Lay Down

John 14: 21

He who has My commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves Me; and he who loves Me shall be loved by My Father and I will love him, and will disclose Myself to him.

Here is a motivational scripture for you. Would you like for Jesus to disclose himself to you? And don’t we all want to be loved by the Father? Jesus has broken this down into simple terms for us. Keep His commandments, be doers of His Word and you will have all of Jesus as your own. He will make His life with you; His home with you. He will be your ever present companion; your ready aide. He will fill your heart with love and your life with power and goodness.

As is typical with the things of God, though, the first step is ours. We see that the will of God is to come and make His abode with us, but we must do those things which allow Him His desire. Namely, we must keep His commandments. This is not difficult to figure out though it can be difficult to perform. Jesus made it simple. Love the Father with all your heart, soul, mind and strength and love other people even as He, Jesus, has loved us. How did Jesus love us? “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends” (John 15: 12). Since Jesus was willing to lay down His life for us, ought we be willing to lay down something for our friends? Can we learn to lay aside our egos and self-interest? Can we lay aside some time? Maybe we can give out of our busy schedules, time to someone who needs a hand with something. Perhaps we can lay aside for a short time that which is important to us so that we can do something for someone else. God is not asking us to go to the cross, but He is asking you to lay down part of your life for someone else. Maybe it is just an hour to go visit a friend. Maybe a friend with the flu could use some home cooking. It really doesn’t matter what God is asking you to do, but Jesus has made it clear that it is the expression of love that He wants from His disciples. When we show our love to God’s beloved, we show also our love for God.

Burn ‘em

Luke 9: 51 – 56

And it came about, when the days were approaching for His ascension, that He resolutely set His face to go to Jerusalem; and He sent messengers on ahead of Him. And they went, and entered a village of the Samaritans, to make arrangements for Him. And they did not receive Him, because He was journeying with His face toward Jerusalem. And when His disciples James and John saw this, they said, “Lord, do You want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?” But He turned and rebuked them, and said, “You do not know what kind of spirit you are of; for the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them.” And they went on to another village.

James and John had a real zeal for the Lord. They were offended that someone would reject their Lord and they were willing to do something about it. They would have wiped out that whole town if Jesus would have allowed them. But Jesus rebuked them. He said you don’t get it guys. I came to save people, not condemn and judge them. 

According to Bible Commentaries there were significant theological and cultural conflicts between Samaritans and Jews. These differences showed themselves when Jesus’ disciples went into the Samaritan village to make arrangements for their stay there. It is apparent that the arguments between these groups were of no small consequence to either group. In the case of the Samaritans it was significant enough to deny Jesus and his group to stay in their village. To James and John, that rejection was worthy of complete annihilation.

But Jesus apparently did not take exception with the Samaritans views or he would have never sought to stay in a Samaritan town. He certainly did not accept James and John’s view of needful and justifiable action. No, he rejected their reaction completely. Why is this important?

We all are faced with the same opportunities today that James and John faced 2000 years ago. While we are called to be zealous for the Lord and we applaud that zeal when we find it in others, we must have a care how we express our zeal. One commentary said that James and John failed to see the behavior of the Samaritans in the light of the social and cultural fabric. They did not recognize the national prejudices and bigotry at play (Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary on the Bible.). The commentary goes on to say that the Samaritans were not rejecting God, the message or the messenger of God but that is all that James and John could see. It might even be that it was something missing in James and John that caused their strong reaction, something broken in their hearts. We must be careful that we don’t burn others because we do not understand them or their beliefs. We should be careful that we do not condemn whole groups of peoples to hell because of our beliefs. 

Jesus rebuked those two disciples. He said, “You do not know what kind of spirit you are of.” What kind of spirit are they and all of us a part of? It is the spirit of love which is why Jesus gave us the one commandment, that we should love one another as he himself has loved us. Instead of criticizing and condemning others, we are truly to love them and pray for them. And by pray for them I do not mean to pray for God to change them to agree with us or our doctrine. For we might find, like James and John, that it is we who are wrong rather than they. Furthermore, it just is not our job to judge others. Jesus didn’t even judge and if Jesus didn’t then we certainly shouldn’t. Our job is to love everyone right into heaven and then we can let our Father sort it all out. 

Don’t let your zeal for what you think is right cause you to violate the love commandment. Don’t let your ideas condemn others else you might find that Jesus is not rebuking them but rather rebuking you. Be zealous in love and invite all peoples into the Kingdom of God.


Romans 15: 7

Wherefore, accept one another, just as Christ also accepted us to the glory of God.

God has not called us to be separatists but rather to love one another in the unity of His great love for us all. Nor did he call us to be judges, neither of the brethren nor of the world. This is a great temptation for us all. We know the way he has called us to righteousness. We have seen in his word behaviors he has told us to stay away from so it is easy for us to say that those things are wrong and judge people who participate in them. Sometimes we go even further. We judge those who are different from us or practice their faith in a different way. We need to remind ourselves that we are called into unity with one another (Ephesians 4: 3) and that Jesus gave us only one commandment (John 13: 34). That is that we love one another as he loved us. His love was sacrificial; putting our needs before his own. When we can get that one commandment down we will not have to worry about judging others. We will receive them in love. We will accept everyone even as Christ accepted us.

Divine Power

1 Corinthians 13: 2        Amplified Bible

And if I have prophetic powers (the gift of interpreting the divine will and purpose), and understand all the secret truths and mysteries and possess all knowledge, and if I have [sufficient] faith so that I can remove mountains, but have not love (God’s love in me) I am nothing (a useless nobody).

Here is Paul’s understanding of the love commandment. Now I would have thought that operating in the prophetic gifts, having faith that moves mountains, and having all knowledge would be pretty good evidence that one is a foremost disciple of Christ. Many people have pursued the power and the gifts of God but God would rather we pursue His heart. He says, pursue Me and the power will come. So we each have to set our hearts to seek God with all that we are. When we seek God we will find love because He is love. Paul says that without love we are useless nobodies. Wow! That is strong language Paul! But then again, what would you say that we are without love. Again, God is love so if we are without love then we are without God. The measure of cooperation we have with God is revealed in the measure of love we exhibit. So people can know the condition of our hearts and if those hearts really are right with God by the love we express externally.

God’s love has a purpose in the earth. It is to call all people unto Himself. He does this by extending grace and mercy and by meeting the needs of His children. And He uses us, His disciples (?) to accomplish both of these. God blesses me abundantly and then I get to be his hands in the earth to meet the needs of others. He uses us to dispense grace, to show mercy. In truth, love is the real power of God. You’ve heard it said, “Love is the most powerful force in the universe.” It is true. It was love that conquered hell and the grave. It was love that gained the keys and set every captive free. Without love, Jesus would have stayed in the ground. Do you see that? There is nothing more powerful so if we really want to have the power of God flowing through our lives then we need to get a potent revelation of love. 

All we need to do is open our hearts to our beloved Father. When we open our hearts we experience the two way flow that really is our calling in the earth. God fills our hearts with himself and then out from us flows the living river of His grace. We will naturally want to bless others and show kindness of God. I understand that many of us are afraid to open our hearts for fear of getting hurt but we must learn to trust Him, even with our hearts. He has power that He wants to fill you with but He fills the heart. If you will let Him fill you there will be plenty of expression of His power flowing from you. Look at the life of Peter, John or Paul and see what love can do.

Christ’s Disciple

John 13: 34 – 35

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.

This is a familiar bit of scripture. It is called the new commandment, the one commandment, or the love commandment. It is another thing too. It is the entire discipleship class. Or let us say it is the answer to the final exam. If you love one another, if you demonstrate the Jesus kind of love for one another, then you have passed the discipleship class. 

Much is written about discipleship and many churches even offer discipleship classes. It seems to me that Jesus offered a discipleship class too; it was the observance of his life, of course, but he sums up the whole thing with one little sentence. It all boils down to love. I sure wish he had said the evidence of a true disciple is faithfulness, diligence or perseverance in the faith, but he didn’t. The only way anyone will identify me as a disciple of Christ is if they see the love of God issuing from me. The apostle Paul said that without love, anything else, everything else is meaningless (1 Corinthians 13: 1-3). He got it. He understood Jesus’ message.

Stating it a different way would simply be to say that Christianity is: “loving one another as Jesus loves us.” That’s it. You can take every book on theology ever written and boil it down to that one sentence. There is your entire thesis in one sentence. I wish it was as easy to live it as to say it. 

The Apostle John said it this way, “Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen” (1 John 4: 20 NIV). In other words, if I do not love my brother, then I am not a disciple of Christ. To be more accurate though, Jesus said that we must love one another as he loves us. That is to say, if I do not love others as Jesus loves us then I am no disciple of his; not a follower of the way (Jesus); not even really a Christian which means one who follows Christ.

What kind of love is this then? “We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren” (1 John 3: 16).  It is a sacrificial love. It is others centered, putting the needs of others above my wishes. That is a tall bill to fill and I cannot do it in my own strength. In fact, it is in the surrender of my strength that I can do all things. But guess what, Jesus couldn’t do it in his own strength either. That is why he sweated blood in the Garden of Gethsemane. None of us can do what God has called us to do in our own strength that is why God empowered us through His abiding presence living inside of us. We must live through the presence of God in our hearts. Jesus allowed the father’s compassion to flow through him. We don’t have to be super heroes. We just have to allow our abiding in Christ and his dwelling in us to be expressed. We learn to let go of our desperate grasp and to let God flow out of our inner being. It is a hard thing to do when we are still wedded to our flesh but as we learn to live out of our spirits we will find it increasingly easy and joyful. When Jesus told us to live this way it was because he had a revelation from God that we could. His early disciples did and we can too. As we are transformed through the renewing of our minds we discover a radical trust of God inside of us and that trust empowers us to let go and live beyond the means of mortal man. We will soar on wings as eagles and nothing, by any means, shall be impossible to us. It is the power of love.

Giving God Away

John 13: 34

“A new commandment I give you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.”

John 15: 13

“Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.”

Jesus gave us one commandment knowing if we would live by this one commandment we would fulfill all the law and the prophets. Everything that God would prescribe for us is included in this one commandment, that we love one another as Jesus first loved us. 

How did Jesus love us? He loved us sacrificially. He put our needs before his even to the point of death. That is a remarkable act. Can you imagine putting other people’s needs before your desires even if it means your death? That is a tall order. Face it; most of us continuously serve ourselves even at the cost of others. How often do we cease our pursuit of what we want long enough to even consider what others need or want? It is just not our way, is it? We were not trained to serve others but rather to grab all we can get even if it means hurting others. So, what does it take for us to, even for a moment, retire our self-interest long enough to consider the needs and wants of someone else?

Whatever Jesus told us to do he has also empowered us to do. That is good news, yes? But realize too that there is no excuse for disobedience. We do not have the excuse that we cannot do what he has commanded because he always provides the ability with the command. So, if this is Jesus’ command to us, and we know it is, and he has empowered us with the ability to fulfill the love command, then why aren’t more of us living by this commandment? 

God is love. He is the power and authority required to fulfill this commandment. Jesus is showing us that our grand command is to convey the essence of God to others. Did you catch that? Since our command is to love one another and God is love then the command is to “God” one another as Jesus did or to express the nature and heart of God among one another just like Jesus did. It sounds like a difficult task but Jesus provided the way. He told his disciples to stay in Jerusalem until they received the promise of the Father which would give them the requisite power (Acts 1: 4 – 8). Then he sent the Holy Spirit. 

The Holy Spirit has come to make his abode in us, to actually live in our hearts. He is the power to love and to live. The only way we can do what Jesus has commanded us to do is for us to fill up with God. We can never in our own strength or by an effort of our will love people the way Jesus has directed us. We must first let love fill us to overflowing, then we will be able to let the expression of who God is flow out of us.

So we have an absolute command from our Lord regarding how we are to treat others and he has provided the means by which we can adhere to his command. We must make a decision to obey this commandment of love. We need to understand with our minds that it means putting others needs ahead of ours. We should actually spend some time thinking about what that means and meditating on how that might appear in practice. Then we need to seek the help of the Father through prayer. We must first let Him love us. We will never be able to love others if we do not first receive the love of God deep into our hearts. His love can only flow through us once we have allowed Him to abide fully within us. So there is our starting point and perhaps where many of us fail. Make a decision to obey Jesus’ command to love others as he loved us and then earnestly seek the help of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Open your heart and let God flow into it. Open your heart and let His love flow out.

Jesus Reveals Himself

John 14: 21, 23 – 24

Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him. If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. He who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me.

What powerful words from our Lord Jesus! One thing you might find interesting is discovering how many times the Lord spoke about words. It is quite fascinating. In this passage Jesus makes an outstanding promise to us. To paraphrase; if we will keep Jesus’ commandments then he and the father will love us AND Jesus will show himself to us. Those seem like enormously great promises. One of the techniques you can use in helping you glean fullness from scriptures is to look at the reward and work backward. I want Jesus and the Father to love me. I want Jesus to reveal himself to me so all I have to do is to look backward and I can see what I need in order to see that promise fulfilled. It is honoring the words of Jesus that yield the reward. We begin by reading our Bibles but we do not stop there. Reading the Bible is great but think about it for a moment, a lot of folks read the Bible who are not Christians. That which makes us Christians is the implementation of what we read in the Bible.

We can work backward in the second part of the passage as well. When we do so we discover that those who do not obey Jesus’ teachings do not love him. This might cause us each to pause and consider our ways. Are we following Jesus’ teachings? If we do not then do we really love Jesus? Do we say we love Jesus but fail to do the things that show that love? Has our love grown cold? 

These verses certainly cause me moments of quiet contemplation. We might very well ask, “What are these words, teachings and commandments that we are supposed to be obeying.” Well, I say start with the red letters and work your way out. Every word in the Bible is divine because Jesus is the word. He has given us each of the books of the Bible in order to teach us vital lessons, sometimes even what not to do. When all is said and done, though, you will find all of Jesus’ teachings encapsulated in the One Commandment, the commandment of love but it takes the whole book including the divine revelations given to Paul and John for us to even know what love means much less how to walk in a command to love.

Further, when we understand that Jesus is in the Father and the Father is in Jesus then we should embrace immediately Jesus’ statement that the words that he speaks are not his own. He spoke what he heard the father speak. This is a good model for us as well. Once we learn what Jesus spoke and how he spoke, once we connect with Jesus inside of us, then perhaps we can say that the words we speak are not our own but rather those given us by our savior and Lord.  

Ultimately, when we heed the words that Jesus gave us, the words of life, then we experience the life of Christ growing within us. When we honor his commandments with obedience we give permission for our life in Christ to swell and fill us. As we give way from our ideas to God’s ways the love of God and of His dear son fill us and we will see Jesus revealed to us. More importantly, others will see Jesus revealed through us. Amen.