Tag Archives: True Love

The Ultimate Gift.

What is the greatest gift you could ever receive? Deep friendships? Perfect health? Unimaginable wealth? Peace of mind? Absolute power? Long life? Beauty? A brilliant intellect? Worldwide fame?

At first blush each of those gifts might sound fantastic. But they all suffer from the same shortcoming. They cease to exist upon your death, at which time you no longer enjoy their benefits. At best, you might have them for a hundred years. Likely, you would experience them for a much shorter period of time. Worse than that, such gifts only satisfy emotional, physical, or carnal cravings but never address the deeper longings of the soul.

The ultimate gift, in contrast to those above, satisfies your spiritual hunger, gives your life meaning and purpose, provides you with the hope and strength needed to persevere through difficult circumstances, and reveals God’s immeasurable love for you. Best of all, the ultimate gift lasts forever.

This ultimate gift is available to everyone. Regardless of your ethnicity, your economic status, your gender, your physical attributes, your moral failures, your religious upbringing, your popularity, your political affiliation, your social strata, or your intelligence, you can receive this gift. No matter how desperate your condition, how much society rejects you, how ugly you view yourself, how unworthy you feel, how poor you are, how heinous a crime you committed, how hopeless you feel, how unsuccessful you are, this gift awaits you.

It is the gift of spiritual salvation: the opportunity to experience a real relationship with God in this world, and enjoy eternal life with Him in heaven.

How does one receive this gift? Before answering that it might help to understand why one needs the gift.

The Bible tells us “all have sinned” and that “there is no one righteous, not even one.” (See Romans 3:10, 23. HCSB translation). The fact is no matter how hard we try we still sin. Not only that, but our best efforts to please God and to do good fall far short of His standards. The Bible says “all our acts of righteousness are like filthy rags.” (See Isaiah 64:6).

What is the consequence for our sin? The Bible declares, “the wages of sin is death.” (Romans 6:23. HCSB). This verse is not referring to a physical death. Instead it speaks of a spiritual death in which we remain forever separated from God. Instead of spending eternity in heaven we are condemned to hell, which the Bible describes as a place of everlasting darkness, torment, wailing, and gnashing of teeth. Obviously none of us wants to spend a moment there, let alone eternity.

So how do we keep from ending up there? Most religions teach the need to earn our salvation by performing good works, acts of charity, and making sure our virtues outweigh our sins. We are told that when we come before God he will compare our good deeds with our bad deeds. If the former outnumber the latter we will gain admittance into heaven. In other words, we alone possess the power to earn our place in eternity.

The Bible, however, disagrees with that consensus. Instead it teaches “no one is made righteous by the works of the law.” (See Galatians 2:16, and Romans 3:20). In other words, no one can work there way into heaven with good deeds. No amount of righteous living will earn a person eternal life with God. What hope is there, then?

Our only hope lies in Jesus Christ. The Bible tells us that only Jesus Christ lived a perfect life. Not once did he sin. He obeyed all of God’s commandments and never violated one. Therefore, He was righteous in God’s eyes.

To reconcile sinful mankind with Himself, God “sent His Son (Jesus) to be the propitiation for our sins” by dying a brutal death on the cross. (See 1 John 2:2, and Romans 3:25). His sacrificial death accomplished two things. First, it imputed (or assigned) our sins to Christ. This means Jesus bore on the cross the wrath of God that rightfully was due us. Second, it imputed to us the righteousness of Christ.

This powerful truth is worth restating. Christ endured the wrath owed to us while His righteousness was assigned to us. As a result we can be restored into a right relationship with God. This is the gospel of Jesus Christ.

What, then, must we do to secure this gift? Place our faith in Christ and surrender our lives to Him. It really is that simple. The Bible says that God’s righteousness is available “through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe.” (See Romans 3:22).

What does is mean to place your faith in Christ? Several things. First, faith includes repentance. Both Jesus and John the Baptist began their ministries with the phrase, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (See Matthew 3:2 and 4:17, NKJV). When a crowd asked the apostle Peter what they must do to be saved he responded, “Repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins.” (See Acts 2:38). Repentance involves two components. First, we must commit to turning away from the pattern of sin in our lives and, second, we commit to turning to the example of godliness Christ gives us.

Second, faith includes a verbal confession of Jesus as Lord and belief in your heart. The Bible explains it this way: “If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes to righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made to salvation.” (See Romans 10:9-10, NKJV). In other words, it is not just enough to declare with your mouth, “I believe in Jesus.” You must believe with the heart.

When we trust in Christ for our salvation we “are justified freely by God’s grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” The term justified here means ‘declared righteous.’ Redemption indicates we were purchased at a price, which was the blood Jesus shed on the cross. In other words, by His mercy God declares us righteous because Christ’s sacrifice on the cross paid the debt of our transgressions.

Finally, what does it mean to surrender our lives to Christ and make Him Lord? The apostle Paul offers this thorough definition: “But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. But indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.” (See Philippians 3:7-11, NKJV. I urge you to study this passage carefully as it touches on some of the previous biblical truths we discussed).

Jesus defines surrender in more succinct terms, telling potential followers “So, likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple.” (See Luke 14:33, NKJV).

In summation, the entirety of the Good News of Jesus Christ, as discussed above, is captured unambiguously in this final Bible verse. “For you are saved by grace through faith, and not from yourselves, it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” (See Ephesians 2:8, emphasis mine).

If you are still weighing what to believe, take time to read studiously through the above verses a second time. As you do, ask God to open your heart to Him and reveal His truth to you. He will gladly answer that prayer.

Loving God With Just Words.

A friend tells his fiancé he loves her with all his heart and soul. He insists she’s the most important thing in his life and he wants to spend the rest of his life with her. Ironically, nothing in his life validates those adamant claims. He spends very little time with her on any given day. Seems there’s always something distracting him. The golf course is calling his name. His buds want him to go fishing. He needs to put in long hours at work. There’s something interesting on television. His family asks him for dinner. Turns out, he only spends an hour or two a week with her.

When she asks to spend more time with him he refuses. He explains that if things are going to work out with them she needs to accept the fact that he wants balance in life. She should not expect or demand more time than he already gives her. After all, he asserts, a couple hours a week is quite generous. He is a busy man with lofty goals and countless interests. She can’t expect him to sacrifice any of his activities just because he loves her. For her to expect that is very selfish.

Perhaps even more surprising is that when they are together he always seems distracted, as if he really doesn’t want to be there. It appears he’s simply checking a box to say he’s spending time with her – but his mind is elsewhere. He doesn’t adopt her interests as his own and avoids doing the things that make her happy. He refuses to attend the ballet, explore antique stores, or help with her garden. He says those things are boring and she shouldn’t insist he cultivate an interest in anything she likes.

Most curious of all is how little affection he shows for her in public. He declines to hold her hand as they walk, pepper her with kisses when sitting outside, or put his arm around her if anyone’s watching. What’s more, he hides his love for her whenever he’s around people who don’t like her ethnicity. He’s embarrassed to admit to strangers his deep and abiding love for her because they may think he’s nuts, or a loser for loving someone so different as she.

Sadly, he spends very little of his income on her. He insists they go Dutch when sharing a meal at a restaurant. He’s never bought her flowers. Not once. For her birthday he buys cheap costume jewelry and an item of used clothing from Goodwill. His stinginess isn’t a reflection of his poverty. He actually earns a significant income and showers himself with all kinds of man toys. He owns two cars, a motorcycle, snowmobile, and the latest electronic devices.

Rather, he believes she should be happy he gives her anything at all. He insists that true love does not require generosity. He notes that it’s his money and she should not expect to enjoy the fruits of his labor simply because they are madly in love. He tracks what he spends on her and says it is a very lavish five percent of his income. What more could she want?

I talk to him and point out the disparity between what he says and what he does – that the immense love he claims to have for her is not corroborated by his actions. It seems to me a significant gulf exists between his professed love for her and the reality of how he treats her. In response he stares at me blankly. What I say makes no sense to him. He dismisses my observation with a wave of the hand and informs me his love for her knows no bounds, his commitment to her is unending.

He explains that what matters are his words – not his actions. He need not prove his love by spending precious time with her, showing affection in public, showering her with gifts, or proudly proclaiming his love for her to others. His love is genuine, he declares, because he says it is – and any evidence to the contrary is irrelevant. He takes great umbrage at my suggesting otherwise. Who am I, he demands, to pretend to know the depths of his heart and the authenticity of his love for her. I clarify that I’m not suggesting I know his heart, only that his actions paint a very different picture than his words.

I wonder how many of us treat our relationship with God the same way my friend does with his fiancé. We claim to love Him with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength but do our actions validate that declaration? Do we, like my friend, insist it is enough to say we love God and then live as if we barely know Him? Do we contend that investing a couple hours a week is sufficient for building a healthy relationship with the one we call Lord? Do other things in the world easily distract us from Him? Do we inform God that He ought to be satisfied with whatever He gets from us and He ought not expect anything sacrificial? Like my friend, do we believe that true love does not transform our lives?

If we’re honest with ourselves, I suspect many of us have adopted an approach to our relationship with God that mirrors my friend’s approach with his fiancé. We want God to ignore our actions and the facts, and simply believe what we tell Him. If He prompts us to consider any inconsistency between the two we express offense and tell Him it’s not His place to demand more of us. But it is His place and the Bible informs us God wants our love evidenced in action not simply words.

The Pharisees wanted to love God with words alone and Jesus severely rebuked them saying, “These people draw near to Me with their mouth, and honor Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me, and in vain they worship Me” (Matthew 15:8-9a, NKJV). The ancient Israelites suffered the same problem. Through Ezekiel God told them that they, “pretend to be sincere…but have no intention of doing what [God wants]. Their mouths are full of lustful words, and their hearts seek only after money. They hear what [God says], but they don’t act on it!” (Ezekiel 33:31-32, NLT).

In both instances God explains there are consequences for loving Him in word but not in deed. Those who claim to love God but whose lives lack corroborating evidence are as bad as those who reject Him outright. He makes no distinction between the two.

Take time this week to examine your life. Does it validate your claimed love for the Lord? If not, ask Him to reveal what steps you should take to cultivate a deeper, more intimate and genuine love for Him that is consistent with your declaration. You’ll find that such love not only transforms your life but also produces unimaginable joy.