Julian Freeman

Freed to live through the death of another.

Category: Love (page 1 of 2)

How to Love More

Last night in our small group we were talking about the ever-present problem in the Christian life of not being affected enough by the truth that we know. It’s the gap between knowing the gospel of grace and feeling the grace of the gospel. We want to be humbled by the gospel. We want to love God more. But how do we do that?

This got me thinking about a post I put up here about 4 years ago and so I decided to repost it.

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Wise Words from James

Even though we’ve moved on to chapter 5 in our study on James at GFC, I’m still marvelling at many of the things my Lord has been teaching me from his word.

Preaching big passages like I’ve had to do is great for seeing the big picture and covering more of God’s word, but it necessarily means that there are lots of stones left unturned in each passage. Particularly, I’ve been thinking through James’s promise in chapter 4: ‘Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.’

One thing that amazed me the other night as I sat and thought this through is the similarity between this saying and that declaration of Jesus that the one who is forgiven most loves most. On the surface, they don’t seem that connected, but I think there is a profound connection.

Our Desire is to Love

Every Christian wants to know how to love God more. The first and greatest commandment we have is this: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.’ The reason why we still sin, why we become discouraged, or why we fall back into old patterns of living is because our love for God falls short of our love for ourselves.

Our Enemy Wants to Hinder Our Love

The devil is our enemy. His greatest goal is to stop us from achieving our greatest goal, which is love for God, resulting in joy in God. We want to love God, but he’ll do anything to stop that. Every Christian wants to love God more; but how do you practically increase your love for God?

James connects resisting the devil’s work with drawing near to God. In response to our drawing near to God, God draws near to us. What kind of drawing near does James have in mind? He clarifies for us in the next couple of sentences, where he describes radical repentance, open confession of sin and sinfulness, and proper humility. In other words, draw near to God in humility, repentance, and brokenness, acknowledging the greatness of your sin.

Connect the Dots

We can begin to connect the dots here a little with Jesus’ saying. We will love God more if we acknowledge more readily the reality of what we’ve been forgiven. But our enemy will have none of that–which is why we need to resist him. How do you resist Satan? By confessing your sins and drawing near to God.

It is the work of Satan to get you to think little of your sins. He desires that you not confess specific sins, that you not be heart-broken over the ways you’ve denied God. He wants you to just ignore sin in your life and not confess to brothers and sisters. The smaller you think your sin is, the less your love for God will grow, and the happier your enemy will be. ‘He who is forgiven little, loves little.’

If your love for God has grown cold, you can probably draw a straight line back to your lack of confession of sin in your own heart, to God, and to others. When you don’t realize what you’ve been forgiven, you don’t love.

How do you grow to love more? Draw near to God in repentance. Acknowledge how horrible and ugly your sin is, and be specific in your confession. What at the things you have rejected him for? What are the things you’ve loved more than him? What are the lies you’ve believed instead of his truth? Confess to him that you deserve death and hell. The more you draw near to him, the worse you’ll see your sin is, the more you’ll see how much you’ve been forgiven and the more you’ll love — which will overflow into a life of God-glorifying joy in obedience.

Letting My Love Serve Me

This week I’m taking something of a ‘working vacation’ at the family cottage. Last night as I was doing the dishes I was thinking back over the day that was. I got thinking about each of my children and how much I love them. Each of them owns my heart in a very unique way. Each of them has a smile, a laugh, a facial expression, some moment of pure joy on their face that is forever etched on my memory.

There is simply no love quite like a father for his children. There is nothing that makes me feel better than knowing my children are safe, protected, and provided for. And there is nothing that strikes terror into the core of my being like the thought of my children suffering. The thought of any one of my precious girls in pain or sadness makes me instantly recoil emotionally. I get a sick feeling in my gut and I’m instantly overcome with the awareness that I would do anything—anything—to end their suffering and to make them happy again.

I thought about that and I was overwhelmed by awareness of this love that owns me and moves me without me even being consciously aware of it most days.

And then I thought about the heavenly Father and his love. Filled with infinitely more love for his Son—a perfect love for a perfect Son—he willingly chose to ‘give’ him for a world of sinners. He gave him, knowing that he would be mocked, belittled, shamed, abused, scorned, rejected, beaten, stripped naked, and killed: publicly displayed as one bearing the curse of God. That’s a love I know nothing of.

But the love is greater still. Ponder these words, of the Son to the Father:

“Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me.” (Mark 14.36)

My love for my children, being nothing like the heavenly Father’s love, would have been moved to give in, to compromise. But the Father of Jesus has bigger, greater love; his love for Jesus’s glory and for my good is too great to be moved. He was willing to deny his True Son’s request for the good of his soon-to-be adopted sons & daughters. The love of the Father was planned and determined.

Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him; he has put him to grief…. (Isaiah 53.10)

“Awake, O sword, against my shepherd, against the man who stands next to me,” declares the Lord of hosts. [I will] strike the shepherd….” (Zechariah 13.7; [cf. Mark 14.27])

His love is not just a love that would allow his Son to be sacrificed; his love is a love that would willingly crush his Son. He gave his Son, knowing that he himself would have to give full vent to his holy wrath against his Son on the cross. The Father who loves the Son, crushed the son… for me.

No matter how overwhelming my love for my children may be, it doesn’t hold a candle to my heavenly Father’s love, in scope, in purpose, in depth, in power, or in steadfastness.

I want to make it my prayer that whenever I think of my love for my children, I would let that love serve me by pointing me to the true love of the true Father who, in the gospel, has loved and who continues to love with a greater love than eternity will allow me to explore. Human love serves its best and noblest purpose when it doesn’t end with us, but points us to the one who is love, and who has shown us love in his Son, Jesus.

… but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5.8)

See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. (1 John 3.1)

After the Last Tear Falls…

Even though the album came out some time ago, lately I’ve been loving this song by Andrew Peterson. I thought I’d post the video here for you to hopefully be blessed as well.

How Do You Define Love?

How do you define love? Many people through the years have attempted it. In the past I’ve offered a couple stabs at it: here and here. My thoughts were largely geared toward love for each other.

Augustine, however, is much smarter than me. He defines love first and foremost toward God, and I like his definition. It’s good for reading, pondering, thinking, then starting all over. Here’s what he says in On Christian Doctrine [III, x, 16]:

I call ‘charity’ [i.e. love for God] the motion of the soul toward the enjoyment of God for his own sake, and the enjoyment of one’s self and of one’s neighbour for the sake of God.

John Piper adds: “Loving God is always conceived of essentially as delighting in God and in anything else for his sake.”

Man, how different is that definition from what you hear people saying of love these days?

Blacks, Whites, and Greys

It’s a funny thing to me how lessons seem to weave themselves into our lives at seemingly ‘random’ points in time (which, of course, shows me that they’re not random at all). Over the past eight weeks or so, as I’ve been preaching through James, I’ve been amazed at how clearly he contradicts our contemporary worldview and way of looking at life. In our culture there are no black and white issues, only greys. Members of PETA, who say it’s wrong to kill for food, probably still smack mosquitoes. What’s wrong in one situation may be okay in another. There are all kinds of greys.

James, however, continually teaches by setting up worldviews as opposed to each other. Either you’re steadfast or you waffle, either you are a doer or a hearer only, either you have a pure religion or a worthless religion, your source of speech is either a fresh spring or salt water, your wisdom is either from God or from Satan, and so on. You’re one or the other, black or white. There is no middle ground, no fence to sit on.

The funny part about all of this is how I’ve been growing in my understanding of the many issues where thoughtful, biblical, Jesus-loving Christians disagree about moral issues. Do you drink or not? Do you do home-school, public school, or Christian school? What kind of language is okay and what is not? What type of guidelines should we use when we dress? These things are anything but black and white, and real Christians really disagree.

So what do we do? Do we respond with insisting that there is a ‘black and white’ answer for every issue? Do we argue incessantly about it until people see it our way? Do we just stress privately because everyone else is wrong?

I think the answer of humility is found in a passage like Romans 14:

Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgement on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him. Who are you to pass judgement on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand. 

In other words, your brother or sister who sees things differently than you isn’t your servant, and you’re not his or her judge. They do have a master and a judge, but you’re not him. To judge them as if they need to give an account to you is to contend for supremacy with God. It’s pride.

Not judging is only the beginning, however. More than not judging, we must also be careful to be proactive in love:

Therefore let us not pass judgement on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother. 

To flaunt your freedom is the opposite reaction to judging and condemning, but it’s equally unloving. ‘If your brother is grieved by what you eat, you are no longer walking in love.’

The admonition comes again: ‘Do not, for the sake of food, destroy the work of God.’ What Paul is saying here is that when we value our freedoms so much that we’re not willing to give them up for the sake of loving a brother or sister and ‘not grieving’ them, then we’ve valued our own freedom more than we’ve valued one of God’s children.

The humble, Christian response to the ‘greys’ is to lovingly refuse to judge, and then to lovingly resist the urge to flaunt our freedoms in front of others who don’t enjoy the same freedoms.

This calls for love and humility all around. On different issues I’ve found myself sometimes being the one tempted to judge, and sometimes being the one tempted to stumble. I can say from experience that neither side is easy. But Christian community is a beautiful thing when, by the power of the Spirit, Christians are walking in this kind of self-denying, self-sacrificing love, living out humility. It’s been a delight to see it in action at GFC, and I can only pray for more.

Overwhelmed

There are benefits and drawbacks to preaching large portions of text. The benefits are too numerous to get into, but one of the drawbacks is that you don’t get to stop and to meditate for as long as you’d like on a single thought expressed in your passage, because there are so many other things to get to.

Yesterday I preached on James 4.1-12. As usual, I talked too long and said too little, but the text itself is absolutely amazing. The thought that gripped me the most, personally, as I laboured through the text last week (and even while I preached) was verse 5:

Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, “He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us”? 

That thought absolutely blew me away.

How could this be? The God of the universe not only puts up with me when he should obliterate me, but ‘yearns jealously’ for my devotion to him? He yearns with a jealousy of a husband for his bride (according to the analogy of the passage).

What an absolute shame that we take so lightly the thought that God loves us. Of all things in Scripture, this should be the thought that amazes us the absolute most.

God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Rom 5.8) 

And again,

By this we know love, that [Christ] laid down his life for us (1 Jn 3.16). 

In our chapter (James 4), James does something amazing: He contrasts our desires (which are at war within us, and bring quarrels and fights) with God’s desire for his people (which is singular, faithful, loving, and brings peace). This truth ought to humble us, amaze us, and increase our love for him.

Where the church’s desires are many, and illicit, and have grieved our groom, his desires are single, and faithful, and pure, and have brought our joy.

Where his one desire produces peace, our many desires have yielded enmity between God and us, and fights between us all.

And yet, he loves us still. And he ‘yearns jealously’ for our affections… what an overwhelming love! What an amazing God!

Parenting and My Heart

Sometimes it’s good to do what’s counter-intuitive. In fact, I’ve found that the longer I’ve been a Christian, the more I need to second-guess and examine every motive. Sure enough, there is deep-rooted sin in there somewhere. I’ve found God’s evaluation of humanity in Gen 8.21 (‘the inclination of their minds is evil from childhood on’) to be absolutely correct in my case every time I’m willing to consider for longer than 23 seconds.

This examining and cross-examining of motives and actions is almost nowhere more necessary than in parenting. What can on-first-blush appear to be ‘for the baby’ can really be simply for my immediate gratification (‘I made her feel nice, now I feel better about my ability to parent’). What is really sad about this, though, is that what is often for my immediate gratification as a parent will more often than not be to the child’s long-term harm.

So, for example, we’re in a store and Susie really wants something, but I already told her she can’t have it, I had not planned on buying it, we haven’t budgeted for it, and she doesn’t need it. What do I do as a parent? The ball is only $1.99 or something silly like that. She is sad if I don’t get it. She’s happy if I get it. Why not just ‘make her happy’ and get it? Wouldn’t it also make me happier to just buy something for my daughter that I know will make her happy?

Because we teach by example, I’m teaching Susie something in that situation when I give in and buy it. I’m teaching her that it’s okay to make unplanned purchases, on an impulse, whether you have the money or not. I’m teaching her that when you complain and fuss in life, you get want you want. I’m teaching her to look for happiness in ‘stuff’ that can be purchased. I’m teaching her that it is okay to strive against an authority. In all these ways I’m doing my daughter tremendous spiritual harm by ‘making her happy’ in that moment.

If that’s true–and I know it is–then why would I give in to her? Why would I cave when she has a fit? Why would I leave her undisciplined when she breaks rules? Why would I let her go to bed late, get up early, eat what she wants, etc., when I’ve thought it through and prayed it through ahead of time? Why would decisions that my trusted counsellor (my bride) and I have talked through at length be discarded in a moment?

Because I love my daughter? Far from it. That’s the opposite of love.

Why would I be willing to ‘do whatever it takes’ to stop our baby from crying and make her ‘happy’? Because the inclination of my heart is evil from my childhood on. Because my heart is desperately wicked and deceitful above all else and I cannot understand it. Because my near-sighted selfishness is willing to sacrifice the long-term spiritual welfare of my child for the immediate gratification I get from feeling like a good parent; or maybe so that I can congratulate myself on how gracious I am.

I believe it. Now all I need to do is continue to preach it to myself as I make the moment-by-moment decisions I need to make in parenting. God give me grace to be faithful!

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