Jesus asks three things of us, self-denial, sacrifice, and obedience. When put together you get the perfect display of what true love is…a totally surrendered heart. This isn’t white flag surrender, begging for His mercy. This is come before the good King and asking Him to bring you into His service. It is an allegiance to Him that flows out of love for Him.
When we come before His throne He asks us…Do you love Me?
How do we love God? Do we love Him like a friend, someone we admire? Do we love him like a sibling, a parent, someone who is family? Or does the love go deeper like the love we have for a spouse, willing to give of our time, energy, and resources to show we love Him? Scripture is clear, we really don’t understand love until we understand His love for us. “We love Him because He first loved us.” The love that flows from knowing how much He loves us, stirs our hearts to desire to love Him in return. Still it is hard to love God the way He loves us.
If you love Me deny yourself.
To deny ourselves, is to look at others and see what they need. Sometimes it is something physical that we have to pull from our own provision to provide. If we act out of self-interest we will only give of our surplus, the old coat we don’t wear anymore, the couple of dollars in our purse, a few minutes of our time. David wisely said that he would offer nothing to the Lord that cost him nothing. True love gives not just out of abundance but sacrificially. Children know this. Nothing makes a child happier than when a parent takes time out of their day to be present with them, sharing a meal or playing together. That sacrifice of time is an expression of love.
Likewise, when we give the widow’s mite, all that we have, to someone who has need, or a missionary, or ministry that does the Lord’s work, we stop thinking of our own needs and start putting love first. To deny ourselves, reaches down to the heart of our will. We must stop looking out for our own interests. We must stop weighing how much it is going to cost us to act out of love. Nothing causes us more discomfort than loving beyond what is comfortable for us, but the more we deny ourselves and give from our hearts the more we become like God who gave to us sacrificially, His very life. Which leads us to the next thing Jesus asks of us…
If you love Me take up your cross daily.
DAILY, is the word that most people find hard. It is easy to selflessly give one day and then go back to focusing on your own needs and desires for a while. But Jesus asks us to daily take up the will of God. Our cross is always a sacrifice or burden of some kind. But while it is sometimes heavy laden and hard, it is not overwhelming in the light of love. What makes the way of the cross beautiful instead of burdensome is Jesus’ love for us. Jesus knew that His death would bring us eternal life so He offered Himself up as an act of unconditional love toward us.
Rarely are we called to give up our life for someone else, but that is how we are to live. There is a reason we admire “heroes” who risk their lives for others. It is because it is done out of sacrificial love for the life of another. It is what we all really want someone to be for us. We don’t realize that we are all called to be that way for others. Whatever burdens we bare by reaching out in love are worth the cost because then others can see God’s definition of love through us. And the more we pour ourselves out, the more He fills us with His love. Which leads to the third thing Jesus asks of us…
If you love Me follow Me.
There is no greater love story than God’s. It is woven throughout scripture and history. When Jesus came down and lived among us, He set the example of how to live out love. He calls out to us follow Him. Like the disciples, we are to stop slaving away to try and secure the world’s ideals and put our time, energy, and resources, into what He calls us to do. For some it will only be a change of heart for the work they are already doing. For instance, the Lord has called some to be parents, but there is a huge difference between a parent who tries to raise a child worthy of being loved and a parent who loves a child unconditionally and teaches the child how to love.
Satan twists truths around lies. When it comes to surrendering to God, one of the lies Satan feeds us is that we can never be worthy of being loved by God. He is right. We can’t earn God’s love, but we don’t have to. He loves us unconditionally. Yet the world tells us we have to “do” and “be” worthy of love. We have to gain people’s approval. It is an impossible standard that sets us on the treadmill of doing things to please people instead of God. Then we carry that over to the church earning God’s love. But the truth is that only when we acknowledge His love for us and follow Him in sharing the love He gives us with others do we truly become lovable. Not everyone will love us, just as they didn’t love Him, but they won’t be able to deny that we love them.
So I encourage you all to read the gospels this Lent and count the ways surrendered love is shown, from Mary’s sweet abandon of her life to God’s will to the resurrection of our Lord-the love that conquered death. Sweet abandon allows us to see Him in everyone. And when we deny ourselves, take up our crosses, and follow Him every word and act towards another becomes a direct ministering to the Lord. We show our love to Him by devoting ourselves to taking care of the people He came to save.
How has God shown His love to you recently? Have you tried to love someone else that way? Leave a comment below.