All the Parts are Present

Can I do that? Can I give all the shattered pieces of my heart?

“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “’Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’” Matthew 22:36-37 

“with all … with all … with all…”  

Jesus is quoting Deuteronomy 6:5. He said this is the greatest commandment. The Greek word here translated “all” is holos (ὅλος). It is the root of the English term “whole.” It means whole, complete, entire, “properly, wholly, where all the parts are present and working as a whole – i.e. as the total, which is greater than the mere sum of the parts.” 

All the parts present and working as a whole means holding nothing back. Jesus came and showed us how to love with all. 

“… whoever wants to be first must be your slave— just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Matthew 20:27-28 

Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. Ephesians 5:1-2 

He gave his life to free us from every kind of sin, to cleanse us, and to make us his very own people, totally committed to doing good deeds. Titus 2:14 (NLT) 

Jesus gave all, the whole. As Tozer wrote, His very self.  

“That eternal life which was with the Father is now the possession of believing men, and that life is not God’s gift only, but His very self.”  
― A.W. Tozer, God’s Pursuit of Man 

All. Can I do that? Can I give all the shattered pieces of my heart, scattered, distracted, resisting, all the carefully separated and locked up memories. Or, will I keep holding back in entitlement to rage, unforgiveness; holding back in fear of the complete destruction of the remaining fragile ego; holding back the needed surgery on the bleeding, infected, pus-filled, putrid, putrescent wounds?  

All, the whole, entire, complete. My voluntary will binding it all together, like Abraham binding Isaac and laying him on the altar. The sacrifice total, greater than the mere sum of fragmented, dismembered, mangled, defective parts. Am I loving Him with all my mind, or am I holding back, reserving a little doubt, a little reinterpretation to justify some sin, unforgiveness, some command I don’t want to obey. “Did God really say?” Am I clutching some precious part of my life, unable to lay it on the altar? 

But Jesus said I have to give up everything. 

Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Won’t he first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace. In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples. Luke 14:31-33 

“If we shrink from the thought of fighting against God, we had better accept His conditions of peace. The worst folly of all is to enter into the conflict with a wavering will, not caring to know what “the things belonging to our peace” actually are, or to endeavour to stand apart in an impossible neutrality.” — Eliott’s Commentary for English Readers 

“An impossible neutrality.” Yes, being neutral before God is impossible. But that’s what we want – a truce. I will just keep going my own way and God will do His thing and let me be. I will keep back just this one thing and God will blink. But it doesn’t work that way. The King is on His way. He may be still a long way off, but He is on His way. And His terms of peace are all. All is what God wants of us. All or nothing.  

“So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:26-33). Jesus said a lot in those simple illustrations. He quickly put an end to the idea that He offered some kind of welfare program. Although the gift of eternal life is free to anyone who asks (John 3:16), the asking requires a transfer of ownership (Luke 9:23; Galatians 5:24). “Counting the cost” means recognizing and agreeing to some terms first. In following Christ, we cannot simply follow our own inclinations. We cannot follow Him and the world’s way at the same time (Matthew 7:13-14). Following Him may mean we lose relationships, dreams, material things, or even our lives.” — Got Questions https://www.gotquestions.org/count-the-cost.html 

Give me grace Lord to accept your terms of peace: Everything. 

When they reached the place God had told him about, Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it. He bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. Genesis 22:9 

He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Romans 8:32 

The LORD is God, and he has made his light to shine upon us. Bind the festal sacrifice with cords, up to the horns of the altar! Psalm 118:27 (ESV) 

You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. Jeremiah 29:13 

Photo, “Broken Pot” by Silly Little Man https://flic.kr/p/8PtRAa  

Skewed Intentions

It would seem that, not only where my focus remains, but also the motives of my heart are vital to my thinking, behavior and actions.

On another Sabbath he went into the synagogue and was teaching, and a man was there whose right hand was shriveled. The Pharisees and the teachers of the law were looking for a reason to accuse Jesus, so they watched him closely to see if he would heal on the Sabbath. Luke 6:6-7 

The Pharisees were watching him closely, insidiously, treacherously, awaiting a chance to pounce. Their total focus was to catch Jesus breaking the law and entrap Him.  

But Jesus knew what they were thinking and said to the man with the shriveled hand, “Get up and stand in front of everyone.” So he got up and stood there. Then Jesus said to them, “I ask you, which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to destroy it?” 

He looked around at them all (Mark 3:5 says that he looked at them in anger and grieved at their hardness of heart) and then said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He did so, and his hand was completely restored. Luke 6:8-10 

But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law were furious (filled with fury) and began to discuss with one another what they might do to Jesus. Luke 6:6-11 

They were furious! A man was healed. A man who most likely had either been a burden on his family or reduced to begging. But the Pharisees, hoping to entrap Jesus, insisted that healing constituted work and the man should not have been helped.  

“It is important to note that Jesus was not violating the law of God when He healed on the Sabbath. He was surely acting against the Pharisaical interpretation of the law and against their particular rules. But the Holy One of God, who came to fulfill the law (Matthew 5:17), did not violate the law. The basic reason that Jesus healed on the Sabbath was that people needed His help. Need knows no calendar.” — Got Questions 

In any case, Jesus skipped over all the arguments about interpretation and just loved the man.  

And they were filled with rage. They were so intent on their interpretation of the law that they missed it! You shall love …

You know what the interesting thing is? The word that is translated “furious” (in the Hebrew, filled with fury) means folly, madness, “madness expressing itself in rage.” At its root it means, “no-mind” referring to irrational behavior or mindless actions. It means lack of sense “folly, foolishness” which easily degenerates into “a state of extreme anger that suggests an incapacity to use one’s mind – extreme fury, great rage.”i 

Wow. It would seem that, not only where my focus remains, but also the motives of my heart are vital to my thinking, behavior and actions. The Pharisees were watching Jesus closely, a good thing. We should all fix our eyes on Jesus. But their intent was skewed and so they were blinded to God’s will and heart, mercy, love, compassion. As Jesus warned: 

The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness! Matthew 6:22-23 (ESV) 

I need to be careful that my eye is healthy. What is my focus and intent? Is it on being right and in control? Or is it on God’s word and will? What is my motivation and heart’s desire? Is it self-righteousness, self-glory? Or God’s glory, God’s delight. 

And he looked around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart … Mark 3:5 

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. Hebrews 4:12 (ESV) 

iDefinitions from HELPS Word-studies, NAS Exhaustive Concordance, and Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance. 

Image of oil lamp by Bee Collins https://flic.kr/p/bSdftM 

Lord, Lord

Jesus was always nudging people towards his true identity.

“Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say? Luke 6:46 

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ Matthew 7:21-23 

Reading these familiar verses, I wondered about the repetition of the name “Lord.” It reminded me of the verse in Exodus where God proclaims his name to Moses. 

Then the LORD came down in the cloud and stood there with him and proclaimed his name, the LORD. And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, “The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Exodus 34:5-7 

The people calling Jesus “Lord, Lord” were using the repetition of the Name in their defense. The first group called him Lord, Lord but didn’t do what he commanded. If you look at the previous verses in Luke 6, this includes, as God had described himself to Moses, loving your enemies, not condemning, but having mercy, forgiving sins, and saving the lost.

The second group defended themselves with works they had performed. But the works with which they defended themselves were the more spectacular and self-promoting. They said they did these works in his Name. Yet, again, they didn’t mention compassion, grace, faithfulness, forgiveness.  

I am not saying that prophesying and driving out demons and performing miracles are not good and important. Rather, I am thinking, along with Martyn Lloyd-Jones, that “We can worship religion and be very religious without God.” We must always intently have as our focus the glory and the will of God – knowing God – day by day, step by step. The temptation to glorify ourselves is insidious. 

If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. 1 Corinthians 13:1-3 

Jesus was always nudging people towards his true identity. “Who do you say that I am?” “Why do you call me good? No one is good save God alone.” “Go back and report to John what you hear and see: 
The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor.”  

And whoever sees me sees him who sent me. I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness. John 12:45-46 (ESV) 

Could these “Lord, Lord” references be another way of making them think? Remember Jesus said “I and my Father are one,” deeply offending the religious leaders by calling himself equal to God. Could the repetition of the title Lord, as God himself had introduced himself to Moses, be another nudge? If you think I am the Messiah, the Son of God, the Anointed One – if you call me Lord, Lord – why don’t you obey my commands? 

If what we work toward is not to be spectacular or religious, but rather to know Him, then we will know and experience His great heart of compassion and mercy. That great heart that came down with Jesus 

When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” Matthew 9:11-13 

Oh Lord, may you never have to say to me “I never knew you.” May I be ever sensitive to your heart, listening for your gentle voice telling me what you want me to do – or better, what you want to do through me – right now. May I live in you and you live in me such that the light of your compassion and grace, patience, love, faithfulness, and forgiveness shine out into this dark and hurting world.  

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. Micah 6:8 

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. 1 John 4:7-8 

My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. John 10:27 (ESV) 

For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost. Luke 19:10 

Photo of rainbow by Jack Bair

When You Pass Through the Waters

Choosing love, choosing possible, most-likely, suffering, means choosing over and over.

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. Isaiah 43:2 (ESV) 

I noticed it says “when” you pass through the waters and the rivers and “when” you walk through fire. Not if. Right now, is a “when” time for me. Both parents in Hospice. Exhausting caregiving. And I am sure that there are others of you reading that are up to your neck or smelling the smoke too. I would like to share with you some writings that have encouraged me. 

“I’m no sage. I don’t pretend to have this all figured out, but I know this: some live well, some die well, but few love well. Why? I don’t know if I can answer that. We all live, we all die – there is no get-out-of-jail-free card, but it’s the part in between that matters. To love well … that’s something else. It’s a choosing—something done again and again and again. No matter what. And in my experience, if you so choose, you better be willing to suffer hell.” — Charles Martin, Where the River Ends 

Yes, when you choose this Way. When you walk through the fire. When you follow in his steps. 

To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. 1 Peter 2:21 

Besides descending into hell after his death on the cross, Jesus suffered a great deal of hell while on earth. We are commanded to follow in His footsteps, but we need to do it with His mindset. Becoming nothing. Being a servant. Pure love. 

Against my own best intentions, I find myself continually striving to acquire power. When I give advice, I want to know whether it is being followed; when I offer help, I want to be thanked; when I give money, I want it to be used my way; when I do something good, I want to be remembered. I might not get a statue, or even a memorial plaque, but I am constantly concerned that I not be forgotten, that somehow I will live on in the thoughts and deeds of others. 

But the father of the prodigal son is not concerned about himself. His long-suffering life has emptied him of his desires to keep in control of things. His children are his only concern; to them he wants to give himself completely, and for them he wants to pour out all of himself. 

Can I give without wanting anything in return, love without putting any conditions on my love? Considering my immense need for human recognition and affection, I realize that it will be a lifelong struggle. But I am also convinced that each time I step over this need and act free of my concern for return, I can trust that my life can truly bear the fruits of God’s Spirit.” — Henri J.M. Nouwen, The Return of the Prodigal Son  

So, choosing love, choosing possible, most-likely, suffering, means choosing over and over. A “lifelong struggle.” And as Marshall Segal writes, it must be tenacious. 

“In other words, the deepest patience comes from a humble and hopeful joy in God above all else. That means that real patience is not only inconvenient, difficult, and wearying, but, humanly speaking, impossible. The kind of patience that honors God is so hard that we cannot practice it without help from God. It grows only where the Spirit lives (Galatians 5:22–23) … Paul does not charge the church to admonish the weak, but to help them, and the word for help here can also mean to hold firm or be devoted. There’s a tenaciousness in this help, a clinging to the weak, even after months or years of inconvenience and sacrifice. Where does that kind of patience come from? From knowing that “while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly” … Those who know how painfully and helplessly weak they are apart from God are more ready to endure the weaknesses of others. They don’t resent helping for the hundredth time, because they gladly trust and submit to God’s plans, including the weaknesses he has placed around them.” — Marshall Segal https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/patience-will-be-painful  

Tenacious, gladly trusting, and, as Henri Nouwen writes, unhesitating.  

“Do not hesitate to love and to love deeply. You might be afraid of the pain that deep love can cause. When those you love deeply reject you, leave you, or die, your heart will be broken. But that should not hold you back from loving deeply. The pain that comes from deep love makes your love even more fruitful. It is like a plow that breaks the ground to allow the seed to take root and grow into a strong plant. Every time you experience the pain of rejection, absence, or death, you are faced with a choice. You can become bitter and decide not to love again, or you can stand straight in your pain and let the soil on which you stand become richer and more able to give life to new seeds.” — Henri J.M. Nouwen, The Inner Voice of Love 

All this is indeed “humanly speaking, impossible.” But we have a Helper. 

So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Isaiah 41:10 

The carvings had faded, but I ran my fingers through the grooves I could reach. ‘When you pass through the waters …’ The passage continued but my arm was too short.” — Charles Martin, Where the River Ends 

Surely the arm of the LORD is not too short to save … Isaiah 59:1 

I will strengthen you and help you … 

I will be with you. 

P.S. And look what just came out as I was about to publish this! “Faith under fire becomes a furnace of transformation.” There is Another in the Fire

Image by Jackie, Noreaster April 16, 2007 https://flic.kr/p/GSsv8  

His Love-Banner

His love-banner over me? 

Not the empty flagpole 

tipping over in the sand 

I cling to, but 

billowing, joyful 

He waves it himself 

wooing, shouting 

laughing, triumphant 

Come! 

Stand with me 

here on this Rock 

Come! 

Let me 

wrap you 

clothe you 

keep you 

lead you on 

“He welcomes me to His banqueting table. His banner over me is love.” Song of Solomon 2:4 (paraphrased)

Image in the Public Domain: Woman standing on a rock near Villa de Leyva, Colombia by Joshua Earle https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Woman_standing_on_a_rock_near_Villa_de_Leyva,_Colombia_(Unsplash).jpg

He Who Overcomes

It seems to me that overcoming must be a daily effort so that we will be ready in the end. 

For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? 1 John 5:4-5 (ESV) 

Last time I started looking at the concept of overcoming or conquering (Greek = nikaó) and what it means. This week I decided to take a look at the verses in the Bible where the word is used. I found there are a lot of them in Revelation, and they are all accompanied there with promises. 

The one who conquers (nikaó) and who keeps my works until the end, to him I will give authority over the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron, as when earthen pots are broken in pieces, even as I myself have received authority from my Father. Revelation 2:26-27 (ESV) 

The one who conquers (nikaó) will be clothed thus in white garments, and I will never blot his name out of the book of life. I will confess his name before my Father and before his angels. Revelation 3:5 (ESV) 

The one who conquers (nikaó), I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God. Revelation 3:12 (ESV) 

The one who conquers (nikaó), I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne. Revelation 3:21 (ESV) 

To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment. The one who conquers (nikaó) will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son. Revelation 21:16-17 (ESV) 

What struck me about these verses in Revelation was the similarity in outcome and promise to the parables that Jesus told in Matthew 25: 

The Parable of the Ten Virgins: But while they were on their way to buy it, the bridegroom arrived. Those who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet, and the door was shut. Later the other virgins arrived and said, ‘Lord, lord, open the door for us!’ But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I do not know you.’ Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour. Matthew 25:10-13 

The Parable of the Talents: His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’ Matthew 25:21 

The Final Judgement: Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave Me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave Me something to drink, I was a stranger and you took Me in, I was naked and you clothed Me, I was sick and you looked after Me, I was in prison and you visited Me.’ Matthew 25:34-36 

Two things stand out to me in all this. First, the readiness and the faithfulness and the true serving of Jesus by loving others must be related to this overcoming thing. For they both have the same reward: to be admitted into the Kingdom and to the family, to sit on the throne and have authority. The second thing is that it seems to me that overcoming must be a daily effort so that we will be ready in the end. 

Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. Luke 9:23 

But you, dear friends, build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit. Keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life. Jude 1:20-21 

And how does that happen? John says it is by faith, by believing. But, how does that work in everyday life? In Proverbs there is a verse about a disciplined servant that helped me to see it. 

By mere words a servant is not disciplined, for though he understands, he will not respond. Proverbs 29:19 

If the Bible is “mere words” to me, by it I cannot/will not be disciplined – chastened, admonished, corrected. It must be more than words, more even than mere understanding of the words. Mere words won’t change the servant. He must be in love with the Master. 

Isn’t that what happened with the virgins who ran out of oil, and the servant who buried his talent, and the “goats” on the Lord’s left hand who did many things, but never out of love, never for the love of the Master. They only heard mere words, they only did just enough to get by, to technically obey. They never let the Master correct their wrong thinking. They never had that close relationship that is requisite, walking along side, carried in the Everlasting Arms. 

For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven … But I tell you: love … Matthew 5:20, 44

Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ Matthew 7:22-23 

Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. Philippians 2:12-13 (ESV) 

To overcome there must be faith and trust in, and love for, the Author of the word, not just head knowledge. Love of the discipliner, love of the Father. And we can’t love Him unless we know Him. We can’t truly respond except through love. And all of this must be a work of the Spirit of God in us. 

Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world … Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. 1 John 4:4, 7 (ESV) 

Next week, the glorious key.

Image of oil lamp by Bee Collins https://flic.kr/p/bSdftM 

Layers of Love

I am reblogging a wonderful article by Matt LeRoy this morning. I was especially struck by this observation: “[I]n our way of keeping score, sin covers a multitude of love. But not so with Jesus.”

1 Peter 4:8–11 (NIV)

Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.

Reflect

Ask the average person, loosely familiar with the story and Jesus’ life, and he or she will likely remember Peter most for one thing above all else. He denied Jesus. Yes, he was among the inner circle of disciples. He was the disciple who first articulated that foundational confession that Jesus is more than a prophet or teacher, but he is, in fact, the Christ, the very Son of the living God. Peter was the one who stepped out of the boat and onto the waves, who preached the inaugural sermon of the church at its birth, and who became a pioneer in the rising kingdom tide.

And yet we remember his denial above the rest. Why? Because in our way of keeping score, sin covers a multitude of love. But not so with Jesus.

After his resurrection, Jesus directly confronted this defining sin of Peter’s life. With what? With love. “Peter, do you love me?” he asked. Not once, but three times. Jesus covered the one moment Peter would have died to have back with the moment he would never forget. “I love you,” Peter affirmed, once for every time he had denied. And then, in the strength of this love and the power of the Holy Spirit, three thousand people joined the movement of Jesus as Peter preached at Pentecost. Three thousand. One thousand transformed lives for each of his denials.

“Love covers a multitude of sins,” Peter wrote. This isn’t poetry. It’s experience. And once you’ve experienced it, you can’t go on seeing others according to their defining sin. You will see them covered in thick layers of holy love, as Jesus beacons you to join him in piling it on.

Pray

Jesus, thank you for your love. It has not only covered our sins but transformed our hearts. Please keep moving us into deeper awakening until we are defined by our devoted love for God and others.

Conference

Why do we remember Peter most for his defining failure? Name one defining trait for which you want to be remembered. Who do you see according to their defining sin? Name a different defining trait by which you can identify them instead.

For the Awakening,
Matt LeRoy

Reblogged with permission from Seedbed https://www.seedbed.com/layers-of-love-devoted-part-4/

Photo by Jack Bair

Emptied

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Philippians 2:5-8 (ESV) 

Jesus “emptied himself.” The word means to make empty, to abase (humble, lower oneself), make of no reputation. Isaiah says it even more starkly: 

He [Messiah] was despised (held in contempt, disdained) and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed (valued) him not. Isaiah 53:3 

Did you ever think that, out of his deep love for us, Jesus emptied and abased himself to become of no reputation, a weak human, taking on our sin, enduring the shame of being crucified on a cross – in order that we might be crucified with him, cleansed of our shame, emptied out of our sin, made pure and holy in him, so that we could truly love others? 

Loving others is what it is all about. Loving others is what I wish I could do. Loving others is pretty much what I fail to do continually. But to do that I have to start at the cross. I have to start with being crucified with him. I have to die, be emptied of self, of all the self-stuff, and let him live in me every day – and that is hard.   

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. Galatians 2:20 

Philippians 2:5 says, “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus.” And, in fact, 1 Corinthians 2:16 declares that we do have the mind of Christ. We just have to be willing to yield. I want to be willing – will you make me willing Lord? – to forsake reputation and honor and pride and self-reliance and my own thinking and to have this mind that was in Christ Jesus. Work in me, Lord, to be willing to be emptied and abased, a “fool for Christ,” “the scum of the world, the refuse of all things,” to be crucified with Christ, in order that you can love people through me. That they may know “the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge” (Ephesians 3:19).  

We are fools for Christ’s sake …When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; when slandered, we entreat. We have become, and are still, like the scum of the world, the refuse of all things. 1 Corinthians 4:10, 12-13 (ESV) 

But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.  Ephesians 2:4-5 

In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him … We love because he first loved us. 1 John 4:9, 19 (ESV) 

He was a man of no reputation  

And by the wise, considered a fool  

When He spoke about faith and forgiveness  

In a time when the strongest arms ruled  

But this man of no reputation  

Loves us all with relentless affection  

And He loves all those poor in spirit, come as you are  

To the man of no reputation — Rich Mullins 

Come as you are Salvation  

Image: Ford Maddox Brown, Jesus Washing Peter’s Feet [1852-6], Tate Archive, image  released under Creative Commons CC-BY-NC-ND (3.0 Unported)

A Hardhat Kind of Love

This kind of love is a “hard hat, lunch pail, pick axe” kind of love.

Then Peter said, “Silver and gold I do not have, but what I have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” Taking him by the right hand, he helped him up … Acts 3:6-8 

Usually, I focus on the first part of this verse, the silver and gold part. Peter and John didn’t have a lot of money but they had a real treasure – the power of the Name of Jesus. A power that heals and renews and repairs and restores. As Peter explained to the astonished crowd: 

And his name—by faith in his name—has made this man strong whom you see and know, and the faith that is through Jesus has given the man this perfect health in the presence of you all. Acts 3:16 (ESV) 

And as Paul encouraged the Corinthians, we have this treasure of the knowledge of God and what Jesus has done for us on the cross. 

But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. 2 Corinthians 4:7 (ESV) 

Silver and gold most of us do not have, but we can have the most precious power in the universe. But this time as I read the passage above in Acts, I was drawn to look at the second part of the verse. The part where Peter reaches down and takes the man by the hand. And I saw that faith in the Name is the treasure, but love, or “works” as James put it, is its expression. 

What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. James 2:14-18 

This kind of love is, as my pastor Troy Gentz put it in a recent messagei, “a hard hat, lunch pail, pick axe” kind of love.  It is a reaching down, taking by the hand, helping up kind of love. It is not philosophical. It is not just reading about faith and mentally, or even from the heart, assenting to what is written. It is not even just giving of our resources. It is giving ourselves. 

As I was searching for a way to express the love God requires, I came on this list of synonyms: “hands on, personally involved, front line, in the trenches, in amongst it.”ii  Yes, “in amongst it”! Just like Jesus is in amongst us – our Emmanuel (see Jesus in the Middle). 

Love cannot stay just in our minds or even in our hearts. It can’t remain as words on a page, no matter how adored. It was made to be – it exists to be – expressed in works of love that reach out and grasp people by the hand and pull them up and out. As Jesus said, “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I, too, am working” (John 5:17). 

In the same sermon Troy Gentz said, “The love of God is an ocean and it shouldn’t trickle down to a dirty little puddle that we share with people.”iii  What keeps the treasure we have from gushing out all over the place in refreshing, life-giving, good works of love? Fear, prejudice, self-preservation, selfishness, apathy – all things that Jesus addressed in his time here on earth (ex.: Matthew 5:43-48; Luke 10:30-37; Luke 12:15-21).  

“We should resemble God … look like God’s kids. It’s [love is] a family trait.”iv 

For I am the LORD, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you. Do not fear; I will help you. Isaiah 41:13 

By this we know love, that He laid down His life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. 1 John 3:16 

i Troy Gentz, Greatest Sermon series, Sunday June 6, 2021 https://youtu.be/D-6fr9HWDnw?t=1636  

ii Word Hippo https://www.wordhippo.com/what-is/another-word-for/down_and_dirty.html  

iii ibid, Troy Gentz 

iv ibid, Troy Gentz 

Image in the Public Domain from Wikimedia https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Hard_Hats_Required.jpg

No Boundaries

The question is not who is my neighbor – who deserves my love – but how can I be a neighbor, how can I love.  

On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 

“What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?” 

He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” 

“You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.” 

But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” Luke 10:25-29 

“Who is my neighbor? Which ones do I have to love?” Possibly even, “Which ones deserve my love?” The expert in the correct interpretation of the law wanted to put some kind of boundaries around this amorphous love thing. 

In reply Jesus said: “A man …” Luke 10:30 

I think most of us have at least heard about the Parable of the Good Samaritan.i  The story of a person who was beat up and left for dead in the road, and how two very religious types turned their heads and walked by on the other side of the road. But a person who in the Jewish culture of the time was considered unclean and an outcast – that person, not only stopped, but gave of his time and resources to take care of the wounded man. 

The Jews of the time thought, “Samaritans were half-breeds who defiled the true religion. ”ii According to Got Questions, “The Samaritans received only the five books of Moses and rejected the writings of the prophets and all the Jewish traditions … [This probably really irked the expert in the law.] From these causes arose an irreconcilable difference between them, so that the Jews regarded the Samaritans as the worst of the human race (John 8:48) and had no dealings with them (John 4:9).”iii  

I think it is amusing how Jesus chose a Samaritan to be the hero of the story. This person who rejects all the expert’s “correct” interpretation and sage wisdom is the one who gets it right. The Samaritan does not stop to figure out who deserves his love – he just loves. That is interesting in itself because, remember, Jesus was rejected in Samaria because he was going to Jerusalem, the “wrong” place to worship (Luke 9:51-56).  

But Jesus did not reject the Samaritans. He shocked everybody by reaching out to them at Sychar – and to a woman at that! (John 4:4-42). Jesus totally ignored all the arguments on both sides about words and correctness and, ultimately, pride of being on the right side, and went straight for the heart. 

Because the question is not who is my neighbor – who deserves my love – but how can I be a neighbor, how can I love.  

For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me. Matthew 25:35-36 

People are always trying to put boundaries around love, always trying to justify themselves “Surely, you don’t mean that person?” But love is meant to be given, to be done, to be lavished. Jesus showed us how. He set love free; he tore down the walls. There is no justifying and being RIGHT. There is no “who,” there is only “how and what.” “Love your enemies, do good to those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44).  

Jesus washed even Judas’ feet, showing us the “full extent of his love” (John 13:1 NIV). 

The expert got it right the first time: 

‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 

i If you have never read the whole parable, you can do so here https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Luke+10%3A25-37&version=NIV 

ii Alyssa Roat, Bible Study Tools https://www.biblestudytools.com/bible-study/topical-studies/the-samaritans-hope-from-the-history-of-a-hated-people.html 

iii Samaritans, Got Questions https://www.gotquestions.org/Samaritans.html 

Image, Old Barbed Wire, by arbyreed, https://flic.kr/p/9fTHVa  

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