My friends, you were chosen to be free. So don’t use your freedom as an excuse to do anything you want. Use it as an opportunity to serve each other with love. All that the Law says can be summed up in the command to love others as much as you love yourself. But if you keep attacking each other like wild animals, you had better watch out or you will destroy yourselves.
Politics, debates, yelling in the name of truth, road rage, vicious gossip, world gone over the edge, anger, meanness, I /we hear this so often – something must change in this world, everybody else is messing things up. Something needs to change. As followers of Jesus Christ, it is a time to be sure to look inward. I believe change can happen from the bottom up and sadly the world perceives that we followers do not love. I firmly believe in the phrase “perception is reality.
We must look at our walk with the great living and loving God. It is a time to evaluate where we each stand as far as whether we truly internally possess the most important “loves” that God repeatedly indicates that we are called to possess. Is our life’s perspective aligned with how God wants it to be?
Jesus answered, “The most important one says: ‘People of Israel, you have only one Lord and God. You must love him with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.’ The second most important commandment says: ‘Love others as much as you love yourself.’ No other commandment is more important than these.”
The man replied, “Teacher, you are certainly right to say there is only one God. It is also true that we must love God with all our heart, mind, and strength, and that we must love others as much as we love ourselves. These commandments are more important than all the sacrifices and offerings that we could possibly make.”
This scripture is to be our life perspective, our goals, our resolutions. These are real. These need to be our real long term goals in life and they must affect all of our life during each passing minute. This is our God given blueprint for spiritual development and service. This causes us to ask ourselves if our love is both vertical and horizontal.
I want to encourage you to look at this passage in regards to your spiritual growth today. I challenge you to ask yourself two questions:
1) How is the Holy Spirit leading me to love God more completely? (vertical)
2) How is the Holy Spirit challenging me to love my neighbor? (horizontal)
Loving God – Vertical
Loving God involves a wide range of actions which gives us a pattern for developing into mature, fruitful disciple of Jesus. Let’s look at them.
Love The Lord Your God With All Your Heart: Conversion (the heart is turned to Him via a New Birth)
Love The Lord Your God With All Your Soul: Sanctification (the will to be increasingly surrendered to God and be constantly using the power of the Holy Spirit for His service and righteousness)
Love The Lord Your God With All Your Mind: Transformation (We discipline ourselves to study the Word allowing God’s Spirit to renew our minds. We pray to become further transformed)
Love The Lord Your God With All Your Strength: Stewardship of our life. (We understand that all we are and have REALY belong to God and our lifestyle becomes an act of worship and service to God).
Romans 12:1-2 illustrates the process of loving God with all our being quite well. Paul says: Dear friends, God is good. So I beg you to offer your bodies to him as a living sacrifice, pure and pleasing. That’s the most sensible way to serve God. Don’t be like the people of this world, but let God change the way you think. Then you will know how to do everything that is good and pleasing to him.
Can you see and discern spiritual growth within yourself by looking at these four markers? I am certain you can. They are divine indicators that one is becoming a mature Christ-follower. This time in this present day is a good time to renew our passion to follow Him. You want change, change your passion. You see the Bible recognizes this and continually calls us to renewal. Recognition of sin, Repentance
In Revelation chapter 2, our Lord says:
I know everything you have done, including your hard work and how you have endured. I know you won’t put up with anyone who is evil. When some people pretended to be apostles, you tested them and found out that they were liars. You have endured and gone through hard times because of me, and you have not given up. But I do have something against you! And it is this: You don’t have as much love as you used to. Think about where you have fallen from, and then turn back and do as you did at first. If you don’t turn back, I will come and take away your lampstand. (have you turned towards worldly idols, standards, pressures, removed love from your heart)
In this time, I am asking God to show me how to love Him more fully. More Jesus / less religion! I am laying everything on the table and saying “Here I am, Lord. Make me like your Son. Our ultimate is to be like Jesus. I invite your Holy Spirit to take this time and check me, search me, and change me.” What is my vertical love for God like?
Here are questions that enter my mind:
What does the way I spend my time say about my love for Jesus? Is God pleased with the way I manage the time He has given me?
What does the way I read God’s Word say about my love for Him? Do I set aside regular times to listen to Him? “Am I a doer of the Word?”
What does the way I use my money reveal about my passion? I am not necessarily asking myself to consider giving more … I am asking myself to consider giving (spending) different.
What does my prayer life reveal about my intimacy with God? Is my prayer relational, constant, and worshipful or just a bunch of 911 calls? Filled with our self interest and our will be done.
Think for a moment about the vertical love of God then. If we were to draw this line upward, how thick would it be? God loves us so much, a line drawn from Him to us would be very thick so is our life and line to Him thick? I sure hope it is and I know in my heart it could be even thicker.
Loving Your Neighbor – Horizontal
Our God is a both / and God. Let’s look at this horizontal line that reaches out to others, loving our neighbor. How thick is that line? What really makes up the whole of loving our neighbor? We have a tendency to look at this in a very narrow way. We have a tendency to love our neighbors with our leftovers. Or we have a tendency to make a small checklist of things that we will do for the people that we decide are worthy of our gift and that satisfies God. Fellow believers vs. strangers.
We have a tendency to not love others with our WHOLE heart. My concern is we think that this arrow is thicker than it really might be. Grace before truth. It is in loving our neighbor more and more fully that loving God is realized and we can be called spiritually mature.
When we love others with our whole heart, with our whole being and soul, we might be surprised at how the Holy Spirit uses that to draw people to Jesus. If people aren’t wanting what you have in Jesus, this arrow may actually be very narrow. Listen to this brutally honest quote from writer Gregory Boyd: “Our comical insistence that we are loving, despite our reputation, is a bit like a man insisting he’s a perfectly loving husband when his wife, kids, and all who know him insist he’s an unloving, self-righteous jerk. If he persists in his self-serving opinion of himself, insisting that his wife, kids and all who know him don’t understand what “true love” is, it simply confirms the perspective these others have of him.”
He continues: This, I submit, is precisely the position much of the church of America is in. Until the culture at large instinctively identifies us as loving, humble servants, and until the tax collectors and prostitutes of our day are beating down our doors to hang out with us as they did with Jesus, we have every reason to accept our culture’s judgment of us as correct. We are indeed more pharisaic than we are Christlike.” (The myth of a Christian nation)
This takes us beyond the checklist concept of loving our neighbor. This takes us beyond our “mission project” concept of loving others. This takes us to an understanding that loving our neighbor is closely related to looking at our fruits of the spirit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. That describes loving our neighbor. 1 Corinthians 13
We need to take a personal look at ourselves as we each here today make up the body of Christ. Before Paul gave us the fruits of the spirit, he warned us to not possess the following: People’s desires make them give in to immoral ways, filthy thoughts, and shameful deeds. They worship idols, hate others, and are hard to get along with. People become jealous, angry, and selfish. They not only argue and cause trouble, but they are envious.
I fear that some of these things exist far too much in our lives. Not correcting them means we don’t love our neighbor as God wants us too. We might think we love our neighbor as ourselves, but with the way the world looks at us, our perception of ourselves may not be equal to the reality that the world sees, or the reality that God sees. We may think our horizontal line is wide, but I fear it is not.
Here is how we know if we love others when we analyze how we stack up to Jesus.
Jesus loved people simply because they exist and usually not with some ulterior motive or as a project. I have begun to see that Jesus’ love was so evident that people did not wonder whether they were valued, they knew instinctively that this Man loved them, they could tell Jesus wanted to be with them, that Jesus wanted the best for them and that Jesus was willing to invest Himself to help them become whole, spiritually and often physically. Jesus showed his love by the way he acted around ALL people. He related to people.
I am asking God to help me learn what it means to love my neighbor. I am not trying to fabricate a persona that looks like I love them, I am asking God to teach me to love them and I am looking for the opportunities God places in my path.
So the question today as I have described these vertical and horizontal lines is how big are they, and are they ever increasing? Is your vertical line loving God large but your horizontal line loving others relatively small? Is your vertical line loving God small but your horizontal line loving others big? Have your lines not grown in thickness much recently? What needs to change in your life to make them really thick and even thicker then they have been before? I pray that we all strive to make them thick and full of love. Then we can change the world.