Some soul searching for a Monday morning
“Sometimes with great effort (most church members) can be maneuvered into some active role in the church's program, like a trained seal in a circus act, but their hearts are not fully in it. They may repeat the catchwords of the theology of grace, but many have little deep awareness that they and other Christians are 'accepted in the beloved.' Since their understanding of justification is marginal or unreal - anchored not to Christ, but to some conversion experience in the past or to an imagined state of goodness in their lives - they know little of the dynamic of justification. Their understanding of sin focuses upon behavioral externals which they can eliminate from their lives by a little will power and ignores the great submerged continents of pride, covetousness and hostility beneath the surface. Thus their phariseeism defends them both against full involvement in the church's mission and against full subjection of their inner lives to the authority of Christ." , Dynamics of Spiritual Life. (ephasis mine)I've been this person. Every so often I need to examine myself that I'm not this person again. I hate the thought that I've once again begun deceiving myself. It is easy to hide behind the externals of the Christian life and forget the greatest thing, that we and other believers are "accepted in the Beloved". We are among His dearly beloved and painfully purchased bride; we are his adopted sons, clothed in the righteousness of Christ, and as such we are called to love each other. What God has cleaned we are not to call unclean (Acts 10:15). When we remember this, we remember that each and every believer was specifically chosen by God and set apart for His purposes (Jn 15:16). And so I will ask myself again today: Am I a Child of God?
"By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother. For this is the message that you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another. We should not be like Cain, who was of the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own deeds were evil and his brother's righteous. Do not be surprised, brothers, that the world hates you. We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death. Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.So I ask myself, is my love only talk? Is my mouth wide open speaking words of love, but my heart and purse-strings pulled tightly shut? Or is it possible that my purse is open, but my heart shut up tight? (If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. 1Co. 13:3) Perhaps I love only in deed, but not in truth. These are difficult questions to answer. What will love from the heart look like?
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 John 3:18
"Love is patient and kind;And so, where do all these questions find me this Monday morning? They find me falling short, and so convicted. They find me agreeing with God - which is what repentance is - that His Word is true and right and lovely. They find me desiring to live out these words in my life and among my brethren. May His grace bring it to pass in my life. May he make it so in yours as well.
love does not envy or boast;
it is not arrogant or rude.
It does not insist on its own way;
it is not irritable or resentful;
it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.
Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Love never ends..." 1 Co. 13:4-8a
"Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us....If anyone says, 'I love God,' and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother." 1 John 4:7-12; 20-21
(Please note, I am not discounting our call to love our enemies here, simply speaking directly to our mandate to love the brethren in particular.)