I’m sure you know that Jesus summed up all of the Old Testament commands – all the law and the prophets, as He put it – with two directives. Love God with everything you have and love your neighbor as you love yourself.
You may have heard someone along the way who has suggested that this verse is telling us that in order to love others well, we have to first love ourselves. Before we can be of any use to our neighbor, we have to make sure our self-esteem is intact. We have to love ourselves first.
That’s not the message of Jesus in this passage.
Jesus knows that our natural inclination is to focus on ourselves, serve ourselves, and put ourselves first. It’s wrapped up in our sin nature. What Jesus is telling us here is that we should take our natural tendency to care for and love and serve ourselves and instead, focus on loving God and others.
If you struggle with self-esteem or self-worth issues, the cure does not come as we learn to love ourselves more. The cure comes when we learn to believe that what God says about us as His beloved children is true. And then when we prioritize regarding others as more important than ourselves (Phil. 2:3).
I know people who have deep emotional wounds and scars from a history of abuse. They are plagued by anger, rage, depression, anxiety or other debilitating emotions that are rooted in years of severely dysfunctional relationships. I’m not trying to minimize the real hurt, abuse and trauma that that they – and many of you – have faced.
What I’m suggesting is that when we make seeking to heal our hurts the central issue of our lives, we may actually be making the problems worse.
I’m saying that a key component for dealing with our emotional scars is for us to make loving and serving God and others the central priority of our lives. We should want to get better because we want to serve God and others better.
To put it succinctly, the central purpose for our lives is first to glorify God and then to serve others.
It’s not about you.
Think for a minute about the prescription the Apostle Paul gave to the people in Philippi as they were facing hardships, financial pressures, anxiety and fear. He told them that resetting their thinking by looking upward and outward was their pathway to peace.
“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me–put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you” (Phil. 4:4-9).
If you are depressed or discouraged, this passage says you should remind yourself over and over again of the reasons you have for rejoicing. And rejoice! Paul says it twice.
If you’re anxious, turn to God. Cry out to Him. He will give you a peace that defies understanding.
If your heart is agitated, let your mind be renewed with what God’s word tells us is true, noble, right, pure and lovely.
And then, get to work. Take the things you’ve learned and put them into practice.
Don’t turn inward and expect to find hope. Turn to God. Love Him. Reset your heart with His word. And then serve Him by serving others.
Signup has begun for the spring Women’s Bible Study. It starts next week and goes through April, with classes on Monday nights and Tuesday afternoons. The study will be in 2 Corinthians.
You can click here to get more information about the study and register to attend.
Guys, are you planning to attend the Men’s Fellowship breakfast on Saturday, January 27? We’ll be getting together for some great food and great fellowship that morning. And while it’s free, we need an idea of how many of you are planning to be there. Click this link and let us know you’re coming.
I think it’s time for some goulash again.
Tuesday night, February 6, our First Tuesday men’s group will meet for our continuing Stepping Up study. I’ll bring the goulash at 6:15. The session will start at 7:00. Even if you’ve never attended one of these studies, you’re welcome to join us. In fact, you should plan on it!
While there are eight NFL teams still fighting for a spot in the Super Bowl, we have our own plans for that weekend.
First, it’s a night of fun for everyone. It’s Super Bowling!
We need to know if you’re planning to go bowling. Register by clicking here.
And on Sunday, we’ll all be bringing crock pots of soup or chili or whatever sounds good to you for our annual all church Soup-er Bowl Sunday lunch.
* Team jerseys optional. I’m team Gumbo.
If you’re facing severe hardships, oppression and persecution, what do you need most? The starting point for the Book of Revelation points us to our need for God’s abundant grace and peace for whatever it is were facing. And we need a fresh reminder of the greatness of our God, who alone can give us the strength and peace we need that is sufficient for whatever we’re facing. We’ll continue on Sunday looking carefully at Revelation 1.
See you in church.
Soli Deo Gloria!