On Loving – Today

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Oh Lord give me more…

I need, I need, I want, I want, more, more, more…

I have been wondering why there are so many statements and even songs about seemingly unfulfilled desires in modern Christianity. Whether it is more zeal (or passion) or more love or just more of Jesus (whatever that means) one repeated theme in recent songs is – I want more. Signifying to me at least that what these believers have, is in some way inadequate. Or at least feels inadequate to them. Or perhaps they feel that there is some mystical level of relationship with Christ that will somehow make this feeling of lack or incompleteness go away.

I suspect that many of these songs are simply cries for help. Which is understandable. Even admirable in some cases. But as I have thought about this I have concluded that it is more likely a cry for fuller understanding of salvation. The Bible after all is quite clear that the believer already has everything in Christ. I’m sure most feel they are simply desiring a richer relationship with Christ. Properly understood, we should always be pressing for a closer and richer relationship with Christ.

But where will we find Jesus? How do we establish this intimacy? In songs? In meetings? In prayer? It is true beyond all doubt that our salvation, righteousness, and fullness are complete in Christ apart from anything we can do. This constant confession of either not being satisfied in Christ or never feeling like we have enough is at odds with statements of the New Testament. For example, “Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’ ” This is a picture of overflowing abundance for all that believe. And yet the feelings persist.

What are we missing here?

I think we have the sequence of fulfillment out of order.

“If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 25 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.

Matt 16:24

The sequence in the statement above is that first you take up your cross, first you lose your life – then you find it. The type of songs I referred to earlier all seem to want the joy before the suffering. They want the reward before they run the race. They want the river to flow in – not out. The blessings of Christ are fully paid for and free, but can only be acquired it seems at great cost. Much like the pearl of great price Jesus described in Matthew. It cost the person seeking it everything they had. I understand the seeming contradiction here, but this paradoxical situation is a common feature in the descriptions of the kingdom of God. I can only say now as I am getting older that it makes much more sense when you do it, than when you read it. That is a big part of my point in this article.

The Cross and Love – Today

For many years I was confused and even repulsed by this idea of “picking up my cross”. The idea seemed kind of abstract to me. When I was younger I thought Jesus was talking about being willing to die for him. Which is surely a part of what Jesus was saying. But the truth I have come to realize since then is much more tangible and immediate than a possible future martyrdom.

It was the love of God that was most perfectly demonstrated to us in the cross. As Paul says, “but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us”. The cross is the ultimate example of God’s love for us. It is God benefiting us at His own expense. And He did this while we were still in active rebellion against Him. So, benefiting others at my expense is the model of godly love, that is what was demonstrated at the cross. And that is how we must show the love of God – today.

“Today” is really the operative word in that sentence, if you wish to overcome the vague feelings of dissatisfaction and under-realized Christianity that seem so common in contemporary Christianity. We need to show love – today – in order to know love. That seemingly paradoxical statement is really at the heart of the Kingdom of God. Death before life, faith before feeling, giving before receiving.

A practical example from scripture

The disciples were tired and hungry after a long day of ministry to a huge crowd. Did Jesus say, “stand back boys while I fill your baskets and your bellies with food, so that you can go out with overflowing joy and distribute the abundance”?

No he did not. Instead he flatly said, “you feed them”. It was only after they went out in obedience to Jesus that they saw the abundance. They had all they needed, but they needed to trust in order to realize it. And this trust needed to act. And that action was love. They needed to ignore their feelings of personal want and inadequacy and trust Jesus for what they needed, in order to show love to that crowd.

Love is giving. Joy is realizing that God has already blessed us beyond anything that we could ever give away. We need to love others to realize the love of God. Fellowship with Jesus is the distribution of God’s love to others, this is intimacy with Jesus. To be intimate with Jesus we have to be where he is and participate in what he is doing. We have to give to receive the blessing of God. The stream of living water needs to flow out of us. This can only be done today. We are a culture of the next big thing. We are taught to plan for retirement from a very early age. We are constantly living in the hope of someday. And in the process missing the only opportunity for joy that we have – loving others – today.

There is no tomorrow

Not one of us will wake up tomorrow.

Every time we wake up it will be today.

If we do not love today – we do not love at all.

We often miss the actual opportunities to love because we are so distracted by the amazing thing that might be someday. In preparation for later we can often miss the opportunity to love the person in front of us right now.

The reality is this, the tiniest act of love that is actually done today is better than any grand vision for the future. And ironically the usual reason for failed future vision is the failure to take steps in the direction of that vision today. If the vision is of God, those steps will be obedience – today. And obedience will always involve loving the people God puts in our path. Look how often Jesus interrupted his future plans in order to serve and to bless a single person he met along the way.

God is love.

Jesus is God.

Today is all we will ever have.

Love first, receive second

When we pray for more love what are we really asking? I am suggesting that we may be asking for the 12 baskets of food before we go out to deliver it. Jesus does not typically work that way. He says, go love them, go give them what they need, and you will never run out.

In fact he did not promise the disciples anything in that story. He simply told them to do it and he expected them to trust him. We now have the advantage of their example. We now know through their experience that Jesus will not fail us as we move out in love, obeying the command of Jesus to love one another.

Jesus loved us by giving everything he had to bless us. Jesus never ran out of God’s blessing, he is now exalted above every name that can be named. When we go out in obedience, loving others as he loved us. We will know – experientially know – the love of God. We will experientially know the fullness of Christ. We will experientially know – the joy of the Lord. And we will experience a level of intimacy that we can never attain in a meeting no matter how sweet the music. The intimacy of living in Christ and having Jesus working through us can only be truly known as we, in Christ, through faith, love others.

Start small, do the obvious – and love today.

Ask yourself this when you meet someone today. How can I bless this person? What do I have that they might need?

Ask one more question after you say hello, learn something of the other persons need and act. Act in faith. Love can be many things, but it is always the right thing to do.

Let us be known by our love for others. Today.

And we will know more of his love forever.

walking the path together

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