Reflections on John 13:34

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.” John 13:34, NASB.

Bible2This verse from the Gospel of John is one that has been resonating in my brain over the last few days. It’s not necessarily hard to understand, but it seems most of us are unwilling to put it into practice. Jesus issues this command to His disciples, “Love one another like I loved you!” It’s a practice that is supposed to go hand in hand with following Christ, in fact, it’s so necessary that Jesus goes on to say others will know we belong to Him because we do it (verse 35).

Yet so often we don’t do it. Rather, we pretend to do it. We love our fellow believers as long they don’t ruffle our feathers, hurt our feelings, disagree with us, or let us down in some way … but the first time we see their flaws, we cut bait and run. Most conflict between believers is caused because they fail to love one another as Christ first loved them, or worse, they stubbornly refused to.

When I think of how Christ loved me there’s no escaping the image of the cross. Christ loved me so much that He when to the cross in my place. Scripture teaches that “God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).

Christ died for us “while we were yet sinners”. He didn’t demand that we clean ourselves up before He went to the cross. He died for us in spite of all our flaws and imperfections. And He commands us to love one another in the same way!

Ever wonder how to respond when a fellow believer hurts your feelings or lets you down in some way? Christ tells us to respond in love … and He role-modeled that love for us on the cross. When you love your Christian brothers and sisters and remain devoted to them through thick and thin, the rest of the world will know Who it is you belong to.

John 13:34 isn’t a suggestion … it’s a command.

 

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Take Responsibility for Your Spiritual Growth: A Devotional

gfgm2hcq92s-aaron-burden“… but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory, both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.” (2 Peter 3:18, NASB)

In 2 Peter 3:17, Peter warns believers not to “… lose [their] footing and get swept off [their] feet by these lawless and loose-talking teachers” (2 Peter 3:17, Message). Not only are believers prone to stumble on their journey with Christ, there are those who would intentionally trip us up if given the chance. There are false teachers who would lead us astray in our walk … this is why it’s crucial we stay faithful to the gospel as it has been passed down to us (1 Corinthians 15:1-4). Because of all the pitfalls that confront us in our walk, it is important that we take a proactive stance when it comes to our spiritual growth.

Too often, we treat spiritual growth as something that just “happens” to us. We go to church, hang out with other Christians, and listen to Christian music in the hope that we will grow through some sort of ‘spiritual osmosis’ – and we will, to an extent. However, we will grow the most when we actively contribute to the growth process. When Peter admonishes believers to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior,” we must understand he is encouraging us to actively participate in the process.

Do you want to know the secret to avoiding pitfalls in your spiritual walk? Take responsibility for your own spiritual growth. In the power of the Holy Spirit, commit yourself to growing in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ. When your feet hit the floor in the morning make it your daily goal to study God’s Word and put it into practice in your life. Don’t wait for Sunday morning to soak up some spirituality, rather, make spiritual growth a priority in your life every day of the week! Peter has warned us there are people who will lead us astray … we can avoid their traps if we know what we know what we know! Scripture equates this process with a baby who gets off of milk and begins to eat solid food (Hebrews 5:12, 1 Cor 3:2).

Take command of your spiritual life and take responsibility for it. Never be satisfied with just milk. It is time we all begin eating solid food!

Never Stop Praising Him!

Mankind was designed to worship God. Isaiah 43:7 says we were created to give God glory. That is the meaning of our lives, to give glory to the One who created us. In Revelation chapter 4 John is given a glimpse into the throne room of God Almighty. In verse 8, he details four heavenly creatures who praise God:

“… day and night they do not cease to say, ‘Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord God, the Almighty, who was and who is and who is to come'” (Revelation 4:8).

These heavenly creatures never stop praising God Almighty. John continues to write that whenever they whenever these creatures give God glory, the twenty-four elders seated around the throne fall down before Him in worship, cast their crowns at His feet, and say:

“Worthy are you, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and because of Your will they existed, and were created” (Revelation 4:11).

Can you imagine this scene of never-ending glory being given to God Almighty? Like these heavenly creatures, we were created to give Him glory. Why? Because He deserves it. He is the creator of all things! He is worthy to receive glory, honor, and power! God and God alone is worthy of our praise and we should never stop praising Him!

It occurred to me today that when I find myself struggling with all those familiar sins that seem to nip at my heels, it is during moments when I have stopped praising Him. It is in moments when I have taken my eyes off of God’s glory and placed them elsewhere. In 1 Thessalonians 5 Paul instructs us to pray without ceasing and to give thanks in all circumstances (1 Thess 5:16-18). I think we can safely add to this, praise without ceasing. I should live my life in a manner that is constantly heaping praise and glory on My Creator for He is worthy of that praise!

As I go about my business this week, I will be reciting Revelation 4:8 and 11 in my mind often to remind me who God is and why He deserves continual and never-ending praise … will you join me?

How Can we Remain Faithful to God in a Faithless World?

 

“How can an individual remain faithful to God in a faithless world?[1]

16 Then those who feared the Lord spoke to one another, and the Lord gave attention and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before Him for those who fear the Lord and who esteem His name. 17 “They will be Mine,” says the Lord of hosts, “on the day that I prepare My own possession, and I will spare them as a man spares his own son who serves him.” 18 So you will again distinguish between the righteous and the wicked, between one who serves God and one who does not serve Him. (Malachi 3:16-18)

Through the Prophet Malachi’s ministry to the Israelites, we learn three tips for developing a lifestyle of faithfulness:

  • Vow to be faithful to God, even if those around you are not: Consider writing your own ‘scroll of remembrance.’ In our family, we keep a Journal of Blessings. In it we write down all the ways God has blessed and answered our prayers. Occasionally, we pull it out and look at it when we need a reminder of His faithfulness and presence in our life. It’s amazing how fast that journal can get filled up!
  • Surround yourself with a group of likeminded individuals for encouragement: This group ‘talked with each other’ (Mal. 3:16) as they encouraged each other to remain faithful (see Heb. 10:25). Join a church and get plugged into a small group Bible study!
  • Remember that God’s day of reckoning will come someday: Sometimes we mistake God’s patience as inaction. We need to keep a long-range perspective and know that His day of judgment is coming! (2 Peter 3:8-10)

 

[1] Sourced and adapted from Charles H. Dyer, in The Old Testament Explorer, p. 841

Ezekiel's Vision

bibleScripture Reading: Ezekiel 1

“As the appearance of the rainbow in the clouds on a rainy day, so was the appearance of the surrounding radiance. Such was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord. And when I saw it, I fell on my face and heard a voice speaking” (Ezekiel 1:28, NASB).

The vision Ezekiel experiences in the first chapter of the book that bears his name is incredible. It’s not hard to see the prophet struggling to put it all into words. It all begins with a storm cloud coming out of the north. The cloud comes complete with fire flashing from it, bright lights, and something that appears like glowing metal from the midst of the fire (v. 4). God’s abode was often described as coming from the north (see Psalm 48:2, Isaiah 14:13) and the implication was God was staging an invasion from the north just as the Babylonians had done.

Within the cloud were four beings – each with four wings and four faces – named Cherubim (see Ezekiel 10:15). The creatures had four sides, each with a wing, a human hand, and a face. This allowed for maximum mobility and awareness. They could move in any direction without turning. Their faces represented what were traditionally the four most impressive of God’s creations; man – chief over all, lion – chief over wild animals, bull – chief over domesticated animals, and the eagle – chief over all the birds. These faces may have been meant to demonstrate the strength, intelligence, majesty, and speed of the Cherubim along with the notion that God is the Lord over all creation.

These Cherubim were led by the Holy Spirit (v. 12) and beside each of them, Ezekiel saw a wheel of sorts (v. 15). These wheels were skillfully made and each had another wheel inside of them (v. 16) and they could move in any of the four directions without turning (v. 17) like spherical casters. All four of the wheels had eyes all the way around their rim (v. 18) and they moved in sequence with the Cherubim (v. 19). It is possible the eyes represent God’s omniscience for He “sees anything” while the ease of motion represented God’s omnipresence. Meanwhile the elevated presence of the Cherubim represent God’s omnipotence.

Over the heads of the Cherubim and supported by their wings was a large platform or expanse (v. 22). Many scholars believe that Ezekiel was describing God’s chariot because above the platform was a throne made of precious materials. And sitting on the throne was a “figure with the appearance of a man” who radiated like hot metal (v. 26-27).

Ezekiel was seeing firsthand the “likeness of the glory of the Lord” (v. 28)! His immediate response was to fall on his face. He was seeing a representation of God Almighty and what I believe was the preincarnate Christ and “all the prophet could do to show his awe was to fall on his face in the dust before his God[1]”.

How has God demonstrated Himself in your life? How did you respond? Today’s reading suggests there is one appropriate response to being in God’s presence … falling prostrate before Him in awe of His glory! We should be humbled and awed when God reveals Himself to us. Too often, however, I fear we ignore His majesty … may we all gain a sense of the emotion Ezekiel must have felt!

[1] From John B. Taylor’s commentary.