Loving God, Loving Others
I was recently reviewing my 2019 journal to get some perspective, and remember God’s faithfulness and I came across this unusual entry:
“En route to Dalian, China for our final training on this trip. I’ve written very little as the days have been long and exhausting, but I wanted to remember two specific things that have happened on this trip.
First, a series of times in prayer in which the reality of God’s immensity and the intimacy of Him speaking with me has been manifested in a way I can’t quite describe. There has been a rawness and honesty in my conversation with Him and a greater sense of His majesty and holiness. I have a growing conviction in my heart of how little I really know of You Lord, and a mixture of desire accompanied by fear of what it would mean to know You far more fully.
Second, I’ve experienced a compassion and love for these pastors here in this rural and remote area that is hard to articulate. As I’ve looked at their smiles, their challenging conditions, their zeal, and their love for Jesus it drew me powerfully to them. Even the unlovely among them from a human standpoint seem to actually draw me to them, like the Lord was giving me “new eyes” to see.
I vividly sensed that I was among God’s royalty. These marginalized, poor, honest, simple, minimally educated pastors and preachers serve with no promise or even hope of secondary reward like fame, acceptance, money, upward mobility or career advancement. Theirs is to simply love and serve Jesus, to help others who have little in the way of the world’s assets. They live and minister in a place of demand, challenges and restrictions, and yet do so with joy and love for the glory of God and an eternal reward.”
I share that entry with you for two reasons. First, because they were very powerful experiences that reminded me that the Lord is actually able to grant us the ability to obey Jesus’ greatest commands—loving God and loving others. Second, because in February, I think all of our minds turn to relationships. We are reminded that what really matters is God and people, and loving both well.
So why do we “try so hard” to love God and others, yet have to confess we do it so poorly? Why did I need to describe the journal entry as an “unusual one” instead of my normative experience?
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A Christian counselor was asked, “what’s the biggest lie that people believe?” He answered, “they believe that God will come through for other people, but not for them. They believe that God loves you, but He doesn’t love me.” He concluded the key ingredient to breaking free of that lie is grasping that “passion for Jesus comes from understanding how much He desires you.”
In other words, that little phrase at the end of the second commandment is of the utmost importance. We must love others as we love ourselves. Not in some self-centered, narcissistic love of ourselves. But instead seeing ourselves as God sees us: redeemed, significant, wanted, valued, and deeply loved just for who we are.
As we launch fully into 2020, I still believe “what comes into our mind when we think about God is the most important thing about us” (A. W. Tozer). But I would add today, the second most important thing about us is what comes into our mind when we think about ourselves.
We can’t give away what we don’t have. The Apostle Paul in Ephesians 5:1 commands us to “be imitators of God, as dearly loved children.” In other words, loving others must flow out of a deep sense of being loved by God and actually believing that it’s true.
We live in a world that says that how we look, who we know, how much we accomplish, how much money we have, what school we graduated from, and what other people think is what makes us valuable. This performance orientation is lethal to our soul and our relationships.
And that’s why this year we’re going to get to the root of the problem. The first three chapters of Ephesians describe how God sees each one of us “in Christ” and will be the foundation of our study together as we get a high, accurate, holy view of how God sees each one of us. Each month this will be the focus of Coffee Break and I will provide resources and tools to help you begin to see yourself the way God sees you.
I hope you will read and ponder the truth in the booklet enclosed in this letter, then pass it on to a friend. I believe it will help you take a first step toward Discovering Your True Self.
You’ll read about the journey that Theresa and I have been on to learn to see ourselves the way God sees us. You’ll learn how to identify lies and replace them with truth.
My heart breaks for sincere Christians who continue to try so hard to love God and love others while they secretly don’t even like themselves. For some, it’s an awakening just to realize this is the core issue. For others, it’s moving from an intellectual understanding to an experiential conviction so that Christ’s love can flow out of their heart into others.
I invite you to join me this year to Discover Your True Self. We love because He first loved us; now it’s time to experience that love like never before—then pass it on!
Thank you for your prayers and your generous financial support that allows us to continue to develop new material like this and share it with millions across America and around the world.
Let’s join hands this year to rescue the next generation, to mobilize Christ’s people for impact, and fuel the supernatural movement of God in China and the Middle East. To that end, this is my prayer:
Holy Father, I ask that you will strengthen everyone who reads this letter in their inner man, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit they might grasp the “breadth and length and height and depth, and to know (by way of experience) the love of God that surpasses knowledge, that they might be filled up to all the fullness of God.” -Ephesians 3:16
Let’s keep pressing ahead together,
CEO & Teaching Pastor, Living on the Edge