Christian Wholeness 101: “What is love?”

This week we consider the place of ‘love’ as a follow-up to last week’s introduction to wholeness.  For I began this series with one concern in mind:  we tend to be fragmented, not whole.  So we are also divided in our devotion.  We look for pleasure in one source or more, progress in another, strength or safety elsewhere, etc.  After all, experience teaches us that nothing in this world can fully satisfy, so we don’t put all of our eggs in any one basket.  For it that basket fell – or worse – if we dropped it, well…  We tend to play it smart and treat life like a mutual fund:  diversify.  And that can make some sense…if our goal is to maximize our gains and minimize risks to our gains.  But is that really smart?

You may have already caught the implied problem:  our natural desire seeks temporary pleasures instead of God who is eternally good. (Ecclesiastes 12:1-8, Matthew 6:19-21, Romans 1:18-25, 2 Corinthians 4:16-18, 1 Peter 1:13-25, etc.)  Still, our relationships, jobs, hobbies, food, etc. may bring some satisfaction right now.  God calls us to a costly life and promises rewards later, sometimes much later.  So how can we love God’s way, knowing it will cost us greatly?  That’s a great question.

In Mark 10:17-31, Jesus addressed that very issue.  A rich young man had asked, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” and then tried to justify himself by listing his many good deeds.  But “Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, ‘You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.’” (Mark 10:21)  The disciples, knowing that all of us cling to some kind of personal treasure(s), were shocked and asked, “Who then can be saved?!”  Jesus’ answer is devastating – or encouraging – depending on the focus of our love.  “With man, it is impossible, but not with God.  For all things are possible with God.” (Mark 10:27)

It’s essential to note that Jesus “loved him”.  But Jesus’ love is for the true blessing of trust and obedience to God who is always faithful, not for mere human pleasures – now or later – in whatever we can get them.  For there are at least two things that only God’s love can accomplish:  changing our hearts by His Spirit and reconciling us to God forever by Jesus’ death on the cross in our place.

Nothing here can wholly satisfy us, because only God is truly good. (Isaiah 55:1-3, Jeremiah 9:23-24, 1 John 2:15-17, etc.)  Everything and everyone in this world is warped because of Man’s desire for independence from God, not joyful trust and obedience to Him.  But just as good parents know their children shouldn’t have everything they desire, God does not seek to gratify our every desire.  His love is much better.  He calls us to long-term joy in Him, and His love graciously includes our costly obedience to peel us away from deadly addictions to this decaying world. (Matthew 21:28-32, Ephesians 2:1-10, 1 Peter 4:1ff, etc.)  Consider these questions and other material on the video.

  • Read Genesis 3:16-19 in context. What’s it like to do even good deeds now?
  • If we re-wrote the marriage vows for personal gratification, how would that go?
  • List some costs and blessings of love in Matt 5:43-48, Luke 14, or Ephesians 5.

 

You can see other articles and the embedded videos in this series here.

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If you’d like to know more about who publishes the articles, videos, and other materials on tools4trenches, you can click on the picture of me and my wife.

 

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