>Loving God


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I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. [The Apostle Paul; Galatians 2:20]

Here’s a happy thought – when you become a Christ-follower you die! Not literally of course but in a very real sense by surrendering our will to the will of God Christ-followers are dead to their own lives and their own desires. We’re dead men walking. We live a life of complete surrender to the will of God. The first century Christ-followers knew this so thoroughly and talked about it so much that some outsiders considered them a death cult.

Jesus’ own words about following him couldn’t have been clearer; “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” [Mark 8:34] This is well before His crucifixion but even so in a first century context the image of carrying one’s cross would have given people a vivid image of death.

As a salesmen it’s funny to me that this is how Jesus pitched what it meant to be his disciple. It’s as if he was saying “If you want to follow me, get ready to die.” Sign me up!

To the early followers however, and even today in some countries, converting to Christianity could very well have been a death sentence. In a first century context this death imagery was very appropriate but what does it all mean to a modern day western Christ-follower?

Of course surrendering your will to the will of God is not an exclusively Christian concept. Many major world religions talk about self denial and surrender as a path to righteousness. The Arabic root word of Islam means to give up, to desert or to surrender to God. Hinduism encourages adherents to commit themselves to a life detached from worldly concerns in order to fully surrender their will to understanding the will of God. Popular self-help author Eckhart Tolle calls it releasing your ego.

All of these worldviews hold in common the notion that it is holy to somehow detach from yourself and others in order to attain peace. But instead it leads to personal isolationism or worse, a form of tribalism that seeks to protect the followers understanding of, and access to, God at all costs. But to a Christ-follower it’s more than that. It’s not just surrendering to God, it’s submitting to one another as well. Many people miss the fact that when Jesus was asked to define the greatest commandment he actually refused to reduce it just one:

Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” [Matthew 22:37-40]

He could have stopped at the first point, but he didn’t. The Pharisee asked him for ONE command but he gave TWO. The implication of that is huge; Jesus is saying that you can’t love God alone without also loving everyone else. You cannot love God in isolation. Becoming isolated from God’s people, indeed the whole of creation is NOT an act of love toward God.

So how do you love God? By surrendering your will to God and allowing Jesus to live through you to serve the needs of mankind.

Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. [James 1:27]

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14 thoughts on “>Loving God

  1. >Good reminder. It is funny how Jesus didn't "pitch" his disciples a trouble-free life of health, wealth, and prosperity for following him. Its amazing how even though I know he told me up front what following him would mean, I seem to naively expect that it would and should be easy and trouble free. Just realized how frustrated I've been because I expect him to make life smooth and without speed bumps and pain. Thanks for giving me perspective.

  2. >I can have it all and I can have it now — well, the chickens are coming home to roost, aren't they? The notion that a Christian must loose himself to practice Christianity is absent from the pulpit. The hub of Christianity is a person engaged with the world with a mission to serve not to aggrandize the self. Our fall from exceptionality as a people, culture, society, nation, civilization can be traced to our failure to serve. Ironically, as we loose more and more control of events, we might turn to ourselves and question what makes our lives meaningful; this turn inward might result in a return to Christ who by example shows us how to serve and what missions are worthy of undertaking.

  3. >Love is one of the greatest blessings that Allah gives to people. Throughout their life, everyone wants to be with those who they love, rely on, and are close to. Many of Allah’s blessings and their true meanings can only be found in an environment where true love and friendship exist. For example, a person who is enjoying a magnificent view naturally wants to share his feelings of awe and happiness with someone whom he loves. In the same way, the most magnificent feast or the most beautifully furnished house may not seem very attractive if you are alone. Allah has created people in such a way that they enjoy being loved and loving others, and are pleased with friendships and closeness. To be with those who live by the Qur’an’s morals, and to have fulfilling friendships and love with them is, for each believer, more enjoyable than many other blessings.This is why Paradise, which Allah promises to those faithful servants whom He loves and with whom He is pleased, is an extraordinarily beautiful place where true love, friendship, and closeness are lived with great exuberance. In the Qur’an, Allah informs us of how believers will live in Paradise: It will be a life of constant joy, friendship, love, peaceful discussions, kind words, and overall peace. Its inhabitants will encounter none of the obstacles to love and friendship that they knew on Earth. For example, one verse in the Qur’an reveals that all malice and hatred will be removed from the hearts of those who enter Paradise (Surat al-A‘raf, 43). In other words, whatever prohibits love and friendship (e.g., jealousy, enmity, rivalry, anger, getting cross, or being offended) will not be found in Paradise.One of the most important characteristics of the Muslims living in Paradise will be their ability to love, just as they did on Earth, all of the prophets, those pious believers who strove in the path of Allah, and all of the Muslims who lived in the past. Your friend is only Allah, His messenger, and those who believe: those who perform prayer, give alms, and bow [in prayer]. (Surat al-Ma’ida, 55)As for those who make Allah their friend, and His messenger, and those who believe: It is the party of Allah who are victorious! (Surat al-Ma’ida, 56) See here for more: http://www.harunyahya.com/books/faith/love/love_of_01.phpSalaams.HAK

  4. >Lauren,Of course I know you are talking about Christ and Jehovah God. The Muslim God Allah is not the same God as the One we serve (this is a side note as much as HAK is deceived into thinking they are one in the same). Your article is well written and well received.-Joe

  5. >Joe…I must disagree. If HAK is deceived so then was Mohammed himself. Mohammed insisted that his revelation came from the angel Gabriel and was to compliment the revelations given to Jesus and Abraham. Who am I to judge? Surely God is big enough to reveal himself to different people at different times throughout history. Just because Muslims use an Arabic word to describe Him doesn't make Him a different deity.Just as many Christians confuse church tradition with the actual biblical text I'm sure many Muslims are following tradition more than they are following the teachings of their prophet. Indeed although I admit not to have read it all, apart from the divinity of Jesus, none of what I have read in the Qu'ran directly contradicts our scriptures.

  6. >You are kidding right Lauren? Yes of course Mohammed was deceived. He did not understand the scriptures properly. Do you think that all roads lead to the God of the Holy Bible? If you think this then I have clearly been deceived about your position. We are called to make a right judgment instead of judging by mere appearances. But it seems you are interested only on staying on the appearance part. I am open minded here but it is possible to be so much so that your mind drops out! I think I now understand your reluctance in not wanting to call yourself a Christian for fear of offending people in general. It is your responsibility to tell the truth to people like HAK. If you cannot clearly define it for fear of offending, then I would wonder if you even know it beyond your head to your heart! No offense taken on my part, and no offense meant to you, just a little surprised at your response.-Joe

  7. >No offense taken Joe.God's bigger then me, bigger than you and bigger than all human understanding put together.None of us have it completely right, we just do the best we can with the limited understanding we have. It's not about having an open mind, it's about having enough humility to recognize that we can't know it all and that "truth" can never be fully known this side of heaven. That's why debates about heresy are so difficult. We're all heretics to a certain degree.

  8. >Truth is not relative to your current worldview. Paul instructs his people to correctly handle the World of Truth and the truth is in the person of Jesus Christ. As He says in John 14:6 "I am the Way the Truth and the Life". There is great appreciation and liberty in Christianity without being accused of heresy. This is why I don't argue with you and others of doctrinal distinctions as long as we both look to Jesus Christ as the source of our salvation. Romans 14:1 in the NIV states that anything else outside of orthodoxy is a "disputable matter" there is where we have liberty and freedom of expression. You cannot eat meat sacrificed to idols; I have no problem – Christ has accepted us both and is able to make us stand in our respective positions (Romans 14:4).Your comment appears to me to be evidence that you really do not have a firm grasp of the Truth nor a real confrontation with Christ. It is an irrelevant point that God is bigger and than we and that we have limited understanding of Him. The fact is, is that Jesus has called us his own. Even to the point of pursuing us (as in the parable of the lost sheep and the Prodigal Son) when we go astray. Both of Paul's letters to Timothy instruct us to correctly discern truth from error. He clearly makes distinction between truth from heresy and warns Timothy against it and 2 Timothy 3:1-10 is an example of the tone of both letters. 3:5 in particular says that some people will "have an appearance of godliness" these not to have anything to do with them. So because of these things I must disagree with your point that we are all heretics as it applies to believers (Christians) since God has accepted, and maintains our faith (1 Corin 1:8; Eph 4:5 and Heb 12:2).In conclusion, the truth of Christ is not something that grows. It is. As we submit our lives to Him He reveals more of Himself to us in the context of His Word. He never gives us new information not found in scripture and scripture is not subject to the whims of man's finite understanding. But we rely on Him who always reveals to us the truth of who He is and who and what we are. -Joe

  9. >While truth itself may not evolve, our understanding of it does. Somehow I knew you would quote John 14:6 to me but what about John 10:16 where Jesus appears to be alluding to the fact that he has revealed himself to other people at others and in other ways? I do not "confront" Christ, I walk with him and he reveals more of himself to me everyday. (through the scriptures and in relationship with other believers) My approach with people of other faiths is to first find common ground and then ask questions which explore our differences. My focus is to establish a trust relationship and give answers that point back to what Christ has revealed to me. Just harping on where the other person is deceived never gets very far and ends up shutting down the relationship before I've established anywhere near enough trust to give any answers that edify Christ.

  10. >Great answer! Love it and agree wholeheartedly! Not sure how this is possible on a blog without watering down the Gospel but as to John 10:16 where Christ says that he has other sheep not of this fold does not mean that the Hindus or Muslims or Jehovah Witnesses or Mormons etc are of that fold since they deny his divinity, virgin birth, or some other and/or doctrinal falsity. Couldn't he possibly mean…the Gentiles? Just a thought.-Joe

  11. >The definition of Gentile is anyone NOT a Jew, so of course that's what He meant. I don't agree with faiths that do not acknowledge the divinity of Christ, that's the conclusion that I'm trying to lead people to but it's never my starting point. The starting point is always the same question "who do you think Jesus was/is?" and build from there.

  12. >Interesting article. As a Hindu, I completely subscribe to this. Yet, we all know it is easier said than done. Because, complete surrender is giving up the ego and the sense of identifying ourselves with the body… Perhaps, you need to understand other religions more before commenting upon it. I disagree with the statement / suggestion that other religions are perhaps, lesser than christianity. For eg., if you study Hinduism (as it is now called – it was earlier known as Sanatana Dharma or code of conduct for all minkind) these are dwelt upon in much detail and is truly comprehensive. The world has to 'discover' the tenets of Hinduism to realise that it has solution for every question, every doubt and every situation.sincerely

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