Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Wednesday, 1 April 20:
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) So, the disciple’s steadfast daily pursuit is sacrificially bearing a cross (living out the mercy and grace of Christ in His Name and in His strength) in relationships as an act of worship, crying out on behalf of others and in the Name of Jesus, “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) – 1 Apr 20: 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 which describe the attributes of love and which teach you how to love. Make a list and have a plan to commit these verses to memory. Below are just a few —
– 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 — Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away.
– John 17:22-23 — The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.
– 1 John 4:11, 12 — Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.
– Hosea 6:6 — For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.
– 1 Peter 4:8 — Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.
– Galatians 5:22-26 — But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.
– Luke 10:27 — You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.
– 1 Timothy 1:5 — The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.
– 1 Peter 1:22, 23 — Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart, since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God.
– Romans 10-12 — Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in the Spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.
– 1 John 5:3 — For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.
– 1 John 4:16 — So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.
– 1 John 3:18 — Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.
– 1 Timothy 4:12 — Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.
– 2 Thessalonians 3:5 — May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ.
– Colossians 3:12-14 — Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.
– Philippians 4:8 — 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.
– 1 Corinthians 16:14 — Let all that you do be done in love.
– Romans 12:9 — Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good.
– John 15:12 — This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.