Holiness – a force that changes

To Follow Jesus

My (Shayne McCusker) notes on Every Day with Jesus, written by Selwyn Hughes; revised and updated by Mick Brooks, published by CWR.

March/April 2014 Issue – ‘The Great Legacy’

Today’s text for reading and meditation is:

Luke 6:27-36 (NIV): ‘But to you who are listening I say: love your enemies, do good to those who hate you,  bless those who curse you, pray for those who ill-treat you. If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you.

If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full.

But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.’

Selwyn says a few interesting things in today’s study.

Here is a sample: ” … Jesus shows that God’s holiness is not merely a standard that condemns sinners but an outgoing force that changes sinners. For Jesus, to be holy does not mean to withdraw self-righteously from the contagion of sinners but to reach out and embrace sinners with a cleansing wave of healing compassion.

Consider this as you go out into the day: the command to be holy is best fulfilled by being merciful as your heavenly Father is merciful.”

In Philippians 1:3-6 (NIV), we find these great words, written by Paul: ‘I thank my God every time I remember you.  In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that God who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.’

It’s important for us to strive to be merciful, compassionate and loving; yet, it’s God working in us, who provides the direction and power for us to be like Jesus in the way that we witness to other people. The above verses, from Philippians, tell us that God has started our transformation – through our new birth, and it is He who continues His work of developing our new character – that will, on that final day, be completed.

We will appear, without blemish on that day. Set free and washed clean by His blood so that we can approach Him and hear His Word – and, all this is possible because He choose each one of us, to be a citizen of His holy ‘nation’.

The challenge for us is to fully comprehend that we have no excuse not to show mercy and forgiveness; we cannot say that it’s too hard for us to act lovingly towards our enemies. Because it is His Spirit within us, who powerfully works with our frail heart, that makes it possible to live a holy life. And nothing, in a spiritual sense, is impossible for God – so why is it, that we often act as if it is impossible to faithfully follow Jesus?

What’s your answer to this question?

‘The full treatment’

To Follow Jesus

My notes on Every Day with Jesus, written by Selwyn Hughes; revised and updated by Mick Brooks, published by CWR.

March/April 2014 Issue – ‘The Great Legacy’

Today’s text for reading and meditation is:

Matthew 5: 43-48 (NIV): ‘‘But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.

If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

I thought that the information Selwyn provides, regarding the word ‘perfect’, is very helpful.

He writes: “The word ‘perfect‘ (teleios in the Greek) is best translated as complete or mature – a reference not so much to God’s moral perfection as to His generosity of heart.”

He goes on further, to say (with minor edits): “Jesus’ command is a challenge not to settle for anything less than what the Father wants to give us and wants to do with our lives. …

Jesus is not content merely to add a bit of religion to a corner of our lives. He is committed to fully developing our character to be like His. In Christ, we embark on a lifetime transformation programme. Thankfully, our heavenly Father is graciously and patiently still working on us, to complete that task to His satisfaction.

Even if you see no results of your loving you still become more loving for having loved. There is nothing higher.”

We have the ability to be a light to the world, through the power of the Holy Spirit; that is, the ability to stand out as being different – a difference highlighted by our love for all peoples, both friends and enemies. This is the type of love that we see in these famous verses, John 3:16-17 (NIV): ‘For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.  For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.’

God loved us when we were His enemies, in open rebellion against His authority. This is the nature of His love, therefore – now – as His children we should strive to grow in Christian maturity, with His help; so that, we too – can love the world. Do you agree?

‘We will still love you’

To Follow Jesus

My notes on Every Day with Jesus, written by Selwyn Hughes; revised and updated by Mick Brooks, published by CWR.

March/April 2014 Issue – The Great Legacy’

Today’s text for reading and meditation is:

Matthew 5:38-48 (NIV): ‘‘You have heard that it was said, “Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.” But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.

‘You have heard that it was said, “Love your neighbour and hate your enemy.” But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.
If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

Selwyn presents the meaning of these verses to us, as follows: ‘By our reaction to all such people (all those who aim to harm, or to take advantage of us), we show that our love is not a medium of exchange – we do not expect to get back what we give. Rather, we risk a loving gesture and action, trusting to get our reward from God alone.’

I think the challenge for us is to be perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect, of course, we never reach His level of perfection but our goal is to try (constantly) to reach the highest level of love possible for us, with the help of His Spirit. (Selwyn talks more about this in tomorrow’s study.)

Many would agree that love for our enemies is not a natural tendency for the human heart; we need to be reborn with a different heart, one that is more aligned to the nature of Christ – only then, is it possible to demonstrate such love.

To forgive our enemies for what they have done to us, is the first step. Sadly, many don’t even attempt this essential step, towards God’s perfect and steadfast love.

Any comments?

The new commandment

To Follow Jesus

My notes on Every Day with Jesus, written by Selwyn Hughes; revised and updated by Mick Brooks, published by CWR.

March/April 2014 Issue – ‘The Great Legacy’

Today’s text for reading and meditation is:

John 13:31-38 (NIV): “When Judas had left, Jesus said, ‘Now the Son of Man is glorified and God is glorified in him. If God is glorified in him, God will glorify the Son in himself, and will glorify him at once.

My children, I will be with you only a little longer. You will look for me, and just as I told the Jews, so I tell you now: where I am going, you cannot come.

A new command I give you: love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.’

Simon Peter asked him, ‘Lord, where are you going?’ Jesus replied, ‘Where I am going, you cannot follow now, but you will follow later.’

Peter asked, ‘Lord, why can’t I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.’ Then Jesus answered, ‘Will you really lay down your life for me? Very truly I tell you, before the cock crows, you will disown me three times!’ “

I think that what Selwyn writes today is excellent.

He says: “The command to love was not new because it had never been issued before but because it had never been seen before. It was new because it was measured by an unprecedented love – Jesus’ love for His disciples.

Against the dark backdrop of the betrayal of Judas the love of Jesus shines out even more brightly. Judas misread the heart of Jesus tragically. It is not in the self-love that seeks to preserve its life but in the love which lays down its life that God is glorified. Not the love of power but the power of love will be the distinguishing mark of the new people of God.

There ought to be no doubt in our minds that if we embraced this legacy of love and followed Jesus’ command to love one another then the people of the world would have no doubt in their minds that we are truly Christ’s disciples.”

Today, it concerns me greatly that, in general, Christians are not seen by the general public as loving and caring people (there are exceptions). To a large degree the reputation of the various church institutions has been tarnished by sex scandals; and perhaps more importantly, the lack of loving action and compassion shown to the numerous victims.

We know that there is a lot of good work being done by various Christian charities to support those in need. And, a lot of this work goes unnoticed. I’ve worked with various groups over the years – particularly in the area of providing financial assistance to those who didn’t have money for the necessities of life. What surprised me at times was that some of the people who were helped did not know that the assistance was being provided by a Christian organisation. How then, could these people give thanks to God? There’s something wrong but I’m not sure what the answer is!

If our love for those in need (emotionally, as well as financially) within our society is not as visible as perhaps it should be; then is our love for each other – within the various church communities – an obvious feature that really stands out, to those who visit our gatherings? You can answer this question from your own experiences.

These words of Jesus:  ‘ … By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.’ Are a real challenge for me. What are your thoughts on this?

Love – a command?

To Follow Jesus

My notes on Every Day with Jesus, written by Selwyn Hughes; revised and updated by Mick Brooks, published by CWR.

March/April 2014 Issue – ‘The Great Legacy’

Today’s text for reading and meditation is:

John 15:12-17 (NIV):My command is this: love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit – fruit that will last – and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. This is my command: love each other.”

In these verses we find a wealth of spiritual truths what are well worth our time thinking about. First off, we have the wonderful fact that God choose us. The second point is that you can know who the friends of Jesus, are: they are the ones who obey His commandments. And, an additional point that is very important  – we know God’s business (albeit a very small component) – which means that we can effectively work in His harvest field; we know how to follow our Father’s will – we don’t have to be told what to do. Consequently, there is no excuse for those people who sit around doing nothing.

Selwyn writes this, about today’s study: “Of all the commands that Jesus left as His legacy to us none is more challenging than this: ‘Love each other as I have loved you.’ His love is the standard and the source of our love for each other. … We do not manufacturer love, we simply decide, by an act of will, to let God’s love flow out to others, in the same measure that it flows in.

To be motivated by the love of Christ means that we draw on His love and do the loving thing – we love both in word and in deed.”

I go even further than Selwyn, and say that if you do not love others then you do not love God. Because if you have really experienced God’s love in your life then the natural response is to love Him, then, in turn you can gain an understanding of God’s work and your role in progressing His work. As a consequence of working for Jesus, streams of living water flow from us (through the power of His Spirit); these streams of love can refresh the thirsty souls we encounter on our daily journey. In this way, we make God known to a world that cries out to be saved.

Your thoughts?

‘At home in His love’

To Follow Jesus

My notes on Every Day with Jesus, written by Selwyn Hughes; revised and updated by Mick Brooks, published by CWR.

March/April 2014 Issue – ‘The Great Legacy’

Today’s text for reading and meditation is:

John 15:1-11 (NIV): “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener.  He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.

I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.

As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.”

First off, I found these verses to be excellent for meditation, I liked this one: ‘You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you.’ Plus, the verse that tells us that our service for God is to His glory, really helps us to focus, our priorities.

Selwyn introduces another of Jesus’ legacies – His relentless passion for following His Father’s commands. He writes: “This loving eagerness to do the Father’s will is a model for us all. Even the Son of God learned the true cost of such love by what He was called upon to endure. demonstrated by trust. …

It is clear Jesus found supreme joy in this love relationship of obedience to the Father. And we, likewise, can find delight in doing Christ’s will and walking in His way. The deepest form of joy is not dependent on passing moods or events but springs from trust in and dependence on Jesus Christ. When you draw generously on His love and obey His commands then it follows, that you will drink deeply from the well of His lasting joy.”

I really enjoyed reading the last few sentences (above); when we experience the joy of being in a relationship with God, we are encouraged and strengthened to closely follow Jesus and to obey His commands – knowing that our obedience is to our Father’s glory. How great is that! To be at home – in His love.

The feel of consistency

To Follow Jesus

My notes on Every Day with Jesus, written by Selwyn Hughes; revised and updated by Mick Brooks, published by CWR.

March/April 2014 Issue – ‘The Great Legacy’

Today’s text for reading and meditation is:

Galatians 6:1-10 (NIV), Jesus teaching the twelve apostles: “The student is not above the teacher, nor a servant above his master.  It is enough for students to be like their teachers, and servants like their masters. If the head of the house has been called Beelzebul (Satan), how much more the members of his household!

So do not be afraid of them, for there is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. What I tell you in the dark, speak in the daylight; what is whispered in your ear, proclaim from the roofs.

Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.

Whoever acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before others, I will disown before my Father in heaven.”

Selwyn introduces today’s study as follows: ‘Today we move on to consider the second part of the phrase we have been considering: ‘all that Jesus began to do and teach’ (Acts 1:1). First doing and then teaching was mentioned by Luke. This, as we have been saying, is no chance order: it goes to the centre of the Christian faith.

In Christ we have the feel of consistency – His words and deeds hold together for they are two sides of the one reality. When, we follow Jesus’ example – our doing and teaching must be one. If there is no ‘doing’ then our teaching will be just empty words.”

The prayer for today contains a concise summary of this study: ‘O God, grant that my words and deeds may speak one message – your message.’

Not only must our words and deeds speak the same language, but our motives must be centred on our love for God, which then flows into our love for each other.

These are well known words from Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians 13:2-3, ‘If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.  If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.’

As I have said in earlier posts; we do great damage to our Christian community when we tell people what they should be doing (based on Scripture) and yet live a secret life where we do exactly the same sinful things. The truth usually comes to the surface to be seen by many, and then we are exposed for what we really are; hypocrites. Once branded as a hypocrite no one takes any notice of what we teach.

Your thoughts?