The Key To Personal Growth – Part Three

We are looking at the key to personal growth. There are many. But people defeat themselves before they even start.

1> People assume that they will automatically grow as they live

2> People think that they don’t know how to grow

3> People are waiting for the “right time” to begin a personal growth plan

4> People are afraid of making mistakes

5> People are looking for the best way (the perfect way) before they start

6> People don’t grow and mature because they don’t feel like doing it. 

This is something I read some time back. It was written long before Nike Shoes coined the phrase “Just Do It.”

Just Do It

We hear it almost every day; sigh, sign, Sigh.

I just can’t get myself motivated to … (lost weight, test my blood sugar, etc.) And we hear an equal number of sighs from diabetic educators who can’t get their patients motivated to do the right things for their diabetes and health.

We have news for you. Motivation is not going to strike you like lighting. And motivation is not something that someone else — nurse, doctor, family member — can bestow or force on you. The whole idea of motivation is a trap. Forget motivation. Just do it. 

Exercise, lose weight, test your blood sugar, or whatever. Do it without motivation, and then guess what. After you start doing the thing, that’s when the motivation comes and makes it easy for you to keep on doing it.

You are more likely to act yourself into feeling than feel yourself into action. So, act! Whatever it is you know you should do, do it. Once you get started you will find the motivation to stay with it because it is making such a difference in your life.

You may not feel inspired to aggressively pursue a growth plan if you haven’t started yet. If that’s the case, please trust me when I say that the reasons to keep growing far outweigh the reasons to start growing. And you discover the reasons to stay with growth only if you stick with it long enough to start reaping the benefits. So make a commitment to yourself to start and stick with it for at least twelve months. If you do, you will fall in love with the process, and you will be able to look back at the end of that year and see how far you have come. 

7> People believe that others are better than they are.

In other words, others can do it but you can’t. So, you feel intimated by the knowledge, skill, and ability of others and so you just don’t go there. You don’t challenge yourself to learn from them because you are intimidated by their position, success, education, and knowledge. You just give up and don’t relate. 

You need to intentionally pursue personal growth, and the best way to grow is learning from others who have been there and done that. Yes, you will feel like you are always behind and trying to catch up. Yes, they are better, smart, and more successful than you are. Get over it. Get over comparing yourself with others. You need to learn to be comfortable with being out of your comfort zone. It will always be well worth it.

8> People don’t pursue personal growth because it appears much harder than they thought it would be.

I don’t know any successful people who thinks growth comes quickly and climbing to the top is easy. It just doesn’t happen. People create their own luck. How? Simple. Preparation (growth) + Attitude + Opportunity + Action (doing something about it) = Luck

It all starts with preparation. Unfortunately, that takes time. But here’s the best news. You cannot change your destination overnight, but you can change your direction overnight. If you want to reach your goals and fulfil your personal potential, become intentional about personal growth. It will change you life. 

The Key To Personal Growth – Part Two

The third reason many people don’t set a plan for personal growth and development is that they are waiting for the “right time.”

3> It’s not the right time to begin.

John Maxwell tells the story of his father telling them a riddle which went like this: Five frogs are sitting on a log. Four decide to jump off. How many are left? John, like most of us, answered “One.” To which his father responded: “No. Five. Why? Because there’s a difference between deciding and doing!”

Frank Clark, American politician, said, “What great accomplishments we’d have in the world if everybody had done what they intended to do.” Most people don’t act as quickly as they should on things. As I was pondering this thought in October, 2019 I read the following, “The longer you wait to do something you should do now, the greater the odds that you will never actually do it.” How true! Years ago I received several prophetic words about writing books. I can honestly say that a week does not go by that I don’t think of those prophetic words. But, the longer I waited to start writing the less excited I became and the harder it was to actually start. I was waiting for the “right time” and it simply never came along. 

Maybe you are waiting for a good time to start growing. Now is a good time. Maybe you are waiting until you need to grow — I mean, really need to grow — so as to get that promotion you have been wanting. Maybe you don’t feel any pressure or even a slight desire to grow personally. Regardless, whether you feel prompted to or not, now is the time to start growing. A quote, one of many I collect, states” “Life lived for tomorrow will always be a day away from being realized” (Leo Buscaglia). The reality is that you will never get much done unless you go ahead and do it before you are ready. 

If you’re not already intentionally growing, you need to get started today. If you don’t you may reach some goals, which you can celebrate, but you will eventually plateau. Once you start growing intentional, you can keep growing and keep asking “What’s next?”

4> I’m afraid of making mistakes

Growing can be a messy business. It means admitting you don’t have the answers. It requires making mistakes. It can make you look foolish. Most people don’t enjoy that. But this is the price of admission if you want to improve and mature.

Years ago I read all of the books that Dr. Robert Schuller published. In one of them he wrote, “What would you attempt to do if you knew you wouldn’t fail.” I have since asked, I am sure, several thousand young leaders and disciples of Jesus the same question. Those words encouraged me to try things that I believed – even knew – were beyond my capabilities. 

If you want to grow, you need to get over any fear you may have of making mistakes. As author and professor Warren Bennis asserts, “A mistake is simply another way of doing things.” To become intentional about growing, expect to make mistakes every day, and welcome them as a sign that you are moving in the right direction.

5> I have to find the right way (the best way) before I can start.

Similar to being afraid of making a mistake, the desire to find the “best” way to get started in a growth plan is a killer of any potential growth you might have had. Don’t go looking for the best way before you start on your growth journey. Just start. You have to get started if you want to eventually find the best way. It’s similar to driving on an unfamiliar road at night. Ideally, you’d like to be able to se your whole route before you begin. But you see it progressively. As you move forward, a little more of the road is revealed to you. If you want to see more of the way, then get moving. The same is true for personal growth and development. 

More next time… 

The Key To Personal Growth – Part One

I am a reader. I always have been and hopefully always will be. In a good week I digest and absorb several books that help me to grow personally as well as in my chosen profession as a preacher and teacher of God’s Word. In a tough week when things don’t go as planned I manage to read, work through, and apply the truths I discover from one book. Setting aside regular reading time has been a habit of mine since I was in high school. There is very little that can derail that decision made many decades ago. 

I remember a quote I wrote down from James Allen’s As a Man Thinketh which said: “People are anxious to improve their circumstances but are unwilling to improve themselves; they therefore remain bound.” 

If you focus on goals, you may hit the goals — but that does not guarantee growth. If you focus on growth – growing as a person in all aspects of life — you will grow and always hit your goals. Most people can see the gap between where they are and where they want to be – who they need to be. The distance between here and there is a growth gap. And we all need to work through how we are going to bridge that gap. 

Here is the one thing that is certain: To bridge that gap, to grow personally you have to be intentional. Personal growth, development, and maturity do not happen by accident. 

In my research over the years I have discovered a number of misconceptions about personal growth and development that often hold people back from being as intentional as they need to be. 

1> People assume that growth is automatic.

They assume that they will simply grow and mature without any or much effort as they just live life daily. When we are children, our bodies grow automatically. A year goes by, and we become taller, stronger, more capable of doing new things and facing new challenges. I think many people carry into adulthood a subconscious belief that mental, spiritual, and emotional growth follows a similar pattern. Time goes by, and we simply get better. The problem is that we don’t improve by simply living. To grow, develop, and mature, we have to be intentional about it.

Musician Bruce Springsteen commented, “A time comes when you need to stop waiting for the man you want to become and start being the man you want to be.” No one improves by accident. Personal growth doesn’t just happen on its own. And once you’re done with your formal education, you must take complete ownership of the growth process, because nobody else will do it for you. 

If you want your life to improve, you must improve yourself. You must make that a tangible target. In other words, grow up and be responsible.

2> People think that they simply don’t know how to go about growing personally.

You hear people say, “I don’t know how to grow.” So, they never develop a personal growth plan. Go ahead, ask most people, “Do you have a personal growth plan?” Guaranteed, most people will say no. Most people simply don’t have a plan for growing and improving. Why? Mainly because they don’t know how to grow.

As a result, many people learn only from the school of hard knocks. Difficult experiences teach them lessons “the hard way,” and they change — sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse. The lessons are random and difficult. It’s much better to plan your growth intentionally. You decide where you need or want to grow, you choose what you will learn, and you follow through with discipline going at the pace you set.

As you begin your own growth program you will begin to get excited about the potential that you begin to see. You will begin to see growth opportunities everywhere. Your world will begin to open up. You will accomplish more. You will learn more. You will be able to lead and help others more. Other opportunities will begin to present themselves. Your world will simply expand. The decision to grow and develop as a person will impact your life more than any other decision you will make in life. 

More next time…

SOMETIMES THE FIRE DIES

Sometimes The Fire Dies

 

The Scriptures frequently comment on living the Christian faith with passion

It is very clear that as believers we cannot be passive

We must embrace the truth and engage with the world for that truth

Jude 3b “I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.” 

TPT “(I) felt the need … to challenge you to vigorously defend and contend for the beliefs that we cherish. For God, through the apostles, has once for all entrusted these truths to his holy believers.”

“vigorously defend and contend…”

My personal favourite Scripture regarding living the faith with passion – serving Jesus with my heart and soul 

God spoke it to me … planted it deeply in my heart in July of 2007

Romans 12:11 “Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord” Read more

Retire? You Must Be Joking! – Part Two

We are to run the race and cross the finish line. The key to running the race well, to finishing well: Don’t finish. Always be looking forward to what the Lord has for you next.

It doesn’t take a deep dive into secular history or the Bible to discover that many great things are accomplished by people past the age of retirement.

Pianist-comedian Victor Borge, “the Clown Prince of Denmark,” continued to delight huge audiences until his death at age ninety-one. Tony Bennett, singer and performer, was still singing at ninety-three and left his heart not only in San Francisco but also in many other cities where he performed.

At ninety years old master cellist Pablo Casals was asked why he kept practicing eight hours a day. He replied, “I think I’m improving.”

The apostle Paul was over sixty when he made his gruelling voyage to Rome, where he preached, wrote, and taught until his execution four years later. He had no intention of slowing down, much less retiring to rest on his laurels. At his miraculous conversion thirty years earlier, Paul had found his life’s passion. He was doing exactly what he was called to do, what he loved to do, and it absorbed him completely.

Pearl Buck, the famous writer and the daughter of missionaries to China, said, “I have reached an honourable position in life because I am old and no longer young. I am a far more useful person than I was fifty years ago, or forty years ago, or thirty, twenty, or even ten. I have learned so much since I was seventy.”

So, don’t give up on yourself too early. Don’t deprive yourself of the many blessings God wants to bestow upon you in what the world would call your post-retirement years. Change what you do if you must, but don’t stop serving the Lord. 

Nine times in the Bible (ESV) we find the words old and advanced in years. I’ve always thought this phrase was an illustration of unnecessary redundancy. If you say someone is old, you shouldn’t have to add the words advanced in years. That seems like piling on.

But every word in the Bible is important, and one day I noticed something fascinating. Many of the times when that redundant phrase appears in the Bible, it’s a description of a person who is about to experience something astonishing. For example:

      • Abraham (100 years old) and Sarah (90 years old) were “old, well advanced in age” as they  are about to become the parents of Isaac (Genesis 18:11).
      • Zacharias and Elizabeth were “old and advanced in years” before they gave birth to John the Baptist (Luke 1:18).
      • Joshua is also described this way before he received his marching orders to enter the land of God’s promise: “Now Joshua was old, advanced in years. And the Lord said to him: ‘You are old, advanced in years, and there remains very much yet to be possessed’” (Joshua 13:1).

Here are some verses to encourage you to keep on keeping on. They were given to us by our gracious God to keep us faithful throughout our lives. These verses show us: “If you’re not dead, you’re not done!”

      • Psalm 92:12-14 (NCV) “But good people will grow like palm trees; they will be tall like the cedars of Lebanon. Like trees planted in the Temple of the LORD, they will grow strong in the courtyards of our God. When they are old, they will still produce fruit; they will be healthy and fresh.”
      • Isaiah 46:4 (NKJ) “Even to your old age, I am He, And even to gray hairs I will carry you! I have made, and I will bear; Even I will carry, and will deliver you.”
      • Psalm 71:18 (NKJ) “ Now also when I am old and grayheaded, O God, do not forsake me, Until I declare Your strength to this generation, Your power to everyone who is to come.”

Retire? You Must Be Joking!

Paul the apostle said in his final letter: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7). He finished well and was ready to face those who were about to put him to death. 

I am planning on finishing well. To do so I have had to decide the retire with resilience — and with some sanctified resistance. Someone asked the late motivational speaker Zig Ziglar if he was thinking about retiring. He laughed and said, “Retiring? No! I’m re-firing.”

There is someone I recently read about who is still active in his mid-nineties. For the last twenty or so years, people have asked him is he was retired. His rely: “Yes, I retire every night to go to bed so that I can get up the next morning to find out what God has for me to do.”

When psychologist Michael Longhurst left his high-level management position in the corporate world, he undertook a major research project on the subject of retirement. He interviewed over two hundred retirees and discovered that too many are unprepared for retirement — especially mentally and emotionally. 

One man summed up the problem when he wrote, “I feel so lonely and depressed. I miss my job, the office, my lunch buddies, and friends at work. I used to be very busy at work, and now suddenly there is nothing to do, no deadlines, etc. So, this is what retirement is — boring and lonely. I wish I [could] be happy again like the good old days.”

A wife said to her retired husband, “What are you planning to do today?” He replied, “Nothing.” She responded, “But you did that yesterday.” “I know,” he said, “But I’m not finished yet.”

Many people have followed the general expectation in North America and the western world that when we reach a certain age, we retire. It’s just what you do. Retirement has become the final rotation in the cycle of life. Just as we ask children, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” We ask adults, “What do you plan to do when you retire?” Seldom do we hear the value of typical retirement plans questioned, and certainly not the value of retirement itself. 

But retirement as we know it today was virtually nonexistent throughout history. Retirement made little sense when the average age expectancy was only thirty to forty years. It has its roots in the early 1900’s, when many large industries, including railroads, banks, and oil companies began offering pensions.

In 1935, President Franklin D. Roosevelt introduced the Social Security Act. An employee’s income was taxed throughout his or her working life to fund a retirement income beginning at age sixty-five. In North America today, most workers expect to retire, and the culture is geared to accommodate it.

Interestingly, the Bible records only one example of retirement: “This applies to the Levites: from twenty-five years old and upward they shall come to do duty in the service of the tent of meeting. And from the age of fifty years they shall withdraw from the duty of the service and serve no more. They minister to their brothers in the tent of meeting by keeping guard, but they shall do no service. Thus shall you do to the Levites in assigning their duties” (Numbers 8:24-26).

While the Levite tabernacle workers were instructed to retire at age fifty, they were not put out to pasture to spend the rest of their lives twiddling their thumbs and gazing at the sundial. They were charged to minister to the younger Levites who took over their jobs. They became mentors and advisors. Today they would probably hand out business cards and call themselves consultants.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t take advantage of your retirement income or pension benefits. But you might want to avoid the word retirement. You don’t have to continue in your profession until you are just about to drop dead. But if you do leave your job, remember — retirement is simply God’s way of freeing you up for further service. God always has a plan for you next day. 

Preach To Yourself!

Sometimes we have no one to encourage us at the break of day, so we have to speak to ourselves, saying something like: “This is the day the Lord has made; I will rejoice and be glad in it” (Psalm 118:24). Try saying that aloud with enthusiasm upon rising each day. It will make a difference to the way your day unfolds because you are looking at your day in a positive light.

Outside of praying, your most important words are the ones you say to yourself. These words are most often silent but significant. Pop psychologists call this positive self-talk, but I’m going to skip the trends and go straight to Scripture. Did Paul, the apostle who wrote over 1/3 of the New Testament, ever talk to himself?

He said he strove to “take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5 NIV). He said, “For in my inner being I delight in God’s law” (Romans 7:22 NIV). He said, “I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day” (2 Timothy 1:12). And, he also was the one who said, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13).

One of my mentors long ago preached a sermon on how to handle negative thoughts, and I still remember the outline (and can actually locate my notes): Don’t curse them; Don’t nurse them; Don’t rehearse them; Disperse them. That’s still a good formula! Push out your negative thoughts — worry, anxiety, fear, pessimism — by filling your mind with God’s Word, the Scriptures, especially His promises. And then preach those promises to yourself. 

A medical doctor who is also a world-class athlete was asked how he accomplished all that he did even when approaching the age of 60 (including running triathlons). He said, “I’ve learned to talk to myself instead of listening to myself. If I listen to myself, I hear all the reasons why I should give up. I hear that I’m too tired, too old, too weak to make it. But if I talk to myself, I can give myself the encouragement and words I need to hear to keep running and finish the race.”

In Psalm 42 the psalmist said to himself, “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God” (verse 11).

We don’t know the author of Psalm 42, but it might have been King David, because he knew how to preach to himself when needed. As a younger man, a series of disastrous problems had befallen David in a town called Ziklag. His family and the families of his men had been kidnapped, and even his own men we’re turning on him and talking about stoning him to death. 

What did David do? He preached to himself. He “strengthened himself in the Lord his God” (1 Samuel 30:6). And in that strength he rose up to tackle his problems with a positive spirit that came from his belief in God’s watchful care of his life. 

Jeremiah did the same. After watching his city go up in flames and his nation go down in defeat, he said in Lamentations 3:21-23: “But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope:

The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”

This is what we must do. If we listen to the negative tapes looping around in our thoughts, we’ll sink into the pessimism of the devil. How could I have been so stupid? What’s wrong with me? Everything is falling apart. This is a disaster. Why is this happening to me? 

Stop the tape! Here’s a better one: I know in Whom I believe, and I am persuaded He is able to keep what I have entrusted to Him. Why are you cast down? Hope in God. I’ll soon be praising Him again, for He is the health of my countenance. I’m going to recall something and keep it in mind — the Lord is merciful, and His compassions won’t fail me. They are new every morning. Great is His faithfulness. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

We are constantly processing thoughts. Depending on how active your mind is, you may produce more than 45,000 thoughts a day. Whew! It might be compared to a flock of birds flying in and out of your mind.

To complicate our minds more, not all these are conscious thoughts, and sometimes they pass so fleetingly we barely notice them. However, every time you have a thought, it triggers an electrochemical reaction in your body … Each thought sets of a biological process — about 400 billion at once. Because of that thought, chemicals surge through the body, producing electromagnetic waves. These set off emotions, which affect how we behave. Science simply confirms what Scripture has been saying all along: we are shaped, in large part, by our thoughts. 

So, you should be careful what you think and what “preach to yourself.” As Ephesians 4:29 NLT advises: “Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.” This, of course, includes the words that only you hear as you speak to yourself. 

Because God Loves Us – Part Six

Because God loves us, we can love our enemies

Matthew 5:43-45, 48 “You have heard that it was said, You shall love your neighbour and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust … You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

So far we have seen the circle of love expand step-by-step. First we love God, then ourselves, then our fellow believers, and then our neighbours. Now Jesus tells us to take one more step and love our enemies. This is where it gets interesting. For many, it is a step too far.

Knowing the difficulty in loving our enemies, Jesus gives us an excellent rationale for the command. He says that if we love only our friends and family, we are no different from unbelievers who don’t know Jesus or His commandments. What we can offer that they cannot is love for our enemies.

If I knew the name of your worst enemy and suggested that you go serve that person in some good way, you might say, “I just can’t!” But Jesus knows it can be done because He did it. He found a way to love that race of enemies known as humanity, and we must be eternally grateful that He did.

Christ could have said, “Those men are driving nails into My hands. They’ve beaten Me, gambled for My clothing, and deeply grieved those who love Me. I just can’t love them!” No one would have blamed Him — or remembered Him.

Instead, from the agony of the cross, Christ looked down on those who had brutalized Him and asked Good to forgive them (Luke 23:34). Stephen, the first Christian martyr, did the same (Acts 7:60). Peter points out that Jesus, “When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly” (1 Peter 2:23). Because Jesus loved His enemies, we live forever. Because Jesus loved His enemies, we can love ours.

As Jesus pointed out, God sends sunshine and rain to both the good and the bad — to those who love Him and those who don’t (Matthew 5:45). It’s known as God’s common grace. He does not shut out people who might be deemed unworthy, so we don’t have that right either. We love people not for who they are, but for who they can become — not for the value of their behaviour, but for the value of their souls. That’s when the world knows we are serious.

Paul, who built friendships with his prison guards, wrote: “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them … To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head” (Romans 12:14, 20). It may seem that Paul is urging us to be “passive-aggressive,” until we understand a certain custom of the day. As an act of public contrition, some Egyptians wore a pan of burning coals like a hat to express their shame and guilt. Paul is simply urging a bit of human psychology: Return gentleness for aggression, and your persecutor will be shamed into being contrite. It will be as if he is wearing such a hat.

Because God loves us, we can, we must, love our enemies.

Because God Loves Us – Part Five

“And Jesus said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbour as yourself” (Matthew 22:37-39).

Because God loves us, we can love our neighbours!

I’m confident that every believer knows that we Christians are commanded to love our neighbour. And most understand that this does not mean just the family next door. Who does it include? When Jesus was asked that question, He answered by telling the parable of the good Samaritan. Your neighbour is anyone you encounter who has a need that you can fulfill.

Here Jesus greatly expands the field on which our love is to operate. Love is not limited to God, yourself, your family, or your church. It must be freely extended to everyone you encounter. No longer must you confine your love only to those who love you and can repay it; it must be given even to those who can never repay it. 

Godly love changes the rules for loving one another. We don’t worry about the results because we have no motive other than to spread the love that God has given to us. We are not manipulating or trying to earn points or even loving for our own personal gratification. We are simply treating others in the light of how God sees them. We can love from sheer bounty, just as we have been loved. We become channels of this new living water.

The apostle Paul knew just how critical our neighbour is to the authenticity of our Christian life. He twice repeated Jesus’ command in his letters. To the Romans he wrote, “Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbour as yourself” (Romans 13:8-9). And to the Galatians, he stressed the overarching importance of this command: “For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself’” (Galatians 5:14)

As we end the week, let’s review …

Because God loves us…

    • We can love Him
    • We can love ourselves
    • We can love one another
    • We can love our neighbours 

We still have one more to go … Because God loves us, we can love our enemies. A blog posting for Monday. 

Because God Loves Us – Part Four

Clearly Peter and John, as we saw yesterday, came away from that evening meal with Jesus with the impression that love was their lifelong assignment. They were to reach the nations with the message, and love would be the wind that carried it from God to an inattentive world. If we love, it will get people’s attention. If we don’t they  will never listen.

According to John, there is no alternative to love. It is no less than a litmus test for our faith. He who does not love his brother is simply “not of God” (1 John 3:10). Even more clearly, “He who does not love does not know God, for God is love (1 John 4:8). Twelve verses later, unloving believers are called “liars.” Such people are walking “in darkness” (2:11) and abiding “in death” (1 John 3:14).

Loving one another, in other words, is not a discipline reserved for advanced Christian or a gift belonging to naturally tolerant people. It’s not an option or an extra or a frilly wrapping to make religion more attractive. Love is the heartbeat of our faith; and if we detect no pulse, there is no faith.

In his book, The Mark of a Christian, the late Francis Schaeffer pointed out that Jesus gives the world the right to judge believers by their love for one another:

“Jesus says, “By this shall all men know that you are My disciples, if you have love one for another.” In the midst of the world, in the midst of our present dying culture, Jesus is giving a right to the world. Upon His authority He gives the world the right to judge whether you and I are born-again Christians on the basis of our observable love towards all Christians.

That’s pretty frightening. Jesus turns to the world and says, “I have something to say to you. On the basis of my authority, I give you a right: you may judge whether or not an individual is a Christian on the basis of the love he shows to all Christians.”

In other words, if people come up to us and cast in our teeth the judgment that we are not Christians because  we have not shown love towards other Christians, we must understand that they are only exercising a prerogative which Jesus gave them.

And we must not get angry. If people say, “You don’t love other Christians,” we must go home, get down on our knees, and ask God whether or not they are right. And if they are, then they have a right to have said what they said.

This means our number one priority in fulfilling our commission to bring the world to Christ is to love one another.

This can turn out to be a pretty tough task. We can heartily agree with one Christian writer who describes how nothing in the world is more important or more difficult than truly loving other people:

That odorous person with the nasty cough who sat next too you on the plane, shoving his newspaper into your face; those crude louts in the neighbourhood with the barking dog; that smooth liar who took you in so completely last week — by what magic are you supposed to feel towards these people anything but revulsion, distrust and resentment, and justified desire to have nothing to do with them?

Of course it’s possible to put up with people. We can manage to keep our mouths shut, perhaps, when certain folks annoy us. But Christ did not command us to “put up with one another.” He specifies love, and love is not passive or restrained. It’s a powerful, aggressive, positive force that serves, affirms, cares, persists, and gives of itself. We all agree that we should love. But given the presence of all these unlovable people who surround us, how exactly do we get there?

The answer is found in the series of blogs just before this series where we discovered that the Bible tells us:

    • We love one another by encouraging one another (1 Thessalonians 5:11)
    • We love one another by edifying (building up) one another (Ephesians 4:29)
    • We love one another by entertaining one another – being hospitable (1 Peter 4:9)

Take a few minutes and read through them if you have not already done so.