Welcome back! If you missed Part 1 make sure you jump back! We’re kind of in the middle of something…
Reading back over part 1, I want to say that I don’t want to give the impression that I’m some sort of stained-glass Christian hero because I stopped listening to gangsta rap (although picturing me as a knight slaying a hydra with the heads of 50 Cent, Snoop Dogg and Dr. Dre would be pretty cool). I’ve shared my own experiences to help you identify with what I’m saying because you’ve probably had these struggles too.
I am still wrestling with this stuff myself and definitely don’t always win. I find myself fighting with God far too often so the phrases I’m bringing out actually scare and expose the weakness in me but of course they also expose the desperate need for grace that we all find ourselves when we say yes to Jesus. And I’m pretty sure He does supply.
Speaking of which…
#3 “Love the Lord”
Classic bit of Scripture this. Jesus says that the most important thing God has ever told us to do is love Him with our whole mind, heart and soul and with all of our strength (Luke 10:27, Mark 12:30, Matt 22:37). Wow! This is one of those verses I think that you can hear so much growing up in church that it loses its outrageousness and just becomes something that’s nice to do when you can haha!
I don’t really want to go too deep in this blog into the ins and outs of what it means to love God with our whole mind, heart and soul (except to say that I don’t think I’m doing it) but I would like to
point something out I noticed about strength.
If you were asked to do a physical activity with all of your strength, you’d understand that you were required to do it until you were exhausted right? Either until you were working at maximum capacity or until you had no strength left in you.
If you’ve ever lifted weights in the gym there comes a point when you’re no longer capable of lifting anything more and your muscles max out. This is how you get your muscles to grow bigger and stronger. I think we’re on to something with that… Loving the Lord with all our strength leads to an increase in our capacity to love Him.
Is it possible that we often feel weak in our love for God because we never push ourselves past the point of pain? We may scream “We love you and we’ll never stop!” at the top of our lungs in a nice, safe, Sunday worship service but what happens to that love on Monday morning…?
Personally I think the words “I love you” should never come as a surprise but rather should confirm the experience someone has of you already in their life because Love is primarily a verb, a “doing” word. It should be like walking up to your employer after working for them for 20 years and saying “I work for you.” What’s my point? Erm……hang on…… OH YEAH! Telling God that we love Him is not the same as actually loving Him. It’s part of it but it’s incomplete. Jesus makes it clear that loving God is caring about what He cares about and living lives based on what is important to His heart (John 14:15).
“Telling God that we love Him is not the same as actually loving Him.”
Try and think back to a time when you’ve given of your physical or emotional strength and energy to accomplish something that you knew He had asked you to do that was dear to God’s heart and by the time you finished it you were absolutely shattered! (don’t feel bad if you can’t think of a time like that, just look forward to one!)
Even though you felt like your arms or legs or whatever muscle operates your emotions was about to fall off, I bet you felt His pleasure! While it was going on I bet you were wondering where you were finding the strength! I reckon that’s where running and not growing weary comes in.
Several years ago I went on a 2 week mission trip to the Welsh Valleys (shout out to the Revive and Abertillery Squad) and would collapse into bed each night totally spent but my whole being felt like it was being permeated with God’s delight for the people who were touched and changed and saved during that time.
Thoughts about “not spreading yourself too thin” creep to mind and of course “it’s easy for you to say, you’re an energetic young man”. Fair enough (although I am pushing 30 this year!) I just think that rationalising passion is like putting a basket on a flame. One of two things may happen. Either the flame will go out altogether or that basket’s gonna burn!!
There’s something about love that is fierce and untameable while not lacking discipline. And I could do with a bit more of that old time religion. I’m not talking about being foolhardy but I am saying that the foolishness of God is wiser than Man’s wisdom (1Cor 1:25) and that we need to get better at discerning the difference.
Loving the Lord with all our strength leads to an increase in our capacity to love Him. Personally I think the words “I love you” should never come as a surprise but rather should confirm the experience someone has of you already in their life because Love is a verb, a “doing” word.
#4 “Pretty much anything Jesus said about how to treat other people…”
Jackie Pullinger, another hero of the faith said that it was still difficult for Jesus to lay His life down even though He spent His whole life practising. But how crazy is that?! He spent His whole life practising! That’s how He was able to get away with saying so many things that I find damaging to my own self interest! These things just do not compute with me!! If someone demands your coat, give them your shirt as well?!? (Luke 6:29) You what?? Not even asks humbly and politely. Demands!! How does that make sense Jesus??
How about “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you??” (Matt 5:44) That’s waaay beyond passivity, tolerance and restraint. That’s pretty much “Dear Lord, please heal Jonny’s knuckles that he just broke on my face, amen.”
Then there’s that old favourite when someone strikes you on the cheek, offer them the other one also (Luke 6:29). There’s probably some hermeneutical gymnastics we could do to try to get around this one but while you’re limbering up, why not consider what if Jesus actually meant exactly what He said?
I’ll stop there but whether or not you agree with the literal applications of these commands, the heart behind them speaks of a love for God and for people that reminds me a lot of insanity! That voice pipes up “Hey, God doesn’t want you to be a doormat, you’re the head and not the tail!” “Come on, you’re a child of God! You shouldn’t be treated this way!”
But this Love says “I won’t just be a doormat, I’ll be a staircase. If you want, you can walk all over me but I will do everything in my power to make sure that when you’re done, you’ve been blessed, elevated, propelled forward and you’ve seen something of the image of God and the glory of Jesus Christ.” Clearly a life implementing this kind of love requires supernatural power! Where does that power come from? What do we do about the other voice?
Truthfully? I don’t know. Everything I’ve shared with you is from thoughts that I am having and convictions that I’m feeling myself so I’m not going to pretend to have the answers. I’m still on a quest with all of this like everyone else but I’m starting to understand that I am far more able to be intentional about it than I’d like to admit!
I know that I’ve said practically nothing of the rewards of running hard after God but I think we’ve got a pretty good grasp of that already. I hope that you can appreciate and maybe even identify with my experience and my very one-sided thinking.
If you feel like I’ve offended you in any way, great! That’s not my intention but a little offense might get you to think about it more. I just want to be honest and move forward with anyone else that wants to. I don’t want to rationalise my passion for God because I’d rather err on the side of going overboard for Jesus than staying in the boat and never walking on water with Him, even if it’s only for a second.
I want to be clear that I believe in being wise about things, I believe in not thrusting ourselves into danger for the sake of it or wiping ourselves out to the point that we can no longer function. The same God who calls for all-out love and holiness is also the One who makes me lie down in green pastures and leads by still waters to restore my soul (Psalm 23). I think that the voice I mentioned at times can be straight from the mouth of God through Godly people but at other times can be immitated by the enemy or our own love of comfort to keep us as individuals or as the Church from entering into a greater level of consecration and seeing a greater manifestation of Christ in our lives.
When we don’t know the overshadowing and enveloping love of the Father by intellect and experience we can be tempted to create doctrines and interpret Scripture in a way that will protect us and make us feel safe and secure in case God doesn’t, forgetting that the Holy Spirit is our Comforter because our lives are made to be uncomfortable.
I think that we need to learn how to live together in community and how to ask and trust God as our loving Father to set limits for us so that we can go wild in expressing our love for Him and using the gifts He has given us while being conscious of our limitations instead of setting our own boundaries and only living within our finite means of love, grace, energy etc, and ending up cutting ourselves off from having to rely on Him.
For some people reading this, it will sound like utter madness and that’s fine. I’m only 29 and I’m pretty sure my thoughts and opinions will change on certain things over time so if what I’ve said doesn’t stir anything in your heart and the Holy Spirit doesn’t speak to you, okay. I can’t force my convictions on you because I didn’t even create them for myself but I pray we’ll all come into a greater experience of Christ-likeness and raw life-consuming love for God in our Christianity.
But let me talk to the people who are either stirred, excited or just plain frothing at the mouth while reading this! FAN THAT FLAME!! Sit and think about the excitement of throwing your whole life at Jesus
in whatever way He wants and then pray and ask Him how to do it!! Find people that don’t massage your apathy and love of comfort but rip them out of you and stuff your soul full of dynamite!!! BURN BABY BURN!!! Don’t allow other people around you to quench your fire!! Honour every person for where they’re at in their relationship with God, don’t judge them, be gracious to them but don’t you dare settle for less than what He’s put in your heart!
Press yourself into The Secret Place and ask God to impart His heart to you continually to keep transforming you to be more like Jesus!! Don’t give in after 2 weeks when it seems like nothing has changed. Press in!! Ask God to link you with others who are jumping out of the lukewarm bubble bath and putting on their robes of radical righteousness and nail yourself into an authentic, God-hungry, Christ-pursuing, missional, covenant community and stay there!! Our God is an all-consuming fire and you know you want your whole life to burn for Him!!
Man these final thoughts are taking ages!
In the Luke 14 passage Jesus uses the example of a man building a tower to describe what it’s like to count the cost of giving our lives to Him. This tells me that after I’ve made the decision to follow Christ, there is a process I go through (building) in establishing a new life. How long does it take to build a tower? How long is a piece of string? Continually and intentionally building with the Chief Architect is what’s important.
Why didn’t Jesus say a man building a house? I reckon that this continual building and laying down of bricks (or idols, whatever) should eventually lead to a life that is fortified against negative outside influence and that has a higher and greater perspective of the world than before.
We’re all at different stages in this process. Some of us will be laying the foundations of our faith, understanding our new identity in Christ, others will be placing bricks, laying to rest old habits, attitudes and ways of life and some of us are figuring out whether or not we’ve got the correct change in our pockets to make this decision to follow Christ and start building at all. Maybe you’ve given up altogether but could be persuaded to start again… Wherever you’re at, be honest about where you’re at and don’t convince yourself that you’re further on simply because yours is the tallest tower around you. Every house cat thinks it’s a tiger… Remember that His yoke is easy and His burden is light because He supplies the strength to carry it.
I pray that we will fully use the freedom we have been given in Christ to love God and that the Holy Spirit would enable us to pursue Him with unbridled passion like a wild stallion and that the Father would be free to tell us when we’re loving too much.
Thanks for reading! If you enjoyed this, share it with some people you want to run with and why not arrange to meet together to talk/pray/do something about it?
You may want to check out “Here Come the Radical Christians”
“Set me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm, for love is strong as death, jealousy is fierce as the grave. Its flashes are flashes of fire, the very flame of the LORD. Many waters cannot quench love, neither can floods drown it. If a man offered for love all the wealth of his house, he would be utterly despised.”
Song of Solomon 8:6-7 (ESV)
If you read all this way and didn’t go listen to Banning, you want to. Trust me. Here he is again!