TEACH THEM TO LOVE
Welcome back to the Commands of Christ blog series where we are examining together the nine foundational commands given by Jesus and which are essential for new disciples understand and obey. If you missed the first four posts in this series, you can find them by clicking Repent and Believe, Be Baptized, Pray, and Make Disciples.
And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age,” (Matthew 28:18-20).
In this post, we will look at the fifth of nine foundational commands that Christ gave for disciples to obey. This fifth command is to love and is found in Matthew 22:37-39.
And He said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbour as yourself.
So it’s clear, then, that love is something that must be done as a disciple of Jesus who is intent upon obeying all of His commands. And there likely aren’t very many disciples who would deny this love imperative. But what does it mean to love? What does love look like? How do I know what love is and who to love?
What is love?
Ask 100 people on the street what love is and you will probably get 100 different answers. But there is only one answer that a disciple should seek and that is the one given by Jesus. In John 15:12-14, Jesus gives the sense of what love is. He says that there is no greater love than the willingness of one to lay down his life for another. This is the ultimate definition of what love is.
And most of us in North America are pretty safe in saying that we love like that because the likelihood that I might be placed in the position of having to lay down my life for another is pretty remote. But is that the extent of what loving by laying down your life for another really means? Is it possible to lay down your life daily?
I believe that love is laying down your own life, your plans, your schedule, your agenda for the sake of others. Kind of like the Good Samaritan that Jesus talked about in Luke 10:25-37. He set aside his plans and schedule to care for the person who had been attacked on the road and left for dead. The Samaritan invested his time, energy and resources to care for him. And Jesus held this Samaritan up as an example of love.
Why do we love?
In John 13:34-45 Jesus says to us, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”
From this, we see three reasons why we are to love. First, because it is commanded; “A new commandment I give to you,”. No ifs, ands, or buts about it. We are commanded to love each other. Second, because Jesus loves us; “As I have loved you,”. And third, because this is the way the world will know that we are disciples of Jesus; “By this all people will know that you are My disciples.”
Who do we love?
In Matthew 22:37-39, Jesus makes it clear who we are to love. “And He said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbour as yourself.”
These are also commandments. We are to love God and we are to love our neighbours.
How do we love?
John 14:15 tells us that we love Jesus by obeying Him. And so we are fond of saying to people, “Love Jesus and do what He says.”
God has loved us with a love with the greatest love there is, the love that moves one to lay down his life for his friends (John 15:13). But this doesn’t mean that Jesus loved us, His friends, more than His Father. It means that Jesus loved us best because He loved His Father most (John 17:26; Mark 14:36). And “if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another” (1 John 4:11). That means that we also ought to love with a love that moves us to lay down our lives for others, particularly those who do not know the good news that God loves them.
So how are you doing with this command to love? Are you loving Jesus and doing what He says? How are you being a good neighbour like the Good Samaritan that Jesus spoke about? Let us know in the comments section. We would love to hear how you are doing and how we might support you in your desire to be a better disciple of Jesus.
At One Mission Society we are excited when a congregation take steps to become more intentional about their involvement in cross-cultural missions work because we see this kind of world evangelization as the key to meeting the requirement Jesus gave in Matthew 24:14; “And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.” This is how we complete the Great Commission, preaching the gospel of the kingdom to all nations. And we know that nations does not refer to political entities like Canada or Cameroon or Croatia or Colombia. It means ethno-linguistic people groups like the Ansari in India, the Arain in Pakistan, the Uygher in China and the Fulani of Nigeria.
So we encourage congregations to develop a strategy to become more intentional about resourcing the cross-cultural work with funds and with people.
The strategy serves as the roadmap to get from where they are presently to that place of greater intentionality and impact.
However, in order for a map to be of any kind of a useful tool for charting a course, there are two critical pieces of knowledge that we must possess. The first is the knowledge of where we wish to go, that destination to which we wish to go. That’s usually quite obvious if we have taken the time to think it through. The second piece of knowledge that we must possess is perhaps less obvious and less simple to attain; where we are presently. Think about it. You cannot plot a course from point A to point B unless you can find both point A and point B on the map. And it’s been our experience that point A is the more difficult point to get correct.
Perhaps you have had this experience. You are playing a round of golf and as occasionally happens, you hit your driver off the tee and lose sight of the ball. You have an idea of the general area where it landed. And so you strike out to where you think your ball should be. You look and look, gradually moving further and further away from the spot you thought it should be in ever widening circles until you find the ball much closer to the tee than you thought it went. You were sure it went 230 yards, but it actually only went 185.
I think it is a universal principle that we estimate our progress to be further than it actually is, we estimate our drives to be longer than they are and we estimate our value to be greater than it really is. So how can we be more accurate in determining what our Point A actually is?
What follows are 19 questions to help us determine where Point A really is. These questions are designed for Pastors and church leaders, but any church member can find the questions helpful. So give them a go.
So how did you do? We would love to hear from you. Leave us a comment below. And, if you feel it is appropriate, please share this blog post with your pastor and church leaders. We really do want to see congregations become more intentional about their role in world evangelization.
“And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.” Matthew 24:14
THE STRUGGLE IS REAL
Most of us have heard the saying, “The Struggle is Real” but what does this really mean for us as believers?
A struggle can be defined as: to contend with an adversary or opposing force or to contend resolutely with a task, problem, etc.
So, most would associate this saying with day-to-day challenges or the grind that we face such as: getting up early for work or school, doing laundry that has been piled up for days or even weeks, or having to cook a nice dinner after an exhausting day.
While these challenges or grind can all be valid struggles at times, today we are going to talk about a very real struggle that we are constantly in and yet has been ignored by some.
Ephesians 6:12 describes this struggle. It’s not a struggle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, the authorities, the powers of this dark world, and the spiritual forces of evil.
We need to be aware that there is an enemy and he is out there prowling around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8). This is very important for us to be aware of so that we don’t fall into temptation and sin. The struggle is real.
God has provided us with some key resources which we must rely on as we face this struggle every day.
Let’s look at 4 of these today:
We need to constantly be in prayer alone and also with other believers. Having others to encourage and build us up through prayer is not only comforting but necessary. In 2 Thessalonians 3:1-3 Paul is asking for prayer to be rescued from evil people. There is power in prayer and God certainly hears our prayers, so let us come boldly before Him and ask for His protection and wisdom to get us through this constant struggle.
2. The Holy Spirit
We must be filled with the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 5:18). As we are filled, we become more like Jesus and we are transformed in how we think and ultimately how we act. We cannot fight this struggle with our physical strength. We need the Holy Spirit to be in control and work in and through us.
3. God’s Word
The Word of God is alive and powerful (Hebrews 4:12). When Jesus was being tempted by the devil in the desert, He responded with the Word of God and eventually, the devil left Him. The more we know God’s Word, the better we can respond when we are faced with challenging situations.
Jesus is our greatest example when facing any situation. Hebrews 4:15 reminds us that Jesus empathizes with us and He was tempted like we have been, yet He did not sin. Jesus demonstrated how we should deal with this real struggle in how He lived His life. Hebrews 7:25 also reminds us that Jesus always makes intercession for us. In times where we do not know what to pray for or how to pray, we can be assured that Jesus is praying on our behalf. I always find it so amazing that we have a God who truly understands us through every situation. It really brings such a peace and comfort to know this.
So, the struggle is real isn’t it? Yes it is, but there is good news. We have been provided with the resources and tools that we need in order to overcome. Let’s tap into these like never before and we will grow in our faith like never before.
There is some more good news for us. The victory has already been won! Jesus was victorious and as believers we are also victorious. Remembering this helps us to stay focused and allows us to move forward in all that God has for us.
“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.” (Romans 8:18)
What struggle are you facing today? Remember that you are victorious through Jesus Christ, and God has provided some game changer resources and tools for us. I encourage you to go deeper into these.
Feel free to check out our Blog and look out for a new blog that is posted every week. Our prayer is that you would be greatly encouraged to go deeper into what God has for your life.
THE HABIT OF SILENCE/SOLITUDE
In this week’s blog post, we are considering the habit or discipline of silence/solitude. In past posts, we have considered Bible intake, prayer, worship, evangelism, serving, and stewardship as it relates to both time and finances, and fasting.
If you have not seen these posts yet, go ahead and click on the links to catch yourself up.
And remember that the primary motivation for these spiritual habits or disciplines is taken from Paul’s instruction to Timothy in 1 Timothy 4:7, where he says, exercise or discipline yourself toward godliness. This applies to us just the same today and he makes it clear that, if we wish to be godly, it will take work, discipline, and exercise. Just as an athlete, musician, or artist must exercise disciplined practice to become more proficient at their chosen field, so a disciple must exercise disciplined practice in these activities as means’ of grace to become more proficient at being godly. That is to say, as we become more disciplined in the practice of these habits, more of God’s grace is available to us which will change us.
So what about silence/solitude? Let’s begin with an explanation.
The discipline/habit of silence is the voluntary and temporary abstention from speaking so that certain spiritual gifts might be sought. It is sometimes practised in order to read the Bible, meditate on Scripture, pray, journal, and so on. Though there is no audible speaking, there may be intentional, biblical self-talk or prayer to God. At other times you might choose not to talk at all but simply focus your mind upon God and to set your mind on things that are above (Colossians3:2), resting your soul in the love He displayed in Christ.
The discipline/habit of solitude is the voluntary and temporary withdrawing to privacy for spiritual purposes. The length of the solitude may last only a few minutes or for days. As with silence, solitude may be pursued in order to participate without interruption in other disciplines or just to be alone with God and think.
Three thoughts are helpful when thinking about silence and solitude.
First, think of silence and solitude as complementary disciplines to fellowship. But don’t think of fellowship as those times when you simply socialize. Biblical fellowship involves talking about God and the things of God. It is probably true that we do much less of this than we think, even when we are at church. The emphasis here, though, is that fellowship requires interaction with other people, whereas silence and solitude do not. It seems that each of us is more inclined in one direction than the other. That is, we enjoy meaningful conversation with other Christians more than solitude or vice versa. But both have a place in the life of a biblically consistent believer. Without silence and solitude, we can be active but shallow. Without fellowship, we can be deep, but stagnant. Christlikeness requires both sides of the equation.
Second, silence and solitude are often found together. Even though they can be distinguished as in the definitions above, we are referring to them as a pair.
Third, recognize that our western culture conditions us to be comfortable with crowds and noise, not with silence and solitude, and to feel more comfortable at a mall than at a park. This is confirmed by the inability of many of us to ever be at home or in a car by ourselves without turning on some background noise. Technology now makes it possible for us to enjoy the benefits of news, music, educational content, and more whenever we want and wherever we are. More than any generation in history, we must discipline ourselves to enjoy the blessings of silence and solitude for the purpose of godliness.
Following are just a few of the reasons to pursue silence and solitude.
1- To follow Jesus' example
Scripture teaches us that Jesus pursued periods of silence and solitude, some for only a few minutes or hours, and at least one for several days. Check out the following references:
Matthew 4:1 - the primary purpose of this event was for Jesus to encounter and conquer the devil’s temptations. But it is worthy to note that the Holy Spirit led Jesus to this experience during a lengthy period of fasting and solitude.
Matthew 14:23 - Here He sent the multitudes and His disciples away so He could be alone with the Father.
Mark 1:35 - After a night of healing and casting out demons and before it was daylight again He went to spend time alone in prayer. Jesus knew that had He waited until after sunrise, He would have been surrounded again by the curious eyes and urgent voices of the whole city.
Luke 4:42 - Imagine, people are clamouring for your help and have many real needs, and you are able to meet all those needs. Can you ever feel justified in pulling away to be alone? Jesus did. So, if it was necessary and possible for Jesus, how much more for us?
The point should be obvious: To be more like Jesus we must discipline ourselves to find times of silence and solitude. Then through these habits or disciplines, we can pursue the many blessings that Jesus experienced through them.
2- To minimize distractions in prayer
One of the more obvious reasons for getting away from the sounds and surroundings that divert our attention is to better focus the mind in prayer. In addition to the examples of Jesus in the previous section, other biblical examples of this might include Elijah going to Horeb, the mount of God (1 Kings 19:8) where he heard the low whisper of God (1 Kings 19:11-13). Consider Habakkuk entering a guard post and keeping watch to hear from and answer to God (Habakkuk 2:1). Or look to the apostle Paul going to Arabia after his conversion where he was presumably alone with God (Galatians 1:7).
Many of us realize the addiction we have to noise. The portability and accessibility of technology is a mixed blessing. While we should be grateful for its massive benefits, we should also recognize its invasive and distracting tendencies. The more we use audio and video technology, the more we need to learn the discipline of silence and solitude.
3- To express faith in God
The simple act of silence before God, as opposed to coming to Him in a wordy fret, can be a demonstration of faith in Him. Twice in Psalm 62 David displayed this kind of faith. In Psalm 62:1-2 he affirms that his soul waits in silence for God alone because he knows Him to be his rock, his salvation and his fortress. Then in Psalm 62:5-6 he challenges his soul to wait in silence for God alone, again because He is his rock, salvation and fortress.
Sometimes, the prayers we speak can be filled more with fear and doubt than faith; silence before the Lord can sometimes express more faith and submission to God than words.
4- To regain a spiritual perspective
One of the very best ways to step back and get a more balanced, less worldly perspective on matters is through the discipline of silence and solitude.
When Zechariah was told by the angel that he and his elderly wife would have a son, he doubted. In response, the angel told him that he would be silent and unable to speak until the day the baby was born (Luke 1:20). During this time of silence and solitude, his perspective was changed and when the child was born, his mouth was opened again and he gave glory to God for what He had done (Luke 1:57-64).
5- To learn control of the tongue
Learning to keep silent for short periods of time can help us better control our tongue all the time. There is little doubt that controlling our tongue is critical to Christlikeness. The Bible says that the religion of the person with no tongue control is worthless (James 1:26). Proverbs 17:27-28 connects the Christlike qualities of godly knowledge, understanding, wisdom, and discernment with the power to rein in one’s tongue.
Ecclesiastes 3:7 refers to control of the tongue in two ways. One is the ability to restrain it and the other is the ability to use it. Godliness, therefore, involves learning whey you should not talk as well as when you should.
James 1:9 also describes power over the tongue in terms of the ability to keep it in check. This applies to our online social media speaking as well as what is done with our lips.
And remember that the great purpose for practising these habits or disciplines is godliness, that we might be more like Jesus, that we may be more holy. Austin Phelps, in his book The Still Hour wrote, “It has been said that no great work in literature or in science was ever wrought by a man who did not love solitude. We may lay it down as an elemental principle of religion, that no large growth in holiness was ever gained by one who did not take time to be often long alone with God."
So let’s do it. Let’s spend time in silence and solitude with God for the purpose of godliness.