Discipleship – Loving Like Jesus
If I tell you about a formula - that if you were to follow it - that your emotional hurts can be lessened and overcome, you would say, tell me about it. But, the question is, is it that easy? The answer is yes and no. Because it requires something of us, that so many of us, in fact the vast majority of us are not willing to commit to. It’s going to require the knowledge that you cannot do it by yourself and your ego does not like that. It requires that you be willing to place others ahead of yourself and that is not easy. It requires daily emptying of yourself, yourself and that is not easy. It requires the emulation of the one who did it perfectly, who did it wholesomely and successfully. I am talking about loving like Jesus. What is it to love like Jesus?
I know you might ask, well can any one really love like Jesus. The answer is, yes! But can it be done perfectly? No! Can it be done easily? The answer is also, no. But a major part of the problem that we are facing, and I am talking about those of us who are Disciples of Christ, who are truly born-again by the Spirit of Christ, who have come to true repentance and turning from sin to follow and obey Him, is that we look at the world and see that the world is filled with a fuzzy notion of Christian love and that is impacting us. Many a church and denomination have erroneously concluded that to love like Jesus means that we exercise no condemnation of sin and we make no distinction between what is right and wrong, and that you make no clear demarcation between justice and injustice, and that you have no appreciation for the truth. But on the contrary, the highest expression of love, if you want to love like Jesus, is obedience to Jesus. He said, “If you love me, obey me.” So what did Jesus mean in John 13:35 when he looked at his disciples and said, “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” Or John 15:12-14 “This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you. Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you.”
I am sure some children would love to interpret this verse as, “if my parents love me they will let me do what I want to do when I want to do it. Some spouses would like to interpret this to “if my spouse loves me, he or she would let me do whatever I want to do, regardless of what it costs him or her.” Here is the confusion. If you love me, do this. If you love me, do that. And we see this all around us everywhere we go. What is the focus in all of this? All around us in our culture is me, the one who wants to be loved, the one who needs to be loved, the one who wants and needs you to express your love toward me. We are a self-centered, self-loving, self-promoting, me first society. Children are being raise to please self, to do what pleases and makes them happy and gives them pleasure. We have become a me first, what’s in it for me society. But what is Jesus’ focus? It’s you are the one who should we doing the loving. It’s you who should express love. Don’t worry about whether you get it back or not. The truth is, when you do, you will. Did you catch that? When you give out love, when you show love to others and are loving in your actions, you will receive love. God will make sure of that. He did not say that the same people that you show love to will love you. He did not say, you will reap where you sow, but what you sow (Galatians 6:7).
This is a very important distinction and that is what is being blurred in our culture today. The whole concept of love among our contemporaries is turned into sentimentality. People use love as leverage to get others to do selfishly what they want. The whole focus on love in our generation is on the recipients demand. The whole emphasis of love is lack of condemnation of sin and what is wrong, while in reality Jesus tells us that the mark of discipleship is that we love like He loves. Not the way these people are defining and redefining love. Jesus never loved sin. Jesus never winked at sin. Jesus forgave sin and loved the sinner enough to die for them, though He was sinless. But, it is out of love that we condemn sin and it is out of love that we call sin, sin. Why? Because sin is harmful. Because sin hurts families and destroys people and communities and devastates and causes upheaval in homes and in our society.
If you want to love like Jesus, tell the truth. Don’t let others tell you what love is by their definition or re-definition; as if you love you won’t condemn homosexuality. You tell them what Jesus said. Make no mistake about it. That is perversion and this perversion is overflowing into the Christian community and some Christians have bought into it. But when Jesus said, by this shall all men know that you are my disciples, He was not talking about this modern day perversion of love that overlooks and whitewashes sin. He was not saying that you should demand to be loved by others, but rather he said that each of us should love the other and each of us should give of ourselves to others so that the world might see the love of Christ in us and know that we are His disciples.
Have you ever thought about when this was spoken by the Lord? That really is the clincher. He said those words to his disciples after He washed their feet. Remember, that day was not like our day, where the streets are relatively clean and people wear socks and shoes and get around in a nice car. They walked barefooted and some on sandals on dirty roads full of dust and mud. Some might say, Lord, I can understand you washing Peter’s feet or John’s feet, he was the disciple whom you loved, but you washed Judas’ feet. That’s too much. Lord, you already knew that Judas had sold you down the drain. Yet, you washed his feet. You knew that he would deny you. You knew that your disciples would run away and deny you, yet you washed their feet too. The answer is in verse one. “He loved them to the end.” That is the love like Jesus. You love until the end, not just when things are going well. Not just when you are happy, but in the times of crisis and tension. That’s when your love is tested. This type of love that Jesus is talking about is not human love, not selfish love, not possessive love, not this twisted and perverted love being spewed out upon us from every direction. This is redemptive love. This is the divine kind of love. And that is why I said in the beginning that this kind of love is not natural or easy. Only God can give you this type of love. Phileo love is human, agape love is not.
Back during the Korean War there was a Christian civilian that was arrested and was condemned to death. And when the communist officer in charge found out that this man ran an orphanage, he decided to spare his life. Instead he made the decision to kill his 19 year old son by a firing squad in front of his father’s eyes. And this Christian man was forced to watch his 19 year old son’s body collapse from the hail of bullets. In the course of the war, that very same communist officer who ordered the shooting of this Christian man’s 19 year old son was captured by the U.N. forces and tried and condemned to death. But before the sentencing could take place, the Christian whose son was shot in front of his eyes made a plea for the life of the communist officer. He explained to the allied forces that this young officer didn’t know what he was doing. This Christian man implored, give him to me and I will train him. His request was granted and the murderer was released to live in the house of the victim’s father. And the Christian man fulfilled his pledge. As a result of this redemptive love, as a result of this divine love, as a result of this humanly impossible love, the communist officer is now a prominent pastor.
Is loving like Christ easy? No! Nobody would tell you that. But only Christ can make you love like Christ. If you are a disciple of Jesus Christ, if you claim to be a disciple of Jesus Christ, you must ask yourself, “Do you love like Jesus.” Is there a magical wand that will help you with your emotional wounds? Yes! Is there a formula hat can make you whole? Yes! But the question is, “how do you love like Christ”? This is how.
Every time somebody wrongs you, every time somebody sins against you, make the decision to immediately forgive them, between you and God. You say, you don’t understand. This person doesn’t deserve to be forgiven. This person abused me all my life. This person nearly destroyed me. Let me ask this. Did Jesus forgive your sins? Does He continue to forgive your sins? Will He continue to forgive your sins in the future? If He has forgiven you and you are so glad to receive His forgiveness to you, then why are you so anxious not to give forgiveness to others. If you are a disciple of Jesus, you will love like Jesus. If you choose not to forgive others, even after having received His forgiveness, you will loose that forgiveness and blessing of God and all your sins will be placed back upon you. That is a law of the kingdom. Mark 11:25-26 “And when ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have ought against any: that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses. But if ye do not forgive, neither will your Father which is in heaven forgive your trespasses.”
How many times have I failed in this? Many! The fact is neither you nor I can do this on our own. There was a time when I faced a particular problem. I kept failing again and again. But, then each time, I would turn to the Lord and say, “Lord, I’m sorry, forgive me and deliver me.” Gradually, the victory and deliverance came, because I kept asking he Lord for help and asking Him to do in me what I could not do for myself and He had mercy upon my cry. Is it easy? No! If I am not walking with the Lord in intimacy, day by day, moment by moment, it is not easy. But when I am walking in intimacy with the Lord, it is easy. Because it is Him loving through us. Loving like Jesus does not mean that you wink at sin or never rebuke sin it doesn’t mean that when somebody wrongs you or sins against you that you pretend it didn’t happen or didn’t hurt. That is a fallacy. It is not reality. God doesn’t ask you to be dishonest with yourself or deny that something was real or happened to you, but He does ask you to forgive. Matthew 18:21-22 “Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times? Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven.” Matthew 6:12 “And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.” The following parable from verse 23-35 tells us that if we don’t forgive others, our own sins will be put back upon our heads and it will become as if we never received God’s forgiveness or eternal life.
What does it mean to forgive and forget like Jesus? It means that whenever you are wronged by someone, you immediately, that moment look up to heaven and say, ‘Lord Jesus, because of your strength and ability and because I am your disciple, I forgive that person, and you take care of it. You do it by faith if you don’t feel like it. Say, Lord, you know I don’t feel like it, but you told me that if I wanted your forgiveness I have to forgive others, and so please help me to forgive them as you forgave me.” Be honest. But this is what it means to forgive and forget. You take care of it quickly and privately with the Lord. It means when the person who has wronged you has repented and has come to you and asked for forgiveness, because you have already taken care of the matter before the Lord, you are ready to embrace them and offer forgiveness and love them like Jesus.
Now some people when they are wronged; immediately tell the person who wronged them that they forgive them. Don’t do that. That is not what Jesus told us to do. He said, if they repent, forgive them. Unless the person comes and asks forgiveness don’t try to dispense forgiveness to them, but simply take care of it with your heavenly Father. Some people when someone comes to ask for their forgiveness will try to pretend that it didn’t happen and say, “oh, that was nothing.” Of course it was. Don’t say that. That is being dishonest. Calling sin, sin is not being judgmental or harsh. Being honest and truthful is a must and when sin is brought to the surface and confessed, forgiveness is a must, without pretense or pretending it didn’t happen.
Some people say, well I will forgive but I will never forget. You know why people say that. Because they think that forgetting means you have to get a bout of amnesia and you don’t remember it any more. When the Bible says that God forgives and forgets, it doesn’t mean that the God who knows everything about everybody from before the creation of the world until the end of time, all of a sudden has a bout of amnesia and can’t remember what you did. No! It doesn’t mean that at all. But rather forgetting means that He will not hold it against you. It means that it is not in His account ledger, that He will pull out on payday and say, look what you did here? Forgetting means that you cancel the debt and that you don’t hold it against them, permanently removing the offense from the debt column, though it is not technically forgotten from that moment.
Often when someone wrongs me, I wait until they ask for forgiveness. Not someone on their behalf, but that person, before giving it. But in the meanwhile, in my heart, I deal with it before the Lord and get the debt cancelled. Why? Because it would cancel my life, my walk with the Lord and my ministry. So, I deal with the issue to get it taken care of. I have to admit that at times it is hard, when I haven’t been in His presence enough. My flesh rebels and I have to fight it and pray and ask the Lord for grace and to enable me to let go and forget it, but I do deal with it and if I have to, fight my flesh because I know that as long as I keep something in my spirit against someone, I am being spiritually paralyzed. You cannot affectively show the love of Christ or be a witness for Him or walk in His peace and victory with any grudge or unforgiveness in your heart. And if it is not taken care of, it will continue to fester and turn into a bitterness that will defile you whole life and spirit. Hebrews 12:15 “Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled;” So take care of it through the power of Jesus Christ, take care of it, but not publicly.
First, you must never offer or give forgiveness to a person, unless that person asks for it. If you walk up to someone and say, I forgive you for what you have done, that person might not even be aware that they have done anything wrong, especially if they are an unbeliever. The reason why our Christianity is so mushy, we have preached “Just come to Jesus and make Him your friend.” That’s wonderful, but He cannot be your friend until you have already been convicted that you have sinned against a Holy God and against His Commandments and against His rules and that your heading for disaster without the payment that Jesus Christ made for you. The problem is that the church has preached such cheap salvation and grace that no one even asks for repentance anymore. Until a person comes under conviction that he or she has sinned against a holy God, they can never be born again. Adding Jesus to the list of your friends isn’t’ going to help you. Jesus is a great friend to have but that isn’t going to help you. Jesus is only a friend of sinners who confess their sin and are willing to stop sinning, to those who admit their sin. So the person has to confess personally and then be forgiven. Conviction must precede repentance and when public repentance takes place then public forgiveness should be offered generously and freely.
Second. You must take care of the inward forgiveness immediately and without delay. Don’t sleep on it. It will multiply. Carrying a grudge hinders God’s blessing upon your life. So deal with it inwardly and then wait for God’s time to offer it outwardly and publicly. After the resurrection, Jesus did not rush to Peter and say, “Now Peter, you denied me three times, but I forgive you.” No. Instead He repeated three times, “Peter do you love me” and Peter comes under conviction. And the Lord forgives Him. When did Jesus forgive Peter? How you can tell from scripture. Scripture says that after Peter denied him the third time; Jesus turned and looked at Peter. It was as if He was saying, “It’s alright Peter, I have already forgiven you in my heart.”
When Jesus forgave the crowd that nailed Him to the cross, He didn’t in His agony on the cross, look down and say, People, I forgive you. He prayed to the father, “Father forgive them.” Very few people actually heard Him. It was between Him and the Father. He took care of it on the spot. They don’t know what they are doing. Had He said to the people, “I forgive you” they would have laughed and jeered. Forgive us what, we’ve done the government a favor, we’ve done God a favor, what are you talking about.
But then the scripture tells us that on the day of Pentecost 3,000 people came to Christ in Jerusalem. Some of them were those very ones who stood there under the cross. You talk to the Father about those who have hurt you. Then the Father will give you supernatural power to be able to forgive so that you can keep your heart clean between you and Him. Why should you take care of this very quickly? The Bible says if I regard iniquity in my heart, where no one can see it, where nobody knows but me and God, I’m regarding sin in my heart. If I hide a sin in my heart, if I hold a grudge in my heart, if I entertain a sin in my heart, if I nurture a sin in my heart, if I nurse a sin in my heart, my prayers are not going any further than the ceiling for God will not hear me. Psalm 66:18 “If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me:”
Have you been praying for something for a long time and not had an answer. Something that in your heart you know is consistent with the will of God, maybe, just maybe you are entertaining a grudge in your heart, you are nursing a sin in your heart or nurturing bitterness or resentment in your heart, maybe, just maybe you are not loving like Jesus. If you are not a disciple of Jesus, if you have not come to Him and confessed your sin and received His forgiveness and been born of His spirit, you can try to emulate Jesus all you want, but you can never do it. Because that is the power that Jesus gives to His disciples. If you are His disciple, He wants you to have it. If you are not a disciple of Jesus Christ, if you have never repented of your sins, then you can’t start with asking to be like Jesus or to love like Jesus, you have to start at the cross, humbling yourself and by repentance and faith in what He has done for you, become a disciple of Christ and allow Him to come into your life and forgive you your sins and cleanse you of your sins and then He can put you on the road of being able to Love like Jesus.
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