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Category Archives: Bible Study
I was sitting here in my office one day after getting back from a visit to Linda while she was in the hospital. I was trying to process all that was happening and how we should be thinking about it. We trust the Lord always, but sometimes it’s hard to hold on when your world is shaking around you. How much will she recover? What will we do? Can we cope with the new reality? The Lord had already been dealing with me about what I spend my time thinking about. It was time for the next lesson.
When I set out to post the introduction for this week’s sermon, I planned a rather straightforward exhortation about how we need to renew our minds by focusing our thoughts on the things of God instead of the things of this world. Romans 12:2 will remain the key verse from which we will launch our study, but I see now that I was going to take it completely out of its context. It’s important for us to realize when we read the Bible that it is not a collection of disjointed snippets that we can cut and paste together to fit our fancy. It’s a collection of historical accounts, poetry, prophecies, and letters; divinely assembled to give us the instructions we need to live as God intended. The book of Romans is one of my favorite books to pull from, but it is a single letter and really should be read from beginning to end. However, we can’t really tackle that in 30 minutes, so we’ll try to extract the sense of certain parts without violating the meaning of the whole.
I would be delighted to have you join us today at Bartimaeus Baptist Temple at 2:30 as we look into Romans chapter 12 and maybe just a bit of 11 so we can see what the therefore is there for and see what Paul meant when he said that we should be transformed by the renewing of our minds. I look forward to seeing you there because I expect God to show us great things!
I was going to put this down in the form of a poem, which quickly evolved into a song. When I got started I realized I just wanted to lay it out. I don’t have any delusions about the quality of my attempts at literary prowess, so why subject you to it? I couldn’t sleep this morning and for some reason started thinking about how the world changes if someone isn’t in it. I’m sure with the Christmas season just passed It’s A Wonderful Life was in the back of my mind somewhere. Most of us don’t live such dramatic lives, but all of our lives are precious.
Depression seems to be epidemic in this country and if my layman’s information is correct the situation is the same across the western world. We all struggle with times of sadness and difficult circumstances that bring us down for a while, and we say we’re depressed. It’s become part of our common vernacular. Then there’s the persistent depression we call clinical depression and dispense medication for. I don’t want to dismiss any real conditions that might cause chemical imbalances in the brain that lead to depression with purely physical causes, though I do wonder which comes first in some cases, the imbalance, or the spiritual and emotional dysfunction. I am speaking in terms that might be considered cold and clinical; maybe ill-informed and unfeeling. If that’s the impression you’re getting, read back over some of the other things I’ve written in this blog. I think you’ll see the evidence of the struggle in my own life. I speak from personal experience and as one who is still on the journey.
Now to answer the question, yes! I am better off dead. I am better off dead to the sin that draws me away from the life that is found in my Lord Jesus and into a death from which there is no salvation. That’s the symbolism of Christian baptism; the death of the old and the birth of the new. I am better off dead to my own selfish desires, which will only lead me deeper into depression. They can only do so because I am not the source of life. Yahweh is the source of life. His Holy Spirit lives within me, but if I will not listen to Him, I will not have the benefit of the only true Counselor.
I believe the best thing we can do to fight depression is to get the focus off of ourselves. I don’t think it helps much to merely contemplate the state of someone worse off than ourselves. We’ve got to get in there and actually help. That’s when things start to change because that’s when we’re doing what God made us to do. We’re made in his image. We’re not going to be healthy unless we’re doing what we’re made for. So are you depressed? You really are better off dead! (See Romans 6, Colossians 3:1-17.) Leave off worrying all the problems you have, serious though they may be. Focus instead on helping someone else solve theirs. I’ll bet you that if your problems don’t get better, your perspective on them will.
I have noticed a troubling trait among those of us who have been trained for many years with a certain theology. I of course am noticing it in people who whold a different view than mine, but I am not unwilling to accept that I may have the same weakness, perhaps even in the same area.
I’m going to speak in generalities because the particular question on my mind at the moment is one on which I have an opinion but do not yet have full confidence to stand against the storm that will surely commence when I make my position known. The specific issue isn’t really important to the point I’d like to make. That is, your doctrine ought not to be dictating the way you read your Bible.
With distressing regularity I hear very devout and scholarly individuals explain away certain passages of scripture that say inconvenient thangs in very plain language that don’t happen to fit very well with prevailing theology. Usually they reference two ore three mainstays and then go to great lengths to explain how the scripture just cannot mean what it plainly says based on these other scriptures. They will say we can’t take scripture out of context while taking their own scripture out of context.
Context is important. We have the collection of scripture that we have because it all works together to present the truth that Yahweh wanted us to have. We need to read it all as it was intended to be read, but let no one use that as an argument to distract you from actually doing what they suggest. I’d just like to ask you to stop and consider something. If you keep reading things in your Bible that conflict with what you’ve been taught, it is possible that what you’ve been taught is wrong. Ask the Holy Spirit to guide you to the truth.
I think it’s a question that all of us ask at some point in our lives as we endure suffering or witness the suffering of someone we love. If God is good, if He is loving, if He is all powerful and all knowing, why do bad things happen? It can be especially difficult for us if we have been taught that suffering is not supposed to be part of a believer’s life. When it comes, as it inevitably will, our faith can be thrown for a loop.
Because of the nature of our church, we seem to have more than our share of it. And as if what we have isn’t enough, more is always on tap. We’ve been praying for our pastor’s daughter’s various ailments for some time now. Our pastor is sick again with a recurring condition, and I have just learned that at best I have migraines and at worst something called temporal arteritis. An inflammation of artery that can cause headache and eye damage among other things.
I’m sure that over the years many have spoken to our church on this topic, but I will do it again. I pray that the Lord will show us all something we have not seen before. This I know. I trust Him. He will accomplish His purposes in us. God is good. I hope you will come to Bartimaeus Baptist Temple at 2:30 this Sunday and be encouraged.
8 Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. 9 But resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world. 10 After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you. 11 To Him be dominion forever and ever. Amen.
1 Peter 5:8-11 NASB
21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. 22 “Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ 23 “And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.’” (Matt 7:21-23)
I don’t know about you, but when I read that, I can’t help feeling just a little uncomfortable. After all, don’t’ the people Jesus is talking about here sound like pretty amazing Christians? How many people do you know who go around casting out demons and performing miracles in the name of Jesus? How many of them are sane? Don’t misunderstand me. Jesus gave us the power to do those things when they fall within His plan, but I don’t think He has much to do with some of the things we see.
Yet it would seem these folks are really committed. If Jesus would say to them, “I never knew you,” what would He say to me? Never mind the showy stuff. I wonder if I even get the basics right. Do I pray enough? Do I study the Bible enough? How many have I helped to come to Jesus?
I’m so thankful that He is love. He needs all those attributes that Paul describes in 1 Corinthians 13 just to put up with me. The amazing thing is that He doesn’t see it that way. He doesn’t have to try to love us. That is who He is.
I have the pleasure of speaking at our church this week as we’re wrapping up a six week study designed to help us move from being merely fans of Jesus to being true followers. I hope we have come to see that it means we will have to make some changes in our lives. Why? It’s not because we didn’t’ check off all the to-dos in our holy day planner. It’s not that we missed church last Sunday or didn’t put anything in the offering plate. It’s that we haven’t paid enough attention to what He really wants. He may want us to do those other things, but He wants our love first.
When we love someone, we do everything we can to please them. We don’t do it because we’re afraid of what will happen if we don’t. We do it because it brings us joy to make them happy. We sacrifice willingly, and their pleasure is our reward. Jesus loved us so much that He gave His life for us. Are we willing to love Him back that much? It’s a choice we will have to make every day of our lives.
I hope you will join us as we wrap up our study. Even if you have never been there before, I know that God has a message just for you this Sunday. See you there!
Bartimaeus Baptist Temple
6929 Day St.
Dallas, TX 75227
This Sunday will be the anniversary of a sad day for America, when terrorists flew airplanes into the World Trade Center towers and over three-thousand people were killed. For a while we stood together and across the land was herd, “God bless America.” But that time was all too brief, and we have forgotten the reasons why God has blessed America. In 2 Chronicles 7:13-14, after Solomon dedicated the newly built temple in Jerusalem, God gave him both a warning and a promise.
13 “If I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or if I command the locust to devour the land, or if I send pestilence among My people, 14 and My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land.
The warning was of judgment which He will bring upon the nation when it acts wickedly. The promise was that if His people will repent, He will restore them. I believe that just as Israel is called as a nation by His name, we as the church are called. God will act faithfully according to His promise. I believe that America is in danger of judgment from God if it has not already begun. How can it be otherwise for a nation that has slaughtered fifty-three million innocent unborn children? Hitler only killed six million people. We as god’s people cannot absolve ourselves of this guilt simply because we have not personally participated in it. If we have not prayed; if we have not warned; if we have not done all that we can to spread the truth of the Gospel, we must bear responsibility for the resulting downward spiral that our country has taken.
Across our land this Sunday there will be memorials for those we lost on 9/11. It is my prayer that as Christians we will do all that we can to prevent calamity far worse than what happened in New York City that day. God will not tolerate evil forever. Pray for your nation, your friends, your neighbors, your coworkers, even your enemies. Don’t miss any opportunity to share with them the good news of what Jesus has done for them.
We really can be in control of our emotions. I think this is an important lesson for us to learn right now. Our society urges us to go with our feelings. If it feels good, do it. If it stops feeling good, stop doing it. Right and wrong are subjected to the fickle fate of feeling.
We are more than what we feel. If our initial reaction may be considered somewhat beyond our control, certainly how we choose to proceed from there is not. Experience and observation have brought me to this conclusion, but any doubt I may have is alleviated when I see that the Bible teaches the same thing.
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! (Philippians 4:4)
BE ANGRY, AND yet DO NOT SIN; do not let the sun go down on your anger, (Ephesians 4:26)
I’m focusing on the first verse today, but I include the second to illustrate that we are to control all of our emotions. If we are told to rejoice, then it must be within our power to do so, regardless of our circumstances. “Always” doesn’t leave any room for alternatives. This is not to say other feelings are not appropriate. Jesus displayed them all. We were made to feel, but we were also given the means to decide how we will feel.
When I researched the words that are translated “rejoice” for a sermon a while back, the common vernacular words that seemed appropriate to me were to celebrate or party. To rejoice in the Lord is to openly and ecstatically celebrate Him.
Do I do that ? Anyone who knows me can answer that. I do not. So, how can we change? It begins with how we think. When we learn first of all to be mindful of what He has done for us, how can we not rejoice? We must then train ourselves to see our circumstances differently. When something happens, how will we interpret it? Will we see the evil in it or will we see the good? Sometimes the only good may be that Yahweh is still Lord and He will bring us through, but that’s quite good enough! Will we se potential hardship and danger around every corner, or will we see the potential for blessing? In the same chapter where Paul tells us to rejoice always, he gives us the tools to do it. He says,
6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. 8 Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. (Philippians 4:6-8)
I whish I had time to share the whole of what I learned when I set out to study this, but I have other things to do. So in an effort to practice what I preach, I will say “thank You, Lord.” I’m off to get ready for church. He worked everything together for my good, just as He said he would. I can look at my long list of to-dos and lament that I will again leave most of them undone, or I can praise God that I get to go to church, which has meant so much to me and been such a part of God’s fulfillment of his promises to me. That truly is a reason to rejoice, and my whole attitude is changed just by thinking about it that way. Try it yourself. It works!
I get to preach on this today and I’m excited. I wrote recently of how despite all my supposed disqualifications God has brought me into the calling He gave me. I want to share the joy of that with our church and illustrate from the Bible that when God has placed a calling on your life, You are not big enough to mess it up. To say that does presuppose one thing, that your heart is right before God. Even so, if He wants it, He will have it. I wish I had time to put it all down in writing, but if you’d like to hear the full message it will be posted later this evening on our web site. If you’re on Facebook, like our page to get notified when we post new material.
I am amazed, encouraged, and humbled when I read about the people God used to accomplish His great purposes in our world. The book of Genesis alone is quite a story. Abraham treated his wife shamefully. Isaac repeated his father’s mistake. Jacob was a liar and a cheat. Joseph had the makings of a spoiled brat. At best he was imprudent in sharing his grandiose dreams with the family already jealous of him. Things don’t get any better for him as he goes into slavery and then to prison on a trumped-up charge. Yet because he remained diligent in all that he did, he became Israel’s first great deliverer as second in command of Egypt, at the time the world’s greatest nation.
Moses had some kind of speech impediment and an anger management problem that got him exiled after committing murder. He offered so many excuses when God showed himself at the burning bush to call him to deliver Israel from slavery that he made god angry (Ex 4:14.) Yet he did deliver Israel and gave them God’s laws. In Judges 6 we find Gideon, hiding in a hole and yet called a valiant warrior by God’s angel (Judges 6:12.) He would go on to deliver his nation with an army of three hundred men.
Then there’s David. We find his story in the books of Samuel. Anointed king while a lowly shepherd, the youngest in his family, seemingly considered unworthy of consideration even by his own father. After proving himself worthy of the honor he was instead exiled as the jealous king Saul tried to kill him. He was called a man after God’s own heart, yet he committed adultery and tried to cover it up with murder. God’s promise remained, and Jesus is called the son of David. The difference between the sin of Saul and the sin of David is their responses when confronted. Saul made excuses. David repented. There are more examples, but let’s move on to the New Testament.
One might have expected Jesus to pick the best of the best to be the followers who would spread His message throughout the world. Maybe He did, but we probably wouldn’t see it that way. A third of his chosen team were fishermen. One was a tax collector, another a rebel, another a pessimistic skeptic, and another a traitor. None of them really understood what he was here to do until after his resurrection. They seemed to be constantly squabbling over who was going to be the greatest in Jesus’ new kingdom (Luke 9:46, 22:24.)
Some of His disciples got special mention for their human failings. Peter is called a rock by Jesus, yet denies Him 3 times in His greatest hour of need. I could devote a whole lesson to Peter. I actually think we treat him a bit too harshly. He may have sunk, but he also got out of the boat and walked on the water. He may have denied Jesus, but he was also the only one to fight for Him and was one of only two who follow Him to the trial. Jesus made it clear after his Resurrection that Peter still had a job to do.
john, the one who wrote the most about love, didn’t start out very loving. He was mean spirited (Luke 9:52-56) and power hungry (Mark 10:35-39.) He must have thought his close relationship with Jesus would give him unique privileges. Yet Jesus had a special love for him (John 13:23, 20:2, 21:7,20.) John eventually got it because he wrote more about love than anyone else whose writing we consider to be God’s word.
We can’t talk about unlikely candidates for God’s work without mentioning Paul. He started out an enemy of the church until Jesus intercepted him. There’s evidence in his letters that he wasn’t a particularly gifted orator or much to look at. Yet no one did more to spread the message. A joke has been floating around the church as long as I can remember listing Paul’s resume as if he were applying for a pastoral position. The point is that none of us would be very likely to hire him. It’s just one more illustration of how God’s standards differ from ours.
My hope in laying all of this out for you is that you will be encouraged to pursue the calling God has placed on your life. Do not be deceived into thinking that your current circumstances or your past prevents you from doing what He has given you to do. Maybe you do not know your calling. Be assured that you have one if He is your Lord. Even if not, He will have His way with you if He has chosen you. Just ask Paul, Moses, or Jonah.
I am constantly amazed at His mercy and grace. I am just as human as all of these. I have hope only because He is my God. He gave himself for me, and I give myself to Him. Trust Him. Do the best you can, but do not fear failure. He is bigger than your failure. Even that will be turned to His glory. Only keep your heart devoted to Him.
I looked to see when I started this particular Bible study and saw that I posted the reminder to myself to finish it back in November of 2007. I don’t know if I should admit that given the topic. There is one that has been waiting longer. That’s the one on fasting. I’ll be speaking at the end of the month, and this seemed a good time to finish it up unless God redirects me before then. These are the raw note from which I will have to distill something more digestible. I don’t know what prompted me to look up the parable of the talents back then, though I often refer to it. I noticed upon looking up a similar parable in Luke that they were different in interesting ways. That made me curious and this is the result.
The two stories are in Matt 25:14-30 and Luke 19:11-27. On a little side note, be careful of the headings that might be in your Bible. In this case, the one over the Luke passage is particularly misleading. This story is not primarily about money usage, and that is made apparent from the content of verse 11. Headings are great, but they are also a form of commentary inserted by the publisher and should be taken only as guides for finding particular passages and not necessarily accurate descriptions of what they mean.
Comparison and Contrast
Though these stories are similar, they differ in significant ways and so I take them to be told by Jesus on separate occasions. It appears from context that he shared them at the approximate time of His entry into Jerusalem days before the crucifixion. They both share a theme of responsible stewardship while the master is not present. Mathew’s account is part of a series of parables emphasizing preparedness for His return. Luke tells us in 19:11 that Jesus is responding specifically to the belief that His kingdom would be established immediately. The string of parables in Mathew may be a response to a similarly motivated question (Matt 24:3.) Both highlight three slaves, though Luke says that there were ten slaves given one mina each.
Both parables feature a master giving charge of money to his slaves. In Matthew’s account each was given resources according to his ability. Luke’s version gives the same amount to all. In Matthew the two successful slaves both double what they have been given. In Luke they increase ten times and five times respectively.
Luke adds another dimension to his story by recording that the master was a ruling official. Jesus is clearly illustrating His kingdom in this parable. The dissidents who refuse His rule are to be slain before him, just as all who reject Jesus will face a final judgment when He returns.
The accounts of the unproductive slave seem to differ only in minor detail. The major points are consistent between them. They both have an unreasonable fear of the master born of a misunderstanding of his character. They describe him as opportunistic and demanding at best. The description they provide implies evil rather than good (Matt 25:24; Luke 19:21.) They both choose to hide their master’s money instead of using it for the purpose he intended. They attempt to justify their action by means of the accusations cited above.
In both cases the master’s response is also similar. Since both slaves behaved in the same manner, we may apply the judgments of the master in both passages to both slaves. They are described as lazy, wicked, and worthless. It appears that if they had even done the minimum of putting the money into a bank they would have been spared. I will not attempt to address the implied indictment of banks except to point out that God had commanded His people not to charge each other interest (Ex 22:25.) Jesus is speaking to Jewish people here, so this is the context they would have for the reference to banks.
Both slaves have their money taken away and given to the most productive. In Matthew Jesus goes on to say that the worthless slave is to be thrown out into “the outer darkness.” He uses language here common to other references that He makes to Hell. We may safely deduce that the slave of Luke’s story is bound for the same fate.
These are illustrations of principles of the Kingdom of God. They tell us what God is going to do, how we must respond, and what will be the consequences of our response. Jesus is master and king. He gives to us different resources in the form of money, ability, circumstance or anything else that we may use. Some things are given according to our ability to use them. Others are given to everyone equally. We all have access to His love, grace and mercy. All who have believed in the Lord Jesus have been given of His Spirit (1 John 4:13.)
We must now choose what we will do with what we have been given. It was given to us to put to use. It is expected that we will cause it to multiply. Some of us will produce an abundance so great that it seems to others to be too much. Some of us night not be able to produce very much at all. God’s requirement is that we do all that we are able to do. We bring Him joy when we put His gifts to good use, and He will reward us accordingly.
The lazy slaves in these parables are not simply complacent nor are they ignorant of the master’s expectations. They have made a conscious decision not to do what has been asked of them. This becomes clear as they attempt to justify their actions upon the master’s return. Despite the evidence of his goodness they deem him to be unreasonable, demanding, and dishonest; taking what does not belong to him.
We do the same. We redefine God in a manner that permits us to do as we choose. Perverting the good news of His grace we cite our inability to live according to His standard and falsely justify our sin. We take what He has given and hide it in a hole where it can do no good for us or anyone else. We make Him into a fierce and tyrannical being and then act in self-righteous rebellion against our manufactured nemesis. All the while our true enemy laughs, knowing that we have sealed our own doom.
Another thing that strikes me about these parables is that there does not seem to be an expectation that the money is to be returned. Though it clearly belongs to the master and each slave brings it back along with the increase they have made from it, he seems to indicate that it will remain in their charge as if it were their own (Matt 25:28; Luke 19:24.) This exposes another flaw in the thinking of the lazy slaves. The money was given to the slaves for their own benefit, not that of their master. By returning unused what was given to them, they completely missed the master’s intent, which was to bless them, insulting him on several levels.
God loves us. From the beginning he intended to lavish it upon us and that we would in turn give it to each other. This is how we return everything that we have been given. We multiply it by sharing with those around us. When we keep it to ourselves thinking that we need only return it to Him in exchange for salvation, we have become worthless for His purposes.
What follows is hard for us to accept, especially in our culture of increasingly socialist ideas of equality. It even sounds crewel. Take away from the one who has nothing even what he does have and give it to the richest one? How is that justice? This tells us several things. God rewards success. He even rewards extra success with extra blessing. This is true justice, for the one who works hardest deserves reward commensurate with his effort. This does not mean that God in his grace and mercy cannot reward equally someone who though just as committed did not produce as much. See Matthew 20:1-16.
Consider also that none of these slaves had anything before their master entrusted it to them. In the same way we have nothing that God did not give us, therefore it is foolish of us to judge Him for doing as He pleases with that which is His in the first place. The unproductive slave had nothing even when he had the money for two reasons. First, as we have just seen it is his master’s money. Second, he made no use of it. It did him no good because he hid it away and did nothing with it.
This should serve as a strong warning to all of us. We may genuinely cherish what we have, both the tangible and the intangible. Imagine you inherited a collection of rare and beautiful art. You have a family and you have been struggling to make ends meet. This collection will set you for life and allow you to care for your family. Invested wisely the proceeds would benefit generations to come. However, you cannot bear to part with it. You keep it in a closet. Every so often you secretly pull it out and admire it. Maybe you even let your closest friends get a peak at it, but then you hide it away again. Meanwhile your children go hungry. Who among us would do that? Yet that is exactly what we do with a gift that is far more precious than anything man ever created on this earth. We hide it behind the walls of our churches and grudgingly let a few people slip in and have a look. It does not occur to most of us to take it outside and share it. If it does, it’s often someone else’s job. We just keep this life saving gift all to ourselves. If this is our attitude, maybe we need to question whether we really have it at all. It is a gift that is of no value to us or to our Lord if we will not share it.
Maybe you think that you have nothing to offer. In one sense that’s true of all of us. We have nothing that is not from God. If you have received Him, you have the greatest gift of all, and it is your responsibility to share it. God didn’t stop there. I know He has given you other things that he intends for you to share. My wife, Linda, and I attend a church with some people who are barely able to move or to communicate. They have a purpose in God’s kingdom. When I speak in a few weeks I will remind them that one doesn’t need a mouth to pray and that God responds to intercessory prayer. No matter how much or how little we think we have been given, God expects us to multiply it.
When Jesus was asked which of the commandments was greatest, he responded with this.
… “‘YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND.’ 38 This is the great and foremost commandment. 39 The second is like it, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.’ 40 On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.” (Matt 22:37-40 NASU)
This is such a powerful statement. If you look back on my previous writings you’ll see a little bit of why. Today I’m taking a narrow focus. Many Christians have probably heard people quote from this passage to affirm that we should love ourselves, for how can we love our neighbor as ourselves if we do not? At minimum Jesus’ statement implies that loving oneself is the expected norm, but does that mean that it is good? It has certainly been a struggle for me. In truth, though I treat my flesh all too well, I see little to love in myself. At times it has been difficult for me to believe that God would either. To have had so many advantages have done so little with them seems to me worse than the most flagrant debauchery you can imagine by someone who has never known the truth.
I’ve always tripped over that idea drawn from this quote because I equated self love with being selfish. I think I am beginning to see how they are not the same. At least I can see how one might love himself in agreement with the God who loves him. We talk about seeing others through God’s eyes. We need to look at ourselves the same way. We can and should hate the sin we find in our lives. We should do whatever it takes to remove it. We should not hate ourselves because of it. To hate our very selves is to be in agreement with Satan who would destroy us. To love ourselves is to agree with Jesus who redeemed us.
Though I am not sure I can accept the assertions some make that it is impossible to love others if we do not love ourselves, I will concede that it seriously hampers our ability to do so. Most of us will apply a different set of standards to our own lives than we apply to others. This is not necessarily intentional, and those standards may be lower or higher depending on one’s personality and character. Any difference in standards is in fact a mark of arrogance. That may seem a strange thing to say if you are prone to apply the higher standard to yourself, but to do so implies that for some reason you believe you should be better than anyone else. To apply the lower standard to yourself suggests that you believe you have no need to live with the same discipline you expect of others.
Though this is true, there will remain a commonality of expectation of oneself and of others. Integrity requires that we live by the same standard we expect of those around us. If we lack the ability to love ourselves even when we fail to meet those standards, it is not likely that we will do a good job of loving anyone else, though we may set out to do so.
All of us will fail. That is why Jesus came. As we approach Resurrection Sunday, let us remember what His love for us accomplished. Let’s agree with Him, and learn to love our neighbor and ourselves.