The Shepherd of Hope blog is here to serve you, to help you know Jesus better and to find hope in Him. This blog relies on the Spirit of God using the word of God to build people of God. All material has been prayerfully submitted for your encouragement and spiritual edification. Your questions and comments are welcome.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Judas Left, Jesus Loved.


“So, when he had gone out. . . .” – John 13:31a

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” – John 13:34-35

 

What are you living for? What is your life purpose? Can you narrow it down to a single thing? Are you living aimlessly? Or do you have a target, an objective that drives and directs you each day? Is it the right objective? Are you accomplishing that objective? If you do reach your objective do you receive a sense of accomplishment when you do or is there emptiness? If you do feel a sense of accomplishment does it last?

What is your desired heritage? What do you want to leave behind? When you die and people are parading past your open casket what will you want them to think of you? When you’re eulogized what will you want people to remember most about you? What will your legacy be? Will it be something like the following?

  • “They were good at making money”  
  • “They could really make a sale”
  • “They built a company”
  • “They were a hard worker; faithful in attendance; trustworthy on the job”
  • “They were brilliant”
  • “They could really argue their point”
  • “They furthered their cause”
  • “They were the best in their field”
  • “They built a mega church” 
  • “They wrote books”
  • “They were a great preacher; a great teacher”
  • “They could really add those souls-saved-notches to their belt”
  • “They were faithful”
  • “They gave everything away to the poor”
  • “They died a martyr’s death”
  • “They built a family”
  • “They put their kids through college”
  • “They overcame so many trials in life”
  • “They fought to the end”

I could go on and on. People are remembered for a lot of things. At funerals even scoundrels are presented in a favorable light (usually). But what would Jesus have us be remembered for? What does He care most about? In the end, when we stand before Jesus, what will He be looking for most in us? That is what I would like to consider in this teaching.

The last night Jesus would share with His disciples before he went to the cross He shared His heart with them. The last words of a dying man are packed with meaning. Whether their words are few or many, they contain profound messages. Last words voice the most important points the dying wish to make. Last words are a punctuation and often an exclamation to the life of the departing. John gives us the most details about Jesus’ last words to His disciples.

So, when he had gone out, . . .” (John 13:31a). Final words are sacred. Final words are usually made to a chosen few. Not everyone is privileged to be present when final words are uttered. Final words are for those most valued, most loved. Sometimes people choose to disregard or remove themselves from the privileged position of hearing one’s last words. To do that is the highest of slights. It is a statement that the one uttering the final words is not worth listening to. It is the ultimate disrespect. That is what Judas chose to do.

Judas departed to betray the love of his Master Jesus. Judas acted in the most unloving way. Judas left in His mastered hour of greatest need. But Jesus stays and begins to explain His greatest message. Jesus could have left the disciples. He could have run from the scene. He could have fled the cross. He could have run away. He had every reason to leave a group of people who persistently didn’t get His message or understand His mission. But Jesus stayed and loved. This final night began with the comment, “having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end” (John 13:1). In thought, word and deed Jesus loved to the very end. Many times love is determined by whether or not we leave or stay. Love is quenched when a person leaves or betrays in some way. Judas left, Jesus loved, Judas betrayed, Jesus stayed.

“Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man is glorified, and God is glorified in Him. 32 If God is glorified in Him, God will also glorify Him in Himself, and glorify Him immediately.” (John 13:31b-32).  While Judas embarks on his devilish work, Jesus declares the glory of God in all of it. Satan thinks he is defeating Jesus. But in truth Satan is serving God’s purposes and ultimately will be used by God to work His greatest victory. For Jesus, the most important thing was not that He was betrayed or even that He would die, but that God would be glorified. Is that our greatest ambition and concern; that God would be glorified? It should be. But how do we glorify God? Jesus “is glorified, and God is glorified in Him” as He teaches and ultimately demonstrates His love.  

 Little children, I shall be with you a little while longer. You will seek Me; and as I said to the Jews, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come,’ so now I say to you.” (John 13:33). Jesus speaks to His disciples as spiritual children. There was an immaturity about them. They were missing something. They have reached their limit to follow Him as presently spiritually constituted. What were they missing? What were they lacking?

Jesus is going to the cross. The cross is the height of spiritual perfection. The cross of Christ is humanities’ basis for eternal life. The cross of Christ is the greatest demonstration and fulfillment of the love of God. And Jesus will now explain the purpose of what He is about to do at the cross. Jesus is going in a sense where no one else can go; the cross. But Jesus is also going in a sense where anyone who wants to experience His abundant life must go; the cross. But what is the cross all about? The disciples don’t yet get Jesus purpose. They need to understand the “why” of what Jesus is doing.

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. 35 By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35). As Jesus prepares to go to the cross He expresses the motivation behind all that He is submitting Himself to go through. The pinnacle of Jesus last words to His disciples is “a new commandment I give you, that you love one another.” This new commandment is about love. But this wasn’t anything new. The Old Testament taught about love. Deuteronomy is an Old Testament book filled with exhortations to love God and love others (e.g. Deuteronomy 6:5; 11:1, 13; 13:3; 19:9; 30:6, 16, and 20). The Old Testament provides Gods’ instruction to love our neighbor (Leviticus 19:18). Song of Solomon and Hosea are love stories about God and His people. So in what way is Jesus teaching on love a new commandment?

This is a new commandment from Jesus in “that you love one another; as I have loved you.” Jesus was not talking about a stone cold law. Jesus was not talking about a touchy feely secular worldly love. Jesus lived a life that exemplified a costly self-giving, self-sacrificing love. He calls His disciples to love and He does not leave the nature of such love up to speculation. Jesus says, “as I have loved you.” The love we are to show others is the love of Jesus. And if we aren’t loving or willing to love like Jesus then we can’t progress in our spiritual maturing. Whenever we don’t love we stall and stand still in our walk with the Lord. Lack of love is what makes us spiritually childish.

If we want to look at the nature and definition of the love with which we, as Jesus’ disciples, are to love, we have to look at Jesus. How do we love like Jesus? When we look at the Gospel of John we see the love of Jesus in the following summary:

  1. Jesus demonstrated His love by leaving everything to reach those He loved – John 1:1-18
  2. Jesus demonstrated His love by inviting people to be His disciples and learn from Him by being with Him – John 1:35-42
  3. Jesus demonstrated His love by taking time to explain things to them – John 1:43-51
  4. Jesus demonstrated His love by attending events like weddings with people  - John 2
  5. Jesus demonstrated His love by meeting privately with people and sharing the gospel with them – John 3
  6. Jesus demonstrated His love by making time for sinners and talking with outcasts – John 4
  7. Jesus demonstrated His love by taking time to heal people – John 4:46-54; 5:1-15; 9:1-41
  8. Jesus demonstrated His love by feeding people physically – John 6
  9. Jesus demonstrated His love by teaching truth at the risk of being rejected – John 6
  10. Jesus demonstrated His love by pressing on in ministry even though family members opposed Him – John 7:1-36
  11. Jesus demonstrated His love by offering them refreshing in the Holy Spirit – John 7:37-39
  12. Jesus demonstrated His love with grace for those caught red handed in sin – John 8
  13. Jesus demonstrated His love by being a Good Shepherd to people – John 10
  14. Jesus demonstrated His love by weeping for them – John 11 (11:35)
  15. Jesus demonstrated His love by His willingness to accept a mission that required He die for them – John 12:27-36
  16. Jesus demonstrated His love by serving people in the lowliest of ways – John 13
  17. Jesus demonstrated His love by patiently teaching and preparing His disciples for His departure (with details on the Holy Spirit’s ministry -  John 14-16
  18. Jesus demonstrated His love by praying for people – John 17
  19. Jesus demonstrated His love by submitting to injustices and going to the cross – John 18-19
  20. Jesus demonstrated His love by receiving back those who had forsaken and betrayed Him – John 20-21

Looking at Jesus is the best way to understand what true love is all about.

Love is a willingness to die for those you love. Jesus’ love is a willingness to die for the object of your love. How is such love practically experienced? We may not ever have to actually give our lives in love. But to love like Jesus loved we do need to die to pride, die to complaints, die to ambition, and die to selfishness. To love like Jesus loved is to love in full surrender to the will of the Father. To love like Jesus is to pick up your cross and follow Him. To love like Jesus is to take everything you see as having worth and profit and value and nailing it to the cross for the sake of Jesus; and do it in love. The cross is a place of total trust. The cross is the place where we learn true love. There’s a reason why love-hearts are portrayed in blood red.  To love is to go to the cross.

There is another portion of scripture valuable to understanding Christ-like love. The apostle Paul describes Christ-like love when he writes his first letter to the church in Corinth. The Corinthian church had a big problem with their selfishness (i.e. the flesh). They were very gifted but also very immature in their walk with the Lord. “And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual people but as to carnal [i.e. fleshly; self-centered], as to babes in Christ” (1 Corinthians 3:1ff.).

The antidote to the flesh is the love the Spirit provides. When we look at the context of Paul’s great 1 Corinthian 13 chapter on love it is smack dab in the middle of his discussion of spiritual gifts (1 Corinthians 12 and 14). The Corinthians were excited about spiritual gifts but they were missing the more important spiritual maturity depth and empowerment of the Spirit’s love. Therefore Paul addresses their immaturity. In chapter 13 of Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians the Spirit directs him to write:

  • 1 Corinthians 13 (NKJV) - Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing.

 

Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

 

Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part. 10 But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away.

 

11 When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things. 12 For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known.

 

13 And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

When we look at this definition of love we notice that it is defined by what it “does” or “does not” do; love is an action. The greatest expression of such love is found in the supreme act of Jesus going to the cross. Love is a moving picture of Jesus. 

[Jesus] suffers long and is kind; [Jesus] does not envy; [Jesus] does not parade [Himself], is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek [His] own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. [Jesus]  never fails.

Those words are a fifth gospel, a living testimony and biography of Jesus and His love. We learn what love is by looking to Jesus. He suffered long to lift us out of sin. There wasn’t an envious bone in His body. He told people to not tell others about His miraculous works. He was humble and couldn’t be provoked to think evil thoughts even by His coarsest enemies. He never ever did or ever would rejoice in evil but only rejoiced in the truth of God’s word. He bore all our sins on the cross. He believed in the redemptive mission of His Father. He believed and preached hope in the cross. He endured false accusations, lies, slaps, beatings, scourging, a crown of thorns, mocking, spit, and a long walk with the cross to crucifixion. He did that in love for love. He succeeded in paying the penalty and just requirements of God’s law in love on the cross. His greatest expression of that love is on the cross. Look to the cross if you want to know what His love is all about (e.g. Romans 5:8).

Love is the value of everything. Love is the essential ingredient to give earthly efforts an eternal value and worth. If there is something you should be willing to live for and die for and spend your life mastering, it is love (1 Corinthians 13:1-3). Love gives eternal worth to whatever it does. If you wash the floor with loveless resentment, the work loses all its potential eternal value. But if you wash the floor in love for the Lord and others, it takes on eternal worth. If you give your life in hate it’s meaningless. But if you give your life in love for the Lord and others, it is given eternal worth.  Love gives value to everything. Love is the value of everything.

Love patiently helps to bring others along. Christ-like love “suffers long and is kind” (1 Corinthians 13:4a). “Suffers long” (Greek makrothymeo) means literally to be long-spirited. And it is paired with the word “kind” (Greek christeuomai) which means to show oneself useful or act benevolently to help. To be “kind” is to be like “Christ.” In the word “kind” Paul is literally saying love is being like Jesus!

The conjunction “and” between “long suffering and kind” is inserted by translators. In the original Greek it reads literally suffers-long-kind. Love starts with a spirit or attitude that is committed for the long haul with people. That’s important because the lessons of love and growing in love take a long time. It takes a lifetime to learn Christ-like love. Therefore, this love begins with awareness that to love involves time. This love starts with a commitment that will involve patiently coming alongside others and helping them along.  Such love was an essential ingredient in Jesus discipleship of His followers. In love Jesus patiently waited for His disciples to grow in their faith and preparation to lead.

This first ingredient of love is a priority because it establishes love with staying power. It takes time for people to grow in their faith. The patient staying persistent continued ongoing love of Jesus is what keeps people together to grow in His love. When you love like Jesus you work through problems you don’t give up or run away from them. Remember, Judas left and betrayed, Jesus stayed and loved.

Love helps others along and waits for them to catch up. Love not only waits for others to catch up, it grabs hold of them and helps them along. Practically this love is what holds a marriage together as both spouses grow together. This love is the love that enables the parent to wait for the child to grow and learn their life lessons. This love is what enables pastors to disciple their congregations and help them along to spiritual maturity. This love is what enables teachers to tutor their students to learn their lessons. Love is why Jesus waits for us to grow in our faith. Thank God for His patient love.

When you love like Jesus you care enough to sacrifice and endure and work, really work to be one with others. There would be fewer divorces in our world if spouses really took their vows to heart and truly loved each other. There would be a lot fewer church splits and people leaving churches if the love of the Spirit was truly experienced and lived out. This suffer-long-kind patient loving kindness aspect of love is where love begins. You really can’t experience and build with what follows until by faith you commit to this first prime foundational part of love. Love starts with total commitment to “strengthen the hands that hang down, and the feeble knees,” to leave no person behind. Love begins with a spirit of love to, “bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Hebrews 12:12; Gal. 6:2). This is the beginning of love. When was the last time you actually helped someone rather than simply criticize them?

Love is not materially oriented. Christ-like love doesn’t envy (1 Corinthians 13:4b). The person who loves like Jesus doesn’t look at others and wish it had what they have. When you love like Jesus you are satisfied with what God gives you. Christ-like love isn’t possession or materially oriented. It doesn’t measure love or communicate love with things but with relationship. When was the last time you complimented someone about a blessing they received?

Love is genuine. Christ-like love doesn’t parade itself or present a puffed up image of itself (1 Corinthians 13:4c). Love isn’t about presenting yourself to others in a way that draws attention to you. When you love like Jesus loves you don’t put on a show or see loving as merely acting a certain way. Christ-like love is something you are not only something you do. It’s genuine and flows from the heart; from inside. When was the last time you determined to do something in the background and not maneuver to be in the spotlight?

Love values others. Christ-like love isn’t rude (1 Corinthians 13:5a). Love respects others and speaks to them in a way that shows others are valued. Love doesn’t treat other people as tools to be used or a means to an end. When you love like Jesus you put your arm around people and join them to you and bring them along, you don’t step through them or push them out of the way to get where you want to go. When was the last time you caught and stopped yourself from making a sarcastic remark and instead interjected a word that built up someone? When was the last time you were purposefully polite? 

Love isn’t selfish, it’s selfless. Christ-like love doesn’t seek its own (1 Corinthians 13:5b). Love seeks the best for others even at the expense of its own desires. When you love like Jesus you don’t use people to get what you want. When you love like Jesus you sacrifice yourself so others can attain their best. Christ-like love is others oriented. Jesus went to the cross for you and for me. When was the last time you did something that benefited you in no way?

Love is humble enough to receive correction. Christ-like love isn’t provoked (1 Corinthians 13:5c). Love is humble and doesn’t proudly take criticism as a personal attack. When you love like Jesus you welcome correction and are teachable. Your top priority is identifying anything in you that may be a detriment to His love fully being in you. Therefore you welcome counsel and teaching and see it as a great benefit to helping you learn to love more. When was the last time you took criticism without defending yourself?

Love thinks healthy loving not rotten unloving thoughts.  Christ-like love doesn’t think in evil ways (1 Corinthians 13:5d). Love guards the mind from sinful thoughts that are contrary to the way Jesus would have you think. “Evil” (Greek kakos) means literally depraved, rotten, bad, harmful, ill, wicked. When you love like Jesus you don’t settle for doing things in unloving ways. When you love like Jesus you are spiritual healthy because your thought-life is governed by Jesus and His love. When was the last time you replaced a rotten unloving thought with a creative thought of how to express your love to someone?  

Love enjoys truth. Christ-like love doesn’t take joy in sin but takes joy in the truth (1 Corinthians 13:6). Love speaks and lives by truth (Ephesians 4:15). A person who loves you will love you enough to share the truth with you even if it may hurt you. But they will be grieved at your hurt. And if you truly love like Jesus you will receive loving correction. When you love like Jesus you don’t get your happiness (“rejoice” – Greek chairo a calm sense of well-being; cheerfulness; happiness) from sinful things but from things that are truthful according to God’s word (compare John 17:17). When was the last time you actually rejoiced in a truth of God’s word?

Love covers faults. Love is willing to overlook or patiently work through faults (their own faults or the faults of others). Christ-like love bears all things (1 Corinthians 13:7a). To “bear” (Greek stego) means to roof over, cover, endure patiently in silence. In other words, when you love like Jesus you aren’t preoccupied with pointing out every fault of every person. A friend who loves you will have your back even when you mess up. When you love like Jesus you are willing to put up with the faults of others as they grow in their faith. When was the last time you actually protected someone from an embarrassing misstep instead of self-righteously calling them on it?

It says bears “all things.” When you love like Jesus you aren’t a chronic complainer. Loving like Jesus silently bears hardship. That doesn’t mean you never address problems. It does mean you are more apt to silently entrust your circumstances to the Lord than always rise up to defend yourself. To love means you will put up with the trials of life for the sake of Christ. To love means you will press on even when injustices are inflicted on you. When you love like Jesus you press on even when you don’t understand why certain things are being allowed by God. Our love for Jesus and the love of Jesus gets us through the dark times, the times of unknowing, the wildernesses of life.

Love is faithful. Christ-like love believes all things (1 Corinthians 13:7b). When you love like Jesus you love in faith. When you love with Jesus’ love you trust every situation and every person to Him. When you love like Jesus with his love you give people the benefit of the doubt. Love doesn’t assume the worst it assumes the best about people. Love trusts that Jesus is working in people. When was the last time you believed in someone or something?

Love is hopeful. Christ-like love hopes all things (1 Corinthians 13:7c). Love is always hopeful that God is working out His plans and that it will come to pass. When you love like Jesus your focus is on His promises and you trust in Jesus to fulfill them. When was the last time you hoped in Jesus and His love in a situation?

Love is willing to take risks. Christ-like love endures all things (1 Corinthians 13:7d). Living with a Christ-like love puts you in a vulnerable position. To love is risky. When you love this way the risk is that people will not love you back or they will take advantage of you. When you love selflessly like this there is a risk of being hurt or broken by others who abuse your love. People may look down on you because of your love, manipulate your love, or crucify you because of your love. But if you are seeking to love like Jesus you will love even when it involves risk. When was the last time your love took a risk?

Love is triumphant. Christ-like love never fails (1 Corinthians 13:8a). This love is worth the risk. This love is our purpose in life. This love of Christ must compel us (2 Corinthians 5:14-16). This love is what Jesus wants for us. This love is what He uses the ingredients of our life to create in us. This love is what makes us ready for heaven. When was the last time you loved through to victory?

Love is the mark of success. This love transcends the worth of all other spiritual gifting (1 Corinthians 13:8b). Anything and everything we do in our lives for Jesus must be done with this kind of love. Whatever we do apart from His love will fail as far as He is concerned. We may build big churches and argue people into praying a prayer of salvation or agreeing with our doctrine, but if it isn’t according to the love of Christ it is worthless. If you were to measure who you are and what you do by love, how much of who you are or what you do would be of eternal worth?

Love is the measure of spiritual maturity. This love is the sign of spiritual maturity (1 Corinthians 13:9-12). Without Christ’s love we are incomplete Christians. Love is the essential “part” of who we are and what we do. Love is the measure of spiritual maturity; it perfects us. Love is the difference between a spiritual child and being a spiritual adult. It isn’t until we love that we see clearly. How spiritually mature are you based on the amount of love in your life?

This love is the greatest! (1 Corinthians 13:13). There’s nothing more important than love. Love is what Jesus wants us to learn above everything else. Love is the greatest quality. Love is the greatest commodity. Get love! It’s the greatest! Are you living your life for what is greatest in God’s eyes; love?

This love is from the Spirit. Jesus’ kind of love is not easy to live by. That kind of love will be opposed at every step by our flesh, the world and the devil. That is why Jesus follows this call to love like Him in John 13 with His primary teaching on the Holy Spirit in John 14, 15, and 16. The Holy Spirit pours God’s love into our heart (Romans 5:5). The Holy Spirit bears the fruit of Jesus’ love in us (Galatians 5:22-24). Therefore Jesus is really preparing and calling His disciples to an abundant life of love in the Spirit.

Love is the mark of Jesus. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35). Jesus doesn’t say you will be known as His disciples by the size of your bank account, the size of your house, the size of your family or the size of your church. The church is not a corporation it is a manifestation of His love. It is love, the particular love of Jesus that His disciples will be known by. If there is one thing, one message, one way of life, one memorial, one legacy to leave behind, if there is one thing to have people remember you by, it should be LOVE; the love of Christ. This should be our goal, our purpose, our reason for being and living. To be known as Jesus disciples by the love you show for one another is the ultimate goal of a disciple of Jesus. Truly “His banner over me” needs to be “love” (Song of Solomon 2:4). Are you known by Jesus’ mark of love? Is “love” the first thing people think of when they think of you?

Love people into the kingdom of God. We need to love people into the kingdom of God. We need to love sinners and saints. We have to stop kicking people to the curb and start picking them up and helping them along, We need to help people to Jesus in love. We need to help people see Jesus and have a deeper and more enduring walk with Jesus in love. Love must permeate everything we do and everything we are known by. Truly a disciple of Jesus should love like Jesus loved. The love of Jesus in a disciple should be a fragrant aroma, sensed by all, wherever they are. A disciple of Jesus who loves like Jesus is accessible like Jesus, tirelessly and selflessly serving like Jesus and willing to wash feet and go to the cross like Jesus. Look at Jesus in the gospels and love like that. Be known as Jesus disciple by the love of Jesus. When was the last time you loved someone into the kingdom of God?

I want to finish with a final word of caution and challenge. We can learn what something is by seeing the contrast of it. Judas is a contrast to Jesus. We need to see that. Too often there is a spirit of Judas in us. We need to identify and forsake that evil loveless spirit. Jesus taught his disciples about His new commandment of Christ-like love on the heels of Judas’ departure to betray Him. Jesus was fully aware of what Judas had left to do. When people examine Judas they sometimes see him in a sympathetic light. They speculate he was only trying to force Jesus’ hand to confront the Romans and Jewish leadership in order to defeat them and establish His kingdom. People look at Judas and assume his intentions were good; it was his method that was sinful. I contend that Judas willfully opened his heart to the devil. He is culpable for what he did. Judas left before Jesus’ teaching on His new commandment of love and the role of the Holy Spirit because he wasn’t interested in that teaching. Judas left, Jesus loved, Judas betrayed, Jesus stayed.

Judas betrayed Jesus because of pride. Why wasn’t Judas interested in Jesus’ teaching? Because at some point Judas came to thinking he knew better than Jesus. Pride was involved (and pride goes before destruction – Proverbs 16:18). At some point the student thought he knew more than the Teacher. Pride is presumptuous. Pride is always at the root of betrayal. Pride is especially at the root of betraying authority or leaders. But there is something more sinister, more devilish, and more demonic at the root of Judas’ betraying treacherous act.  

Judas stopped loving Jesus. Judas actions indicate a decision to reject Jesus’ love. We don’t know if Judas ever did love Jesus. But his actions betray the fact that Judas rejected Jesus love personally and in principle. Judas was unwilling to take up his cross. Judas wanted nothing to do with the cross of Christ. He didn’t think about patiently waiting for Jesus’ plan to pan out. Instead Judas was impatient about the plan and mission of Jesus (and that’s being generous). It’s likely Judas envied Jesus popularity just like the religious leaders did. Judas paraded and puffed up himself when he presented himself as knowing better than Jesus. He certainly did not value Jesus as a Person. He certainly sought his own profit in selling Jesus out for money. In his pride the mission plan of Jesus provoked him. To allow Satan to enter you is the height of thinking evil. His act was the height of sin and at some point he chose to rejoice in his decision not the truth of Jesus. He refused to bear what Jesus taught. He stopped believing in Jesus. He gave up hoping in Jesus. He wasn’t willing to endure and follow through on Jesus call and mission plan. His love failed. Judas’ never matured spiritually because he discarded the love Jesus offered. Judas refused to believe that the love of Jesus is the greatest (compare to 1 Corinthians 13). Judas left, Jesus loved, Judas betrayed, Jesus stayed. At the heart of Judas’ betrayal is lovelessness.

Beware a spirit of Judas. Whenever we act in unloving ways we are acting more like Judas than Jesus. Life is filled with choices about whether or not to love. Life if filled with forks in the road. We can take the path of Judas and leave and betray or we can take the path of Jesus and love and stay on His way. The choice is before you. What will you live for? What will you die for? What legacy will you leave behind? Judas left, Jesus loved. What will you do? Me? I’m opting for staying and loving. When I pass from this realm to the next, I want people to remember me for the love of Jesus. I hope and pray you too choose to live a life of love “as I have loved you.”  

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

The Heart-Grieved God




“And the LORD was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart” – Genesis 6:6

 

“as the days of Noah were” – Matthew 24:37

 

“Shall the throne of iniquity, which devises evil by law, have fellowship with You?” – Psalm 94:20

 

Jesus said the latter days leading up to His return would be “as the days of Noah were” (Matthew 24:37; Luke 17:26). God inspired Moses to write of the days of Noah: “Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart. So the Lord said, “I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth, both man and beast, creeping thing and birds of the air, for I am sorry that I have made them.” (Genesis 6:5-7). 

 

“And He was grieved in His heart.” I recently read an April 3rd 2015 New York Times article written by Frank Bruni entitled Bigotry, the Bible and the Lessons of Indiana. In the article Bruni, who is homosexual, refers to the Bible and its teachings on homosexuality as fossilized. To him the Bible is out of date. To him society and its trends represent the human authority to guide life. Therefore he presents what he sees as a reasonable viable option and solution to relieving all the tension between the LGBT (Lesbian/Gay/Bi-sexual/Transsexual) movement and the church. His simple solution is to rewrite the Bible. According to him we should just edit out the parts of Bible that are counter to today’s trends about sexuality. Just remove those nasty prohibitions against immorality and homosexuality.  Just let men redact Holy-heaven-sent-Writ. To that obtuse notion we must respond, “Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?” (1 Corinthians 1:20b). What a grieving notion.

 

“And He was grieved in His heart.” Then I heard of another new translation of the Bible. Added to the Queen James Bible and the gender neutral translations of late is a translation offered by rapper Kayne West. He calls his Bible version The Book of Yeezus. In his translation he removes all mention of God’s name and replaces it with his own name Kayne or Yeezus. I wonder what he gets when he prays (if he prays) in Kayne’s or Yeezus’ name? I wonder what would happen if he tried walking on water in Kayne’s name or moving a mountain by faith in Yeezus’ name? I’d pay for admission to see the water walking attempt. What another grieving notion.

 

When I read of such news it makes me shudder. It causes me to fear for the person who would dare try to adjust God’s word to their liking rather than bow their lives to God. Paul said we should work out our salvation “with fear and trembling” not, “dear just cut it out the troubling” (cf. Philippians 2:12). When I see the mishandling of God’s Holy Word and then read such inspired words as: “For I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds to these things, God will add to him the plagues that are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophesy, God shall take away his part from the Book of Life, from the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book” (Revelation 22:18-19). These words apply primarily to Revelation but in principle o God’s book as a whole. God’s word is filled with blessings. But there are also cursing consequences for sinful behavior. Redacting or editing God’s word to anything other than what He has revealed it to be is the grossest of sins.

 

Ever wonder why there is so much stupidity in the world today? It’s because people, even God’s people, have left the source of wisdom, God’s word. Long ago when God was preparing His people to enter the Promised Land and interact and influence pagan peoples, He inspired Moses to give them certain instructions. You can see these instructions in the book of Deuteronomy. Towards the beginning of that instruction and as a priority of those instructions God told Moses to tell His people - “You shall not add to the word which I command you, nor take from it, that you may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you. . . . Therefore be careful to observe them; for this is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples who will hear all these statutes, and say, ‘Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people” (Deuteronomy 4:2, 6). “For this is your wisdom and your understanding.”  If the church is indistinguishable from the world and impotent to change the world it is because she has left God’s word for the ways of the world.

 

Failure to apply God’s word in life leads to all kinds of stupidity and sin. And that grieves the Lord. A prominent television “pastor” promotes the idea that if 200,000 people donate $300 each to him he can purchase a 60 million dollar jet. I wonder is that grieves Jesus who said, “Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses” (Luke 12:15). One day Jesus may say to such a “minister,” “Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?’ So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God” (Luke 12:20, 21). What is wrong with the ministers of God today? Are they ministers of God? Have they consulted God’s word? It doesn’t appear they have. If they have glanced at the Bible they have apparently willfully disregarded segments of it in order to allow them to fulfill their carnal desires. It’s unholy hedonism! And it’s the stupid result of departing from God’s word.

 

Is there any doubt that our days are like the days of Noah? Certainly each day shows a news report that confirms, “the wickedness of man” is “great in the earth.” It certainly seems as though “every intent of the thoughts of his heart” is “only evil continually.” “The earth also was corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence” (Genesis 6:11). Successful sport involves bloodletting and blood gushing. With the rise of ISIS has come the broadcasting of decapitations. This world is a bloody mess! It sure looks like the earth is filled with violence to me. And so, can we ultimately expect anything less than, “So the LORD said, ‘I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth”? We can be sure that with what is going on today that when God looks down on us He says again, “I am sorry that I have made them.” God’s heart is grieved.

 

The apostle Paul laid down an example for us. He stated that he did not rely on “persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and power,  that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God” (1 Corinthians 2:4-5).  I can understand why unsaved debauched sinners reject God’s word and rely on human wisdom. The god of this world Satan has blinded them (2 Cor. 4:4). They are in darkness and under the powerful influence of the devil. They need to be set free by the gospel (Acts 26:18). But what excuse or explanation can be offered when the church neglects God’s word? What excuse do those in the traditional mainline denominations have for choosing the trendy worldly “wisdom” that promotes immorality and sin instead of upholding scriptural holiness? Such action is nothing more than betrayal and nothing less than treachery to God and His word. And the consequence is a dead as a doormat powerless shell of a church.

 

When God looks down on this world and parts of His “church” can there be any doubt that He again thinks, “I am sorry that I have made them”? Can there be any doubt that God in Christ is getting ready to upchuck over the lukewarm church (Revelation 3:16). It is certain He is grieved over the mess humanity has made of His world.

 

What are we to do? What are the faithful remnant of those who have decided to stay true to God’s Holy Word to do? I propose we go to the LORD with His word and plead for His intervention. We need to do is get back to God’s word. We have to get serious with the word of God. We have to get to work in the word and with the word (2 Timothy 2:15; 3:16-17). God’s word is His instrument of power (Hebrews 4:12). God’s word will cleanse the refuse of this world from us (Ephesians 5:26).

 

Think about it. If you sent a love letter to the object of your affection, a letter filled with your hopes, dreams and passions of love, and the one you sent it to uncaringly and negligently cast it aside, or simply left it unopened to collect dust, would it grieve you? Or if the one you loved opened the love letter but questioned your existence or your hopes or dreams or the genuineness of your love, would it grieve you? Do you think it grieves God when we do the same to Him, to His love letter the Bible? Get into God’s word and stop grieving the Lord.

 

We live in a nation today where most of its leaders are perfectly described with the words, “Shall the throne of iniquity, which devises evil by law, have fellowship with You? 21They gather together against the life of the righteous, And condemn innocent blood” (Psalm 94:20-21).  Legislating immorality and protecting sinful behavior with the law is nothing new. Even in the psalmist’s day rulers were enacting laws to promote and protect sinful behaviors. And all the while the legislators were doing this they were claiming to be right with God. They legislate evil in God’s name! Oh Lord!

 

We see the exact same thing in our day! Legislation and illegalizing the LORD and His word from the public square! Secularism is insipid; it allows for any and all kinds of sin. It has led to the legislation and legalizing of abortion and the murder of millions! And soon we will see the legislating and legalizing same-sex marriage and the destruction of marriage and family! To follow will be the legislation and legalization of polygamy. Soon to follow will be the legislation and legalized elimination of age of consent laws and prohibitions against incest. We are fast moving toward an anything goes society. Soon we will see the legislation and outlawing of scriptural proclamations of truth even in the church under the guise of “tolerance,” and “hate crime.” The world is tolerant of everything except God and His truth! The world devises evil and uses law to establish it. “Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness. . . . vile passions. . . . to a debasd mind” (Romans 1:24, 26, 28). What we see is God’s judgment. What corruption! Oh what a grieving state of affairs! Oh how this must grieve the LORD when He looks down from His throne.  

 

We have to turn to the Lord. None of this takes Him by surprise. Jesus said it would be like this; like the days of Noah. He has allowed this to happen. He has allowed humanity to exert their free will. Humanity is free to choose selfishness and sin or to choose to repent, be saved through faith in Christ and live in His true love. For those who choose the LORD we have the comfort of - “But the Lord has been my defense, and my God the rock of my refuge” (Psalm 94:22).

 

The answer for us is to turn to our God. He will bring clarity to address our concerns. He will provide solutions. The warning for the wayward and rebellious sinful world is to turn to God too. If the sinner refuses the prospect is not good: “He has brought on them their own iniquity, and shall cut them off in their own wickedness; The Lord our God shall cut them off” (Psalm 94:23). Just like the days of Noah. It grieves the Lord when He sees His creation consumed with sin. When He looks at you will He have reason to grieve too? When God looks at you, will He have more reason to be a heart-grieved God?

 

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Burn Within! Burn Within! Burn Within for Jesus!


And they said to one another, “Did not our heart burn within us while He talked with us on the road, and while He opened the Scriptures to us?” – Luke 24:32

 

When I was a young boy, and was in a cantankerous mood, (which was not uncommon) I’d do little things to aggravate my mother. I knew how to press her buttons. I knew what to do or not do to aggravate her. You know: going slow when she was in a hurry or going fast when she was sapped of energy and could only go slow. Disregarding, “Now I’ve told you for the last time!” over and over and over again. Purposeful procrastination to her calls to get ready so we could go somewhere. I usually knew just how far I could push Mom before things got dangerous. There was a telltale comment that marked the end of the line for her patience. Those red flag words were, “You burn me up!” When I heard those words I knew it was time to run for cover. The B29 was overhead, the sky was growing dark with her shadow, and the situation was about to go nuclear. This little boy was about to get bombed with “Little Boy.” (Note: I attribute my speed to running from Mommy around the dining room table. I always thought her attempts to catch me quite funny. Funny how the more I laughed and giggled the redder her face got and the more she’d throw the chairs out of the way. Yes, my speed was learned young. That I lived on I attribute to having never been caught!)

Back in 1972 Elvis Presley produced his last top 100 hit song entitled Burning Love. The song, originally written by Dennis Linde, starts with the words, “Lord Almighty, I feel my temperature rising, higher, higher, it’s burning through my soul. . . .”  and has the famous chorus “Just a hunk of, hunk of burning love. Just a hunk of, hunk of burning love.” There have been a lot of secular songs in history that use fire and burning as a metaphor for sexual passions and hedonism.

When a sports team is on a winning streak it’s described as “They’re on fire!” When the fans of a team are especially worked up into a frenzy they are often described as being, “Fired up!” Starting a race car or even an ordinary engined machine of some kind is frequently described as “Fire it up!”

When people are zealous for a political or social cause they are also often described as being, “Fired up!” When employment is terminated the employer says, “You’re fired!” the employee says, “I was fired.”

The 1986 movie Top Gun about the training of fighter pilots described popularized the phrase, “crash and burn,” to described incidents where test pilots crashed and burned their jets.

All of these uses of fire and burning are examples of a metaphor. A metaphor is defined as, “a figure of speech in which a word or phrase is applied to an object or action to which it is not literally applicable.”

 

The metaphor of fire can be used to describe holy things as well as unholy things. There are probably a lot of other ways the metaphor of fire and burning imagery are used. But I’d like to consider how such a metaphor is used in the Bible.  

Vance Havner, a past Senate chaplain, once said,

            “We are not going to move this world by criticism of it, nor conformity to it, but             only by the combustion within it of lives ignited by the Spirit of God.” 

He’s right about that. What we need is more burning hearts, hearts aflame for Jesus in the power of the Spirit.

The early church had hearts burning for the Lord and they turned the world upside down for Jesus (i.e. right side up - Acts 17:6). Unfortunately the church today is too often turned upside down by the world. Why is that? It seems the sinful world is more on fire for their unrighteous causes than the church is for her righteous causes. Where are the burning hearted disciples of Jesus today? If the flames of passion for Jesus have gone out in a Christian, is there a way to relight that flame? How can we get aflame for the Lord? How can we be re-fired? What do we do to have our hearts burn for the Lord?

The key to a burning heart is found in Luke’s gospel account where it states: “And they said to one another, “Did not our heart burn within us while He talked with us on the road, and while He opened the Scriptures to us?” (Luke 24:32). This verse is the key to a burning heart. A heart is ignited with a holy flame by getting close to Jesus and listening to Him. Jesus bestows a burning heart to us. The closer we come to Jesus and listen to Him and His word, the brighter and hotter our hearts will burn for Him. Your heart will glow and burn with a holy flame in proportion to how close you are living to Jesus. The closer you get to the fire, the hotter the heat you will feel. You can’t come close to Jesus and not be set to burning for Him. We need a burning heart. This world needs the ministry produced by burning hearts.   We need Jesus.

 “A smoking flax He will not quench” – If you were a candle would you be a bright flame or about to flame out? Is the fire in your belly more heart-burn than burning for Jesus? If you are on fire for the Lord you need to understand that a flame needs to be maintained. If you feel as though you’re spiritual flame is about to go out you need to understand you can be fired up again.

Jesus is gentle. He is waiting for the smoldering ones to return to Him. In Matthew’s inspired gospel account Isaiah 42:3 is quoted in regards to Jesus which says: “A bruised reed He will not break,   And smoking flax He will not quench, Till He sends forth justice to victory;” (Matthew 12:20). Jesus doesn’t snuff you out when your flame is weak. When your flame is weak He will help you ignite again.    

The Heart of the Bible - Before we discover how to get our heart burning for Jesus, we have to have an understanding of the heart. The word “heart” used in Luke 24:32 is translated from the Greek term kardia. “Heart” can refer to the physical heart but is also used to refer to that part of the human being that is central, the core, the place where “the thoughts or feelings” reside. [1] The heart is your inner most being; the place where you make decisions that determine your life outcomes.

The Bible tells us that the heart is by nature sinful. “The heart is deceitful above all things, And desperately wicked; who can know it?  I, the Lord, search the heart, I test the mind, Even to give every man according to his ways, According to the fruit of his doings.” (Jeremiah 17:9-10). Sin soaks our heart, quenches God’s fire, and makes us unburnable. We are born with a heart that is spiritually limp. The sinful heart is weak like wet cardboard and provides no fuel for any holy fire. Before a heart can be lit on fire for the Lord it has to be treated and prepared and made a furnace capable of holding God’s fire.

We need a new heart from God. The only way the sinful heart can be made into a furnace for God’s flame is to be exchanged for a new one. That old sinful heart needs to be torn out and replaced with a new heart from God. Such a new heart is available only by the grace of God (1 Corinthians 15:10).

The new heart we receive from God comes with the perfect fittings for His fire. The first step to a new heart is that God takes the initiative to give us a new heart. God enlightens our heart and exposes its sinfulness and need of cleansing and redemption (2 Corinthians 4:6; John 16:8-11). God is the One who opens the heart to receive Jesus as Lord and Savior (Acts 16:14; 26:18).

The next step in being fitted with God’s new heart is admitting your present heart is weak and sinful. And as we admit that we trust the gospel truth that Jesus died on the cross to pay the just requirement and penalty for our sin.  The only way our sin can be cleaned away is by applying the blood of Jesus (1 John 1:7, 9).  God’s new heart is then put in place. When we receive forgiveness for our sins from Him based on trusting Jesus and His redemptive work on the cross the new heart is installed. The new heart is lowered into our chest cavity as we  believe in our heart that Jesus has risen from the dead and confess with our mouth that He is Lord (Romans 10:9-10).

The Bible says:I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.” (Ezekiel 11:19; 36:26). That new heart is empowered, strengthened and fired by the Lord (Psalm 27:14). This new heart is established by the Lord (1 Thessalonians 3:13). This new heart runs on the love of the Spirit (Romans 5:5). Its high spiritual octane is measured by its total love for God and neighbor (Matthew 22:37). This new heart is governed by Jesus as Lord in life (1 Peter 3:15). This new heart serves God totally (Deuteronomy 26:16). This new heart relies on God’s owner’s manual the Bible (Proverbs 3:5). This new heart filters out the dirt of sin (Psalm 66:18). This new heart responds to the Driver God (Ephesians 6:6). A burning heart is a heart maintained and functioning according to God’s manual the Bible and running on the fuel of the Spirit; love.  

The optimum burning heart – When your heart is operating the way God intended it to operate it will be like a stable of horses ready to charge out of the barn and be used by God. Your heart horsepower depends on the degree to which you allow God to work on your engine.

Jeremiah was on fire for God. And God sent him on a mission. God sent him to be a prophet to a people that would not listen to him (Jeremiah 6:17). He needed a well maintained heart for such a task. He did get frustrated at times on that mission. So frustrated did Jeremiah become with his situation that he told the Lord he was going to shut up and not speak anymore. But read what his burning heart taught him: Then I said, “I will not make mention of Him, nor speak anymore in His name.”  But His word was in my heart like a burning fire shut up in my bones; I was weary of holding it back, and I could not.” (Jeremiah 20:9).  You see? The burning heart fueled by God and His word burns its way out of complacency, discouragement, and despair. The burning heart is a heart on fire for the Lord.

Lukewarm Hearts - But there’s something else we see in the words of Jeremiah. In these words we see the nature of humanity. Like Jeremiah, in our own strength, we think to and often try to repress or limit the flame of God in us. There are many lukewarm, lackadaisical, and limping Christians who Jesus finds repulsive. There are too many Millard and Mazy Milktoast Christians. That is what Jesus says in a personal letter to the church at Laodicea to whom He writes:  “And to the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write, ‘These things says the Amen, the Faithful and True Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God: 15 “I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. 16 So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth. 17 Because you say, ‘I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing’—and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked” (Revelation 3:14-17).

What Jesus wrote to this church is very important because the state of those Laodiceans is found in part and even in whole in many churches today. Jesus is writing to Christians. Jesus identifies Himself as “the Amen, the Faithful and True Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God [i.e. supernatural authority over].” There’s no lukewarmness with Jesus. But that’s not the case with His followers in this church. The Laodiceans are lukewarm; they are neither cold nor hot; they can take Jesus or leave Jesus. This is totally unacceptable to Jesus. He says they should be either cold or hot, but not lukewarm (Revelation 3:14-15). Jesus finds lukewarmness repulsive. And in light of the fire of the cross He has good reason for His revulsion. It’s enough to make the Savior “vomit you out of My mouth” (Revelation 3:16).

What causes lukewarmness in the heart? According to Jesus the problem is being rich in the things of this world instead of the things of God. It’s being preoccupied with worldly wealth and unaware or uninterested in spiritual needs (Rev. 3:17). If you want the fire of Jesus you have to be willing to adopt His priorities and purposes in your life. There really does need to be an exchange from “old man” to “new man” (cf. Romans 6; Ephesians 4; Colossians 3). The Christian today is trying to live a new life in Christ with the old ways and patterns of the sinful carnal man. Nothing will quench God’s fire faster than dousing the flame with the syrup of secularism. Nothing will hinder God’s fire more than dressing in the flame retardant jingly jacket of worldly bells and whistles.

The Remedy - from Lukewarm to Zealous – What’s the solution? What’s the remedy? Jesus counsels these lukewarm believers to remedy their condition buy advising them, “I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see.” (Revelation 3:18).  They need to count the cost and be willing to go through the fires of life that deepen their faith from superficial to substantial. He says get “fire,” from Him; submit to His life lessons. His word is purified in the furnace (Psalm 12:6). There is such a thing as the fires of persecution (Luke 12:49-53).  We must be willing to enter the furnace with the word (e.g. 1 Peter 1:6-9). Jesus says to suit up in “white garments” (which speaks of holiness). He says treat the cataracts of your spiritual eyes with His “eye salve.” Wash your eyes with the water of the word. Let the light of God’s word shine through your darkness (Revelation 3:18).

Jesus tells them, “As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent” (Revelation 3:19). Jesus loves the lukewarm believer even though He despises their lukewarmness. Jesus loves us too much to leave us lukewarm. A lukewarm believer may be cool toward Jesus, but Jesus is hot for them. He loves them and that is why He takes the time to try and ignite them out of their complacency and lukewarm condition. Jesus calls us out of a lukewarm condition because He loves us! The medicine for lukewarmness is the love of Jesus.

The word “zealous” in Revelation 3:19, (Greek zelos) refers to a fervent on fire condition of holy jealousy and desire for the things of God. Are you zealous for the things of God, or are the things of God easily crowded out or replaced by other things? What are you really on fire for? If you’re not on fire for Jesus and everything connected with Him, then you need to “repent.” Turn from your diversions which distract you from Jesus and listen for His knock.

With repentance in place Jesus then says, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me. 21 To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne. 22 “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” (Revelation 3:20-22). That is a verse we often use to evangelize the lost. But it is in fact a verse aimed at the lukewarm believer! The remedy for a lukewarm heart is opening up and inviting Jesus in. Sweet fellowship with Jesus ignites and stokes the spiritual fire in our heart.

Why not open up your heart right now? If you feel no urgency about the things of the Lord or if they are low on your list of priorities you are lukewarm and in need of a fresh ignition by the Lord. He’s here and He wants to make your heart burn again. Jesus loves you so much and it pains Him and grieves Him to see you in your lukewarm state. The choice is yours.

We need a burning heart - God manifested His presence to Moses in a fiery burning bush (Exodus 3:2). Fire represents the power of God (e.g. the 7th plague of God on Egypt - Exodus 9:24). Fire marks God’s approval (e.g. of the priestly ministry - Leviticus 9:24). Fire is and instrument of God’s wrath (e.g. Sodom and Gomorrah - Genesis 19:24; Matthew 25:41; Hebrews 12:29; 2 Peter 3:10-12). Fire guides through the wilderness (Exodus 13:21-22). Fire transports us to heaven (e.g. Elijah – 2 Kings 2:11). God’s fire is stronger that the fear of death (Song of Solomon 8:6). God’s fire purifies (Isaiah 6:5-7). God’s word is fiery and fire producing (Jeremiah 5:14). God protects us with a “wall of fire” (Zechariah 2:5). Jesus the Messiah is described as a “refiner’s fire” (Malachi 3:2). The Holy Spirit manifested His presence upon the disciples with tongues of fire over their heads (Acts 2:3). We need God’s fire! We need a burning heart.

The Bible also warns of the dangers of living without God’s fire. It speaks of the fires of affliction which come because of sin (Isaiah 43:2). God warns the fire of lust will burn us (Proverbs 6:27-28). The fire of the tongue’s sinful word-sparks can ignite a forest fire of problems (James 3:6). Fire can either purify us or pummel you; your choice.

The steps to a burning heart – A burning heart is one that is filled with the presence, power, approval, purpose, protection, and purity of the Lord.  A burning heart is noticeable. A burning heart is tangible. You can’t be on fire and not know it. Sooner or later you’ll feel the burn. You can’t have a burning heart and not know it. If you’re in doubt, you probably don’t have a burning heart. So how can we get a burning heart? Let’s join Jesus and a couple of disciples on the road to Emmaus and observe the steps to a burning heart.  

Luke 24:13–35 (NKJV)

13 Now behold, two of them were traveling that same day to a village called Emmaus, which was seven miles from Jerusalem. 14 And they talked together of all these things which had happened. 15 So it was, while they conversed and reasoned, that Jesus Himself drew near and went with them. 16 But their eyes were restrained, so that they did not know Him.

The first step to a burning heart is to be in conversation about Jesus. As we start discussing Jesus He has a way of entering the conversation. And once Jesus is in the conversation we are on the right track toward a burning heart. So open the door of your heart in conversation about Jesus. He just may be in the neighborhood. He just may drop in.

17 And He said to them, “What kind of conversation is this that you have with one another as you walk and are sad?” 18 Then the one whose name was Cleopas answered and said to Him, “Are You the only stranger in Jerusalem, and have You not known the things which happened there in these days?” 19 And He said to them, “What things?”

 

The second step toward a burning heart is to listen to Jesus and ask questions. Jesus will always enter the home that invites Him in. Jesus introduced Himself into their conversation by asking them a question. Cleopas responded to Jesus with a question of His own. There is a two way conversation going on here. We have to listen to the questions Jesus is asking us and then openly ask Him questions of our own. 

 

Notice also that only one of the two disciples is actually named. Why is that? I think it’s so that we can insert ourselves into this conversation through this unnamed disciple. Are you there with them now? I hope so.

 

So they said to Him, “The things concerning Jesus of Nazareth, who was a Prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, 20 and how the chief priests and our rulers delivered Him to be condemned to death, and crucified Him. 21 But we were hoping that it was He who was going to redeem Israel. Indeed, besides all this, today is the third day since these things happened. 22 Yes, and certain women of our company, who arrived at the tomb early, astonished us. 23 When they did not find His body, they came saying that they had also seen a vision of angels who said He was alive. 24 And certain of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said; but Him they did not see.”

 

The third step to a burning heart is to lay out before Jesus what you do know. They laid out before Jesus what they did know about the situation. It’s a good idea to lay out on the table the pieces of your life circumstances. Lay everything out before the Lord. Turn it all over to Him. Jesus is a perfect Gentleman. He won’t go where he isn’t invited. He can be trusted. He doesn’t sneakily open the medicine cabinet while using your bathroom. No, He will only work on the pieces you lay out before Him.

 

I think it’s very interesting and telling that God in Christ had just completed the most stupendously significant magnificent victory over sin and death of all eternity and these disciples weren’t even aware of it! In fact, they were actually down and depressed. Jesus had just sustained an incredible brutalization at the hands of sinful humanity. He had gone to the cross and paid the death penalty for the sins of all humanity for all time and history. He had just demonstrated the incredible love of God eternally. They had even heard of the first witnesses’ report of the empty tomb! But they were filled with doubts and dark thoughts. That’s not uncommon; us human beings are often slow on the pickup.

 

We may be discouraged and depressed even though God’s victory is right before us. These disciples were missing the most important ingredients. They hadn’t remembered the words of Jesus. They hadn’t taken Jesus at His word. They were overcome by the giants of human depravity seeing themselves as only crickets of Christ (cf. Numbers 14). They were snatching defeat out of the jaws of victory. They just didn’t get it. We often don’t get what God is doing. That’s why we need to bring it all to Jesus.  

 

When we lay out what we know before Jesus He is able to connect the dots for us. The Holy Spirit will open our eyes (cf. John 16:13; 1 Corinthians 2:9-14). When we give Jesus free reign in our lives He takes the ingredients and uses them to stoke a fire in us. Sometimes we have flammable material but haven’t unwrapped it for use. We may not even be aware that parts of what we have are fuel for His fire in us. Jesus is an Expert fire starter. Let your life be the fuel for His fire.

 

25 Then He said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken!

 

The fourth step toward a burning heart is to be open to the correction of the Lord. You have to be open to Jesus’ correction. There are times when the fires go out because we have misinterpreted what God is doing. That’s what happened to these two disciples. They saw defeat where God had worked His greatest victory! We have to be humble and open to the Lord’s correction. We have to be teachable. We need to be surrendered to Jesus to assess and build our faith. It’s no fun to be called “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe in all that the [prophets have spoken!” We may have to eat humble pie.  God is opposed to the proud and gives grace to the humble (1 Peter 5:5).  Taking a humbling rebuke is often a step in receiving a burning heart.

 

26 Ought not the Christ to have suffered these things and to enter into His glory?” 27 And beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.

 

The fifth step is to go to the word of God with Jesus. Jesus didn’t take them to a few isolated verses. Jesus started with Moses and then went to the prophets and expounded verse by verse chapter by chapter book by book. And the focus of His revelation and teaching to them was “concerning Himself.” The fires of the heart are stoked and fueled by what scripture says about Jesus. No fire is as bright as it could be or as pure as it should be unless it is fueled by scripture and scriptures testimony about Jesus. There are no short cuts or alternatives to the word of God. The fires of the hearth of our heart are stoked by Jesus with the word of God!

 

28 Then they drew near to the village where they were going, and He indicated that He would have gone farther. 29 But they constrained Him, saying, “Abide with us, for it is toward evening, and the day is far spent.” And He went in to stay with them.

 

The sixth step toward a burning heart is to actively seek fellowship with Jesus. Jesus made like He would go on without them. There was no way they were going to let this Teacher get away from them. They were fired up by Jesus’ teaching of His word. Oh, I can’t imagine how incredible a time with Jesus this must have been; to have Him explain the scriptures personally to them. It’s no wonder they “constrained” (Greek parebiasanto) Jesus to stay with them. They urged and compelled Jesus to the point of prevailing on Him to stay. They actively sought the presence of Jesus. If you want a burning heart you need to actively pursue Jesus. You can’t be lukewarm if you want a burning heart. You can’t have a take it or leave it attitude about God’s fire in your heart. You have to want it. Prevail on Jesus in prayer and compel Him to give you a burning heart. Hold on to Jesus with every fiber of your being and don’t let go until your heart is burning hot.

 

30 Now it came to pass, as He sat at the table with them, that He took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. 31 Then their eyes were opened and they knew Him; and He vanished from their sight.

 

The seventh step toward a burning heart is dwelling with Jesus. They recognized Jesus as they spent time with Him. If you want a burning heart you have to take the time to spend time with Jesus. If you’re in a rush and don’t have time for Jesus you can pretty much forget about stoking the fires of your heart. If you think you can fit Jesus into your schedule and have Him light your fire, forget it. It’s going to take more than a minute devotional to get the fire of God. You have to patiently, calmly spend time in fellowship with Jesus. You have to sit with Jesus and pour over His word as if it were the most important thing in your life. And it should be! What is more important than spending time with Jesus?

 

It was when these two disciples and Jesus sat down together and broke bread together that the light when on, the spiritual sparks began to fly and their fire was lit. The first disciples were known for their devotion to “breaking bread” together (Acts 2:42). What’s the big deal about breaking bread? When Jesus broke bread it reminded them of the times Jesus had fellowshipped with them. It may have reminded them of past Passover meals shared with Jesus. The Passover was a time of remembrance of God’s delivering His people from the oppression of the world. It was an illustration of “the Lamb of God who take away the sins of the world” (John 1:29). It was a time of worship.

 

If you want to kindle a fire within, worship with Jesus. Even if you don’t feel like worshipping, take a step of faith and worship with Jesus. There is something about worshipping the Lord that turns up the flame of our heart. I’m not only speaking about singing, though that is a good start. Putting on worship music invites the holy flames of God. But worship Jesus in whatever you are doing. Do whatever you are doing for Jesus; as a love offering to Him. Then feel the fires grow (e.g. Colossians 3:17, 23-24). Enter into and enjoy the presence of Jesus and your heart will soon be enflamed with Him.

 

32 And they said to one another, “Did not our heart burn within us while He talked with us on the road, and while He opened the Scriptures to us?” 33 So they rose up that very hour and returned to Jerusalem, and found the eleven and those who were with them gathered together, 34 saying, “The Lord is risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!” 35 And they told about the things that had happened on the road, and how He was known to them in the breaking of bread.

 

The final step toward a burning heart is to tell others about Jesus. Their hearts were burning bright after their encounter with Jesus. But they didn’t sit back and bask in the glow. No, they were burning to tell others of their encounter with Jesus. And when we tell others about Jesus it keeps the fire in our heart hot and glowing. Every word to others about Jesus is another log on the fire of our heart. Don’t settle for secular conversations. Inject some passion for Jesus into your communications. You’ll be amazed how it will fire you up. You’ll be surprised how the fire of Jesus catches on with others.

Are you more a smoldering wick than a flaming heart for Jesus? Go to Jesus. Open up to Him. Invite Him to open His word to you. Stoke the flames with fellowship in the word with Jesus. Take time, make time for Jesus. And then compel Him to light the fire of your heart. Let our rallying cry be “I must BURN WITHIN! BURN WITHIN! BURN WITHIN FOR JESUS!” That’s a determined purpose and request of Jesus He is always happy to fulfill.



[1]Strong, J. 1997, c1996. The new Strong's dictionary of Hebrew and Greek words (electronic ed.). Thomas Nelson: Nashville