The Goodness of Jesus (7)
Therefore be imitators of God as dear children. And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma. Ephesians 5.1, 2
“Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.”John 15.13
The embodiment of love
Jesus is the embodiment of the love of God. He was that embodiment during the time of His incarnation, and He is now, as He rules at the Father’s right hand. Jesus shows us what the love of God is like, so that, considering Him, we can imitate God’s love and bring His goodness to light in the land of the living.
The essence of Jesus’ love is self-denying sacrifice for the saving edification of others (Phil. 2.5-11). Jesus became a sacrifice of love for the sins of the world. He laid down His life for His friends and His enemies (cf. Rom. 5.10), thus showing what God is looking for in our lives as well. Our reasonable daily service to God is to be a living sacrifice, a sweet-smelling offering to God of the love He seeks from us, and the love He would disseminate to everyone around us (Rom. 12.1, 2).
The more we consider Jesus, seeing and delighting in the glory in His face (2 Cor. 4.6), fixing our mind on Him and setting Him always before us (Col. 3.1-3; Ps. 16.8), the more His Spirit will transform us into His image and conform us to His love (2 Cor. 3.12-18). We cannot define love on our own terms; love is defined in terms of Jesus. The goodness of Jesus consists largely in the love of God He embodies. And we are called to imitate His example, following the teaching of His Word, the template of His life, and the transforming power of His Spirit.
A sweet aroma and sacrifice
Our lives become an offering and sacrifice to God, a sweet-smelling aroma, pleasing to Him, as we walk in love, following the example of our Lord Jesus Christ. Walking in love, we imitate our Father, Who loved us so much that He sent His Son for our salvation, and Who loves us unfailingly and at every moment. God’s love is constant, all-surrounding and all-pervading. He does not reserve His love for us to those times when we assemble in His Name. He loves us unfailingly, and in more ways that we can imagine, all the time.
This is the love we are to imitate, as we express it to God and to our neighbors.
But we must walkin love; that is, love must define all aspects of our daily life, all our relationships, roles, and responsibilities. We do not imitate the love that Jesus showed merely by participating in some program or other arena where we act in loving ways toward God or neighbor – as in preaching a sermon, singing in a choir, teaching a class, serving in a ministry activity, participating in a service of worship, and so forth. These corporate efforts are good and necessary, and in many ways, they provide both shaping and outlets for us to express our love for God and our neighbors.
But programs, events, and corporate activities must not substitute for the daily walkof self-denial and service to others which must characterize us in all our ways. This is the reasonable sacrifice Paul commands, and the way to imitate the love God shows us in Jesus Christ.
Walking in love
We are to walk in love, not merely to participate in some work of love in our church or other Christian endeavor. Walking in love engages our bodies at all times as vessels in which the Lord makes Himself known; and it makes us those living sacrifices of worship to God, that sweet aroma of love and life (2 Cor. 2.14-16) that fills the spaces of our lives with the loving reality of the living Christ (Eph. 4.8-10).
Walking in love begins in our mind, as we think ahead to the people and situations toward which we are moving, and determine what we must do to love as Jesus does (Ps. 90.12, 16, 17). Walking in love engages us in our heart, where we continuously ward off negative and condemning affections, and nurture welcoming, forgiving, and edifying sentiments toward the people around us. When we set our conscience for love, so that self-denial replaces self-serving, and building-up replaces tearing-down, then our default values and priorities will work for words and deeds of love.
Walking in love can fill every moment of our lives, as we make the most of our time to glorify God by loving Him and others (Eph. 5.15-17; 1 Cor. 10.31). Learn to speak words that edify (Eph. 4.29). Practice good listening skills (Jms. 1.19). Consider how to encourage and motivate others to love and good works (Heb. 10.24). Take the initiative in little ways and big to help, serve, affirm, comfort, and strengthen others by good words and good works of love.
Walking in love requires that we be continuously in prayer, offering ourselves and situations up to the Lord, and listening for the prompting and guiding of His Spirit as He leads us in paths of love.
Will we do it? Only if we resolve to deny ourselves daily, take up our cross moment by moment, and offer the loving cup of the Lord’s refreshing grace to everyone around us, all the time. Make love your aim (1 Cor. 14.1), without hypocrisy (Rom. 12.9), doing no harm to anyone (Rom. 13.10), causing no one to stumble (Rom. 14.15), and thus fulfilling all the Law of God (Gal. 5.14).
You will be a fountain of God’s goodness as you consider Jesus and imitate God by walking in His love.
1. What are the greatest obstacles to walking in love? How can prayer help you to overcome these?
2. Meditate on Hebrews 10.24. How can believers do this for one another?
3. Where do you need to improve in loving God and loving your neighbor at this time?
Next steps – Transformation: Begin making prayer the continuous context in which you consider Jesus, listen for His Spirit, and gain the power to love others like God loves you. Give thanks to God for His help in this.
T. M. Moore
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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.