|Vol. 15 No. 1 January 2013||
“He must deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow me” (Luke 9:23). You already know Jesus made an extreme sacrifice for you, and as many times as we have been asked this question, it needs to be kept in the front of our minds: What changes have you made in your life because of His sacrifice? Is your commitment to Jesus shown only by a one-time decision and weekly church attendance? Or, does the sacrifice of Jesus Christ mean more to you than that? I hope it does! If you honestly examine yourself, does it look like you are a one or two day per week Christian? If so, it is time for a change. Nothing should take precedence over it. Today, how can you make sure that your Christianity impacts all of your days – not just a couple of them?
Love is a popular topic in today’s world. The popular refrain is that we should just love one another. The apostle John talked a great deal about love, so much so that he is called the Apostle of Love. He declared that love is necessary to being a disciple of Christ, so that if we do not love our brothers in Christ, we have not been born of God (1 John 4:7-8). What does it mean to love our brothers? In 1 John 3:14-15 John wrote, “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.” We see that love and hate are opposites. There are only two options. We either love or hate; there is no in-between. If we hate, it is the same as being a murderer.
Most people look at these verses and assume that they love everyone. After all, if hating is like being a murderer, then it is easy to say we do not hate anyone. We do not want to hurt anyone; therefore, we do not hate. If we do not hate, then we must love, since there are only two options. Thus, according to this view, love is simply the absence of doing anything bad. This makes love easy, because we can love by doing nothing.
In contrast to the above view, look at how John viewed love. In 1 John 3:17 he wrote, “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?” In other words, love means helping someone who is in need. This does not refer to a stranger begging on the street, but to a brother whom you know is in need. If we do not help, we do not love. If we do not love, then obviously we must hate, since there are only two options. According to John, love means doing good to others. Love is not merely the absence of doing anything bad; it is the presence of good actions. This makes love hard. True love is not easy; nevertheless, God demands true love from His disciples.
“The Holy Spirit bears witness with our spirit that we are the children of God” (Romans 8:16ff). How does He assure us as we go through this life? Remember, Who wrote the Bible? The Spirit of God according to Paul in 1 Corinthians 2. He ‘revealed these words.’ By reading the Word of God, we can be reassured we are living life as God directs.
Don’t we feel assured when we are traveling into a new city, perhaps looking for the house of a friend who lives in that city, and our partner in the car is reading a map? By noting the various street names, we check off our route to the friend’s house.
Spiritually speaking, our partner traveling life’s journey is the Holy Spirit. As we face struggles in life, we check with His Word, which is the roadmap to heaven. Familiar signposts include: “Putting first the kingdom of God” (Matthew 6:33), “worshipping in spirit and in truth” (John 4:24), “stealing no more, but working with our hands what is good that we may have to give to others in their time of need” (Ephesians 4:28), “being called, chosen and faithful” (Revelation 17:14), having each service in life mixed with love (1 Corinthians 13:1-3), “marking those who cause division” (Romans 16:17) and being “willing to forgive others from the heart” (Matthew 18:35).
By checking off the signposts, just as surely as we check off the street names, we are steadily moving toward the goal of heaven itself, directed by the assurance of the Holy Spirit whose words direct us (1 Corinthians 2).