Monday, March 19, 2012

A Lack of Love

"And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing."  
1 Corinthians 13:2

Loving one another within the Body is a difficult task for us to execute.  We all have different definitions of what love looks like, and they all tend to be geared towards whatever makes us feel good.  Our selfishness pervades righteousness and we get lost in an unjust and unbiblical expectation.

I'll just start off with a personal note on the topic...where I tend to struggle with graciousness and love is when I am sinned against.  Now don't get me wrong and start having visions of me taking my butcher's knife in hand and threatening to take matters into my own hands!  I don't struggle with feelings of violence ;), but with immense sorrow that comes from a wounded spirit.  I don't feel like loving the other person; instead, I feel like  washing my hands of them and pretending they have fallen from off the face of the earth.  I dwell on my pain, rather than just having a good cry and moving on with life.  I think about it all day long and try to reason out why the other person saw fit to shove a blunt object right through the center of my heart.  It becomes the center of my focus and I feel sullen and hopeless.  This is so wrong for me to do!  I am not loving the other person, because all I can focus on is myself.  Instead of pitying them for being so blind to their sin, I get stuck on a "me me me" kick.  I am learning that laying my burdens before the feet of Jesus Christ is all I can do to overcome my hurt.  Being sorrowful over my hurt should not be the central point of the situation, but instead, it should be in dealing with the other person's sin...not even their sin against me, but their sin against God.  Taking my eyes off of myself is something God is teaching me right now and He has shown me that it all stems from a lack of love within my own heart.  

"You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.'  But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.  For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?  And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so?  Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect."  Matthew 5:43-48

Another problem we can encounter when dealing with loving one another, is having a misconception of what love really looks like.  We think that if our egos are not being padded and if people don't stand by us in our sin, we are somehow being unloved by them.  But that is not real love at all!  Real love cares enough about one another to confront a sin that will separate the other person from God.  Not in a holier-than-thou manner, but in a spirit of Christian love that says, "I care enough about your soul to be as iron sharpening iron to you."  When we are confronted, face to face, with our own sin, we tend to bristle and take our anger and feelings of injured pride out on the person through whom the correction was initiated.  It isn't right at all!  We are not only misinterpreting what love looks like, we are not loving the other person at fact, we are demonstrating hatred towards them.  Jesus says that hating our brothers is like murder...

"You have heard that it was said to those of old, 'You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.'  But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to his brother, 'Raca!' shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says, 'You fool!' shall be in danger of hell fire."  Matthew 5:21-22

We all tend to use love in the wrong way.  For instance, we have no trouble loving ourselves!  We wallow and sulk in our attempts to love ourselves, instead of giving of ourselves to love others.  If it rubs us the wrong way, by golly, it must be wrong!  We have so much trouble stepping outside of our comfort zones and denying ourselves for the benefit of others.  

What is wrong with us?  Why is it so hard for us to allow God to mold us into the image of His Son?  Why do we resist and bristle against correction?  Why do we hurt each other?  Why are we so quick to stab each other in the back, instead of being long-suffering and loving each other?

We are called to be selfless and giving of ourselves.  We are not called to only watch our backs, but sacrifice everything, even our very lives, for the sake of our brethren in the Lord.  

"This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.  Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one's life for his friends."  John 15:12-13

What would Jesus think of us, when we are not even willing to sacrifice our reputations or popularity for the sake of loving our fellow brothers and sisters within the Body?  It's is a shame and something we should feel immensely grieved about.  

We are meant to work function as a family!  But we don't--we act just like the world.  We hate each other, fight, complain, gossip and seek each others' destruction.  This is not love.  This is not what we have been called to.  We are not in a competition against one another!  We are in a family with each other!  It grieves my spirit to see the wickedness that is exercised against fellow heirs to the Kingdom--and from fellow heirs to the Kingdom!  We need to remember that God views our brethren in the Lord as His children.  And when we sin against each other within the Church, we are sinning against the children of the Lord of hosts.  That should make us tremble and prick our hearts to contemplate the severity of our actions when we sin against one another.  

Why can't we dwell in unity and put off our divisive spirits?  

  • "Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment."  1 Corinthians 1:10

  • "I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.  There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all."  Ephesians 4:1-6

  • "Behold, how good and how pleasant it is For brethren to dwell together in unity!  It is like the precious oil upon the head, Running down on the beard, The beard of Aaron, Running down on the edge of his garments.  It is like the dew of Hermon, Descending upon the mountains of Zion; For there the Lord commanded the blessing —  Life forevermore."  Psalm 133

You see, the scriptures are very clear about how the Body is supposed to function.  But we just can't accept it!  We have to put our arrogance above what God's Word teaches us.  God has been specific with us, but we somehow complicate it and make it difficult to understand.  This is not what we are called to.  When we embrace a worldly philosophy on relationships in general, and we drag it into the Church instead of practicing what the Lord has called us to, we strip the Church raw of all its beauty and potential.  Instead of being focused on how we can be a light in this dark and darkening world, we have to fight for our lives... unfortunately, among our brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ.  We are so blind.  We are to lock arm and arm and combat the wiles of the enemy together; not be each others' enemies.  

It is a sad and grievous thing we have embraced.  May God convict our hearts and lead us to this much greater and inexpressibly glorious way of life. We are capable of living in it...if we would just look past ourselves and look above to our omnipotent God and Savior.  

"Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal.  And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.  And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing.  Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.  Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away.  For we know in part and we prophesy in part.  But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away.  When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things.  For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known.  And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love."  1 Corinthians 13

Saturday, March 17, 2012

The Problem with Problems...

I can often times have trouble keeping my life focused on eternity.  I get caught up in what is bothering me today, and I forget that those nuisances were stragetically placed in my life to sanctify me in the Lord.  I get spiritually exhausted from fighting battles day in and day out; and there happens to be more than one occasion (that I can recall to my memory), where I would just like to put my sword down, wipe the blood off of it, mend my wounds and give myself time to heal before moving on to the next blood filled battle.  But what I forget, (absent minded fool that I am) is that Jesus is my rest.  My redemption and eternal salvation is my peace for dwelling here on this wicked filled earth.  

I am an enormous Greg Bahnsen fan!  I just have to proclaim that for all of you fellow Greg Bahnsen guru's out there.  I have such an admiration for the way he would debunk false religions and defend the Christian faith with a strength and confidence that is not often seen these days.  You would think that I would be able to harness all of my apologetic and worldview studies and conquer the temptation to dwell on my sorrows, with a grace like that of a seasoned veteran for the battle of a lifetime!  

But do I?


Nope!  I cower, I complain, and I conjure up all sorts of additional miseries for my "woe is me" moment.
It's so simple!  Forgetting what our purpose is in life is one of the easiest things for us to do when life gets hard.  We get focused on our hardships, rather than what the purpose is behind our hardships.  We want life to fit into our little molds of what we deem acceptable and good-- and when they don't, we fall apart and succumb to the common thought that the world is coming to a complete and utter end and we are all doomed!  

We are massive control freaks...and we just can't let go and realize that God is the one who is in fact, in complete control.

It is the hardest thing for us as human beings to do.  But we must relinquish our wills to the perfect will of our Father!  He knows everything, is infinite in wisdom and has foreordained every event that takes place!  Our knowledge of the future is absolutely nil--why is it so hard sometimes, to trust the One who can see the entire future and be able to rest in the knowledge that He is orchestrating every moment of our lives?  You see, when we try to do things in our own power, we always end up either regretting or questioning the results.  Whereas, if God is the one who brings about the events in our lives, then we can be assured in the confidence of it being wholly good and blessedly perfect. 

When we are finally able to take our hand out of every situation that we are trying to tyrannize, we will be able to keep our focus on what God wants us to fix our eyes on, with greater ease.  Learning to bear good fruit and pursue what is good for edification and sanctification will come so much simpler to us!  Striving is important, but when we surrender everything to the Lord, it will feel more like achieving, rather than straining.  There will still be pain, but the pain won't feel like an injury as much as it will feel like a growing pain.

I find that as young women, we get distracted with thoughts of matrimony, acceptance and popularity.  We all want to be well known, well liked and pursued; both in friendships and romantic relationships.  But this is not what we are called to!  We are called to seek righteousness and holiness!  Our face should be continually before the Lord and our thoughts should be geared towards how we can best glorify Him, not how we can exalt ourselves and elevate our positions in life.  

Young women, in particular tend to be very competitive, and it only leads to our becoming distracted and the enemy finding a perfect door to walk through and stomp the living daylights out of our potential in the Body of Christ.  We are vessels that the King of Kings has cultivated for battle on this earth; it is a terrible shame and a waste for us to use our energies and throw away our time on silliness that can only brew sinfulness.  

Thinking about how we can be productive unmarried individuals, and how we can climb the social ladder of our reformed circles, all at the same time, is a practically impossible task.  When we focus on the temporal, we lose sight of the eternal.  

"'Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal;  but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.'" 
Matthew 6:19-21

And we do it everyday!

I'm guilty of it!  You're guilty of it!  The little, sweet elderly woman down the street is guilty of it!  But just because everybody does it, doesn't make it right!

Just because "we all do it", doesn't mean that God just winks at it and shrugs it off.  It breaks His heart and it is a sin against Him!  He has bestowed upon our souls, one of the tenderest and most precious mercies ever fathomable!  How dare we throw it back in His face by being focused on our own worldly well-being.  We need to make Him the focus of our daily lives and the reason behind all of our actions.  Who cares if everyone likes you.  Does God really care if everyone knows your name and what a wonderful person you are?  I don't think so.  It is exactly this kind of self-centered mindset that will rob us of every single ounce of influence we could have on the kingdom of Jesus Christ. Our job is to make His Name known, and His alone!  

Because that is what it is really is about what kind of impact we are able to make in the short window of time we are granted life here on this earth...this earth that is full of *things* will pass away, and yet, it is a gateway to all of eternity!  It is just a gateway.  The whole of life's purpose does not rest within this earth. The whole of life's purpose resides on His throne in Heaven above, and He has placed us on this earth to proclaim His name to every hell bound soul we could possibly encounter!  Sure, that doesn't mean we will all be street preachers, but it does mean that when a lost soul encounters us, they should be able to see the substance and priority of our focus, and the object of our love and affections! They should be able to see Jesus and our love for Him!

"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 
gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.  
And those who are Christ's have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.  
If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.  
Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another."
Galatians 5:22-26