In a recent online service from my church a lady gave her testimony. Her name was not given and her image was blurred so that she couldn’t be recognised. She was born and bred in one of the top ten countries in the world where loving the God of the Bible costs the most. She understood the cross and turned from Islam to Christ. When this was discovered her life was in danger, she had to flee her country leaving her family behind and she has not been able to see them since. As I look at this lady’s life (and others I know like her) I see a person who has lost everything she held dear out of love for the one true God.
This, of course, is extreme persecution which is unimaginable for most of us, but we are warned in Scripture that ‘In the last days everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be Persecuted’ (2 Timothy 3:12-13). In our culture today Christians who have spoken for righteousness and the truth of God’s word have been falsely accused and some have suffered great loss.
Throughout the Bible it is made clear that obedience is a reflection of true love for God. We are told ‘To obey is better than sacrifice’ (1 Samuel 15:22). Obedience is at the heart of true worship. God is not interested in what we think we are doing for Him, but in whether or not we are living in uncompromised obedience to Him. Peter reminds his readers that before they became children of God they lived their lives in ignorance, conformed to their own evil desires (the old nature). However they are now called to live holy lives as obedient children (1 Peter 1:13-16). The beginning of wholehearted obedience is to surrender oneself completely to Jesus, to cease striving and choose to live as He did in obedience to His Father. This leads to spiritual growth in faith, security, blessing and intimacy with God as we face the daily issues of life.
The New Testament makes it clear that how we treat others, and in particular whether or not we love them, is also a reflection of true love for God. In fact it is a serious test. ‘If anyone says I love God yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. And He has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother’ (1 John 4:20-21). I believe that to begin to love people who have deeply hurt us, we must forgive them. This is often a costly journey which begins at the cross when we each understand the enormous price Jesus paid for our forgiveness. Forgiveness is not cheap. When we release others into the freedom of our forgiveness, we ourselves become free - free to truly love God and free to know and experience His love in the depths of our heart.
I have not met many people asking themselves the question, “Do I truly love God?” However, I have met countless people questioning God’s love for them, people longing for an intimate relationship with Him. Our changing feelings don’t change God’s love for us. It is unchangeable, unearned, undeserved and unconditional. However, obedience to the two greatest commandments is a major stepping stone to the Father heart of God. His love is poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom He has given us.
Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank You for Your word which teaches us how to live. We cannot thank You enough for the great sacrificial love shown by the death of Jesus on the cross. May the love of Calvary inspire us to love You as You deserve to be loved and to love others as we are loved by You. Please show us areas of disobedience in our lives that dishonour You and give us grace to turn towards You in repentance for forgiveness and renewal. For the glory of Jesus, Amen.
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