My dear, dear friends! I love you so much. I do want the very best for you. You make me feel such joy, fill me with such pride. Don’t waver. Stay on track, steady in God.
Celebrate God all day, every day. I mean, revel in him! Make it as clear as you can to all you meet that you’re on their side, working with them and not against them. Help them to see that the Master is about to arrive. He could show up any minute!
Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.
Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious — the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies.
Philippians 4:1, 4-9
So what is loving God anyway? In my last post I alluded to the fact that love for God grows, as we sow seeds of God-knowledge gleaned from God’s Word in the fertile soil of an open heart.
If that sounded like I am posing as some kind of expert, then read on; that perception will be diffused by by the fact that at my best I have more questions than answers, more confusion than logic. But, getting more of Christ integrated in my heart is worth all of that. The more questions I ask, the more He is able to raise my estimation of His love. I want to be more committed to being open to Him, that He may be exalted, than holding onto knowledge, that I would rather flaunt for my own exaltation.
It’s so crazy though, this is not me! I don’t care about what does not begin or end with me. And God never abides by this standard. In fact, He’s not even on the same page with me on this. (On second thought, I guess it’s kind of foolish to even imply that we’re even sharing the same book!)
My spirit wants what my flesh can never sympathize with. Up to this point I have mostly described my flesh — the lowly, self-central orientation and ambition that reflects the ever-present reality of my sin. My flesh is in absolute opposition to Christ and His gospel. But, the more the life of the spirit takes over me, the less I am controlled by the flesh, and the more I am aware of the dangers of being submitted to its ways.
Check out this awesome description from Titus 3:3-8 of the difference between living in the flesh and living in the spirit.
It wasn’t so long ago that we ourselves were stupid and stubborn, dupes of sin, ordered every which way by our glands, going around with a chip on our shoulder, hated and hating back. But when God, our kind and loving Savior, stepped in, he saved us from all that. It was all his doing; we had nothing to do with it. He gave us a good bath, and we came out of it new people, washed inside and out by the Holy Spirit. Our Savior Jesus poured out new life so generously. God’s gift has restored our relationship with him and given us back our lives. And there’s more life to come — an eternity of life! You can count on this.
Life by the flesh is according to sin, demonstrating our enmity with God, while life by the spirit is according to the Holy Spirit, demonstrating the extreme grace of God. Think about it, who are we to deserve this type of internal change? This power and love that uncovers and exposes our sin is the only thing that can free our hearts from the trouble and captivity to evil that we know in this world.
I think that God meant His love to mean more than we ever expect. It accomplishes what nothing else in all time or creation could: it coverts and comforts the heart of man like nothing else can even falsify. It’s meant to intrude on the full-expression of our sin so that the full-expression of love — how we are really meant to live (knowing the best of life; it’s absolute abundance) — can take over and re-direct us.
If you think about it, the love of God is like a legend. The kind of legend that is the key to a map. We read the map to learn where we are and how to get to where we want to be, but without the legend the information we’re supposed to get from the map cannot be accurately translated. The same is with God’s Word; unless we get love — which is the very nature of God — we will not be able to perceive what He is doing, or why, with any veracity.
So, let us pay close attention to the legend. His love is better than life; for, without love — and nothing less than the perfect love of God — all else in life is empty. Let this be our prayer if we want more life, more love, more God in Christ Jesus:
God — you’re my God! I can’t get enough of you! I’ve worked up such hunger and thirst for God, traveling across dry and weary deserts.
So here I am in the place of worship, eyes open, drinking in your strength and glory. In your generous love I am really living at last! My lips brim praises like fountains. I bless you every time I take a breath; my arms wave like banners of praise to you.
I eat my fill of prime rib and gravy; I smack my lips. It’s time to shout praises! If I’m sleepless at midnight, I spend the hours in grateful reflection. Because you’ve always stood up for me, I’m free to run and play. I hold onto you for dear life, and you hold me steady as a post.
Those who are out to get me are marked for doom, marked for death, bound for hell. They’ll die violent deaths; jackals will tear them limb from limb. But the king is glad in God; his true friends spread the joy, while small-minded gossips are gagged for good.