James 1:12 Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.
“Trial” refers to any difficulty in life that may threaten our faithfulness to Christ: physical illness, financial reversal, the death of a loved one.… James, then, uses the crown to refer to the idea of reward, [and] the word life following crown will indicate what the reward is. Revelation 2:10.. is similar, “Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life.”[Moo, D. The Pillar New Testament Commentary: The Letter of James. p. 70]
After going through most of our Loving Jesus Series, I am not sure what sounds more beautiful – the “crown of life” that those who endure will receive, or the description that God gives them as “those who love him.” Of course, they are both amazing works of God’s grace.
Let’s take to heart this truth of this passage. Let’s pray for ourselves, whether we are in a time of “trial” or not, that we will be those who persevere in loving Jesus. Let’s pray for one another in our families, campuses, missional groups, and churches, that we will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.
John 21:17-19 The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.”Jesus said, “Feed my sheep…. Then he said to him, “Follow me!”
Jesus’ threefold repetition of his question may reflect the Near Eastern custom of reiterating a matter three times before witnesses in order to convey a solemn obligation… Peter is not relieved but rather saddened that Jesus has asked him the same question a third time. Peter’s response, “Lord, you know all things,” rather than pointing to actions of his own that prove his loyalty, defers to Jesus’ knowledge of him… Perhaps at long last Peter has learned that he cannot follow Jesus in his own strength and has realized the hollowness of affirming his own loyalty in a way that relies more on his own power of will than in Jesus’ enablement. [Kostenberger, A. Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament: John. p. 597-598]
In our “yes” to Jesus, let’s rely upon Him. We trust in Him Who, knowing all things including our greatest need, went to the cross in love. We take the commission to feed His sheep by, and only by, following Him.
Let’s pray for our churches today, that Jesus’ sheep will be well cared for. Let’s gladly say “yes” to following Jesus today. We can also worship in song – May the Words of my Mouth (Tim Hughes) (click here)
Romans 12:1-2a Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.
What is precious to us? It seems that it would be noble if the answer to that were at least another human being. Yet it so often seems, when I get down to the core of things, that it is often: me. I am precious to me. When I apply Abraham’s test to my life, I do hand my children, my husband, other people and things over to the Lord in prayer. But then I so often end up at this place – where God asks for me, all of me.
Here Paul uses a vivid, indeed shocking, idea: One’s whole self (that’s what Paul means by ‘body’) must be laid on the altar like a sacrifice in the Temple… Christian living… begins with the glad self-offering of one’s whole self to God whose mercy has come all the way to meet us in our rebellion, sin, and death.[Wright, N.T. Paul for Everyone: Romans Part Two. p. 70]
Let us respond to this passage with “glad self-offering” of our whole selves unto the Lord. While doing so, we can worship God in song with Build My Life (Housefires) (click here).
Hebrews 11:17 17 By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. He who had embraced the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son…19 Abraham reasoned that God could even raise the dead, and so in a manner of speaking he did receive Isaac back from death.
[Abraham] is the only exemplar mentioned in [Hebrews] 11 who is said to have been tested by God… The trial before him was the command to take Isaac [and] ‘sacrifice him…’ It was on this son’s survival that the fulfillment of God’s promises depended… Did God’s command, then, to sacrifice Isaac flatly contradict his own promise?
Surprisingly, neither the Genesis narrative nor the account in Hebrews dwells on the inner turmoil within Abraham’s heart. In fact, the impression one gets is that Abraham regarded it as God’s problem… When the command was given, Abraham obeyed: By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice.[O’Brien, P. The Pillar New Testament Commentary: The Letter to the Hebrews. p. 423-424]
I like this description of faith – “…Abraham regarded it as God’s problem.” Abraham’s part was reverence and obedience. What would happen, how God would reconcile two impossible seeming things, was God’s.
Today, let’s offer our lives and what is precious to us to the Lord, in reverent obedience. Let’s do so trusting Him, knowing that the One who raised Jesus to life is able to do with our offerings what will bring Him glory.
1 Peter 1:6-8 … for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. 7 These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. 8 Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy…
Quite a bit of this letter is concerned with the suffering of the early Christians. Here Peter states the theme which he will develop: that this suffering is the means by which the quality of the Christians’ faith can shine out all the more, and when Jesus is finally revealed this will result in an explosion of praise. Meanwhile, they are to live their lives… with love for Jesus in their hearts and ‘a glorified joy (v. 8) welling up within them. [Wright, N.T. The Early Christian Letters for Everyone. p. 51]
If we are in a current time of trial, let’s take these words of 1 Peter to heart. I also invite us all to pray that we, together with God’s church around the world, will live our lives with love for Jesus in our hearts and joy welling up within us.
Let’s worship to One Thing Remains (Bethel Live) (click here), proclaiming His love that will keep us for the day when Jesus is revealed.
James 4:6-8 (NIV) – But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.” Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you.
Would you have much love to Christ? Do not allow sin to have any room in your hearts or, if it will abide and you cannot thrust it quite out, let it not have a quiet habitation within you. Disturb sin as much as you can. The more room sin has in your hearts – the less room Christ will have there. Particularly, take heed of inordinate love to the world, and the things of the world, the prevalence of which love will dampen your love to Christ. A subordinate love you may have to people and things in the world – but let no person or thing have your chief love, only Christ. You must have dying affections to perishing things – if you would have a living and strong love to the ever-living Jesus! [Thomas Vincent, The True Christian’s Love to the Unseen Christ]
The hope of loving Christ in incorruption comes from God’s grace. If just ‘grace’ hasn’t seemed enough for you, know that God gives us ‘more grace’ – a never-ending, never-limited, never-lacking supply of grace.
Let us humbly come before the Lord and worship with the song,“Jesus Only You”(click here). Pray for the ‘more grace’ in our lives to turn from love of the world to have a chief love for Christ.
Galatians 2:20 (MSG) – Christ lives in me. The life you see me living is not “mine,” but it is lived by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I am not going to go back on that.
Would you attain to much love to Christ?
Be much in holy contemplation of Christ
Be much in reading and studying Scriptures
Be much in prayer to God for this love
Get much faith
Labor for much of the Holy Spirit
Get much hatred of sin
Associate yourselves most with those who have most love unto Christ
Be much in the exercise of this love.
Labor for clear evidences of His love unto you
Doubts of Christ’s love cause fears–and fears contract the heart, and therefore, are opposite to love which is the expansion and enlargement of the heart. Perfect love casts out fear; the more love–the less fear; and the more doubts and fears–the less love. Such as doubt much of Christ’s love to them, may love Christ truly–but they cannot love Christ strongly. You will love a less lovely person who loves you–more than a more lovely person who hates you. The love of the person beloved is a most amiable qualification and strong attraction, yes, one of the greatest incentives and inducements unto love. Get, then, a persuasion of the infinite love to you of this infinitely lovely Person.” [Thomas Vincent, The True Christian’s Love to the Unseen Christ]
Prayer: God, we ask for revelation in our hearts and minds of how you love us – clear evidences of your rescue, your calling, your healing, that leaves no doubt or fear. Come over us, meet us with your fierce love.
Romans 5:6-8 (NIV) – You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die.But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Thomas Vincent, a Puritan from the1600’s, wrote a book with this subtitle – “A Discourse, Chiefly Tending to Excite and Promote the Decaying Love of Christ in the Hearts of Christians.” Four hundred years have passed, and we are still seeking to excite and promote the love of Christ in our hearts.
“And here consider: the duty of loving Christ; the privilege; the honor; the wisdom; the excellency; the necessity; the usefulness; the delightfulness; and, lastly, consider the ATTAINABLENESS of this love to Christ. Brutes are not capable of this love to Christ – but you are capable. As your minds are capable of knowing Him, so your hearts are capable of loving Him. Others have attained this love, who were as much without it, and as much averse unto it as any of you may be. Here you are capable; hereafter, if you live and die without it, you will be utterly incapable. You have now the means of grace and, as of other graces, so of this grace of love to Christ, in the diligent use of the means, you may attain thereunto. [Thomas Vincent, The True Christian’s Love to the Unseen Christ]
Let’s worship today with the song, “The Cross Forever Speaks” (click here), as we thank God for the attainableness of love to Christ through his salvific work on the cross. And let’s pray for those who are still powerless and ask that this would be just the right time for them to receive Christ’s saving work into their lives.
1 Corinthians 2:9 (NIV) – However, as it is written:“What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived”—the things God has prepared for those who love him—
“It is hard for us even to imagine what it will be like to love with a divine and perfect love. In this life we always seem to be loving the wrong things too much and the right things too little. But a day of perfect love is coming (1 Cor. 2:9). Heaven’s perfection will transform our hearts. We will not just love Jesus more; we will love him the most – as much as we possibly can. We will have a superlative, joyful affection for our everlasting Savior.
Our love for Jesus will be sincere. We will not merely pretend to love Jesus, but we will actually love him. Our love for Jesus will be supreme. Our love for Jesus will be ardent. As we gaze upon our Savior’s face, giving him all our praise and worship, our hearts will burn within us in a blaze of pure spiritual affection. Our love for Jesus will be constant.
Sincerity, supremacy, ardency, constancy – such perfection will stay beyond our reach for the rest of our earthly lives. But if we love Jesus at all, we will keep striving for incorruptible affection, wanting to love him more and more.” [Philip Ryken, Loving Jesus More]
As we worship with the song “One Day”(click here) by Matt Redman, let’s pray for the increasing measure of incorruptible affection for the Lord because one day it will perfectly be ours.
Ephesians 6:24 (ESV) – Grace be with all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with love incorruptible.
As Paul concludes Ephesians, he gives a simple benediction wishing grace on the people. In particular, grace on the people who love Jesus with love incorruptible or “with an undying love (NIV)”. If this is a conditional statement of grace, then we find ourselves in trouble as our own love falls short of this. But rather than being a statement of condition, it is a call, a charge, a blessing and encouragement that grace is ours to love Jesus now the way we will love him forever, in incorruption.
There was a praise song we used to sing in the 90’s based on this verse.
Grace, grace to all who love the Lord Jesus Christ with an undying love. Give me an undying love for You, Lord won’t You set my heart aflame, With passion for Your name? Give me an undying love for You, …
We see in the lyrics of this song an asking, a seeking to receive from the Lord this undying love for him. For those of us who remember worshipping on our campuses, on Sundays at UMBC with this song, has not the Lord answered us with such grace to love him with an undying love? Let us ask and seek in prayer today … “Lord, more grace, more love for You.”