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The Word became flesh and dwelt among us….

Month

June 2014

The Prayer & Heart of Daniel – Daniel 9

There is a story told about the little girl who prayed for a little brother.

 

Every night she prayed, she prayed only for this. Her parents thought it was cute, and didn’t discourage it, but told her prayer would only be answered if it was God’s will.

 

So she started praying,“ Dear God, please give me a little brother named Will.Amen”

 

We often operate the same way when we pray, even when fresh insight or information is given, or new situations arise, we still seek the same answers to our prayers.

 

In our relationship with God, we come at it from an viewpoint of, “ Nice to meet you God. Now we are acquainted, let me tell you about all the wonderful plans I have for me, and how you can help.”

 

We are instructed to pray for God’s will to be done ( Matthew 6), for His kingdom to come.

 

When we pray, we don’t do it to change God’s mind or to manipulate anything out of him, but instead, we most times will find that prayer changes us.

 

It changes our selfish desires into Godly ones. It changes us from self dependence and being self reflective to reflecting only on God, and His Word.

 

We long for prophecy in this world, to know what is going to happen. We want insight.

 

That kind of insight can only come through much prayer, and having a heart seeking after God.

 

Daniel was a man or prayer, we know that from his willingness to even risk his life to keep praying ( ch6).

 

We see him in earnest prayer here. A prayer asking God for mercy, and seeking God to complete the promises of His Word.

 

 

  1. The timing v 1-2

 

Have you ever had a moment when you are reading a good book, and the words jump off the page at you? They just resonate so clearly, you can’t possibly continue reading, but you have to stop and mull it over. Read it again and wonder how the author managed to write words that would grab you attention so well when they’ve never met you?

 

Daniel had such a moment, reading the words of Jeremiah.

 

He called it more than the words of Jeremiah though, Daniel referred to them as the Word of the Lord.

 

The fact that he was studying the Word shows us that he still had a great concern to know what God had said to the prophets before, and the promises that He had made, so that he could properly discern the time he was in.

 

He was engaged in spiritual exercise, strengthening his knowledge and understanding of the Scriptures.

 

He was most likely reading Jeremiah 25:11-12 , 29:10.

 

Studying God’s Word gives us a perception that comes through The Spirit, as we look into, feed on it, and find ourselves desiring God’s Will and purposes to be fulfilled in our times and lives.

 

Daniel sought to understand the Word of God, but like all of us, He longed to know when God’s promises would be fulfilled.

 

God had clearly promised that the exile of the Israelites would last for 70 years.

 

Many commentators put this at a time when Daniel was in his 80s, and the people had been in Babylon for about 68 years.

 

Daniel realized the time was approaching where God’s promise would be fulfilled.

 

How aware are you of your times and seasons in relation to the promises of God in His Word?

 

  1. The prayer… v.3-19

 

Daniel’s response to this knowledge drove him to prayer, and what a prayer!

 

It wasn’t a quick little arrow prayer, it was a descriptive and earnest appeal to God’s righteousness, justice and glory.

 

He didn’t just launch into it either, even his preparation for the prayer that he made was just as precise and logical as the prayer itself.

 

v.3 tells us his posture, his attitude, even his attire. His face was towards God, his heart was towards God, and his humility was shown in putting on sackcloth and ashes.

 

This attitude of prayer shows just how serious Daniel was to seeking God’s face on this issue.

 

“Preparing for prayer and worship is just as important as the prayer and worship themselves. Without hearts that are right before God, our prayers and worship will be empty, pious words.” – Wiersbe. 

 

We may not put on sackcloth and ashes when we pray nowadays, but when was the last time you sought God’s face with this kind of earnestness? 

 

The prayer itself is not only a great model, but includes again the inward resolve of Daniel’s heart. ( 1:8)

 

He launches into his prayer, not on a note of , “Hey God, remember how you told Jeremiah 70 years? Tick tock…”

 

His opening line is on the greatness, love and awesomeness of God.

 

We would want to know, am I going to see my homeland again? God, have you forgotten about me?

 

Daniel instead lays foundation of confession for his prayer, and not just for the sins of the nation, but he includes himself in the sins of the people.

 

Nearly a dozen times, Daniel uses “we” or “us” in referring to Israel’s disobedience and sin.

 

This again is a sign of his humility, but also of his honesty before God.

 

There is no point going before God to intercede for others when you yourself have unfinished business with Him. ( Matthew 5: 23-24)

 

Daniel also talks about the theme of ownership.

 

Righteousness, mercy and forgiveness belong to God.

 

Shame and the consequences of sins committed belong to those who willfully disobey His commands and break His covenant. v 7-10

 

Daniel knew beyond a doubt where the people of Israel stood before God. They were completely at His mercy.

 

They had failed. They had disobeyed. The had been blatant about it. They had ignored His warnings He had given them through the prophets.

 

God’s justice in His covenant demanded a price to be paid for their refusal to follow His Word. They had been warned of the consequences, but still went ahead and bought punishment on themselves.

 

Here is Daniel though, seeking God’s face on behalf of the people, looking for mercy.

 

Looking for God’s glory to be restored to Israel as nation, Jerusalem as His city, and the temple as His sanctuary. ( v 16-19)

 

We might ask Daniel, why do you even bother to ask? Is Israel even worth the trouble?

 

Well, God thought so.

 

Israel are His chosen people, there wasn’t going to be a change to that, because even though the had been unfaithful, it was impossible for God to be unfaithful to His promises or His covenant.

 

Daniel knew this.

 

He knew the justice of God demanded punishment for sins.

 

He knew the righteousness of God demanded cleansing.

 

He knew Israel was still in sin, still in need of complete cleansing.

 

He knew that God’s mercy would only be withheld from them for so long, because God had promised not only that this punishment would be for an appointed time. There would be a time when they would be brought back to the land.

 

He appeals not to them having learnt their lesson.

 

That would imply they had achieved righteousness without God’s mercy.

 

Daniel’s strongest and most challenging appeal is to God’s mercy, that God would impart to Israel the righteousness they could not produce not matter how much they labored in the cost of sin. v 18

 

Daniel knew a lot about the character of God, the covenant, the plans and some of the purposes of God, but he didn’t have the resource that we do in the Cross, where God’s righteousness, mercy, and love all met perfectly, for all time, and for all sins. When all people would be brought back.

 

This is such a wonderful picture of the Cross and Christ’s atoning death and victorious rising again.

 

We must avoid the dangers of being so caught up in trying to interpret the Word of God to fit our agendas or platforms, that we miss that God’s Word and promises will be fulfilled, not on our schedule, but on in His perfect time.

 

We need to avoid the trap of getting wrapped up in prophetic studies so much that we have little concern for the practical outworking of God’s Will. All we sometimes want to do is satisfy our curiosity and proudly share our “insights” with others who are less “enlightened”. When Daniel learned God’s truth, the experience humbled him and moved him to worship and pray. – Wiersbe

 

The burdens we have for ourselves, and for the furthering of our understanding or knowledge of something are put in the right perspective when we actually see God’s grand design and plan behind all things.

 

Daniel’s prayer is a lesson in God’s faithfulness and mankind’s tendency to justify his failures of unfaithfulness, and that God’s justice will always be done, even if justification comes at the expense of His own Son to pay the ultimate price for all sin.

 

  1. The answer….v.20-23

 

Daniel’s pleas did not go unnoticed, because Gabriel turns up to give him an answer to his request for mercy.

 

The reasons given for Gabriel’s special visit were that he came to give insight and understanding, and that was because Daniel was greatly loved, something repeated several times in ch 10.

 

What a compliment to receive.

 

To know you are loved by God, not because you are righteous in and of yourself, but because God is merciful.

 

Daniel’s study of the Word, and earnest seeking after God, trusting in God, confession of sin, and pleas for mercy and for God’s glory to be revealed to him were answered all by that statement, ‘ You are greatly loved’.

 

God’s love is humbling in itself, but what God’s love reveals to us can be overwhelming at times.

 

God longs to give us insight to His Will and purpose for our lives, what our lives could be if we would only call out to Him for His mercy and righteousness to be imparted to us. If only we would long to immerse ourselves in Himself, and His Word, and promises, longing to understand Him and His love for us.

 

  1. The vision….v.24-27

 

Gabriel’s “so-called” answer to Daniel’s plea for mercy seems to very cryptic at first glance.

 

Even on the 1,000th glance, it still seems a little ambiguous!!

 

The 70 weeks, or 70 sevens is a vision, or instruction given in scripture that has been the source of much contention for many debating eschatology through the years.

 

But we must remember when reading this that it was given to Daniel, and God chose him to receive this instruction as an answer to his prayer for mercy.

 

What was it all about? How was the vision an answer to prayer?

 

It details Israel’s history from the time of their restoration to Jerusalem, to the coming of the Messiah, to the Messiah’s cutting off, and another prince who comes and makes a covenant with Israel for a time, then breaks it, then after a great time of war and desolations, until again God’s time is fulfilled and His plan of redemption is complete.

 

The 70 sevens seem to echo the 70 years of exile for Israel in Babylon. It was another 70 for Daniel to consider.

 

For 70 years Daniel had longed for the restoration of the city and the temple of God ( v16-19). Now that it was about to take place his attention was directed to a more distant and loftier peak in the history of redemption. Even a new temple in a rebuilt city made by human hands could be destroyed; Daniel’s eyes were placed instead on a final temple, one that was beyond desolation. ( John 2:19) ( Revelation 21:22-27). – (ivp commentary)

 

Daniel’s answer to pleas for God to reveal His mercy was for him to have an understanding that God was working towards to the redemption of the whole world, not just one city or nation or one building.

 

Daniel’s intercessory worship lead him to see with great God-given insight, that even though we do not understand all of what God is doing, He has a grander purpose in mind, an eternal purpose in all of our personal situations that somehow reflect and echo His grand eternal plan for the whole human race.

 

No story of truth should seem foreign to us when we read it with God’s eternal plan in mind, it echoes of His love, mercy, righteousness, and perfect justice. 

 

Our response to all these things that threaten to overwhelm us when we don’t understand it to plea for mercy, but most of all to pray, “Thy kingdom come!”

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Living Lives That Promote The Gospel – 1 Peter 2:9-12

What is the greatest commercial or advertisement you have ever seen?

 

Was it the product that inspired you or just the cleverness of the ad?

 

Good marketing has a way of grabbing your attention, and pointing out what you so desperately need in your life to make yourself complete!

 

Too often, many churches present Christianity in ways that would make some marketing gurus cringe. It’s like we are trying to sell something that people don’t really need, but can be talked into – **but wait, there’s more!**

 

As believers we are called to promote the gospel, but we’re not supposed to sell it. It’s not a commodity. It’s not a service, and we are not call center operators hoping to convince someone into ‘trying our product with a 90 day return policy if their aren’t satisfied….’

 

What we do need to do is believe the message ourselves, and obey the gospel ourselves, live holy lives in Christ Jesus, and live lives that promote God’s glory, grace, love and truth – this is the calling of v 9b, His excellence.

 

  • WHO ARE WE? v.9-10 

 

Knowing who truly are can be incredibly helpful in defining what you are supposed to do!

 

A plumber plumbs, a builder builds, an artist creates art… We see all these roles are defined in their very titles and descriptions.

 

Peter declares the believers he is writing to, to have various titles. Chosen people, royal priesthood, holy nation, a purchased possession.

 

They are all vitally important for us to grasp if we want to live lives that promote the gospel, because we are declared all these ‘things’ SO we can proclaim the good news of Who God is.( v9b).

 

~ chosen people~

 

When you are chosen for something, what is that choice based on? Bias? Merit? Can you effect your ‘choosing’ when you are chosen?

 

We often see God’s election the same way we see our politic system works. We vote based on preference, and the candidate we most like.

 

We are a chosen race, Peter says, but it has nothing to with our having run a great and convincing campaign where we beat the lesser candidates. We haven’t earned this. We certainly don’t deserve this. It’s purely God’s grace that makes it even possible for us to have redemption available to us. We are chosen by God, in Christ Jesus, by faith alone.

 

Being chosen in this sense then should most definitely not give us a superiority complex. We are chosen based on Jesus’ superiority, not ours! (1:1-2)

 

~ a royal priesthood~

 

Peter is building on a statement he made in v5 about us being ‘a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices that are acceptable to God through Christ’.

 

Being priests isn’t as bloodthirsty as you might think – the sacrifices we offer though, are ourselves, and our acts of service and worship ( Romans 12:1-2).These are only acceptable because Christ, the Great High Priest went before us and offered Himself. So we are priests in that we have been called to acts of self-sacrificial service to God’s glory.

 

~ a holy nation ~

 

We are a set apart community, called out by God to be special, not just in His sight, but in the sight of others also. More on that later though.

 

We are called out because of God’s greatness and holiness not our own! Just as with Israel – Deut 7:6-8.

 

~ a purchased possession ~

 

It’s amazing how something completely useless and mundane can become an invaluable and sought after prize just because of who it has belonged to. You would have no interest in buying my old shoes. They would be useless to you. But if I were to offer you a pair of shoes once worn by your favorite celebrity, then it would most likely be a bidding war!

 

We are valuable because we have been made in God’s image, each individual human being has that value, but as believers in Jesus, we have value, because He has redeemed us from our slavery to sin to belong to Him.

 

The ordinary is invaluable when possessed by the extraordinary.

 

We have been purchased with the precious blood of Jesus Christ. It doesn’t anymore personal or extraordinary than that! ( 1:18-21)

 

  • WHAT WERE WE? v.9b-10 

 

Peter gives us insight into our condition outside of the grace of God in our lives.

 

  • We were called out of darkness into light
  • We once were not a people, but now we are God’s
  • We were once under wrath, now we are under mercy

 

All of these positional things about who we were bring us a contrast to who we are in Christ in the preceding verse.

 

Who we are is owed, Peter is stating, entirely to Christ.

 

Whatever our current blessing, we only see it as a blessing because we have had intimate knowledge and experience with the alternative.

 

Employment, health, finance, whatever it is, accepting where you are can only happen when you have a proper awareness of where you’ve come from.

 

I am married, but I can only say that because I was once single.

 

I have nieces and nephews, but I can only say that because I once had siblings that teased me.

 

We used to be nobodies, with nothing, going nowhere. Now we belong to God, Who has given us an identity, a home, and a meaning in life. We are His!

 

 

  • WHERE ARE WE? v.11 

 

Being aware of who you are and where you have come from gives you a purpose and meaning for where you are!

 

If you don’t know who you are or where you’ve come from, theres a fair chance you have some memory issues, or you are in denial. Neither is a good position to be in, physically or spiritually.

 

Peter says we are exiles, sojourners. This is a very important point that we should not miss.

 

We are not meant for this world as it is now. We have been created, chosen and we are being equipped for another kingdom. This world is not our home – we’re just a passing through!

 

This perspective means we are going to have live like we were made for somewhere else, and that we want that somewhere else to be visible to others in how we live here.

 

When we know the difference between what is temporary and what is eternal, we can act with much more purpose and meaning in the here and now.

 

 

  • HOW DO WE PROCLAIM THE GOSPEL EFFECTIVELY? v 11-12

 

God’s grace in action in our lives should be seen, and Peter points this out.

 

There are two clear and explicit instructions for  all believers – ABSTAIN and KEEP.

 

How do we fight the war against the flesh and our sinful desires that seek to destroy our soul (v11)? What is the best practical weapon?

 

We so often try to narrow in on specific bible verses that we can pull out when under temptation. We pray, we trust the finished work of Christ, we confess, we claim the promises, we claim the blood of Christ, the victory of the Resurrection….and we so often end up in the same position we started out trying to avoid.

 

What really works in the battle against sexual addiction and porn?

 

What really works in the battle against excessive eating or drinking?

 

What really works against all these battles with our passions that we have?

 

Peter says, “ABSTAIN”.

 

We don’t give abstinence it’s rightful place sometimes. Peter is saying it’s one of the main practical and attainable methods we can utilize, but we miss it for our spiritualizing of issues that can sometimes just be overcome with saying “No”.

 

Theres a lot to be said for spiritual disciplines, and we should not neglect them, but God has given us brains and willpower. We should never use our ‘unique’ situation, or our checkered past as excuses for sinful behavior. These things certainly affect and influence our behavior, but we always have the choice to abstain from sinful action.

 

The next time that bothersome person is annoying us, and reminds of that other person in our person that hurt us, we can choose in that moment…will I punch them in the face….gossip about them when they walk away….or will I just say, ‘No’…

 

The same applies for any who face pressure to compromise purity because ‘everyone else is doing it’. Well, it’s not about what other’s are choosing – what will you choose ?A moment’s pleasure for a lifetime of baggage, or God’s good and perfect plan for your life?

 

There are always outside influences that we cannot control in our lives, but what can control is ourselves…

 

The other instruction Peter gives is to “KEEP”.

 

We are to keep are conduct honorable among non-believers.

 

This is so when they falsely accuse us, our honorable behavior and good deeds will not only prove their accusations ridiculous and unfounded, but they will actually have to acknowledge and glorify God when they see our good deeds. ( Matthew 5:14-16). Our works are for God’s glory – not ours. For the praise of God, not men.

 

Abstaining from passions of the flesh, and keeping our conduct honorable seem to restrict us into a form of works-based sanctification. But striving after holiness is not legalism. It’s what we are called to ( 1:15,16) as God’s children.

 

We seem to divide other believers into ‘this’ or ‘that’ group. The group that belongs, and the one that doesn’t..

 

Peter’s call for the early believers was that their faith would see them living lives in such a way where they were proclaiming and promoting the gospel that saved them, and it wasn’t by being ‘that’ kind of people, it was by being ‘this’ kind – the kind of people that realize they are chosen, that they are priests, holy and set apart, a purchased people.

 

People with that in mind know not only who they are, and what they have been saved from and to, but also where they are and what is required of them in their current situation.

 

These kind of people that are being described proclaim and promote the excellencies of Him Who called them out of darkness, and they certainly don’t promote themselves, or their particular way of doing things.

 

These kind of people live with such integrity that the devil’s best attack, and evil slander just can’t stick because they are so clearly focussed on serving God and loving others.

 

We need to be the kind of people that Peter is talking about.

 

We are the people Peter is talking about, that is if we trust in Christ alone.

 

We need to live out God’s grace in our lives.

 

The best defense against attack is to proclaim God’s excellency, Christ’s supremacy and to be aware of how much we all need the mercy of God in this warring world!

Love Your Enemies – Matthew 5:43-48

‘What the world needs now, is love, sweet love…’  ‘Where is the love…’Songs, stories and catch-cries of the last few generations, and even through all of history tell the same story – if we could all just love one another, than the world would be a better place…

Loving our enemies maybe would go a long way towards world peace, but when people have even died in the name of love, clearly, love in and of itself is not enough to fix the issue, and love as the world interprets it, is incredibly perverted when placed against Gods design.

We use love. We abuse love. We need not to redefine it, but to discover it’s true meaning.

True love for others can only come when we love God first, and we only love God because He first loved us.

All other relationships flow out of that, even relationships with people that we don’t get along with that well.

Even enemies. We don’t want a relationship with our enemies, let alone to be called to love them, to pray for them, but here is Jesus telling us just how wrong we have it in our world.

How do we love? Love – with GOD’S divine ‘AGAPE’ love.

(There are four words in greek for love:

eros – the sexual love, ie – erotic..

storge – family love, ie – parents towards children, children towards parents..

philieo – strong affection, ie – philanthropy, philharmonic, philadelphia..

agape – divine love – God’s love.)

Agape is the word for love that is used here, and this shows us that we love others, including enemies, with a divine love that goes beyond “liking them” beyond the physical, familial, natural affection, and it loves the way God loves.

This love is love without variableness. It loves even when the object of the love is hateful or unlovely. It is love for no reason at all, or love even is there is excuse available to discourage it. It is Godlike love.

Jesus’ point in using this word above other words is to show this is the type of love which is to characterize us and our purpose in life – not sex, not family, not affectionate love, but God’s divine, agape love.
-(Boice)

(This type of love for others puts aside things like mutual attraction, natural affection, and past, present or future failures, hopes or dreams that all change with time and our perceptions.)

Loving like God loves with His love, means when we love, we do so without discriminating. (v.45b-47)

Loving those who are unloving and unloveable – just as God loved us.

Jesus also instructs us to pray for – to intercede for – those who are attacking us. V44b.

That is a strange position to be in.

To be an advocate for the very person who has attacked, persecuted you, maligned you, slandered and hurt you.

Who would be able to do such thing?

Jesus did exactly that, not only on the Cross, where He cried out to His Father to forgive those who were crucifying Him, but right now, He seated in Heaven as our Advocate.

We, who were His enemies, who maligned Him, He suffered for, and intercedes for.What an example for us!

Who do we love? Who is my enemy?

There is a great danger in believing everything you hear.

Conclusions can be made on both sides of an argument that are completely opposite because of conflicting or contradictory stories.

The people of Jesus’ day, as we have already seen, had being twisting the law that God had given, either to add to it, ignore the true heart of it, or to read something into it that wasn’t even there.

Several times, Jesus has said, “ You have heard it said…” and then either builds on it, or addresses misconceptions and misinterpretations.

This antithesis (v43) is different in that nowhere in the law were people instructed to hate their enemies.- Exodus 23:4,5, Lev 19:18,19

They had purposefully misconstrued the instruction to love their neighbors to mean that they should hate anybody else who wasn’t known to them.

A lawyer once asked Jesus, “Who is my neighbor?”.

Jesus answered him by telling the parable of the good Samaritan, which conveyed the truth that our neighbor is anyone who is in need, even if that person is a sworn enemy.

People were asking who their neighbors were in order to discriminate in their love and care for those in need.

Their morality had become so religious, that they had ignored the greatest law of them all – to love God and love others.

This is a great trap when we stop to consider who not only our neighbors are, but also who we perceive our enemies to be.

We think of those who hurt us, or hurt those we love as being our enemies.

We think of those who fail us purposefully as being our enemies.

But who is our real enemy – if we are in Christ?

The only enemies or enemy we truly have are those who attack our standing and righteousness in Christ.

When we are persecuted, falsely accused and attacked for Christ’s sake, then we can truly say we have enemies, not because we are under attack, but because Christ is.

Personal conflicts, family battles, past hurts and bitterness all can still create in us a feeling of enmity towards those who have hurt us directly or indirectly though.

How we deal with those hurts depends a lot on how we see the person on the opposite side of the situation.

How often would we be like the people who keep the law to the letter – loving our friends, to make up for ignoring the heart of the law, which is to love others with the love of God, and doing so, we hate some who have wronged us?

If our neighbor is anyone in need of mercy, then we would rightfully look at those who we see as enemies and realize we need to show mercy to them.

What if God had only kept to the letter of the law, and only loved those who loved Him?

What if God had ignored those who acted like His enemies?

We would all be on our way to damnation, without Him fulfilling the heart of His own law. ( Romans 5:6-11)

There is no real, true love, without sacrifice – there is hardly a reference in NT scripture  that talks about God’s love without mentioning it in the context of the Cross. ( John 3:16, Gal 2:20, 1John 4:10, Romans 5:8)

When we say to ourselves by our thoughts our actions that it would cost too much to love those who have hurt us, or we say we cannot forgive or forget past hurts, what we are effectively saying is, “God’s love is not enough”, or that “Christ’s death for the sins of the whole world was not enough to cover my hurt, to forgive my enemy.” If Christ’s sacrifice was enough for God to forgive us when we were His enemies, it should be enough for us to forgive ours and even love them with that divine love also.

Contrary to popular opinion, love is not free. It does cost you when it is a true, chosen love. Anything else is mere indulgence of the flesh. The cost of true love is self. You have to die to yourself in order to truly love another. That’s a cost too high to pay for some, but hatred costs even more in the end.

Our hearts need a new law written on to them. One that reaches past the past, lifts us out of the hurt of the here and now, and gives us hope for the future.

The only way to do that is to take this instruction from Christ personally, apply it personally, repent, and forgive, even if your change of heart never leads to a change of heart on the other side, our call is to have our heart right. Act right, when others act wrong.

We will never change our own heart in our own strength – we need the power of the Cross and the fruit of the Spirit. How less can we expect another person’s heart to change by our mere hate-filled thoughts and actions towards them?

This kind of love that Jesus is speaking of transcends the kind of love that we speak of and use and abuse in our world.

God’s love is not a matter of “just” the feelings or emotions, it is a matter of the will, and in Christ, our will is to be surrendered to His – this way, it is always possible to do the right thing, even if we do not we feel like doing it!

**CS Lewis quote – Mere Christianity page 131**
Do not waste time bothering whether you ‘love’ your neighbour; act as if you did. As soon as we do this we find one of the great secrets. When you are behaving as if you loved someone, you will presently come to love him. If you injure someone you dislike, you will find yourself disliking him more. If you do him a good turn, you will find yourself disliking him less. There is, indeed, one exception. If you do him a good turn, not to please God and obey the law of charity, but to show him what a fine forgiving chap you are, and to put him in your debt, and then sit down to wait for his ‘gratitude’, you will probably be disappointed. (People are not fools: they have a very quick eye for anything like showing off, or patronage.) But whenever we do good to another self, just because it is a self, made (like us) by God, and desiring its own happiness as we desire ours, we shall have learned to love it a little more or, at least, to dislike it less.
Consequently, though Christianity charity sounds a very cold thing to people whose heads are full of sentimentality and though it is quite distinct from affection, yet it leads to affection. The difference between a Christian and a worldly man is not the worldly man has only affections or ‘likings’ and the Christian only ‘charity’. The worldly man treats certain people kindly because he ‘likes’ them: the Christian, trying to treat every one kindly, finds himself liking more and more people as he goes on – including people he could not even have imagined  himself liking at the beginning .

Why love them?

Firstly, it is the way to become God’s children. ( v.45a)

If we measure God’s love by the fact that while we were sinners and were unable to hear His Word, receive His Spirit, submit to His law, understand His teaching, or cease from our sin – Christ died for us, that is God’s love. That is the full measure of God’s love and it’s the love by which we can be His children and the only love to which we are called as God’s children. ( 1 John 3:1-3, 11-24).

Secondly, it is to be Godlike in our behavior. (v.45-47)Loving like God does creates a new climate of blessings instead of cursing, of hope instead of hurt, and a place where we can make friends of our enemies as we sacrifice our glory for the glory of God. Love for others should be like the rain and sunshine – God gives both to the good and bad, the nice and nasty. God’s grace is far greater and bigger than our perceptions and our genuine hurts and feelings. Let His love transcend ours.

Thirdly, we love our enemies because it creates a testimony to others also. We stand out! (v47) If we act no different then those around us, the unbelievers, the pagans, then what authority do we have to call them to consider Christ and God’s love?
What do you do more than others? – it’s an important question to consider! Is there enough evidence to convict us of being loved of God, and loving others with that love?

Lastly, loving others with the love of God will lead us on to maturity, to fulfillment of faith, to perfection in resting in Christ’s perfection ( v.48).

The word perfect doesn’t  simply mean ‘sinless’ – that would be impossible for us in this life, but it certainly points us towards a love for others that reflects the love of God in such a way, that we finally achieve the glory of God in the most meaningful way – to love unconditionally, to love as God loves.

We like to think our best relationship reflects our relationship with God, but that’s hardly ever an accurate representation. Our worst relationship – now that shows how close we are to God. How much we love our enemy reflects how much God’s love is changing us.

(What other option do you have? The beatitudes point out the blessings, but also the flipside of not following Jesus’ instructions…)

It is the greatest mark of the believer that indicates that we belong to Him – John 13:34,35 – the greatest thing that can happen to us, the only way we can be perfect is to belong to the family of God as His child. The greatest way we exhibit this is to love one another as He has loved us.

An act of true love breaks the curse, breaks the cycle.

“We are saved by a man who died loving His enemies”.- Keller

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