Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Love From the Heart

"Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply, from the heart" (1 Peter 1:22).

So far I've written some blog entries about topics like "Shocking" each other with our love and the need to have "Daily" relationships invested in helping each other become more like Christ. Hebrews 3:13 comes to mind: "exhort one another daily, lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin."

A church where EACH one is devoted to "coming alongside" others everyday to help keep each other from being hardened by deceitful sin is almost non-existent. Where are the people who put Hebrews 3:13 into practice? Where are the people who live like they did in Acts 2:42, "daily with one accord"?

Why don't people live this way? We desperately need "sincere love" for one another. But let us love one another deeply, FROM THE HEART.

When we seek to follow God or keep his commands, we must do so by faith. If we want to "exhort one another daily", if we want to love one another, it must be by faith and from the heart. We cannot merely invent a principle to live by and then try to adhere to the principle. In this case, we cannot merely read Hebrews 3:13 and say to ourselves, "OK, now I'm going to start hanging out with people every day." It goes deeper than that.

The believers in Acts 2 sold their possessions, were together daily, committed themselves to one another and to following the apostles' teaching, etc. They LIVED Christianity. Most of them hadn't heard nearly as many teachings or "sermons" as most Christians today, but their lives were unquestionably committed to Christ and to one another. They were "cut to the heart" (Acts 2:37) by God's word and the way they lived was the overflow of their hearts (i.e. Matt 12:34).

We desperately need to be cut to the heart by God's Word. It is sharper than any two edged sword (Heb. 4:12) and it is supposed to go much deeper than our brains. We cannot merely increase in knowledge of what "the church" is supposed to be and then try to walk it out as best as we can.

Here's an analogy. If a neglectful dad reads in the Bible that his heart should be turned toward his children (Malachi 4:6), he may feel guilty and decide to start spending more time with his children. Maybe he will begin spending more money on his children, buying them gifts. But unless his heart actually turns, unless his love and compassion actually increases, his efforts alone will not produce everything that God wants in that relationship. In fact, his actions will be reluctant at times and incomplete, sometimes motivated by guilt and duty rather than love. But the dad who loves his children from the heart can't wait to be with them. He rushes home from work. He invests into their lives and longs to do so more and more. Hundreds of "little" things about him change, from subtle attitudes and facial expressions to large sacrifices of his time and energy.

Applied toward the church, Christ's Body, we cannot be satisfied with an intellectual understanding. For example, we cannot merely read that we are supposed to need one another just like a hand needs a foot and that if one part suffers the rest suffers too (1 Cor. 12) and then change a few of our actions. Let's not merely "hang out" more with one another. Let's love one another deeply from the heart. If our hearts are for one another we will consider one another better than ourselves (Phil. 2). We will honor one another above ourselves (Rom. 12). We will labor to present each one mature in Christ (Col. 1:28). We will wrestle fervently in prayer for one another (Col. 4:12, Eph. 6:18).

"Get a new heart and a new spirit" (Ezekiel 18:31), not just some new actions. May our actions proceed out of a heart devoted to loving God and loving one another. God will do it; he who has promised is faithful. We, however, cannot be content with intellectual understanding. God will quickly put his word into our hearts if we will let him--this a promise of the new covenant. May God receive glory in his church!

Friday, January 27, 2006

Put What We Learn About the Kingdom of God Into Practice

On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus...

Religious expert: "Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?"

Jesus: "What is written in the Law? How do you read it?"

Religious expert: "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind'; and, 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'"

Jesus: "You have answered correctly. Do this and you will live." (see Luke 10:25-28)

The above dialogue from the Gospel of Luke was on my mind this morning. Very simple. Yet, often overlooked. Jesus didn't tell him to make sure he believed a certain set of doctrines or make sure that he did a whole bunch of things. How Jesus dealt with the question got right to the man's heart.

Notice that the man already knew the answer to his own question. Jesus said DO THIS and you will live; he didn't say KNOW THIS and you will live. People who have grown up around religion often know the right answer, but doing it proves difficult. Jesus said that those who hear his words will be blessed if they put them into practice (John 13:17). Otherwise, they will be like a man building a house on the sand (Matt 7:26). There will be a house there; it might look nice to the occassional passerby... but the end is destruction.

I may learn a lot about "the Kingdom of God" or "church" or all kinds of things, but if the things I learn do not find reality in my life, then it is no good at all.

So, if you know the right answer, but do not put it into practice... the answer does you no good. In fact, you have actually deceived yourself.

As we learn more about what it means to be part of the Body of Christ, let's not let our knowledge get in the way of actually doing what we learn.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

What Really Lasts?

"If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory" (Col 3:1-4).

That's a big IF at the beginning of Colossians 3. IF you were indeed raised with Christ then seek the things above. Set your minds on things above, NOT on earthly things. Is your life really hidden with Christ in God? If so, what will we be DOING here on earth? If our minds are set on things above, what will our "earthly" relationships be like? What will be the point of our lives? WHY will we be living? WHY will we "get together" with other people? There's more than one way to answer these questions, but here's what Paul said:

Him we preach, warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus. To this end I also labor, striving according to His working which works in me mightily (Col 1:28-29).

Paul lived for Christ. "For to me to live is Christ and to die is gain." He labored and struggled mightily so that people could stand before God blameless. He wanted his life to count. When he got to the heavenly kingdom he wanted other people to be there because of his work (actually God working through him). This is one type of fruit that lasts.

Paul was not the only one who was supposed to live this way. Aren't we also? We may not be traveling by boat all over Asia and the Middle East like Paul, but we can have that mindset in whatever calling the Lord has us. We can be like Epaphras, "always laboring fervently for you in prayers, that you may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God" (Col 4:12). As Paul said, "Now I beg you, brethren, through the Lord Jesus Christ, and through the love of the Spirit, that you strive together with me..." (Rom 15:30). Isn't this part of what it means to be a living sacrifice (Rom. 12:1), that we CARE and help others to know Christ? And with others who already know Christ that we labor fervently, with much effort, to do whatever we can to help them know him better?

These things are not just for "the pastor" to do. No, EACH one MUST be laboring to present each other "perfect in Christ". If that's not our mindset, then we need to set our minds on things above; we need to TURN our minds (repent) from earthly things to heavenly things. Stop letting pointless, fruitless earthly things get in the way of a lasting, heavenly calling.

"From him the WHOLE body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as EACH part does its work" (Eph 4:16).

Indeed, there is much work, but not enough are willing to be laborers.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Shocking One Another With Love

If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet. For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you (John 13:14-15).

This portion of Scripture recently stood out to me. I think that most of us know that Jesus is talking about more than washing feet here. Of course, there is nothing wrong with washing each other's feet. But I think we can all see that Jesus meant much more than just literal foot washing. If all we do is get a bucket and a towel and wash someone's feet, I think we will miss a lot of what we need to get from this Scripture.

Jesus set us an example. We should do as he did. What did he do?

He shocked them by expressing his love to them. How do you think the disciples felt when their Lord and Master got up from the meal, took off his garments and girded himself with a towel, and then began to go around and wash each of their feet? At least Peter was shocked. He initially refused Jesus saying, "You shall never wash my feet!" Certainly, this act amazed, surprised, and even shocked the disciples.

So, how do we follow Christ's example? He said that we ought to follow his example in this?

When is the last time others around you were amazed by the love and humility that you demonstrated?

"Let no one despise your youth, but be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity" (1 Tim 4:12).

Let's set a "shocking" example of love, good works, faith, purity, etc. Don't look around you at what other people are doing; think about yourself. What can you do to show your love? How can you be an example for others to follow?

As we seek to apply these Scriptures to ourselves we need to allow God to show us things outside the box. Many people cannot see because they are blinded by their own experience. May that not be true of us! Do we secretly limit God working in us? Have we ever allowed God to take our thoughts to something as radical as taking off our garments, putting on a towel, and going around one by one and washing peoples' feet? Most of the ways Christianity is expressed these days does not live up to what Jesus wants. We must allow God to take our thinking outside of our experiences. We must allow him to radically tranform us. And we must be willing to put into practice a radical, wholehearted love.

We all have a "comfort zone". We will sacrifice for others up until a certain point. Maybe we will allow ourselves to be uncomfortable, but we all will stop at a certain point. My appeal is this: let's be as uncomfortable as Jesus wants us to be.

As the ark of the LORD was entering the City of David, Michal daughter of Saul watched from a window. And when she saw King David leaping and dancing before the LORD, she despised him in her heart... Michal daughter of Saul came out to meet him and said, "How the king of Israel has distinguished himself today, disrobing in the sight of the slave girls of his servants as any vulgar fellow would!" David replied, "...I will celebrate before the LORD. I will become even more undignified than this, and I will be humiliated in my own eyes. (2 Sam 6:16,20-22)

Wednesday, January 04, 2006


"Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show by good conduct that his works are done in the meekness of wisdom" (James 3:13).

I was talking with a dear brother yesterday and he said something like this: "wisdom is not about content." This got me thinking. Wisdom is not all about knowing a bunch of stuff. Wisdom involves good fruit in our lives, as we can see by the verse quoted above. A few verses later we read:

James 3:17 But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy.

That's what we want: wisdom from above. We want these characteristics to be abundant in our lives. We don't merely want to know some facts. Wisdom is not only about lots of content...