Christianity 201

April 12, 2017

Is it Gratitude or Is it Love?

Ronnie Dauber is a Christian author who lives in Canada with her family. She has written several young adult novels and six Inspirational books. We’re introducing here today at C201 for the first time.

When I started reading this article, I thought it was rather elementary, but then I looked at the central question — gratitude vs. love — and I started to really examine my own heart. In what follows she says love isn’t an automatic response, “like sending out Christmas cards where we receive one from somebody and then send one back out of response because it’s the right thing to do.” We have to get past that and know that “we are only able to praise Him and worship Him from our heart—and we can only do that when we truly love Him.”

Click the title below to read at source — it’s more visually interesting that way — and look around the rest of her website.

Gratitude or Love

As Christians, we are supposed to love God, but how many of us actually know why we love God? Sometimes we get confused between the gift and the giver and we tend to value the gifts and the promises more than we value the actual One who gives them to us. So we need to know our own heart and what our response is to God: is it gratitude for the blessings or love because He is our Father?

Many of us have been at a store at some time or another and found ourselves to be slightly short in cash when we’re paying for our purchase. We fret and get embarrassed and then a total stranger will step in and give us that bit of money and not want anything in return. They were being very kind and understanding in our situation and they acted in a totally Christian way. But do we love them for their gift or are we just very grateful for their kindness?

It’s very easy in this materialistic world to confuse gratitude with love, and we need to understand what love is and why we love God. And we need to know the difference because if what we feel for God is not love, then we could be deceiving ourselves.

We love God because He first loved us! But this love is not an auto response—it’s a heartfelt commitment. This isn’t like sending out Christmas cards where we receive one from somebody and then send one back out of response because it’s the right thing to do. And it isn’t like an offering plate where we see others putting bills into the offering and then decide that we really should do the same. Loving God is not an auto-response and it’s not an obligation.

When God says that He loved us first, He means that He really loved us first! He loved us when we were so deep into sin that we mocked Him and cursed Him. He loved us because He created us and He knows that sin has distorted our heart and that there is deathly punishment for that sin. But—because He loves us—He is willing to forgive us for everything we’ve done against Him when we accept His salvation. Jesus actually died that horrific death on the cross because He loves us. He didn’t do it just to be a recognized hero. He wanted us to live! He wanted to take upon Himself all of our sins so that we wouldn’t have to stand in judgment and be punished for them one day.

Salvation is personal; it’s not an automatic pardon for everyone. Jesus died for everyone, but not everyone is saved. To receive His salvation, we need to accept and believe that Jesus is the Son of God who died on the cross and then rose again on the third day and now sits on the right hand of God in Heaven. Salvation requires repentance and submission to Christ. It’s not automatic. We must receive it and when we do, we will feel His love for us in our heart and we will want to love Him back.

  • We love him, because He first loved us.—1 John 4:19

Jesus became the atonement for the sins of every single person ever born, which means that He died for everyone’s sins, but not everyone will receive it. The Inclusion religion says that everyone is automatically saved and that God accepts us just as we are, sin and all, but the Bible says that we must repent and accept Jesus as Lord and be born again into the Kingdom of God.

  • For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.—Matthew 26:28

Jesus is the only way for any of us to get to God, our Father. He provided salvation out of love for His Father and out of love for those who the Father loves. That’s you and me! And all we have to do is receive it and accept it and no longer want to belong to this world. We become part of His elect family and we wait for Jesus to return as King. But as we wait, we share the love with others and we treat them with the same love and compassion that God has extended to us.

  • Jesus saith unto him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by Me.”—John 14:6

This is God’s amazing love for us! And there is no one more deserving of our praise and worship than God! And we are only able to praise Him and worship Him from our heart—and we can only do that when we truly love Him. And our praise and worship to Him is our heartfelt response to His love for us, and so in our heart we become one with Him and His love lives in us. God did what He promised He would do; He took our sins away at the cross and finished His plan of redemption for us.

Confusion comes when preachers focus on what God will do for us now that we’re saved, rather than on what He did for us so we could be saved. We are grateful for the blessings that God gives us, but we don’t love Him only because of the blessings. Our love for God is true when we can love Him even without the blessings because He is our Heavenly Father and He loves us.

When we get saved we realize in our heart all that God went through to save us from sin, and so we are able to love God because of this love that He has always had for us. We are moved with compassion! Our hearts are filled with gratitude for this gift of life that He has given to us through Jesus. And then we can also realize that He wants to bless us and we can receive the blessings as a child. We read the Bible and know what His promises to His children are, and we can expect and trust that God will take care of us just as He promised He would. All these things are given to us because God loves us and we now belong to Him.

But how can we be sure that we really love God and are not just seeking the blessings? When we really love God, we crave to study the Bible so we can know Him, and then we obey His instructions for us and we don’t try to change any part of His law to suit ourselves. We are totally sold out to God and follow Him all the way, and we’ll see that our heart becomes filled with the same passion for the lost souls of this world as His heart was for us when we were still lost. We will want to share the gospel with others, and we’ll want to help people, and we’ll want to be part of the ministries of God that go out into the world and preach the gospel of Christ. We will love people with the same passion as God loves us and we’ll know that’s what in our heart is a true love for God!

  • If you love Me, keep My commandments.—John 14:15

 

October 20, 2012

Only God Can Do The Work of God

John 15 (NIV) 5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.

“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 10 If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. 11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.

Today’s Bible study — title borrowed from a quotation from Augustine — is an eight-minute video with Radical author David Platt and Crazy Love author Francis Chan discussing the times we try to do things under our strength instead of allowing The Spirit to do that work through us.

March 2, 2012

Is There a Crown Waiting for You?

“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever” (1 Corinthians 9:24,25). “Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us” (Hebrews 12:1).

On Thursday, Daily Encouragement featured these verses, which I know are familiar to many of you. Stephen and Brooksyne reminded readers that,

…In this passage he is urging diligence in the Christian life in the spirit of an overcomer. He urges the Corinthian believers and us to “Run in such a way as to get the prize.” He reminds his readers of the strict training that is required for the serious contestant. 

“They do it to get a crown that will not last.” The ancient crown of victory was a laurel wreath that quickly withered and died. Even the gold medals received by the winners in the modern games will one day perish.

Today many, perhaps most, are in pursuit of the various types of temporal crowns that will not last. For the great majority the pursuit of God is placed on a back burner in life to be dealt with at some later date, if at all….

“But we do it to get a crown that will last forever.”  This crown is not for a select few; note the plural pronoun “we”.  Earlier in the passage he wrote regarding the competition in the ancient games that “only one gets the prize.”  Consider all the athletes who sacrifice many years of their time, money, and endure strict training to be in the Olympics but don’t receive a medal or may never even make it to the Olympics for that matter. 

This is not so in regard to our future crown…

I encourage you to read the entire article at Daily Encouragement.

However, tucked away as a postscript or appendix to this devotional was an excellent scripture outline on what might constitute the crown you receive. As I looked at this list, I asked myself, ‘For which of these endeavors might there be a crown with my name on it?’

You can ask yourself that same question…

Seven crowns are mentioned in the New Testament

1. The crown for those who love His appearance. “Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day–and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for His appearing” (2 Timothy 4:8).

2. The crown for those who compete according to the rules. “Similarly, if anyone competes as an athlete, he does not receive the victor’s crown unless he competes according to the rules” (2 Timothy 2:5).

3. The crown for enduring trials. “Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him” (James 1:12).

4. The crown for those willing to feed the flock. “Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, serving as overseers–not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve;  not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock.  “And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away” (1 Peter 5:2-4).

5. The crown for those who are faithful unto death “Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days. Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life” (Revelation 2:10).

6. The crown for those who win souls. “For what is our hope, our joy, or the crown in which we will glory in the presence of our Lord Jesus when He comes? Is it not you?”  (1 Thessalonians 2:19)
  
7. The crown for those who master the old nature. “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever” (1 Corinthians 9:24,25).

 

 

In selecting a visual crown to illustrate these thoughts, there were a number of crown icons or simple crowns that were less opulent than the royal crowns I found online from Sweden and Denmark, but I wanted to make the point that any crown given out by God will be the finest.

November 5, 2011

A Third Kind of Love

In three different contexts this week, I was confronted by the writings of A. W. Tozer.  One of these, earlier this week, concerned a piece he wrote that was titled, “Three Kinds of Love.”  At first, I thought this would be an explanation of the difference between phileos, eros and agape love.  But it turned out to be something quite different; he writes about the love we have for God. 

Rather than just run the excerpt today, I’m going to try to paraphrase what Tozer wrote…

He begins by saying that traditionally, religious writers talk about two kinds of love for God:

  • The love that springs out of gratitude for God:  “I love the Lord because he has heard my voice and my supplications,” and “We love him, because he first loved us.”  Ps. 116:1 and I John 4:19, italics added.  This is a very basic, elementary kind of love that actually has selfish overtones: It’s a love that is driven by benefits we receive
  • The love of the admiration of excellence: A higher level of love where the selfishness factor is reduced, and is replaced by a consideration of God’s glorious being; his power, knowledge and might become the driving factor; we love him because of all that he is.

But then, Tozer takes it to another level and introduces the analogy of a mother of what we would today call a special-needs child, in this case one who is considerably developmentally challenged.  (This was a rather progressive example in Tozer’s day; and I use it now with apology to those of you whose families are touched by the reality of a special needs child or children.)

He says that, “The child excites no gratitude in her breast, for all the benefits have flowed the other way; the helpless infant has been nothing but a burden from the time it was born.”  This is a child that won’t be helping set the table, won’t be taking out the garbage.

At the second level, “Neither can the mother find in such a child any excellence to admire, for there is none.”  This is a child whose artwork won’t be adorning the refrigerator door; whose report cards won’t be shown off to the aunts and uncles.

Yet she loves the child with a great intensity.  Her life and the life of her child are more intertwined than they were before she gave birth.  They are bonded emotionally.  It is what he calls “the union achieved by hearts; more beautiful than anything that can be experienced by flesh and blood.”

There is no element of because.

It’s not, “I love because;” because there is no because. It’s simply, “I love.”

This is the third kind of love, what he calls a supranatural love.

For the last 48 hours, I’ve been trying to process how the story of the mother relates to our love for God.  Tozer notes that we all have things to be thankful to God for; just as we all have moments where we are overcome by the excellence of magnificence, the great majesty of God. 

But I’m trying to find in my own heart the parallel to the third type of love, something that is not the product of logic, or enumeration of God’s attributes, or any other because.   

Tozer says,

If this all seems to mystical, too unreal, we offer no proof and make no effort to defend our position. This can be understood only by those who have experienced it.  In the rank and file of today’s Christians it will be rejected or shrugged off as preposterous.  So be it.  Some however, will read and will recognize an accurate description of the sunlit peaks where they have been for at least brief periods and to which they long often to return.

And such will need no proof.

today’s thoughts based on Three Degrees of Love as it appears on pp. 147-150 of the 1955 Christian Publications edition of The Root of Righteousness.

August 28, 2011

Love Songs to Jesus

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“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.

Matthew 22:37

It’s become fashionable of late to ‘dis’ worship choruses that express love to Jesus in terms that could equally be applied to an earthly lover. The term commonly used is “Jesus is my boyfriend” songs. I do agree that some of these songs should simply be performed by the writers and not have their lyrics projected on a screen for everyone to sing lyrics that reflect a position in Christ that they haven’t yet reached; or expect us to sing lyrics where the similarity to a secular love song is painfully close.

But what if the writer is genuinely overflowing with love to Jesus? Isn’t that exactly what we want to hear in a song expressing personal worship? Isn’t it also true that many of us find it really easy to sing about “How Great is the Lord,” but are less comfortable saying, “Lord, I love You”?

This song, by the group Jars of Clay surfaced many years ago. It’s not a congregational song per se, but a beautifully crafted expression of love.

In open fields of wild flowers,
she breathes the air and flies away
She thanks her Jesus for the daises and the roses
in no simple language
Someday she’ll understand the meaning of it all

He’s more than the laughter or the stars in the heavens
As close a heartbeat or a song on her lips
Someday she’ll trust Him and learn how to see Him
Someday He’ll call her and she will come running
and fall in His arms and the tears will fall down and she’ll pray,

“I want to fall in love with You”

Sitting silent wearing Sunday best
The sermon echoes through the walls
A great salvation through it calls to the people
who stare into nowhere, and can’t feel the chains on their souls

He’s more than the laughter or the stars in the heavens
As close a heartbeat or a song on our lips
Someday we’ll trust Him and learn how to see Him
Someday He’ll call us and we will come running
and fall in His arms and the tears will fall down and we’ll pray,

“I want to fall in love with You”

It seems too easy to call you “Savior”,
Not close enough to call you “God”
So as I sit and think of words I can mention
to show my devotion

“I want to fall in love with You”

“my heart beats for You”

Lord, give us a heart that overflows with love for you; not gratitude for all you have done for us, but one that loves you for who you are.

February 2, 2011

Action Prayers

Paul Clark, Operations Pastor at Fairhaven Church in Centerville, Ohio posted this as the church recently completed an “Action Series” of messages by having the congregation join in this prayer.  As I studied this, I added some emphasis to the action petitions in each section.

Father, I thank you that your beauty and glory are beyond anything I can comprehend. Please open my eyes to your wonders so that my heart is filled with awe.

Father, I thank you that your love for me is astonishing; far beyond anything I can understand. The cross of Christ demonstrates the depth of your love. Help me to believe that Jesus’ sacrifice is the ultimate proof that I am your treasure.

Father, I know that your extravagant love demands something special from me. I offer you all of my life. I will hold nothing back. Help me respond wholeheartedly.

Father, help me to realize that your extravagant love can transform me. It can make my heart pure and holy and acceptable in your sight. Please fill my thoughts with becoming more like you.

Father, I want to love you passionately, from the depths of my soul. Please create in me that kind of love. Help me to feel it intensely. Help me to share it freely. Help me to give it back to you authentically.

Father, I am amazed that you have chosen me. You have a future for me that’s worth everything. Please give me a vision of eternity so that I would live each day on purpose, being one step closer to that day.

January 22, 2011

Captivated By A Person

Peter Mead is full-time with Operation Mobilization in the UK.  He blogs at Biblical Preaching where this article appeared this week under the title, Shine the Light on the Core Issue

It struck me afresh recently that many in our churches may be missing a very crucial element of Christianity.

They know the answers, they’ve prayed the prayer, they go to church, they live good lives, they may even witness (or they know that they should), they have grown to enjoy Christian gatherings, they see the emptiness of the world’s alternatives, they can explain the gospel, they look the part, they serve the church, they teach the children, they give to the collection, they make sacrificial decisions, they pray and they mean it and on it goes.  So much Christianity wrapped up in one life, but yet, what is missing?

Christ.

Christianity is not religion, nor is it ecclesiology, nor is it church participation, nor moral and ethical living, nor family tradition, nor schedule commitments, nor participation in a social gathering, nor any number of other things people seem to make it.  Christianity is about being in relationship with Christ.

When I first met my future wife and then returned home to England I spoke about her to folks here.  I remember one particular conversation.  I was enthusing about the person who I thought I might actually get to marry.  He was melancholic about the whole concept of relationships.  I shared information about her.  He shared complaints about the whole structure of dating and courting and marriage in his experience.  I talked about her.  He had yet more to say about the “institution” of romance.

I suppose you could observe that we were talking about the same thing.  The difference was that I was captivated by a person, he was not.

I wonder how many in the church today are ticking the boxes and we all assume they are safely in the family of God, but actually they are not.  One of the most overlooked verses in all of Scripture is in I Cor.16 where Paul states that “if any man does not love Christ, he is accursed.”  Perhaps we should be far slower to assume people are already born again based on the indicators of their confession, conduct and church participation.  Perhaps we should be looking for that delight that comes only from someone who knows someone special.  And perhaps in our preaching we should look for ways to shine the light of the Word beyond the peripheral issues, through the created “christian” structures that people hold to be their faith, and show the empty place where Christ should be captivating the heart and changing everything from the inside out.

– Peter Mead

Peter’s current product involves giving leadership to Cor Deo, a full-time mentored study and ministry training programme lasting five months involving  studying together during the week, then participating in ministry together during the weekends.  For further information about Cor Deo, either to pray for the ministry, or to find out more about participating, the Cor Deo website is www.cordeo.org.uk.