Receiving & Giving Neighbor Love

good-samaritanJesus is the Great Samaritan
to whom the Good Samaritan points…
Before you can give this neighbor-love,
you need to receive it.
Only if you see that you have been saved graciously
by someone who owes you the opposite
will you go out into the world looking to help
absolutely anyone in need.
— Timothy Keller, Generous Justice, p. 77

Loving your neighbor springs from the biblical notion of
love as the law that causes people to flourish
emotionally, physically, spiritually, and socially
and to experience life to the full (1 John 4:7-21).

This neighbor love shows itself in different forms:

O Lord, your love for rebels like us reached its height
in the cross of Calvary.
Fueled by your love,
would you lead us today to those whom you want to love through us. AMEN.

The Sweet Exchange of the Gospel of Jesus Christ

There is not a better prayer that beautifully speaks of the mysterious, sweet exchange that takes place when we repent and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.

Love Lustres at Calvary

519bbajnjglMy Father,

Enlarge my heart, warm my affections, open my lips,

Supply words that proclaim ‘Love lustres at Calvary.’

There grace removes my burdens and heaps them on your Son,

Made a transgressor, a curse, and sin for me;

There the sword of Your justice smote the man, Your fellow;

There Your infinite attributes were magnified,

And infinite atonement was made;

There infinite punishment was due,

And infinite punishment was endured.

Christ was all anguish that I might be all joy,

Cast off that I might be brought in,

Trodden down as an enemy

That I might be welcomed as a friend,

Surrendered to hell’s worst

That I might attain heaven’s best,

Stripped that I might be clothed

Wounded that I might be healed,

Athirst that I might drink,

Tormented that I might be comforted,

Made a shame that I might inherit glory.

Entered darkness that I might have eternal light,

My Savior wept so that all tears might be wiped from my eyes,

Groaned that I might have endless song,

Endured all pain that I might have unfading health,

Bore a thorned crown that I might have a glory-diadem,

Bowed his head that I might uplift mine,

Experienced reproach that I might receive welcome,

Closed his eyes in death that I might gaze on unclouded brightness,

Expired that I might forever live.

O Father, who spared not Your only Son that You might spare me,

All this transfer Your love designed and accomplished;

Help me to adore You by lips and life.

O that my every breath might be ecstatic praise,

My every step buoyant with delight, as I see…

My enemies crushed,

Satan baffled, defeated, destroyed,

Sin buried in the ocean of reconciling blood,

Hell’s gates closed, heaven’s portal open.

Go forth, O Conquering God, and show me the cross,

Mighty to subdue, comfort, and save.

Taken from The Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers & Devotions, Banner of Truth Trust, Carlisle, PA, 1975, pp.42-43.

 

Prepare Your Heart for Worship

Here is a simple prayer to pray through and reflect upon as you prepare to worship God personally and with others. It is based upon the beautiful hymn: “May the Mind of Christ My Savior.”

Almighty God, may my worship of you cause the
mind of Christ to be more fully present in me
this week so that I may think your thoughts
and do your deeds.
May Your Word dwell in me
so that I delight to do what You command.
May Your peace so umpire my life that I am
progressively set free from anxieties and fears.
May Your love so fill me that I am empowered
to love others that may prove difficult to love.
Lastly, may Your beauty rest on me in such a life
transforming way that others might truly see
Christ in me and be drawn to Him. AMEN.

Another way to do this is to turn this into a prayer of confession of sin.
Here is an example:

Almighty and Gracious Father,
Your Word says that You have given us the mind of Christ
so that we can think Your thoughts and do Your deeds.
Forgive us for allowing worldly-mindedness to creep in –
causing sin to seem normal and holiness to seem strange.
Pardon us for filling our lives with so many other things
rather than Your Word.
We confess that anxiety and fear rule us rather than Your peace.
We acknowledge that envy and greed fill us rather than Your love
We lament that a spirit of despair rests upon us instead of Your beauty.
So transform us that others see Jesus in us and are drawn to Him.
For we make our prayer in His matchless name, AMEN.

Cultivating a Healthy Marriage: Clothed with Love

“And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony” (Colossians 3:14).

Love is that piece of clothing in your spiritual wardrobe that will hold your entire marriage relationship together. It serves sort of like a safety belt for your marriage and also every other relationship.

God’s Design for Passages Like This

In a text like this, I think it is important to remember and embrace God’s design when He commands us in His Word to do something like love one another.  The Lord desires to first humble us with the love that He requires of us so that we will receive the love that He offers us.

So, at the outset, we acknowledge that the fuel and energy for truly loving one another is to embrace His love for us. It is important to personalize passages like these: “He has loved you with an everlasting love” (Jeremiah 31:3). “We know love by this: Jesus Christ laid down His life for us” (1John 3:16). When you experience the security of His love, it frees you to truly love one another.

What is true, agape love?

Agape is the Greek word for a God-like love. Here is the best definition that I have after my own years of study of this:

Agape love is
a commitment of the will
to sacrificially serve the interests and needs of your spouse
in spite of your changing moods and circumstances.

On your wedding day, you made a covenant with God and one another that you would love each other until death parts you. You can only fulfill your vow as you remember and rejoice in how much the Lord loves you. This definition reminds you that sometimes you will not feel very loving towards one another. True love is not so much a feeling but an action… a commitment of the will.

When you don’t feel a lot of love for one another, the best thing you can do is to force yourself to do a loving deed for your spouse. My experience has been that the feelings of love are like a caboose on a train. They always follow the deeds of love (the engine of any relationship). This is very counter-intuitive. When people lose that loving feeling, they don’t do anything because they say their heart just isn’t in it. This is why some of your friends’ marriages will end in divorce. You can avoid this landmine by disciplining yourself to do loving deeds of service for each other and you will recover that loving feeling, but if you do nothing, your hearts will tend to grow cold and callous. You will just take one another for granted and go through the motions. All of us face this marital temptation.

Secondly, this definition of true love reminds us that loving another person always involves a sacrifice. Remember Jesus’ words to his followers: “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you” (John 15:13-14). His love for us involved the greatest of sacrifices… He died the death we should have died.

Your love for one another will involve making sacrifices. Both of you modeled this sacrificial, servant-hearted love to mom and me in hosting us in your home and feeding us. It took time and money to do this. You could have done so many other things and probably needed to do so, but you took time with us. Make sure to do this with one another.

According to Colossians 3:14, this love enables you to live in harmony. The text says that love “binds everything together in perfect (complete) harmony.” As you experience the Lord’s love for you, your marriage will become more harmonious and less competitive and strife-filled. The thesaurus adds these words as descriptors of “harmonious:”  Friendly, amicable, cordial, amiable, easy, peaceful, peaceable, cooperative; sympathetic, united, attuned, in tune, of one mind, and seeing eye to eye. This type of marriage relationship takes time to develop.

This doesn’t mean that you will not have arguments and conflicts. This same love will empower and enable you to forgive the sins and complaints you have against one another (Colossians 3:14). Because Christ has covered your sins, you are to cover each other. You forgive the small provocations of one another because He has forgiven you all of your provocations against Him.

Let me conclude by encouraging you both to do something that I ask every couple with whom we do premarital counseling: To spend a little time thinking about and developing A LOVE PLAN for your marriage. All of us spend time thinking about purchases that we want to make, how to make and pay for home improvements, etc. Yet, very few couples take time to develop an intentional plan for how they will practically love each other.

What do I mean by a love plan? Very simply, ask and answer this one question: What is it that will make my wife feel loved? What is it that will make my husband feel loved? Now, you should not do this in a vacuum. You should talk with one another about what it is that communicates love to each other. Initially, I would not make a list longer than three things.

Below is an example of what one husband decided to do in order to become more intentional about loving his wife:

1) Make time to enjoy activities with her during the day on weekends: we do not get to see each other much during the week due to work, and it is not uncommon that the weekends are our only time together. I know how significant time together is for her and how meaningful a few extra hours a week can be.

2) Show appreciation: often my wife listens to my issues and offers advice, telling me how proud she is. I know how far an unexpected show of appreciation can go. It is important that she knows how proud I am of her successes, especially endeavors independent from our relationship such as work and athletic accomplishments.

3) Entertain her: it is easy to become complacent and forget how fortunate I am to have such a great spouse in life. By showing her attention and striving to make her laugh, I hope to make her feel important and valued.

When you fail at loving your spouse.Don’t make excuses. Don’t blame and shame, but run to the cross and find there again the love that will not let you go! When your spouse fails at loving you well, remember that “love covers a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8; Proverbs 10:12).

John 13 & The Distinguishing Mark of a Christian

In his booklet on John 13:34-35 entitled “The Mark of a Christian,” Francis Shaeffer called love ‘the final apologetic.’ The love of Christians for one another should be the distinguishing mark by which the world recognizes us as followers of Jesus. Such mutual interest in and concern for each other will arrest the attention of unbelievers. This recognition from the world will both honor the name of Jesus Christ and incline people to listen to the gospel message. We cannot expect the world to believe that the Father sent the Son, that Jesus’ claims are true, and that Christianity is true, unless the world sees some reality of Christ’s love in us.

– Francis Shaeffer

The passage before traces two great movements of grace — ‘just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.’ The newness of the precept stems from Jesus requiring that his disciples love one another just as he loved them! Jesus’ constant, sacrificial and unconditional love must be the pattern for their attitude and relationships with one another. There is only one happiness in life, to love and be loved.

– George Sand 

Everything in the world can be endured except a life without love.

– Adapted from Johann von Goethe

One word frees us of the weight and pain of life – that word is love.

Sophocles

The gospel creates a new community where love rules every relationship. The gospel completely transforms our human relationships. The gospel energizes our friendships, our marriages, our relationships with parents and children, with our peers as well as those who are older and younger. Without the gospel, we will either “provoke” those to whom we feel superior or we will “envy” those to whom we feel inferior. But since the gospel has both humbled us and yet has assured us of our lovedness, we are now free from envy and pride, inferiority and superiority.

– Adapted from Tim Keller

Good Friday and Three Truths the Cross Enforces

When the Apostle Peter discovered that Jesus would experience humiliation and suffering, he exploded, “God forbid, Lord! This shall never happen to you.” Then, Jesus’ offered a devastating rebuke: “Get behind me, Satan, you are a stumbling block” (16:22-23). Jesus reminded him and us that the son of man came to give His life.

This notion parts company with all other religions. The Jewish Encyclopedia quotes Psalm 22:1 in debunking the notion of a crucified God: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” “This final utterance was in all its implications itself a disproof of the exaggerated claims made for Jesus after his death by his disciples.  No real messiah could suffer such a death.  It is an impossible article of belief which detracts from God’s sovereignty and absolute otherness.”

Jesus is defeated and destroyed… destroyed by his enemies.  This was a sign of weakness and a sign of judgment from a common sense perspective, but it wasn’t God’s perspective.

Something happened to his disciples that overcame their common sense. It “changed the cross from a proof of defeat into a badge of honor, a bottomless source of joy and peace and a comfort for absolutely anything” (Timothy Keller).

As we prepare for Good Friday, it is wise to reflect upon these wise words from John Stott and his book The Cross of Christ: “The cross enforces three truths” (page 83).

“First, our sin must be extremely horrible. Nothing reveals the gravity of sin like the cross…. If there was no way by which the righteous God could righteously forgive our sin, except that he should bear it himself in Christ, it must be serious indeed….

Secondly, God’s love must be wonderful beyond comprehension…. He pursued us even to the desolate anguish of the cross, where he bore our sin, guilt, judgment and death. It takes a hard and stony heart to remain unmoved by a love like that….

Thirdly, Christ’s salvation must be a free gift. He `purchased’ it for us at the high price of his own life-blood. So what is there left for us to pay? Absolutely nothing!”

Pray to Love Your Wife Well or Else

you will give yourself to suicidal pleasures that will destroy your life and unravel your family… Hear these challenging words of an old Puritan preacher by the name of Thomas Watson who explains the significance of Proverbs 5:15-21:

thomas watson

“It is not having a wife, but loving a wife, that makes a man live chastely. He who loves his wife, whom Solomon calls his fountain, will not go abroad to drink of muddy, poisoned waters. Pure conjugal love is a gift of God, and comes from heaven; but like the vestal fire, it must be cherished, that it go not out. He who loves not his wife is the likeliest person to embrace the bosom of a stranger.”