“Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” Jesus answered him, ‘Love the Lord your God with every passion of your heart, with all the energy of your being, and with every thought that is within you. This is the great and supreme commandment. And the second is like it in importance: ‘You must love your friend in the same way you love yourself. Contained within these commandments to love, you will find all the meaning of the Law and the Prophets.” Matt. 22:37-40 Passion Translation
The Ebbs and Flows of Devotion
At 17 when I first became a Christian, I brought all my adolescent enthusiasm to the title. There was Bible study twice a week and also helping out with the church’s youth group most every Sunday. Mornings would start at sunrise so I could have my prayer time and devotional reading—which usually ended being fast asleep on the floor. Along with the accompanying guilt—”could you not tarry with Me?” was the scripture I’d often think. Amidst all this busy Christian activity, I do believe there was a new and fresh love for God. Jesus became real to me but I was young in my faith. Soon the freshness wore off and the busy-ness became a chore–then came wounds and disillusionments with His people and my own personal struggles. I eventually left my faith and God.
Fast forward several years with me charting the course of my own selfish life and crashing and burning rather quickly. It didn’t take long for me to come the end of myself. But God graciously came, leaving the 99 to seek out and personally find me. I was grateful and realized I’d never need to run away from Him again. His presence filled my daily life and everything was fresh and new like the early days. I was astounded and blown away by every scripture—“have you seen what’s in here?” I’d think excitedly. This time, I brought some wisdom from the previous mountain top experience. I started grieving knowing this closeness to Him and “high” wasn’t going to last forever. It would eventually ebb away.
And that’s how it’s been decades into my faith journey—seasons of joy and intimacy with God, then times of dryness and apathy. Pretty much like every other relationship we have–can you relate?
In this series, we’ve been unpacking the above passage from Matthew. What does it mean to love God, others and self? They seem interconnected and contingent upon each other. As I can draw nearer to the God who created me, I know myself more and more. His version of myself and not the false narrative I listened to a good portion of my life. It would also seem if I know and care for myself well—I might come out of my little personal kingdom and want to know and care for others better. God is all in, around and through this process coming full circle back to Him—so I need to keep seeking the Lover of our souls and world. But what is it that motivates that daily pursuit of intimacy with Him?
The Beauty of Jesus
What is it which gets me up every single morning and praying real hard to try and follow Jesus? What is it that makes me constantly want to let go of the destructive behavior and thoughts which haunt me daily? How can I love God with my all and love others and myself better? Well, my mom has graciously stumbled on the answer for all of us, I imagine. She was sharing with me recently about growing up Catholic in Southern Colorado and how her faith never deepened. There was no bible around and the priest that came into town once a week to do mass said it Latin. There were no sermons and no teachings. It’s not a surprise she left her faith behind when she left home to go to college.
But lately my mom and I have been watching the show The Chosen and I’ve been witnessing a wonderful transformation taking place. The show created by Dallas Jenkins, is the first multi-season show about Jesus choosing the disciples and the beginnings of His ministry. Because it has the leisurely pace of many episodes, viewers get to see Jesus and those around Him really becoming the 3 dimensional people they are. My mom is excited about learning more about her Christian faith and is continually rewatching episodes, interviews and even searching the scriptures after each show. She’s falling in love with Jesus.
Beauty, Truth & Grace=Repentance & Surrender
I’m falling more in love with Jesus too. Jonathan Roumie is the actor who plays Jesus and what amazing work he is doing on behalf of his part. Jesus is winsome and funny and approachable. He stares deep into the eyes of those He is loving and healing. We even get to see a more human side of Jesus as He dresses a wound on His arm or cries over the pain in the people around Him. But Jesus is also very focused on His mission and stern and truthful when needed. Jonathan is bringing Jesus to life, and I’m finding myself drawn to the real Jesus.
It’s not duty or rule following which continually helps me get up with His fresh mercies and try another day to love Him and others well. Jesus is beautiful and amazing—filled with truth and grace and sees me. After years of living out my Christian faith, God’s kindness is finally the motivator for my daily work at repentance, even though I fail in some way everyday. I say these days “If you don’t know how beautiful, amazing and radically loving Jesus is, than you’ve never really met Jesus.”
Here’s some questions to ponder about your relationship with God.
- Do I make time to spend with God?
- How would I describe my relationship with God these days? Close, distant, joyful, apathetic?
- Do I spend time in solitude & silence being still and listening?
- How could I deepen my relationship with God?
- What spiritual disciplines might help in knowing God?
Although he holds a degree in graphic arts, he attributes his ministry qualifications to the “school of hard knocks.” God’s abundant grace continues to be the instrument of growth in his life, and he desires to be firmly grounded in the forgiveness and freedom of relationship with Jesus Christ.
Scott attends a Presbyterian Church.
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