God’s Love…or Lists?

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Have you ever felt overwhelmed by the list of commands from the Sermon on the Mount?

Jesus, I want to love you.

But I can’t. Only you can enable me. “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:4-5).

I have always struggled to read the Sermon on the Mount. I am a list maker. So initially it seems this is super helpful. Ta-da! Jesus has given us a list! I love lists. I love to check things off of my list. It makes me feel a sense of accomplishment which in turn makes me feel good about SELF.

Think of how Jesus began teaching His disciples on that mount. He spoke vitally important truths that cannot be rushed through in order to get to the list. He began what is arguably the greatest sermon ever preached with “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 5:3).

For myself and I’m thinking for many Christian women, these words have remained largely pushed to the side. We continue to focus on the list. And even when we read the list, we know there’s no way we can do it. But we still try. In our own strength, we try and try and try. And the weight gets heavier and heavier. Paul diagnoses us perfectly in Galatians. “Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?” (Gal. 3:3).

So what are we to do with this pressure? This weight? This burden? We have two choices. Continue to rely on self, walking in self-righteousness or go back to the beginning where we hear Christ say, “Blessed are the poor in spirit.” We must turn in prayer to the Lord and confess our bankruptcy. There is nothing in us that is lovely except Christ alone! I am not good enough and never will be. I can’t live up to these standards. I’ve been trying to. I’ve been building, constructing, and crafting my house on self-righteous sand! And now, by God’s grace, I see the cracks in the foundation. Praise the Lord for His grace!

“All I Have is Christ.” I was running my hell-bound race and He rescued me by grace! I didn’t choose Jesus, He chose me! He looked upon my helpless state and had mercy on me. He lifted me out of the miry pit. He set me free from the power and penalty of my sin.
I was on death row. Awaiting execution. A just punishment that I deserved for the crime of cosmic treason. But our King was merciful. Out of the riches of His love, He took pity on me. In the greatest demonstration of love the universe has ever seen, the King sent the Prince, His only Son, to take my place.

Though I was His enemy, the Prince loved me and humbly and willingly agreed. He took my hand and said, “Arise, my love, my beautiful one, and come away” (Song of Sol. 2:13). He gave me a “beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit” (Isa. 61:3).

And then He went back into the executioner’s chamber and sat down in my seat.

“And I beheld God’s love displayed, You suffered in my place. You bore the wrath reserved for me, now all I know is grace. Hallelujah! All I have is Christ. Hallelujah! Jesus is my life.”
The Lord knows me. He knows I’m a sinner and He loves me right where I am. He understands I’m weak. He loves watching His Spirit at work in me. He wants me to know His great love for me so that I can walk in His love and be a vessel of His love.

“In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:9-10).

“Now, Lord, I would be Yours alone, and live so all might see. The strength to follow your commands could never come from me. Oh Father, use my ransomed life in any way you choose. And let my song forever be, my only boast is you.”

Jesus, we want to love you! Lord, help us run to you. Help us run into you, into your perfect love. “The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous man runs into it and is safe” (Prov. 18:10).

You are love and your love is safe.

S – Surrender all to Christ
A – Ask Him to give us grace and a desire to please Christ over self
F – Focus on Jesus, believing He loves us
E – Entrust our hearts and lives to the Lord, trusting Him for the outcome

Written by: Susan Sampson

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