LOVE OVERCOMES FEAR

1 John 4:17-19 (The Message)

God is love. When we take up permanent residence in a life of love, we live in God and God lives in us. This way love has the run of the house, becomes at home and matures in us, so that we’re free of worry on Judgement Day – our standing in the world is identical with Christ’s. There is no room in love for fear. Well-formed love banishes fear. Since fear is crippling, a fearful life – fear of death, fear of judgement – is one not yet fully formed in love. We though, are going to love – love and be loved. First we were loved, now we love. He loved us first.

I have come to the conclusion that maturing as a Christian is synonymous with maturing in love. Learning to love is nurtured by our grasping of the reality that God loves us.

Love begets love. Fear opposes love. As the above scripture points out: “There is no room in love for fear. Well-formed love banishes fear.”

There is natural fear. I don’t get too close to the edge of a cliff, and I keep my distance from poisonous snakes. However, the unfounded fear of impending doom opposes love. When we embrace God’s love for us, we put aside fear; for we know, he cares for us. Death and judgement are taken care of.

John 3:16 (The Message)

This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life.

The freedom we gain through salvation in Jesus Christ allows us to walk through life without fear. His love conquers the fear in us. The less we fear, the more his love passes from us to others. Isn’t it the goal of Christians to love one another?

A prayer: Help us Father to more fully grasp the love you have for us that we might grow in love for each other.

Advertisements

LOVE ONE ANOTHER

This week I have been examining what it means to love one another.  Jesus gave a new command to his disciples: “Love one another” (John 13:34).  This is repeated in John 15:17, “This is my command: Love each other.”  So I have always thought that this means be nice to each other, forgive each other, encourage one another.  I have seldom explored the aspect of love that involves surrendering to one another.

In 1 Corinthians 9:19 Paul says, “Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible.”  Paul is willing to surrender himself to others that they might find Jesus.  This is love that puts aside self-concern for the sake of others.

The whole experience of life is how I exercise my free will.  I have free will.  This was given to all humans at the time of creation.  I can please myself, or I can please others.    

My closest relationship affords the opportunity to practice loving another.  This can be demonstrated simply. When I find that Bonnie, my wife and ministry partner, is annoyed with some habit of mine, do I surrender my will to her or insist on my way?   I love her by surrendering my right to continue the annoying habit.

Paul says in Philippians 2:3 “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.”  Putting someone else first is contrary to my self-centered nature.

Jesus’ command to love one another proves to be quite a challenge, but it is essential for his disciples.  In John 13:35 Jesus concludes, “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

RECEIVING HIS LOVE

Last week in my blog “The Greatest Force” I quoted this scripture from Matthew 22:37-39, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.  This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.”  Can anybody do this?  I’m going to take the liberty of answering for all of us and say “no” because in verse 40 of this passage Jesus continues, “All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”  The scriptures make it very clear that none of us have been able to keep the whole Law.

Houston, we have a problem!

Unfortunately, neither Houston nor I have the solution, but God does.  For God so loved …, that he sent Jesus (see John 3:16).  I believe that our ability to love God and others is rooted in our ability to receive God’s love.  Truly believing that we are loved changes us.  There is a peace that comes over us that counters our need to perform.  It takes away our need to earn love.  Living in the peace of God’s love supports us and opens the way for us to give love.

To genuinely receive God’s love is difficult.  We have to lay down our self-sufficiency.  “I can do it myself.”  Self-sufficiency is a part of our sinful nature.  Have you ever observed a toddler saying “I do it?”  It’s inherent.  God’s love given freely puts us in a humble place.  We don’t have to do anything to earn it.  God did it all.  It’s simply a matter of surrendering the pride of self-sufficiency.

Pride separates us from God, and allows us to do all kinds of unloving things.  Think of bigotry and abuse.  Aren’t these sourced in pride?  The pride that says I’m better than or more important than another.  Can a humble heart, that is truly receiving love from God, commit these acts against their neighbor?

I fall short in loving God and my neighbor every day.  Therefore, every day I have the potential to be ungodly.    I need to do something about this.  No, I need to humbly receive God’s love for me.  Loving God and others will flow from that.

THE GREATEST FORCE

Love is the greatest force in the universe.  The Bible tells us that God, the creator, is love (1 John 4:16).   The world and all that is in it was created in love.  It was love demonstrated by Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross that brought us salvation.  The redemption of mankind was accomplished by His great act of love.  In love then there is sacrifice.  As Jesus exhibited, love requires the laying down of personal wants and desires for others, or maybe just redirecting our personal wants and desires to others.  Jesus told us in Matthew 22:37-39, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.  This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.”

We obviously have the right to use love, and we are commanded to use it.  First we are to love our God, and second to love our neighbor.  Our neighbor being anyone we encounter.

We have access to the greatest power in the universe!  How amazing is that?  Why aren’t we using this great power?  Oh, it requires sacrificing our own wants and desires.  Bingo!  The whole world could be changed by this great force that we have access to, but it requires sacrifice.

Taking a broader look, I find that there is little use of this greatest force in our world.   I’m not seeing a wide use of love.  Knowing that God is love, we can say there’s a lot of ungodliness being exhibited.  For those who like to blame this on God, perhaps a look in the mirror might clear their perspective.  I’m looking in the mirror, and I find much room for improvement.

THE INDIVIDUAL IN THE MASSES

I am a member of a small congregation.  I have attended this church for seven years.  Each week we gather together to share in worshipping the Lord, hearing the Word, and fellowshipping.  When one of our members is not present on a Sunday morning, they are missed.  Fortunately, there is no condemnation or judgement when someone is missing.  Actually, we all probable know why they’re not at church.  We are close.

Last Sunday during our worship time, the Lord led me through a review of the individuals in our congregation.  He showed me how everyone has a special and unique place in my heart.  I know them, and they know me.  They are not a mass of people, because I know each individual personally.   I am blessed to have a group of people I know so well.  They make my life fuller and increase my joy.  When tragedy strikes we are there to comfort one another. 

Every day we hear of great tragedies around the world.  The devastation of the masses sickens my heart, but I can’t relate to their suffering like I can when someone I’m close to suffers.  I feel deeply the suffering of those I know well.    I don’t know the individuals in the masses personal, so my compassion and understanding are inadequate.  I try to project what it would be like if I were in their place, but I am limited.

God however knows every single soul that traverses this earth, personally.  God feels deeply the tragedies of every human life.  I’m sure to God, the individual is not blurred by the masses.  When I pray for those in distant lands, I am sure that God knows those I pray for.  He is there and available for each one.  I am limited in my ability to see the individual in the masses, but I can partner with my God who is not limited.  When I pray for the masses, God ministers to the individuals.

THE TROUBLE WITH MARRIAGE

The most important thing to remember about marriage is that two human beings are involved.  Now humans are created in the image of God, but they picked up an additional element at the fall of man.  This additional element is known as a sinful nature.  When thrown into a marital situation the sinful nature can wreak havoc.  Since we all have this destructive element, those of us who are married have an inherent obstacle to success.  How do we combat this obstacle?

I don’t claim to have the ultimate answer, but here are some thoughts that might help.  First, don’t be surprised when your partner sins; remember it’s inherent.  So, be ready with love and mercy.  In Colossians 3:12 &13 there is some great advice,

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourself with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.  Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.

Having trouble incorporating this into you relationship?  Help is just a prayer away.  God has always answered my prayers of “help me!”  When I fail to see the wonder and blessing in my wife, I ask God to fix my eyes. I recognize that the fault is in me.  My failing to see is found in the clouding of self-centeredness.  I’m thinking of me and not her.  God always helps me to alter my perspective and see clearly the wonderful gift of her presence in my life.

I’m writing here from the husband’s point of view, but I’m pretty sure this also works for wives.  If both partners look for the fault in themselves then God has an easier task.  He doesn’t have to wait till we own our part of the problem.  I realized early in our marriage that it was unfruitful for me to try and fix what I thought was wrong with my wife.  (Do I hear chuckling in the background?)  Yes, only God can fix me, and only God can fix my wife.  We both have that sinful nature to deal with.  Thankfully, we have a savior who is always ready to help.  All we have to do is humble ourselves and ask.

THE BODY OF CHRIST

I would like to offer this morning that we are created not to contend with each other but to complement each other.    Can you imagine a society built on the idea of coming along side of one another?  Each person would be working toward a common goal, not trying to overcome but supporting others.  This is certainly contrary to our societal norms of “beat the competition”, “climb the corporate ladder”, and “don’t let others get ahead of you”.  Yet wouldn’t it be great if we could put aside our self-indulgent ways and be the body of Christ?

In Romans chapter 12 the Apostle Paul encourages Christians, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God –this is your spiritual act of worship.  Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”  How do we get our minds renewed?

As a member of the Body of Christ, I find in myself a desire to put aside contending with my fellow members.  I believe this desire is rooted in the love God has put in my heart.  Of course, this love wars against my sinful nature which often causes me to be contentious.  Romans 12:9-10 gives me guidance by stating, “Love must be sincere.  Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.  Be devoted to one another in brotherly love.  Honor one another above yourselves.”  Love is perhaps the key to being transformed.

I believe the ability to complement rather than contend with our brothers and sisters first requires a full understanding of God’s love for us.  We, the members of the Body of Christ, are loved in the deepest sense.  No one is a junior member.  We have all been given full rights as sons and daughters.  God will love us eternally.  When we understand that he loves us, we are transformed from who we were in the world into children of the living God.  Our mind is renewed; we view things differently.  The love that God has poured out on us naturally flows through us and joins us to one another.  Don’t let the lie that you’re not loved make you a contentious member of the Body of Christ.