Matthew 5:37 (NLT) Just say a simple, ‘Yes, I will,’ or ‘No, I won’t.’ Anything beyond this is from the evil one.
Many Christmas’ ago, our youngest daughter put an IPod Touch at the top of her list. Midway through the holiday season, I received an IPad Mini from a blogging site and thought she would enjoy it even more because it was bigger and had more memory. She could certainly play her games on it and watch videos with ease. When the big day arrived, our littlest was on a mission. She was opening her gifts searching for the shiny new electronics. My heart skipped a beat when she finally selected the package to open. When she realized it was not an IPod Touch, her hands fell in her lap with it in her hands. She whispered, “Thank you” but my heart sank as I realized she was disappointed. We want to give our children the desires of their heart. In this instance, I thought this was a better gift but it did not meet her expectation. She later shared that she wanted the smaller version because it would fit in her pocket like a cellphone. She was too young for her own phone, but since all her siblings had one – it was the next best thing. Our little girl had an expectation and when what she found did not meet her expectation – it was only natural to experience disappointment. A human response that we all have from time to time.
Matthew 21:18-19 (NLT) In the morning, as Jesus was returning to Jerusalem, he was hungry, and he noticed a fig tree beside the road. He went over to see if there were any figs, but there were only leaves. Then he said to it, “May you never bear fruit again!” And immediately the fig tree withered up.
Jesus was hungry. He came across a fig tree covered in leaves. On closer inspection, it did not have any fruit on it. Jesus cursed the tree right then and there, because it was not fulfilling its purpose which was to bear fruit. It put on a glorious show but when it came right down to – it was not fruitful. Who doesn’t want the Lord’s Approval on closer inspection as a Christian? When He moves past the grand show of righteous living, and the performance of service, and peers into our heart – what will the Lord see? Will there be any fruit on the vine which He planted there? “Yes, I will” or “No, I won’t.” These are the only two promises that a person is capable of keeping. The ones pertaining to self and nothing else. I have no control over heaven or the earth. These are the Lord’s domain. He has given me a simple yet great commandment to follow. It is not complicated or overly comprehensive. His Commandment is this:
Matthew 22:37-39 (NLT) Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”
I am challenged today with my “Yes, Lord”. The commitment that I have made to Christ based on His Generous Gift of Amazing Grace. I take it in and apply lavishly on my life. I know that God is good because I have experienced His Goodness and Glory firsthand in my life and know that I am undeserving. For many years, I have been committed to the church and even religion if I am completely honest. I love to serve. Yet, in all the running, organizing, teaching and sharing, something was missing. I had the best of intentions but something was missing. Me. The “yes” I have to give the Lord completely is “me”. When He commanded us to love Him, of course it is with exuberant affirmation and acceptance Why not? He offers unconditional love to His People. He removes the weight of sin and fills us with inexpressible joy. However, if I do not effectively express His Love to others – I am not bearing His First Fruit.
John 13:34-35 (NLT) So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.”
Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples. It is so simple. We have made it complex. When Jesus came upon the fig tree, the Lord was hungry. He had an expectation that the fruit on the tree would satisfy His Hunger. It would fulfill His Desire. But when all that He found were leaves covering the tree – it was cursed. When Jesus comes to live inside of a person – truly take over their existence – the first fruit is love. Not the kind of love found in this world but the Kind of Love that has been deposited inside of us.
Galatians 5:22-23 (NLT) But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!
I Corinthians 13:4-7 (NLT) Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.
Love has a definition. The Lord went so far as to clearly demonstrate unconditional love for us. In return, Jesus asks us to love Him and love others. He has an expectation of His People based on the seed deposited in us. To accept Jesus as Savior is to believe in His Great Love for us. As one strives to make Him Lord, our great aspiration is to serve Him. Those who seek Him wholeheartedly are saying, “Yes” to live a life of love. He is our First Love. Loving others is our mission. This is how we make disciples. But this kind of love is not a simple “yes”. It is a messy one. It requires a new kind of fasting our life that breaks the tradition of religious fasting. (Isaiah 58:8-12) Our life given to loving others provides the miracles that many search after. We literally must give our life away. How many times has the Lord inspected our tree and like my daughter on that fateful morning felt the disappointment of unmet expectation? No act of service great or small is worth anything unless it comes wrapped in unselfish love.
Love that is patient. Love that is kind. Love that is not jealous. Love that is generous. The love chapter, I Corinthians 13, goes on to say that the edifying gifts of the church such as prophecy will be gone one day and only love will remain. If we do not get love right, our tree is barren and there is nothing to offer the Lord in our life.
Matthew 26:7-9 (NLT) While he was eating, a woman came in with a beautiful alabaster jar of expensive perfume and poured it over his head. The disciples were indignant when they saw this. “What a waste!” they said. “It could have been sold for a high price and the money given to the poor.”
If the giving of time, talent and treasure is not wrapped in love and presented in worship then what good is it? If our “Yes” to the Lord is presented to this world wrapped in religion, tradition and condition – what’s the point? If I try to relay an experience that I have not encountered myself than I am a counterfeit. For example, how can I explain the Grace of God and His Forgiveness when I cannot bear the fruit of forgiveness in my life? How can I share the Jesus who did not come to condemn that world when I pass judgment on them on sight? To love others like Jesus will harvest a life of giving that displays the Gospel in living color. Isn’t that what Jesus did? He did not leave those in need unfilled even when He didn’t tell them who He was or what He was about to do. He met them where they were and loved them on the spot without hesitation, reservation or condemnation. This is true love. The disciples were worried that the worship in the form of expensive perfume could feed the hungry. Noble effort but they missed the point completely. The service performed by the church is community service unless it comes packaged in unconditional and fruitful love born of the great love give to us by Jesus.
2 Corinthians 9:6-7 (NLT) Remember this—a farmer who plants only a few seeds will get a small crop. But the one who plants generously will get a generous crop. You must each decide in your heart how much to give. And don’t give reluctantly or in response to pressure. “For God loves a person who gives cheerfully.”
Jesus is looking for those who love Him to love others. Not with the kind of love that the world is known for. God’s Love has no requirement. It is by His Grace that we have acquired love. It is to be given freely and cheerfully. Love with condition is a counterfeit. People know the difference between real love and fake love. There are many broken hearts out there that will never don the doors of a church because of the judgment and condemnation that is felt when they enter. To preach a Gospel of words without true and genuine love is to counterfeit the Cross. To give from anything less than a humbled heart changed by God’s Love is a lie. To try to present a message of love with words that hold empty promises is to literally shun those who need Jesus most just like me. The seed of our life is love. Not conditional love, but radical love that meets the need of others not based on prideful religion but the pursuit of each heart as Jesus would. He pursues us with unconditional love and goodness. (Psalm 23:6)
From a very early age, I participated in church visitation. As a teenager loaded in buses and dropped off in neighborhoods to present God’s Message to the lost. Invite them to church. Pray for them. As a young adult, every Tuesday night armed with an atlas and the Bible – we would go visit those who dared to fill out connection cards at church. I remember every awkward encounter. It was after I became the woman at the well, that I finally had something to share. After wandering, I met a man who knew everything about me and still thought I was to die for. His Overwhelming Love rushed in and covered me just as I was not waiting for me to do anything or be anyone other than who I was. It would take years for this truth to finally manifest in my heart and see that God wants us to accept His Grace and grow His Love to give to others. This is what “Yes, Lord” means it is to love extravagantly and overwhelmingly giving our life to others daily even in the seemingly smallest of gestures such as a smile. The Love of God is attractive. It is perfect. I don’t need to add to it a single condition but spread it thick in the world in which I live. Nothing will ever change the heart of a person more than experiencing the Love of Christ. It is love for Christ that empowers us to make better choices and give more to Him. I can never out give the Lover of my soul. So I say, “Yes” today. Today I will love others (or try to) just like Jesus loves me – radically and unconditionally – it will be my act of service. I will call it a fast. Either way… it is the fruit of our life that He desires. I do not want to disappoint Him. Yes really is that simple. Will you do it today?
Proverbs 11:25 (NLT) The generous will prosper; those who refresh others will themselves be refreshed.