John 13:34-35 (NIV) “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
I have a lot to do in the next couple of weeks. I have committed my time and energy to many tasks including family, work, and church. I am on the verge of becoming overwhelmed. The things on my list are good. Each commitment bears its own importance. My mother has always warned my sister and I that we tend to load up our plate, so much so that we become quite overloaded. I feel as though I am better at managing my time than before yet still in the quiet moments of morning each task is knocking on the door of my mind trying to overtake my thoughts that are intently seeking some time with Him.
From time to time, it is very important to evaluate our schedule and examine our routine for necessity and relevance in our life. In a world that dictates success by how busy we are and productivity with consuming all our time, people get burned out quickly. This impacts the relationships in our life. Cramped in the kitchen, trying to put up food, clean the dishes and wipe down the counters my family was under my feet. I grew snappish due to inability to move back and forth in my busyness. I stepped on my daughter and tripped over the dog so my outburst of frustration came from fiery frustration rather than to observe the obvious. Our daughter had been sick and stayed home from school with grandma while I had to work. The little dog misses us when we are away all day so she, too, was vying for our attention. Too late. They scattered from the kitchen under my harsh retort. I knew the instant it happened that it was a mommy epic fail. Sometimes we cannot see the forest for the trees, the big picture of God’s Plan and Purpose for us is missed in the name of busyness.
Jesus gave us one command. Just one thing to do on the task list of life, but we fill in all the other lines on the paper. It is an honest attempt to earn what has been given. I challenge you today to look at your list. Is there time to love Jesus? Is there time to spend on others? Do you have a spot for you there? We overcomplicate the meaning of a living sacrifice with meaningless things. Love one another. Hang on, there’s more. Love one another like I have loved you. It’s getting a little trickier here. You MUST love one another. There goes the ifs, ands or buts. This is how they will know that you are my disciple if you love one another.
Romans 12:1-2 (NIV) “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”
In view of God’s Mercy, we should offer our bodies as living sacrifices. Our body facilitates what I do and how I act. This is called true and proper worship. It is a lifestyle. By allowing our heart and mind to be transformed by being renewed, the Holy Spirit enables us to test and approve what the Will of God for our life really is. His Good, Pleasing and Perfect Will that is expressly and specifically for me.
I Corinthians 13:3-8 (NIV) If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.
Let’s talk about this thing called love. What does love have to do with our walk with Christ? It means everything. As stated before, this is how the world will identify us as modern day disciples of Jesus. It is not a nametag or cute Christian t-shirt with scripture posted on the back. It is not the tiny or massive cross hanging from your neck. It is not even the “Christ Life” bumper sticker on the back of your car. It is not that you have perfect Sunday School attendance or bring fifteen friends on “Pack the House” Sunday. Where are they now? The Lord does not evaluate our commitment and level of love for Him in our doing but rather our undoing.
Love is the commandment on my life. I have been given much so much is required, hence the living sacrifice. See it is all that I have to give because I have not earned what I have. I did not earn my salvation, it is a Gift from God that is received. (Romans 6:23) I can do nothing to deserve God’s Grace, it is a Gift from God. (Ephesians 2:8) I can do nothing to establish my righteousness other than accepting the first two gifts. I can do nothing to change, enhance or facilitate God’s Plan for my life but must choose to live it. I can do nothing apart from Jesus Christ. (John 15:5) The first fruit of God’s Spirit is love. I have been given love that I can now freely give among other precious gifts. I must know, understand and realize that there is nothing left of me because repentance turns it all over to Jesus Christ to be washed in the Blood and rinsed in His Word. I am now free to follow the Lord. The way that I do that is not designed or in any way or influenced by my participation. All that I have left is my body. My mind, soul and spirit are now consumed by Greater Love that promises no matter what I overcome so I am free to love selflessly and completely because He first loved me.
Romans 12:9-13 (NIV) Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.
The simple truth that changes everything is discovered in Romans 12. This chapter sets me free from having to “do” everything to “earn” all the Gifts that God has given me. I can only give what I have received. He provides seed to the sower and bread to the farmer (2 Corinthians 9:10). I am free to openly give because I have a source that never runs dry. I have what I need to be successful in the Kingdom of God. I have everything I need to live a godly life. (2 Peter 1:3) Am I doing it?
One question can answer this question in its entirety. Is my love sincere? Sincere means free of deceit, hypocrisy, or falseness. Is my love for others earnest or genuine? Is it real? Is my love for other pure and unadulterated by selfish motives and intentions? Do I love people the same publicly and privately? Is my love patient? Is it kind? Does it envy what other people have, what they get to do, where they go? Is my love proud and self-seeking looking for a way to earn Christ’s Love and validation? Does my love keep a record of wrongs or is it full of forgiveness and grace? Does it delight when others fall short so I can feel better about my personal progress? Does it rejoice in the truth or revel in lies? Does it protect, trust and giving hope to the heart of others? Does my love persevere, stick it out, never giving up on another. Does my love fail sometimes? Without sincere love for others, we are not disciples of Christ. There is a staunch criteria with supplements of grace for when we just can’t pull it off.
God’s Love hates evil and clings only to good. He doesn’t want any part of our sin yet desires us more than anything else. Can we see the good in others underneath layers of sin? To love the way that Christ did requires that we learn to do so. Each day I must honor others above myself. My love for others must be full of zeal. I must have a fervent love for them unaffected by their inability to love me back. My desire for others must be eager and enthusiastic.
This is the verse that caught my attention to. “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.” When I got up this morning, my thoughts were racing. I had a lack of enthusiasm for the coming day. I just wanted to pull the covers over my head and try again later. But I felt the all-too-familiar tug on my heart that says, “Get up. I’m waiting on you!” I have hope. I did not earn, cannot reproduce it, and will never run out of it. This hope should bring me great joy. The Lord is teaching me patience. I am stubborn and strong willed so the Lord has allowed affliction to teach me its hard lesson. I get it now. Faithful in prayer. It is essential that I daily communicate my faith in God in prayer. I cannot make it through this day into another until I step into the Kingdom without a game plan. God has it and is communicating it to us through prayer.
Romans 12:14-18 (NIV) Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.
On April 21, 2016 – a fight broke out in the restroom of a Wilmington, Delaware high school. Two teenagers fighting over the attention and affections of a young man. As the fight escalated other students joined in against one of the participants, who fell and hit her head on bathroom sink. Her name was Amy and she died from her injuries. The girls were fighting for what I believe they thought to be love. The world doesn’t understand what love really is. Three students have been suspended and subsequent charges are expected to be filed as they participated in what now is labeled an attack resulting in manslaughter. Four lives of teenagers forever changed and reverberating through their families and friends.
Why do I mention this tragedy? At least one of those kids thought she was fighting for love. She thought that was what love required. You don’t fight for love. You have it. More of it than you will ever need to be secure in hope, patient in affliction and faithful in prayer. You have God’s Love. It allows us to live in freedom. We can love anybody and everybody because He first loved us. We can put all of our expectation in Jesus Christ so that we can love others unconditionally. So many times we miss the mark of love because as Christians we are trying to earn, obtain and hold on to what God has already given us. The only mandate on my love is to love others. To live in peace as much as possible on my part. Turn the other cheek even if it feels like perpetual motion. I must love my enemies. The ones who feel take advantage of me. Those who use me. Those who talk about me behind my back.
Today let’s keep it simple. God’s Love belongs to us by faith. This faith allows us to trust the Lord to love us completely unconditionally filling our life and prospering our heart. With this in mind, we are free to love every single person who we come in contact with. Sincere love is hands on and heart involved. I must ask myself in every encounter and exchange. Did I express love to that person? Does my love for them reflect my commitment to Christ? Every single person we meet is an opportunity to grow in God’s Love, Grace, Righteousness and fulfill His Plan for our life. It really is that simple. To be a living sacrifice is simply to love sacrificially. I have some work to do…do you? I love Micah 6:8. What does the Lord require of us today? To act justly. To whom much is given much is required. I have received an immeasurable amount of unconditional love and unending grace from God – therefore it is my privilege to give it to others today. To love mercy. Mercy is kindness, forbearance and forgiveness. To love mercy means that I cannot be offended, abused or embittered by the attitude and actions of others but still remain free to love them anyway. To walk humbly with my God is to remain in His Love and make sure that the whole world knows that I am his disciple. When I do, I can love anyone after all God loves me!
Micah 6:8 (NIV) He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.