Walking The Jesus Way of Life (From "I Am Love's Rose)
I read recently read that love is not always the trademark of a Christian, but is always the hallmark of a disciple. I thought about this, I realized I needed to search out the meaning of the two words. Here is what I discovered. A trademark is a protected mark to distinguish products or services from those of others.
When I thought about the term hallmark of course cards came to mind. My search into the dictionary taught me differently. A hallmark is an official mark or series of marks struck on items made of precious metals. In a more general sense, the term can also be used to refer to any distinguishing characteristic or trait. It was an official mark or stamp indicating a standard of purity. It is a mark of special indication of genuineness, goodness, or quality. It is like a jeweler who stamps a ring 14k to indicate that it is genuine.
Jesus said that we would be known as His disciples if we loved one another. If love for others is the motivating force behind what we say and do, then we bear the official mark of God by bearing His character. Our lives need to display a standard of purity indicating integrity, goodness, and quality that produces lasting fruit of righteousness.
Here is where we may see the difference between religion and relationship again. A trademark indicates to me, that where genuine love is missing, it may be difficult to distinguish the differences between Christians and unbelievers. Trademark may be the mark of being religious, while hallmark is the mark of a true disciple in relationship with the Father. As we embrace the love our Heavenly Father lavishes on us, we can’t help but love Him back. It is an act of worship to express love to God and love those He loves.
There can be no doubt that Jesus bore the hallmark stamp. He was the full expression of Father. In three short years of public ministry Jesus showed clearly the path for us all to follow. When He picked the first disciples, He simply said, “follow Me”. As He walked through life in every village, He demonstrated what the Father and His Kingdom was like. He didn’t intend that they just follow, watch, and be blessed. He wanted them to learn the ways of the God.
In John 14 Jesus taught that He was the way to the Father and that if they had seen Him, then they had seen the Father. He continues to reveal that He and the Father are one. He made it so clear that He could only do what the He saw the Father doing.
The chapter goes on and tells us that it was His intent that everything they observed, they would also put into practice. Jesus said if we had faith, we would do even more that He did because He was going home soon. I think He was also saying to them, “I have finished my assignment, and now it is up to you to carry on.”
Then He really lays on the line what it means to be totally committed to Him. He made it a matter of love. If they loved Him, they would obey Him. And so doing we would receive His promise of the Holy Spirit who would not only be a Counselor, but also the Spirit of Truth. What exactly was He asking them to obey that would validate their love for Him? While it is simply put by saying, we have His commands and if we obey Him, then we love Him. What are His commands?
Maybe it was the two that He gave us when one of the Pharisees asked Him what the greatest commandment was. Paraphrasing it, He said, “Love God with all you are and all you have, and love one another as you do yourself.” (Matthew 22:37-39)
Perhaps we don’t think we love ourselves because of some of our unresolved issues of who we are in Christ. But, Beloved, we do love ourselves. Maybe a bit selfishly, because we really do take care of ourselves, don’t we? Aren’t we all a little bit self-focused? I recall a time when I was intimidated when I walked into a meeting where I didn’t know the people very well. I could only think about what they might think about me. One day, the Lord showed me how foolish that was. Everyone else was probably thinking the same thing. We were all focused on ourselves and not thinking about each other. That was freeing, but also revealing of how self-focused I was. We need to focus not on what others think, but about what their needs may be.
What about our stuff? It’s the things we accumulate to make life easier or to satisfy our wants. Most of us are blessed with enough of life-sustaining things that we could certainly share with a neighbor who is less fortunate. Have you noticed one of the most booming businesses in the last couple of decades?
Self-storage buildings dot almost every town across our land. I think they are a wonderful option for people who are moving from one community to another while they find a place to live. But really, how much stuff does one have to store beyond our own dwelling space? Jesus lived with little, but had everything He needed.
Jesus simply walked through life and listened to His Father and obeyed. He didn’t have an everyday life and a spiritual life. He had one life to live out on this earth demonstrating the Kingdom. We also have one life to live on this earth demonstrating the Kingdom.
I have learned that my everyday life is not separate from my spiritual life either. It is the daily life and what I do during its course that perfects me. How I approach the day determines the value of how it is spent. In order for any of us to follow Jesus in obedience we have to approach all of life in the Spirit.
Since I have already shared what I understand about love I can say that I believe that love is the key to unlock fruitfulness for the Kingdom. Each day we walk through this life is a day set apart. Today is what we have moment by moment. The opportunities to walk in His Love toward everyone we meet because we are loved are numerous. Each day comes with His provision of love to face any hurt or sorrow that may knock at the door of our heart.
As I choose daily to live not just for Him, but from Him, knowing that whatever I do be, it the menial chores of dishes, laundry, and keeping my home presentable, all of it counts at the end of the day. What I am saying that it all counts for something if our focus remains of who we really are. Whatever stage we are in life, be it mother of young children, guardian of teen-agers, caring for aging parents, visiting and praying for the sick, volunteering your time for ministry, building a career, or just holding a job to provide for family, at the end of our day we can drift into sleep with His gentle voice saying well done good and faithful servant.
I want to produce fruit of eternal value. How about you? God has given us each day as a gift with the confidence of His Love to enjoy it with Him. We can walk in His favor by choosing to honor Him with what our hands and hearts choose to do.
Today and every day, we can choose to honor God by letting Him lead, guide, and direct us. I have spent enough of my days directing my own path. So many wrong turns along the way, but I thank God for His faithful ability to call us back on track when we listen for His voice. Making right choices every day leaves us with no regrets.
The teachings of Jesus can’t be grasped by our Western culture in our natural minds saturated with religious teachings any easier than those pre-conceived ideas of what the Messiah would be like to the Jews in their day. They saw the miracles and Jesus asked them to believe Him on that merit. Continuing on that thought, Jesus takes it to an almost unbelievable level. They would do what He had done, and they would do even greater miracles. He qualifies the work as what brings glory to the Father. They could ask anything in His Name and He would do it. I see a secret key here to unlock the answer to prayers. What Jesus did His whole journey was bring glory to the Father. I think that what we ask for also must have the sole intent and purpose to bring glory to the Father.
In my earlier years as a baby believer, I think my prayer life was much like the progress a baby makes in developing their ability to talk. Most of my requests were all about needs and wants for me, family, and friends. As I reviewed my journals I have kept since 1970, I saw a progression of my prayer life. I am so thankful that God heard my “I want” and “they need” prayers. He saw my heart and knew that as I continued to grow in the knowledge of His Kingdom, my prayers and communion with Him would find new and deeper encounters with Him.
We all grow in this journey as God continues to look at our heart, and calls us to a higher purpose. I don’t in anyway want to indicate, I have arrived at the top of entering into communion with my Father, but I am confident that He continues to speak to me as I learn to hear His voice more clearly.
Now looking back at John 14, Jesus simply says that if we love Him, we are to obey His commandments. Our obedience validates our love for Him. Let me clear up any misconception again about God’s Love. His love is not conditional. He loves us even when we aren’t walking in obedience. When we return His love through obedience we get His best in life.
God’s love is all about building relationships. First, and foremost with Him personally, and then with His love, we can build right relationships with each other. Building relationship with God on the foundation of fear of punishment or duty because of what might be expected, only builds superficial relationships both with Him and man. Our response to God’s commands must be motivated by trust that He is always right. He is always kind in all His ways and just in all He does.
It is God’s love and a desire to belong somewhere that draws us into what we call “Church”. All of the redeemed by God’s grace are the organism that really is the church. All of buildings that man has built from the grandest cathedral to the lowliest primitive benches under a grove of trees is just a gathering place for the believers. I know of a pastor who called their new and bigger building a sheep shed. That says it, doesn’t it?
Being part of a fellowship of believers whose desires for more of God is greater than personal agendas or what’s in it for me syndrome is where I want to be. In this kind of place, you will find first, the love for God and of God flowing freely in the people. You will also find people who linger long after the closing prayer has been said sharing with each other because they really love one another. In this kind place, you will also find a place of acceptance and safety to be you. Does this sound like it is too good to be true? It is in fact very true. God has been drawing people together in places all across the earth. There is more evidence for the world right now to see the true Church of Jesus if they are searching. I said it earlier—it is all about Love.
Only God can create this atmosphere of love. When the people are seeking His Kingdom first, in their own lives and walking in His love for all those He loves, His favor falls on such a people. This means everyone on the planet is an object of God’s love and to be embraced in love. The rich and the poor, the lovely and the unlovely, the young and the old, and even the addicts and the prostitutes are to be seen the same way—through the Father’s eyes.
Those who are walking Jesus way of life are the ones who demonstrate that the Kingdom is not a religious persona of outward appearance or empty words. They demonstrate the Kingdom which is Righteousness, Peace, and Joy in the Holy Spirit. They are those that are spoken of in Psalms 1:1-3 who seek godly counsel and not that of the world. They delight in obedience to God. They are always thinking about the things of God. They are deep-rooted along the river. Their lives are always producing fruit and their leaves don’t wither. And as a result, they are prosperous in all they do. They are sold out and can’t be bought back into a world system no matter what happens to them. These are those who have captivated the attention and heart of God. He loves to hang out with these kinds of people.
Next, Jesus brings in what I think is the most significant building block of our relationship with Him. He promised to send the Holy Spirit. Besides being the One who leads us into all truth and teaches all things about God’s ways, the Holy Spirit reminds us constantly of God’s love. His main function is perfecting the plan of God in us, for us, and through us for the advancement God’s Kingdom.
As our relationship with God deepens, we allow the Holy Spirit more control of our lives. We free Him to manifest the character and nature of Jesus through our life. Our deepening relationship with the Father is more evident through our behavior and conduct. We begin to spread more of God’s love to others.
So, it all comes back to love. He loves us, we love Him, the Holy Spirit motivates us to love others, and the Body builds itself up in love. This is not just an idealistic principle. It is the way of the Kingdom and God’s blueprint for building the Church.
We have to make the choice every day no matter what happens in life that because God loves us, we will hold fast onto our faith in Him, and ride out any storm. When we choose to walk through this life the Jesus way, we are never alone. He is even with us in all the circumstances that are beyond our control.
~~~~From my to yours~~~~~Andrea