Letting Love Motivate Us-Part II

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I think about the prophets in the Old Testament. They lived in a time when God’s chosen people were in blatant sin and rebellion. They had broken every command that God had given and on top of that had made idols with their own hands, worshipped the false gods of the nations around them, even going as far as offering their own children to the god Molech by casting them into the furnace. These profits had to preach a ‘turn or burn’ message. These were the words that God gave them to speak. But those men, most of them, prayed for mercy, wept and lamented over the sin of their people, sorrowed over their sure destruction. What kept them motivated? God’s promises. His promise to Abraham that he would father a great nation. His promise to David, that one of his descendants would sit on the throne forever. God’s promise to save a remnant who He would bring back to the Beautiful City, Jerusalem, and His promise of a savior, the Messiah. The promise of His continued love, to those who did as He commanded.

We have it so much easier. We don’t have to shave our heads, cook over cow dung, marry a prostitute, tell our families and neighbors that the enemy will triumph over them, will dash their babies to peices. We get to tell them that God loves them, wants to bless them. Our object lesson is LOVE. We get to show them how much they mean to the one who created them. We can’t be like Jonah, with his attitude of, “they should get what they deserve.” He is a great example of a prophet that was NOT motivated by love. God had to force him to go and tell Nineveh that He was giving them another chance.

God never asked us to quote scripture at people. We use scripture to learn about God, and who He is, encourage ourselves and one another, those in our family, who know the language of heaven. We use them to declare God’s will over our lives and those of others. Quoting scripture to someone who isn’t saved is like speaking French to a Mexican, they aren’t going to understand what you are talking about. God did ask us to show people how much He loves them. It is important we know scripture, that we are intimate with the Word. But that isn’t so that we can prove our expertise and by our understanding of scripture somehow convince the lost of God’s love. They don’t recognize God’s word as TRUTH. They don’t know it’s alive and living. Think of it this way. If you told your husband at the breakfast table that it was against Canadian law to eat toast on Tuesdays, what would he say. “I’m not Canadian.” Or if one of your children tells a friend, “you can’t watch that pg13 movie, my dad doesn’t allow it” what would you expect the friend to say? “He’s not my dad.” So why do we think giving an unsaved person scripture about do’s and don’ts will convince them they need to be saved. They aren’t part of the same family, or a citizen of heaven like we are.

There are Churches who quote scripture, (mostly out of context) who are portraying God as a hard task master who is ready to punish them for their sin or who hates them because of their sin. They interrupt funerals of fallen military men and women, screaming at mourning family members. They stand on street corners and spout off about the end of the world, doom and destruction. How many people are they bringing into the Kingdom. The media depicts God as a foolish old man, or an angry deity ready with a bolt of lightning. They depict Christians as bigots, and self-righteous, and unforgiving people. Or even worse, they show us as the crazy psycho people who live in corn fields, killing torturing others.

We are all appalled by those things, but is it any better when we turn a cold shoulder to someone in need? When we are more concerned with how someone looks or smells, than the condition of their soul? How are we portraying God when we are too distracted to help, too busy to go out of our way for someone who needs Him. God says that it is HIS GOODNESS that turns hearts to repentance. He uses us to show them His goodness.

I John 3:17 “If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person?”

Hebrews 13:16 The Message (MSG) “ Make sure you don’t take things for granted and go slack in working for the common good; share what you have with others. God takes particular pleasure in acts of worship—a different kind of “sacrifice”—that take place in kitchen and workplace and on the streets.”

We all have ample opportunity to show God’s love. It starts in our homes and radiates out through our lives to those we touch in small ways throughout our days. We have to be ‘rooted and grounded’ in His love. If we aren’t we’ll reflect the world around us, instead of the Father’s heart. God’s love is ‘shed abroad’ in our hearts by the Holy Spirit. Not confined in a closet. Shed abroad. Scattered to the wind, cast on many waters, an endless supply, and more than we will ever need. His love doesn’t run out. It is there for us personally, and then more for us to share. We can’t always love people with our own human emotions, let’s face it, some people are hard to love. But we can always love people with His love. It isn’t an emotion. It is a gift, we just have to choose to use it.

Sometimes we can backslide into a place where we aren’t motivated by love anymore. We may be working out of a sense of duty or for self seeking reasons. A good litmus test is found in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7:

The Message (MSG)
If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.
Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.
Love doesn’t strut,
Doesn’t have a swelled head,
Doesn’t force itself on others,
Isn’t always “me first,”
Doesn’t fly off the handle,
Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,
Doesn’t revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Puts up with anything,
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end.

Have you given up on someone? Do you look back on their past mistakes? Are you waiting for them to fail? Do you lose patience and are easily irritated with others? (That was a big one for me!) Are you filled with pride and self-righteousness? Do you put yourself constantly before others? (Now I am not saying don’t take care of yourself, especially you mom’s, we have to have time for us and down time, that’s not what I am talking about). If you answered yes to any of these things, or all of these things, then check your motives.
We know we are walking in love when we expect the best for others, put them first and keep going, keep praying for them.

Isn’t that what God has done, and continues to do for us?

What Does God Want?

Really, what does He want? You could ask dozens of people and get dozens of different answers. Those answers would range from- obedience, praise and worship, money (tithes and offerings), time, energy, loyalty, attention, commitment, and the list could go on. All of those things are true, but doesn’t that make God sound like some ego-maniacal, dictator who lounges on a throne demanding attention and glory? Who wants that for a Father?
Simply put, God wants you. I know cliché. But He wants your heart. He asks all of those other things from you because those things benefit us. Let’s break this down a little. God doesn’t need your money, but He asks us to give 10% (tithe for the running of the Church and the support of the staff) and offerings (to help others), because He knows that “if we give, it will be given back to us”. (Luke 6:38). Also when we give to God, He promises to “Open the windows of heaven and pour out a blessing” (Mal 3:10). God wants us to praise Him because praise “stills the enemy and the avenger” (Ps 8:2), it makes Satan shut up and stops his actions against us. He asks us to work because He works with us (I Cor. 3:9). He doesn’t sit while we work, in fact “He works while we wait.” We work because the Church toilets need cleaning, those little noses in nursery need wiped. Those things bring us together as a family.
God is love! He doesn’t just possess, show, or talk about love, He is love. It is the very nature of God (I John 4:7). That’s why He loves everyone. He loves the drug addict, the prostitute, the serial killer, the child molester, everyone! But don’t be deceived they are not His children, or part of His family. His children are the ones who have surrendered their lives to Him. Those are the ones he promises to take care of. Because He is love and He wants all to be His children, He asks us to work together with Him to build His family. He doesn’t want this love to remain one sided. What does it benefit them if He loves them, but they never experience love for Him? Those others who have Satan as their father (and they don’t even know it), they need to be reached. They need to know God’s love. How can they be reached if we aren’t co-laboring with Christ.
Our ‘work’ for God, those things all mentioned in the first paragraph, and any other thing God may have asked of us, should come out of our love for God. If they are coming out a sense of obligation, duty or fear, the motivation is wrong. Even worse if they are coming out of self-righteousness and pride, it’s going to be harmful to you instead of helpful. What motivates your work? It’s easy to “grow weary in well doing” (Gal. 6:9) if we have the wrong attitude. I know I’ve been there. I’ve screamed in my head, “What do you want from me!” on more than one occasion. I had allowed the thoughts to take root in my heart that I was doing so much for him already, but that somehow that wasn’t enough, that He was demanding more. That I was lacking. Those are just a bunch of ugly lies, God doesn’t demand, we have a choice. At my worst moments of fear, illness, weakness and depression, God patiently reminded me that He loved me, that He wasn’t asking for a slave (being forced), but that He wanted a daughter who served from a heart of thankfulness and love. I had gone back to Egypt (slavery) when He wanted me in the Promised Land (a place of rest, provision and peace).
God showed His love for us through the ugliness and the shame on the cross. Jesus not only poured out His life’s blood on that tree, but also His great love and longing for us. When we know Him, (not know about Him with our reasoning mind, but know Him intimately in our hearts), we understand what He wants. He wants a relationship with Him, two way conversations, and fellowship. He wants us to spend time with Him, not in work or service but in relationship. Get these pictures in your head. First think about how you feel when your child obediently cleans their room, to the best of their ability. Now think of your little one sitting on your lap, with each of their little hands on either side of your face, looking into your eyes, and saying “I love you”. Which one touches you more?
Sure their room needs cleaned and we have to teach them responsibility, it’s for their own good after all (sounding familiar?), but first we want their love. The Church needs cleaned, bills need paid, and the lost need reached. But first and most importantly we need to accept God’s love for us, and love Him back, build a better relationship with Him. We don’t do that by work, but by sitting in His lap. All of those other things will get done and with the right motivation. Sounds easier, freer, and way more fun!
“Yes I have loved you with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness I have drawn you.” Jeremiah 31:3