Love, Prayer, Forgiveness and Surrender

love, prayer, surrender, forgivenessIf we were, just for a moment, to talk about a few of the most powerful actions and ideas available to us then my top four would be 1) love in action, 2) prayer, 3) surrender and 4) forgiveness.  In these, Jesus Christ is our model and we can be assured that in order to become more Christlike we must work towards being excellent at all four.

And I say “work towards” because we don’t start our walk with Christ being strong in these areas and none of us, no matter how long we have been a child of God, are perfect in all four.  We’ve all got work to do or perhaps it’s more accurate to say we must continue(or begin) to surrender our selves to the Holy Spirit so that He can work in us and on us.  It is the work of God to change us, it is the responsibility of the person to surrender themselves so that they may be changed.

(So there’s number 3 from our list, right there, and please bear with me even if this is not in numerical order!)  Just as Christ surrendered his position in heaven and left his throne to come and live as a man, and just as Christ then surrendered his life for all so must we surrender our rights and desires to Him.  Our surrender is what allows us to accept Jesus Christ as savior and Lord and it is our daily (or even hourly) surrender that allows us to continue to grow and know Him better.

Closely related to surrender is forgiveness(number 4 from our list).  God forgives us of our sins and cleanses us from all unrighteousness and this forgiveness is applied to our past, present and future!  The entirety of the sin debt of every man, woman and child who has ever lived or will ever live has already been paid for.  The enormity of that act is difficult to comprehend but what it means for us is that we no longer have the right to withhold forgiveness from anyone or anything.  God forgave it all, every last sin, at the exact moment that the sin debt was laid on His only son Jesus.  For us, who have been so forgiven, we are now free to surrender our right to retribution, hatred, revenge and all thoughts of “getting even”.

Not only that, we must forgive ourselves and not hold on to guilt or failure.  And sometimes, we even need to forgive a situation or circumstance.  Sometimes things happen that aren’t in our plan and are not welcomed or appreciated and if we aren’t careful we can develop bitterness that will poison our lives and everything that we touch.  God’s children must forgive and the only way this can be done is in the power of the Holy Spirit and in Jesus’ name.  We simply lack the ability to forgive and let go apart from the power of God in us.

So then, how do we access the power of God in us and live lives that are filled with the Holy Spirit?  We do this through prayer (number 2, here it is!) and meditation on God’s Word.  The Bible says we are to “pray continuously” and that we should “always, in everything, make our requests known to God with thanksgiving” and then, once we’ve done that, we can start to be amazed at what God can do through us and around us.  Prayer is powerful, not because of the words we say but because of who we are praying to; Jesus, in whom we live and move and have our being.  When we choose to communicate and cooperate with God it will always make an eternal and life changing difference.

And all of this, everything that we do, must be done out of a Christlike love for all people and to show love in action (number 1, here we are!)  Not love in feeling, which ebbs and flows and is only based on human emotion, but love like Christ has for all people and love that motivated Him to give up his own life to save all mankind.  Again, only God can change us to have a love like that and only through prayer, surrender and forgiveness can we share it with others.

God’s love never fails and never changes and He chooses to share it with us.  All that he asks is that we love Him in return by the way that we live our lives and the way that we treat others.

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.  1 Corinthians 1:13 (NIV)

 

The Heart of the Gospel

relationships, peacemaker, God's loveIt matters how we treat each other.  Our behavior towards our friends and enemies alike is of great interest to our Heavenly Father.  God commands us to love one another and to show kindness and compassion even to those who call themselves our enemies.  Not an easy thing to do!

I think most of us who call ourselves Christians understand this on an intellectual level but I wonder if we have really taken it to heart.  Do we understand why God commands us to love one another and what our motivations should be when we interact with others?

The heart of the gospel is God reaching out and showing His awesome love to mankind.  The word gospel literally means “good news” and to a creation that is lost in enslavement to sin and corruption, God’s redeeming love is the best news possible.  God wants all the world to know, every single man, woman and child, how much he loves them and how much he desires a relationship with them.

God loves us in spite of our fallen state.  He loves us and seeks us even when we are at our worst.  God’s love is consistent despite our attitudes or actions and no sin of ours can ever stop God from loving us and seeking us.  And so it should be with us and how we treat those around us.  Simply put, when we show love, compassion and mercy to others we are showing forth Godly attributes that points people towards Him.  However, when we fail to show love and instead respond with an attitude of complaint, aggression, superiority, judgement or self-seeking we put the focus squarely on ourselves and do not show God through our actions.

Remember what Jesus said was the most important commandment?

 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?”  And He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’  This is the great and foremost commandment.  The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’  On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.”  Matthew 22:36-40 (NASB)

 

Jesus thought our treatment of one another was important enough to include in what we know as “The greatest commandment”.  Loving God first and foremost and then out of that relationship, loving others unconditionally is the cornerstone of the Bible.  And lest we think that was a new idea first presented in the New Testament we can go all the way back to the book of Exodus to see something very similar.

If you meet your enemy’s ox or his donkey wandering away, you shall surely return it to him.  If you see the donkey of one who hates you lying helpless under its load, you shall refrain from leaving it to him, you shall surely release it with him.  Exodus 23:5-6 (NASB)

This passage from Exodus is in the midst of several chapters of instructions that God gave directly to His people on how to treat each other and how they should act.  Notice verses 5 and 6 above that specifically talk about how we should treat those who call themselves our enemy or even those who hate us.  We are to actively seek to help and render aid whenever and wherever we can.

I think it’s interesting that verse 5 talks about a donkey or ox that has wandered away, meaning a lost possession that would be nonetheless important to him who lost it.  If we were to come upon such an item most of us would think that there would be no harm or foul in simply going on about our business and hoping that things turn out ok.  After all, we didn’t take the item and we didn’t cause it to become lost, right?  But God says specifically to take the initiative in returning that thing to him who lost it and by our action, show love and concern.  Why?  Because it’s what God does for us all the time!

God is not miserly or stingy with his love and blessings on us and neither should we be with each other.  If we have an opportunity to serve someone and be of help to them then it is our God given duty and privilege to do so.

Better Than Life

Psalm 63:3, God's love, TruthToday I want to go back to a verse of scripture that I have written about before.  Sometimes God reveals new truths to us through verses we have read many times before, and that is the case here with Psalm 63:3.

Psalm 63:3 is a wonderful statement of praise written by King David when he was wandering in the wilderness of Judah.  David makes a statement of intent to praise God because of his love, and although it is unwritten, despite his circumstances.  David recognizes God’s love and care as being absolute and unshakable and instead of worrying about what tomorrow might bring, he chooses to praise God instead.  And so should we all!

Because Your lovingkindness is better than life,
My lips will praise You. Psalm 63:3 (NASB)

God brought to my mind recently the first phrase of this verse, “your lovingkindness is better than life”, and an amazing truth came out of it.  Taking a look at life, we are prone to letting our current circumstances and our current location become our foundation.  We get comfortable with where we are living, the things we have and the people we spend time with.  In general, we cling to what we know and shun uncertainty.

But if we are to take God’s word as truth, and we should, then Psalm 63:3 tells me that God’s care and God’s love is better than any of those things and indeed, better than all of them put together!  In other words, whatever God has for me, be it life or death, will be better than anything that I call “mine” here on this earth.

While it is true that we are called to be good stewards of the resources that God has provided for us, we do wrong when they begin to define us.  They, like us, are temporary and secondary to that which God has for us and His work on earth.  Sometimes, we need to “loosen our fingers” and allow God to direct us without worry or care about the things we own or the money we make.  God is faithful and will always provide what we need.

Going back to our verse of scripture, we are assured that His lovingkindess is better than life and because of that we can be confident that whatever we give up for the sake of God will be far, far less than that which God gives us in return.  Let us be reassured that God’s way is the best way and be comforted by His Word and the truth therein.

 Author’s note – On a personal level, I find this truth and this verse of scripture to be extremely liberating when I apply it to my life.  My affection for “stuff” weakens and my love for God grows in response.  How amazing is that?

What Should We Do With All Of These Gifts?

gifts of the spirit, God's love, salvationOne of the most amazing things about our God is the way that He continually shows His love to us.  It’s written in the sky at morning time, it can be seen in the smiling faces of His children and it speaks to us out of His Word, the Bible.  It was displayed on a cross over 2,000 years ago as Jesus who was the Christ suffered, bled and died so that we might be saved from our sins and it is still freely given to every man, woman and child who calls on the name of the Lord.

Our God is a generous giver because He loves us so very much.  The gift of His son Jesus, the gift of salvation and the Holy Spirit and the innumerable other gifts that He has bestowed on us are all displays of His love and affection towards His creation.  Whether you know and realize it or not, if you are reading this then you are very, very blessed.

As one of the blessed, we have a responsibility to respond to God’s love in the right way.  The first and most important way we can respond is simply to acknowledge that we are loved by God and that we accept His free gift of salvation through Jesus Christ.  If you’ve not done that, and you have questions about it, please read this.

For those of us who have already decided to follow Jesus, we still have decisions to make about how we respond to God’s love.  We still have a responsibility to share that love and to be good representatives of the God who is so very good to us.  In fact, if we are saved, God has equipped each of us in specific ways that are unique yet all fit together for the building up and encouraging of His family and His church. (God’s church is the people who are saved by grace, not any building built by human hands!  We worship in many places and many buildings but God’s church is His people and it is they are who important to Him, not the places they worship in.)

The unique ways that God equips us for the building of His church manifest in the form of talents and abilities.  Some of us are artistic and can paint or create beautiful sculpture.  Others have the ability to lead and administer effectively.  Still others can teach or preach.  The depth and breadth of the gifts that God gives us is truly amazing and no simple list could ever hope to name them all.  The point is that no matter what our talents or abilities might be, the best choice we can make after salvation is to use what we have been given for God’s glory and to show how much we love Him.

Close your eyes, you little dreamers
Numbered as the grains of sand
Do you believe there is a treasure you can’t hold in your hand?
Stewards of My great Creation
I will give this gift to you
A language that can speak your heart when words could never do

The melodies will give you wings to fly above Creation
Whenever you can’t find the words to say
So My child, I give this gift to you and all the nations
So you can give it back to Me one day

Shown above is the first verse of a song entitled “The Gift of Music” by Theocracy.  It’s a powerful song but my favorite part is the last line of the chorus.  Personalized, it says “So my child, I give this gift to you and yours so you can give it back to Me one day.”  Quite simply, one of the most beautiful and wonderful ways that we can show our love to God is by using what He has freely given us back to Him in humility and service.

Are we committed to doing that?  Are we serious about showing our love for God through our talents and abilities?  If not, then this Easter season would be an ideal starting place.  And if we are already using what God has given us for the benefit of His church, then let’s not slow down or get distracted.  Let’s renew our commitment on our knees, at the foot of the cross, in praise and thanksgiving to the One who’s love for us is deeper than the oceans and more vast than the sky.

 As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. (1 Peter 4:10) NKJV