Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The Gift of Jesus: A Matter of Style?

I heard someone make the comment recently that a gift they received “wasn’t really their style.”

It struck me that many people view the gift of Jesus the same way. He simply isn’t “their style.” As Christians, we also reject the gift of Himself when we like His “style” in some ways but not in others. Many of us are great with the serving side of Jesus, but we don’t follow Jesus in heart matters. Instead, we allow spiritual pride, self-promotion, envy and the like to take hold.

I often fail to allow Jesus to love me and love Him back and love others simply because it “isn’t my style” at the moment to do so. I ignore His gift of the inner counselor—the Holy Spirit—to guide me into all truth, righteousness and love because I am more bent on getting even emotionally with someone or boasting about myself out of a need for societal acceptance and affirmation. Many of us don’t take every thought captive, as the Bible teaches, and we don’t focus on loving others with our attitudes and words as much as we focus on finding fault and seeing the world with a critical spirit. If there is any message that needs to be pounded into me at Christmas, it’s this: to live out the joy I have because my Savior, Jesus Christ, was willing to freely love me—and all others--to the point of death on a cross.

What does that mean? It means He came to save us from our thought lives. Our repentance and trust in Him does bring eternal life in heaven. But before heaven, there’s a whole lot of cleaning up to do in our hearts here on earth. The best gift we can give ourselves, and ultimately others, is to give our hearts to Jesus for regeneration and rebirth.

Jesus came as a baby into lowly circumstances. He came in humbleness and sweetness; all the attributes of a baby. Jesus obviously thought them important, if not key to the Christian life, to make them the conditions of His entrance into the world.

Many of us excel at service, giving material things, planting churches and providing financial and even prayer support. But do we practice (and not just listen to it at weddings) a 1 Corinthians love that begins in our hearts and forms our attitudes and outlook, transforming our service so that it is God’s pure service through us? Do we apply a right attitude and selflessness to our families and to those we encounter who are a bit abrasive?

Jesus Christ has not made it an enigma on how our hearts should be. Since love is the greatest command, our heart’s foundation must be love. Jesus tells us how to love. He doesn’t make us figure it out for ourselves: “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails…” 1 Corinthians 13:4-8.

Love never fails….but I do. I fail at this kind of love on a daily basis. That’s because I squash the Holy Spirit who is desperately trying to grow this kind of love in me. We tend our gardens and maintain our homes. And Christians give wonderfully to charity, serve on the mission field and allow God to work through us in uncountable ways. Christians are such an incredible blessing. But I know that, for me, and for perhaps many Christians, a struggle with core heart issues exists, sometimes affecting the glory that is supposed to go to God in my serving and family life.

The gift of new life in Jesus Christ is not something we can put on the level of the style of curtains we decorate our house with, the jeans we wear, or the kind of restaurants we choose. Jesus is not a matter of taste or style. I need to stop living my thought life as if He were.

“One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, ‘Of all the commandments, which is the most important?’ ‘The most important,’ answered Jesus, ‘is this: “Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” ‘The second is this: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” There is no commandment greater than these.’” Mark 12:28-31

“If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.” 1 Corinthians 13:1-3

“And now these three remain; faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” 1 Corinthians 13:13

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