July 23, 2013

Loving God means…

The two great commandments tell us to love God with all our mind, soul and strength, and to love our neighbor as ourselves. It seems simple, but the very nature of love defies and defines our success.

This love that the Bible speaks of is a sacrificial love. It is embodied in Christ who loved us in humility, giving up His own life that we could be forgiven and receive eternal life. As a basically selfish creature, that kind of love is more than a challenge; it is impossible.

And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God. And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death.” (Revelation 12:10–11)

The “accuser” is Satan. The book of Job tells how he comes before God and tattles on His servants. Job was a godly man, yet Satan said that Job would never trust God if God was always good to him. The rest of the book shows that the faith that God gives is more than adequate. Job didn’t like what happened to him and complained, but his faith held firm.

Job conquered all that Satan threw at him and at God in accusation because of those three things in Revelation 12:11. While the Lamb, Jesus Christ had not yet shed His blood, the Old Testament sacrifices were a picture or type that pointed to Him. As the OT people of faith offered a slain animal on the altar of God, they were demonstrating faith in the promise of God to send a Messiah. It was this promise that Job believed, and by it and the blood of the coming Lamb, he held fast.

Job also declared his faith. His “friends” accused him too, saying he must have done something wrong to deserve all his losses and sufferings. However, Job insisted he was not being punished for sin. He said,

Though he slay me, I will hope in him… (Job 13:15) For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God. (Job 19:25–26)

His testimony of faith remained, even as he lost his family, possessions, health, and nearly his life. He did not give up, even at the threat of death, and by doing so, he conquered the enemy and the accusations of his “friends.”

Not all people of faith have the same experiences. Some do die. I heard this week that about 200 Christians around the world lose their lives each day because of their faith. That is one martyr every seven minutes.

Would I? If authorities came to my door and demanded that I must renounce Christ or be shot, what would I do? This is the ultimate sacrifice, yet not the only sacrifice that I can make to show my love for God. A more “rubber hits the road” example is simply giving up what I want to do to obey what He wants me to do, usually some call to serve someone else.

Getting even more specific, sacrificial love holds its tongue rather than boasting, lying, gossiping or saying unkind words. It goes the extra mile to help those in need, giving time, money, or other resources without complaint, but joyfully. Sacrificial love even thinks good thoughts…

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. (Philippians 4:8)

… giving up sinful ideas, inner accusations, arrogance, or judgmental attitudes toward others.

How can such love be possible? Christ stopped at nothing, was willing to be made flesh, to be tempted, deserted, persecuted, and to die on a cross, and I struggle at times to speak a kind word or go out of my way to bless someone else.

To be like Jesus, I must rely on Him having a faith like Job. I knowing that Jesus lives in my heart to supply all my need, but I must be so taken by His sufferings for me, that He kindles a flame in me, a love that breaks forth in my words and ways to the praise of His glory.

And I must always remember that He said, “Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.” (John 12:25)

No comments: