Jehovah was not in the wind. And after the wind, an earthquake: Jehovah was not in the earthquake.
And after the earthquake, a fire: Jehovah was not in the fire. And after the fire, a soft gentle voice. (1Kings 19:11-12)

Friday, February 10, 2017

Love that is Going to Cost You Everything

I’m at a loss to merely sketch the cost of love. How do meager words strung together explain something that needs to be proven and established for the whole structure to stand secure?

As I contemplate what love really is, I am humbled and perplexed. Humbled because of the great love that God has demonstrated and perplexed because of many times that I have been nothing but a clanging cymbal.

To be honest, I don’t know if I have ever loved well. Only God knows.

I know I have known great affection. I admit I have gushed how I have loved something. Don’t we say, ever so rashly: “Oh, I love your outfit!” or “Ahh, I love my morning coffee!” or “I love to run barefoot on a sandy beach!”

We may like these things because we savor the taste, or are attracted to the appearance, or feel energized from the exercise, or the beauty around us captivates us.

But, this is not love.

Love is not simply words of friendly appreciation or frisky attraction, or a tantalizing sensation of romance, or sending a dozen red roses on Valentine's Day.

Isn’t it worth the cost of love, if without it you are left with nothing? Not even your own soul.

When we seek to comprehend the love that comes from God, when we trace the love that God has been faithful in demonstrating all through the narratives of His redemptive plan, we will say like John the Baptist: “He must increase, but I must decrease.”

We will see that the Father loves the Son and this love leads to our eternal life.

We will see there is a cost to love.

Real love is not cheap, or comfortable or convenient. On the price tag of love is sacrifice. Our eyes will see that death is at the centre of love, but this is where new life rises.

We behold the perfect, steadfast, loyal, selfless, merciful, unchanging, eternal, self-giving, costly love of God when we look to the cross of Jesus Christ.

We catch a glimpse of this loyal love reflected in the life of Ruth.

We are first introduced to her mother-in-law, Naomi, who had been left a bitter widow and suffered the loss of her two sons in the land of Moab. When Naomi heard that the famine that had come to the “house of bread”, in her home land of Judah, was over she set out to return to Bethlehem.

Ruth, a Moabite widow, gave up everything in order to follow Naomi, her mother-in-law. She left her family, her people, her gods, her prospect of marriage, perhaps any hope of a future and became a foreigner, a stranger, a nobody and clung to Naomi.

Her brief declaration of her loyal love is breathtaking:

“Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there will I be buried. May the LORD do so to me and more also if anything but death parts me from you.” {Ruth 1:16-17}
In her life, Ruth journeyed with loving-kindness, remained true to her promise, and trusted God and she experienced great reward.

She denied herself, loved mercy and walked humbly into a life of redemption and landed herself in the lineage of the promised Messiah.

The cost of this love was denial of self; the result was life.

Paul Miller, in his book, “A Loving Life” points out:

“Ruth’s hesed love of Naomi created the possibility of this resurrection. God’s hesed love of us by the gift of his Son gave us our resurrection as well. That’s what love does. It creates the opportunity for resurrection.”
Behold, what kind of love the Father has had for us! See what love is!

Jesus told his followers:

“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” {John 15:12-13}
Charles Spurgeon summed it up this way:
“Our Savior stripped Himself of all His glories, and by a thousand self-denials proved His love. But the most convincing evidence was given when He gave up His life for us.”
The apostle Paul wrote of this love to the church in Rome:
“For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” {Romans 5:7-8}
The apostle Peter declared not only the cost, but the purpose of God’s great love.
“For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God . . .” {1 Peter 3:18}
That He might bring us to God! God sent the Son of God to bring us to God! It cost Him an agonizing death. The eternal, holy God tasted death that sinners could be covered with the righteousness of Christ and could have eternal life.

God is a pursuing God who is faithful to His own faithfulness. He remains faithful to His love because He remains faithful to Himself.

The Psalmist sang of the faithfulness of our pursuing God, 
“surely goodness and lovingkindness shall follow me all the days of my life . . . ” 

We see a picture of God’s Goodness and Hesed, like two sheep dogs, chasing us down to dwell securely in God’s presence.

And we like sheep, gone astray, each to our own way, struggle to get to the real meaning of love. We don’t really want to face the cost of love. But, God will not stop chasing us with His relentless love. He gave us His beloved Son and He has called us to Himself and to this same love.

The author of 1 John, who brings the reader to the basics of the Christian life, wrote:
“This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.” {1 John 3:16}
A thousand self-denials: that’s how we lay down our lives.

At the right time, God sent the Son of God, who stepped down from heaven, made His dwelling among us, took on flesh that as God-man he would suffer for us.

Peter proclaimed:

"'He himself bore our sins' in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; 'by his wounds you have been healed.'" {1 Peter 2:24}
The cost of his love was his death. The result is that we might die to sin and live for righteousness and lay down our lives with a thousand self-denials.

This love, if shed abroad in our hearts by the power of the Holy Spirit, will lead us on a journey of love. Yes, a love that costs us! Yes, a love that brings us to deny self! Yes, to sacrifice the idol of self!

Although Thomas Watson, lived over three centuries ago, his exhortation tenderly cultivates our souls. He wrote:

“Self-denial lodges but in a few hearts. It is a sacred, exotic herb which has grown very scarce.
Self is an idol, and it is hard to sacrifice this idol; but this must be done.”
Watson explained how this is done:
Love for God will devour self-love. 
Self-denial does not grow in nature's soil. It is a fruit of the Spirit. Beg God that He will plant this heavenly flower in your soul. Say, Lord, whatever You deny me, do not deny me self-denial.
Is this the cry of our contrite hearts: for God to grow in us, by His grace, a greater love for God and for others?

Yes, it will cost us our very lives, a thousand self-denials, daily laying ourselves down, and preferring others above ourselves.

To live a life of love like this is to take up our cross and walk our way home by bearing our cross beam and say with Paul:

“I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” {Galatians 2:20}
Is this a cost you count?

Do you reckon the reward of knowing Christ far richer than the cost of self-denial and death?

Do you consider everything worthless that you may gain Christ?

It is in the garden of our souls that dying to self will result in resurrection and a life of love that bears lasting fruit.

Come back next week as we discover the path of love.

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