A man hired a carpenter to build him a house. He described the house he wanted and told the carpenter "Give me a list of everything you will need. I will get it all delivered." Six weeks later all the material was assembled and the carpenter went to work. A week later the man drove up to the site with a spray can of red paint. He started walking around the stacks of lumber marking some of them with the paint. The surprised carpenter asked "What in the world are you doing?" "You cannot use any of what I am marking. If it has red on it, don't use it." The carpenter did as he was told and finished the house as best he could with the limited material. When the owner saw the house he was disappointed and complained about the carpenter's work. Do we do this with God? He has provided all that is necessary to make us into the person He intends for us to be. Then we withhold part of ourselves - our attitudes, preferences, opinions, prejudices, habits, likes, dislikes - and wonder why we are not as happy and content as we would like to be.
My growth as a Christian will not be complete until I love every person in my life all the time. My growth as a Christian will not be complete until I want to help every person I love. My growth as a Christian will not be complete until I learn how to express my love to people as individuals, not just as a group. None of this growth will take place until I yield to the influence and power of the Holy Spirit.
God sends us into the world with a trunk full of love to give to others. We are to dip into that trunk and scatter love to everyone we meet. That love takes the form of listening, sharing, teaching, patience and forgiving. (That short list is not exhaustive.) That trunk has compartments that contain all the forms of love. He also gives us the wisdom to use the most effective form of love with each individual we meet. When I find myself running low on the motivational drive to be a "love scatterer" I must remember how empty my trunk was before He filled it, how small my qualification was to be a receiver of that love, and how much better my life is now because of that love.
The best, most effective, most accurate way I can glorify God is to let the Holy Spirit make me like Jesus. "God...decided from the outset to shape the lives of those who love him along the same lines as the life of his Son." (Romans 8:29, The Message Bible) The Holy Spirit will do the shaping of the way I am. My role is to allow such changes to happen and then behave in ways that exhibit my new shape. Do we Christians spend more time, money and energy trying to change our physical "shape" into the way the world says it should be than we do allowing the Spirit to alter our spiritual shape into the way God wants it to be?
If I apply Paul’s “I can do all things through Christ…” (Philippians 4:13) to my life, it means I can run errands for a shut-in neighbor and then sit and listen for the hundredth time as she recounts her memories of childhood. It means I can ladle soup in a homeless shelter. It means I can baby sit for a single mother while she goes grocery shopping. It means I can take a four-hour shift beside the ICU bed of a relative I hardly know and do not particularly like. It means I can share Jesus on a bench at Wal Mart. It means I can forgive completely. It mean I can show love to those who criticize me.
Any time my pastor or other church leader asks me to do something I must never say “I can’t” without first asking God if He wants me to. When I am following his will the answer “I don’t want to” is not an option, unless I immediately say “But I’ll do it if He wants me to.” In the Philippians verse the words “through Christ” are the key to life application. If, as I pray, I am led to believe God does not want me to do it I may say “I won’t” but I must never say “I can’t”.
Loving other people is dangerous. Loving other people can cost us time and money. Loving other people can cause us to travel to frightening places and spend time with frightening people. Loving other people can result in us being with “others” when we would rather be with “our own.”
For children of God, is loving other people a command or an option? Mark 12:31 answers that question for us. And that love for others is to be demonstrated by doing and sharing, not just talking and preaching. It expects us to love individuals, as well as groups.
Such love is impossible for us to achieve and maintain unless we are Spirit-filled and Spirit-led. The “filling” will provide us with the desire to love and the “led” will show us how to love. When we feel we are unable to do either of these we need to emulate the love of Jesus and daily choose the life-style described in I Corinthians 13:4-7.
If, for some reason, we want to measure the extent of our love, we need to go to that passage and substitute our own name for the word “love.” (Go ahead and try it. I’ll wait.) Isn’t it wonderful to know that even though we don’t yet love like Jesus does, He loves us anyway and the Holy Spirit will continue to teach us.
Dear Father, from this moment on, for all eternity, I give you control of All my houses, all my land, all my hopes, all my plans. All my pleasures, all my fears, all my joys, all my tears. Where I go, where I stay, what I hear, what I say. What I eat, what I drink, what I like, what I think. What I give, what I keep, when I work, when I sleep. Where I shop, what I buy, how I live, when I die. What I wear, how I look, what I text, what I cook. When I pray, when I sing, when to let go, when to cling. All my strength, all my health, all my pleasures, all my wealth. What I do, what I see, what I let bother me. When I stand, when I bend, when I back away from friends. When I whisper, when I shout, when I quietly "back out". What I hate, what I love, when to talk to you above. How to serve and obey every moment of each day. All things tiny, all things grand, things I do not understand. In my life, Lord, take control of my body, mind and soul.
It was early in the morning. The day was clear and clean and new and fresh. I was alone with God. I asked Him, "Father, what do you want me to do today?" He answered, "Love others." I thought for a minute and then said, "OK. Which others?" "All others," He replied. "Wait a minute," I said. "You don't really mean 'ALL others,' do you?" "All others," He repeated. "But Father, there are a lot of 'others' in my life that aren't very loveable. Some of them don't deserve being loved." "All others," He said again. "But Father, I don't even like some of the people I'll be with today." He answered, "I didn't say like them, I said LOVE them." "But Father, some of them certainly don't love me. Can I wait until they love me first?" "No, my child. Love them first. Show them that you love them. All of them. Starting today." "But Father, they are really not worth loving. No one can love all of them." "I do," came the reply. At that point I had no more objections. I left my devotional time still unsure I could love as He was demanding, but I knew I had to try.
"If any man will come after me, let him deny himself..." Matthew 16:24 To deny self means to deny self-importance self-competence self-direction self-motivation self-accomplishment self-glorification self-determination self-approval self-justification. To deny self means to realize we are nothing apart from Jesus. Such a realization may come as a shock. It is not natural to surrender control of our lives to someone else. The very basis of our culture, our democratic way of life, lies in the belief that each person is in control of his own fate. Denial of our right to decide our own course goes against everything the world has taught us. To live and function within this state of denial, we must constantly abide in Jesus. Only such abiding will enable us to accept his decisions and become all he wants us to be.
Quiet me, Lord,that I may experience you and worship you. Embolden me, Lord, that I may serve you and testify of you. Guide me, Lord, to appropriate times, places and methods of both. Jesus is my only current and eternal security. As a child of God I should strive to be informed about Jesus so I can be transformed by Jesus. Ultimate wisdom is complete oneness with God. The degree to which I can behave like Jesus depends on the degree to which I am like Jesus. Jesus, the healer of body and spirit, allows us to visit him whenever and as often as we please. No appointments are necessary and walk-ins are welcome. Jesus spent more time teaching than healing. He placed spiritual growth above physical health. Do my priorities match his? When strangers visit my church, do they meet people who want to help them and love them or people who want to only count them?
Goodness and holiness are not the same thing. In fact, in the life of a child of God, good may actually hinder holy.
Goodness refers to those acts of kindness we do in order to help others. Holiness means being set apart and used for God’s glory. Goodness does not always produce holiness.
In Mark 9:41, Jesus talked about giving a cup of cold water “in my name.” Goodness prompts the giving of the water, while holiness causes that water to be presented in the name of our Lord and Savior. If we give a cup of water, provide free babysitting for the single mother who lives next door, visit a follow church member in a nursing home or help a stranded motorist change a flat tire – and don’t mention the name of Jesus or give God any praise – we are being good. But we are not necessarily holy.
Our good deeds may hinder increased holiness because such deeds cause us to feel gratified and pleased with ourselves. We may continue to look for ways to help others and overlook opportunities to glorify God
There are many good non-Christians in the world. Only the redeemed children of God are holy. We must allow the leadership of the Holy Spirit to show us how our good deeds (which bring recognition only to ourselves) can become holy deeds which bring glory to the Father.
The Holy Spirit creates a greater degree of holiness in our lives when we allow him to change the motive for our good deeds. Good deeds done in Jesus’ name and for the Father’s glory become holy deeds.
Are we willing to go beyond good to holy ?
We put our faith into action when we take a step of obedience into the unknown, following His will even when we cannot foresee the results. We explain such faith by saying “We step out of the light into the darkness, not knowing what the darkness holds.”
Abraham exhibited such faith when he followed God’s orders to relocate his family and possessions without knowing his final destination. Such faith requires obedience, knowing God can make the results pleasant or unpleasant. Suffering may or may not follow.
Such faith-action is admirable. Surely it pleases God. But even greater faith is required when we are called to take a step of obedience knowing for sure the results will be unpleasant. This is when we step into the darkness, knowing the darkness holds suffering.
This faith assures us God will protect us during the suffering, rather than from the suffering. This is “fiery furnace” faith. (Daniel 3:17-18) It is the faith possessed by martyrs of our faith when they refused to forsake their beliefs, knowing that torture and death awaited them.
When Jesus prayed in Gethsemane He knew exactly what suffering awaited his obedience But his faith in the Father allowed him to say “not what I will, but what you will” (Mark 14:36).
God expects us to also have faith that permits us to eagerly obey even when there is guaranteed suffering ahead.