The past few weeks (months, even?) our Pastor has been going through J.C. Ryle's book Holiness (down load the pdf version of this book here) on Wednesday nights. I have really learned so much about walk with the Lord and all about His incredible love for me. This past Wednesday, we were going over Ch. 15: "Do You Love Me?" Let me tell you, I really had to question my love for the Lord. So many times I say I love the Lord, but this week's study made me question if I love the Lord like a friend, or if I love the Lord as the center of my world. Our Pastor said, "You can always know if a Christian love Christ because of these things:" (and here is the list...reference the the book for more details)
- If we love a person, we think about him.
- If we love a person, we love to hear about him.
- If we love a person, we love to read letters from/about him.
- If we love a person, we want to please him.
- If we love a person, we like his friends.
- If we love a person, we are jealous about his name and honor.
- If we love a person, we talk to him.
- If we love a person, we want to be always with him.
Our love for the Lord should be incredibly similar to our love for our spouses (or the ones we are engaged to). So let me take a moment to go through my personal thoughts/responses to each of these. In many of these, I will compare how much love and dedication I have for my husband to the love and dedication I have (or should have) for the Lord.
- Our Pastor referenced Ephesians 3:17, but let me expand that little bit more (v14-19) : "My response is to get down on my knees before the Father, this magnificent Father who parcels out all heaven and earth. I ask Him to strengthen you by His Spirit --not a brute strength, but a glorious inner strength-- that Christ will live in you as you open the door and invite Him in. And I ask that with both feet planted firmly on love, you'll be able to take in with all followers of Jesus the extravagant dimensions of Christ's love. Reach out and experience the breadth! Test it's length! Rise to the heights! Live full lives, full in the fullness of God." When I fell in love with the man who became my husband, I thought about him all the time! I couldn't get him off my mind. And as my love has grown for him over the years, I continue to think about him while he is at work, while he is away on work trips, while he is practicing with the praise band at church. I think about him all the time. So, if I love the Lord (and I should love Him more than my husband), do I think about him all the time? And I must confess, not nearly as much as I should. I have grown closer to the Lord recently, and my thoughts are about Him more, but this is definitely an area I can improve on.
- My husband is a decently important person in the field he works in. And, as part of his job, he is frequently on the news, in the paper, or having to speak to large crowds. I love to hear how important my husband and his skill is to those around him. At church, my husband plays in the praise band. He has a great voice, and contributes his guitar playing and harmonica skills to the worship. I love hearing people comment on his playing and singing. It makes me so proud of him. What about the Lord? Do I love hearing about the Lord? Do I love hearing how He has blessed others? Do I love listening to others reveal His truths? ABSOLUTELY! It's always exciting to me to see how He has laid out the pieces of a puzzle through a course of events to bring around something spectacular for someone.
- In the same line as hearing about the Lord, do I love to read letters from/about Him? Do I read my Bible frequently? Do I research the meaning of His Word? Do I read the great scholars who have studied Him to gain a better understanding? I can honestly say that this was a minimum for me until I started teaching the Young People's Sunday School Class. We aren't always using a set curriculum, and tend to just go through sections (we did Jesus's parables and are now going through 1 John). In order to make sure Joe and I are sharing God's Word (and not our opinion of God's Word), we do research and study in order to accurately teach the young people. Through the years I have done Bible studies, but it has only been recently that I have done my own research. If I love the Lord, I am going to need to work on reading letters from/about God.
- The past 13 weeks, I have been studying the Proverbs 31 wife (by WomenLivingWell.org). Because I love my husband so much, I want to be the best wife God has called me to be for my husband. I want to please my husband. I want him to trust that I am taking care of the household, and that I am taking the responsibility of raising our children seriously. I want him to have confidence that he will come home from providing for us to a clean house, a cooked meal, and children who have been trained to treat each other with respect and to love the Lord. But do I strive to please the Lord? In my notes from the Pastor's sermon, I circled this one a few times. What exactly am I doing to please the Lord? Are my efforts really to please man or are they to please my Lord? Do I desire to make Him proud of me as I desire for my husband to be proud of me? And if I do, what more can I do? Just as there is always more I can do to make my husband proud, there is also so much more I can do to make my Creator happy.
- Woo! #5 definitely hit home this week. I was lucky with my husband to have mutual friends before we actually started dating. And many of our friends now are mutual friends. But when it comes to the Lord's friends (fellow believers), do I really like all of them? Honesty time: I struggle with this. There are just some times when my personality does not click well with another believer's. I have had a spat or two with other believers. And, yes, I have spoken against a fellow believer. Shame on me! We have a special bond that is so much better than any earthly bond: God! And because we are all in this battle together, we need to constantly be lifting each other up. If I truly love my God, I need to work on loving other believers more. Doing this will also help me with #4, pleasing the Lord.
- So when the Pastor brought up this next point of "being jealous about his name and honor", I thought? Jealous? Really? Then, thankfully, he explained it in these words, "We don't like hearing someone speaking against the name or honor"...of the one we love. When someone speaks against my husband, do I get upset? Absolutely! When someone disrespects my man, do I say something about it? Yup! BUT when someone is speaking against the name and honor of my Lord do I get upset? Do I say something? This has been a struggle this past week with the controversy about a certain company speaking about their beliefs. I struggled with whether or not I should put my two cents in as well. But when there was an overwhelming outpouring of others shouting their opinions, I felt that maybe it would be best to voice my opinion in my actions towards others. BUT there are times I feel it is necessary to speak up. NOT THAT GOD NEEDS ME TO DEFEND HIM. He does not, but do I get jealous when others defile His name? Yes. Yes I do.
- If my husband came home, and I was too busy to speak to him, he would feel neglected. I would feel neglected and not loved if my husband was too busy to take the time to see how my day was. My husband I have gone through ups and downs of speaking to each other. And I can tell you, the times where we were too busy to speak to each other...REALLY speak to each other...were the toughest times. We were meant to support each other, to listen to each other, to bounce ideas and thoughts off each other. We were meant to love each other with our attentiveness. And God sets a great example of how He loves us by listening to us, by talking to us. My Lord speaks to me in so many different ways (through my husband, through my children, through my friends, through the Pastor, through His Word, through His creation). I am so lucky to have a Lord who loves me so much! And I most definitely need to work on loving Him more by talking to Him more. This is an area I can always improve on. One thing my Pastor said about this point was, "We should not be happy until we can talk to Him." So true. Our hearts should be hurting until we can have communication with our Creator.
- When my husband goes to work, my heart hurts. I really would prefer to just spend the entire day with him. When my husband has to go on some work vacation, I am miserable until he comes back. I really am. I love being around my husband. We should also love to be in company with the Lord. It should make me miserable when I am not able to go to church. It should make my heart hurt when I miss my morning devotion. It should make me sad when I can't make it to home group. And it does! Sometimes more than others, but it does. BUT...please listen....the more time you spend away from God, the easier it is to spend time away from God. I remember my first year of college. I hadn't found a church to call my home away from home. One week went by without going to church. I watched it on tv. Another week went by, and I watched it on tv. Then the third week came, and I slept in. And then I would just not make it an effort. Then suddenly I was in a position where it was so easy to not go to church. I had let other things (sleep, laziness, school, friends) become my idol. I let those things take the place of the Lord who had spent so much time loving on me. It's so important to constantly be with the Lord. Satan is really, really good about encouraging you to not be close to God. He sure makes it appealing to sleep in on Sundays, to create a family tradition of Sunday Brunch instead of learning more about the Lord and worshiping with other believers. This is a trap I can fall into real easily. And if I truly love the Lord, I am going to want my heart to desire to always be with him in worship, Bible study, personal prayer time, corporate prayer time, and fellowship with other believers.
So the question is, Do I love Christ? Yes, I do! BUT can I improve on my love? Absolutely!! Just as there are always more ways to show my husband that I love him, there are even more ways for me to show my Creator that I love Him.
What about you? If you evaluate your love with the Lord, do you fall short? Are there ways you can improve? Make sure when focusing on improving your love for Him, that you don't neglect other ways. Don't beef up on your prayer time (talking to Him), and neglect loving His friends (for example).
And May your Love for the Lord be Evident to Others so They May, too, Love the Lord.