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Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Journey to the Center of My Soul

Matthew 22:36-39 (NIV) 36 "Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?" 37 Jesus replied: "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'
What is left in my heart, soul or mind if I have loved God with all of them?

There is nothing left but the love of God. This love enables all other love to flow through me. It is central to my being.

Yet, I also find:

Luke 14:26-27 (NIV) 26 "If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters--yes, even his own life--he cannot be my disciple. 27 And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.

How can there be hate in my life if love has filled my heart, soul and mind?

What Jesus is trying to tell us is absolutely foreign to much of the preaching and teaching that I hear today. This preaching says that we must put God first in lives as if He is on a list with other things. Jesus does not say this at all. He puts God in a totally different category as all other things in our lives. He makes God to be the center of the life of a disciple rather than simply someone that we love more than other things or other people.

The Matthew statement by Jesus says that we should love others as ourselves. It is obvious that Jesus is saying that we should love ourselves and our neighbors. The Luke statement says that we must hate our own lives if we are to be His disciples. Many people want to make this an act of comparison. In other words, they say our love for Jesus should be so great that the love we have for our wives, children and own lives is really hate in comparison. That explanation doesn't really for the logical conclusion is continually neglecting our families and ourselves in defference to God if we are to be true disicples. This is not compatible with other scriptures.

Paul tells us:

Galatians 5:22-23 (NIV) 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

Many scholars point out that "fruit" is singular. The verb "is" is also singular. However, many people want to claim that there are nine "fruits" of the Spirit. If this was true both "fruit" and "is" would be plural. This means that the fruit of the Spirit is love by which all other qualities spring forth. This means that the love that I have brings joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. This means that the love that I have through the Spirit is central to my character.

The love that I have for God is also central to my ability to love myself, my spouse, my children, my neighbor or anything that deserves to be loved. This love, when it is at the center of my soul, orders all other characteristics in my life. God must be central rather than merely first.

Putting God first is elevating all the other loves to be on the same list as God. This is like putting God in "first class" while everything else rides in "coach." However, you are the only flight attendant and the person screaming the loudest will get the most attention. Thus, you may say He is riding in first class but you must leave Him behind to handle all those who are riding in coach. Thus, our lives are conflicted with ambiguities of importance. We run to where we think we must while occasionally touching base with God to tell Him that He is really first.

We need to see God as the plane rather than the passenger. We ride on the plane with all of the other things and people that have some importance in our lives. We must stay on the plane or we can't act rightly toward all those other things.

He is at the very core of our souls. Everything else and how we treat those things must come from being with Him. We center our souls upon Him and we live according to His will toward everything else. This is not merely putting Him first! This is making Him completely central to all our character and relationships.

When someone says that we must put God first, I reply, "That's not enough." In fact, I believe that it is impossible to be consistent in trying to live our lives that way. I know that my day must begin with my devotion to God who is at the center of my soul or I will not be able to act in a godly manner to the world around me. I will sometimes treat my neighbor, wife, children and even myself without the love of God. I certainly will fail at being Jesus' disciple.

So I pray: Lord Jesus, be the center of my soul by which I will make all decisions today. I hold nothing back from You. I love You with all my heart, soul and mind. Please order my life as You will. Amen.


Anthony Chia said...

There are people who have problem with this Matthew passage (Matt 22:36-39): They say it is oxymoron or self-contradictory! The argument is that we are called to love God with all of us, with all of our heart, all of our soul and our mind, and then we are told to also love our neighbors; “where got room anymore!” Since all is used up in loving God, can there be any room left for anything, including loving our neighbors?

Call Him a jealous God, call Him a demanding God or call Him a “all or nothing” God, the point is that He is God and is a holy God; His wisdom and His holiness, working together give rise to His righteousness. Everyone just needs to conform to this righteousness, which is coming from the nature attributes of God. God is like that, it is Him; He has no choice, for He is governed by who He is. And we have no choice, for we are His Creation. No one creates something to irk himself! If what is created irks him, does he NOT have every right to destroy it or re-create it? Shall the clay talk back to the Potter or man, to God? (Romans 9:19-21 – The Potter and the clay). Scripture talked about who knows the mind of God; and it is the Spirit of God who knows the mind of God. Can the Spirit be at odd with God? Never! For the Spirit is always right on, with God. For the Spirit knows what is on God’s mind, what He is thinking, wanting, desiring, and what He wants to do, and when He wants to do a thing. In other words, the Spirit is always right with God, and what is right, is about “what is right in God’s eyes”, and NOT in any other. The “rightnesses” of God is His righteousness.

The Holy Spirit is always righteous, for He is always right with God, or we say He is in sync with the righteousness of God. Even Jesus spoke of the Holy Spirit that way: Jesus said that when He (Jesus) was gone (back to Heaven), the Holy Spirit would be sent, He (the Holy Spirit) would NOT speak or do anything of His own, but only that which He gets from God (which incl. Jesus Himself). You may say, “This is well and good, but what does it got to do with love, and the Matthew passage?” It is because it has everything to do with God and with love; wisdom, holiness, and consequently, righteousness, are everything to God, and are everything to matter of love or God’s love. Because of God’s holiness, God can only move in righteousness! His wisdom enables Him to do that. There is no other way; Scripture said God is holy, and in Him there is no darkness at all. There is no evil or wickedness in God. God just cannot move in any wickedness; He only moves in righteousness, and, and this is an important truth and revelation, it is that ultimately, God can only love Man unto righteousness (`ahab love). Look up this “`ahab love”, I did NOT make up this `ahab love, you can check it out in the Strong’s Lexicon; it is just that so many people just preached about agape love, a dimension of God’s love revealed more fully in the New Testament. People had side-stepped that which was already revealed in the Old Testament about the love of God, and that it was a love unto righteousness, even as it was an unconditional love. The word, “agape” came from the Greek language, the language of the New Testament Scriptures. The Greek understanding however was NOT adequate, for their love language, so to speak, had no idea of loving unto righteousness, but “agape” is the closest love word to use (there are a few Greek love words). To me, if we do NOT want to use the Hebrew phrase of ‘ahab love, then agape love should be redefined to include love unto righteousness. Now, it should make more sense! Let me explain further below.

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Anthony Chia said...

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Now, God can only move in righteousness, and so also, God can only love men unto righteousness. Just as the Spirit can never be at odd with God, the only way men can be NOT at odd with God is for men to “read the mind of God”! Of course, men cannot read the mind of God like the Holy Spirit. But the idea is still that men are to be righteous, which ultimately is about being right on, with God, fully agreeing with what is on God’s mind (How can men know what is on God’s mind or what God considers as right? Through the Word and through the Holy Spirit). In order to be in harmony with God, we must be moving also in the ways of God. What is God’s ways? Righteous ways, according to His righteousness. So, when we love, we must also love righteously, for God loves us unto righteousness. So, we have established that when we love God, we are to love Him, righteously. Yah, what does it got to do with the “all” as in with all our heart, all our soul and all our mind?

The “all” is to denote the requirement to love God according to His righteousness; for that is the only way we can be in harmony with God; that is the only way it is acceptable to God, for He is a holy and righteous God. The “all” is to emphasize that there is no room for righteousness according to any other, NOT that of other deities, men, ourselves. Of course, we should be clear that the fallen men have no acceptable standard of righteousness as far as the strict holiness of God demands (although in Old Testament times, I believe God did prescribe highest achievable standards (temporal), instead of The Standard); Scriptures put it that all have fallen short. So, one must realize that the Matthew passage is NOT to be read literally as you will have no love to give to another, or that there cannot be any hatred in your heart. In a nutshell, it is right to look upon our love for another, as “I love you with the love of God”. It is NOT wrong that we have no more love OF OUR OWN for anyone else; for ALL of our love is (you are supposed to) directed to God. Therefore, correctly, when we love others (other than God), we love with His love; likewise, we hate, with His hatred! You don’t get?! Let me explain below:

Because when we love God, we love Him in accordance to His righteousness (you are supposed to), and so, you will do according to what God would do, as directed by His righteousness; remember we say God can only move according to His righteousness. Because we will (you are to) 100% subscription to His righteousness in our love for Him, we therefore, accordingly are to move according to His righteousness. God’s righteousness calls for loving men unto righteousness, and so, accordingly, His righteousness also called for men to love one another unto righteousness. So, when we love our neighbors, we are moving in His love, because we are fully subscribed to His righteousness; or put it in another way, we love (another) with the love of God. When we hate (another), we, likewise, can only do it according to the righteousness of God. Can we say we hate with the hatred of God? Why NOT? There is no evil or wickedness in God, but God does hate! What does God hate? Evil, wickedness, sins, that which is in opposition to His righteousness. Of course, a more pleasant way of saying the same is “We hate (another) with the love of God”, for the love of God is love unto righteousness.

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Anthony Chia said...

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Incidentally, spouses and loved ones, with correct understanding of this, will NOT be upset with their spouses or loved ones, when they are being told that they are loved with the love of God. If the person loved you with the love of God, that is the best love he can give you, and you should be happy that he love you with the love of God, and NOT the love of His own, for the love of God is love unto righteousness, and is the only love that gives life. If the person gives you his own love, He has NOT loved God with all His heart, all his soul and all his mind, and so he is NOT in perfect harmony with God. Would you rather he, be in perfect harmony with God, or to love you with his own love? If you demand he loves you with his own love, you are NOT loving God with all your heart, all your soul and all your mind, for the righteousness of God demands that he gives all of his love to God. You want to love God with all your hearts, all your soul and all your mind, then let him to do likewise!

Similarly, the second commandment (by the way, when Jesus said “the first and the second”, the connotation is obvious, there are some more commandments we need to follow) which stated that we are to love our neighbors “as ourselves”, was indicative that it was with God’s love that we are to love our neighbors with, for God’s love your neighbors as much as He loves you. So, if you are with your neighbor, and God gives you a pie, what is the thing to do? Think about that. What standard of righteousness God demands!

That Matthew passage is NOT oxymoron or self-contradictory! Be opened, and receive this revelation of love; and then strive to walk in it, even as I am trying.

With the above understanding, it is NOT difficult to understand and interpret the Luke passage (Luke 14:26-27) that Jesus talked about the need for us to hate! Very simply, it was saying that we are to deny everything and everyone, including ourselves, if it or the person, conflicts with the righteousness of God. Jesus knew it is NOT easy for men; that was why he said “carry your cross and follow Me”.

Those who have understanding of what I said about love, can appreciate such sayings of Jesus that those who love God obeys His commands, and those who obeys His commands are the ones who love Him. It is all because the love Jesus was talking about, is love unto righteousness (`ahab love). The righteousness of God is given to us in His commands, in His Word, and through the Spirit. Also, those who argue that Jesus came to do away laws and commandments, have no right understanding of the subject of love. To explain this specifically would take another article, but the above should be basis enough for this claim of their poor understanding.

Ps Prentis is right, love for God is NOT first, as in at the top of a list; rather it is TOTAL, ALL. We are to have only ONE love, LOVE FOR GOD; everything else is we are moving in accordance to righteousness of God. When the righteousness of God calls for love, we love, when it calls to hate, we hate, and when it calls to forgive, we forgive. Amen.