Going Deeper into Loving Others
Give Your All
We’ve been talking about Give for five full weeks. How much giving have you practiced? Has the faith action of giving taken on a different perspective or new meaning?
We’ve been seeking and receiving quite a bit of teaching from God during this time. He reminds us it’s more blessed to give than receive. Let’s begin this morning giving Him praise for all He gives us.
Lord, we are so grateful for Your presence with us, this time together, and all You give us. Free us up to give our all to You as You do for us.
Read Reflection Scripture:
If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake and for the sake of the Good News, you will save it.
Mark 8:35 NLT
When it comes to giving your all to God in the pursuit of loving others, what did the Reflection Scripture say to you?
The “you” in this verse is singular. Jesus is talking to individuals. What you try to save in and of yourself will slip away. We cannot save ourselves, no matter what.
Considering the context, we see what motivated Jesus’s teaching.
Read Mark 8:31-35
What led up to Jesus telling those following Him the only way to save their lives was to give up their lives for Him?
Jesus was beginning to teach His disciples about His coming suffering and death at the hands of the religious leaders. He told them plainly. This caused Peter to take Jesus aside privately and scold Him for saying such things. Then Jesus straightened out Peter and turned to the crowd:
“If anyone of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross, and follow me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake and for the sake of the Good News, you will save it.” –Jesus
Mark 8:34-35 NLT
Suffering unto death for the sake of the Good News. This is what Jesus was about to do, and it is what His followers must do too. Give all your life for the sake of another out of love (John 15:13).
Pain, suffering, and death do not seem like a good way to live life. Not even in the call to love others. This is something the world recommends avoiding at all costs.
In the Reflection Thoughts we referred to the things we try to hang onto to save our lives as knots at the end of our ropes. What are ways we try to save ourselves?
- Good health through the pursuit of physical fitness.
- Financial security.
- Keeping to safe areas.
- Following the rules.
- Tradition or ritual
Spiritually speaking, when it comes to salvation, many hang on to tradition or self-imposed rules to ensure they are right with God: church attendance on Sunday, daily quiet time and prayer based on a designated list of requests, regular service in some type of ministry, etc., etc. This can often be exhausting, just like hanging onto a rope.
Not only is it exhausting, in the end we become like the legalistic Pharisees, missing the whole point of the exercise. Sometimes giving up our lives, means giving up what others have taught us about following Jesus. We must each learn to let go and freely follow the Holy Spirit. We cannot secure our salvation or secure our lives from danger by being religious.
The Greek for “save” in the Reflection Scripture means: to save, keep safe and sound, to rescue from danger or destruction… to save a suffering one… to preserve one who is in danger of destruction (Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon). While the translation of “lose” means: to destroy; to put out of the way entirely, abolish, put an end to ruin; render useless (Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon).
According to the Reflection Scripture, to live with a will to save yourself from suffering and preserve your life is a sure way to self-destruction. While in the same sense, when one resolves to suffer and be destroyed in the name of Jesus and the gospel, you will be rescued from danger and, kept safe and sound at the end of the Day.
How does your flesh respond to this upside-down way of God?
Does it help to consider Jesus? Explain.
Jesus’s painful end was a stumbling block for me when it came to following Him. I just didn’t get the whole suffering thing. Not a way I wanted to live… at least not on purpose.
But things began to change after He comforted my mom in her suffering. That was what captured my heart. In response I was willing to suffer for Him, but it was not something I embraced and continued to wonder about until I came upon a passage in Hebrews:
Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
Hebrews 12:3 NIV84
Fix our eyes on Jesus… Consider Him… these were the words which took my sights off myself and helped me begin to make sense (or as much as I can) of suffering. Consider means to take a close look at, to gaze on steadily, think about carefully, with the thought of taking action yourself (MW).
I began to look at Jesus in the gospels. The accounts of His life, how He lived, what He suffered. None of it was because He deserved it. He was perfect in every way. It wasn’t because God didn’t love Him. He did… does… And none of it was really about this life on earth, it was all focused on what was to come… what is to come.
He was… is… on a mission to save. To rescue the blind and lost, the desperately soul-sick, and make a way for them to be wholly healed. Every one of His actions God used to test the hearts of the ones responding to Him. And it occurred to me, this is the way we are to live, too. Wholly available to God for His use. However He sees fit.
Because Jesus suffered for me (and my mom), I am increasingly willing to suffer for Him. Trusting His salvation in the end.
Some wrong thinking often accompanies the teaching of the gospel. The thought of life being better, more prosperous, safer, if we follow Jesus and make Him a part of our life. The problem comes along with the truth found in our Reflection Scripture:
Jesus is not an addition to make life better. He is Life.
Only by giving our all to Him, do we find salvation. Every other path leads to destruction.
Read Acts 17:26-31
What is the objective or purpose of life? Why are we here? How is God involved?
Finding or discovering God is the purpose of life. It’s why we are here, and God places each person in the best time, place, and circumstance for us to find Him.
To miss God is to miss the whole point of life. To miss God is to miss life.
Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
John 14:6 ESV
Our lives were created by God with the intention of living for Him and with Him. The enemy sold us a lie and now we live a life we were never intended to live: a life focused on self. (Maybe that’s why Adam and Eve didn’t know they were naked. They never even considered themselves before until they swallowed the lie.)
In our pursuit of pleasing self, we self-destruct. Sometimes, it is in the self-destruction we find His grace. He does not allow us to comfortably live a life which leads to hell. However, some may be so blind, they curse Him all the way, but it is not Him who destroys. We destroy ourselves.
When we live according to the way we were created – other-centered, like Him – we find true life, peace, and joy.
Shalom is the Hebrew word for peace and encompasses total well-being, prosperity, and security associated with God’s presence among His people. Wholeness, health, security, well-being, and salvation (Tyndale Bible Dictionary). What we are looking for is found in Him alone.
Giving Him your all is the way to gain all you’ve ever desired.
Read Galatians 6:7-10
This passage uses the metaphor of farming – sowing and reaping – for how we spend our lives. What we give it to, invest it in.
Do you hear echoes of the Reflection Scripture in these verses? Explain.
The investing in self or the flesh will only lead to corruption, while a life spent investing in the Spirit of God reaps a harvest of eternal life.
What is the evidence of a life given to the things of the flesh?
Corruption. Other versions read: decay and death or destruction. The Greek, in the ethical sense, means moral decay (Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon). A life invested in the things of the flesh will simply become more and more corrupt. An increasing slide toward immorality and the destruction which comes along with it. Ultimately, if it goes unchanged, it can mean eternal misery.
What about a life given to the Spirit? What is reaped in this life? anything?
Eternal life for many means heaven. Some see it as only starting after we leave our earthly bodies. But that’s not what Jesus said.
Read John 17:3
What is eternal life, according to Jesus?
Eternal life is knowing the only true God and Jesus, whom the Father sent on our behalf.
By sowing a life to the Spirit of God we can increase our knowledge and understanding of Jesus and the Father while we are right here on earth. We can begin to experience His presence and peace as we faithfully obey His way. Come to know Him experientially through His Word and prayer.
Eternal life begins the moment of our salvation. It is not something we wholly look forward to but can begin to walk in now. We don’t have to wait. Knowing more of Him by faith is one of the harvests we reap by investing our lives in Him.
Sowing a life to the Spirit is exemplified by good works. But these good works are not always fully appreciated or come to fruition during our lifetime. (Look to Jesus for evidence of this reality.) We are to remember the eternal treasure we build in our giving to others, as we’ve talked about, but because of the delay in reaping the harvest, doing good can get tiresome.
We are called to take every opportunity given us to do good to everyone, but especially to Believers.
Why do you think we should especially do good to those in the church? Or does it make more sense to do good to those who don’t yet know Him? Explain.
Living life according to the Spirit has a rhythm with me. It goes something like this: I’m convicted. God reveals my heart about the issue. I repent. God enlightens me through His Word on His will and way. Once my heart is changed, my actions soon follow. There are times I’m not aware of transformation until it surprises me.
As I read the Galatians Scripture the last verse caught my attention.
Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us work for the good of all, especially for those who belong to the household of faith.
In my mind, the “doing good for all” focused on those who do not know Christ, the lost, and unbelieving. I saw doing good as an evangelistic mission. Feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit those in prison.
This Scripture teaches to do good especially to those who belong to the faith. What? Why? Shouldn’t Believers know how to live for Christ? Don’t those who hear God’s Word each week understand what to do? I am critical at times about the household of faith, judging their reluctance to do good.
As I thought of my own good. The things I’ve done to express God’s love, I was surprised when I realized the ministry God has given me is primarily focused on helping others grow their faith through teaching, writing, and shepherding.
My usual rhythm changed cadence. My actions were following Christ… my theology just needed to catch up.
There are a couple of reasons to do good to the church preferentially. First, we are all members of one body: If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together (1Corinthians 12:26). When we do good to those in the Body we are doing good to ourselves too.
Second, the community of love exemplified by Believers toward one another is a picture of Jesus’s love for us. His unique love sets us apart from the world’s way of looking out for “No. 1” and causes others to want to know exactly what makes us different.
When we squabble and resent one another or ignore each other’s needs within the church, we are a terrible witness of who Jesus is. He treats those who are His with preference, and we should too.
Turn to Daniel 3
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were Jewish exiles serving the king of a pagan land. Their faith led them to a life or death choice. Worship an idol or be thrown into a fiery furnace.
Read Daniel 3:16-18
How would you describe these three men’s faith? Is it a type of faith you aspire to possess?
Many approach religion the same way they would a good luck charm. As long as things are working out well, then they’ll keep serving it. But once things start getting uncomfortable or a little rocky (remember that soil), they are ready to chunk it and try something else.
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego’s worship of God was not based on what He did for them – it was based on who God is. The One True Sovereign God! They understood God is life, not a means to a better, safer life. They trusted Him to do what was best in their circumstance.
God blessed these three men with a miraculous deliverance and their faith changed the mind of a king who then set out to protect God’s reputation in all the lands he ruled.
Read Daniel 3:28-30
What did the king of Babylon say about the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego?
King Nebuchadnezzar blessed their God and commanded severe punishment for those who spoke anything against their God. Because, there is no other god who is able to rescue in this way.
Note, the king didn’t take God as his God, but he called Him Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego’s God.
What does it mean to you to have a god? How do you serve a god?
Is the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego your God?
What does God deserve from His people? Do you give Him what He deserves?
God deserves every ounce of life we have. He’s given it to us, it’s His. We just need to come into agreement with Him and give Him our all for His glory. When we do we find life beyond anything we could experience in the temporal physical realm.
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego faced physical death because of their faith, something we don’t face in the United States, but others do around the world. However, in our daily choices – serving God or serving self – we face the very real consequences of spiritual death.
Do you ever consider spiritual death?
Believers often face furnaces of fire on a spiritual level and do not recognize it. Opportunities to choose God or worship idols like money, power, romantic relationships. When we choose to obey God, there are times the temperature increases. Others don’t understand. Some walk away. But in the heat of the fire, our eyes are opened to the reality of Christ in our lives. Just like with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, He stands with us as we remain spiritually unscathed by the flames. The outcome is miraculous on the other side of the circumstance. Our spiritual life grows stronger and stronger.
Those around us are watching too, like King Nebuchadnezzar. As we continue to choose God, they see Christ in our lives. When we give our all in choosing to follow God, laying down our lives for the One we worship, transformation happens in us and those around us.
When I first moved back home a family in our church lost their husband and father in a terrible accident. As a young adult, I was watching the experience from the outside. I witnessed a mother and her children sit together during the memorial service, and I wondered what the coming days, months and years would bring. Would the tragedy do them in? Where was God in all of it?
I watched as she moved through grief with grace I couldn’t imagine. I marveled at her strength and courage to keep going as she mothered two children whose father was gone.
Tears well as I reflect on it today. In the midst of their fiery furnace, I was blessed to witness Jesus. Through their journey I came to know Christ even more. I was and am changed through their living testimony.
Describe the two different conflicts found in these passages.
The first conflict centers on devotion in relationships, particularly family. Jesus comes right out and says He’s come to bring a sword, not peace, when it comes to family. Anyone who puts family above Him is not worthy of Him.
The second conflict is between Jesus and Peter. It centers on what is reasonable. Peter thought it totally unreasonable… unthinkable… that Jesus would suffer and die, and He certainly shouldn’t be telling others this was going to happen. It’s too discouraging! Jesus recognized Satan’s thinking all over Peter and told him to Step back!
Satan, being the prince of the world, is the one who comes up with all the flawed self-centered reasoning which belongs to man. The family argument could also be called worldly. The passage about hating your mother and father in order to follow Jesus is offensive to all sorts of people. Yet, it is something we have to take in context with the whole of God’s Word, who commands us to honor our mother and father.
The truth is our thinking is “stinking” because of sin.
What is Jesus’s ultimate command to resolve the conflict in both circumstances?
Lose your life for my sake… Jesus calls us to be fully devoted to Him in relationship and reason.
Desire for family above Him or the need for things to be reasonable in our own understanding is just not going to cut it. The solution to both conflicts is laying down self and putting Him first, in both relationship and reason.
Jesus expects our hearts to be fully invested in Him. If we are more devoted to others or we are more devoted to what we find reasonable we become a stumbling block to Him and a weapon in the hands of the enemy (Matthew 16:23 and Romans 6:13).
How can we begin to change our minds about what is right and wrong when it comes to loyalties?
First and foremost, we need to approach God as God.
Read Isaiah 55:6-13
What instruction do you hear in these verses?
Seek the Lord while He may be found… Seeking the Lord now, while He can be found by faith is the first step in changing our mind about God. There will come a day when He reveals Himself to all, but it will be too late to return by faith.
The words God spoke through Isaiah also call for the wicked to forsake their way, and the unrighteous man to let go of his way of thinking. Recognizing our sinfulness and wrong ways is also a step in the right direction. Accepting we are wrong and He is right is a great beginning.
Returning to God involves recognizing we came from Him. He is our Creator, therefore we belong to Him. Whatever wandering we’ve done, returning is necessary for a course correction.
What is significant about God when it comes to approaching Him as God?
Understanding we will never fully understand His Ways is significant when it comes to approaching God as God. His thinking is far higher than whatever we could deem reasonable. He is beyond our comprehension (Romans 11:33).
Understanding the power of His Word is important when we approach God. What He says will happen. There’s no way around it. There’s no arguing with Him (a la Peter). We are called to give Him complete trust and loyalty simply based on who He is. God.
When we do give up all we consider our own, the outcome is joy-full!
There is a verse which perfectly depicts what it means to be wholly devoted to God:
I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
Romans 12:1-2 ESV
How are Believers called to live? Why?
Living sacrifice: the picture of a life fully devoted to God.
We are to present our bodies as living sacrifices, because of God’s mercies poured out on us through Jesus. And we are no longer to be conformed to the world but be transformed by the renewal of our mind, so we will know His good. This happens through the Word and prayer as we examined in the Isaiah passage, along with repentance.
Read 1Corinthians 13:1-3
Speaking in tongues, prophetic powers, perfect knowledge and understanding, faith which can move mountains, selfless generosity and martyrdom are among the great attributes listed in this passage. But without love for Jesus, they are all worthless.
Of the attributes listed, what do we have a tendency to strive for? work at?
What ministry or service do you try to produce on your own because you think it’s necessary or looks good to on your “Christian resume”?
Works is man’s default mode. We must be careful not to fall into its trap. We cannot earn extra credit or bonus points with God through hard work, even when it’s excellent. Without love for God, it is meaningless.
The question she asked keeps circling around in my mind, “Do you have to have a quiet time in order to be a good Christian?”
I replied, “Why do you ask?”
As the sister and I asked questions and conversed with her, a bit of holy discontent settled over me. You see our friend was taught this was the way to get closer to God. Long periods of time spent with eyes closed in prayer and reading only Scripture in the morning. My sweet friend was feeling guilty, like she was doing something wrong because it wasn’t working for her anymore.
Please don’t be offended. I’m all for quiet in the morning if this is how the Holy leads you to connect with His presence. But, when it becomes a loveless guilt driven tradition what good is it?
We encouraged her to pray a prayer we both believe God automatically says Yes too. A no brainer so to speak.
Jesus, show me how to love you more. Increase my desire for you. Amen
He is faithful to answer this prayer with a resounding YES when these words come from our heart. It may lead us to quiet time in the morning or whispering breath prayers all day long. It might bring us to our knees in repentance in the middle of the laundry room or cause us to give praise in the worst of circumstances. All are good when our love for Him grows. None are worth a dime if no love abounds.
Not only must we watch out for being works driven, we must also beware trying to manufacture love for others as we pursue ministry or service. It’s all about loving God first and best. Because when we love Him wholeheartedly – with all our mind, will, and emotion – He will lead us to the places He has prepared for us to serve, He will provide us with the power, and infuse us with love for others. All ministry and love for others comes out of first loving Him in obedience.
GIVE = God Centered + Spirit Inspired + Kingdom Vision + Eternal Treasure
We’ve brought the means and reason for giving into a full equation. The way we are to focus on giving to others in His name.
Read Luke 22:19
What does He mean, when He says: Do this in remembrance of Me?
Jesus wants us to remember He gave His all because He loves the Father and His love for the Father overflows in love for us. He gave His body and blood to make a way of deliverance from sin and death. To bring us Good News. To be Good News!
In the same way, He asks us to give up our lives for Him and for the gospel – to be broken and poured out wholly for Him for the saving of others. Our giving of self in His name re-members Him in the world. Yet this all must begin with love for the Father, as it did in Him.
He is not asking us to recall His sacrifice, to envision His body broken and blood poured out, for the sake of remembering. When we approach remembering solely this way it becomes just another tradition and doesn’t connect us to His presence. The remembering He calls us to involves action. A losing of self in the name of love.
CS Lewis in his book The Four Loves wrote about the four loves found in the Greek language, the language of the New Testament. Three of them have the power to seduce us into pouring out our lives for something other than God. The fourth is the love of God. [The following is Carol’s takeaway from the book. Not direct quotes.]
Eros – The romantic love between two people. The kind of love which makes us think we can’t live without the other and we will do anything to keep them. Even after they make our lives miserable.
Storge – A so called natural love. The love found within family. An expected love which can lead to idolatry of individuals.
Phileo – Brotherly love between friends. It is not based primarily on the person, but begins with a common pursuit. You could say the sisters who gather in our shop have a phileo love for one another based on our common desire to follow Jesus. It is a common interest or passion which draws people first, and in the process we learn more about the individuals themselves. But the quest of an interest or philosophy can become an idol in itself. Something you willingly suffer for in its pursuit.
Agape – The fourth love in the Greek is the other-centered love. The one God loves us with and the way He calls us to love Him and others. This is a supernatural love which flows through us after salvation by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Love is a powerful catalyst and reason to give your all to a thing or person.
Have you ever given your all to the wrong thing? person? in the name of love? What was the outcome?
I think about the times I’ve broken and sacrificed myself for a god – a wrongly placed love – and the death and destruction it brought. Death of hopes and dreams. Many heart wounds suffered all because of eros.
God reminded me of these many wounds recently. Things I hadn’t thought about in a long time. The temptation to lash out at the one who hurt me all those years ago was still there. It was a struggle to not let it root and plant bitterness in my heart.
The power of His agape love fueled my spiritual battle. I first had to remember my own sin in the whole process. I set myself up for the pain through my idolatry. Next, I trusted in His sovereignty in the past circumstances and His promise to work all things for good in the lives of those who love Him. Finally, I trusted His love for me. He was stirring this up for a purpose. To bring healing or to demonstrate the power of His love in a wounded heart.
Without Him, I would be an even bigger mess than I am today. Hallelujah!
It is only in the pouring out of our lives to the Father through Jesus by the power of the Spirit that we find true life. A life of love which never ends. Giving your all to anything less… leads to death…
What’s keeping you from giving Him your all?
Consider this question as you sing along with or listen to I Surrender All.
We’ve wrapped up Going Deeper Into Give and we’ll be taking a break for a few weeks. We’ll be back August 14, 2018 for six weeks of digging deeper into loving other with the faith action of Encourage.
Lord, grow us to experience the greater blessing of giving than receiving. Amen.