Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Love the Brethren: Read the Word

In my previous post, I considered Jesus' command in John 13:34 to love each other as He has loved us (mostly as an overflow of my study on the Greatest Commandments: Part 1, Part 2). I looked at how He has loved us, and then exhorted us all to love in that way. I concluded that He has loved us -- or benefited us -- by presenting God (or Himself) to us, and that therefore, we ought also to think of loving one another as presenting Christ to each other.

In this post, I want to consider just one practical application of the point of that last post. One essential thing that we must do if we have any hope of presenting Christ to one another is to devote ourselves to reading the Word of God. Without that, we cannot love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, we cannot love our neighbor as ourselves, we cannot love each other as He has loved us.

What do I mean?

See, when we deprive ourselves of beholding the glory of God in His Word (devotional reading and study, prayer, meditation, going to church, going to Bible studies, and more) we deprive ourselves of the fodder, of the fuel, of the motivation to love Him with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. We starve ourselves of the perfectly Biblical and delightful reasons to love God; namely, the glory and sweetness of all His manifold perfections.

Now, that all-encompassing love for God that is the Foremost Commandment must be motivated by Him! We can't just bear down, clench our fists, grit our teeth, and work it up. It's got to be organically inspired by God Himself. And so when you turn away from listening to the Word, you cut yourself off from Him, because it is in His Word where the glory of Christ is revealed. Consider these passages:
  • 2 Corinthians 3:18 But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.
  • Hebrews 1:1-3 God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world. And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power.
  • John 1:18 No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him.
  • 1 Samuel 3:21 And the LORD appeared again at Shiloh, because the LORD revealed Himself to Samuel at Shiloh by the word of the LORD.
So putting them all together: God is said to appear such that He reveals Himself when He speaks His word to Samuel. Hebrews tells us that God speaks to us in Jesus. It also says that Jesus, this Word of God, is the exact representation of the Father's glory. And even though no one has seen the Father in all His glory, this Son, this Word of God, with God and in God's bosom from the beginning, has revealed Him in all His glory.

So we are to behold His glory in His word, which is compiled in the 66 books of the Old and New Testaments. And so again, to cut yourself off from the word of God is to cut yourself off from God Himself. And if you cut yourself off from Him you can't love Him.

Now, as I've demonstrated, the Greatest Commandment is the foundation upon which the Second Greatest Commandment is built. The Foremost is the fountain out of which the Second flows. Therefore, if your not reading the Word directly affects your ability to love God, then your not reading the Word directly affects your capacity to love others!

Why is that? And how does that connect with the previous post about loving as Jesus loved us? Because we must define love for others as benefiting them. And to be a true benefit we must find what is most beneficial to them. And God Himself has declared that He is everyone's greatest benefit (Rom 5:8, cf. 1Pet 3:18). And so to love your neighbor is to present Christ to them.

But you cannot present Christ to someone as He is -- i.e., beautiful, satisfying, joy-inspiring, pleasant, delightful, thrilling, compelling, a treasure -- if you yourself are not treasuring Him, are not compelled by His beauty, do not rejoice in Him, are not satisfied in Him, do not delight in Him. Remember David's singularity of focus in Psalm 27:4. Remember how he presents the loveliness of Yahweh just by being so taken, so delighted, so thrilled by Him. The way you present Christ to the world -- and thereby love as He loved -- is first and foremost by living like He's your treasure. And one who constantly turns His ear away from listening to the Word of God presents the God of that Word as boring, unpleasant, burdensome, a killjoy.

So one practical way that we can love each other as Jesus loved is by faithfully exposing ourselves to and delighting in the sanctifying Word of God. But when we turn our ear away from listening to the Word, we not only deprive ourselves of our greatest benefit, but we prevent ourselves from benefiting the brethren. Let us be established, rooted, immersed in the Word of God. Behold the glory of the Lord revealed in His Word.

In so doing, we love the brethren as Jesus loved us: by presenting to them their greatest benefit.

I have inherited Your testimonies forever, For they are the joy of my heart.
- Psalm 119:111 -

Your testimonies are wonderful; Therefore my soul observes them.

- Psalm 119:129 -

I have seen a limit to all perfection; Your commandment is exceedingly broad. O how I love Your law! It is my meditation all the day.
- Psalm 119:96-97 -

How sweet are Your words to my taste! Yes, sweeter than honey to my mouth!
- Psalm 119:103 -

May those who fear You see me and be glad, Because I wait for Your word.
- Psalm 119:74 -

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