"Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual." (1Cor. 2:12-13)
Saturday, July 13, 2013
To Obey Is To Love
"If you love me, you will keep my commandments." (John 14:15)
"And this is love: that we walk in obedience to his commands. As you have heard from the beginning, his command is that you walk in love." (2 John 1:6)
Basically, all Jesus' commands are all summed up in these two: "'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." (Mark 12:30-31)
We all can agree how difficult this can be for us, yet there is no doubt that the only way we can obey His commands is by love. So here is the question we need answered: how can we love when in the depths of our soul, we constantly want to look out for ourselves?
Even if we try to be good, there is always a test or temptation that will cause us to instinctively react out of our sinful nature. It seems to me that being able to love is of the utmost importance, because without it, we can't even obey Him! So how are we able to truly walk in love?
"We love because he first loved us." (1 John 4:19)
Okay, in other words, by ourselves, apart from God, we are unable to truly love. But how is it that His love creates a desire in us to love others?
"And they shall not teach, each one his neighbor and each one his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest. For I will be merciful toward their iniquities,and I will remember their sins no more." (Hebrews 8:11-12)
The answer is God's forgiveness. Those who are forgiven much, love much. (Luke 7:47) When Jesus sends the Holy Spirit to dwell within us, we are convicted by all of our pathetic failures because of the Holiness that now resides in us. We begin to see sin for what it really is; separation from God. But if Christ lives in us, our past sins have been completely abolished; forgiven and forgotten; and now nothing can separate us from the love of God. (Romans 8:38-39) Who we were before God called us no longer has any bearing on our new identity. (2 Corinthians 5:17)
"...but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." (Romans 4:8)
The Heavenly key that unlocks His love for us so that it becomes love within us and through us is this; we must embrace His forgiveness; that is, Jesus. His sacrifice for us must become an absolute reality in our faith or we have simply become 'christians' without the ability to love, much less obey Jesus' commands. If we can't believe our sins have actually been forgiven, then we really do not believe Jesus died for us, and our faith is dead. We will live our lives as church-goers whose sins have not been forgiven and our witness to others will not be that of Jesus, rather as those who are to be most pitied. (1 Corinthians 15:19)
"...without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins." (Hebrews 9:22)
Now, once the work of the cross (Jesus' death, burial, and resurrection) has truly set us free, how then does God's love become our new instinctive nature?
"Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you." (John 5:13-14)
If we are Jesus' friends, then love will be wrought in us the same way that Jesus showed His love; sacrificing ourselves for the sake of others, because, "I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.." (Galatians 2:20)
Any sin we presently commit comes from our old nature, the flesh, and we are to continually confess such sin; not that we are crucifying the Lord over and over again for the sake of forgiving those sins (that has been taken care of once and for all-Romans 6:5-11, Hebrews10:10), but to actively acknowledge Jesus' Lordship and expose that which is not of our new identity in Christ. In this way, we deny our old self and find healing for our soul. (James 5:16)
"If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it." (Matthew 16:24-25)
The promise of God is the hope to come for those whom the Father has chosen. (Ephesians 1:11-14) We are set for eternity and by the hope of that promise we can now live our lives here for the sake of others, that they too may know God by His kindness.
"He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins." (Colossians 1:13-14)
This is how we are able to love, and love is the only way we can obey. The essence of obedience is not to make sure we follow rules and adhere to Jesus' commands, but to possess the love of God. In this way, Jesus' commands will be declared as His life within us.
It sheds new light on what Jesus shared with the discipes. "This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me." (Luke 22:19)
"For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes." (1 Corinthians 11:26)
By His love, we obey; and by our obedience we proclaim His death unto life before others.
"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. By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is, so also are we (while) in this world." -Parenthesis mine. (1 John 4:16-17)