Welcome to FaithTrack where you will find ways to apply your faith to your daily life.
What are things that you love? We can say that we love so many things - from God, to our family, even to our possessions. Let's take a look at God's love for us and how following the way He loves us can change what we value the most.
Hi, and welcome to the Faith Track. We have spent the last three months exploring what it means to be a disciple and how the term disciple is just another word for dedicated student. So, as we seek to follow Jesus with intention and dedication, we become His disciples. In our time together, we will look at a good number of passages from the Bible. I encourage you to take what we discuss into conversations with others.
For this, we have created a notes page with all the Bible verses and discussion questions. You can find it by going to the sites listed here on the page. In our last session, we looked at how we can lead like Jesus by serving and caring for others. In this session, we are going to be looking at another important aspect of being a disciple, love like no other.
Love is a mysterious and beautiful thing. Love has been the motivation and inspiration for great achievements, acts of Valor, sacrifice, and beautiful poetry. All you need is love. Love. Love is all you need. John the disciple, often further described as the disciple whom Jesus loved or the disciple of love, wrote in his letter that became First John in chapter 4:7-8, “beloved loved one. Let us love one another for love is from God and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God because God is love.” Wow. John noted that God himself is love. In future studies, we can look at the different words used for love throughout the Bible. This type of study reviews beautiful levels and depths of the different types of love.
For our purposes in this session, we will stay a little more general. Let’s pause and think about what we love, what comes to mind. Nuances of the beauty of God’s love are lost in the poverty of our language that uses one word to describe my affection towards God, my wife, my children, my friends, but also my affection towards a car. My favorite pastime, a pair of shoes, a favorite food. I love chocolate, a fun experience, or a witty post on social media. As disciples, I assume we are wanting to follow Jesus better out of our love for Him. In First John 4:19, we are reminded that we love because He, God, first loved us. John also wrote in his account of Jesus’s life that became one of the most known and loved scriptures. John 3:16, “for God so loved the world that He gave His only son that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.” One of the most important things for us to remember is that as disciples, God’s love is what saves us and enables us to love others.
Salvation itself is the receiving and living out of love expressed by God, through Jesus and the cross. Songs and poems remind us that it was love that held Jesus to the cross. It was love that motivated God to send His son to live and die for us. It was love that motivates His forgiveness, grace, and mercy, that we also desperately need.
Jesus said our love for God is shown in how we respond to His love in, and for us. Everything that Jesus said and did was a demonstration of love. The things He asked, invited, and commanded His followers to do, He did so out of love. He said in John 14, 15, “if you love me, you will keep my commandments.”
So, what were the commandments that Jesus highlighted as part of showing His love? As we explored leadership in our last session, we looked at John 13 in the context of the Last Supper. After washing the disciples’ feet, Jesus said “a new commandment I give to you is to love one another, just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this, all people will know that you are my disciples if you have love for one another.”
Part of being a disciple has to do with how we love each other. It should show outwardly that we love Jesus inwardly. Jesus noted that we are to love each other how He loved His disciples and us. So, if we want to do this right, we need to explore what His love looks like. Hopefully, we find that Jesus loves us differently than I love my comfiest pajamas.
Paul wrote to his disciple, Timothy, about a time that would come when love would struggle. In Second Timothy 3:1-5 Paul said, “but understand this then, in the last days, there will come a time of difficulty for people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable slanderous, without self-control, brutal, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness but denying its power. Avoid such people.
Paul said to avoid people like that. But, I think we can assume safely that he would also want us to avoid becoming people like that. We are to avoid people and avoid becoming people who love ourselves. Paul didn’t mean loving self-like self-affirmation, but being consumed with loving and serving ourselves.
Who we love affects who we think about as we make decisions. Who we love affects what we pursue with our time, attention, talents, and money. We can tell a lot about who and what we love by looking at our phones. One example, who are our pictures of movies? When we see something beautiful or someone we love, are we inclined to take a picture to remember the beauty of the moment and focus on that person or thing that we love? Or do we only value it if we can cram ourselves somewhere in the forefront?
What of this focused on ourselves as part of what hurts the church, the body of Christ in our witness to the world the most? We are to love like Jesus. How much of His time and attention was spent on himself? It is true that He practiced self-care and went off and had quiet time alone with His father.
Some of Jesus’ prayers were for strength and replenishment, but what did He do afterward? He went right back to loving and serving His disciples. Those who were entrusted to Him and those who had need. When asked what the greatest commandment was, Jesus replied, “you shall love the Lord, your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment.”
The second is like it. You shall love your neighbor as yourself. What if we did this? What if we love the Lord with all of our hearts, souls, and minds? What if most of our thoughts involved and invited Him in? What if we loved our neighbors, those around us, like ourselves.? What if we came to church, thinking of someone else’s needs? What if we started our day thinking of and praying for what the day would be like for those around us?
What if we even started taking pictures of other people? Who takes the best pictures? Is it not the photographer whose camera is completely designed to capture the image of the other? Focused on the other? I would argue that our lives are meant to be lived more like a photographer than the writer of an autobiography. In his letter to the Philippian church, Paul wrote in Philippians 2:1-3, “so if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the spirit, any affection and sympathy, really, if there’s anything of God there complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind, this isn’t conformity, but unity within community. Rallying around the love and purposes of God do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit but in humility. Count others more significant than yourselves as disciples.”
We love rightly when we take the focus off of ourselves and instead focus on God and others. Rather than looking to be blessed, we are to seek how we can be a blessing for others. This can be described in a simple story, sometimes called the parable of the spoons.
One day, a man said to God, God, I would like to know what heaven and hell are like. God showed the man two doors. Inside the first one in the middle of the room was a large round table with a large pot of vegetable stew. It smelled delicious and made the man’s mouth water. But the people sitting around the table were thin and sickly. They appeared to be famished. They were holding spoons with very long handles and found it impossible to reach into the pot of stew and take a spoonful. But because the handle was longer than their arms, they could not get the spoons back into their mouths. The man shuttered at the sight of their misery and suffering. God said you have seen now. Behind the second door, the room appeared exactly the same. There was the large round table with a large pot of wonderful vegetable stew that made the man’s mouth water.
The people had the same long-handled spoons, but they were well-nourished and plump, laughing and talking. The man said I don’t understand. God smiled. It is simple. He said, love only requires one skill. These people learned early on to share and feed one another while, the greedy only think of themselves. Now the cynic and selfish person in me thinks, well, clearly those in hell, aren’t very smart. They could just grab, you know, farther down the spoon and that’s shortening it and could feed themselves or pick up the pot and eat from it directly. Every parable has its weaknesses, but there’s something of great truth here. When we learn how to love others better, we are opened up to greater joy.
For the practical people in the room, if we are only focused on ourselves and the joy in our lives, we are limited to experience a limited amount of joy. However, if we are focused on the benefit and wellbeing of others, we have an almost endless source of joy as numerous lives encounter blessings. If we are focused on our own struggles and want to deal with our own problems before helping others, we probably will never really be able to help anyone else.
However, when we look around and see the struggles and needs of others, our problems are put in perspective. There’s comfort in walking through hardship together. There’s reassurance in knowing that we aren’t alone. There’s strength in witnessing others overcome hardship, especially when our prayers of encouragement and assistance have played some role in their victory.
Jesus describes imitation in John 15. “This is my commandment that you love one another as I have loved you. There is no greater love than when somebody has laid down his life for his friends.” We are invited to lay down our lives, not through dying and rising. Jesus already did that for us and our friends. However, we are called to serve one another, pray for one another, and spend our lives for the benefit of others. As disciples, we love when we lay down our lives by putting others first. For those who are parents and generous people who are always pouring out for others, we may worry about getting depleted.
Jesus addressed this in John 15, “as the Father has loved me, so I have loved you. Abide and live in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in His love. These things I have spoken to you that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be full.” If we want to love others we need to abide in or live in His love. Jesus said abiding in His love looked like keeping His commandments. This is not meant to be a burden, but a source of joy that our joy may be full. How can adding other people’s needs to ours make us joyful? Attitude is everything.
Again, it’s not conformity. It’s unity in community. Learning to love others changes our attitudes. When something is intentionally entered into by choice and out of love, even the most tedious chore can become a blessing. What would otherwise be draining can be fun and exciting. My wife, Ann, works very hard. She’s a Pilates instructor with clients scheduled throughout the day, nearly every day. This is alongside being an amazing mother to our children and putting up with me since I work a bit more than full-time. I’m in grad school. She ends up doing a lot of the day-to-day cleaning and stuff around the house on top of now doing school at home with our kids.
We actually discussed this early on in our marriage and agreed that whenever one of us was working more, the other would take on more of the responsibilities around the house. With children, cleaning and picking up around the house is an almost endless task. I could easily justify not taking on this task with my workload and in our previous agreement. But I also know that husbands are directed in how to love their wives in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. So, 5:25, “husbands love your wives as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her.” I’m called to love, to sacrificially and abundantly love her. Sometimes that love, it looks like rallying the children for a fun game of trying to make mommy say, wow. How clean the house is after she does a quick trip to the store, emptying the dishwasher before she gets out of bed, vacuuming the floors before she notices it, or cleaning the windows because of how difficult it is. If I do these things as a gesture of love that I get to do, I can enjoy these tedious chores and so can the kids.
God’s love experienced through my quiet times helps make this possible. Reminding myself of His love for me, helps me to love like Him and my kids. My most immediate disciples learn it from me and Anne. The same thing allows us to get filled up on Sunday before church. I’ll say that again. The same thing allows us to get filled up on Sunday before church so that when we go to church, we can come ready to seek after and be part of what other people need as well. Also, be joyful as we do the work. As disciples, we can experience the fullness of joy when we love with a love of a God-influenced attitude.
Let’s remember God’s love is what saves us and enables us to love others. We love fully when we take the focus off of ourselves and focus instead on God and others. We love fully when we lay down our lives by putting others first. We can experience the fullness of joy when we love with a love of God-influenced attitude.
This is the 12th and final part of the discipleship initiative on the topic of discipleship itself. These first 12 weeks have served to help lay the foundation for our three-year model. Going forward, we will spend three months on each of these topics. Our next one will be devotion, how to know God.
I would like to pray, and then we’ll hop over to our zoom conversation. If you are watching this after its original airing, or if you’re unable to join us for the conversation part of tonight, this was meant to be gone through in community. Faith trackers, disciples, always walk things out, at least in pairs. So join us for the conversation if you can, or find another person or group of people to embark on this journey together. Our primary goal is that these teachings would be a tool that can help us dig into these key areas of growth as disciples of Jesus, but also be a place in which we can ask questions and grow. As we move together as a community, let’s pray.
Lord, we thank you first and foremost for your love. You showed us your great love that while we were yet sinners, you died for us. Lord, we thank you through this ongoing gift of grace that we receive as a communication of your love, you invite us to show our love as you love, and we can’t do that apart from you.
Lord, help us to connect into you, to abide in you, and that the passage is taken from where we’re encouraged to abide by your description of you being the vine and we’re the branches. We need to stay connected to you so that fruit can be born in our lives, and that fruit is born through your love being lived out in our lives.
Lord, I pray that you would help us to love well, help us to seek ways to see the needs of others, to be more like a camera than a photographer, than an autobiographer. Lord help us to focus on others, to set down the selfie stick and take up the camera shooting at others Lord. Help us to love well. Help us to love as you love. We do that first and foremost by being filled with your love and then turning that love outward. Lord, I invite you into our conversations. I pray your blessing over each of us as we seek to understand your love well, to receive that love, and to push that love out to others as well.
We invite you into our conversations in Jesus’ name. Amen. All right. So hopefully you can join us for the zoom conversation, but if not, let’s keep talking about these things. Let’s keep growing as disciples of Jesus and we’ll see you next time.
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