The Kind of Love that Marks a Christian


Reposted From Crosswalk.com

Who God Loves above All Others

Why does the Great Commandment instruct us to love God first, others second? Because this is the order in which God himself loves. God’s love did not begin in Genesis 1:1. It is eternal, existing before creation, having found eternal expression within the Trinity. It required no object outside the Godhead. We love because he first loved us. He loves us, having first and eternally loved himself.

Self-love is not always commendable in humans. While loving ourselves accurately is good, and even necessary for loving our neighbor, the Bible also speaks to the negative category of those who are “lovers of self” (2 Tim. 3:2). We have all known people whom we would label as an egotists, those who think of themselves more highly than they should. Egotism is an impossibility for God. He is irreproachably a lover of self, being the only one worthy of total love. For God not to love himself would be irrational. God’s worth is infinite, making him alone worthy to receive infinite self-love, as well as the unqualified adoration and veneration of everything in creation. It is impossible for anyone, including God, to love God too much.

We Can Love the Love of God Too Much

But it is possible for us to love the love of God too much. We do this when we emphasize the love of God at the expense of his other attributes. Sin can cause us to love a version of God that is not accurate. This is the basic definition of idolatry, a disordered love. Ironically, one of the most common forms our idolatry takes is the disordered love of the love of God. The overemphasis of God’s love is even evident in non-Christians. They may know very little of the Bible, yet many know and are quick to quote the truism that “God is love” (1 John 4:8). The statement “My God is a God of love” often has as its subtext the idea that his love precludes him ever acting in wrath or justice, or in any way that does not fit our human conceptions of love.

All of God’s Actions Are Loving

But God’s love is both holy and infinite, which means that all his actions are loving, even when we cannot perceive them to be so. Not only are all his actions loving, but all he withholds or refrains from doing is also loving. When God acts in Scripture in ways we perceive to be unloving, the problem is not with his actions but with our limited perspective. When we endure hardship or loss, we may be tempted to question whether God loves us. This is why the Bible takes such care to remind us that hardship and loss are to be expected in this life. Hardship and loss are agents of separation, but nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ. It is high and long, wide and deep, and if we fix our eyes on it, perhaps we may be able to begin to grasp some of that even in this lifetime.

And as we grasp it, we can then press it upon our neighbor.

Love without Bounds

Once we recognize that the love God has bestowed upon us is not merely an emotion but an act of the will, we are forced to reevaluate how we love others. Specifically, we must reevaluate our categories. No longer can we parse our fellow humans into the categories of “lovable” and “unlovable.”

If love is an act of the will—not motivated by need, not measuring worth, not requiring reciprocity—then there is no such category as “unlovable.” This is what Jesus teaches in the parable of the good Samaritan. When the lawyer seeks to qualify the meaning of the Great Commandment by asking, “And who is my neighbor?” (Luke 10:29), Jesus responds with a story about a man who shows love to the “unlovable.” It is, of course, a story about himself—and a story about everyone of us who has received rescue at his hands. As the parable is careful to illustrate, it is a costly and unsought rescue, an unsought rescue, bestowed upon an undeserving recipient

Love, No Matter the Cost

The costliness of agape is evident in the cross. Thus, those who resolve to take up their cross resolve to love as Christ loved, in a costly manner.

When we begin to follow Christ, we resolve to love God even if it costs us. And it does cost us—it costs us our pride, our comfort, our self-will, our self-sufficiency. At times, it costs us amicable relationships with family, our expectation of safety, and more. But in laying these aside, we learn the worthiness of the object of our love in a deeper way. We find increasing freedom, and as we mature, we resolve to love God no matter what it costs us.

Loving Our Neighbor Costs

When we begin to follow Christ, we resolve to love our neighbor even if it costs us. And it does cost us—it costs us our preferences, our time, our financial resources, our entitlement, our stereotypes. At times, it costs us our popularity, respect, and more. But in laying these aside, we learn the brokenness of the object of our love in a deeper way. We find increasing empathy, and as we mature, we resolve to love our neighbor no matter what it costs us.

This is the kind of love that marks believers as distinct from the world. What is the will of God for your life? That you love as you have been loved. When faced with a decision, ask yourself: Which choice enables me to grow in agape for God and others? And then choose according to his will.

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When You Lose Your Belief


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Reposted from Radical Mentoring

There’s a finite amount of belief in a person. You can’t create more belief. You can move your belief around, believe more of one thing and less of another, but each human has a unique capacity for belief.

Here are a couple of controversial examples. Colin Kaepernick lost his belief in standing for the national anthem. It was overtaken by his belief that our country “oppresses black people and people of color.” No matter where you come out on his protest, it has clearly cost him. Right or wrong, he’s suffered for his beliefs, becoming a divisive and unemployed quarterback.

Edward Snowden lost his belief in obeying the law and leaked classified information. His stated reason for those actions was his belief that our right to privacy was so strong, it outweighed his belief in the government. I don’t know how much he’s suffered. I know he can’t come home and is living in exile as far away from law enforcement as possible.

A lot of folks who call themselves Christians seem to have lost their belief. Their desire not to be known as ‘overly religious’ has overtaken their desire to be active, engaged, and public about their faith. Rather than suffer embarrassment or rejection or conflict, they’ve chosen to blend in rather than stand out. They’ve drifted from Christian values to become like everyone else.

Have you lost your belief? Has fear of rejection driven you into a spiritual ‘shell’ like a turtle’s? Has your need for approval overtaken your calling to be faithful and true to your Heavenly Father? He’s ready and willing to give you the courage to come back. All you have to do is ask.

Not an Experience


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Worship is not an experience. Worship is an act, and this takes discipline. We are to worship in spirit and in truth. Never mind about the feelings. We are to worship in spite of them. – Elisabeth Elliot

The Believer’s Purpose


God has a purpose for your life. If that weren’t true, He’d have taken you home to heaven at the moment of salvation. Do you ever wonder why He left you here?

The Lord intends to influence others through you. Our purpose is to be a vessel through which Christ overflows to others–touching those who hurt and desperately need a Savior. Once we are saved, Scripture teaches, our involvement is threefold.

First, we love others. Jesus clearly stated that this was one of the two greatest commandments (Matt. 22:38-39).

Second, we share the good news of salvation (Acts 1:8). Some travel across the world to spread the gospel, while others teach neighbors across the street. The Holy Spirit will direct us to the right people if we are willing to obey.

Third, we serve in a variety of ways, like helping those in need, sharing our resources, and lifting others in prayer. Jesus is our perfect example of all three. His entire life was marked by caring for people–both those who loved Him and those who did not. In fact, the Bible teaches that He humbled Himself and became like us, willing to give up His life for our redemption. There is no greater love; there is no greater act of service.

Scripture clearly defines the believer’s purpose. Aligning ourselves with God’s intentions for His children–loving others, witnessing, and serving– bring us great satisfaction. In fact, we’re still on earth not merely to hear more teaching but to act on it and share with others what we learn.

Reposted from In Touch Ministries

Spiritual Gifts


ll the billions of Christ followers over the last two-thousand years have this in common:  “A spiritual gift is given to each of us” (1 Corinthians 12:7). God’s body has no nobodies. No exceptions…no exclusions. Our gifts make an eternal difference only in concert with the church. Apart from the body of Christ, we are like clipped fingernails or shaved whiskers and cut hair. Who needs them? He grants gifts so we can “prepare God’s holy people” (Ephesians 4:11-12).

Paul reached into a medical dictionary for this term. Doctors used it to describe the setting of a broken bone. Broken people come to churches. Not with broken bones, but broken hearts, broken homes, broken dreams, and broken lives. And if the church operates as the church, they find healing.  All members help to heal brokenness, “to make the body of Christ stronger!”

Reposted from Max Lucado

Worship


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Reposted from Max Lucado

Worship adjusts us. It lowers the chin of the haughty and straightens the back of the burdened.  It bows the knees, singing to him our praise.  Opening our hearts, it offers to him our uniqueness. Worship properly positions the worshiper.  And oh how we need it!

We walk through life so bent out of shape.  Cure any flare up of commonness by setting your eyes on our uncommon King.  Worship lifts our eyes and sets them “on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits at God’s right hand in the place of honor and power” (Colossians 3:1).

We worship God because we need to.  But our need runs a distant second to the thoroughbred reason for worship: God deserves it.  God would die for your sin before he’d let you die in your sin. What do you do with such a Savior?  You lift up your gift in worship.