Love Your Neighbor

This week, my husband and I have been working on a pet project of mine. We’re turning our living room into a library. Although there are more shelves to finish, we brought in several boxes of books that have been stored in the barn for the last two and half years so that I could start sorting them. Many of those books belonged to my grandpa who, as I’ve told you before, was a preacher. I’m talking Bible commentaries, sermon notes, books on Christian living, etc. What always surprises me is the number of books he kept, with whose authors he disagreed. I know this because he would often write a scathing one or two sentence commentary inside the front cover or on the end pages of the offending work. I think he didn’t want what he considered bad information getting into innocent hands. Any time I pick up one of his books, I always look for those remarks. Then I make a mental note to read it myself and see what the problem was. Grandpa came from a time when annotating books was commonplace, so I can sometimes see what he was thinking as he read these books. That goes for the “good” ones too. That is a treasure to me now because, while Grandpa is still living, his mind is a victim of dementia.

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One of Grandpa’s comments. He wrote, “This book is not fit for man or beast”. This is a three volume set from the 19th century. He wrote the same thing in all three volumes.

This week, as I was sorting through the books, I found a small book called “The Greatest Thing in the World” by a man called Henry Drummond. For some reason, I picked it up and flipped through it. It is a short book, only 63 pages, but what a powerful message. The subject of the book is 1 Corinthians 13, also known as the Love chapter. Mr. Drummond’s message is that the kind of love described in that chapter is indeed, the “greatest thing in the world”. The reason I am sharing this with you now, is because of one passage I read. I felt like God was telling me I was on the right track for this post which I had been working on since last week. It was a passage that Grandpa had also marked so he could find it again. Coincidence, you say? Maybe, but I was sorting close to a thousand books. What are the odds? I’ll post what I read further down. Oh, the book was written in the 1880’s.

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Last week, we talked about Loving God. Now we’re going to talk about loving others.

Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:34-40)

The Old Testament command to “love your neighbor as yourself” comes from Leviticus 19.

Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord. (Lev 19:18)

and

The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the Lord your God. (Lev 19:34)

What Jesus is saying, is that obeying those two commandments will cover all the rest of the law. If you love God, you will want to do what He says. You will do what he tells you to do, and not do what He forbids. Additionally, if you love your neighbor as yourself, you are going to treat them well, leaving you to, again, be obedient to the law.

This is what Mr. Drummond said in his little book.

 “And you remember the profound remark which Paul makes elsewhere, ‘Love is the fulfilling of the law.’ Did you ever think what he meant by that? In those days men were working their passage to Heaven by keeping the Ten Commandments, and the hundred and ten other commandments which they had manufactured out of them. Christ said, I will show you a more simple way. If you do one thing, you will do these hundred and ten things, without ever thinking about them. If you love, you will unconsciously fulfil the whole law. And you can readily see for yourselves how that must be so. Take any of the commandments. ‘Thou shalt have no other gods before Me.’ If a man love God, you will not require to tell him that. Love is the fulfilling of that law. ‘Take not His name in vain.’ Would he ever dream of taking His name in vain if he loved Him? ‘Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy.’ Would he not be too glad to have one day in seven to dedicate more exclusively to the object of his affection? Love would fulfil all these laws regarding God. And so, if he loved Man, you would never think of telling him to honour his father and mother. He could not do anything else. It would be preposterous to tell him not to kill. You could only insult him if you suggested that he should not steal -.how could he steal from those he loved? It would be superfluous to beg him not to bear false witness against his neighbour. If he loved him it would be the last thing he would do. And you would never dream of urging him not to covet what his neighbours had. He would rather they possessed it than himself. In this way ‘Love is the fulfilling of the law.’ It is the rule for fulfilling all rules, the new commandment for keeping all the old commandments, Christ’s one secret of the Christian life.” (The Greatest Thing in the World: pp 15-17)

See what I mean? By the way, you can read the entire text here.

In John 13, Jesus goes a little further. Speaking to His disciples during the last supper, He says,

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John13:34-35)

As Christians, we love the Lord, and we love each other.

This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out his commands. In fact, this is love for God: to keep his commands. And his commands are not burdensome, (1 John 5:2-3)

And this is love: that we walk in obedience to his commands. As you have heard from the beginning, his command is that you walk in love (2 John 1:6)

Yeah, I know. It sounds great, but the practice isn’t always easy. No, it isn’t. We live in a fallen world full of broken people. We are pulled by our own weaknesses. No one ever said it was easy. No one ever said that we would get it right every time this side of heaven.

So, how are we able to love God, our neighbor, and our brothers and sisters in Christ?

We love because he first loved us. (1 John 4:19)

The last two thirds of the fourth chapter of 1 John is about how this love is possible.

Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 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. This is how we know that we live in him and he in us: He has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. if anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God. And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. We love because he first loved us. Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister. (1 John 4:7-21)

It’s all about the relationship. When we truly understand how very much God loves us, the extending of that love to others begins to come naturally. God gave us His spirit to help us. It isn’t however, like flipping switch. It’s a growing process. One that will take the rest of our lives.

In his introduction to Mr. Drummond’s little book, evangelist D.L. Moody writes, “Would that we could all move into that Love chapter and live there.”

Amen!

Connie

Palm Sunday

Palm Sunday always comes the Sunday before Easter. On that day, we remember Jesus’
“Triumphal Entry” into Jerusalem. The event is recorded in all four gospels: Matthew 21:1-11, Mark 11:1-11, Luke 19:29-40, and John 12:12-19.

Before we look at those, look at Zechariah chapter nine. You can read it online here.

This prophecy promises deliverance for God’s people. However, if you look closely, you’ll see something odd.

Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion!
Shout, Daughter Jerusalem!
See, your king comes to you,
righteous and victorious,
lowly and riding on a donkey,
on a colt, the foal of a donkey.
(Zech 9:9)

Normally, victorious kings ride horses; majestic, magnificent horses. Here it says the king will be riding a…donkey? Yes, that is what it says.

Let’s look at Matthew’s account of what happened that day.

As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage on the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and at once you will find a donkey tied there, with her colt by her. Untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, say that the Lord needs them, and he will send them right away.”This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet:

Say to Daughter Zion,
‘See, your king comes to you,
gentle and riding on a donkey,
and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.’”

The disciples went and did as Jesus had instructed them. They brought the donkey and the colt and placed their cloaks on them for Jesus to sit on. A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”“Hosanna in the highest heaven!”When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, “Who is this?” The crowds answered, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.” (Matt: 21:1-11)

Mark doesn’t really add anything to the narrative, but Luke says some of the Pharisees were offended at what the crowd was shouting.

Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples!” “I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.” (Luke 19:39-40)

John adds,

At first his disciples did not understand all this. Only after Jesus was glorified did they realize that these things had been written about him and that these things had been done to him. Now the crowd that was with him when he called Lazarus from the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to spread the word. Many people, because they had heard that he had performed this sign, went out to meet him. So the Pharisees said to one another, “See, this is getting us nowhere. Look how the whole world has gone after him!” (John 12:16-19)

When Jesus came into Jerusalem on the back of the donkey, He was proclaiming Himself as Messiah. It was just a few days after He had raised Lazarus from the dead, and the multitudes came out to welcome to Him. The phrase “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” is from Psalm 118, which contains another piece of messianic prophecy. Calling Him “Son of David” referred to prophecy from Isaiah and 2nd Samuel.

By shouting those things, the people were also proclaiming Jesus as messiah. The people knew the prophecies. They really didn’t understand what it was all about though. They were looking for an earthly king. During Jesus time on earth, Israel was under the rule of the Roman Empire. The Jewish people desperately wanted deliverance from the Romans, and they expected their messiah to deliver them. He didn’t though, and the crowds that welcomed Him would soon be calling for His crucifixion. If they had really understood the prophecies, they would have known that was part of the plan.

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“Entry of Christ into Jerusalem” Anthony Van Dyck (1599-1641) oil on canvas, public domain, downloaded from Indianapolis Museum of Art

What are your expectations of Jesus?

Connie

We Have Seen His Glory

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The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14)

When John wrote “we have seen His glory” he probably meant it literally. Although John himself never describes the event, the other three gospels do. It is sometimes called the “transfiguration”. Luke tells it this way:

About eight days after Jesus said this, he took Peter, John and James with him and went up onto a mountain to pray. As he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became as bright as a flash of lightning. Two men, Moses and Elijah, appeared in glorious splendor, talking with Jesus. They spoke about his departure, which he was about to bring to fulfillment at Jerusalem. Peter and his companions were very sleepy, but when they became fully awake, they saw his glory and the two men standing with him. As the men were leaving Jesus, Peter said to him, “Master, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” (He did not know what he was saying. While he was speaking, a cloud appeared and covered them, and they were afraid as they entered the cloud. A voice came from the cloud, saying, “This is my Son, whom I have chosen; listen to him.” When the voice had spoken, they found that Jesus was alone. The disciples kept this to themselves and did not tell anyone at that time what they had seen. (Luke 9:28-36)

Peter makes reference to the same event when he says,

For we did not follow cleverly devised stories when we told you about the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ in power, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. He received honor and glory from God the Father when the voice came to him from the Majestic Glory, saying, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”We ourselves heard this voice that came from heaven when we were with him on the sacred mountain. (2 Peter 1: 16-18)

There are several other New Testament references to Jesus’ glory, but as we’ve already discovered, that subject may be a little too broad for the scope of this blog. I will tell you though, that the word translated “glory” here is the Greek word “doxa”.  A discussion concerning the actual meaning of the word  can be found here.

The point I want to make is this: Both Peter and John were part of Jesus’ inner circle (along with John’s brother James). They witnessed countless miracles in the three years they spent with Jesus. Here they actually saw Jesus with Moses and Elijah in “glorious splendor”; they were in the cloud, and they still didn’t get it!

Jesus called John and his brother James, “sons of thunder” (Mark 3:17) probably because they did things like ask him if he wanted them to “call fire down from heaven” (Luke 9:54). Peter was impetuous and short tempered. When Jesus was crucified, they were  both devastated, and hid with the other disciples in “fear of the Jewish leaders” (John 20:19).

Even after the saw the resurrected Lord, they still didn’t understand. Jesus told them to wait in Jerusalem until they received the “gift from the Father” (Acts 1:4.) The gift arrived on the day of Pentecost, 40 days after Jesus had gone back to heaven.

When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them. (Acts 2:1-4)

That day, Peter preached the first gospel message to the crowed gathered in Jerusalem.

When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. (Acts 2:38-39)

The gift of the Holy Spirit; Christ living in us. Peter and John received it on that day, as did the rest of the twelve, and the 3000 who were baptized. Jesus had told them that the Holy Spirit would help them remember (John 14:26). They remembered, they finally understood, and they were changed!

Read the rest of the book of Acts and the letters written by Peter and John to witness the amazing transformation.

Over the last 2000 years, countless live have been changed in the same way.

Has yours?

Connie