Would You Die For Your Friend?

graphic of blue background with a silhouette of person kneeling at a cross

“Greater love hath no man than this, that he would lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13).

This verse emphasizes that Jesus laid down His life for His friends. There is no better way to show a dear friend how much you care than to lay down your life on his or her behalf if it becomes necessary. And this is the kind of love Jesus has for us if we are His friends. He laid down His life for the ones He loved, and He wants us to be willing to do the same for our brothers and sisters in the Lord.

God lives in all those who belong to Him. Others are thereby able to see God, because He is in us. They can recognize Him in us by His love shown forth to them through us. God approves of the kind of love that we transfer from ourself to our brothers and sisters in Him. He is looking for this kind of love which makes us forget ourself and pursue the good and well-being of others.

The love referred to here is the love of God in Christ—because Christ is love. And how do we know for certain that He loved us? He was willing to give up His life for us on the cross.

“Hereby perceive we the love of God, because He laid down His life for us…” (1 John 3:16). And if we have the love of God in us like Jesus did, then we will be willing to die for one another if necessary to prove it is so. Therefore, the life of a believer should not be more important to him than the life of God’s own Son was to Him. “I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep” (John 10:11) emphasizes what the love of Jesus really is, and what our love should be.

“A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another(John 13:34). Not long after He said this to His disciples, Jesus did lay down His life for them. This explains what He meant when He said “as I have loved you.” And those who believe in Christ should come up to this level of love also. When Christ came down from Heaven to Earth, He laid His royal majesty and glory aside. He loved man more than all of it—enough to give His very life for those who are so very dear to Him. This was the great love of Christ for His people, the very highest example of love among men.

The love Christ has for us He demonstrated in “laying down My life for My friends.” Jesus was referring to His atoning death which everyone needs, whether His enemies or His friends. It was His high purpose to display the greatest love there can be—the sacrifice of ourself for those we love. Jesus said, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (Jn. 15:13). He confidently stated that the friendship kind of love He had was so strong, so intense, that He was willing to make this ultimate sacrifice for those He loved so dearly.

There are some people who would be willing to give time, or money, or position, etc. to benefit their friends. But the one element we all recognize as proof of love and friendship is when a friend is willing to deny himself on our behalf.

And the highest proof there can be of human love is when someone is willing to give up his or her life for the sake of a friend’s life. God gave the very highest proof possible to prove His love. Nothing could be more precious than the life of the One who is the Word of God, who was made flesh for our benefit. The most precious proof was the sacrifice Jesus made of His own life on behalf of His friends.

It was by Christ’s teaching that man received knowledge about God. But it was by His death on the cross that man was able to receive salvation. Jesus willingly sacrificed His life to win our hearts and make us His true friends. He brought a spiritual principle and power to our nature to tie us to Him in devotion and thankfulness for all time. Jesus was saying that we should love our brothers and sisters in the Lord with love of the same kind and high degree that He manifested for us. For the good of our friends, we must be ready even to die. Christ is love, and if we love as He loved, then we must be willing even to die for each other—one of the greatest needs among God’s people today. Ask yourself today—how high is my love for others, compared to Christ’s love for me?

 

[Image credit:Gerd Altmann/Pixabay]

A Fountain of Water or a Beautiful Sculpture?

A three-tiered fountain with water flowing down around it

Ever notice that a fountain doesn’t do anything but let the water building up inside it gush out and fill the area all around it? There is almost no effort on its part. It just fills with water and then releases it for all to see. It makes no attempt to conserve the flow of water or to block it completely. As God’s children, He wants to flow through us by way of His Spirit. When we yield to Him as a willing vessel (or “fountain”), we allow His love to flow out of us for others to see.

When we try to express God’s love without having much love for, or devotion to, Him ourselves, we prevent Him from flowing in our life. But the more we allow Him to fill us with His Spirit, the more His love will flow out and all over us, through no effort of our own. When a fountain no longer streams forth water, it becomes just a nice-looking sculpture. It might have beauty outwardly, but there is nothing going on inside. In the same manner, when we block God’s Spirit from flowing through us, we may seem appealing on the outside, but there is little or no activity spiritually within us.

“Let thy fountains be dispersed abroad, and rivers of waters in the streets” (Proverbs 3:16).

Let’s increase our time and intimacy with Jesus, so His love will overflow abundantly from us like “rivers of waters in the streets” for all to experience.

Knowing the Voice

studio microphonesheep in snow covered field

A well-dressed man in his early forties and his fiancée were sitting in an upscale Chicago restaurant waiting at their table for their meal. While deeply engrossed in conversation with his wife-to-be, the man sensed that someone was waiting behind him near his right shoulder.

“Excuse me for cutting in,” a woman’s voice suddenly bellowed, “but you wouldn’t happen to be Harlton Grummokes, would you?”

The man momentarily turned away from his fiancée and replied in his deep professional voice, “Why yes, Madam, I certainly am, and you must be one of the followers of my program.”

“Oh my goodness, it really is you!” the woman burst forth in excitement. “I’m Martina Harsterne. My friend and I are visiting from Alberta, Canada, and I listen to your radio program every week.”

“Well, I’m much obliged. I presume that you are really benefitting from it?” Grummokes inquired.

“Definitely! I’ve learned so much from your in-depth discussions and interviews,” the woman eagerly responded.

“So how did you recognize me, since you probably know that I rarely wear suits or dine in fine restaurants?” Grummokes further inquired.

“Oh, I didn’t have the slightest idea what you looked like, what you wear, or even where you eat. In fact, I wasn’t even expecting to ever see you in person. It was your voice that I recognized almost immediately,” the woman continued, “There are certain qualities about your voice that are not like any other. Besides, I’ve been listening to your voice long enough now that I could easily pick you out of a crowd of people!”

How many times do we recognize someone solely by his voice? There are occasions when it is the only way that we are able to identify a person we know. Children quickly learn and know their parent’s voices, partially through sheer repetition, but mostly through intimacy. If we were to blindfold someone who has been married for decades, we would often see how easily they will acknowledge the voice of their spouse when he or she calls out in a crowd. Research has shown that each of us has a unique voiceprint, just like our fingerprints.

sheep congregating with shepherd

Jesus said, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me” (John 10:27). Recognizing His voice isn’t something that occurs immediately. A relationship has to be developed over a period of time. A bond must be formed that is closer and greater than our relationship with friends, relatives, our spouse, or even our children. We need to be willing to let everything go and say in our heart, “Lord, I am all yours; do as you will.” As we yield ourselves to Him with passionate desire and devotion, then He will make Himself more and more known to us. “Draw nigh[near] to God, and he will draw nigh to you” (James 4:8).

Sheep, like a lot of animals, will not easily follow someone they do not know. Many times they will run away in another direction when someone else calls to them. Only the shepherd that they have been raised under for many, many years will they readily follow when he calls them. “And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers” (John 10:5). When the True Shepherd calls, will we know His voice? Have we spent so much time in His presence that when He speaks we will recognize Him, sight unseen? Or have we wandered so far that His voice can no longer be heard? Is our relationship with Him so weak that we can’t even acknowledge that it is He who is speaking?

Just as with any diligent and loving shepherd, Jesus wants us to know His voice. He desires that we spend more of our time seeking and learning about Him. That means reading and studying His Word, the Bible. Most importantly, He wants us to spend more dedicated time with Him in worship and prayer, not five minutes or an hour here and there.

When we want to know more about someone in a relationship, we don’t engage in a conversation with him or her for a short time every so often. We try to find any possible moment and means to be around and communicate with him or her, whether it is in person, on the phone, by a computer, or by mail. We really desire to know him or her better. Likewise, this should be our yearning to know Him whom we claim to love the most. He should be on our mind continually. Naturally, we are always going to hear voices of all kinds around us, but as we get to know Jesus more intimately, His still, small voice will be the one heard most clearly in our heart, just as a child readily hears his mother’s whisper.

Right now the Shepherd is speaking to us. Are we listening for His voice?

At the Feet of Jesus

Christ in the house of Mary and Martha
By Johannes VermeerfwE2zem7WDcSlA at Google Cultural Institute Public Domain, Link

Jesus “…entered into a certain village: and a certain woman named Martha received him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who also sat at Jesus’ feet, and heard his word. But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came up to him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me. And Jesus answered…Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: but one thing is needful: for Mary hath chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:38-42).

By this time in His ministry, many had rejected Jesus and no longer welcomed Him, much less entertained Him. Everywhere in the region, people were speaking against Him. Yet, to the true believers in Him, Jesus was still dear, just as they were to Him. At one particular house in Bethany, He’d certainly still be welcome. Martha was expecting Him to visit her and Mary and Lazarus. She knew that receiving Jesus and those in His company would involve much food preparation and serving. Curious crowds from the local village also came and surrounded the house to see Jesus. Imagine the great sense of anticipation when they heard that He was on His way! And how enormous the crowd would be that was about to descend for a meal at the house of Martha, Mary and Lazarus!

Lazarus welcomed Jesus and the others when they arrived at his house. The sisters were busily preparing to serve them. Both had the same love for Jesus, since each of them had received Him into her heart. Then Martha became troubled, since Mary had left her alone to serve the people. Martha became so busy and anxious trying to serve the Lord and His many followers that she was frantic. Surely she thought, “What is this? My sister sits herself down at the feet of Jesus, while I’m left here alone to cook for and serve all these people!” How this vexed and irritated her.

Her attitude toward Mary made her forget that what she was doing was really for the sake of Jesus, who had come to spend time with them.

She was opening a way for the enemy to come into her heart and inject discord, jealousy, and aggravation into the situation without recognizing it. And this opened a way for him to hinder her walk with Jesus.

Throughout all of this, Mary was complacent—which really troubled her sister. Martha must have fumed, “Why doesn’t Mary respond to me and help serve these guests?” Such thoughts surrounded and troubled her. If she had focused instead on Jesus being there, she would have been less likely to dictate to Him or to complain about Mary. Instead Martha “…came to him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me” (Luke 10:40).

Jesus responded, “…Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: But one thing is needful: and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:40-42).

He approved of and appreciated the fact that Mary had chosen to sit at His feet and learn from Him. When we try to please Jesus today, our concern more often is about doing things to serve God rather than about being in His presence. We get so busy in activities for Him that we end up in Martha’s frantic condition. Then we worry and feel weighed down in serving the Lord. How easily we forget the one “thing most needful”—simply to sit at Jesus’ feet and learn from Him. We make time to fulfill our desires for ourselves. What about making time for His spiritual presence in our lives? May the Lord keep us from falling into the same trap of over-involvement in service that Martha did, so that we don’t have time to just sit and learn of Him!

Martha had a heart for others. She really did care. Her work for the Lord was acceptable in its proper place. But something was more needful at this occasion which should have been done first.

She expected Jesus to blame Mary for not doing what Martha felt she was supposed to do concerning the meal. Instead, Jesus indirectly blamed Martha for not doing what Mary did, because her sister had chosen the best part of life—learning His Word. In the end, her choice will be justified, along with all who make the same choice and then live by it. Mary chose Christ and sought to honor and please Him, while Martha chose only to provide for His bodily, temporary needs to honor and please Him.

Over two thousand years after this event, Mary is still being praised for her choice, as she also will be in the resurrection. She wept at Jesus’ feet when He came to her house after Lazarus died and He comforted her. She was found at His feet when she later came and anointed Him with oil. He was her Prophet, Priest, and King for whom she humbly and lavishly shared her love.

Mary yielded herself to the absolute guidance of Christ. Jesus declared that she had chosen the best part—the “one thing [that] is needful…” (Luke 10:42). Someday we’ll be separated from all of our loved ones and belongings of this lifetime. But if we have this same love of Christ that Mary had, nothing can separate us from Him. We need to have this same love of His presence in our hearts today while we sit at His feet. Then Christ will not be taken away, because He is the best part.

Fading Footprints

shoreline with footprints

Children like to play the game of following another child by trying to step in each of his footprints behind him. The child who follows will do his best to keep up, but he may let his attention get distracted while the leader keeps walking and gets too far ahead. Before long, the one following will lose sight of the leader and become lost. After making attempts for a while to find the missing track of footprints, he may stumble across a different set, mistakenly thinking that he has rediscovered the missing tracks instead. He will be likely to follow the new prints immediately, without stopping to consider that they may belong to someone else. Only after he has traveled quite some distance will he come to realize that they are not the right ones. By then he will be nowhere near where he began and will have also lost the leader altogether.

Apply this illustration to following in the steps of Christ. When we first give our lives over to Him, everything is so wonderful, and we are willing and eager to follow Him anywhere He wants to lead us. Our intentions start out good, but when following in His footsteps becomes more difficult and challenging later, we tend to lose our zeal. Then we are likely to become distracted and lose sight of where He is heading. Sometimes we rediscover His path and return to following Him again. Other times we become lost by wandering around in places where He did not go, hoping to find Him there. But all too often, we end up following the wrong footprints and are never able to find Him again.

multiple footprints in the sand

Jesus gave us an essential command that would help us keep our focus on Him and keep us following His steps. He told us to “Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matthew 26:41). Our “flesh” (physical self) is prone to getting distracted from God and tends to wander and fall for almost any temptation that may come its way. So we can’t depend on our flesh to find the way; we need to keep our focus on Jesus, especially concerning His victory at the cross. If we get distracted, we have stopped watching where He is going, and we often fail to pray. Even if we regularly seek God for forgiveness for the sins we have committed, we are still not necessarily watching and praying. We need to continually look to Jesus and stay prepared for what is coming. Don’t lose sight of His footprints due to the distractions all around us. Immediately after a victorious moment, our adversary, the devil, likes to come to steal our victory away, along with our joy. He’ll try to use a time like this to bring a heavy dose of doubt and unbelief into our lives. We therefore need to continually watch concerning our victorious moments, while being sure to seek God in prayer at the same time.

footprints in sand along surf

Success in keeping up with the footsteps of Christ only comes from maintaining our desire to stay with Him. But, if we lose interest in His Word, or in the desire to communicate with Him in prayer, we make ourselves vulnerable to distractions instead of following Him. As a result, we won’t notice that His footprints are fading, and will either end up detached from Him, or following another set of footprints that are not His—thereby leading us farther away from Him.

How much do we really want to be with Him? So much that we make sure we will follow close enough to Him that His footprints are never out of sight? Are we continuing to watch and pray so that we will not get distracted or be led away to follow the wrong set of prints? Does our focus continue to be on Christ and Him crucified, or has it turned to some distraction we have encountered along the way?