February 1, 2017

God’s love is different than mine

God tells me to love Him and love others, yet love can be difficult to define. A liberal might think it means to tolerate, even encourage others to do their own thing. Ultra-conservatives would call that antinomianism, the idea that grace frees people from moral laws. They might swing to other way to a legalistic view that loving God means obeying every command to the letter of the law.

The answer is not somewhere in the middle. Love is defined in the gospel, not the law. The law shows me my sin by pointing to a perfect righteousness that I cannot perform. Instead, Jesus Christ lived a sinless life which God imputed to me in redemption. That means that in Christ, God made me perfectly righteous. He applied the blood of Christ to my heart and set me completely free from the law.

To do that, He died for me. My death could not satisfy the infinite justice of law without being an eternal death under God’s wrath against sin, but Christ died as my Substitute and satisfied the justice of God. As far as God’s law is concerned, I am dead and it has no claim upon me. I died in Christ and now live under no condemnation.

“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit” (Romans 8:1–4) “For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.” (Romans 10:4)

As today’s devotional reading says, it is as foolish to try to obey the law for myself as it would be for me to try to atone for my own sins.

God still tells me to love Him and love others. However, it is folly to try to love others apart from the Spirit of God and the life of Jesus Christ that is in me. He is the One who loves God perfectly and loves others perfectly. I cannot do it apart from Him.
However, I can see how to love by looking at Jesus Christ. He is my example. One way, and there are many, is like this . . .

. . . Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. During supper, when the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him, Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him . . . . When he had washed their feet and put on his outer garments and resumed his place, he said to them, “Do you understand what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you . . . . If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.” (John 13:1–17)

Jesus then said, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35)

This love is not just a feeling toward others, nor is it merely the action of doing good to them. It is an issue from the heart of Jesus Christ, a love that is beyond how I feel or what I can do. It willingly serves the needs of even enemies (Judas was there), not to impress or to manipulate, but because love lives in me and if I am to be like Jesus, I must release it in whatever expression God puts on my heart.

Jesus, these days some think love is a do-good, feel-good emotion, but Your love goes far beyond that. It led You to a bloody and horrifying death because You put the needs of others above Your very life. Because of You, I understand much more about love and the power of love. Loving others is more than courtesy, more than hugs or generosity or any sentiment; love is yielding my entire being to You so that You can express Your love for humanity through me. Love is being Your servant who will say, “Not my will but thine be done” and then follow through with action.

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