The things in this world that people look for to find joy are very different from what the Gospel tells us. I think it is most clearly pointed out in the scripture reading above. If we look into the political world, the financial world, the business world, or the world of education, it becomes very obvious that the world's ways puts stumbling blocks into the way of others to slow them down and gain the advantage and leave them to eat dust as we pass by them on the road of life. But, what is it that brings us true joy as disciples of Christ? I think Paul says it best in Romans when he gives us a pep talk and encourages us to seek righteousness, and in doing so, find peace and joy. How do you seek righteousness you may ask?
Well first, you must check your attitude you carry in life. If our spirit is competitive, then we will
never approach it. If we carry a spirit of bitterness, then we will never approach it. While this scripture uses food as an example, it's not about food at all. It is something totally different that gets in our way as we seek righteousness in this world.
There are those that say you can only obtain righteousness through the classical spiritual disciplines like prayer, worship, meditation, fasting, and studying. And, while is I strongly encourage Christians to live out those disciplines in their lives, I don't believe that you can find righteousness exclusively through these disciplines. They may help you on your path, but they are of little use to you if the spirit behind it has a "Holier Than Thou" attitude. "Self Righteousness" is one of the greatest errors in our search, and is totally opposite of what we are taught as disciples of Christ. It's like taking the pharisees approach to it, and shouting your piety from the roof tops. or making sure that everyone knows when you are fasting, or praying. By doing this, we become self righteous and fall further away from righteousness.
What I think will help our journey toward righteousness is to look truthfully at our own lives and remove all the things that would keep us from finding the righteousness that God desires for us. What is it that causes, as the scripture says, "A weaker brother or sister to stumble"? What is it that turns people of the world away and causes them to be skeptical about the Christian Faith, and want nothing to do with the church or the people that follow Jesus? How about a negative spirit, a judgmental attitude, a legalistic approach to faith, or pointing fingers at the weakness or frailties of others? All of these do nothing to bring people into the faith and can turn people so far away that we will never be able to share the love of Christ with them.
I sit here and tell you that we cannot shame people to faith, we must love them to faith. We must get close to them in their frail and sin scarred condition and show them how much Jesus Christ loves them. It is Christ's desire to have a loving relationship with us. It is also His desire that we would lead others to share his love. There is not a better example of the love we are supposed to share than the love Jesus shares. He has never said to one person that they must live a sinless and blameless life before He healed them. He never once passed judgement on someone for their position in life. Instead, he met people were they stood and shared His love unconditionally, and that drew them to Him.
It is that kind of love that we should show the world, and we should do it so that our weaker brothers and sisters won't stumble, but that they should walk safely into the arms of a waiting and loving Savior. You want to know true joy? Seek righteousness. Where does that righteousness come from? It comes from a loving response to Jesus Christ. We cannot do it on our own, we can only get it as a gift from God, and a willing spirit that is the image of and likeness of Christ......Amen
Monday, June 5, 2017
We are not the source of our love, God is. Scripture says God is love, and that He sent His Son into this world so that we may live through Him. And, as we experience His life we will naturally radiate love, for it says God IS love. It is not that God has love, or does love, it is the fact that love is defined by the nature of God. And if God is love, nothing that you have done can make Him love you less, and if you doubt the depth of His love, just think about Christ stretched out on the cross for you, because He wanted to spend eternity with you.
When we realize God loves us even though we have done things that don't please Him, We will learn to love others that have done things that don't please us. The Bible says God hates divorce, but even if you have been through a divorce, I want you to know that God loves you. God is truth and He hates lies, but even if you have lied God loves you. If you have cheated on your taxes, God loves you. Even if you have had an abortion, God still loves you. In Ephesians 3, Paul tries to explain that our passion should be to embrace as much of the love of Jesus as possible. It is not enough to say that we must seek to know His love, we must understand it's dimensions, and Paul gives us 4 dimensions to explore. Width, length, height, and depth.
When I try to imagine the width of God's love, I think about how encompassing it must be. He loves the unlovely just as much as He loves the lovely. His love expands to those we dislike, and to those we like. When everyone else walks out on you, He walks to you. What kind of tape measure can you use to measure that kind of love? Here is how wide it is, as far as the East is from the West.
I think when Paul used the word "length," He was talking about the endurance of God's love. When we are ready to quit and give up, God is just getting started. His love endures forever, and it goes far beyond anything we can imagine. He is so stubborn in His love for us that He refuses to stop loving us. Into the dark and through the storms, He looks beyond our failures and our faults and His love endures forever.
What is the height of His love? His mercies go higher than heaven. How high is heaven? There are over 1 billion stars in our galaxy, and each star is multiple light years away, some even thousands. 1 light year is 186,000 miles per second traveling for 365 days straight. There are an estimated 100 billion galaxies. Can you imagine how high that is? His love is higher than all of that.
Oh, and the depth of His love! How deep is your pit? How dark is your storm? His love goes deeper, and if you are at the bottom of a well and trying to find God, you won't have to look far because He is right next to you. Like a treasure that hides it's most precious stones in the depth, so is His love. Haven't you discovered that in the hardest of times, times when you are in deep loneliness, pain and heartache, that is when we discover the intimate times with God. His light shines brightest in the dark.....Amen