Loving Sacrificially as Jesus Loved Us

loveOn Monday night I shared this simple little devotional at our monthly Bible study Ladies Night. Posting it was easier than writing something new…so here ya go. =) 

Tonight I want to share a few thoughts about one aspect of Biblical love. In John 13:34 Jesus says, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.” Since Jesus commands us to love each other just as He loves us, I started thinking about what that looks like. One of the most obvious aspects of His love for us is that it is a sacrificial love.

“But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, And by His scourging we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:5)

Jesus loved us so much that He sacrificed more than we could ever imagine for us. He left His home in Heaven, where everything was perfect. There was no sin, no sadness, no broken relationships, no suffering, no misery, no sickness, no hunger and thirst, and no pain. He came to earth and was born into a modest family in a stable. He went from the glory of Heaven, where everyone recognized Him as the King that He is, to growing up surrounded by sinners, most of whom did not know He was God, or refused to believe. He experienced 40 days of hunger and thirst, He fought temptation, and He spent His time ministering to unlovely, sick, disgraced, and poor people. He invested years of love into a man who betrayed Him for money. And finally, He suffered unbelievable physical pain and the emotional torment of separation from His Father, ultimately giving up His very life, all so that we could be reconciled to God and have our sins forgiven. He sacrificed in all these ways so that we could be saved.

“He who was delivered over because of our transgressions, and was raised because of our justification.” (Rom. 4:25)

In Jesus, we have an example of the kind of love we are called to show to one another.

“By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.” (1 Jn 3:16-18)

The world tries to tell us that love is about romance and feelings. Even worse, our culture emphasizes the importance of loving ourselves and seeking our own happiness. Relationships according to the world are about what makes us feel good.

But the kind of love that Jesus calls us to is a sacrificial love that puts others’ needs and interests above our own.

Think about one of the relationships in your life. Perhaps someone hard to love, or someone you interact with regularly like your husband, parent, sibling, roommate, or friend. Take a moment to evaluate your love toward that person. Do you show more or less love to them depending on what they can do for you or how they make you feel? Does your behavior toward them change depending on theirs? Are you characterized by willingly and joyfully making sacrifices for them with no expectation of thanks or acknowledgement in return? Are you motivated to love because of what you will receive back?

I was asking myself these questions about my marriage it hit me that often the “sacrifices” I make for Andrew are done with unspoken stipulations. For example, I will be joyful in my sacrifice provided he acknowledges what I have done. If I do not receive thanks in return, I may pout and wonder why I bothered going out of my way for him. Because my husband is a thankful guy, I do not often have a chance to practice sacrificing for him without acknowledgement, but I think often I just subconsciously expect and feel like I deserve his praise.

1 Corinthians 13:5 says that love “it does not seek its own”.

If I am sacrificing in order to enjoy the praise or thanks of another, or to get some favor in return, or because it makes me look good of feel good about myself, it is not truly sacrificing at all. It is doing something with my best in mind, not that of the other person. That is not the love with which Jesus loves us. 

John Piper writes, “The highest act of love is the giving of the best gift, and, if necessary, at the greatest cost, to the least deserving. That’s what God did. At the loss of His Son’s life to the totally undeserving, God gave the best gift – the display of the glory of Christ who is the image of God.” 

It’s so easy to go through life with an entitlement mindset. It does not come naturally to us to love others sacrificially without thought for our own well being. But this sacrificial love is what we see modeled in our Savior, and it is the kind of love we are to practice.

Ironically, when we unselfishly sacrifice for others with Jesus’ love and in His strength, we are rewarded with the pleasure that comes from obeying and serving God. The satisfaction we might find in receiving praise or acknowledgement from people is fleeting. But there is lasting joy in pleasing the Lord!

This week, meditate on the sacrificial love that Jesus has shown to you. Thank Him for loving you with no consideration of what you could give back to Him, and ask Him to enable you to show that kind of love to the people in your life.

Image taken from fortalezadoguincho.com. 

Fervent Love: A Paul and a Timothy

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There are roses growing right outside my kitchen window. =)

You probably thought I’d forgotten all about our “current” Fervent Love series, but here’s another post. =)

Fervent love may look like discipling a brother or sister.

I remember at one of our church’s recent missions seminars, the guest speaker suggested that everyone have a Paul and a Timothy in their lives. The idea is that you always be learning from an older brother or sister, while sharing what you’ve learned and grown in with someone younger. I like this concept because it stimulates continued personal growth while encouraging giving of yourself to others.

For most of my life, my mom and I have met regularly for a mostly informal discipleship time where I can learn from her and share what I’m going through. Sometimes we go through a book, although often we talk for so long we run out of time to read together. =) So for now, she is my primary “Paul”.

A year or so ago, I added two “Timothys” to my life. I met with, discipled, and prayed for a younger sister in Christ regularly, and very informally counseled/mentored a young lady as she walked through a difficult time. Both relationships were a tremendous blessing to me, probably more than to these friends! It was exciting to be able to share what God has taught me through failures and victories in my life. Maybe He used me to spare them from making some of the mistakes I did. The Lord also used our times together to show me how much He has blessed me and to remind me of difficult seasons He carried me through and brought me out of.

Hopefully if we have younger siblings we’re all building those relationships with purpose and being an intentional, godly influence in their lives. For me, especially since I don’t have sisters, the timing seemed right to add another opportunity to invest in someone younger. Now, of course, I’ve moved, but I’ll try to stay in touch with these gals, and perhaps find a new “Timothy” in our new church.

How about you? Do you have a “Paul” you are learning from? And do you see an opportunity to turn around and give back to a “Timothy”? It’s a great way to grow and be stretched in new ways.

Fervent Love: Benefit of the Doubt

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I’m convinced that just one way we can show fervent love to our brothers and sisters is by giving them the benefit of the doubt. Don’t you appreciate it when others do the same for you? It’s a simple concept that simply means not jumping to the wrong conclusions about another’s behavior and instead, choosing to think the best about them since you don’t know the situation. Here are some hypothetical scenarios. (By the way, most of these cases are really none of your business, but since as fallen people, we often stick our noses where they don’t belong, I’m using these examples anyway.)

Situation: You run into someone who you’ve heard complain about financial problems eating dinner at the nicest restaurant in town.
Benefit of the doubt: Assume they were given a gift certificate for their birthday.

Situation: You spot a movie containing explicit sexual content sitting on your friend’s entertainment set.
Benefit of the doubt: Assume that someone lent it to them and they aren’t planning on watching it, or they’ll be fast forwarding the inappropriate scenes.

Situation: Someone makes a doctrinal/theological statement that could be taken one of two ways.
Benefit of the doubt: Assume they meant it the correct way.

Situation: Someone says something rude or insensitive and doesn’t apologize.
Benefit of the doubt: Assume they have a lot on their plate and accidentally took their stress out on you.

Situation: A child is throwing a temper tantrum while his parent tries to calm him at the church softball game.
Benefit of the doubt: Assume that the parents faithfully discipline at home, and recognize that even well-trained children still disobey and act willfully.

Situation: A friend is holding a book that you know to contains heresy or false doctrine.
Benefit of the doubt: Assume they are reading it for the purpose of having an educated conversation with a weaker brother.

Situation: A sister in Christ is dressed provocatively at church.
Benefit of the doubt: Assume that her heart is right, but she has not been taught on the subject of modesty and does not realize she may be causing issues for men round her.

Situation: Someone tells you they’ll come to your recital, show, or game, but they don’t show up.
Benefit of the doubt: Assume that unavoidable circumstances prevented them from making it.

You get the idea…when you don’t know a situation, choose not to jump to conclusions and assume the worst about your brother or sister. Give them the benefit of the doubt, recognizing that you would appreciate it if the same were done for you. It’s a small thing, but it can have a big impact on your attitude and thoughts about others. Fervent love comes in all shapes and sizes!

Fervent Love: Prayer

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“Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving. At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison—that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak.” (Col. 4:2-4)

I believe that one of the the best ways we can fervently love the body is to bring one another before the throne of grace. Yet I find that this takes discipline.

It’s easy to say “I’ll be praying for you,” and then proceed with your day or week and never think of that conversation again. About a year-and-a-half ago, I realized I was doing this frequently. It’s the expected Christian behavior when hearing about hardships to respond with a promise of prayer, and although my words were full of good intentions, I often didn’t have the discipline to carry them out. Now, I only tell someone I’ll be praying for them if I truly intend to. Then I ask God to bring them to my mind in the coming days, and He’s faithful to do so. When I run into them later, it’s wonderful to be able to genuinely say that I’ve been praying for them, and to ask for an update on their situation.

I’m also learning that God uses my prayer for others to keep my heart tender toward them. When I’m struggling in my attitude toward a brother or sister, there’s no better way to fight that than to bring them to my Heavenly Father. I’m trying to make that my default reaction to feeling hurt or offended. It reminds me that I, too, am a sinner in need of grace and forgiveness daily.

Here are a few general suggestions toward fervently loving your spiritual family through prayer:

  1. When you say, “I’ll be praying for you,” discipline yourself to carry that promise out. Make sticky notes or set a cell phone alarm to remind you.
  2. Make a prayer schedule if you’re not remembering all the people you want to be praying for.
  3. Redeem your time. Pray in the car, at the kitchen sink, in bed as you fall asleep. You don’t have to be sitting on the couch with your hands folded to talk to God.
  4. Pray for the people who have hurt or are hurting you. Besides blessing them in ways you’ll never know, it will help you to forgive, love, and move on in your heart.
  5. Text, email, or call your brother or sister and let them know you’ve been praying for them. That can go a long way.
  6. Combat gossip with prayer. Stop talking about your church family and pray for them instead.

Fervent Love: Serving One Another

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“Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” (Phil. 2:3-4)

Put someone else’s interests above your own.

There are so many ways to love our brothers and sisters in Christ, and just one of them is through acts of service. We all know what a blessing that can be when we are the recipient. Choosing to sacrifice time and energy you’d really like to put toward something else and going out of your way to show true kindness is fervent love in action. Make a conscious decision to put someone else’s interests above your own. Fervent love often costs us something. If it never does, maybe it’s not as fervent as we think.

How can you serve?

Do you know someone who has had a tough week? Double that soup recipe and take them a pot. Don’t have your own kids yet? Offer a night of free babysitting to a family who does. Spot a note in the bulletin requesting help with an upcoming event? Volunteer to pitch in. Have expertise in painting? Computer repair? Photography? Landscaping? Use your gifts to bless others. (1 Peter 4:10)

It’s God’s time.

It’s a simple concept, but it’s surprising how selfish we get with our schedules, priorities, and energy. Hold all of that in an open hand, prepared and eager to give it to others as a way of being fervent in love.  There’s something rewarding about viewing your calendar as the Lord’s. After all, it’s His whether you see it that way or not.

“It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:25-27)

Fervent Love: I Am SO Done

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“Bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.” (Colossians 3:13)

“I am SO done with them!”

This is a statement I’ve caught myself angrily declaring more than once to Andrew about people that I’ve had to work through struggles with. While it’s true that there can be situations that we eventually must simply move on from, the attitude that we have reached our maximum patience level with someone and can therefore declare ourselves “finished” with them is far from the Christ-like love and forgiveness we are called to as believers. It’s also far from the treatment we receive from our Savior on daily basis.

What if He had a last straw?

What really got me mid-sentence the last time I found myself saying this was the thought, What if God decided He was done with me after I’d sinned against him for the umpteenth time? What if He gave up on me this easily? What if He had a “last straw” and I finally broke the camel’s back and lost my child-of-God status?

Jesus doesn’t give up on me.

When Jesus claimed me as His child, He promised never to give up on me. He promised to love me forever, regardless of the sin that still so often entangles me. He promised to forgive me over and over. And that’s the kind of love I should be more than happy and eager to bestow on my fellow brothers and sisters.

As a sinner who is the undeserving recipient of grace and mercy daily, “I am SO done!” really has no business ever crossing my lips.

“Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”(Ephesians 4:32)

“Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven.” (Matt. 18:21-22)