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Love Perfected, pt. 1

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But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

Something I’m noticing about love is that it is all about relationship.  As I’ve said before, I think love is essentially viewing and relating to others based on the finished work of Christ, even when they are dwelling in and acting from their selfish, fearful, ignorant, and often ugly flesh nature.  Within the finished work of Christ, ALL men have died and been reconciled.  It’s true, of course, that many are unable or unwilling to accept this truth and walk in it (fear resists doing so, as it continually requires giving up what had been known as your “life”).  The thing about love is, even if another can’t or won’t accept their reconciliation and walk in it, we can accept it for them, and deal with them accordingly.  This is what Paul meant in 2 Corinthians 5:16 when he wrote that we are to “regard no one according to the flesh.”  I believe that doing this is the essence of what is known as “mercy”! 

Again, love is all about relationship, so if love is present, it will have a drastic effect on the way we view and treat others, with foolishly extravagant kindness and patience and generosity and forgiveness.  For example, let’s look at 1 Corinthians 13, verses 4-8 (WEB).  This chapter famously points out several of love’s attributes, nearly all of which have to do with the way we relate to other people.  My comments are in blue:  Love is patient and is kind (toward others); love doesn’t envy (what others are or have); Love doesn’t brag (doesn’t focus on itself); is not proud (doesn’t look down on others); doesn’t behave itself inappropriately (toward others); doesn’t seek its own way (but the way of others); is not provoked (by others); takes no account of evil (done to it by others); doesn’t rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth (notices and cultivates whatever is of the truth in others); bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things (for the sake of others). Love never fails (it can’t, because it’s based on an unchangeable, FINISHED work).  

1 Corinthians 13 is unique, but there are other scriptures which make this same point nearly as clearly:

  • 1 John 3:16-18:  By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers (“our life” largely consists of the rights and demands of our flesh, including many that are legitimate and acceptable!). But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? (Divine love will never see a brother in need without helping as it is able). Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.”

  • John 15:12-13 This is my commandment, that you love one another, even as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.”  –I don’t understand all this perfectly, but it seems to me the reason the greatest love is laying down your life for the sake of others is because doing so IS love, in it’s matured/perfected state!!!  We should love one-another as ourselves, remembering that though we don’t all have the same faith, or the same gifts, we are all part of one new birth into one spirit, and none of us have life outside of this.  As 1 John 3:16 says above, we “know love” because it was first expressed by Jesus Christ, who dealt with us not according to law or our weak flesh, but according to the mercy, grace and will of God.

  • Ephesians 5:1-2: “Be therefore imitators of God, as beloved children. Walk in love, even as Christ also loved you, and gave himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling fragrance.”  -The “incense” God truly enjoys is the expression of genuine love, founded on truth and wisdom. 

  • Colossians 3:12-14: “Put on therefore, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, a heart of compassion, kindness, lowliness, humility, and perseverance; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, if any man has a complaint against any; even as Christ forgave you, so you also do.  Above all these things, walk in love, which is the bond of perfection.”  -Love is what underlies these virtues, ensuring they endure and mature.

  • Luke 6:31-38: “As you would like people to do to you, do exactly so to them.  If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? (None). For even sinners love those who love them.  If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same.  If you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to receive back as much. (Such love is immature at best.  It isn’t based on the death and reconciliation made by one for all).  But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing back; and your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High (you will be following the example of Jesus Christ and living according to the spirit which was poured out due to the reconciliation initiated in and by him); for he is kind toward the unthankful and evil. “Therefore be merciful, even as your Father is also merciful.  Don’t judge, and you won’t be judged. Don’t condemn, and you won’t be condemned. Set free, and you will be set free.  “Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over, will be given to you. For with the same measure you measure it will be measured back to you.”

I hope to make a “part 2” soon, in which I want to take these things a bit further, examining Jesus’ reply when asked what the greatest commandment was.  Interestingly, asked to give the one greatest commandment, he replied with TWO.  As you probably know, the first is essentially to love God with all your being.  Jesus then gives a second commandment, saying it is LIKE the first, which is to love others as yourself.  Why did he give two when asked for only one, and what does he mean that the second is “like” it?  I hope to look at those things in a second part to this, hopefully soon.  God bless you guys!

 
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Posted by on September 6, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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Judge Not Lest Ye Be…Blind?

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“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye’; and look, a plank is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”1 -Jesus

I recently re-read this parable, and purely as a gift I was able to see it from a new angle that amazed me. I always thought this parable was basically about being careful of judging others because I’ll be judged in the same way (which is true and amazing on its own). But what I saw is that the real issue Jesus is discussing here is much bigger; what he’s really discussing is sight. Judgment becomes a blockage to the bigger issue of our ability to “see,” as well as our ability to help our brother to see (perceive spiritual reality as it is in Christ, without filter or distortion).

According to the greatest prophet who ever lived, if a fellow believer has something hindering their spiritual perception/vision, you cannot help them if you approach them with an attitude of judgment, condemnation, or criticism. That very attitude becomes a greater hindrance to your own sight than the one you’re trying to remove in your brother. I think this is why Jesus referred to those who try to help others while judging them as hypocrites. It becomes another scenario of the blind leading the blind, and both of you will end up wandering off the way and into a ditch.

An attitude of judgment and criticism comes from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. This tree/source makes one more aware of natural things such as the law, sin, and self; things that the religious people whom Jesus called “sons of hell” are very aware of and fond of talking about, but things that God doesn’t deal with. We need to start eating from and leading others to the Tree of Life once again, where there’s no condemnation, but grace, mercy, truth and Life. One of my favorite scriptures is John 1:4, which says:  In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.” Jesus was full of LIFE, and it’s only that life that dispels and conquers the darkness and death that are within us and which often cover themselves with religion.

Again, the “plank” in the eye that Jesus talked about is an attitude or heart of judgment. The main lesson in this teaching isn’t that we have to quit sinning before we can confront the sin in someone else, it’s that if we confront someone in an attitude of judgment, we become more blind than they are and cannot truly help them to see reality in the spiritual realm (in light of the cross).  Jesus did not come to condemn the world, but to save it. He said he judges no man, but came to seek and save the lost.2  Certainly, Jesus was far from the emasculated lovey-dovey figure many have made of him, and he often stressed the need for repentance and the severity and hardship of being his disciple. Nevertheless, he didn’t come telling the world how terrible they were (he saved that for the religious hypocrites). Instead, he came declaring truth and made a way, the way, for reconciliation with God. Paul wrote “God was in Christ, reconciling the world to Himself, not counting men’s sins against them.”3 This is good news to those who love God, because the way has been opened – not the way to get to heaven and have a pleasurable existence, but to have the honor of knowing God and participating in building His kingdom as a son or daughter.

 

  1. Matthew 7:1-5, NKJV
  2. John 3:17, 8:15; Luke 19:10
  3. 2 Corinthians 5:19
 
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Posted by on December 28, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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Gnats and Camels

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier provisions of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others. “You blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel!  -Jesus

I think few come close to realizing what a fearless warrior Jesus was for God’s kingdom! Do you know how much it cost him to obey his Father and speak truth so forcefully? It cost him just about everything that most believers hold dear. Stop and think about it; by saying what he did in the way he did, he lost: the opportunity for a large ministry platform, legitimacy in the world’s eyes, an opportunity for a prosperous or “quiet and peaceful life,” the loyalty of many of his closest followers, and his very physical health and safety. He lost just about everything men hold dear in this life by confronting the perpetrators of religion so harshly. We should honor him for that, because He did this in honor and obedience of his Father, the same Father we have, and his words remain as a foundation for us today.

Jesus says something memorable in Matthew 23 that I believe is a key part of the Pharisaical heart: “you strain out a gnat and swallow a camel!”  This is a simple but profound idea he is getting at.  He was essentially saying they emphasized and were meticulous in the minor details, i.e. the “gnats,” such as giving a tenth of their spices and produce, but they neglected or cast off the weightier, more important issues such as justice(meaning judgment and examination), mercy, and faith.  

I heard a popular Christian teacher say on the radio recently that the Greek word translated “religion” means “observer of outward righteousness.”  It’s root is pride and self-focused fear.  With the Pharisees then and the religious today, external observances are emphasized to the neglect of the inward constitution of the heart, because external things are easily regulated and don’t require one to deny selfSelf can be very religious.  Internal qualities such as mercy and faith, which accompany love, require spiritual substance and denial of self.  These are actually harder to attain and more costly than restraining your flesh or giving of your income or possessions.

I have more respect and honor for someone who is seeking God but still dealing with issues of their flesh than I do for one who is outwardly righteous but prideful or cold towards God’s heart.  I think God feels the same.  Make the inward, “weightier” things such as love, mercy, compassion, and self-denial your focus.  Seek God’s heart, seek to know Him and to do His will out of honor.  His grace will change your heart as you diligently seek and encounter His presence and hear His voice, speaking present Truth.  Amen.

 

 
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Posted by on October 10, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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