Jesus said that we should love our neighbors as we love ourselves. This sounds simple enough, but why are we so bad at it? Some people might say that they love themselves too much to love others. But what if we don’t even know how to love ourselves? What we desire and pursue so often is not what is actually beneficial to our own well being. We think that we know what is best for ourselves, but our own fleshly desires get in the way of seeking the things that God has for us, which are better beyond comparison. We don’t love ourselves correctly because we don’t love God enough, and we don’t love God enough because we haven’t fully accepted His love for us. We try to earn love, but we as humans can never deserve love. The truth is that God loves us in spite of who we are. And this is where love all begins: love for God, love for ourselves and love for our neighbors.
When I present my problems to God, I often come to Him with a set of constraints or possible solutions which I hope He might help me with. Instead of laying everything before Him and letting Him pick up the shards of my life, I treat Him as a tool; a means to my own end. But God does not work according to the plans of man. He has broken me until I had nothing left of myself and restored me to new life in Him! “O Lord my God, I cried to you for help, and you have healed me.” (Psalm 30:2)
When Abimelech claimed innocence with regards to Sarah, Abraham’s wife, God told him that it was He that kept him from sinning. It is comforting to know that God is actively involved in keeping us from sinning against Him. He promises to cleanse us from all sin, in body, mind and soul. He alone has the power over sin, and His desire is for us to become overcomers with Him. We don’t have to defend our innocence before our judge who has already pronounced us innocent. We must simply walk in the light as He is in the light.
Lot was an example of a man who loved the world too much. When Abraham gave him the choice of which land to take, Lot chose the well watered area with the most promise for fruitfulness and success. But he soon became entrenched in the culture of the people living there. In Genesis 19, Lot was found sitting in the gate of Sodom by two angels. After they warned him of the coming judgement, Lot did not respond immediately but instead lingered. He even asked to stay in the town of Zoar instead of fleeing to the hills, hanging on to the little remainder of the world he had become so involved in. Lot’s wife made an even greater mistake by looking back towards the cities that God had chosen to destroy. How often do we hold on to the very things that God is trying to set us free from? We are frequently taking that last glance that will ultimately lead to our death. I am guilty of this on a daily basis. The book of Psalms begins with precautionary advice to avoid becoming entrenched in the world. “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers…” Lot was sitting at the cultural hub of the city and clearly involved in the daily activities. In the end, the little that he held on to became a terror to him and his story concludes in a secluded cave.
The internet is full of websites with a list of 10 items that will inspire you or change your life. Some of these can actually be quite insightful and challenging. Jesus also gives us lists that are challenging and transformative. In the sermon on the Mount, Jesus presents his disciples with a list of beatitudes, challenging them to count the cost of discipleship. The decision to follow Jesus intentionally and in full surrender is the most transformative step anyone can take.
As Christians, it is important to remember and convey the true meaning of Christmas. Obviously, the purpose of Christmas is to remember the birth of Jesus, but why was He born and why does that matter? The common response to that question is that He was born to die for our sins. This is certainly true and is pivotal to our salvation, but I think there is so much to consider in the context of the actual birth of Jesus. As soon as He entered this world as an infant, Jesus began to suffer on account of our sins. The pain of taking that first breath demonstrates the suffering He went through for our sake. Yes, the death and resurrection of Jesus is important, but He also lived for us and continues to live for us today.
This evening, I was wondering what God can teach us through a breakup. I realized that our imperfect love for each other is often dependent on the other person and subject to our own fluctuations in devotion and motivation. During a breakup, one person decides that the other is no longer worth loving (romantically at least). I have experienced this rejection and it is easy to feel like I have lost all of my value. But God never stopped loving us even when we rejected Him. God does not love me because I have value; I have value because He loves me. All of this pain of rejection from someone I deeply loved pales in comparison to the extent to which God loves me.
In my devotions for yesterday, both the excerpt from C.S. Lewis and the reading from Oswald Chambers talked about the agony of Christ in the garden of Gethsemane. Jesus clearly came into this world with the purpose of facing death on the cross to bear the burden of our sins. However, that knowledge did not diminish the anxiety that He felt as He begged the Father to remove the cup from Him. I cannot come close to identifying with the suffering that Jesus experienced. However, there are many times where knowledge does not seem to alleviate the emotional pain I feel in the moment. I constantly need to be reminded not to worry and to stand on the promises of God.
I learned from C.S. Lewis this week that we should proclaim the gospel of Jesus simply because it is the truth. That really struck me. That means that all of the negative views of Christianity and its practices have no relevance. In fact, even if God were imperfect, incapable or even immoral, we would still believe in Him simply because He is God. God has revealed Himself to us in so many ways, so the truth of His existence in undeniable. It is even more wonderful to know that God (everyone’s God, not just ours), is perfect and sovereign and we can share the good news of Christ!
Many marriages start of with what is called the honeymoon stage: where both individuals are filled with excitement and ecstatic emotions. Arguably, one might not notice the flaws or undesirable attributes in the other until after this phase expires. However, it is in my opinion (based on my large amount of experience…) that this stage of the relationship is the most desirable state. As pointed out by Oswald Chambers in today’s reading from My Utmost for His Highest, God desires for us to return to the time when we first fell in love with him. In Jeremiah 2:2, He recalls the love of our betrothal. While God has no flaws to discover, both relationships pay no regard to selfish desires or interests. The honeymoon stage is a time of full devotion and admiration and selfless love.