Radical in loving

To Follow Jesus

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

January/February 2015 Issue – ‘Prepared’

The text set for today’s reading and meditation:

John 13:1-17 (NIVUK): “It was just before the Passover Festival. Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.

The evening meal was in progress, and the devil had already prompted Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus.

Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel round his waist.

After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped round him.

He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, ‘Lord, are you going to wash my feet?’ Jesus replied, ‘You do not realise now what I am doing, but later you will understand.’ ‘No,’ said Peter, ‘you shall never wash my feet.’ Jesus answered, ‘Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.’ ‘Then, Lord,’ Simon Peter replied, ‘not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!’

Jesus answered, ‘Those who have had a bath need only to wash their feet; their whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you.’ For he knew who was going to betray him, and that was why he said not every one was clean.

When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. ‘Do you understand what I have done for you?’ he asked them. ‘You call me “Teacher” and “Lord”, and rightly so, for that is what I am.

Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet.

I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.”

Selwyn starts today’s study with: “Earlier we said that to be ‘a people prepared’ we need to marry both the conservative – conserving the gains of the past – and radical.”

He then says later on: “What are some of the area in which we need to be more radical? First, in the way we love (as Jesus does). We talk a good deal about love in the Church, but how effective are we at actually demonstrating it every day? …

As Christians we need to learn to be a lot more loving if we are to demonstrate to people that Jesus is the One they need. It is time to show the world the full extent of Jesus’ love. ‘By this all men and women will know that you are my disciples,’ said Jesus (John 13:35). Not ‘If you fill stadiums with a hundred thousand people,’ but ‘If you love one another’.”

One of the main stumbling blocks, I feel,  is that people have different views, as to what ‘love’ actually is, and the first thing we should be clear about: the standard is NOT human love. In John 13:34, we hear Jesus say: “A new command I give you: love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”

The point God is making, I think, by calling this old commandment, ‘new’, is that the old way of interpreting this commandment was based on how we (in our fallen, error-prone state) expect to be loved by another; where as, God’s requirement is that we love in accordance with His way, as He has demonstrated in many areas of Scripture, with an excellent example being found in the reading for today (above).

How can we love, in the same way as Jesus loves us? Only through the power of the Holy Spirit, who resides in us. It’s as simple as that, with the Holy Spirit’s guidance, it is only ‘natural’ for us to demonstrate God’s love. Do you agree?

In summary, God’s love is radical.

What did you think about Selwyn’s statement; ‘Not if you fill stadiums with a hundred thousand people … .’ Do you think there is an over emphasis on getting people into a church, and success is measured in numbers attending a service; such that there is a greater focus on providing an entertaining experience? I would be interested in your views on this.

I thought that the today’s featured verse on www.biblegateway.com was appropriate: “Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. (1 John 4:11-12 NIVUK)”

‘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?

‘I am the one Jesus loves’

I think Selwyn’s conclusion, is great: “We must get it into our hearts that there is nothing we can do to make God love us more. No amount of spiritual discipline, attendance of seminars, study of the Bible, can make God love us more than He already does.

God loves us as much as it is possible for an infinite God to love. That’s where our identity must be found – in being loved.”

Earlier in his study, Selwyn draws our attention to the way the apostle John refers to himself, in his gospel (John 20:2): “So she came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved … “.

It’s not only John, who can say these words – but everyone who follows Jesus; we all share this same characteristic – we are loved by God. Now, pause and think about this truth for awhile – the same God, who made the heavens and the earth – who made the laws which control our universe – who knows when a sparrow falls to the ground. Our Almighty God – who is creator of all things seen and unseen – then does something totally amazing – He perfectly loves us – His love for us cannot be improved.

Doesn’t that thought, surge with great joy through your heart so that you cry out; words of praise for our one, true God?

I can still remember the words that God spoke to me in March 1991, with overwhelming awe and wonder that has never diminished – words that continue to sing to my soul, every day of my life; and, those who have read ‘My Journey’ page – know those words to be: “I am, your God, who loves you.”

I know Jesus loves me. I also know that He loves all those, who follow Him. Our Father loves all His children.

‘All we like sheep … ‘

Selwyn starts by writing: “We focus now on the next phrase in David’s Psalm 23: ‘He guides me in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.’

I liked Selwyn’s language, especially these bits: “We, too at times are stubborn and self-willed creatures – we prefer to go our own way and do our own thing. … ‘Our behaviour patterns and life habits are so much like sheep that it is well-nigh embarrassing.’ … This desire that we have for self-determination, however, has got to be checked or else the results will be disastrous. … When we obey ourselves, rather than God, then we are a wild patch of disorderliness within that garden of orderliness.”

Most of all, I think this following thought, from today’s study is well worth our meditation (I’ve re-arranged Selwyn’s words, but I think I’ve maintained the theme.): “Jesus is well aware of our tendency to stray off the path, and He offsets this tendency by going ahead of us and He makes Himself visible –  so that we may – more easily follow Him.” 

The more I think about what Jesus has done for us, and is doing for us – the more overwhelmed by His actions of love – I become, what about you?

Our primary view of Him

Selwyn asks us, in today’s study – what is our view of God? Do you view God as an austere and stern Judge, or do you see Him as a caring Shepherd,  a loving Father?

He writes: ” … the picture of God we carry deep in our hearts is the one we relate to whenever we find ourselves surrounded by trouble or difficulties. But perhaps what is more important is this – we will interpret every event on our lives in accordance with the inner picture we have of Him. …

If your primary view of God is as a severe Judge, then you will tend to interpret your problems as God’s judgment upon you, rather than an opportunity to experience in your troubles His tender love and care.”

In Paul’s letter to the Ephesians 2:4-10 (NIV), we have these beautiful words: ” … because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions  – it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

Clearly, from these verses (and many others in the Bible)  – God is full of compassion and mercy; and, He  demonstrate His love for us in many ways – yet, by far, the greatest expression of His love is found in what Jesus did for each one of us – on His cross. We are guilty when we sin and we deserve punishment – this is justice; yet, our Father devised a plan where Jesus would take upon Himself – our punishment.

We need to to always remember that God’s love did not cease at the cross; He is the same now, as He was then. He continues to love us with an intensity that’s unimaginable. We can be confident that in every difficulty that we face – He is helping us through the dark valleys of trouble. It’s our position of faith – that develops our view of Jesus.

Do you agree?

Priority number 1

I think this is an important issue that Selwyn raises in today’s study.

To maintain the context, I’ll repeat a lot of what he says: “As you meditate with me on this issue of adoration, I wonder if you might be thinking this is something best left to contemplative order of monks – to those who have the time for such things. Possibly some readers – activists perhaps – are thinking: ‘All this is fine, but in a world such as ours we would be better given to social reform or works of charity. This is how we can best glorify God’.”

Of course, works of charity etc – in themselves, are not the best way to glorify God. I can’t understand how anyone could reach this position if they have taken into their heart all of what the Bible says about God.

We cannot truly love another unless we first love God. To be very clear about this issue – I’m using the word ‘love’, in the same way as the Greek word ‘agape’ is used – I’m not referring to the other forms of love which can only be expressed appropriately when included under the umbrella of ‘agape’, the perfect love of God. To love God above all other creation – is the highest priority, how could it be any different?

Selwyn goes onto say: “Work for God is important, but I stress again that the most effective service for God is accomplished by those who know Him intimately. … Contemplation of God and nearness to Him enables Him to direct His willing servant to the tasks that He wants done. … Adoration disinfects us from egoism (Henri Bremond).”

If we don’t have God as the highest priority – we run the risk of putting ourselves or others as the highest priority – this risk is often seen when we do works of charity etc, with the aim (sometimes unconsciously) to produce a feeling of self-satisfaction by doing ‘good’.

Deuteronomy 10:12-13 (NIV): “And now, Israel, what does the LORD your God ask of you but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in obedience to him, to love him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to observe the LORD’s commands and decrees that I am giving you today for your own good?”

Now – let me say once again; ‘why is it critical to have the love of God as our highest priority?  It is our loving contemplation of God and nearness to Him that enables Him to direct His willing servant to the tasks that He wants done!

Any comments?