When God Gives Up

When God gives up

God’s patience and longsuffering are some of the qualities I appreciate most about Him. He works and waits so patiently to draw sinful and resistant people to Himself. He picks us up a thousand times when we fall. He forgives us when we confess the same sin repeatedly.

But we can’t presume upon Him. We can’t put Him off, either for salvation or for obedience, for ever. We can’t expect Him to just wait in the wings until we get good and ready to come to Him.

God was patient with Israel’s complaining and unbelief when He first brought them out of Egypt. They had been captive slaves for 400 years. Surrounded by paganism, they probably had not been taught much about God and His ways. But after seeing His power displayed in the plagues, at the Red Sea, in providing for water and food in the middle of a desert, more of them should have started trusting Him. He even forgave them when they built a golden calf and worshiped it instead of Him.

But finally, when they refused to go into the promised land even with reassurances that God would help them conquer, that was enough. God deemed that they would wander around the wilderness for forty years until that generation died off. Then their children would be able to enter in.

God still loved them and worked with them. But they forfeited their opportunity to enter into their rest.

But my people did not listen to my voice;
    Israel would not submit to me.
So I gave them over to their stubborn hearts,
    to follow their own counsels.
Oh, that my people would listen to me,
    that Israel would walk in my ways!
Psalm 81:11-13

It’s sad to think that disobedience and unbelief could be so costly for God’s people. But it’s even scarier for those who refuse to believe on Him at all.

In Romans 1, Paul tells about God’s wrath against ungodly and unrighteous people who:

  • suppress the truth (v. 18)
  • did not honor God as God, even though evidence of “his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made” (vv. 19-21)
  • did not give thanks to him (v. 21)
  • “became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened” (v. 21)
  • “exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things” (v. 22) and “worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator” (v. 25)

Three times in the next few verses, we’re told God gave them up.

  • “God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity” (v. 24)
  • “God gave them up to dishonorable passions” (v. 26)
  • “God gave them up to a debased mind” (v. 28)

This commentary says these were degrees: God gave them up (or over, some translations say) bit by bit until they ended up with a debased mind. That debased mind led to “all manner of unrighteousness,” which Paul expands on in the rest of the passage.

C. S. Lewis has said, “There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, ‘Thy will be done,’ and those to whom God says, in the end, ‘Thy will be done.'” (from The Great Divorce). When we insist on our own way long enough, God lets us have it. And the results are never good.

Because they hated knowledge
    and did not choose the fear of the Lord,
would have none of my counsel
    and despised all my reproof,
therefore they shall eat the fruit of their way,
    and have their fill of their own devices. Proverbs 1:29-31

Because God is longsuffering, He doesn’t usually give people up at the first rejection. But at some point, the door of opportunity will be closed. We don’t know how much time we have. It’s wise not to wait. “Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation” (2 Corinthians 6:2).

It’s also not wise to put off obedience or the next step of faith God wants us to take.

When I have been reluctant to obey God at some point, I’ve had to confess my unwillingness and ask Him to help me be willing. One person said, “I’m willing to be made willing.”

When I have felt my heart wasn’t right and my will was being stubborn, I’ve prayed with Jeremiah, “Turn thou us unto thee, O LORD, and we shall be turned” (Lamentations 5:21, KJV) and with the psalmist, “Will you not revive us again, that your people may rejoice in you?” (Psalm 85:6).

The psalmist and the writer of Hebrews used Israel’s disobedience to plead, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts” (Psalm 95:6-11; Hebrews 3:7-8, 15). May our hearts always be pliable in His hands.

if you hear His voice do not harden your heart

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The Incredible Privilege of Drawing Near to God

The privilege of drawing near to God

In Old Testament times, God’s people were aware of a great distance between themselves and God.

One of the first times God met with the Israelites after they came out of Egypt, the experience was scary: “a blazing fire and darkness and gloom and a tempest and the sound of a trumpet and a voice whose words made the hearers beg that no further messages be spoken to them. For they could not endure the order that was given, ‘If even a beast touches the mountain, it shall be stoned.’ Indeed, so terrifying was the sight that Moses said, ‘I tremble with fear’” (Hebrews 12:18-21).

Getting a glimpse of God’s holiness brought people to their knees and made their sin stand out all the more in contrast. Isaiah reacted by saying, “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!” (Isaiah 6:1-7). Peter responded to Jesus, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord” (Luke 5:1-11). John, called the beloved disciple, “fell at his feet as though dead” (Revelation 1:9-19).

The children of Israel had to go through detailed rituals to have their sin forgiven. In Exodus they were instructed to build a tabernacle with an inner Holy of Holies which only the high priest could enter once a year. Leviticus had instructions for the different kinds of sacrifices. The tabernacles, sacrifices, and priesthood all carried wonderful symbolism of what Jesus would come to be and do. But at the time, the clearest message was that the people could not draw near to God without sacrifces and mediators because God was holy and they were not.

But even with all those rituals, “since the law has but a shadow of the good things to come instead of the true form of these realities, it can never, by the same sacrifices that are continually offered every year, make perfect those who draw near. (Hebrews 10:1).

But then Jesus came. The Savior, the Messiah promised ever since the first sin separated man from God. He fulfilled all the OT prophecies about Himself. His death was the reality pictured by the OT sacrifices for sin. At His death, the veil covering the Holy of Holies was torn open, signifying that the way was open to God.

Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. (Hebrews 10:19-22)

The OT sacrifices had to be offered continually because they were insufficient to take care of sin for ever.

But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified. (Hebrews 10:12-14)

The OT priests died and had to be replaced.

But he holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues forever. Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them. (Hebrews 7:24-25)

Though Jesus was God, He was also man. He was holy, but He faced temptation and weakness and dread.

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:15-16)

Jesus fulfilled the prophecies and symbolism given to the Jews. But what about the rest of us?

Remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.

How do we draw near? The verses above mention faith and cleansing: faith Jesus is who He claimed to be, faith that His atonement took care of our sins. This privilege is open to anyone willing to repent of sin and believe on Jesus as Lord and Savior.

And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. (Hebrew 11:6)

If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:6-9)

We have the incredible privilege to draw near to God—for salvation, for cleansing, for fellowship, for grace and help.

What a privilege to come into God’s presence,
Just to linger with the One who set me free.
As I lift m eyes and see His awesome glory,
I remember who He is and bow the knee.

-Ron Hamilton

For more information, see 4 Conditions to Draw Near to God.

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Easter Teaches Us of New and Better Life

Several years ago, we got word that a lady in our former church had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. She had been one of the merriest people I’d ever known. When we went back to that town for a visit, it was hard to see her in the church lobby looking confused and suspicious.

When our former pastor announced he had pancreatic cancer a few years ago, I was stunned that God would take someone in his prime with an active ministry and love for people who was doing so much good. Our pastor admitted he was going to have to take by faith that what God had for him in heaven was going to be so much better, because what he had on earth up til that time was pretty good.

I wondered why God would let one of His beloved children end up in pain or confusion.

But then I remembered this was not their end. Alzheimer’s and cancer were just stopping places in their long journey home. God promised that their sufferings would produce and eternal weight of glory.

 So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.. (2 Corinthians 4:16-18)

We get so caught up in the things we have to and want to do, our families, our ambitions, that we forget this world isn’t all there is.

We look forward to heaven . . . some day. But when we get there, we’ll probably wish we could have come sooner.

C. S. Lewis wrote to a friend of the unpleasant effects of aging: “the growing realisation that there were a great many things one wd. never have time to do,” studies one could never take up, facing retirement and “the infernal nuisance (to put it no higher) of patching up some sort of new life somewhere,” and so on. “I am therefore (with some help from the weather and rheumatism!) trying to profit by this new realisation of my mortality. To begin to die, to loosen a few of the tentacles which the octopus world has fastened on one.” He acknowledged that a good night’s sleep or a pleasant day would likely dispel his gloomy mood. But, he went on to say:

One ought not to need gloomy moments of life for beginning detachment, nor be reentangled by the bright ones. One ought to be able to enjoy the bright ones to the full and at that very moment have the perfect readiness to leave them, confident that what calls one away is better. . . (Letters of C. S. Lewis, October 15, 1949).

It was said of those in the “hall of faith” in Hebrews 11 that they desired “a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city” (verse 16).

I admit I am too caught up in the bright moments of this life. God kindly breaks in and turns my attention up and away to that world to come. “Eternal glories gleam afar . . .”

I’ve found a Friend, O such a friend! All pow’r to Him is given,
To guard me on my onward course, and bring me safe to heaven.
The eternal glories gleam afar, to nerve my faint endeavor;
So now to watch, to work, to war, and then to rest forever.

James G. Small, “I’ve Found a Friend, O Such a Friend

Easter speaks to me of many things—redemption, forgiveness, new life, and more. But this year it reminds me that this world and its pleasures and problems are temporary. We’re going to spend a lot more time in eternity than we did here. Are we ready?

Jesus came to earth as the Son of God, God in flesh. He lived a perfect life in our place because we never could. He died to take on the punishment for our sin so we wouldn’t have to. When we repent of our sin and believe on Him as Lord and Savior, His righteousness goes on our account: God sees Him instead of us.

Forgiveness of sin, His presence, His peace, his help, His grace—and heaven too!

Do you know Him? Are you ready for eternity?

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Disagreeing Like a Christian

how to disagree like a Christian

I’ve grieved the last few years over how angry and fragmented our society has become. Disagreements certainly aren’t new, but they seem to be more numerous and angry than I have ever seen.

Maybe it’s always been this way, and social media just brings it all out into the open. I don’t know.

But hatefulness and personal attacks seem more prevalent now than I have ever known.

I used to hear the phrase, “We’ll just have to agree to disagree.” People would discuss a point where they differed, come to an impasse, and set it aside. They didn’t let politics or policies come between their friendship. The issue in question might come up again, but they didn’t feel a need to hammer away at it every time they talked.

Nowadays, it seems people aren’t content to just disagree. They have to constantly poke at the issue on social media. They can’t stop with “I think you’re wrong.” They have to insinuate that people who think or do differently from themselves are stupid or somehow morally inferior.

It’s even more grievous when these zinger posts or snarky memes come at the hands of Christians.

Disagreements are inevitable. But is there a way to handle them without destroying our testimony or harming others or making things worse?

I think so. Here are some considerations.

Decide if it’s worth it to voice disagreement. You’ve heard the saying, “You don’t have to attend every argument you’re invited to.” Proverbs 26:17 says, “Like one who grabs a dog by the ears is a passerby who meddles in a quarrel not his own.” Paul told Timothy, “Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels” (2 Timothy 2:23).

Now, Paul certainly engaged in controversy. He had no problem taking a stand and even naming people who were wrong. But his arguments were over the truth of the gospel and godly practice. People could be led astray from the Lord by what false teachers were spreading, so Paul had to take a stand. But there were other “foolish, ignorant controversies” that it would do more harm than good to get into.

Paul also told Titus, another young pastor, “But avoid foolish controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about the law, for they are unprofitable and worthless” (Titus 3:9). He went on to say, “As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him, knowing that such a person is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned” (verses 10-11). There are some people who love to bait others, to stir up controversy, to do little but argue. We’ve had to unfriend some of these kinds of people on social media after a number of appeals were ignored. Proverbs 26:4-5 says, “Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest you be like him yourself. Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own eyes.” There are times to answer someone and times not to. We need God’s leading and wisdom to know which.

Keep in mind our purpose. If our motive is scoring points for our side, that’s just pride. That’s not a good enough reason to engage. If we want to correct what we consider wrong in a person’s thinking or change their minds, we can’t just blast away at them. We need to keep in mind our bigger purpose, over and above our current disagreement: to love and please God, to love and minister to people.

Keep the right tone. Paul went on to instruct Timothy, “And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will” (2 Timothy 2:24-26).

If I see something on Facebook or Twitter that gets me riled up, I know that’s not the time to respond. I have to give it enough time that I am not angry and I am thinking clearly. I lamented to my daughter-in-law recently that I had tried to be very careful and even on a certain controversial issue online, trying to state my case yet not provoke others. But other people seemed to just blast away without regard to whether they offended anyone else. I pondered out loud, “Why can’t I just say what I think?” She said, “Because the Holy Spirit in you is working.” I’m thankful He checks my spirit. I don’t always respond as I should, but I am trying.

James refers to “the meekness of wisdom” and says, “But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere” (James 3:13, 17).

Make sure we understand their position. We need to ask questions and repeat back to them what we think they’re saying. If you follow some Facebook and Twitter threads, you see some people are way off track from the original statement. Proverbs 18:13 says, “If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame.” The New Living translation puts it a little more colorfully: “Spouting off before listening to the facts is both shameful and foolish.” James says, “Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God” (James 1:19-20).

A fear years ago when I was a community guest columnist for the Knoxville News-Sentinel, someone took me to task over something I’d written. The only problem was, I had not said or implied what he inferred. But I could not seem to convince him that he had read into my writing what wasn’t there.

We need to be careful not to presume, infer, or extrapolate.

Look for areas of agreement. In today’s “cancel culture,” when a person publicly does one thing wrong or holds one unpopular opinion, they’re totally blasted on social media. But disagreeing on one point doesn’t mean we’re totally against everything the person says or stands for.

Acknowledge their strong points. Sometimes we think we need to demean or ridicule someone’s position in order to argue against it. That will only make them defensive and unwilling to listen. And often it’s dishonest.

In Andrew T. Le Peau’s book, Write Better, he says, “If we want to be honest persuaders, we will be on the lookout for and stay away from hasty generalizations, false analogies, demonizing opponents, avoiding or sidelining the central issue (that is, using red herrings), and more. Honesty means respecting the truth as best we can know it, respecting contrary viewpoints, giving due credit, and using logic” (p. 44). He points out that “presenting the arguments for these other viewpoints in as strong a form as possible” (p. 55) is not only honest, but doing so actually strengthens our own arguments and the solutions we offer.

Argue against the issue, not the person. We need to avoid getting personal. We don’t need to demean or put down the other person.

Avoid pride. My son commented that some positions are morally superior. That’s true. But if we defend them from a standpoint of pride or condescension, we’re not going to gain hearers.

Years ago, before Facebook and even message boards, people could gather together over shared interests through email subscription loops. Everyone who joined the loop would get all the emails of anyone who participated. I was on one for a medical condition around the time that stem cells began making news. Some of us were concerned about stem cells being harvested from fetuses. Others did not regard a fetus as a viable human being. The issue could have blown up into a shouting match and led to a division in the group. By carefully wording what we had to say, both sides were able to voice their concerns. We could come to a better understanding of each other even if we couldn’t agree.

Romans 14

In Romans 14, Paul discusses how to handle different convictions among Christians on issues where the Bible did not have clear dividing lines. He didn’t tell them to hammer things out until everyone was on the same page. He told them it’s possible to live in love and unity with others in the body of Christ even when people have different opinions. They weren’t to despise or judge each other (verses 3-4). They should do everything as unto the Lord—even if they were doing different things (verse 6). They should be “fully convinced in their own mind” (verse 5) and remember we’re all accountable to the Lord (verses 7-12). They needed to be careful not to cause others to stumble (verses 13-21).

One of the issues of that day concerned what was okay to eat. Paul reminded them, “Do not, for the sake of food, destroy the work of God.”

I’m afraid, in our zeal over controversy today, we haven’t put much thought into whether we’re destroying the work of God.

Jesus warned us that “on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak” (Matthew 12:36).

Most of these points take time and thought. And social media does not lend itself to context and nuance. Social media seems to thrive on drive-by barbs, on flinging verbal fuel for the fire rather than trying to put fires out. So social media may not be the best place to have meaningful discussions on hair-trigger issues. But It’s not impossible. We can let our lights shine there if we keep in mind God’s glory and our neighbor’s good.

Ephesians 4:29. Build each other up with grace

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How to Quiet Your Soul

How to quiet your soul

Has your soul been unquiet lately? The pandemic, civil unrest, the daily news, politics, social media bickering, and a host of other factors can disturb our peace.

We can’t live like ostriches with our heads in the sand. We need to live in but not of the world and minister to others. But what do we do when it all gets to be too much?

We all vary in how much news or social media is good for us. But when it’s too noisy in our souls, here’s how we can quiet them again:

Remember God’s love.

The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing. (Zephaniah 3:17)

In my early Christian days, when anything bad happened, my confidence in God’s love was shaken. How could He allow this if He loved me? What did I do wrong?

Though God sometimes uses calamities to discipline us, bad events aren’t always meant to chasten. He has many reasons for allowing trials and suffering. But He assures us of His love all through the Bible. We can rest secure in His love no matter what else is going on in the world.

Hope in God

Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God; For I shall yet praise Him, The help of my countenance and my God. (Psalm 43:5, NASB)

Other translations say disturbed, restless, or in turmoil in place of disquieted, but they all paint a similar picture. Like Peter on the water, we sink if we look at the storm. But if we keep our eyes on Jesus, we’ll be fine.

Wait on the Lord

“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.” The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him. It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord. (Lamentations 3:24-26)

Just before these verses in Lamentations, Jeremiah writes of his soul being bowed down, yet having hope because “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:20-23). God will take care of us and meet our needs, but we have to wait on His timing.

Trust the Lord

For thus said the Lord GOD, the Holy One of Israel, “In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.” But you were unwilling. (Isaiah 30:15)

Instead of sinking under the weight of trials. a quiet trust in God gives us strength to carry on.

The last phrase indicates that returning, rest, trusting, and quietness are related to our will (more on that in a moment). We need to deliberately turn to God and place our faith in Him. (Some good commentary on this verse is here, especially the one by MacLaren).

Quiet our souls

O Lord, my heart is not lifted up; my eyes are not raised too high; I do not occupy myself with things too great and too marvelous for me. But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child is my soul within me.(Psalm 131:1-2)

The commentaries and ESV Study Bible notes I consulted all seemed to emphasize the idea of contentment here. A baby would normally clamor to be fed in the way it was used to from its mother, but here an older child is content to “simply [have] its mother’s presence.” “So the faithful worshiper is content with God’s presence, even when there are many things he would like God to explain” (ESV Study Bible notes, p. 1109).

Feed our souls truth

Someone mentioned the other day that we can’t tell people who are struggling, “Just trust the Lord and everything will be okay.” We should be empathetic, and there are times friends just need a listening ear. The psalms are full of laments, crying out to God in the midst of deep pain, betrayal, confusion, or loss. Trite answers don’t help at those times.

Yet the psalmists at some point reminded themselves of God’s truth. In all but one or two of them, the writer ended up in a different frame of mind from where he started. He reminded himself of God’s love, power, wisdom, and other attributes. He reviewed times in the past when God had intervened on his behalf.

The passages mentioned above indicate action on our part. Isaiah 30:15 said the people were unwilling to be quieted. Psalm 131:2 says, “I have calmed and quieted my soul. “David encouraged himself in the Lord his God” when he was surrounded by trouble (I Samuel 30:6b). The writer of Psalm 42 prayed, poured out his soul, and then admonished himself, “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God” (verse 11).

We cry out to God for peace and rest of heart, and He ministers to us from His Word, His love, His providence. His Holy Spirit will “bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you” (John 14:26). Like the psalmists, we look to Him and hope in Him. And we join them is saying:

I sought the Lord, and he answered me
and delivered me from all my fears.
Those who look to him are radiant,
and their faces shall never be ashamed.
This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him
and saved him out of all his troubles.
The angel of the Lord encamps
around those who fear him, and delivers them.
Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good!

Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!
Psalm 34:4-8

When I looked up the definitions to one of the Greek words for “quiet” in one of these passages, one of them said that the same word was often translated “rest.” Rest would be another valuable word study, but it brought to mind this hymn: Jesus, I am Resting, Resting. May God give us grace to rest in Him today.

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Rejoice…with Trembling?

Worship includes awe

What defines worship for you?

Many associate worship with the singing time at church, although that’s not the only time and way we worship. But, even within that context, I think many would say they “feel” worshipful when their heart has been touched and they feel warm, cozy, loved, affirmed.

In our church’s reading through Leviticus this week, we came across quite a different worship experience:

The glory of the Lord appeared to all the people. And fire came out from before the Lord and consumed the burnt offering and the pieces of fat on the altar, and when all the people saw it, they shouted and fell on their faces. (Leviticus 9:23b-–24)

It’s not clear in the ESV translation above, but other translations say the people shouted for joy and fell face down.

What was the occasion of this reaction? Israel had left Egypt not long before, where they’d been for 400 years with only oral traditions of their faith, surrounded by pagan religions and cruelty. God was very patient with their grumbling and lack of faith at first. But after several manifestations of His power during the plagues in Egypt, His parting of the Red Sea for their deliverance, His provision of food and water and everything they needed, it sure seemed like they’d start trusting and obeying.

Instead, while He gave His law to Moses on the mountain, the people built a golden calf to worship.

God dealt with their idolatry severely. Now He had them camp for a while to teach them more about who He was and how He wanted to be worshiped. He gave them instructions to build a tabernacle with deeply symbolic accoutrements. He designated the priests and detailed their attire. Now He instituted the sacrificial system by which they could be forgiven, express their dedication, and fellowship with Him.

People had been sacrificing animals since the time of Noah. But now God designated specific rules and rituals that symbolized the coming Lamb of God, who would take away the sin of the world.

In Leviticus 9, the newly inducted priests offered the very first offerings under the new system.

God responded by manifesting His glory and sending fire to consume the offering.

The people responded by shouting for joy and falling on their faces.

I can understand shouting and falling face down. I’d likely be startled out of my wits by such a display. But joy? Shouting for joy and falling face down in awe seem like opposite reactions. But the Greek word for shout here indicates both being overwhelmed and joyful.

In Warren Wiersbe’s short commentary on Leviticus, Be Holy (Leviticus): Becoming “Set Apart” for God, he says of this verse:

The paradoxical response of the people helps us better understand the experience of worship, for they were both joyful and overwhelmed. There was joy in their hearts that the true and living God had deigned to dwell among them and receive their worship, but there was also fear as the people fell on their faces in awe. The two attitudes balance each other. “Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling” (Ps. 2: 11). Paul saw this as a desirable and normal experience in the local assembly (1 Cor. 14: 23–25). If our ministry doesn’t glorify God, then God can’t bless it and use it to help others and win the lost.

“Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling.”

This is not the only time where people fell on their faces in awe in the Bible.

Feeling warm and loved are wonderful parts of our relationship with the Lord. But I think we sometimes miss the awe, or we avoid it because we’d rather feel cozy.

But perhaps a sense of awe generated by a glimpse of God’s glory and power might do our souls better sometimes. Awe would encourage us to avoid sinning against such a holy God. It would assure us that God is more than able to take care of any need we have. It would remind us how small we are. And we would rejoice in His holiness, in His power, His care, and His gracious love to us.

Someone at my college used to say that worship is worth-ship—ascribing to God His worth. The more we come to know Him for who He truly is, the more we can worship Him in spirit and in truth.

Echoing the scene in heaven in Revelation, the last two stanzas of Charles Wesley’s hymn invite is to join in awe-filled worship:

“Salvation to God, who sits on the throne!”
let all cry aloud, and honor the Son;
the praises of Jesus the angels proclaim,
fall down on their faces and worship the Lamb.

Then let us adore and give him his right:
all glory and power, all wisdom and might,
all honor and blessing with angels above
and thanks never ceasing for infinite love.

Worship God with joy and awe

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Putting Ourselves Forward

When should we put ourselves forward?

Some years ago, a former pastor was speaking about the “selfie generation,” drawing parallels between self-promotion, self-interest, self-centeredness, etc. He mentioned in passing our youth pastor, a young man not long out of college who was very active on Facebook. The older pastor didn’t use the younger as a negative example. I think he just mentioned feeling a little awkward speaking about Facebook with one who knew how to use it so well.

It didn’t take long for the younger pastor to reduce his FaceBook presence. The only times he or his wife post anything any more is when they have a new baby. Of course, a growing family and ministry may have lessened his online time as much as the older pastor’s comment. But I miss hearing how the family is doing and seeing their updates. I suppose I could have, and should have, emailed or written them.

This is not a post for or against Facebook or selfies. Neither is sinful in itself. But incidents like these have caused me to wonder when talking about ourselves goes too far.

We’ve probably all known people who post more than we want to know or see on FaceBook.

On the other hand, we can’t help but speak about ourselves, our thoughts, opinions, etc. We can share examples of what other people have said, but mostly we can only share from our own frame of reference.

Sharing ourselves is part of being human, being a friend, ministering to others. 2 Corinthians 1: 4 tells us to “comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” What we write, speak, and share would sound clinical if we don’t put ourselves into it.

In my Christian college, each person in the dorms had to take turns sharing a devotional with the other members of their “prayer group,” which consisted of three rooms that met every evening. One particular roommate always struggled with what to share. Once she said, “I know what God has been teaching me, but how do I know if that’s what others need?” Well, we can only share out of what God has been teaching us. He’s probably showing us those things not only for our benefit, but also for those with whom we interact.

Once when a guest speaker was invited to speak at our church, he was in the middle of research for a book. He quipped, “If you want me to provide the meal, you’ll have to eat what’s cooking on my grill”—another way of saying he could only share what was primary in his own heart and mind at the time.

In Write Better by Andrew T. Le Peau, he suggests sharing something personal with one’s audience as a way to make a connection. But he acknowledges the difficulty:

Writing is a tightrope because on the one hand we are told as Christians not to think more highly of ourselves than we ought, and on the other we are told that as writers we should talk about ourselves so audiences can identify with us. By being vulnerable we can draw readers in and so help them benefit from our life and work (p. 190).

Here are some principles that I need to keep in mind.

God promises wisdom when we ask for it. I clearly need wisdom.

Do I listen before I respond? James says, “let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger” (James 1:19). We’ve probably all had the experience of someone telling us what we need to do when they clearly don’t understand the issue. Few things are more frustrating. I shouldn’t assume. Maybe I don’t even need to answer; maybe I just need to provide a listening ear or shoulder to lean on.

Do I show interest in others? I have one friend who asks lots of questions. After one time we were together, I realized that we had spent most of our time talking about what was going on in my life. Sure, I was mostly responding to her queries. But I neglected to ask about how she was doing. I have tried to rectify that in our subsequent visits.

Am I the star of my own narrative? Am I, in my own mind, the hero, the one who came up with the right answer or best solution and saved the day?

Now, sometimes we did come up with the best solution, and it’s not wrong to say so. Thomas Umstaddt, Jr. tells the story of Dr. Barry Marshall’s work on the cause and treatment of ulcers. His research led to a different theory than that of prevailing medical opinion. He was denied permission to conduct human trials. So he experimented on himself to prove his theory that ulcers could be treated with antibiotics. Thomas makes the point that it would have been wrong of Marshall to hold back his discovery because he didn’t want to put himself out there and promote his own work. He helped others by sharing his research.

In the apostle Paul’s writings, he had to stand fast on the truth and oppose false doctrine. He did so not because he couldn’t tolerate anyone else’s opinions, but because God’s glory and people’s souls were at stake.

So sometimes it’s right to share my research or solutions or whatever. But I need to make sure I don’t view every opinion or solution of mine in that way.

What is my motive? Am I seeking God’s glory or mine? Am I seeking to minister to people or seeking attention?

Am I operating from humility? As Andrew Le Peau stated above, the Bible does tell us, “For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think” (Romans 12:3). That doesn’t mean we put ourselves down. The verse goes on to say, “but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.” I like what C. S. Lewis said about humility: a truly humble man will “not be thinking about humility: he will not be thinking about himself at all.” Part of humility is acknowledging that all our gifts, talents, experiences, and the truth we know all comes from God.

Can I help? I have an inner, competitive, over-eager student who would squirm in my chair saying, “PIck me! Pick me!” if I weren’t so self-conscious. So, to combat that tendency, I often don’t answer in a group setting. But sometimes the poor teacher asks a simple question that she wants a quick answer to, and we’re all holding back because we don’t want to put ourselves forward. So going ahead and answering–as long as I am not monopolizing the conversation—is sometimes the best help to the situation. Or a hostess asks for people to help themselves to a buffet, but no one wants to go first. And we’re all holding up the evening’s activities and letting the food get cold. Sometimes it’s more self-forgetful in those situations to just do what’s needed. And sometimes God lays a burden to say something or brings a situation to our attention because He does want us to pitch in or share our perspective.

Some of us are like Peter: quick to jump in or to speak. Others of us are more like Moses or Gideon: we need a little convincing before we step out or speak up.

I’m drawn back to Matthew 5:16: “Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” Letting our light shine involves letting others see us and what we do. But our motive is that they might see Him, not glorify us.

I’m sure there’s much more that could be said on the subject of when and whether to put ourselves forward. But these are the thoughts I have at this time.

How about you? Have you wrestled these issues? What principles help you?

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Where Bible Reading Plans Go To Die

Our church uses a Bible reading plan that takes us through the whole Bible in about four and a half years. We discuss the week’s reading each Sunday morning. The man making the announcements last Sunday mentioned that we’d be starting Leviticus this week, “where Bible reading plans go to die.”

It’s true, isn’t it? How often have we begun January in Genesis with good intentions of reading the Bible, only to get bogged down by the time we get to Leviticus.

So we tell ourselves all those regulations don’t apply to us any more since the sacrificial system and feast days were fulfilled in Christ, and we move on to something more interesting. That is, if we haven’t given up our reading plan completely.

But there are several reasons New Testament Gentile Christians should still read Leviticus.

It’s inspired of God. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 says, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” God gave it to us and it’s profitable for us even though we don’t observe all the rituals in it.

It’s instructive. “For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope” (Romans 15:4).

The New Testament quotes from Leviticus and refers to it over 100 times according to Warren Wiersbe in Be Holy (Leviticus): Becoming “Set Apart” for God.

Key biblical truths are better understood with Leviticus as a foundation. Imagine growing up repeatedly bringing sacrifices for sin to the tabernacle or temple. Then imagine being stunned by this news:

And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified. (Hebrews 10:11-13)

Or imagine reading that the lamb for a burnt offering had to be perfect and without blemish and then finding that “you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot” (1 Peter 1:18-19).

Or imagine having the whole burnt offering in Leviticus 1 in mind when reading Romans 12:1: “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.

Sure, we can get some of these concepts in the New Testament on their own, but we get a fuller picture and a deeper appreciation when we understand the background of them.

It emphasizes holiness. Dr. Wiersbe writes in Be Holy, “The word holy is used 93 times in Leviticus, and words connected with cleansing are used 71 times. References to uncleanness number 128. There’s no question what this book is all about.”

A seminary professor taught a class on Leviticus. One assignment was to try to keep the regulations in Leviticus for a week and journal about the experience. One student wrote:

Every day, I found myself focused on thinking about ritual purity and impurity. Partway through the week, I realized that I was thinking about these things all day long and in every aspect of my life, and that’s when it hit me: God cares a lot about our purity and holiness. Not just from a ritual perspective, but also from a moral perspective. All day long and in every aspect of life, the Lord wants me to pursue purity in my heart, in my life, in my actions. He wants me to reflect his holiness in all that I do. I have been treating holiness way too lightly! O Lord, help me to be holy!

It underscores the pervasiveness and seriousness of sin. We take sin too casually these days, maybe because we seem to be able to receive it easily. But we forget what it cost.

It encourages thankfulness and appreciation of Jesus’ sacrifice. We not only appreciate all that He went through, but we’re thankful for His deliverance. Jay Sklar, the seminary professor mentioned earlier, said that after teaching Leviticus, he could hardly sing a hymn about Jesus’ sacrifice without tears of thankfulness.

Israel’s feasts helps us understand our Christian celebrations. The ESV Study Bible’s introductory notes to Leviticus say:

The festal calendar of Israel enumerated in Leviticus (Lev. 23:1-44) has strongly shaped the Christian church’s traditional calendar. The three main national pilgrim feasts of Israel are the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the Feast of Harvest, and the Feast of Booths. For those churches that follow the traditional calendar, these celebrations find their climax in Good Friday,  Easter, and Pentecost. To fully understand the Christian celebrations, one must see their initial purpose in the OT (p. 213).

It teaches love for neighbors. Did you know that the first instance of the phrase “love your neighbor as yourself” occurs in Leviticus 19:18? We see justice tempered with mercy in the regulations in Leviticus. Justice and fair treatment at large begins with justice and fair treatment on a personal level to our neighbors and acquaintances.

In Mark 12, a scribe asked Jesus which was the most important commandment. Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'” The scribe responded, “You are right, Teacher. You have truly said that he is one, and there is no other besides him. And to love him with all the heart and with all the understanding and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself, is much more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” “And when Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, ‘You are not far from the kingdom of God’” (Mark 12:28-34).

Many hymns refer back to concepts in Leviticus, like “Is Your All on the Altar?” and “Whiter Than Snow.”

Sure, there are some difficulties in Leviticus. Some of the regulations or restrictions that seem most odd to us are thought to have connections with the pagan worship in Egypt that the Israelites had lived with for 400 years. There are a few passages that are hard to understand.

But by and large, Leviticus sheds light on much gospel truth. OT Israel practices these things looking ahead to Christ’s sacrifice, seeing much of it in symbolic form. As the NT church, we look back on the symbols and object lessons to more fully understand.

I’m approaching Leviticus this time with eager anticipation.

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God’s Part, My Part

“Lord, change me.”

Do you ever pray that? And do you ever get frustrated with the slowness of change? Or even the lack of change?

I do. I pray for God to fill me with the fruit of His Holy Spirit, and not an hour later get impatient. I pray for victory over anger, and then lose my temper over something trivial. I pray for help with self-control, and then convince myself it really is okay to eat another cookie.

I can’t do anything without God’s help, so it’s good to ask for it. But sometimes He doesn’t want us to stop there. He wants us to take action—not by ourselves, but with Him.

Walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. (Galatians 5:16)

If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. (Galatians 5:25)

Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. (John 15:4)

And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. (2 Corinthians 3:18)

But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires. (Romans 13:14)

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind. (Romans 12:2a)

So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.

Put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. (Ephesians 4:22-24)

The Bible is full of action verbs. We don’t do any of these things to earn God’s love or favor, We’re saved by grace through faith. He loved us when we were His enemies. He already loves us abundantly—He’s not going to love us more if we get our act together.

Nor do we sanctify ourselves or make ourselves Christlike. He does that.

But He asks us to obey. To abide. To behold Him. To be transformed by renewing our mind with His truth. To participate. To respond. To cooperate.

1 Timothy 4:7 says to “train yourself for godliness.” Other translations use “discipline” or “exercise.” What happens when we exercise? We expend energy and effort to the point of aching and sweating. Paul goes on to say “For to this end we toil and strive,” not in order to earn God’s favor, but “because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe” (1 Timothy 4:10). He tells the Corinthians, “I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified” (1 Corinthians 9:27). According to a note here, the Greek word translated “discipline” means “pummel”: “I pummel my body.” Grace doesn’t mean passiveness or a lack of effort.

I’ve spent a great deal of time wondering what’s God’s part and what’s my part in the Christian life. Someone once said, “Pray as if everything depended on God and work as if everything depended on you.” I don’t know if that’s quite it. It helps me more to think of man with the withered hand or the paralyzed man whom Jesus told to rise, take up his bed, and walk. He told them to do exactly what they couldn’t do. But in taking Him at His Word and obeying, they were given grace and power to do what He said.

Maybe it doesn’t matter exactly where the lines are. Maybe it’s not a formula: God does those steps and then I do these. In many of those verses listed, God’s part and our part go hand in hand. We abide in Him, He abides in us, He produces fruit. We behold Him, He transforms us.

Do I abide in prayer, or do I race through a prayer list? Do I behold Him in His Word, or do I run my eyes down the day’s reading? Do I look for the promised escape from temptation or for an excuse to indulge?

So I pray. And by faith I abide, behold, renew. And I trust Him to transform. And I remember a walk is a series of steps to a destination. And I remember bearing fruit is a long process of growth.

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How Can We Love Like Jesus?

How can we love like Jesus

It’s hard to find a story that doesn’t have romance in it. I don’t mind as long as the story itself has a meaty plot line. But I don’t read many books that are primarily romance. They seem to focus on all the tingles and end when the couple finally declares their love to each other. Tingles and the mushy-gushy stuff are fun. But they’re not the main component of love. And the real test and depth of love usually occur more in the “for worse” part.

Jesus told us to “love one another just as I have loved you” (John 13:34; 15:12). What’s more, He told us to go beyond loving those who please us or love us back, but also to love those who persecute us and hate us.

How can we do that? After all, He is God, and we are not. Oswald Chambers said in the My Utmost for His Highest reading for April 30, “The springs of love are in God, not in us. It is absurd to look for the love of God in our hearts naturally; it is only there when it has been shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit.”

Once a missionary was troubled because she didn’t love others the way she knew she should. For years she berated herself with the need to be more loving, but she continually failed, leaving her continually discouraged. Finally she started to meditate on God’s love for her, and without realizing it, her life was transformed so much that people asked her husband what had happened to her.

Though I’ve lost track of this story’s source (I believe it came from Rosalind Goforth), it has always inspired me because I can identify with it so well. I’m frequently appalled at my selfishness and often tell myself “I need to be more loving.” But, like the missionary, I continually fail.

How can we love more like Jesus?

Behold Him

We’re changed to be more like Him as we behold Him. “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit” (2 Corinthians 3:18).

What are aspects of His love?

Initiative God loved us even before we knew Him, before we turned to Him, even before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:3-6). “We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19)

Gracious. “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). He loved us when we were most unlovable and undeserving. He didn’t wait for us to “clean up” or get “good enough.”

Sacrificial. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). God gave not just a pittance, not just a fraction, but rather what was most dear to Him.

Active. The Father and Son love not just in word, but in deed. “By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers” (1 John 3:16). “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13).

Giving. “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” (Ephesians 5:1-2). That giving involved inconvenience, weariness, misunderstandings, false rumors, humiliation, pain, and death. He ministered to others when He was the only One who deserved to be ministered to.

Forgiving. “This is real love–not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.” (1 John 4:10, NLT).

Kind. “For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior” (Titus 3:3-6).

Longsuffering. “The Lord is slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love” (Numbers 14:18a).

Correcting. “My son, do not despise the Lord‘s discipline or be weary of his reproof, for the Lord reproves him whom he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights” (Proverbs 3:11-12). God’s love is not indulgent. Sometimes love involves doing the hard thing of bringing sin to the surface so it can be dealt with.

In the parable of the unforgiving servant, a man was forgiven a massive debt. However, instead of extending that same grace that he had received to others, he withheld forgiveness of someone’s very small debt and exacted a penalty. That story opened up to me the realization that my forgiveness towards another isn’t based on whether or not they “deserve it.” I did not deserve forgiveness, either. My forgiveness of others should be based on the fact that God has forgiven me so much more than anything I have had to forgive.

It’s the same with God’s love. My love for others should be an overflow of God’s great love for me. He took the first step in loving me, so I should not wait on others to make the first move. His love came at a great sacrifice, so I should not be surprised when love costs me. He loved me at my most unworthy and forgave a multitude of my offenses, so how can I withhold love from others? When I meditate on His love for me, His love flows through me to others.

Pray

Once, in an effort to be more loving, I compiled verses about love. I was delighted to find prayers in the Bible for more love, and I pray them for myself:

For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. (Ephesians 3:14-19

It is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment (Philippians 1:9).

That their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ (Colossians 2:2).

May the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, as we do for you (1 Thessalonians 3:12).

May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ (2 Thessalonians 3:5).

Be Filled with the Spirit

Ephesians 5:5 tells us, “God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” Part of the fruit of the Spirit is love, so when we’re filled with Him, we’ll be filled with His love.

Abide in Him

Trying to love as Jesus did will show us soon enough that we can’t do it in our own power. “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:4-5).

Obey

Jesus said, “Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him. . . . If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words” (John 14:21, 23-24a). We don’t obey in order to earn God’s love—as was said earlier, God loved us even when we were His enemies. But when we know Him, we show our love by obedience. That makes sense: if we say we love someone but do the opposite of what they want or don’t take their desires into account, our profession rings hollow. The verses about abiding in Him in John 15 are sandwiched in-between passages about showing our love by obedience.

May we continually learn more of His love and show it to others.

What helps you most to love like Jesus?

Ephesians 5:2. Walk in love as Jesus did.

(Revised from the archives)

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