Devotions - Saturday, August 18th, 2007

The Journey - Day 5

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Devotions - Saturday, August 18th, 2007

Postby Blipadouzi » Sat Aug 18, 2007 9:28 am

I haven’t touched this subject of love for a few days. The reason is simple: I don’t think I am sincere about it yet.

I believe that our biggest problem with learning to love like Jesus is that we believe we already do. Oh, in our words we will admit that we fall short and ,even in the insincerity of our hearts, I think we admit we fall short, but in that inmost place where thoughts become action I think we believe we are “there”. Perhaps we notice a few faults and errors but we quickly white wash over these. For the most part I think we really don’t get it.

I believe when someone wounds us with their words or their perceptions of us we forgive them with words (it is the Christian thing to do) but in our hearts we hold on to resentment. I think we are very much caught up in self-preservation. Don’t believe me? Consider the scripture from Galatians again:

“The acts of the sinful nature are obvious:…hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy …”

Again I omit the items we all readily agree are from our sinful nature, but what about these ones which we may consider part of our “human” nature (just another name for sinful nature)? What about these? How have they figured in your week? Remember I am not accusing you of anything but instead I am softening the blow in my self-examination by including you. Terrible, isn’t it? Perhaps my ego is too fragile to face a full frontal blow. So allow me be honest by using a few objects of my love: my son.

My son is both a great source of delight and frustration in the same breath. I love him dearly and yet fail to show that in my response to him. Mind you, I have been involved in a ministry that has left me exhausted almost every day for the last four years. My response tends to be a reaction born out of that exhaustion. Sound like an excuse to you? Yeah, to me too. Every time I try to use this excuse the Spirit brings to mind this passage:

“So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place. But many who saw them leaving recognized them and ran on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them. When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things.”

John had just been beheaded, his disciples had just returned, Jesus wanted some time alone with them, he must have been exhausted, yet when he arrived for rest there was a crowd waiting. Jesus looked at them and was moved by compassion, so great was his love. People have said to me, “But he’s God, you aren’t. Your reaction in your exhaustion is normal. Don’t be so hard on yourself.” But one scripture destroys all of that: “Love each other as I have loved you.” Can I say that I have loved my wife, my children, my parents, my brothers and sisters, my friends with this love this week? If I can’t answer this in the affirmative how can I say that I love God? John argued:

“If anyone says, "I love God," yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen.”

Let’s be as honest with ourselves as we can manage. Do we honestly know the love of Jesus Christ? Have we honestly experienced it? Until we are able to call black "black" and white "white" we will not be able to explore the incredible depth of this love:

“If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”

Jesus cannot deal with this until we recognize it and confess it. I here and now publicly declare that I lack the love of Christ and being found in this condition often fail the two greatest commandments:

"Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?" Jesus replied: " 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments."

Again, please be patient as I draw the same conclusion over and over again. This is my journey and I am desperate for these truths to come alive in me. Jesus said, “All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

Paul wrote: “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.”

Nothing. Is it really a matter of nothing? Did everything you do this week flow from that river of love? Did you have any wicked thoughts against anyone? Did you allow the things in your heart to take flight in the spoken word? Did you judge anyone? Criticize anyone? (We always find a reason to justify that). Did you reject anyone? Did you fail to respond to someone’s need? Did you try to explain something outside of love? Did you become angry and frustrated? Did anything happen in your week that did not flow from the life of Christ? If so, then what you did counted for nothing.

“If anyone says, "I love God," yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen.”

Hatred is really the absence of love. To fail to help someone in need is a form of hatred. But we are not the only ones to struggle with our failure to grasp the love of Jesus. Continue in this sacred passage:

“Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.”

Do you understand this? I didn’t for the longest time. I understood it in theory but until I confessed my lack of love I did not see the struggle that was conveyed here. With spiritual maturity comes the correct placement of priorities. In the light of love prophecies, tongues, knowledge all take a backseat. This whole passage must be understood in the growing understanding of the love of Jesus. Let me take a bit of liberty with the last sentence: “Now I love in part; then I shall love fully, even as I am fully loved.” I do not believe this means when we stand in the full measure of his grace but instead as we enter into a fuller understanding of his love.

Consider Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians: “And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, 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.”

There is obviously more to this incredible prayer but this is the part I want us to read over and over again. For me it starts at that place of faith where we become “rooted and established in love”. It is painfully obvious to me when the Church, and thus I, have gone wrong. It has become too easy to follow the program. It is too easy to allow actions to take priority over heart. It has become too easy to allow busyness and noise to crowd out silence and holy communion. Do we even know how to allow Jesus to speak to us? We all enjoy the music. We all are spoken to and express ourselves in the deep place through songs that express our longing and which melodies seem to carry us to the throne of God itself. Yet, the deeper things, the greater things, the real changes often take place in those quiet moments when we allow God to speak to us directly. These are those moments when Father often picks us up in his arms and holds us while he sings and whispers over us.

The spiritual secrets of great people of faith such as Hudson Taylor, John Bunyan, Andrew Murray and a host of others is the assurance of God’s love in action conveyed in those moments of being “rooted and established”. They were able to “grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ” and as a result were able to fulfill the second commandment of loving our “neighbour”. But if we think we are already there how will this ever be?

I need to practice the abiding presence of my Jesus if I ever hope to grasp his love. I must grasp his love if I ever hope to love as he has loved me. I must find the quiet times throughout my day. I must make him the absolute center of every action and every relationship, of every thought. I must die so he may live.

I part with this warning ringing through my heart:
“I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked men, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false. You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary. Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love. Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place.”
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