The Secret To Loving Jesus Much

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The more we realize how much Jesus has forgiven us, the more we will love him.

In Luke 7 a woman of ill repute shows up at a meal Jesus is attending in a Pharisee’s home. She breaks open a flask of expensive ointment, then, weeping over Jesus’ feet, wipes them with her hair and anoints them with the oil. The Pharisee, named Simon, most likely disgusted that Jesus would let this unclean woman touch him, thinks if Jesus were a prophet he’d know the kind of woman this is and have nothing to do with her. Jesus tells him:

“A certain moneylender had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. When they could not pay, he cancelled the debt of both. Now which of them will love him more?” Simon answered, “The one, I suppose, for whom he cancelled the larger debt.” And he said to him, “You have judged rightly.” (41-43)

Then after mentioning Simon’s lack of courtesies – he didn’t wash Jesus’ feet, welcome him with a kiss or anoint his head with oil – he pointed out how the woman washed his feet with her tears, kissed his feet and anointed them with oil. Then he delivers the punch line:

“Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.” (47)

Before he saved me, Jesus let me sink into a self-made miry pit of sin, selfishness, and misery. I couldn’t get out and couldn’t stop sinning. God is sovereign.  He could have kept me from sinning.  But he allows us to plunge deeply into sin.  One of the reasons is so that when he does rescue us, we’re far more amazed and grateful than if we’d never sinned.

The same thing happens even after God saves us. He could keep us from ever sinning again. He could deliver us instantaneously from all pride and anger and self-centeredness. But he allows us to fall and struggle at times so we’ll have a fresh appreciation of his grace, forgiveness and love. And as a result we will love him all the more.*

John Newton said:

“…when, after a long experience of their own deceitful hearts, after repeated proofs of their weakness, willfulness, ingratitude, and insensibility — they find that none of these things can separate them from the love of God in Christ; Jesus becomes more and more precious to their souls. They love much, because much has been forgiven them!”

Have you blown it repeatedly? Messed up so many times you can’t recall? If you haven’t turned to Jesus yet, do so today! He paid for every one of your sins on the cross and freely forgives all who call upon him in faith to save them. He’ll cleanse you of your every sin, and in turn you’ll love him much.

Maybe you’ve believed for years, yet you’re discouraged in your struggle with sin. Remember, Jesus paid for all your sins long before he saved you. Ask him for forgiveness and he’ll forgive you and cleanse you of all unrighteousness. Not because you deserve it, but because he loves you. And you too will love much because you’ve been forgiven much.

I don’t advocate continual, morose, Eeyore-like dwelling upon our sins. But I DO advocate contemplating how much Jesus has forgiven us, because the more we realize the height and width and breadth and depth of Jesus’ forgiveness, the more we will love him.

The secret to loving God much: contemplate the immeasurable debt Jesus paid for you and how vast is his mercy and grace to you.

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*The reality of God in his sovereignty allowing us to fail to reveal the depth of our sin, our weakness and need and the greatness of Christ’s mercy and love is explained well by Barbara Duguid in her book “Extravagant Grace: God’s Glory Displayed in our Weakness”

1 Corinthinans 13…Remixed For Today

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If I status update with such insight, hilarity, godliness, or profundity, that I get a thousand retweets and likes, yet have not love, I’m a cellphone that won’t stop ringing, or a car alarm at 2 AM.

If I understand every nuance of every complicated doctrine, including eschatology and predestination, and am a constant defender of orthodoxy, and if I am renowned for my ability to communicate truth with passion, but have not love, I’m nothing more than a first grader in the kingdom of God.

If I am a fantastic worship leader, able to lead hundreds of people in passionate worship of God, yet have not love, my skills are worth jack.

If I am a blog warrior, constantly on the attack against those who would distort the faith, yet have not love, I’m that yippy dog next door who won’t stop barking…even at 3 AM.

If I live a life of radical sacrifice, crazy love, and wartime mentality, and sponsor lots of kids through Compassion International, and go on mission trips in “closed countries”, but have not love, I gain nothing.

If I am a great artist, able to capture a snapshot of the glory of God on canvas, or in song, or in prose, or on film, and yet have not love, my creative “genius” is utterly useless to God.

If I preach like Piper or Chandler or Chan or Platt, and yet have not love, I’m nothing more than a squawking parrot who likes to imitate others.

If I read all the books by all the smart theologians, and can quote them off the top of my head, yet have not love, WHO REALLY CARES!!!!

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

What Sort of Man Is This?

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“What sort of man is this, the even the winds and sea obey him?”

This questions, on the heels of Jesus calming a storm, rings through the gospel of Matthew. It comes from those who know Him, not from a stranger. What sort of man is he? A good one? A powerful one, certainly. A wizard or a prophet? Self-serving or benevolent? Many of us call ourselves disciples of Jesus, but have we ever been stunned enough at Him to rock back on our heels and ask “What sort of man is this?”

This is a man who makes blind eyes see and crippled legs straight and strong. He cools and soothes feverish bodies and minds. A shriveled hand straightens and flexes under his touch, or even at a word. And a rotting corpse inhales and is made whole and alive, not undead, but living.

And He is the sort of man who would do these same miracles today. He is the sort of man who would make crippled hope strong again. He would soothe those minds and hearts fevered by temptation and bring them back to reason and reality. The blind eyes of a soul are made to see truth and know it for what it is. A shriveled marriage feels the circulation flow, it flexes, and has purpose and life again. And those who long ago committed their souls to the mortician quicken and live.

Every miracle Jesus did, every healing, was more than just a kindness to the needy (though it was never less). Each one sought to raise people’s eyes above mere humanitarian goodness to something greater: himself. We cannot lose ourselves in the activist Jesus or be wearied by the Sunday school Jesus, for if we do we have lost Jesus altogether.

“What sort of man is this?” is not just a question for those who have never met Jesus but one for everyone to ask. At every turn we will find out something more about what sort he is. It is never ending and always wondrous. Unless we stop asking, at which point all we’re left with is what little we know of him and even that soon starts to fade. Ask this question and let him answer it from the pages of scripture and in the wind and seas of your heart.

photo credit: cpboingo via photopin cc

The Internet Makes Us All Miserable

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Once upon a time, jealousy and comparison and coveting was limited to the people you knew.

Your neighbor gets a new car, your car is a lousy piece of crap, you feel jealous. Your coworker gets a raise, you’ve worked your tail off without getting a raise, you feel worthless and angry. Your church friends have wonderful, tastefully decorated houses, like snapshots out of “Real Simple” magazine. Meanwhile, your house is like something out of “Prisons and Penitentiaries” magazine, which makes you feel like a failure. Your brother’s kids are respectful, well-behaved kids, who say, “Please”, “Thank you”, and “I’ve memorized all of Ephesians”. Your kids make poop jokes at the dinner table.

In the good old days of jealousy and comparison and coveting, we compared ourselves to those close to us. When someone near to us succeeded, we felt like a failure.

But the good old days are gone. Now, thanks to the Internet, we can feel like failures all the time.

When you get on Pinterest, you are instantly assaulted by tasteful Mason jars, beautifully sculpted furniture, immaculate hair braids, and gourmet foods. Meanwhile, your house is decorated in a style called “Wal-Mart”, and you are serving your kids gourmet mac ‘n cheese.

Things aren’t much better on Facebook or Twitter or Instagram. Every day hundreds of people post about the awesome life they are living. Newly engaged couples post photos of themselves sitting together, foreheads touching, fingers intertwined. Meanwhile, you’re single, with no prospects other than a full Netflix queue. Parents give a shout out to their four year old, who just learned one hundred Latin words. Meanwhile, you’re still trying to potty train your four year old (that would be me). Your fellow writing buddy posts that he just signed a book deal. You’re still trying to get someone other than your mom to read your blog. A woman in your church publicly thanks the Lord for helping her lose one-hundred pounds. You spend your days wearing sweatpants and gym shorts.

Is it wrong for people to post happy status updates and photos? No, of course not. We should rejoice with those who rejoice. We should give thanks when someone gets engaged, loses a lot of weight, or signs a book deal.

But the Internet has dramatically, exponentially increased the temptation to compare ourselves to others.

It’s time to stop playing the comparison game.

Every time you open your browser or app, remember:

  • You are fully, completely, one-hundred percent accepted by God. This acceptance is rooted in the finished work of Christ, not your parenting skills, decorating skills, body type, or relational status. You don’t need to be like anyone else to be accepted by God. God accepts you in Christ, and that is enough.
  • God has a specific, good plan for your life. God’s plan will lead you through specific dark valleys and to specific green pastures. These valley and pastures are particularly shaped by God for you. Don’t try to fight your way to someone else’s green pasture, all the while ignoring the pasture God has prepared for you.
  • You are called to be faithful to teach your kids about the Lord. You’re not called to teach your kids Latin, the names of all fifty presidents, the geography of the African plains, or the history of classical literature. If you want to teach your kids those things, great. But your primary calling is to teach your kids about the Lord. Stay faithful to your calling and God will be pleased.
  • You are called to serve faithfully in whatever sphere God has placed you. On the final day, God will reward you based on how faithfully you used the talents he gave you. He won’t reward you based on how well everyone else did.

Don’t let the Internet make you miserable. Don’t let the Internet determine how you see yourself. Serve faithfully and let God be the judge.

photo credit: Alex E. Proimos via photopin cc

Jesus, It Seems Like You Didn’t Get The Memo

TO: Jesus

FROM: Stephen

REGARDING: Life

Jesus, it has come to my attention recently that things haven’t exactly been going according to our little agreement. You do remember our agreement, right? I’ll follow you and call myself a disciple of Christ and you will fulfill all my wonderful plans for my life. According to section three of our agreement, all the plans I have for me will be fulfilled on my time frame as well. (See attached project plan for specific dates and times)

In light of our “discipleship agreement” (hereon referred to as “DA”), I would like to call your attention to several pressing issues. First, there’s the issue of sleep. I’ve been dealing with a bit of insomnia lately and am getting really tired of lying on my couch at 2:00 A.M. watching Sports Center. Please correct the issue immediately.

Second, there is the obedient child issue. As you are aware, my three year old daughter, Charis, has strong opinions about when she will and will not wear a princess dress. Training her not to argue and to be patient is getting sort or wearisome, and I would appreciate it if you could correct this issue as well. Right away.

Finally, there is the financial provision issue. While I do acknowledge that you have met all my needs abundantly, I could always use more. Please see the attached financial supply schedule for further details.

Additionally, could you please ask Tim Keller to stop writing things like this:

God’s sense of timing will confound ours, no matter what culture we’re from. His grace rarely operates according to our schedule. When Jesus looks at Jairus and says, “Trust me, be patient,” in effect he is looking over Jairus’s head at all of us and saying, “Remember how when I calmed the storm I showed you that my grace and love are compatible with going through storms, though you may not think so? Well, now I’m telling you that my grace and love are compatible with what seem to you unconscionable delays.” It’s not “I will not be hurried even though I love you”; it’s “I will not be hurried because I love you. I know what I’m doing. And if you try to impose your understanding of schedule and timing on me, you will struggle to feel loved by me.” (Kings Cross, pg. 63)

While well meaning, Tim obviously doesn’t understand our particular DA. Plus, his words remind me about all that stuff you said about being God and being the center of the universe, which I don’t like to think about.

I anticipate your quick response to my complaints. Thank you for your time.