Lovers of God

2 Timothy 3: 1 – 5

For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; Avoid such men as these.

This is the second half of yesterday’s scripture. The unholy truth of this passage is that Paul wrote to Timothy about believers. He wrote specifically about people who were supposed to be, even professed to be, lovers of God yet they loved pleasure more than they loved God. Sound familiar? Again, we are living in these days. We want all the creature comforts. There is no problem with that, but we are to love God more and seek Him rather than seeking the comforts. That is where we sometimes fail.

We know and believe that our God makes us prosperous (Deuteronomy 8: 18). We have believed and because we do, we ask God to give us the new car, new phone, etc. We follow the patriarchs who were rich, but we have missed one bit of their success. Their prosperity was embedded in their seeking out of God. We have loved the goods more than we love the one who is good. Our hearts seem to have grown cold. Our zeal for God has waned. However, Christ is alive and we can stir up that devotion and adoration for the Father, Son and Spirit.

Then there are those who “hold to a form of godliness” though they deny the power which should accompany all who believe. To my great chagrin, that statement describes the modern church. We have lost our passion for God and we have begun to live a weak form of Christianity though I stumble over the word for is it true that we are even living a Christian lifestyle when there is no faith, no power and no passion for God? Who are we? If we are as Paul describes, then I mourn for us and for the church. Paul told Timothy to avoid people like that?

Why do believers deny the power of God? Are we afraid, lazy, content? Do we worship at the altar of “being busy” so that we do not have to expend the energy to learn faith and to walk in it? When was the last faith project we stood for? In denying the power of God, do we not deny God Himself?

The sinful behaviors are problematic only because we have lost our zeal for God. Those who would serve God with all their hearts are saved from the passions of their flesh. They are raised up in the glory and power of the Holy Spirit to a life of love for the Lord. We have become a people who don’t know how to give worthy praise to our Father because we have lost our passion. We make deals and contracts with the Father as if we have something worthy of a bargain. We hear less about serving a benevolent Father than perhaps we should, but pastors know well that we want to hear about what God will do for us. Sermons about what we should do for the Father are not popular.

None the less, I cry out to the Father, who is King and the great architect, to revive our souls. Stir up our passion, O Lord, so that we become a people who gratefully serve you and for whom the appetites of today’s scriptural passage hold no sway. Give us a heart of deep desire for you. Mold us into true believers, and Father, honor those who are serving you with all their heart. Lead the rest of us, Holy Spirit, into a passion filled life in Christ Jesus. Amen!

Compelled by Love

2 Corinthians 5: 14 – 15      (CSB)

For the love of Christ compels us, since we have reached this conclusion: If one died for all, then all died. And he died for all so that those who live should no longer live for themselves, but for the one who died for them and was raised.

There are two pieces of this scripture, as I see it. Dying with Christ and living for him. Jesus died for us all, we know that, and our sinful selves were crucified with him. Thank God! Then, there is life after death, this life we now live in our mortal bodies is a life after our crucifixion and burial with Christ. Paul believed that the love of Christ compels this conclusion and compels us. Do you agree? Paul writes that because Jesus died for us, we no longer live for ourselves, but for him. Are we compelled by our conclusions and beliefs to live our lives for Christ?

Frankly, it is a privilege to live for Christ. I praise God that we can live our lives in and through Christ, but I believe this verse raises some large and rather personal questions. Do I actually feel compelled by his sacrifice to live for him rather than for myself? And if this compulsion is present in my thoughts and heart, have I followed through on it? What does it even mean to live no longer for myself but for the one who died for me and who was raised?

It is only in Christ that we have life at all. We were raised with him, sanctified and redeemed. Life without Christ is no life at all but as I ponder my life and the lives of other Christians, I find myself wondering if we do much justice to his sacrifice. Do I honor his sacrifice by truly living my life in and through him? Or is he an afterthought at the end of my day? What does life look like between morning devotions and evening prayers? Is the life I give him what he bargained for at the cross?

As I pose these questions, the answers are all too obvious and I fear I fall far short of the goal. I give him and those he died for so little when he gave me his all. I also find myself lamenting the lack of zeal in my generation. We seem to have fallen asleep at the wheel. I wonder what legacy we will have to give to the next generation of believers. Will they be even more apathetic than we? What can we do, no what can I do, to awaken an entire generation to the glorious life we could have in Christ? How can we stir up the gift inside of us, as Paul counseled Timothy, so that our passion is ignited?

I pray, in the name of the anointed one, that as we bask in the Christmas Spirit, something will happen within each of us so that every soul will be touched and renewed. I pray that we will share in Jesus this season and that his Spirit will kindle something within us so that we burn for him as never before. May your heart and spirit be blessed with the grace and love of the Lord Jesus, and may his life and light burn within you as an unquenchable fire. Bless the Lord, oh my soul. Bless the Lord, all you saints. Amen.

Fired Up

Romans 12: 11        (Amplified)

Never lag in zeal and in earnest endeavor; be aglow and burning with the Spirit, serving the Lord.

Are you on fire for God? That is what this scripture is telling us we can be; that we should be. Do you know that glow that a bride has  on her wedding day? That is like the glow that should follow us. When we get a real revelation of the deep love the father has for us, it lights us up like a Christmas tree. Then we can evermore glow with the fire of the Holy Spirit. We need that. Stir yourself up so that you never lack in zeal for the Lord. Serve Him with a full heart because you want to; never because you think you have to. Remember He called you in love rather than in duty. Yet it is your love for Him that will draw you into doing things you never even thought possible. Let the Holy Spirit fill you to overflowing so that you will be aglow with His love and power.

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.