Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Wednesday, 3 April 19:
Mark 12:30-31 – “‘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.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”
What is the purpose of your life? What is your goal in life? Jesus said the purpose and goal is love, first to love God with all your being and then to love others as the fruit of your love for Him. Jesus said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” (John 14:15) Then, Jesus said, “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.” (John 15:12) He said we are to love others like He loves us; so, how does He love us? “While we were still sinners [offensive and in no way deserving of His love], Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8) So, what kind of love is God calling us to as our goal in life? Jesus makes it clear — “But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you…. Lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil.” (Luke 6:27; Luke 6:35) Do you see your ‘enemies’ as your love objective, as your opportunity to fulfill your purpose in life, as your chance to worship God in truth, as your moment to fellowship with Jesus in His suffering for the sake of mercy and grace to others?
The Bible says, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.” (Romans 8:28, 29) In perfect love, God gives you ‘good’ times and ‘bad’ times and places ‘good’ people and ‘bad’ people into your life that you might learn to fulfill your purpose of love, “to be conformed to the image [character] of His Son.” What is the character of Christ? Perfect love. Only Jesus loved the Father perfectly, but He gave us perfect love as our life goal. This was Jesus’ final prayer for us to the Father – “…that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.” (John 17:26)
As Christians, we love God and show love for others, but not perfectly. John said, “For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.” (1 John 5:3) In our imperfect state, sometimes (most often) love is still a burden, mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually. Nonetheless, God commands (not a request or recommendation), “Be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5:48) So, the Bible says, “Pursue love,” (1 Corinthians 14:1; 1 Timothy 6:11; 2 Timothy 2:22) and let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” (James 1:4) We must be steadfast in our pursuit of love, and this is a daily, continuous endeavor. What does this daily endeavor look like? Jesus tells us — “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me…. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 9:23; Luke 14:27) If the steadfast daily pursuit of the disciple is sacrificially bearing a cross in relationships as an act of worship, living out Jesus’ spirit which cries in agony, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34)
“He who rules his spirit [is better] than he who takes a city.” (Proverbs 16:32) Controlling the heart is harder than conquering a city, and the person who demonstrates true love has demonstrated something more miraculous than the person who speaks in tongues, prophesies unknowable mysteries, heals the sick, casts out demons, and moves mountains. (1 Corinthians 13:1-3; Matthew 7:22-23) Though we are called to steadfastly pursue love, the ability to love can only come from the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5). So, we must walk in the grace of God, ever repentant in our failures, confident in the sufficiency of Christ, diligent in our efforts, and continuously prayerful for the Holy Spirit’s sanctifying power in our life. As Saint Augustine famously prayed, “God give what You command and command whatever You will.”
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 3 Apr 19: Our goal in life is love. The Greatest Commandment is love. We are called to love God with “all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” Today, as you seek to walk in love, take steps to “be transformed by the renewal of your mind (Romans 12:2)” through the study of God’s word on love. The Bible [ESV version] translates the word “love” 652 times. Do a word search, and make a list of the verses that describe the attributes of love and teach you how to love. Make a list and have a plan to commit these verses to memory.