Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Loving Jesus vs. Admiring Jesus


Admiring Jesus seems to be admitted by practically everyone.

From Mahatma Ghandi, who through modeling the peaceful ways of Jesus changed the face of India and the world, to Mohammed, who called Jesus a prophet, to the average person on the street, just about everyone admires Jesus of Nazareth.

In fact, I’ve never met a person who would not say that they admired Jesus, at least until His gospel rips open their heart and separates the real admirers from those who admire from ignorance.

But my real point in this message is not to cast stones at those who are outside the church of Jesus Christ, who are outside the body of Christ, yet claim to admire Jesus. My real point is to encourage those who are in the body of Christ, to go beyond admiring Jesus, to a new level of loving Him.

There are those believers who have been born again, basically love the Lord, basically know their bibles, and know for a fact that Jesus is God, that He is good, that He is righteous, that He sacrificially gave His life for our sins, that He rose again, that He is Lord over all, and that He deserves all the glory and honor that He could ever receive.

But with all that born-again admiration, with their cries of "we must glorify God in all we do", with their exhortations of obedience, obedience, obedience…with all that, I often see a lack of loving intimacy with this admired Savior.

Why is that? I think it’s for two reasons.

1. Many travel in theological circles that are law-oriented.

They see the Christian life, not primarily as a relationship or fellowship with our Friend and Brother and Savior Jesus, but as a life of rules and regulations. They know Jesus loves them, but the degree of that love is dependent on our performance. You will find them emphasizing that verse, "If you love me you will obey my commandments." But you won’t often see them quoting the verse, "…[nothing] shall be able to separate us from the love of God which Is in Jesus our Lord."

So some lack this intimate loving relationship with Christ, just because it is considered sort of selfish and distasteful in their theological circles. Sort of mystical, sort of anti-good-doctrine. They use derogatory terms such as "touchy-feely" or "kum-ba-ya around the campfire emotionalism".

If you are one of these, please keep reading.

2. Many are scarred by a perceived lack of love, or perceived rejection, in earlier times of their lives.

Now, don’t think I’m getting all psychological here. And particularly, if you belong to category 1, the law-oriented type, I know the hairs are standing up on the back of your neck at the very mention of our past lives affecting our walk with Christ.

But here is the simple fact. We are fearfully and wonderfully made, not just physically, but mentally and emotionally as well. And when we are born again, and come to Christ, and we become new creations in our spirits…we sometimes still have a lot of renewing of our minds that are needed.

Many times, a perceived lack of love, or perceived rejection of some kind by parents, or peers, or a teacher, for example, can make us instinctively feel that we can’t really be loved. And that carries over into our feelings about whether God can really love us. And that can keep us from really having the intimate and loving fellowship with Jesus that we may want to have.

And then sometimes a mis-guided kind of cold-steel theology is piled on to make it even worse. These perhaps well-intentioned folks say things like, "You don’t just feel unworthy, you are unworthy. Get over it. You’re a sinner. You’re a worm and a jerk. Don’t let these Dr. Feelgood softies make you think you’re loveable. Just pull up your bootstraps and start obeying. Bring glory to God. It’s all about Him, it’s not about you, you selfish pig. Start performing, and see if you can bring your level of performance up to where it should be – in the power of the Spirit, of course."

And the implication is that if you perform well enough, that then you might be loveable . . . at least a little.

But of course this is hogwash. If you feel unloved, you feel unloved.

Now listen please to this: The only way you will ever feel loved by God, is through understanding from His Word that you were loved by Him long before you were "loveable". And He loves you because He chooses to love you. And there is nothing you could ever do to make Him love you more, and there is nothing you could ever do to make Him love you less.

And it’s because of one thing…Grace. There is a rest for the people of God, the Bible says, wherein they rest from their works! That doesn’t mean we don’t do good works. We will, as God works them in us, and we walk by His Spirit. It means we rest from our works as means of gaining love and acceptance and fellowship with God, with Jesus.

Read these verses in Romans Chapter 8 (or read the whole chapter), and you will see the love of God in writing: 10, 15b, 16, 18-19, 28-30, 32, 35-39. Don't doubt it. Don't think it can't mean you. It does mean you. And when you really "get" how much He loves you, apart from your performance, then you can experience and appropriate His love, and then you can really love, too.

Frederick Lehman was deeply moved by a poem written in 1050 A.D. in Worms, Germany, the site of Martin Luther’s historic meeting, the Diet of Worms, 500 years later. And it led Lehman to write a hymn in 1917, in Pasadena, California, part of which goes like this:

Could we with ink the oceans fill,
And were the skies of parchment made,
Were every stalk on earth a quill,
And every man a scribe by trade,
To write the love of God above,
Would drain the oceans dry,
Nor could the scroll contain the whole,
Though stretched from sky to sky.

O love of God, how rich and pure!
How measureless and strong!
It shall forevermore endure
The saints’ and angels’ song.

Don’t just admire Jesus. He wants you to be in close, intimate loving fellowship and communion with Him. There is nothing standing in the way. Not even your sins. They are paid for. They are forgiven. "It is finished."

Listen to "Grace For Life" Radio Program.

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