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Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Loving God

Jesus summed up all of scripture and life with two commands: "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." Mt. 22:37-39 If we do these two, we will not break any of the others. God is the purest form of love. Therefore, learning to love God and one another is the most important goal we can have. The Apostle Paul said in 1 Corinthians 14:1: "Let love be your highest goal."In the three Christian graces--faith, hope and love--love reigns supreme! Why? Because God is love. In order to fully know God, we must know His love

Just after washing His disciples feet, Jesus said to them, "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." John 13:34-35 Jesus showed His disciples a new way of loving through His example. The old commandments were written rules, but the new were by a Living Example--Jesus. Jesus showed the height, width and depth of God's love on the cross. God originally created Man and then Woman of Genesis in His image and likeness. Before sin entered in Genesis, this Man and Woman whom God created by His very own Hand into His image and likeness loved God with a pure heart and loved each other in the same way. They were open, intimate, holy and full of love for God and one another without fear or shame because they had no sin. Sin blocks our ability to love God and each other fully. God in His love wants to help us remove the sin in us, so we can draw nearer to God and love one another with God's heart.

Jesus loved His Heavenly Father with His whole heart, mind and soul as He walked the earth. He had a pure heart and knew pure love because He was without sin. In His every action, Jesus gave those who came to Him the same love that the Father gave Him. In John 15:9, Jesus tells His disciples, "As the Father has loved Me, so have I loved you. Now remain in My love, just as I have obeyed My Father's commands and remain in His love." It was Jesus' obedience to His Father's Word and will that kept Him in this Godlike love. He tells His disciples also, "If you love Me, you will obey what I command." John 14:15 Notice that Jesus is saying that our obedience will come from our love for Him, not out of demand or command. We will obey Him freely and willingly as He obeyed His Father freely and willingly out of His deep love for the Father. Walking in obedience to Jesus' Word keeps us in that Godlike love which is far higher than our fleshly love. Jesus said a "new commandment I give you" because this love is not empowered by our fleshly nature but by our dependence upon God's power--the Holy Spirit. As a matter of fact, right after Jesus said that those who loved Him should obey His Word, He said that He would "ask the Father, and He will give you another Counselor to be with you forever--the Spirit of Truth." John 14:16-17 In order to love like Christ, we need the power of the Holy Spirit to lead and teach us the Truth. As we persevere in love and obedience, Jesus draws us closer to Him in an intimate love relationship and closer to others.

This love that Jesus calls us to is beyond human love. We are to act with love out of a willing, obedient heart as Jesus did with the Father and with those He touched on earth. Jesus didn't "feel" like going to the cross to suffer all that He would have to suffer to restore us to the Father and His undying love for all of mankind. Love is not a feeling. It is a choice and willingness! Love can't be commanded or earned. It must be given away freely. We can't command an emotion, just as Jesus can't command our love. We must give it to Him freely and willingly or it isn't love. Jesus doesn't want us to obey Him out of rigid rules and legalism, He wants us to give our love to Him freely and willingly. Because Jesus and the Father were so connected in holy (sinless) love, Jesus said in John 16:27, "The Father Himself loves you because you have loved Me, and have believed that I came from God." Jesus and the Father were so connected in holiness and love that to receive love from One was to receive it also from the other.

Mankind is the object of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit's love because we were made in their image and likeness. We are precious in the sight of Jesus because His Heavenly Father and Holy Spirit whom He loves gave us to Him. God only gives good gifts so we are loved and precious in His sight. We exist for the fulfillment of His love. "Having loved His own who were in the world, He now showed them the full extent of His love." John 13:1 Prior to His death on the cross, Jesus illustrated the depth of His love by washing His disciples' feet. Jesus stripped Himself naked and wrapped a linen towel around His waist to cover His genitalia--the place of the seed of life. White linen represents righteousness. Then Jesus poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples' feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him. Jesus was illustrating in the "natural" what He must do in the "spiritual." Jesus poured out the water of the Holy Spirit and the Word to cleanse us of sin represented by the disciples' feet. It was their feet that touched the earth and got dirtier than the rest of their body. Jesus wants to cleanse our "dirtiest" part. He said to Simon Peter, "Unless I wash you, you have no part in Me." John 13:8 Jesus wants to wash our "earthly" nature away so His spiritual nature is in us. Notice that the two names of Peter are used here. Simon was his "natural" name, but Peter was his "spiritual name" given to him by Jesus. In other words, Peter was dual-natured. At Jesus' remark, Peter replied, "Then Lord, not just my feet but my hands and my head as well." Feet represent our walk. Hands represent our works and the head represents our mind/wisdom. Jesus wants us to have His mind and wisdom.

Jesus responded to Peter's remark, "A person who has had a bath needs only to wash His feet; his whole body is clean." v10 Jesus fully cleanses us of all past sin when we come to Him and are baptized but we still have an earthly, fleshly nature. We get dirty with the ways of the earth and sin. Even though we are in the high places with Jesus as His disciples were, our feet touch the earth and the earth (fleshly) touches us. We need to be continually washed to remove our sinful ways so we don't walk in sin but walk on the water with Jesus and His Word.

The full extent of Jesus and the Father's love was at the cross. He went into the depths of the earth and ascended to the heights of heaven to show us how much the Father loves mankind. Jesus wants our faith and love to grow and reach an even greater fulfillment. He is after our heart and love. His love finds its fulfillment in the obedient heart. It is our oneness with Him through obedience to His Word that is Christ's goal. Obedience born of love leads to deeper love. Deeper love leads to Christ being in our hearts and shed abroad to others. We will love others with a deeper love as well.

All that we love deeply becomes a part of us. As we allow the love of Christ to dwell in us through our obedience to the Truth born out of love, He dwells (abides) in us richly and we in Him.

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