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 Post Post subject: Devotions - Saturday, August 11th, 2007
Posted: Sat Aug 11, 2007 6:47 am 
Catspaw knows all

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That statement does not go away so easily; “Love each other as I have loved you.” It refuses to fade. Oh, I understand that there are different kinds of love that touch us on different levels. There are much more intelligent scholars who have explored all that and who have written a great many books. But I believe Father’s love is both profound and simple and is as practical as Jesus demonstrated. I think we must explore beyond this one statement. Let’s put it in context.

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

There is a lot here and I want to examine it all. In fact, I think to have a true understanding of how Jesus has loved me and how I am expected to respond to this love I must examine this entire section of John’s gospel. But for just this moment I want to meditate on what follows “as I have loved you”. And that is this: “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” Obviously the cross comes to mind but I think it is very much what I was looking at yesterday. Yes, our physical death is the ultimate sacrifice but I think this cannot be given without the greater sacrifice of our heart and attitude. The easiest thing would be to die physically and not have to live with the consequences of it. But what about the living death that we are commanded to live every day of our life?

“Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.”

“Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus.”

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.”

Are these not all the same statements pointing to the life Jesus lived as an example for us before his death? He set us an example, did he not, of what it was to live a living death? This attitude seems to be the living testimony of Father’s love:

“Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:
Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,
but made himself nothing,
taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to death—
even death on a cross!”


Okay, okay, I am just rehashing yesterday’s consideration. Let’s get on with it; connect the dots. Let’s consider this statement; “For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it.” It’s interesting that John is the only one who did not record this statement. Is this not the very definition of a living death? We use that term in such a negative light yet it is the term that best describes a believer, one who is dead to himself but is alive in Christ. I think it is only in this state of being that Father’s love is able to flow freely in us and through us.

Again, let us contrast our life, our attitude in the light of Father’s expectations of us. Expectation is not a strong enough word. Jesus told us that it was a command that we love each other with the same love that he loved us. A total giving, sacrificial, self-denial love that not once allowed concern for self to get in the way. People say it is impossible and yet Jesus commanded it of us. However, look at our pathetic lives today. Is there any other word to describe us other than selfish?

So I come back to that question again, how can I love as Jesus loved? I can’t, unless I give up absolutely everything and I mean everything so that I may be possessed by Jesus. It is a relationship we do not fully understand. Father is madly in love with us. He has pursued us, romanced us and given us as a bride to his son, Jesus. But it is not a relationship as we see it in this world. Jesus lives in us and us in him so that he is in us and over us. It is a thing of great and small proportions. It is a thing of romance; a thing of trust. It is a choice Father made and if we ever want to follow that command of love we must understand and act upon this simple fact: “Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.”

We do not produce the fruit. It is impossible. We can’t. But it is our responsibility to bear it. The Spirit produces the fruit: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” Love! You see that? Top of the list; love.

Now let’s get honest here. We may get a bit sweaty and dirty over this. Does this describe us? Can we say that we walk in Jesus’ footsteps? Can we say that we are great lovers as Jesus is a great lover? If we are not living by the Spirit than what are we living by? Our human nature of course. I find some of the items on Paul’s list of the fruit of our human nature interesting: “hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy”. Recognize any of that? I do. I do every day in my life. And I wonder why I struggle to love as Jesus loves.

Let’s consider how involved he is with us on this level of relationship. First, he is always with us. It is what he promised. Is that our attitude toward people? Do we want to be part of their life? If they invite us in do we enter in freely and gladly, giving over our desires for them? Do we place limits on the type of people we will associate with? Did and does Jesus? It seems he liked to hang out with the unlovable and they responded to him because of it. In fact, he seemed quite comfortable with them. Are we like that every day of our lives, at work, at home, at play, at church? Am I like that? I see that I seemed to have moved away from that and moved toward a more private life. Of course I have legitimate reasons. I give of myself all the time so I deserve some “me” time. Isn’t that what any good counselor would tell you, Christian and other wise? Hmmmm. The only “me” time I see Jesus took was to have intimacy with Father and that was usually at times when everyone else was busy doing things like sleeping.

I learned my lesson from yesterday. Today the door to my study is open. I have been interrupted about seven times. I have chosen to allow a change and a difference to take place here. My children need to know that my love for them elevates them above my own desires. I am responding in this way because I have seen that in Jesus. The Spirit has prompted it in me and because he has he has also given me the grace so that peace remains. That is a partnership that works beautifully. He shows me the truth. I respond to the truth. He makes the changes in me to enable me to live according to the truth.

Now, Jesus is not just with me, he loves me intimately. Because he loves me in such an unselfish manner he has come to know everything about me? Perhaps we can’t know everything about everyone who we have been given to love, but are their interests as important to you as your own? In this I fail miserably. My wife has pointed that out a number of times. Whatever I consider to be important becomes the priority. It doesn’t matter what her interests are or those of my children, mine take priority. It wasn’t always that way. So why the change? Understand I am being brutally honest here. To answer this question let’s consider this scripture:

"As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father's commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.”

“Now remain in my love.” We don’t enter his love through obedience. His love is freely offered by grace, not dependant on us. He will always love us no matter what we do to him. But, in order for us to remain “in” his love we must obey his commands. Ironic that the command we are looking at is loving each other as he loved us. So, failure to obey this command causes us to step out of his love. We are able to step back into it through acknowledging what we have done and receiving his forgiveness, but the idea is to always remain in his love.

The fact is, I have longed to be his greatest servant. That has always been my desire, not out of pride but out of love. In the same way John longed to respond to Jesus’ love so have I, with complete obedience and an honest desire to be the greatest servant to others. Wow, have I changed. I have changed by becoming disobedient in many lesser areas of my life. The natural reaction is to mimic proper behaviour to try and get back to what once I was and beyond. But you can’t get anywhere with God by human effort. It’s like a drowning man: the harder he struggles to save his life the greater the chances are he will lose it. A drowning man must become relaxed and make minimal effort and allow himself to be rescued. Spiritually, the harder I try the more I block the Spirit. The more I surrender, the more I die, the greater his ability to bring me life. Hmmm … sounds familiar: Trying to save my life I lose it, willing losing my life I save it.

How can I love as Jesus loves? By dying as Jesus died. Jesus came as a servant, obedient to Father’s will. Obviously we need to examine this more. I think we need to consider what John recorded in this section. Perhaps we will look at that tomorrow.

The fact is that we all seem to be unproductive in this matter of love. We cannot impact anyone for Jesus without it. It is the essence of all things. We run after prophecies, signs and wonders, great sounding orators, fantastic music, crowds, great social programs and all this and we forget what Paul said:

“If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.”

Some think they do it with love but if they are honest they will discover that it is a self-seeking natural love. It lacks the power of transformation. No, most of what we do will not last the cleansing flames of eternity. It is a shame. A simple glass of cold water offered from the love of Jesus will have more impact than a hundred multimillion dollar church programs. Every writer in our new testament touched on this. I will leave us today with Peter’s words on being productive through Jesus’ love:

“His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.

“For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But if anyone does not have them, he is nearsighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins.

“Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure. For if you do these things, you will never fall, and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”


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