorporate into our theology … our understanding of God!  In addition, we need to understand that how God works in our hearts and lives is “according to HIS power”.  This “filling” of power to comprehend and spiritual know is not of ourselves. It is the gift of God … given to us through His Son, our Lord Jesus.

So, this is some great teaching for us to examine.  If we want more power for living; for knowing God in a more intimate way; and for conforming our lives to that of His Son … we need to pray for this power to become real within us.  The Holy Spirit has been sent to indwell (to fill) your inner being … and to give you the capacity to increase intimacy in your relationship with Jesus Christ.  The more you comprehend His love for you … the more you will become the man or woman God created you to be.  You will become like Jesus.  You will walk just as Jesus walked. (Cf. 1 John 2:6) It is not impossible. His power makes it possible. But remember Jesus told us, “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.” (Cf. John 15:5) Without Christ dwelling in our hearts, we can do nothing of spiritual value … nothing of eternal value.

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!

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!