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God's Only Law Chapter 2

Loving Like God

 

Think of us as blocks of marble at our birth. As we grow, we grab hold of this life’s temptations and sins, and they create barnacles on our block, until one day, the barnacles completely hide our block, and we cannot recognize the person we have become. When we accept Jesus as our Savior, we can look into our spiritual mirror and begin chipping away the barnacles. As we abide in His love, we begin to see all the barnacles and eventually remove them. And, when we do, as Michelangelo saw David in the block he was about to carve, we can see the image of Jesus in our block. Then, we can begin the final process of chipping away everything that is not part of His glory, “But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.” (2 Cor. 3:18). The Holy Ghost is aiding us in this renewing process by holding our spiritual mirror to gaze into, thus allowing us to witness our progress. This is God wooing us with His overwhelming, never-ending, uninhibited love; and helping us put on our new man, “And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him:” (Col. 3:10). God never gives up on any of us, continually showing us His love, no matter what we have done. Because He wants us to know He loves all of His children.


This sanctification process takes us from living selfishly to becoming selfless, like Jesus. As we work our way through the process, people see less of us and more of Jesus in everything we do. Taking the sanctification process from the theoretical to the practical is a worthy exercise, so here is a personal example of how this process spreads through our lives to the most minor things we do.


Near our home, there is a T-intersection controlled by a traffic light. The T Street leads to a hospital, and only people coming from or going to the hospital use that street. The other street has only one lane in each direction; however, it changes into two lanes approximately 100 yards before and after the intersection. Not sure why it was designed this way, but this is the reality that produces this opportunity to see our own sanctification in action.


For many years I would move to the newly created right lane in hopes of passing a few cars after the light turned green. I never thought much about it. However, during my daily Bible study, I read a few verses that caused me to reason with this situation and my behavior. It then became apparent that my behavior was not selfless. So, I modified it, recognizing that the cars in front of me deserved to keep their place in line during the temporary change in the number of lanes.


For the next few months, I remained in the original lane and watched cars pass me on the right. Experiencing the change in my emotions and attitude was eye-opening. First, I was upset that they would take advantage of me and the other cars they passed. Then, I felt my own self-righteousness raise its ugly head. My response was to make merging back into the continuing lane a little uncomfortable when their lane ended. Thus, an opportunity was born to reason with this new behavior.


Staying in my lane and not passing other cars was a demonstration of my love for my neighbor, “And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself...” (Mk. 12:31a). However, I have since learned that allowing my neighbors to pass me without complaining or being upset provided me the opportunity to follow God’s advice on not judging others, “Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven:” (Lk. 6:37), and when I graciously allowed them to merge back into the continuing lane without harassing them, I felt my forgiveness leading me further in my sanctification process, “Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. And they parted his raiment, and cast lots.” (Lk. 23:34). Eventually, I learned my neighbors, who chose to pass me on the right, “for they know not what they do,” had not noticed me or the other cars. They were just doing what came naturally, as I had been doing for years. God asks us to remove our barnacles. However, He does not want us pointing our fingers at others who have not yet become aware of their barnacles. The only way to help them is to love them, as God has loved us.


These are the lessons Jesus teaches us so that we might have peace in this life, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” (Jn. 14:27). The peace I now have going through that intersection is seeping into other parts of my life, another barnacle removed and a step forward in my sanctification process, and it just might shine His gracious light unto those still unaware. Nothing I have given up to follow Jesus is worth comparing to the peace and joy He has already brought me. This is how we live the fruit of the Spirit,“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.” (Gal. 5:22-23), and continue the sanctification process, “Ponder the path of thy feet, and let all thy ways be established. Turn not to the right hand nor to the left: remove thy foot from evil.” (Prov. 4:26-27).


Why do we ever choose this world’s temporary pleasures over God’s endless mercy and grace? God calls all of our striving foolishness because He is already offering us the perfect eternal future, “Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.” (Matt. 5:12). What could be better than heaven’s reward? So, He asks us to honestly avoid evil and seek good, thus demonstrating His love to others, “Let love be without dissimulation. Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good.” (Rom. 12:9). We cannot be drawn into the lie that the end justifies the means. God wants us to obey His law of love all of the time. So, we cannot break it in an attempt to force others to obey it. Yet, this is precisely what the Pharisees believed, and it drove people away from God. God’s law of love in action allowed the early church to grow from the 500 who witnessed Jesus' ascension to over one-third of the Roman Empire before Constantine became Emperor. People lived the law of love, and others were continually drawn to it. That church was not a building or an organization; it was more significant than religion. Jesus living within the believers’ hearts and their individual responses to Him led them to share His love with everyone.


We demonstrate God’s love to others when we are tenderhearted and forgiving, “And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.” (Eph. 4:30-32), and when we accept Jesus as our Savior, we become part of one body and mind, His church, abiding in His love, “So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another.” (Rom. 12:5), and “Fulfil ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind.” (Phil. 2:2). This is how we know everyone in heaven will be living the fruit of the Spirit, totally in love with God and each other, “Happy is the man that findeth wisdom, and the man that getteth understanding. For the merchandise of it is better than the merchandise of silver, and the gain thereof than fine gold. She is more precious than rubies: and all the things thou canst desire are not to be compared unto her.” (Prov. 3:13-15).


God’s love produces the mercy and grace He created to save us from our sins, which then leads us to His sanctification process, “For we ourselves also were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another. But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared, Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; Which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour;” (Tit. 3:3-6). The sanctification process, which Jesus has created for us, leads us from our birth, past the trials of this life, and ultimately to His eternal love, “But we are bound to give thanks alway to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth:” (2 Thess. 2:13).


If we truly love God, we must love everyone else, “If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?” (1 Jn. 4:20), and “He that saith he is in the light, and hateth his brother, is in darkness even until now.” (1 Jn. 2:9). It is so easy to fall prey to this world’s lie that it is acceptable to hate another person. However, God says we need to love everyone, even those we perceive as our enemies, “But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;” (Matt. 5:44), because there is no reward for loving only those who love us, “For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same?” (Matt. 5:46). Therefore, when we say or show we hate someone, we are really saying and showing we do not know God.


God asks us to love even those who curse us, abuse us, and hate us, “Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also. And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain. Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away. Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;” (Matt. 5:38-44).


God asks us to do this, so the sinner can witness an example of God’s love and be drawn to God’s way of treating each other, “Having your conversation honest among the Gentiles: that, whereas they speak against you as evildoers, they may by your good works, which they shall behold, glorify God in the day of visitation.” (1 Pet. 2:12), which is part of my own testimony, as I have learned returning evil for evil only escalates problems and adds to our unrest. We are either living His law of love or rebelling against it. The reward for showing love to others is the deepening of our relationship with God, “Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men. If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men. Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.” (Rom. 12:17-19). Jesus wants us to not only live peaceably, but He also calls us to be peacemakers, “Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.” (Matt. 5:9). He wants us to actively live His law of love.


“Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times? Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven.” (Matt. 18:21-22). God asks us to love others to the point of unlimited forgiveness for their sins against us, “For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” (Matt. 6:14-15). Can we say Jesus is our friend and not forgive others?


Eventually, we learn to love everyone, allowing the flames of selflessness to incinerate the conflicts that destroy relationships. This can only happen when we abide in Him, “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me.” (Jn. 15:4), and “And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him.” (1 Jn. 4:16). This is how His love is perfected in us, “No man hath seen God at any time. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us.” (1 Jn. 4:12).


God asks us to love everyone and to willingly lay down our lives for them, as He did for us, “Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.” (1 Jn. 3:16), while we were all still in our sins, “Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.” (Isa. 53:4-5). Laying down our lives might mean dying as martyrs; however, it also might mean giving up part of our lives by serving once a week at our local food bank, visiting widows, hospitals, or prisons, “For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.” (Matt. 25:35-36), because we are all the least of these, “And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” (Matt. 25:40), sinners trying to find our way to Jesus, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” (1 Jn. 1:8).


Jesus went to the cross for each of us; murderers, liars, and gossips. We all start this life fully in love with ourselves and separated from Him. However, His sacrifice allows us to clearly witness His selfless love. He did this, so each of us could realize we have sinned and have the opportunity to repent from our sins. This is why He asks us to draw other sinners to Him, “For so hath the Lord commanded us, saying, I have set thee to be a light of the Gentiles, that thou shouldest be for salvation unto the ends of the earth.” (Acts 13:47). We cannot be satisfied with finding Jesus ourselves. We are then called to introduce Him to others to the uttermost part of the earth, “But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.” (Acts 1:8).


Before he received the lethal injection, Dustin Higgs’s last seven words were, “I am ok. I am at peace.” Dustin could utter these words because he had accepted Jesus as his Savior and had repented from his heinous crimes. Someone introduced Dustin to Jesus, another example of the work Jesus began on the cross. Jesus calls us to be part of His continuing work, part of the process of going after the one, “What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it?” (Lk. 15:4). He sent someone for us. Do we not then owe it to our fellow sinners to go after as many of them as possible?


God loves everyone, “Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons:” (Acts 10:34), He brings the sun and the rain on everyone, without discrimination, “That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.” (Matt. 5:45). But, unfortunately, this world promotes the opposite philosophy by dividing us into small groups who selfishly oppose each other, which leads us away from God. When we love as God does, we love everyone all of the time. We do not oppose any group, but we live God’s law of love and give everyone the same freedom to choose. He will not force us to love Him, so He warns us about the broad path, which is the way of this world, for it will lead to our destruction, “Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.” (Matt. 7:13-14). Instead, He wants us to choose the strait gate, which leads us to the narrow path where we will find Him, His love, and eternity.


When we ask God how our broken hearts can be part of His plan, we are really asking God to favor us over others. He will not play favorites because He loves us all equally. We cannot think God loves us more because we are somehow more deserving, for we cannot earn our way into His family. His free gift of salvation is offered to everyone, and He is giving each of us the opportunity to accept His love.


God is not creating the pain and suffering of this world. The collective "we" are by denying His existence, living in conflict with His creation, and rebelling against His law of love. He is letting us exercise the free will He gave us, and choosing to blame God for what we do, or others have done in rebellion shows our misunderstanding of free will. C.S. Lewis states it best, “If a thing is free to be good it is also free to be bad. And free will is what has made evil possible. Why, then, did God give them free will? Because free will, though it makes evil possible, it is also the only thing that makes possible any love or goodness or joy worth having.” God wants everyone to reflect His love, which is exactly what everyone will be doing in heaven.


We can picture ourselves sitting by a loved one on their deathbed. We can feel the ache of our loss deep in our hearts. This is the picture of God’s love that is burnt into my mind, the image of Him sitting by us as we refuse His offer of eternal life with Him. He sent Jesus to die for all of us, but He has to witness those who refuse to accept Jesus’s sacrifice. Sadly, millions of His children needlessly choose death, “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Rom. 6:23). No matter what we have done in this life, His love for us never changes, “For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Rom. 8:38-39). All we have to do is accept it.

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