Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Making An Informed Decision To Follow

Sometimes I am convinced that we need to do a better job of explaining to people the obligations and consequences of accepting Jesus Christ. It feels at times that all that matters to us is getting them to say yes or repeating some prayer that may or may not hold significance to them. Afterward we are abhorred at their lack of conformity as they bumble about, not sure of what to do. The easy answer is, "Follow the guidance of the Spirit", but often the response comes back, "How?" It seems we are so afraid of people not making the right decision that we do not give them time to make an informed decision. To decide to follow Jesus means radical changes to our life. The better people understand that the less of a struggle there will be.

I find though that many of us do not understand ourselves just how radical these changes in order to be able to explain it to others. How much has your life changed after accepting Jesus? Or did it change for a while and then everything fell back to how it use to be, except for the church thing you do? Or perhaps your behaviour has changed but what is inside not so much? The Spirit, via John, is very strong and pointed on what this change must look like. Now notice I used the word "must". Although our walks may all be different according to our calling, the character of those walks are the same:

Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves the father loves his child as well. (1 John 4:1)

For us it is obvious that you have to believe Jesus in order to be born of God. You have to believe every word he spoke which includes his explanation that he is God made incarnate, to be the sacrifice that would cover the sins that separate us from God. This was the most singular act to define love that the world will ever know. So then we should be able to understand how believing and the decision to love go hand in hand. We cannot love the Father without loving his child. You are his child and thus I make the decision to love you, regardless of how you treat me. Don't forget that the definition of love is not that we love him but that he loved us. So the definition of my love is not that you love me but that I love you, a decision, regardless of your attitude or actions toward me. I am convinced we do not understand the significance of this:

This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out his commands. (1 John 5:2)

Jesus gave us some very specific commands when it comes to our behaviour toward one another. In the previous chapters John says that we know we love God when we love our brother. Now he is saying something similar but from a different perspective; you know you love the children when you love God and do what he says. Obedience, submission is always the fruit of love. Jesus said plainly that if we love him we will do what he has commanded us to do, the primary command being to love our brother. We love by doing. We love by taking action. We love by honouring our Father's desire which is that we would love the children, regardless of how poorly they behave.

This is love for God: to obey his commands. And his commands are not burdensome, for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. (1 John 5:3-4) 

It cannot be put to us any plainer than this. To love God is to obey God.

Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. (1 John 4:16)

You cannot accept Jesus Christ and continue to destroy people. You cannot continue to show indifference. You cannot remain hard and harsh. You cannot allow rejection and heartache to wall up your heart. You cannot decide not to love after you have accepted Jesus Christ because you have accepted his love and his command that you are to love everyone with that same love. Now we are told that this is not a burden and of course it isn't. After everything that we have been forgiven and the mercy that has been shown to us, the easiest thing is to live love and forgiveness. However, if we are not convinced that we know Jesus, that we are loved, that we are forgiven, then we will not be able to show it to other people. We have to be convinced and we have to be in a relationship of trust with Jesus.

The world no longer has its influence on us. The law of the world is to strike back after being struck. The world lives according to the "eye for an eye" law. The world seeks justice for every harm committed. Just watch the TV shows and the movies. Doesn't your heart pound when the good guy kills the bad guy? Don't you stand and applaud as the villain gets his just desserts? Even in the Church our first reaction is that the fallen saint must pay for his crime against God and the body. Yet, love dictates mercy, forgiveness and grace from us toward the offender. No one is saying this is easy but we are told it is not burdensome. Jesus showed us the way. He overcame everything the world and the enemy had to throw at him. As he hung on the cross he was able to say in the full confidence of the Father's love, "It is finished". His great mission of grace fueled by love was complete. He overcame so that we could overcome, so that his love would be made complete in us as we loved others in the same manner he loved us; unconditional love.

John brings us back full circle:

Who is it that overcomes the world? Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God. (1 John 5:5)

It still all comes down to the decision of trust. The overcoming takes place after that first decision, after that first step, after that moment of trust. We need to know that after this step we die to ourselves, our selfish emotions, our perspective, our limitations, and we put on Christ Jesus, through whom all things are made possible. He even makes it possible to overcome the negative emotions and attitudes implanted by this world so that we are free to live our life like Jesus, in selfless love.

Regardless of your past and your past mistakes, it is not too late to start, to make this decision, to live like Jesus. It will be more of a challenge as people criticize you for things that belong to your past, including actions and attitudes. But do you love God so much that you can love people regardless if they return that love or not, and are you able to love them through their unforgiveness? Then maybe you will understand the Father's heart. Make an informed decision for Jesus today, sinner or saint.

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