Christ Awareness Day

For me this year, the day after Valentine’s Day was even harder than Valentine’s Day.

On Monday, I really didn’t have a hard time with the fact that it was Valentine’s Day. I had a good time in the Word and, by God’s grace, was able to spend much time thinking about God’s love for me and Christ’s ultimate expression of His love for me–dying on the cross and rising again, so I could have new life. I was also given chocolate and roses and cookies and cards from friends and students and received two packages from friends in the States and a card from my brother and sister-in-law with pictures of my niece, so I felt loved by God, family, and friends.

But on Tuesday, when I started seeing pictures of flowers and fancy dinners and heard of relationship status changes and read sappy posts on Facebook, I started to have a more difficult time.

I recently read an article entitled “Why Facebook (and Your Church) Might be Making You Sad,” which provides a helpful explanation and corrective for the slight depression that can come from looking at pictures of happy couples and families. I reread this article on Tuesday, because I felt bombarded with pictures and reminders that I was alone and not posting cheerful pictures on Facebook.

I was embarrassed to tell my students how I celebrated Valentine’s Day: I went running with a dear friend (definitely a good hour in my day), ate a lovely vegetable stir fry (by myself), and then went to school and graded papers (also by myself). I was very much tempted to be jealous and to start feeling sorry for myself and my single state.

However, on Tuesday evening, as I was pondering “Singles Awareness Day,” as some of my friends called it, and wondering what a Christ-centered response would be, I realized that “Singles Awareness Day” was really a “Christ Awareness Day.” During Valentine’s week, I most needed Christ and needed to find my satisfaction in Him. Human love is all well and good (and most desirable–don’t get me wrong!), but Christ’s love must satisfy me completely.

Psalm 36

5 Your love, LORD, reaches to the heavens,
your faithfulness to the skies.
6 Your righteousness is like the highest mountains,
your justice like the great deep.
You, LORD, preserve both people and animals.
7 How priceless is your unfailing love, O God!
People take refuge in the shadow of your wings.
8 They feast on the abundance of your house;
you give them drink from your river of delights.
9 For with you is the fountain of life;
in your light we see light.

10 Continue your love to those who know you,
your righteousness to the upright in heart.

Romans 8

1 Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, 2 because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. 3 For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in the flesh, 4 in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

31 What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? 33 Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. 34 Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36 As it is written:

“For your sake we face death all day long;
we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”

37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

 

God’s love

I meant to post some verses about God’s love last week with my post about God’s unending love, so here they are . . . just a little late.

Exodus 34:6-8

6 The LORD passed before him and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, 7 keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.” 8And Moses quickly bowed his head toward the earth and worshiped.

Psalm 13:5-6

5 But I have trusted in your steadfast love;
my heart shall rejoice in your salvation.
6 I will sing to the LORD,
because he has dealt bountifully with me.

Psalm 36

5Your steadfast love, O LORD, extends to the heavens,
your faithfulness to the clouds.
6 Your righteousness is like the mountains of God;
your judgments are like the great deep;
man and beast you save, O LORD.

7 How precious is your steadfast love, O God!
The children of mankind take refuge in the shadow of your wings.
8They feast on the abundance of your house,
and you give them drink from the river of your delights.
9For with you is the fountain of life;
in your light do we see light.

10Oh, continue your steadfast love to those who know you,
and your righteousness to the upright of heart!

Psalm 59

16 But I will sing of your strength;
I will sing aloud of your steadfast love in the morning.
For you have been to me a fortress
and a refuge in the day of my distress.
17 O my Strength, I will sing praises to you,
for you, O God, are my fortress,
the God who shows me steadfast love.

Psalm 103

1 Bless the LORD, O my soul,
and all that is within me,
bless his holy name!
2 Bless the LORD, O my soul,
and forget not all his benefits,
3who forgives all your iniquity,
who heals all your diseases,
4who redeems your life from the pit,
who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,
5who satisfies you with good
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

6The LORD works righteousness
and justice for all who are oppressed.
7He made known his ways to Moses,
his acts to the people of Israel.
8The LORD is merciful and gracious,
slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
9 He will not always chide,
nor will he keep his anger forever.
10He does not deal with us according to our sins,
nor repay us according to our iniquities.
11For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him;
12as far as the east is from the west,
so far does he remove our transgressions from us.
13As a father shows compassion to his children,
so the LORD shows compassion to those who fear him.
14For he knows our frame;
he remembers that we are dust.

15As for man, his days are like grass;
he flourishes like a flower of the field;
16for the wind passes over it, and it is gone,
and its place knows it no more.
17But the steadfast love of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him,
and his righteousness to children’s children,
18to those who keep his covenant
and remember to do his commandments.
19The LORD has established his throne in the heavens,
and his kingdom rules over all.

20Bless the LORD, O you his angels,
you mighty ones who do his word,
obeying the voice of his word!
21Bless the LORD, all his hosts,
his ministers, who do his will!
22 Bless the LORD, all his works,
in all places of his dominion.
Bless the LORD, O my soul!

Jeremiah 31:3

The LORD appeared to him from far away.
I have loved you with an everlasting love;
therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you.

Romans 8:35-39

35Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?

36As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.

37Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.

38For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come,

39Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

I Corinthians 13

I’d been thinking about I Corinthians 13 and planning to write about it for Valentines’s Day, so I was happy to come across this quote this week on a blog I read occasionally.

God is Patient and Kind

At the end of one of his lectures, Gordon Fee recalled a time when he was writing his commentary on 1 Corinthians, especially the morning he arrived at the famous words in 13:4, “Love is patient and kind.”

I remember the morning when I came to this passage: “Love is patient, love is kind.” It’s actually a verb: “Love does patience.” Or better yet, the KJV: “love suffers long.” Patience is what you show when your computer doesn’t work. Long-suffering is what you show when people don’t work, and you’ve been around them a long, long time. That’s what it means to suffer long. And I looked at those words and then realized that Paul was here describing God’s character. Those are exactly the words he uses of God back in Romans 2. Then it dawned on me, the first (long-suffering) is the passive side of His love; the other (kindness) is the active side of His love. And then I started to cry for a long time. It took me a long time to return to my computer. What if God was not like this toward us?

I Corinthians 13

1If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

4 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things,endures all things.

8Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. 9For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. 11When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. 12For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.

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

In recent years, I’ve been convicted repeatedly of how unloving I am. So often, I am the exact opposite of all the characteristics listed in this chapter; I’m impatient, unkind, arrogant, and irritable. I’m thankful, though, that Christ is patience and kindness personified and that He deals with me in loving ways. May I reflect more of His character as He continues to save me from my sin.

“I Love You More Today Than Yesterday”

For the month of February and especially since Valentine’s Day is next Monday, I’m going to try to post something about love each Monday. Don’t worry. I won’t be sappy or anything.

I’m not a fan of turning love songs around to talking about God. I don’t think that’s a good practice at all, actually, but this song made me think about God because of the contrast.

When describing human relationships, I think this is a good song, but this song does not at all reflect God’s love for us. (I’m not implying that the composer intended to make this about God; I understand that it’s not.)

God cannot love me more today than yesterday, and He won’t love me more tomorrow. He loves me the same everyday, whether I’ve done my best to please Him and live worthy of His name or whether I’ve sinned and disgraced Him. He loves me infinitely, eternally, unchangeably.

My love for God should be more today than yesterday, but if it’s not, God doesn’t love me any less. My love for others should grow, and this song accurately reflects many relationships in our lives, but it should not reflect our thinking about God’s love for us–unless to serve as a useful contrast.

Guilt and Love

Have you ever had one of those days when it feels like you’ve done everything wrong? Like you could turn to any of the lists of sins in the Bible and you’ve committed them all?

For example, Colossians 3:8:

  • Anger – check.
  • Wrath – check.
  • Slander  – check.

Or I John 2:16:

  • Desires of the flesh – check.
  • Desires of the eyes – check.
  • Pride of possessions – check.

I’ve certainly had days like that. Recently, I had a day when it seemed like every time I was tempted to sin, I did. There was no struggle or battling against temptation; I just kept sinning. By the evening, I went to my room to be alone because I was afraid I’d keep saying negative, bitter, angry things or that my bad attitude would get worse.

Now, in this case, guilt was a useful emotion, because my guilt and sadness over my sin prompted me to turn to Christ for forgiveness. I realized that I needed to confess my sins and that God was faithful and just to forgive my sins and to cleanse me from all unrighteousness (I John 1:9). I love the book of I John because he makes clear that we will sin, because of our natural, fallen nature (I John 1:5-9), but that “the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin” (I John 1:7). John goes on to explain:

1My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. 2He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. 3And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. 4Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, 5but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: 6whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.

According to this passage (and others like it), there is no excuse for sinning, but when we do sin, we have a righteous Advocate in Jesus Christ, who paid the penalty for our sin. And He gives us his commandments, Word, love, and power, so we can abide in Him and “walk in the same way in which he walked” (v. 6).

Now, the next morning I woke up discouraged by my sins of the previous day and felt beaten down and guilty. It was like Satan started whispering doubts into my ear as soon as I woke up and I was tempted to believe that I was useless in God’s service and that I still stood condemned before God. I wondered, “Why don’t I have the joy that comes in the morning?” and “Aren’t the Lord’s mercies new every morning?”

Now in this case, guilt was not a useful emotion because I had already confessed those sins to God and received forgiveness for them. I started praying that the Lord would stir up my affections for Him and that I’d be reminded of His love and forgiveness. I opened up my Bible to the next passage in my daily reading and came to these verses in Luke 12:

6Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten before God. 7Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows.

22And he said to his disciples, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on. 23For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. 24Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds! 25And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?26If then you are not able to do as small a thing as that, why are you anxious about the rest? 27Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 28But if God so clothes the grass, which is alive in the field today, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith! 29And do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be worried. 30For all the nations of the world seek after these things, and your Father knows that you need them31Instead, seek his kingdom, and these things will be added to you.

This passage communicated to me so much of God’s love and grace toward me. I remembered that while I was yet a sinner, Christ died for me (Romans 5:8). The Heavenly Father cares about me and values me “much more” than sparrows! (What a delightful use of understatement, by the way!)

While on my way to school, I prayed that God would help me feel His love. I knew mentally and theologically that I was forgiven and loved, but I still didn’t feel loved. Throughout the day, He brought several verses, songs, friends, and situations that reassured me of His love.

I listened to this song on the way to school, and it helped me so much.

It Was Love

It was love that brought You from above
To walk upon the earth
And love that caused Your weariness
Your hunger and Your thirst
It was love that caused You to be tried
And tempted by the foe
And love that brought the nails and cross
And love that bought my soul

How wonderful Your love, the mystery of mysteries
Filling up my heart, more glorious than I know
How wonderful Your love
There’s nothing else so sweet to me
I’ll never be apart from the Lover of my soul
From the Lover of my soul

Your love is filled with holiness
O Spirit, fan this flame
Your love will never cease or cool
Your love will never change
O let me see Your love for me
Around me everywhere
The shining sun, a gentle rain
Remind me of Your care

Words and music by Mark Altrogge
As recorded on Valley of Vision

© 2005 Sovereign Grace Praise (BMI).

And then later that day, one of my friends sent me this song, which spoke perfectly to all the things I’d been thinking and feeling about guilt and love.

Not Guilty
Mandisa

I stand accused
There’s a list a mile long of all my sins
Of everything that I’ve done wrong
I’m so ashamed
There’s nowhere left for me to hide
This is the day I must answer for my life

Refrain 1:
My fate is in the judge’s hands
But then he turns to me and says

I know you
I love you
I gave My life to save you
Love paid the price for mercy
My verdict: Not Guilty!

How can it be?
I can’t begin to comprehend
What kind of grace would take the place for all my sin
I stand in awe now that I’ve been set free
And the tears well up
As I look at that cross
‘Cuz it should’ve been me

My fate was in the nail scarred hands
He stretched them out for me and said

I know you
I love you
I gave My life to save you
Love paid the price for mercy
My verdict: Not Guilty!

I’m falling on my knees to thank You
With everything I am I’ll praise You
So grateful for the words I heard You say

I know you
I love you
I gave My life
I know you
I love you
I gave My life to save you
Love paid the price for mercy
My verdict: Not guilty
Not guilty
Not guilty