What does it mean to love as God does?

Reading Time: 7 minutes

I was asked this question not long ago and felt it was a good question to be able to answer because in my life I want to be able to recognize God in me, loving others.

In recent months I have begun to realize that loving as Jesus calls us to love is not only painful but can be sacrificial. This is especially true when you love others and they do not love you back.

Jesus experienced this when He drew near to Jerusalem. In Luke 19:41 we see He wept for the city and the people within knowing fully they were going to accuse, reject, and crucify Him. He was foretelling the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD and was weeping for the city and its inhabitants. Despite what they were going to do to Him, He was grieving over their suffering and blindness to His truth and salvation He was offering them.

Then again on the cross in Luke 23:34 as they were gambling for his clothes He asked His Father to forgive them because they did not understand what they were doing.

Hal Seed and Dan Grider authored The God Questions, they wrote, “In the New Testament, there is a passage called the Shema. It is designed to prompt us to adjust our attitude toward Christ and others. It instructs us to ‘Love God with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these.'”1 They go on to say, “God is most interested in developing our character and relationships because, in doing so, His purpose is fulfilled. As a result, there will be evidence of His work in our life. We call this evidence the fruit of the Spirit. These are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.”2 When we apply these to our relationships we are expressing God’s character and His atoning love for us.

Children certainly have a hard time understanding this kind of sacrificial love, even many adults can’t grasp this because they have not been deeply hurt or wounded by someone they love.

I read a short story once that demonstrated a child’s lack of understanding concerning love. A five-year-old girl who played with her dolls daily once said to her mother, “Mommie I hug them, squeeze them, dress them, and love them every day, but they never love me back!” How true this is for so many of us, even Christians who are loved by God, but we never love Him back. Or we never love others as He asks us to.

In John 21:17 Jesus kept asking Peter if he loves Him. Each time He said for Peter to ‘Feed my sheep.’ Peter had failed, but in this exchange, Christ was restoring Peter and giving him a responsibility, an important obligation, a task was laid before him. Jesus was not finished with Peter, he was given an important assignment, to feed His sheep. Jesus was asking Peter to care for those he loved.

A few verses later Peter inquired about John and Jesus made it quite clear John was not of Peter’s concern. Peter had only to love Jesus, and love those that were His sheep. John 21:22-23 How Peter was loved back was not a contingency Jesus was concerned with. Luke 10:27 makes it crystal clear what Jesus calls us to do.

How many of you have heard of the U.S.S. Pueblo? It was an American intelligence ship captured by the North Koreans in 1968. The sailors were beaten and tortured for 11 months before their release.

One incident reported after their release took place with 13 of the 83 captives. The 13 were forced to sit in a rigid position for hours around a table. Suddenly the North Koren guards rushed in and beat the man in the first chair with their rifles. The next day the same 13 were to sit at the table in their assigned seats. Again after several hours the guards rushed in again and beat the man in the first chair who still had not recovered from his first terrible beating. The thrashing was repeated on the third day. On the fourth day, one of the men took the place of the man in the first chair who would not survive another beating. Sure enough, after a few hours the guards rushed in and beat the man in chair number one who sacrificed himself for his friend. This went on for weeks with each of the 13 men choosing to sit in chair number one to receive a beating.

These men were sacrificing each other for the well-being of their brothers, their friends. The bond became unbreakable as their love for each other became unshakable. Finally, the North Koreans gave up because they could not break this group.

Climb every mountain
Ford every stream,
Follow every rainbow,
Til you find your dream.

Those words familiar to you? Maria sang them in the Sound of Music.3

It’s time to see what I can do
To test the limits and break through
No right, no wrong, no rules for me,
I’m free!

How about those? Elsa in the Disney movie Frozen sang those words.4

You can’t do much for those around you if you consider yourself unworthy, weak, pathetic, and unloved. The world, in so many words, points to a supposed healthy narcissism that encourages us to seek our own dreams, there is no right or wrong and we are free to express ourselves as we see fit. Self-expression is the unalienable right and it supersedes the Christ like expression we are commanded to obey. 1 Corinthians 11:1.

What are these characters expressing that is the heart beat of our modern society? To be free, to be happy, to be content and satisfied with our lives, we need to reach inside and find what makes us happy within ourselves. I wonder how many men of the 13 sailors on the U.S.S. Pueblo would have traded seats with that kind of self-centered mind set?

Tim Keller wrote in his book Making Sense of God, “Rather than connecting with ‘some source outside us’ with family and people, with God or some other cosmic Good…now the source we have to connect with is deep within us… We come to think of ourselves as beings with inner depths. I find myself not by self-giving to something outside but through self-expression of something inside.”5

With that kind of thinking Jesus would have asked Peter three times if he loved himself, and care for himself before others.

It is important to realize we are all made in God’s image and because of that, we all have an inherent value and worth that Jesus was willing to sacrifice Himself for.

Finally Keller wrote, “In the end, we can’t say to ourselves, ‘I don’t care that literally everyone else in the world thinks I’m a monster. I love myself and that is all that matters.’ That would not convince us of our worth unless we are mentally unsound. We need someone from outside to say we are of great worth, and the greater the worth of that someone…, the more power they have to instill a sense of self and worth. [within us]”6

A blogger I know wrote concerning a family friction, “As I was mulling this conflict over the other day, I was thinking that people do hurtful things because they don’t understand the love of God. And God spoke to my heart in that moment, telling me not to add to their ignorance by failing to show his love to them.

So, that’s what I’m going to do when someone I love devastates me. I am going to use everything I have learned and experienced about my self and my God to love them without condition and without restraint.”7

Anthony Flew was an atheist most of his life, but in his final years, he came to believe in God. In his book, There Is A God he talked about how the first century Jews viewed the Old Testament and the five ways their culture viewed Him in their ancient texts.

They talked about the Word of God, the Wisdom of God, the Glory of God (the Temple), the Laws of God and finally the Spirit of God. All of these can be found throughout the Old Testament, Psalm’s, Proverbs, Judges, Genesis, etc. Then comes the Gospels. Flew wrote, “Now when we come to the Gospels, with those five ways of speaking in our heads, we discover Jesus behaving-not just talking, but behaving-as if somehow those five ways are coming true in a new manner in what he is doing.”8

What the first century Jews found most egregious was Christ acting as if He was the Temple. Flew wrote, “Jesus behaves as if he is the Temple in person. When He says, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ that is a real shock, because forgiveness of sins is normally declared when you go to the Temple and offer sacrifice.”9 Here is Jesus offering it on the street, in homes, and over meals. He was behaving as if He was God.

Some of us love to paint or make birthday cards; others would rather climb a mountain or go fishing. These hobbies or behaviors express God’s outward external design gifted to us. Not for the purpose of our self-expression or gratification, though satisfaction is a natural outcome when we express our gifted designs by God. Neither is it for our own edification to be free to chase our dreams, but rather to share with those we are in a relationship with, to love them as He has called us to. Ephesians 5:1-2

I am a long way from having this all figured out, but having hurt those I love the most it has become evident to me what I am called to do. Obedience to what He calls us to do. I want to love as Jesus loved.

…you do not fail in obedience through lack of love, but have lost love because you never attempted obedience. C.S. Lewis

 

 

Sources:
1. Seed, Hal. Grider, Dan. “What Does Loving God and Loving People Look Like?” The God Questions Outreach Inc. 2009, pp. 225-227
2. Ibid.
3. Keller, Timothy. “The Problem of Self.” Making Sense of God Viking, 2016, pp. 120-121
4. Keller, Timothy. “The Problem of Self.” Making Sense of God Viking, 2016, pp. 125
5. Ibid.
6. Ibid.
7. Havlick, Heath. “Loving People Who Devastate You.” The Uncovery Discovery Blog, 10 Aug. 2017, www.uncoverydiscovery.com/2017/08/10/loving-people-who-devastate-you/
8. Flew, Anthony. “Appendix B.” There is A God Harper One, 2007, pp. 188-191
9. Ibid.

 

 

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What does it mean to love as God does? by James Glazier is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Demanding Proof

Demanding Proof

Reading Time: 6 minutes

21 – A disciple of Christ, Thomas, was a skeptic. He walked with Jesus during his time on earth and physically witnessed with his own eyes certain miracles performed by him such as raising Lazarus from the dead and so forth. However, after the crucifixion, Jesus supposedly rose three days later and Thomas did not believe it was truly him despite being told, prior to the incident by Jesus, that he would rise again in three days. Thomas required physical proof. Jesus allowed him to touch him and feel the wounds in his body to offer that proof to Thomas. Why doesn’t god extend the same proof to humans alive today? Those that doubt his existence are no different than Thomas, requiring physical proof and he was a disciple of Jesus himself. If Thomas had been born one generation later, or even living today, he would have burned in hell for all eternity because he would not believe for the lack of physical proof. Paul was born after the death and ascension of Christ. Throughout his life, he did not believe that Jesus was the son of God and even went out of his way to persecute and murder Christians thinking that their religion was a dangerous belief system to practice. Lo and behold a flash of light came out of the sky and Jesus Christ himself appeared to Paul explaining to him that he is actually the one true god. Jesus told him that he was persecuting the followers of the only true faith. From that point on, Paul was a converted Christian. Again, if God was willing to go out of his way to physically prove to Paul that he actually exists, why is this not done today? Why isn’t God willing to show those that doubt today the same degree of physical proof? Why should we be any different than Thomas and Paul?

I don’t know. Why should you be any different from Thomas and Paul? In all your questions, what proof do you have that if God did show himself, you would turn to Him? Have you provided any evidence that would suggest that to Him, or to who have read your 50 questions? Besides, it has been pointed out that even the demons tremble and believe, but are they followers of God or did they choose to go against his will?

If you recall, Thomas was not the only one who required physical proof. How many of the disciples stayed at His side when he was arrested? They all scattered to the four winds and went into hiding. Where in scripture did it say that twelve could be found at the foot of His cross worshiping Him? It doesn’t. Matthew 26:56 states that all the disciples abandoned him and ran away. Mark 14:50 also says everyone fled. An interesting note, in Mark 14:51 he mentions a young man who had been following Jesus, but when they tried to grab him he fled naked leaving his garment behind. Many scholars believe Mark is talking about himself. Luke mentioned that Peter followed at a distance, but then denied Jesus before the rooster crowed three times. Luke 22:54-62.

What turned these frightened and fleeing disciples around? Was it faith or was something else more significant provided to them?

Do you recall when John the Baptist was in prison and he asked his disciples to go to Jesus and ask if He was the one they had been waiting for or if they should look for someone else? Luke 7:18-23 When they went to Jesus He began to heal the blind, the deaf, the lame and cure those with leprosy. After the signs, he told the messengers from John to return and report what they had seen and heard with their own eyes. What Jesus did not do was say, “Go back and tell my cousin, doubter that he is, to take a leap of faith and believe!” No, Jesus provided evidence they could see, hear, and touch and then go back to John and report to John the Baptist first hand.

In a book given to me by Pastor Russ Peters, Carlos Annacondia wrote about the Argentine Revival. He was speaking on faith and wrote, “Now, this faith, the faith necessary to operate under the super natural power of God and with authority in His name, is not a rational conviction, nor does it require a certain religious knowledge…These things are for those who, with a simple heart, begin to put into practice the command of the Lord of going and preaching, trusting Him that the promised supernatural signs will follow.”1 With a focus on evangelism and preaching, he continued, “Then signs will confirm the truth of the gospel of Christ with miracles and wonders, just as Jesus affirmed. It is not enough just to talk about the gospel, but it is necessary to also put the gospel into practice with all of its visible and outward consequences and effects.”2

Without exception, every one of the Apostles was transformed by the resurrection event. Prior they were confused, fearful, in hiding, scattered, and some would say even acted cowardly. After the resurrection, they were bold, fearless, and proclaimed the resurrection without hesitation. Tom Gender lists 12 notable changes that took place within the budding Christian culture that was the antithesis of their own Jewish culture.

1. They held on to their monotheism beliefs but now looked at God as three distinct persons.
2. They came to believe that the promise of the coming Messiah was God Himself in the form of Jesus.
3. They understood He would come twice, first to suffer and die for our sins and then return to establish His kingdom.
4. They taught that obedience to the law was no longer sufficient, but it had to be coupled with faith in Christ their savior.
5. They no longer offered animal sacrifices because Jesus had died once and for all.
6. The Temple in Jerusalem was no longer the focal point for God to meet with His people.
7. They began to meet on Sunday’s rather than Saturday’s.
8. They began to practice baptism as opposed to circumcision.
9. They began the observance of the Lord’s supper.
10. Unclean and clean distinctions were dismissed and associations with Gentiles was acceptable.
11. They had a fervent desire to share their faith, not only within their own Jewish culture but in all parts of the known world.
12. They added new books to the Old Testament texts which we now know as the New Testament.3

Within a few decades, the Gospel spread to Europe, Africa, and Asia. Followers of Jesus gave up everything to pursue Him and share the good news. Every one of the Apostles was beaten, tortured, and imprisoned for their faith.

What could have changed their views so drastically? Views that were not only heretical to Judisam but so counter to their culture and way of life.

They saw the risen Lord, not only Thomas but all of them, consequently they became bold and fearless proclaimers for Christ. So that is a good question. Why doesn’t God provide us with direct evidence as He did for Thomas, Paul, and the others?

Yes, Thomas doubted as have others, then the miracle of seeing his risen Lord gave him reason to exclaim, “My Lord and my God!” John 20:28. What did Jesus say and do just before that? He showed him the evidence and told him to stop doubting and believe. Miracles can be a divine event for the faith of unbelievers, but so can the report of miracles if the hearts of unbelievers would allow it.

Scripture tells us that unbelievers suppress the truth and Jesus tells a story of a man who wanted to be sent back from hell to warn his five brothers. How did Abraham reply to that request? They will not be convinced even if someone is raised from the dead. Luke 16:31

John Frame who wrote Apologetics to the Glory of God said, “[Jesus] wrought many miracles, but they rarely lead people to faith. Often the enemies of Jesus admitted the miracle, but still refused to believe. And even the Resurrection itself failed to convince many. Jesus had harsh words for those who demanded to see signs.”4 Matthew 12:39; John 4:48

If a God exists, then you can conclude that miracles are possible. There is overwhelming evidence for the Resurrection and how it transformed the Apostles. Not only the Apostles but millions over the past two thousand years who have given their lives to Christ, some figuratively others literally. Out of the millions who have become Christians over the centuries how many have been transformed by the witness of a miracle? Very few.

You don’t need to witness a miracle to become a believer; you just need to believe in the miracle that has already been witnessed and reported.

 

Sources:
1. “Power Evangelism Argentine Style.” The Rising Revival, Edited by Wagner, Peter. Deiros, Pablo. Renew Books, 1988.
2. Ibid.
3. Gender, Tom. “Back From The Dead.” Truth Matters, CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2011, pp. 126-127
4. Frame, John. “Apologetics as Proof, Proving the Gospel”, Apologetics to the Glory of God, P & R Publishing, 1994, pp. 143

 

 

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Demanding Proof by James Glazier is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
Based on a work at www.dev.christianapologetics.blog/blog.

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