Friday, October 14, 2011

Passion: The greatest commandment

Photo by Arvind Balarman,
Hello again my friends! Welcome to A Good Bible Study - our current topic is A Passionate Love: the relationship between God and you.

There are so many ways God expresses His passion for us! I love the incredibly expressive and eloquent words used to say "passion." Let's find more synonyms for this wonderful term so we can walk our walk instead of just talking our talk!

Let's read 1 Peter 4:8
New King James Version (NKJV)
8 And above all things have fervent love for one another, for “love will cover a multitude of sins.”[a]
Fervent, zealous, enthusiastic, with-all-that-you-have kind of love. This is a passionate love we are talking about here. Not a romantic passion, but a sincere, active, God-centered love that encompasses your whole heart.

Do you remember what is the greatest commandment? Read Matthew 22:36-40.

The greatest commandment is to love God with all your heart, and the second is to love others as you do yourself. Here Peter reiterates that message, encouraging each of us to have fervent love for one another. A whole heart love. And why? Because it enables us to see the best in others, to assume the best of them, and to overlook one another's less than perfect personalities. Am I talking to anyone out there?

 This specific love word is the Greek "agape." Interestingly, this word was rarely used in Greek literature prior to the New Testament. It refers to showing kindness to strangers without complaining about it, extending hospitality (putting traveling believers up) and being charitable to others. In this verse, it takes on a more special meaning, specifying volitional love versus emotional love. It's active. It's participatory. It's sacrificial.

Peter gets even more specific with the concept of passionate agape love: He says each of us are given gifts from the Holy Spirit. Contrary to popular belief, these gifts are not for our benefit, not for our pleasure or profit, but a tool by which to minister to one another as believers, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. As stewards, we are trustees of the gifts, not owners. We are managers of God’s gifts, entrusted to use our gifts to honor and glorify God. That’s powerful news because it goes against a lot of today's motivational teaching and even some preaching!

That means we are not blessed with talents and abilities so we can prosper financially, although there is nothing wrong in prospering in and of itself.

We tend to think that gifts and passions are given to us for us alone, to please us and to prosper us, to benefit our lives primarily and others secondarily. We consider our gifts to be our own personal property, meant to gain financial reward and prestige, the “wealth” of our age.

It's a lie. The same lie Satan told Adam and Eve and like us, they bought it! “What’s in it for me? What is God trying to keep back from me? Why shouldn’t I have a share in the glory?”

We forget we are stewards. It wasn’t our sacrifice that brought the Holy Spirit to comfort and bless us, it wasn’t our pain that paid the price of forgiveness on the cross, it wasn’t our power that enables us to do more than we are able. And as managers, we will be held accountable for using our gifts and whether we used it in the best interest of the One who gave it. Think on that for a moment.

So, how do we use our gifts in God's best interest? Peter tells us to use the mindset of a representative of God. He says if we speak and teach others, we need to do it as an oracle of God, with reverence for God’s Word, so our listeners will also respect it. He reminds us that we get into trouble when we start believing our strength comes from the gift itself, instead of the giver.

I know when I get caught up in all I can do, I lose strength and stamina. I lose heart. Paul asserts that by relying on God’s strength and power to minister your gift to others, not only are we honoring God, but we can be sure that when we need a powerful presentation or manifestation of talent, we are connected to the unending Source!

Let's pray:

Father, thank you for all the good gifts you've given me. Help me to remember they are a blessing, not a self-endowed right. Let me honor you with my attitude, as well as my gifts. In your name, amen.

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