Would You Die For Your Enemies?

“…God commendeth His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom 5:8).

The Lord was pointing here to His reconciling death, which both His friends and enemies alike needed very much. The idea here is that sometimes a need is so compelling that a man might choose to die for the ungodly and his enemies even over the self-sacrifice involved in dying for the godly and his friends. This kind of love was the kind that Jesus had for man—demonstrated by His voluntary death on man’s behalf—which is the greatest love that there is.

“Much more then, being now justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him” (Rom 5:9).

Being now justified” means being pardoned, or accepted as His friends. When we were still His enemies, Jesus overcame everything that would keep us from being saved. So how much more reason we now have to expect Him to give us His protection, since we have become His friends. “By His blood” means by His death. Our value to God is in direct proportion to the value of the price of our redemption. We have been purchased and purified at the price of Jesus’ own shed blood, which makes us holy in God’s eyes. He will certainly keep His promise since we have been bought with such a very dear price.

“…if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by His life” (Rom 5:10).

Jesus undertook this work while we were still His enemies. But it was by this very work that we were changed from His enemies into His friends. God laid its foundation while we were still opposed to and resisting Him. This revealed that God was determined on His part to perform it. And He has consequently made the solemn promise that it will be made perfect. “We were reconciled” means that we have been brought to an agreement in a state of friendship and union with God. We became His friend, laid aside our opposition, and welcomed Him as our friend. The great design of God’s salvation plan was to accomplish this very thing.

This means that obstacles existed before which had to be reconciled on both God’s side and our side. But His death removed them, on His part. And on our part, we were reconciled when we honored His Law which showed His hatred of sin and upheld His justice. A Christian is reconciled to God by overcoming man’s hatred of God and His Law, and by bringing man into submission to His rule. He is also reconciled when his former unwillingness to be reconciled is removed by bringing his heart under control—by changing and setting it apart unto God. Now man is able to become the friend of God. All of this was accomplished by the sacrifice of His Son as an offering in our place. The two opposing sides have now been reunited!

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

How perfect the love of Jesus is to us. He described the people He died for as “His friends.” And His object and purpose was displayed by “laying down My life for My friends.” But they were not His friends originally. They were enemies and hated God—all at the very same time that His Son laid down His life for them in order to reconcile them to God!

By ‘friends,’ Jesus did not mean those who love Him, but those whom He loves. These ‘friends’ Jesus died for are the same people Paul referred to by the opposite name—he said Jesus died for His ‘enemies.’ They weren’t the kind who had behaved themselves like friends, or shown any love and affection to Him at all—they were the opposite. They were only called friends because He chose them to be His friends. And by dying for His ‘friends,’ Jesus reconciled the ones who were His enemies by His Spirit and grace, and made them His friends.

Therefore, this love of Jesus, shown in giving His life for His people, is greater than any example of love among men. A man might lay down his life for others who deserve it, or he might even be forced to do it. Some may die hoping for worldly applause and glory. But when Jesus laid His life down for His enemies, He had no evil or selfish views—He freely volunteered to do it at the highest ultimate cost to Himself. Jesus would never have had His friends if He had not died for His enemies. He shows the way we are to deal with those who are alienated and hostile to God—by pouring out His unselfish, self-sacrificing affection on them, which will conquer all in the end. The death of Christ has therefore become both the pattern for our life and the hope for our heart.

When Jesus hung on the cross dying, His enemies rejoiced and triumphed over defeating Him. Yet the true, ultimate outcome of His humble and weak condition was to reconcile us to God.

And if He had the power to accomplish such a great work as reconciling us when He was humble and despised and dying, then how much more can we expect Him to be able to keep us safely in His care now that He’s the living, lifted up, triumphant Redeemer! If His powers which were weakened in dying were enough to reconcile us, how much more will His full, vigorous powers as an exalted Redeemer be enough to save and keep us! Judas “…betrayed Him…saying, Whomsoever I shall kiss, that same is He…” (Mt 26:48). But Christ “kisses His enemies with the kisses of His mouth”, and makes them His friends—because He loves them! Now what He Himself said: “Because I live, ye shall live also” (John 14:19) is made clear. He willingly died for His enemies; will we willingly live as His friends?

This is a companion article to one written about Jesus dying for His friends. Please click here to read more.

 

[Image credits:(angry man) Rene Asmussenfoto/Freeimages; (angry woman) Cristina Matei/Freeimages; (cross) abcdz2000/Freeimages]

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]

What Are You Doing Here?

rocky cave entrance

Fear can cause all kinds of reactions and impulses in us depending on the circumstances. Many will flee, while others may just stand still, like a deer in an approaching vehicle’s headlights. Some will not think or act rationally and might even aid that which is creating fear in the first place. Fear in itself is not necessarily wrong, such as fear of a vicious dog running toward us, or of being in an open area with a severe storm approaching.

The problem comes when we are living in a state of fear.

The Bible says, “There is no fear in love; but perfect [godly] love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love” (1 John 4:18). One might think that just because someone is a godly individual, they have completely overcome fear, but that is usually not the case.

There was a prophet named Elijah in the book of First Kings. He had just proven before the Israelites that God is a living god and had put to shame the prophets of Baal, who found out that their ‘god’ was lifeless, having no power or authority. As a result, these false prophets were slain. He then sought God to bring rain back upon the drought-stricken land of Israel. All of this was done in the presence of Ahab, the king of Israel. He had seen the hand of God make a mockery of the priests of Baal, and was actually riding in his chariot as the rain fell in abundance. Yet all he could do in return was to emphasize the death of the prophets of Baal in his report of Elijah’s actions to his wife Jezebel (one of the most wicked people in history). Naturally, this did not set well with her. “Then Jezebel sent a messenger unto Elijah, saying, So let the gods do to me, and more also, if I make not thy life as the life of one of them by to morrow about this time” (1 Kings 19:2).

You would think that, after all that had just occurred, Elijah would have stood up to her empty threats in the name of God. “And when he saw that, he arose, and went for his life, and came to Beersheba, which belongeth to Judah, and left his servant there. But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a juniper tree: and he requested for himself that he might die; and said, It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life; for I am not better than my fathers” (1 Kings 19:2-4).

Instead of seeking God, like he had done during the challenge to the prophets of Baal, and bringing rain upon the land, Elijah let his fear of Jezebel get the best of him and he ran away from the situation. Some say he ran as much as 180 miles!

But he still did not outrun or escape God. “And he came thither unto a cave, and lodged there; and, behold, the word of the Lord came to him, and He said unto him, What doest thou here, Elijah?” (1 Kings 19:9) God let him know that he was out of place in His plans. Elijah thought he was justified in fleeing, and he ultimately felt that he was the only prophet left in the whole region (or even the whole world!). How often we listen solely to our own mind for wisdom and advice.

Through Elijah, we can see how even a prophet of God will fall prey to fear when he takes his eyes off of God and looks to self instead.

As stated earlier, “there is no fear in love.” When we let go of God’s hand in our self-confidence, we find that fear is quick to take its place, which will often result in irrational behavior. “He that feareth is not made perfect in love.” The key for us here is to maintain a steadfast relationship with God through His Son Jesus, where perfect (godly) love is found. When we focus on Christ, we rest in the shadow of the cross and fear will not enter in. When we become distracted, we let our relationship slip, especially concerning our self or the cares of this world. We can’t let fear take us over to the point where we think running away is the best thing to do. The Apostle Paul said, “Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.” (Ephesians 6:13).

When the devil brings about a situation of fear, we are not to run or fight; we are to simply stand and hold our ground.

How often our fears are not legitimate but just empty threats. Yet we still resort to looking to our own self for the answer. Many times we go to extremes to evade fear and windup up out of the plan of God for our life. But in the end, we finally realize that we can never outrun God. This is actually good, because we have the assurance that He will be there for us when we finally give up and turn to Him for help. Our goal should be to turn our fear over to God at the outset. We should never reach the place where God has to ask, “What are you doing here?”

Dirtied Jewels


picture of smokey quartz crystals

Rob Lavinsky, iRocks.com – CC-BY-SA-3.0

The children were extremely bored, so they wandered around the house in a futile attempt to entertain themselves. Their mother was next door preoccupied with the neighbor’s new baby. Their father was stuck at an airport heavily entrenched in snow. Then an ugly scenario began to unfold after the children discovered a box containing mother’s jewelry collection.

“Open it! Open it!” the children cried in unison, while one of the older boys pried unsuccessfully, first at the gap in the lid, and then under the lock. After several minutes, their disappointment turned into mild anger as some of the children begin to push and pull at each other. Then the bureau was jarred. Suddenly the jewelry box crashed to the floor, bursting apart at the hinges. Precious jewels scattered everywhere and glee was the result. The room filled with awe and squeals of joy as necklaces with diamonds, earrings with rubies, and bracelets made of emeralds were passed around like candy. It wasn’t long before the whole group was in the backyard strutting around in a manner that would leave a fashion diva aghast.

Given their fleeting attention span, the children (mainly the boys) soon lost interest in the jewelry debacle. One boy then made the challenge to the others that jewels will still shine even if they have become dirty. Naturally, a handful of children jumped at the opportunity and started churning some jewelry through a muddy patch in the yard. But their escapades did not stop there. One discovered a small bin nearby of odd lawnmower parts with lots of oil and grease in the bottom. If there ever was a possible point of stopping their progress and restoring everything to its original state, they had long since passed it. The jewels they smothered in mud, grease, and grime were now virtually unrecognizable. Then one girl taunted the others, “OK, let’s see all that shine you boasted about!”

Sadly, there was now absolutely no shine, no glimmer, or anything good left to remark about. When they held the jewels up, they were nothing but a collection of black blobs. Another boy took a clean rag from the shed. After a great deal of scrubbing, he tried his best to get them to at least hint at sparkling again. But, to his great dismay, the jewels refused to gleam. In fact, they would not even come close to being clean. Then he tried dipping some jewels into a heavy-duty cleaning solution full strength. Yet, after a lot of soaking and wiping, they still were only about seventy-five percent clean. The rest of the children peered over his shoulder with great concern.

“What’s Mom going to say when she sees these?” one girl inquired. A boy retorted in exasperation, “She won’t see them! Quick, take all the other jewelry and put it back in the case.” He then ordered one of his brothers to repair the broken hinges and lid. “Maybe,” he muttered softly to himself, “just maybe, she won’t even notice.”

To the relief of all the children, days passed into weeks without a single mention of the jewelry case. One older boy scrubbed and scrubbed, but the film and dirt that remained kept the beauty of the jewels from reappearing. He knew their mother would not overlook the grimy residue, so he continued holding on to the jewels, hoping to figure out something he could use to get them totally clean again. But he got no opportunity to try again.

“OK, who has been in my jewelry box?” their mother yelled down the stairs. “Where are my precious jewels?”

“Uh-oh,” the boy who had tried cleaning them muttered loudly to himself. He knew that it was hopeless at this point to try to hide or escape. He grabbed the jewels and ran to his mother instead. “Mom, it’s all our fault. I mean, actually, it’s my fault,” he blurted out, as he began to sob. “I made a challenge to everyone that the jewels would still shine when they are dirty.” Now he was crying. “I tried and tried to get them clean, but they just won’t look pretty anymore.”

His mother reached over and gave him a big hug. She told him how she appreciated his honesty and willingness to come forward. “But why did you hide this from me?” she gently inquired.

“Because I was afraid of what you and Dad would do to us if you saw how dirty these are.”

“My son, your father and I greatly love you all. You still need punishment for what was done, but that does not mean that we hate you or want to hurt you. Besides, I have methods to clean these jewels you don’t know about. You should have come to me in the first place. You never could have solved this in your own efforts; in fact, you might have ruined them permanently.”

picture of clear gemstone

Do you realize that God sees each one of us as a perfect, sparkling, precious jewel? We usually see ourselves as dirty and blemished, like the jewels mentioned here, and are constantly trying in our own strength to make ourselves shine. And, like the boy trying his best to get the jewels clean, we go through all kinds of programs and rituals, yet in the end, we are still just as soiled as before—if not worse. We try so often to make ourselves pure and right, but we usually cause even greater damage to our hearts and lives instead. The devil wants to keep us believing the lie that we are too polluted and have to keep working at getting our life straight before we come to God. So we hide from Him, hoping He will never notice what we have done. This only causes our relationship with Him to suffer. “For there is nothing hid, which shall not be manifested; neither was any thing kept secret, but that it should come abroad” (Mark 4:22).

Only God can cleanse us so that the true beauty and purity He alone sees in us will shine forth. The key is that we must yield our self to Him and let Him do the work. The more effort we do, the more we remain mottled and murky. But if we actually could cleanse our heart and life ourselves, then it would just lead to boasting and pride—making us dirty all over again. “Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:9). Therefore, we need to stop trying to clean up our heart and life by our own efforts, and yield our self to Jesus instead. He wants to make us into the bright polished precious jewel that He sees, not the muddy, imperfect, unclean one that we see. He is the only One who can do it.

“Wash my feet?”

multiple sandy feet in a circle

“…He poureth water into a bason, and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel wherewith He was girded. Then …Peter saith unto Him, Lord, dost thou wash my feet? …Thou shalt never wash my feet. Jesus answered him, If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me” (John 13:5-8).

Peter could hardly believe what he was seeing when Jesus knelt before him with a towel in His hand and told him to extend his feet so He could wash them. Peter replied that he would not allow Jesus to bring Himself down to such a low level. He could not in any way envision Christ as a servant. But Jesus explained that rejecting this offer would be the same as rejecting Him, and then He said, “If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me.”

What is the essential qualification to have a part with Christ? It doesn’t matter what our sin may be—we can be made pure through the actions of Jesus. But the only way we can receive is to have our feet washed by Him first. Jesus is willing and able to wash us to purify us of all our sins. He did not say that we have to pay Him or give Him anything to do this. It is an honor we cannot buy or earn, because it only comes by the mercy of God, and it is from Him alone that we receive it.

bowing to royalty

Royalty demands that we bow at their feet if we hope to get a favor from them. They might even require us to wash their feet before we could be considered for a favor. But what did the King of kings and Lord of lords do? He took off His outer garment, picked up a towel, and bent His knee before us in order to wash our feet! We should be serving Him, yet He serves us!

After He washed the feet of the disciples, Jesus said that “…ye ought also to wash one another’s feet” (John 13:14-15). So why didn’t they continue washing each other’s feet after Jesus left them? Because they understood that He was simply demonstrating the need for lowliness before each other to them. There was no set way this was to be done, only according to the time and place and need, sometimes one way, sometimes another. The lesson Jesus was trying to get across was to have humble love for one another.

Jesus also wanted His disciples to be as clean inwardly as they were outwardly once they were washed.

He wanted them to help each other to reach toward the goal of purity, which might include washing one another’s feet when necessary. They were to be willing to serve those of any class, not just their own, whenever they had the opportunity. Jesus desired for His disciples to not just be morally right toward their brothers in the Lord, but to go to the extent of humbly denying themselves in order to help their brothers to be morally clean and pure also.

red heart

“Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently…” (1 Peter 1:22).

Jesus wanted them to demonstrate brotherly love for each other, coming from a pure heart of godly love. He wanted the disciples to see each other as brothers because they would all soon be cleansed, not by water this time, but by His blood shed on the cross of Calvary. This would be their true source of cleansing and purification. He also told them that “What I do thou knowest not now. But thou shall know hereafter.”

We who belong to Christ need to do what He wanted us to do—to humbly lower ourselves to the level of servant to one another. Then we will be able to help remove the dirt and stain of the world and sin from each other which we all come in contact with day after day. If we will lower ourselves to walk a simple life of humility, we will be able to help lift our brothers and sisters to a life that is pure and noble.

If we feel unworthy to have Jesus wash our feet, and let this keep us away from Him, do we think we will be saved by what we think is being humble? We won’t be saved unless we let Him wash us and cleanse us of all sin.

If we are not willing for Him to do so, then we will not have a part in Him. It is my prayer that each of us, as children of God, will have a part with Him, and that we will all be faithful and diligent to watch over each other’s souls in order to give account to our Lord.

Pushing Fear Out of Your Life

headshot closeup of fearful man

Whether it’s something small, like a pen running out of ink in the middle of an important exam, or something major, such as a bomb detonating on an airplane, there will be fear in our life. None is exempt from having fear, regardless of age, background, standing in society, or physical location. Now fearing something, someone, or a certain circumstance is not necessarily wrong in itself, as long as we recognize it, and heed it as a warning to be careful or to make a change. But fear becomes a problem when it begins to hinder or control us. If fear dominates part or all of our life, and we just can’t seem to free ourself, then something in our heart is causing it—like doubt, unbelief, rebellion, or a whole host of other things. God may also use fear to alert us to the presence of sin in our life. As a result, even if we attempt to elude or hide from the situation, it is very likely to return until we are overtaken. God never wants anything in our life to bring us to the point that we are forced to succumb to our fears. But He does allow problems and difficult situations to come our way to wake us up, and to stir us to the point of repentance. God loves us greatly and does not want fear in our life any more than we do.

To remove fear from our life, we need to establish a solid relationship with God through His Son Jesus. But as long as sin dominates the heart, an intimate, godly relationship cannot exist. If a spouse in an earthly marriage relationship has an affair with another person, the marriage trust is broken and the original intimacy is lost.

Similarly, fear and perfect love cannot coexist in the same person. What we need is perfect (complete) love to fill our hearts, not sin.

“There is no fear in love; but perfect love [drives] out fear: because fear hath torment [corrective misery]. He that feareth is not made perfect in love” (1 John 4:18). The perfect love mentioned here is not the kind of love expressed toward a family member or a friend, and is certainly not the love of erotic desire. It is, instead, the sacrificial, godly type of love. This kind of unconditional and unselfish love transcends all physical boundaries. It is the love that “…suffereth long, and is kind…envieth not…[boasts] not itself, is not puffed up, doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things” (1 Corinthians 13:4-7).

The more love enters in, the more fear is pushed out. But when we continue to allow sin in our heart, perfect love is driven out, allowing fear to rush in to take its place. Think of this like a transparent, U-shaped tube filled with a dark, putrefying fluid—a dreadful mixture representing fear. Then picture pure, clear water being poured into one end of the tube. The dark fluid will begin to spew out of the other end, until eventually the tube is as clear as the water itself. God’s perfect love accomplishes this toward fear when we let it flow in our hearts. But if we break that flow of love with sin, then that appalling black fluid has a place to re-enter and flood our heart again with fear.

U shaped tube showing fear and fear exiting

Do fear and anxiety currently dominate your heart? Are you able to sleep in peace? Or do you regularly feel like someone is watching you, like an evil presence hovers over your every move? Does a sense of failure or defeat continually loom over much of what you do? Are you filled with worry about how to make it through tomorrow, or even tonight? Then you need to lose no more time in yielding your heart and life over to Jesus Christ. He unselfishly sacrificed His very life on the cross so that you could have victory over fear and even death. Don’t try to remove the ugly fluid of fear from your life by trying to draw it out yourself. You’ll only form a void for some other abysmal hindrance to fill later. Fear can’t be defeated simply by your own effort or strength. If you truly want to have victory, it has to be turned over to Jesus.

“Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth [abides] in him, and he in God. And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him” (1 John 4:15-16). Take a moment right now and go before Him in prayer. Ask Him for forgiveness for your sins, and then open your heart fully to Him. Seek Him for a deeper relationship that will fill your heart with not just love, but perfect love. Don’t let any more time go by without yielding your deepest fears over to Him. “I sought the Lord, and he heard me, and delivered me from all my fears. They looked unto him, and were lightened: and their faces were not ashamed” (Psalm 34:4, 5). You can trust in Jesus—the only One who can expel your fear, and fill your heart with perfect love.

(If you want to surrender your heart and life to Him right now, look at this page to learn more.)