Friday, December 28, 2007

The Tests of Love to God

In his book, All Things for Good, Thomas Watson gives a list of tests for those who truly love God. For in all things God works for the good of those who love Him. Our love is best seen by the fruit it bears. He lays down fourteen fruits of love to God, and it is crucial for us “to search carefully whether any of these fruits grow in our garden.”
1. The musing of the mind upon God. He who is in love, his thoughts are ever upon the object. He who loves God is ravished and transported with the contemplation of God. God is the treasure, and where the treasure is, there is the heart. “Set your heart on things above where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.” (Colossians 3:1).
2. The desire of communion with God. David writes, “My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the LORD; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God.” (Psalm 84:2). Lovers would be conversing together.
3. Grief for our sins. A child that loves his father cannot but weep for offending him. The heart that burns in love melts in tears. Peter wept bitterly over the realization that he had betrayed his master who loved him dearly (Matthew 26:75). David said that the sacrifices acceptable to God are a broken spirit and a contrite heart (Psalm 51:17).
4. Courage. Love is valorous, it turns cowardice into courage. He that loves God will stand up in his cause and be an advocate for him. When the apostles were threatened to keep silent about Jesus, they replied, “We cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.” (Acts4:20).
5. Sensitiveness. If we love God, our hearts ache for the dishonor done to God by wicked men. Lot’s righteous soul “was distressed by the filthy lives of lawless men.” (2 Peter 2:7).
6. Hatred against sin. Fire purges the dross from the metal. The fire of love purges out sin from the heart. The people of God will say, “What more have I to do with idols?” (Hosea 14:8). Is he a friend to God who loves that which God hates?
7. Crucifixion. He who is a lover of God is dead to the world. “May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” (Galatians 6:14). Love to God swallows up all other love.
8. Fear. In the godly person love and fear are partners. There is a fear of displeasing God. When tempted by sexual sin, Joseph exclaimed, “How can I do such a wicked thing and sin against God?” (Genesis 39:9). There is also fear mixed with jealousy. “Eli’s heart trembled for the ark” (1 Samuel 4:13). He that loves God fears that a flippant attitude toward God should increase in the followers of Christ and God’s presence be not seen among them.
9. Love what God loves. We love God’s Word (Psalm 119:72, 103). We love God’s rest (Isaiah 58:13). We will love one another as the children of God (1 John 5:1).
10. A good opinion of God. Though God allows suffering and trials, the soul takes it well that loves God. Love interprets all things in the best sense. The writer of Hebrews said, “endure hardship as discipline, God is treating you as sons.” (12:7).
11. Obedience. Jesus said, “Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me.” (John 14:21). If we love Christ, we are willing to obey Him regardless of the difficulty or danger involved. “Love always perseveres.” (1 Corinthians 13:7). Should we not suspect our love to God if we are not willing to endure suffering and rejection for Him?
12. Endeavour to make Him appear glorious in the eyes of others. If we love God we shall spread abroad His excellencies, so that we may raise his fame and esteem, and may induce others to fall in love with Him. Love is like fire: where it burns in the heart, it will break forth at the lips.
13. A longing for Christ’s appearing. Expecting Roman execution, Paul wrote to Timothy, “Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day – and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.” (2 Timothy 4:8). Love desires union. He will at that day bestow two jewels upon us. His love; a love so great and astonishing, that it is better felt than expressed. And His likeness (1John 3:2). And from both of these, His love and likeness, infinite joy will flow into the soul.
14. Love will make us stoop to the lowest of service. Love is a humble grace; it does not walk abroad in state; it will creep upon its hands; it will stoop and submit to anything whereby it may be serviceable to Christ. Love is not squeamish; it will visit the sick, relieve the poor, wash the saints’ wounds. He who loves God will humble himself to the meanest service to Christ and His Body, the church.

George Matheson expresses the only reasonable response to God’s unfailing love for me: “O love that will not let me go, I rest my weary soul in Thee; I give Thee back the life I owe, that in Thine ocean depths its flow may richer, fuller be.”

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Treasuring Christ

Asaph gets lost in the distraction of looking at people rather than God. In Psalm 73, he confesses to losing perspective by focusing on the apparent prosperity and success of others. This is a common problem in my life. I value more the opinion of people than the approval of God. Like Asaph, my vision becomes clouded by the things people own and distorted by the approval of others (v. 12). When this happens my heart and mind become filled with grief, bitterness, frustration and ignorance (v. 21-22). A transformation occurs when the Psalmist brings himself into the eternal presence of God. Oh, that I might be free of this attachment to the constant awareness of the presence of man. When Asaph steps into the sanctuary of God he sees clearly the frailty and finality of humanity (v. 16). At this point God becomes everything as he responds to God, “You hold me . . . You guide me . . . You take me into glory . . . Whom have I in heaven but You? And earth has nothing I desire besides you.” (vv. 23-25). I want to say from my heart with Asaph, “it is good to be near God.” (v. 28).

The latest issue of Discipleship Journal has some challenging words from a Christian Classic. When I get my DJ in the mail the first thing I do is turn to the last page. Here I find the enduring words of the followers of Jesus from ages past. This month’s feature is an excerpt from Thomas A. Kempis’ The Imitation of Christ. He writes about the incomparable treasure of loving Christ. My journey is to love Christ above all others. To be so filled with devotion to Him that everything else in this world fades in comparison.
Blessed are those who appreciate what it is to love Jesus. He alone should be loved above all things. Affection for [created things] is deceitful and inconstant, but the love of Jesus is true and enduring. Whoever clings to a creature will fall because of its frailty. But those who give themselves to Jesus will ever be strengthened.
Love him, then. Keep him as a friend. He will not leave you as others do or let you suffer lasting death. Sometime, whether or not you will, you will have to part with everything. Cling, therefore, to Jesus in life and death. Trust yourself to the glory of Him who alone can help you when all others fail. Your Beloved is just; He will not accept what belongs to another. He wants your heart for Himself alone, because it is His right to be enthroned there as King.
You will find, apart from Him, that nearly all the trust you place in men is a total loss. Therefore, neither confide in nor depend upon a wind-shaken reed, for “all flesh is grass,” and all its glory, like the flower of grass, will fade away (Isaiah 40:6). You will quickly be deceived if you look only to the outward appearance of others. You will often be disappointed if you seek comfort and gain in them. If, however, you seek Jesus in all things, you will surely find Him.
In the same way, if you seek yourself, you will find yourself – to your own ruin. For those who do not seek Jesus do themselves much greater harm than the whole world and all their enemies could ever do them.