The Commandments - 1. Love, Part 2
Posted on 06/29/2014 by Rev. Benjamin R. Faust D.D.
TRANSCRIPT: (does not contain everything found in the audio above)
*** listen to the audio for introduction and prayer ***
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I LOVE TO BE IN YOUR PRESENCE
I love to be in your presence
with your people singing praises
I love to stand and rejoice
lift my hands and raise my voice
You set my feet to dancing
you fill my heart with song
You give me reason to rejoice,
THE TREES OF THE FIELD
You shall go out with joy
And be let forth with peace
And the mountains and the hills
Will break forth before you
There'll be shouts of joy
And all the trees of the fields
Will clap, will clap their hands
And all the trees of the fields
will clap their hands
The trees of the fields will clap their hands
The trees of the fields will clap their hands
While you go out with joy
FATHER I ADORE YOU
Father, I adore you
Lay my life before you
How I love you
*** listen to the audio to hear the introduction ***
Three months ago, we started on a series on the commands of God, and the first one, the central one, the one on which hang the law and the prophets, is Love.
Matthew 22:34-40 (NKJV)
34 But when the Pharisees heard that He had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together.
35 Then one of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, and saying,
36 "Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?"
37 Jesus said to him, "'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.'
38 This is the first and great commandment.
39 And the second is like it: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'
40 On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets."
Three and a half months ago, we talked about the first part of this: "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind." And today, I'd like for us to continue this by talking about the next part of this: "You shall love your neighbor as yourself."
What does that mean? We've all heard it, and we all know we're supposed to do it, but how does loving your neighbor as yourself look?
You might have heard teachings about this command that say this is an indirect command to love yourself, because if you don't love yourself, you can't love your neighbor. I've said things that are similar to this statement. But I'd like for us to take a closer look today as we seek to discern the word of the Lord to us on this matter.
In the fifth chapter of Ephesians, Paul is giving instructions for how husbands and wives should treat one another. And in verses 28 and 29, he says this:
Ephesians 5:28-29 (NKJV)
28 So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself.
29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church.
This doesn't sound as though we tend to love ourselves too little. I think we get confused on this issue, because we tend to think that if you love someone, you have to like them and think good things about them, as though love is just a feeling.
So we think that we aren't loving ourselves if we're not thinking good things about ourselves, or if we don't like ourselves. But the second command doesn't say, "Feel as warm and fuzzy about your neighbor as you do about yourself."
What does verse 29 say? "No one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it." You might not be on a honeymoon with yourself, but when you're hungry, you eat. When you're thirsty, you drink. You go to great lengths if necessary to make sure you have a roof over your head, and as comfortable a place to sleep as possible. You brush your hair, bathe yourself, and try to keep yourself in a comfortable temperature.
I don't mean to be base, but you even wipe your own butt. How many people would do THAT for their neighbor if their neighbor had no hands? THAT is LOVE. Amen? You love yourself SO much, despite whatever negative feelings you may have against you.
For those of us who experience a sense of self loathing, sure, that can be a problem, and you would benefit quite a bit from dealing with it. But whether someone despises or can't get enough of themselves, both are rooted in the same disorder: they think about themselves WAY too much.
And that is the same thing that is our biggest obstacle to loving our neighbor as we love ourselves.
"Me." It's in nearly all of our thoughts, even if only implied. Whether positive or negative, we think about ourselves nearly all the time.
"That person cut in line in front of ME."
"So-and-so just didn't treat ME right."
"I wouldn't have done what THAT person did."
"I wonder how much longer this sermon is going to last; I'M hugry and tired."
"That's horrible what happened to that person; I'm just glad it wasn't ME."
"This politician is doing such horrible things; but hey, I didn't vote for them."
It's in our nature to be self-obsessed. Our minds attribute the utmost importance to what we consider "me." Our past. Our imagined or desired future. Our job. Our hobbies. Our emotions. Our minds. Our bodies. The things our minds THINK are "me."
So when someone else who ISN'T "me" is in need, but helping would take too much attention away from focusing on myself and meeting my own needs or desires, then we tend to look the other way, even if we don't realize we're doing so.
"Self" is an obstacle to true love. And if you want to increase your love for your neighbor, growing a bigger self is NOT the way to do it. Sure, you might be able to motivate yourself to do nice things for others by building an image of "me" around your good deeds. But to whom are you pointing the world? To God? Or to you?
Love is not selective. Where there is more Love, there is more Love, period. If you are filled with true Love, that Love with a capital "L," the Love that is referred to in 1st John 4:8 where it says that God is Love, then that Love will flow out to everyone around you. Everyone. And not only when it doesn't affect your comfort too greatly, or interfere with your self-seeking too much.
Let's read a little more from 1st John chapter 4.
1 John 4:7-11 (NKJV)
7 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.
8 He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.
9 In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him.
10 In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.
11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.
This starts out by saying that everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. Everyone shows some sort of what we would call "love" toward others to some degree. Does this mean that everyone on earth is born of God and knows God?
We've defined the word arrow "love" to point to the wrong thing. We think EVERYONE has some level of love for SOMEONE. But Love with a capital "L" is actually quite rare.
Well, I say "rare," but it is actually everywhere in inexhaustible supply. We have simply cut ourselves off from it.
One way we do this is with sin. Even one sin separates us from God, from Love (and I may use those two words, God, and Love, interchangeably). That's why we needed a perfect sacrifice who would take the penalty for our sins. The wrath of God against sin has to be poured out. So the Son of Love, who is also Love Himself, demonstrated that Love by pouring out His life blood to pay for our treachery against Him.
Another way we cut ourselves off from Love is by our focus on "me." Our minds build up this false image of who we are. That image is composed of things we've done, things that were done to us, things our mind thinks about itself, feelings we repeatedly have, expectations concerning what we do or should do or shouldn't do, our physical body, and our mind.
It's as though our mind creates an inner idol to which it bows, and which it can either adore or despise. And because of this false "me," this idol with whom we identify, even we whose sins have been washed away, have much less Love than we should. And much less than we can have right now.
But when we become still, still on the inside, and we step out of our thoughts, our eyes, our attention, is taken off of "me." And Love begins to arise all on its own.
Even those whose sins have not been forgiven, when they practice living fully in the present moment in this way, they access the image of Love. After all, we are all created in the image and likeness of God. That's why people who disidentify with the mind-created self tend to describe their essential being using many of the same words as we would use to describe God. In fact, they tend to believe they ARE God, that we ALL are God, because they can finally experience His image.
One of the results of this mistake is that it leads them and those they teach down a path of deep deception. Another of the results is that Christians tend to reject the idea of disidentification with the mind-self by living fully in the Now, because those who teach doing so generally say that when you live like this, you will realize you are God.
But consider something with me for just a moment. Have you ever entered into a place of worship in which you felt God's presence so strongly that nothing else mattered? Even if you were surrounded by people, it was as if you and He were all alone.
If so, were you lost in memories of the past? Fantasies about what might happen in the future? Were you thinking about your self image? Your job? What you want to eat for your next meal?
Or were you right there in your body, fully in the present moment with God?
A few days ago, one of our pastors posted a question on Facebook, asking this question: "What things do you do to draw you into the presence of the Lord?" And people gave answers like these:
"Quiet and Peace in His word."
"Turn off all noise and distractions, and worship."
"Shut out all the noise around me and focus on His goodness."
"Get quiet and alone with Him."
There were also many references to praise, worship, and thanksgiving. And when someone is doing those things, they tend to come into the present moment to do so, and their focus is less on "me."
When we enter consciously into the presence of God, the presence of Love, we do so here and now. In the eternal present. In our eternal presence. Where deep calls unto deep.
Psalm 42:7 (NKJV)
Deep calls unto deep at the noise of Your waterfalls;
All Your waves and billows have gone over me.
These are word arrows that point to something beyond words, beyond concepts, beyond the world of form.
When we think of the spirit realm, we think of forms: angels, demons, and God in the form of a shining man sitting on a physical throne.
And such an image is Biblical. But just as a body without a spirit is dead, and the body is therefore only the outflowing of a human spirit, perhaps that which we can identify as spirit, the form, is only an outflowing of that which is beyond form. Beyond mental concepts. And the forms we see, whether they are images or thoughts or words, are there to point us to something deeper. Something cleaner. Something less temporal.
They can all point us to Love.
But we have to take our eyes off them first.
We get so attached to our interpretations. Our images we have of God, of Love, of Truth. The images might be sound. But they have value only in their pointing to God; to Love.
Am I getting too deep here? Don't let that be a distraction. My point is not to philosophize or sound super spiritual or mystical. What really matters is that we allow God to teach us how to decrease so that He may increase, how to take our eyes off our idol of the false self so that the REAL you, that deep of your presence that calls unto the deep of His presence, so you and He can become so close and intertwined that the two become One.
And the more you enter this place of intimacy with Love, the less you will see your neighbor as someone who is separate from you and is therefore not as worthy of your attention as you are. And you will start automatically loving your neighbor as yourself.
Galatians 5:22-23 (NKJV) says this:
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,
23 gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.
I don't know about you, but I've read this in the past and have seen my own lack in some of those areas, and thought, "I need to start loving more. I need to figure out how to live with more peace and joy. I need to develop more patience. I need to build up more self control. I need to learn to be more gentle."
But this doesn't say these are traits we need to develop in ourselves. Instead, this says these things are the fruit of the Spirit. Another way of wording this would be, "Here's how you can know the Spirit is present within you: these things will come about as a result."
Vese 24 says that we crucify the flesh with its passions and desires. The flesh produces its own fruit, which is a disconnect between Love and You. They keep the light of God's Love from filling all of you and shining out to others.
Does all this make sense? Let's notice when we've been totally lost in our thought idols, and right then, instead of getting lost in rebuking and loathing ourselves for doing it AGAIN, instead, we put our attention on right here and now, where and when God is with us, and we commune with Love, beyond mental concepts and images, in that still, formless place where deep calls unto deep. And you and Love will be One.
This altar is open, and you're all invited to get out of your seat and make your way to the front if you'd like to do so, and let's spend some time putting our attention completely off ourselves, and reach out to touch God, and to enter into Oneness with Him.
Whenever you need to leave, you're dismissed, and if you can stay until after this time at the altar, you're invited to make your way to the room up the steps to your left when you're done here, and we'll meet there in a few minutes for a time of fellowship.
If you'd like someone to talk or pray with you, you can instant message one of us. If you're listening outside of Second Life or later in the week, you can go to almcyberchurch.org, click the Pastors' Offices link, and contact us there.
Come, and let's step out of the way, allowing our "me" to melt away, so we can become One with Love.
*** listen to the audio to hear the closing prayer ***