First of all, I thought the speaker was absolutely hilarious. I just want to say, I so appreciate humor and how the Lord both laughs and cries with us. For those who believe God is constrained to the four walls of a church or that faith is only a serious matter of a bunch of rules and constraints - you are mistaken. The truth is a love relationship with God includes a ton of fun and laughter and freedom and life to the full and and and just a bunch of wonderful things that words cannot describe!
So the sermon was a classic message on the greatest commandment - to love.
We've all heard it so much that I can't help but feel that sometimes it goes from one ear out the other. "Love your neighbor as yourself" "Love God with all your heart, and all your mind, and all your soul" "Love never fails" yeah yeah yeah - it's in there. Many of us would most definitely cling to the fact that we love God. But what does that even mean? Are we even capable of this kind of love?
Not on our own accord.
I woke up the other morning feeling pretty crummy and shameful. I write out my prayers a lot (not cause I'm super holy but because I'm super distracted) and what came out was just a flow of awe and wonder at how the Lord could love me even when I am absolutely incapable of returning such love. How the Lord could forgive me again and again every-single-time that I fall down. How He could welcome me back with opened arms and unconditional love that's deeper than I can imagine and unable to return. Yet He does. And it's just amazing.
So how do we love God and love others? Sometimes it seems impossible to me, because well it is. It is absolutely impossible to love God and love others on my own accord. I am WAY too easily self-centered, my world so QUICKLY turns within to myself - by my own efforts I am nothing but a world of one, a world of self.
BUT I have the greatest gift. The gift of the Holy Spirit which lives within me - a God who is LOVE that chooses to make His temple within me! That is just...okay obviously my words are failing me because it is just SO beyond incredible to me that no adjective could properly explain it. So [insert beautiful adjective here].
Okay this is all my commentary and I haven't even gotten to the sermon! We were given a handout titled "The Look of Love" - Authentic Christlikeness Defined. The title itself draws me in - I'm a logical person, so how to be like Christ: defined. Yes, thank you!
"The Fact of the Matter: If we're ever to be like Jesus, we must learn to love like Jesus"
A table follows that compares Jesus' style of relating (and ours by the Spirit) with our natural (fleshly) style of relating. If this isn't convicting, I don't know what is:
Jesus - unity, oneness, openness, and intimacy with God and others (Jn. 17:21-23, Col 2:2)
Our Natural - shallow relationships, surface communication, resistance to true intimacy
Jesus - committed to dying to self in order to live for and bless others
Our Natural - committed to self-protection and the avoidance of pain and self-sacrifice
Jesus - eager to bear one anothers' burdens - "let me carry it!" Lk 10:33ff
Our Natural - avoidance of the burdens of others - "passing by on the other side" Lk 10:30ff
Jesus - tenderness of heart - "we have a problem." "When you hurt, I hurt" Rom 12:15; 1 Cor 12:25, 26
Our Natural - hardness of heart - "you have a problem, not me" When you hurt, I run.
Jesus - looks AT and talks TO people. Gives them dignity. Blind Men: Matt 20:32, John 9:1, 2
Our Natural - the Disciples talk ABOUT not to the blind man (Jn 9:1); when we depersonalize people, love dies (when we see, but don't look)
Jesus --- love like this must flow from a super-natural force
Our Natural - this is the way we "love" apart from the Spirit's power
The speaker challenged us to ask those around us and our families whether they feel loved by us. That was convicting for me. I seem to love easily when I commit to serve people for a few hours a week but it's just so much harder with family or those who I'm with 24/7 (something that I face now). I always wondered why that is and I realized this morning that it's because love isn't just an act that we can check off of our list, it's not reserved for only certain people or only convenient times of our day, it's not something we can create on our own or fit into our plan.
Love is a matter of the heart and soul; it becomes part of our identity when the Spirit of love dwells within us and seeps into everything we do and everyone we are with.
And okay, as believers we're not always going to be perfect at extending love. While we have the gift of the Spirit, we often fail to hear or receive that Spirit. We're all a work-in-progress, and just like a regular harvest it is a process for the fruits of the Spirit to grow within us. Our love will be a series of ups and downs, but if we are following the Lord daily I believe that at the end of our lives we will be able to see a progression of ups and downs that grew us more and more into authentic Christ-likeness.
That's why I believe daily communion with the Lord is SO important. Not just because it's a spiritual discipline or what a good Christian "ought" to do. But because it is impossible to have the fruits of the Spirit - love, joy, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Gal 5:22-23) - on our own accord. I pray that a spirit of authentic desire would develop in us to spend time with the Creator of Love. That through that time, the Lord may authentically become our greatest love and enable us to love others by the love He pours out to us.
Like a tree, love's root is the Gospel --> hearing and believing it is faith --> and receiving it produces the Fruits of the Spirit which grow more and more within us as we walk daily with the Lord.
I'm beyond grateful to be in love with the author of a romance so much deeper than I can comprehend. He has my heart now and forever and I can trust it to Him because His promises are true and He is faithful even when I am not. I am unworthy to receive such love but humbled that I get to receive this gift daily. A little more is unwrapped for me each day that I choose to receive this gift. It's a gift I want to freely give to others just as it has been freely given to me. I pray that more and more will hear it and receive it, so we can together grow in understanding just how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ.
"I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ." Ephesians 3:16-18