Friday, November 30, 2012

Love and Obedience

The last few weeks have been a whirlwind.  I had the blessing of witnessing the marriage of two very good friends the weekend after Thanksgiving.  It was an incredibly joyous time rejoicing with them as they made life-long commitments to one another before the Lord.  Weddings are interesting... it is an exciting time... a time to have fun, make memories, enjoy celebrating, etc., but it is a very holy time.  It is a sacred covenant being made before the Creator of all things including marriage.  I was discussing this very thing with the officiating pastor following the wedding and we were discussing how God made such a serious thing also be so joyful. 

As I have been reading in 1 John this week (1 John 5 today), I am reminded of a similar serious but joyful thing: obedience.  Obedience doesn't generally strike us as something really exciting or joyful when we hear the word, but when we consider that the Creator of all the universe is calling us to obey Him, that is an exceedingly joyful thing.  Love is a word we all like... we were created to both give and receive it... but how often do we connect love with obedience?  God does... and He tells us why He does!

Take a look at 1 John 5:1-4.
Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and whoever loves the Father loves the child born of Him. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and observe His commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome. For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.
When we begin to understand what an incredible privilege it is to be asked to do anything by the all-powerful, all-knowing God, there is absolutely no thought of obedience to Him being a burden.  Yet, God knows that we in our sinfulness far too often are so self-centered that we miss the fact that it is a privilege to serve Him and obey Him, so He reminds us that His commands are not burdensome!  God never meant obeying Him to feel like a burden.  He meant our obedience to be out of love and joy! 

I think back to times as a young boy when dad would ask me to help him on some kind of project... what an honor that was!  I got to help dad scrape gum off the tables at school!  I was absolutely elated to have the privilege of being with dad and help him with such an important task in preparing his classroom for the students. 

Alright, so what has changed?  Why do I feel like serving the Lord is a burden when not only is it not a burden, it is a privilege?  Why do I see serving others as a burden when in doing so, I am actually carrying out what the Lord has called me to--"by love, serve one another"?  Am I now too old or to big or too smart or too wise to do small things for the Lord?  Will I accept only big important tasks that get me noticed in front of others, or will I accept the small tasks that no one will ever notice or maybe they will even look down on me for? 

The Lord has so much work to do in humbling me!  Okay, so I do not always see serving Him as a burden.  By His grace, I often find great joy in serving Him.  His commandments truly are not a burden and He is continually giving me joy through the Holy Spirit in loving and obeying Him.  But don't miss the point!  I do not always obey Him joyfully... in fact, I don't always obey Him at all!  This is all a part of the sanctification process.  We need to become like little children once again and joyfully take the smallest of tasks from the Lord as an incredible privilege, obeying immediately and joyfully because there is no greater One that we could be serving.  There is no greater honor on earth than to be asked to do even the smallest of things by the Creator of all the earth.  May God give us grace and help to understand how blessed we are to be used by Him and turn our hearts toward loving and joyful obedience.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Keeping the End in Sight

I've had the blessing of having the opportunity to teach through Ephesians 1-3 to the high school kids in Awana.  Ephesians is one of my favorite books which makes it an extra special blessing.  One thing that has been continually on my mind as I have been teaching it is that we must live with the end in sight.  Much of this is due to the fact that God has given me a passion for seeing believers press on to know and obey the Lord, but I am also encouraged in this manner because of the great blessings of Christ specifically in these three chapters. 

In Ephesians 1, we are reminded that God has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in Christ, that He chose us, adopted us, His intentions toward us are kind, He loves us, He redeemed us with His blood, we have an inheritance in Christ, we have hope in Christ, we are sealed and secure in Christ, we are God's own possession, that God is far above all rule and authority, etc.

In Ephesians 2, we are reminded that we once were completely spiritually dead because of our sin, we once lived to please ourselves, indulging the evil desires of the flesh and deserved the wrath of God, but because of God's great mercy, He made us alive with Christ and saved us by His grace.  Because of this salvation, we get to see the surpassing riches of His grace both here and for all eternity.  We are reminded that we are saved not by our works, but by faith alone and by the grace of God and that we are created to do good works.  This reminds me of the fruit of the spirit in Galatians 5:22-23... love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control... we will see these fruits in our lives if we are living as He would have us live.  This doesn't earn us any more favor with God, but it is our joy to obey Him and serve Him.  We are also reminded in this chapter that we have peace with God through Christ, that we are no longer strangers to God, but we are in His family.  We have been brought near by the blood of Christ.  We are not only part of His family, but we are part of His body and the dwelling place of God.

In Ephesians 3, we are reminded of the amazing truth that we as Gentiles can be saved!  I take this for granted so much... but to think that it was twelve normal Jewish men spreading the gospel... and that God allowed me to hear the gospel, understand it, and He put in me a heart to respond to... it is just incredible!  We are reminded that God has revealed Himself to us so that we could know His eternal purposes and that because of His purpose in drawing near to us, we can have boldness in coming before Him because of Christ.  We are also reminded that He is able to do far more abundantly beyond all we ask or think.

Because of these truths, how can we not keep the end in sight?  How can we not hope for the glory that is to be revealed when we see Him face to face?  How can we live for ourselves now?  How can we who have been saved from sin choose to remain in it? 

Let us, by the grace of God, live no longer for ourselves, but for Christ who died and rose again on our behalf.  He is worthy of all we have to offer and infinitely more.  Let's offer the joyful sacrifice of everything we have so that He might be glorified in us.