January 4, 2015

Love Me as I have loved you . . .

The sermon today told me that to show my love for God, I need to love others. This is His commandment and it fits with the focus He gave me. I am to humble myself to do His will, loving others and not being concerned for myself. He will take care of me.

As I read the above passages, I can see the contrasts. In Genesis, the entire population had given itself to evil – except Noah . . .  The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the Lord regretted that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart. So the Lord said, ‘I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens, for I am sorry that I have made them.’ But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord.” (Genesis 6:5–8)

Then God told this man that He was going to make an end of all flesh, so Noah was to make an ark. God gave him the exact directions including dimensions, told him what to put in the ark for food, and to take two of every living creature as well.

I cannot imagine the mirth of Noah’s neighbors. The earth up to this time was watered by a mist. They didn’t know about rain or floods, but Noah persisted in building it anyway. Then God told him to go into the ark with his wife and family, and “Noah did this; he did all that God commanded him.” (Genesis 6:22) After the ark was full, God shut them in and the rain began to fall.

Noah was righteousness in that he believed God and did what he was told. He could have worried “what will people think?” but he did not. He could have laughed at the threat of rain and a flood, but he did not. He could have worried about the fate of his home and possessions, but he did not.

Noah stands in contrast to Solomon who was called the wisest man. He said, “I made great works. I built houses and planted vineyards for myself. I made myself gardens and parks, and planted in them all kinds of fruit trees. I made myself pools from which to water the forest of growing trees . . . And whatever my eyes desired I did not keep from them. I kept my heart from no pleasure, for my heart found pleasure in all my toil, and this was my reward for all my toil. Then I considered all that my hands had done and the toil I had expended in doing it, and behold, all was vanity and a striving after wind, and there was nothing to be gained under the sun.” (Ecclesiastes 2:4-6, 10–11)

This man was filled with “I” and thought only of what would give him pleasure. He didn’t listen to God for much of his life and wound up feeling empty because of it.
Last are the words of Jesus. He says, “Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven . . .”  (Matthew 6:1) This touches on another kind of selfishness, the performance of a Christian that seems to be serving God but is only in it for themselves. Such service wants to look good rather than turning from self to obey God.

After several examples, Jesus seems to cover the folly of Solomon and the righteousness of Noah with a simple statement: “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:19–21)

Noah lost much in the flood, but by obeying God, he and his family escaped the judgment that destroyed everyone else and all they had. Solomon gain gold and silver, countless wives, horses and other treasures, but he lost all joy and learned the hard way the value of humility and obedience.

All day, God has been warning me about loving Him in order to impress others. Instead, I’m to love Him by serving others, even if it costs me everything. Jesus loved me so much that He died for me -- and His love is my example.

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