Tag Archives: Christ’s love

Want Freedom?

“They may take our lives, but they’ll never take our freedom.”

The above is a familiar quote to those who have watched Brave Heart, the depiction of the Scottish fight for independence led by William Wallace. In the movie, this line was part of a speech before the battle of Stirling Bridge by Mel Gibson, the actor who played Wallace. Though the quote is fictional, it portrays the kind of heart Wallace is believed to have had. The Scottish went on to win the battle, though outnumbered significantly by the English. Wallace ended up being hanged, drawn and quartered seven years after the battle, but his desire for freedom fueled his heart, giving him the courage to be brave.

Jesus speaks of  freedom when he states his purpose, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free those who are downtrodden.”[1]

Jesus was speaking of an eternal freedom beyond any physical constraint. He came to free us from the chains of religious self-effort and the bondage of self-indulgence.

Paul proclaims Christ’s desire for our freedom in Galatians 5:1, “It was for freedom that Christ set us free.” In Galatians, Paul identifies two great threats to our freedom in Christ.

Legalism (trying to earn righteousness) Twice Paul condemns those who teach that righteousness comes from our own efforts.[2] He says that seeking our own righteousness is akin to nullifying the death of Christ on the cross.[3] And for those who require the ritual of circumstances to earn favor with God, Paul calls for them to go ahead and complete the job by mutilating themselves.[4]

This is extremely spicy language but, believing we can add anything to what Christ has already accomplished by his death on the cross is ludicrous. Yet, in our success oriented society it seems natural to add religious activities to our other achievements.

In Galatians 2:20, which some call a summary of the Christian life, Paul brings to light the bondage of legalism. He reminds us of our spiritual death. We have nothing to add to Christ’s life in us. We are rather to live in moment by moment dependence upon Him our Indwelling Spirit of Christ. Anything else is bondage.

“do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery.”[5]

“For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor un-circumcision means anything, but faith working through love.”[6]

Bondage to the Flesh (delighting in anything more than Christ)  Though our life in Christ gives us tremendous freedoms to enjoy what He’s created, if we seek our satisfaction in these things, apart from Him, we’re on the path to bondage.

“For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh.”[7]

The world is filled with individuals who sought to satisfy the void in their hearts with sex, drink, drugs, work, media, etc. But only Christ can fill the hole in our hearts.

God has created so many things for us to enjoy as we walk with Him. However, if these things supplant Him in our hearts, the things intended to bring us pleasure become idols and addictions.

Challenge: Take a moment and think about the two great threats to your freedom: legalism and bondage to your flesh.

Is there anything you are doing which you think will cause Jesus to love you more? If so, you’re freedom is bound. Your motives are wrong. Do this thing because He loves you, not to earn His love.

Is there anything you’re doing which crowds out God having full access to your heart, something you delight in more than Him? It doesn’t have to be something that seems grievous, it can be work, over eating or media. Ask God, to help you put this thing in its proper place, behind him. If possible, stop this thing, if only for a season.

 

 

 

 

[1] Luke 4:18a

[2] Galatians 1:8-9

[3] Galatians 2:21

[4] Galatians 5:12

[5] Galatians 5:1b

[6] Galatians 5:6

[7] Galatians 5:13a

Joy – Nectar for our Hearts

It was the night before he would be cruelly murdered. He knew it, but they had no idea. To them what Jesus did was unheard of. He washed their smelly, grimy feet, a chore traditionally performed only by slaves. Peter was so shocked he almost refused it. But this sacrificial act of service began a demonstration of Christ’s love which would culminate with the sacrifice of his very life the next day.

After his betrayer left, Jesus said, “A new commandment I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”[1]

Later that night, as he made his way to the garden of tears, he unveiled his love in words, “As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you. Now remain in my love.”[2]

He went on to explain that if we love others with the same sacrificial love he demonstrated towards us, we would remain in his love. This establishes the great cadence of the Christian life, receiving Christ’s love and giving it away. After all, we only love because he first loved us.[3]

Then Jesus makes a connection between love and joy, “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.”[4]

Jesus wrote these very important things about love for the purpose of our joy. He’s basically telling us that if we focus on loving others as he’s loved us, we’ll have the joy our hearts crave.

As with our physical hearts, our spiritual hearts are vital to our health. We get our word “courage” from the French word for heart – “cour”. Without a vibrant inner heart we become “dis-couraged” and life becomes drudgery.

What’s the key to a healthy spiritual heart?

Consider the ancient proverb, “A joyful heart brightens one’s face, but a troubled heart breaks the spirit.”[5]

Our hearts were designed to run on joy. When we’re joyful, our inner core[6] is bright, otherwise, our spirits are broken.

Whether we realize it or not, we’re all searching for joy. We were designed for it.[7] But sustained joy can’t be found in worldly affections or smooth circumstances. Lasting joy, producing a vibrant, “en-couraged” heart, can only be found in nearness to God.

David wrote of God: “in your presence is fullness of joy”[8]

Joy is more than a “nice to have” add on to life. It’s fuel for the soul. Jesus wants us to have complete joy. It’s essential to our spiritual health and vital for the courage we need to face the moments of our lives.

Do you want joy?

Jesus tells you how to stay connected with his love and how to have his joy:

love others as he’s loved you.[9]

 

 

for the joy of the Lord is your strength” Nehemiah 8:10b

[1] John 13:34 (NIV)

[2] John 15:9 (NIV)

[3] I John 4:19 (NASB)

[4] John 15:11 (NIV)

[5] Proverbs 15:13 (CEB)

[6] From the Latin for heart – “cor”

[7] Ecclesiastes 3:11

[8] Psalm 16:11 (ESV)

[9] John 15:12 (NASB)

Choosing Life Over Work

Of his mentor, missionary to China Margaret Barber, Watchmen Nee wrote, “She cared for nothing but life… [and to pay] more attention to life than work.”[1]

 I long for this mindset, but too often the opposite is true. Consider what occurred only a few days ago.

On my to-do list was to get the name of diabetic test strips which would be covered under our new health insurance plan. My pharmacy told me to call my provider. My provider told me to call my insurance company. My insurance company referred me to a third party which handled pharmacy issues.

After several tries, I finally found myself talking to a person. His name was John. His voice was slow and shaky. I had the phone on speaker and my wife and I could both tell he was elderly, probably in his 70s.

John didn’t seem to know the answer to my question and suggested I call my pharmacy. When I told him I'd tried that, he told me to call my insurance company. I told him my insurance company had referred me to him. I tried to keep my voice from sounding as frustrated as I was feeling. This "to-do" was taking much longer than I'd hoped.

That's the sad thing. At that moment I wasn't thinking about John at all, other than the fact that he was blocking  me from marking this nagging duty off my list.

When John realized I wasn't going to go away, he  put me on hold.

"I bet people laugh at the way he talks all the time," my wife offered, feeling compassion for him. This unsolicited comment began to shift my heart and my thoughts moved slightly towards John. I emphasize slightly, because my goal was still resolution, not encouragement. I hate to admit this, but it's true.

When John got back on the line, he had an answer for me. In fact, he seemed empowered now that he had information.

During our exchange, my wife caught my eye and mouthed, "Pray for him."

Not yet being fully focused on John, this hadn't even occurred to me and I was a bit reluctant. However, when  John was done giving me my answer, I asked, “Is there anything I can pray for you about?”

"Yes," John said without hesitation.

“What can I pray for you about,” I repeated.

“My salvation,” John cried out.

Wow. I wasn't expecting that at all, but it thrilled me that he would be so honest.

I went on to pray that John would recognize God's loves for him, that he would accept Christ's willingness to die on a cross for his sins.  I prayed that John would believe by faith the fact that Jesus' death was out of love for him and that by receiving Christ's finished work, it would secured the salvation of his soul.

John listened and when I was done we ended our call with the normal protocols. But before we hang up, we could hear John gasp loudly and sob softly. What if he really did surrender his life to Christ? We pray that he did.

When we value life over work, this changes everything.

I recently heard of a man who was an elder serving on a particular church committee for 45 years. He said the experience was totally empty, but that he considered it his duty to God. He said his life was a series of dutiful activities hoping to please God.

But two years ago he finally understood grace. Though he'd heard the word for years, the amazing truth of God's unmerited favor passed from head knowledge to his heart.

Since then, his life has been totally different.  Now, when he wakes up in the morning, he doesn't think about all he has to do. Two simple thoughts have replaced his thoughts of work:

  • Oh, how he loves me
  • I wonder who he will bring into my life today to love through me?

Prayer: Most gracious, heavenly Father. I’m sorry I so easily get caught up in the swirl of duties and work that life becomes secondary. You are life. I see you all around me in your creation and in the people you bring my way. Please help me trust you that the work you want to accomplish will get done. I’m asking you to change the paradigm of my day to care less about accomplishments and more about people, to pay more attention to life than work.

Thank you for loving me so much.  Please work this unsearchable truth more and more into the fabric of my heart.

Who do you want to bring into my life today so that you can love them through me?

1 Peter 3:15 (NASB)  but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence;

[1] Watchman Nee, Witness Lee

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Remain in My Love

“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love.” (John 15:9)

I feel it happening again – the temptation to take charge and handle the challenge myself. I try to trust God, but it seems to be ‘all up to me’; a familiar lie. The internal pressure is mounting. I’m compelled to think I must uphold and maintain God’s love for me and the infusion of His strength. I feel the vulnerability of moving out from under the wings of His love into independent striving for achievement and approval.

Knowing I need truth, I turn to John 15. Here, Christ repeatedly tells me to abide in him and in his love. But how?

Digging into the word abide, I learn it also means to tarry, to dwell, be present with, to remain. I’m to remain in God’s Love. Jesus tells me that He loves me just as much as His Father loves Him. I want to believe this, but I struggle.

Remain. To remain somewhere means I have to be there to begin with. If I’m told to remain in a house, I have to already be in the house to stay there. I remember I Corinthians 1:30 where Paul says that because of God, I’m in Christ Jesus. He also says that it is by grace I have been saved, through faith; not a matter of my own works.[1]

It is Finished

God put me in Christ Jesus, not my own striving or achieving. When Christ said, “It is finished” on the cross, he finished all work needed to earn God’s pleasure. I don’t have to do a thing to be in his love. By believing, I’m already in the dwelling of Christ’s love. I’m to stay where God has put me.

This is extremely freeing.

Remain in Christ’s love. Don’t move.

Back in John 15, I read I’m like a branch of grapes. Connected to the vine, my source, God grows delicious fruit for others to enjoy. When He produces the fruit and others benefit, He gets the glory and I’m filled with His joy. It’s the only way it can work. A branch detached from the vine can yield nothing.

So, what is my work? After all, Jesus commands me to abide. My work is to stay where God has placed me, in the love of Christ. I’m to rest and yield to His life in me, fighting every lie with the truth of His amazing love.

Lord, I’m guilty of doubting your love, of thinking I have to achieve something for you to be pleased with me. Now I see how absurd this really is. Not only are my independent efforts worth nothing, but they produce the plastic fruits of self-glory.  I’m so sorry. Please keep me ever aware of your great love for me. Teach me how to remain where you have put me, in your surpassing love.  Amen. 

 

[1] Ephesians 2:8-9