Faith, Fellowship, and Following Jesus
Last week I shared that I was going to change my blog’s focus, remove the “fluff,” and shift away from self-love to focusing on God. I truly want to be a woman after God’s heart and I pray that you want to be one also. The whole self-love thing has taken over the community of Christian women. Yes, we are loved by God. Yes, we are daughters of the King. And yes, we are all beautiful because we are made by God. But our focus shouldn’t be on ourselves. First of all, we should always look to God before we do anything else. Second, to truly understand ourselves and appreciate who God made us to be, we have to get to know God and His purpose for us.
So my focus here has changed. I still wish to encourage you, and I hope that I do. But the way in which I encourage you must be based on Truth and not “fluff.” These days, inspirational messages surround us. But many of them lack substance. We are so afraid to step on others’ toes. We are so afraid of offending someone. But the Gospel does just that! The Truth shows us when we are being hard-headed and sinful. The Gospel offends those who don’t believe it because they are lost in their sin. But if you have accepted Jesus into your life, you have received His Holy Spirit. And the Holy Spirit guides and directs us. He convicts us when we sin. He steps on our toes. And that’s a good thing.
“For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” – 1 Corinthians 1:18 NASB
My eyes have been opened to things in my own life that I had so deep-rooted within me since childhood. That sinful human nature is hard to break. It is rooted in selfishness. But Jesus has given us a new nature. He has given us His Spirit to change our heart. He has given us the ability to live selflessly and to love God and others first. If He hasn’t given us the ability through His Spirit, He would not have told us to live that way in Matthew 22. Jesus came so that we could be made righteous and holy as He is. That is our purpose here in this life.
“Since you have heard about Jesus and have learned the truth that comes from Him, throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception. Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy.” – Ephesians 4:21-24 NLT
God created us because He loves us and wants to have companionship with us. He gave us free will so that we could truly love Him back. But free will also allows us to be selfish and choose not to love. So we have to make sure that we make the right choice. He won’t force us to follow Him. He’s given us the opportunity to follow Him and to love Him back and to love others. Sacrificial love is the greatest love there is. Jesus said so Himself.
“This is My commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you. There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” – John 15:12-13 NLT
Jesus also explained the greatest commandments, and they are to love. So I want to break those two down with you:
“Jesus replied, ‘ “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.” This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.’ ” Matthew 22:37-40 NLT
When Jesus says “love” in this passage, the word in the original Greek is “agapao,” which means unconditional, ultimate love. It is the greatest love there is. So Jesus is telling us we are to love God and love others with that unconditional, sacrificial love. When loving God this way, we give Him all of ourselves. We sacrifice our free will to follow His will. When loving others, this kind of love wants the best for that person, starting with salvation in Jesus. We want them to know the Truth of the Gospel and we want them to have the fruits of the Spirit.
This kind of love doesn’t tip-toe around the truth. This kind of love speaks the truth in a loving way. It doesn’t let someone continue doing something that will harm them. You know, like the saying, “Friends don’t let friends jump off a cliff.” This love for others is the kind that would sacrifice themselves to prevent another from jumping off the cliff. Even if the truth spoken in love is hurtful to their feelings in the moment, it is a faithful love to them to speak that truth. Only an enemy would always tell you what you want to hear, with no truth behind it.
“Then we will no longer be immature like children. We won’t be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching. We will not be influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like the truth. Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of His body, the church.” – Ephesians 4:14-15 NLT
“Better is open rebuke than love that is concealed. Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but deceitful are the kisses of an enemy.” – Proverbs 27:5-6 NASB
The Lord your God
Jesus says to first love “the Lord your God,” to distinguish that our God is the Lord, not just any god. Our God, the Lord – Yahweh, Father-Son-Holy Spirit as Three-in-One. He is the God we serve. He is our Lord.
When He says to love God, “with all your heart, soul, and mind,” He means with your whole self, completely. That’s a big thing! How often does our life show that we love God with everything we are? Do we love Him with our complete being?
When He says to love God with all your “heart,” He means the center of your physical and spiritual being. Our physical heart gives lifeblood to all of our body. It is at the center of our physical life. We also refer to our heart as the center of our spiritual being – when we know something so deeply, we can feel it in our heart.
When He says to love God with all your “soul,” He means with the breath of life within you; the center of all your feelings, desires, and affections.
When He says to love God with all your “mind,” He means your understanding and thoughts you have. Our words and actions begin with our thoughts.
When He says to “love your neighbor,” that means any fellow human being. There are no commandments against loving one another. In fact, all the commandments like “do not murder, do not steal, do not covet, do not commit adultery, do not lie about each other,” etc. are summed up in this one commandment: love one another. Because if we love others, we would not treat them badly. We would not murder or steal or desire for their things, or cheat on our spouses, or lie about or to others, etc. We would selflessly and sacrificially love them like Jesus does. Imagine what our world would look like if we all did just that!
So in summary, Jesus is saying that the greatest commandments are to:
1) Love (agapao-unconditional, ultimate, sacrificial love) the Lord your God with all (whole, complete) your heart (the center of your physical and spiritual being), all your soul (the breath of life within you; the center of all your feelings, desires, and affections), and all your mind (your understanding and thoughts you have).
2) Love (agapao-unconditional, ultimate, sacrificial love) your neighbor (any fellow human being) as yourself.
The great thing about following these two commandments is that we don’t have to fulfill them by ourselves. They aren’t just “rules to follow.” They are privileges given to us by Jesus Himself. Because of Him, we have the desire and the ability to love God this much and to love others as He does. He never leaves us on our own to try and figure it out for ourselves.
Because of these commandments to love God and love others, my blog has a new purpose. I have always wanted it to be an encouragement to you and a community for Christian women. At first I had my priorities in the wrong order though and focused on self-love. But now my goal is to encourage you in your faith in God and your love for Him, your fellowship with others and love for them, and following Jesus first and foremost in your life. There is no greater purpose than to love God and point others toward Jesus. I pray that I always direct your focus toward Him first, not toward self.
May we will always speak the truth in love to one another and to…
“Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.” Ephesians 4:32 NASB