Saturday, October 23, 2004

How Do You Love Yourself?

Conquering The Beast Within

In Jesus' statement of the second greatest Commandment He says love your neighbor as you love yourself. Being selfish and self centered has never been hard for us, but to try to love everybody else the way we love ourselves -- that seems impossible. God gave us a list of rules to tell us how to live. Perhaps in them is the clue we need to help us find that love. We call them "The Ten Commandments"

They are the exact opposite of our natural tendencies, the selfish, sensual and sinful desires we inherited from Adam. If we could keep them all it would appear that we love appropriately. However, I cannot do it. I cannot as a natural independent person with the right of free choice, help getting angry when anyone (including God) tries to make me accept his choices for me. When he tells me what I can or can not do I am insulted.

In the first commandment God says I should put him first in my life, my reaction is, "I will decide the important things. You stay out of it."

In the second, He says "no idols" I say, "There are some things in this world that are very dear to me. If I choose to give one of them my best attention and love, think it is no ones business but mine. I will idolize whatever I please."

In the third, He says, "Don't misuse my name." What nerve! I will use his name any way I please.

Fourth, He can not tell me when I should work or when I should rest, that's my decision.

Then fifth, He wants me to kow tow to my parents. I am grown up now, who needs those old fogies.

In the tenth He says, "Do not covet ". If I want something, I believe I have a right to pursue it until I obtain it. He demands honesty. However, I have to disregard the truth sometimes to get what I want.

He says, "Don't steal." I think it is unfair that others have what I want. I'll take whatever I want, even if it is my neighbor's wife, who God says I can't have. In addition, I will hate and may even kill anyone who tries to stop me.

The reason I break all Ten Commandments is that the two most important principles, loving God, and loving my neighbor, are not in my heart. God, by his love, gave these commandments to us just so that we could see how sinful we are. This is part of the plan God devised to bring us back into a loving relationship to him.

The Ten Commandments play an important part in our understanding of what is right or wrong. They also help us recognize the wisdom and power of God. But even before Moses received these written laws, men already knew right from wrong. God provided each one of us with a conscience that judges our actions. Paul wrote in his epistle to the Romans, "For we know that the law is spiritual-- I agree with the law, confessing that it is good, I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man." If God gave us the same law in our hearts as is written in the Bible it makes it extremely difficult for us to deny His authority or the validity of His word.

If God really loves us, then it follows that he gave us these laws for our own protection and well being. So if we really love ourselves it seems like we would want to keep these laws. Just think: How many lies do we have to tell to be a liar? How many times do you have to steal to be a thief? How many laws do have to break to be a law-breaker? If we care about who and what we are at all, we will try to keep the law!

However, keeping the law is not easy. The people of Israel did not keep the law. Jesus pointed out that the scribes and Pharisees, the religious leaders of that time did not keep the law. Paul, the Apostle,before he was transformed by the grace of God, said he couldn't keep it. He says. "I am of flesh sold into bondage of sin. I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate. "{Rom. 7:22}

Paul wrote in Galatians 5: If we do not live by the Spirit (of God), we will gratify the desires of the sinful nature. For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want. The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissension, factions, and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.

We are in the same trouble. None of us can keep the whole law. One of the reasons is that Satan has implanted into our minds a false image of God. He has shown us a picture of an angry and tyrannical god who enforces his law haphazardly, if at all. Another reason is that Satan is a liar. He lied to Eve the same way and we have inherited the results of the "fall". Because of this we have an attitude that is not apt to be loving and obedient. God says of us through Jeremiah, "The human heart is more deceitful than all else and desperately wicked." We have been deceived by Satan and tricked by our own hearts so that now we believe that we know how we should live better than God does. We think our interests and ambitions should come first. We want gratification of our lust now. Anger, envy and hate control our actions. Pride and vanity dictate our attitudes. We lack gratitude and compassion. Is this any way to live?

Jesus came to show us a better way!

First, Jesus gave us a new picture of God. God sent his Son, ("The radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of His being." Heb 1:3) as a sweet little baby born of a virgin and laid in a manger. He grew up to be the most loving, tender and compassionate teacher the world has ever known. John wrote of Him, "And the word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, glory as the only begotton from the Father full of grace and truth." Paul saw him as, "The image of the invisible God. "Col 1:15 We see Him in the gospels as the "Good Shepherd", the "Good Master", the "Great Physician", the "Friend of Sinners" and finally as the "Lamb Of God".

So you see that the concept we had of God was false. The reason that God asks us to keep the commandments is that he loves us so much that he hurts when we hurt, and he knows we will suffer if we ignore laws that were designed to protect and nurture us.

Second, He taught us the difference between the Spirit of the law and the letter of the law. and that the two most important principles to live by, are, "Love the Lord God with all your heart, and Love your neighbor as yourself." He said that these were the two greatest commandments and they support all the rest of the law. He knows what we do not know -- exactly what is best for us in the long run. He knows that we are full of lying, deceit, dishonesty, lust and false pride. Jesus teaches us that in properly loving him and loving our neighbor, we can defeat these things and meet all the requirements of the law.


Third, He provided, by His love, the power we need to meet the requirements of love. How much does God love us? God's declaration of love is this, "For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son that whosoever believes on Him should not perish but have ever-lasting life." John 3:16 Jesus further qualified the devotion of His love when He said, "Greater love hath no man than this that he lay down his life for his friend." But Jesus didn't stop there. "For while we were yet sinners (rebels, enemies) he died for us." He said " I will never leave you nor forsake you." How can I find words to express the kindness, caring and compassion He lavishes on us in spite of our disobedience and waywardness. More than that, He promises to do for us "more than we can ask or think." He has all the resources of Heaven available to supply our need and cleanse us from the sin that stains our secret life. Even more important He even has all power and authority to do miracles on our behalf.

The next question is, how much do we love him? I need to ask this question because unless we know the greatness of His love we will not love Him as we should. John said "We love him because he first loved us." It is hard to realize that this wonderful love is actually directed to you and me. In response to God's love the hymn writer wrote: "Love so amazing so divine demands my soul, my life, my all." When we love him supremely and have yielded ourselves completely to his will, whatever it takes us to obey his will seems almost trivial. We obey not because he asks, but because we need to express our gratitude and devotion to Him. The smallest indication of His preference becomes a command. Every time we obey, expressing our love to Him, He responds by filling our life with peace and joy

Our response however is not directed only to Him but also to our neighbor. Jesus said: "To the extent you did it to one of these brothers of mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me. "Matt 25:40. It is our privilege to regard every person we meet as a potential child of God and to love them as Jesus would. We can keep the commandments if Spirit of God controls us and cleanses our hearts and fills us with his LOVE!

With this kind of love keeping the commandments is no problem. If you are not sure you are obeying God completely make an irrevocable decision that you will, and pray with me:

Dear Jesus, I do love you. I need more of your love in my life. I surrender every part of my life to you for now and forever. Fill me with your Holy Spirit, your love and your power so that I may perfectly obey you and live a clean, pure life. Amen.


Sunday, October 17, 2004

Being A Follower Of Jesus Is Serious Business!

We have heard many times that Peter, Jesus' disciple, became serious about serving Christ when he was filled with the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. Certainly that was the source of the power and boldness of Peters witness. We have also heard many times that Peter denied Jesus three times after his mock conviction as a criminal. I think it was four times. Eight days after the resurection Peter said to some of the disciples, "I go a fishing".

For him the adventure with Jesus was over. Jesus died, arose, and Peter thought now it was time , even though he had had a a wonderful experience with the Christ, to go back to his old life, fishing, earning a living, enjoying and loving the old routine. But when Jesus ask him, at breakfast on the shore the next day, "Do you love these more than me?-- Feed my lambs. " It was a shock, Peter was puzzled and angry. Here was Jesus, still alive, still the Christ, still calling him to discipleship, "Feed my sheep." There were higher priorities than, living the old life, making a living, enjoying the fish. Peter could not have caught any fish that day except for the Lord's intervention. Being fishers of men was more important! After Jesus reminded him three times, he realized it and re-affirmed his true love for the Lord.

How about you. Have you become a "disciple" but now are denying it by "going fishing"?



Sunday, October 10, 2004

A Silly Poem

Was ever there a soul so dead,

That to his wife has never said:

“Move over give me half the bed”?

Then she too with heart quite dead

With strident tone would oft reply:

“Please give me space before I die!”

Is there a pair with heart not dead

That to each other would have said:

“I love you dear.

Stretch out in comfort in our bed.”

And then would find with love’s embrace,

They only needed half the space.

By Howdim