Why is it that even after the best times of our lives, we lay our head to sleep and still feel unsatisfied? No matter how many possessions we obtain, how many friends we have that like us, or how perfect our circumstances turned out, we still inevitably will come to a point where we retire in solitude and ask “Really? That’s it?”
In our modern churchgoing generation, the word doctrine often bears a scholarly, academic stigma. Most western Christians would not say that they are into doctrine. However, most would probably say they are into truth. This dichotomy is an unbiblical one. Doctrine is simply the ordering of truth, and the way that Biblical truths fit together as sound doctrine matters much more to the health and vibrancy of our hearts than we probably realize.
Another unbiblical dichotomy we often make is between the teaching of sound doctrine and the pastoral ministry. When we think of a pastor, counselor, or mentor, we mostly think of someone with a heart of compassion who can guide us through the storms of life by coming along side of us and encouraging us. While this is an important quality of pastors and mentors, we must realize that the Bible primarily emphasizes something deeper than mere affirmation and "you can do it, there's hope" encouragement as critical for pastoring and discipleship.
The true Christian lifestyle has not changed through the passing centuries, however in our day Christianity is often presented in a way that has very little to do with conformity to the life of Jesus. The cross is often presented as the path Jesus took to secure our leisure and comfort. Sadly, many ascribe to this completely unbiblical idea. In my last two posts in this short series, I wrestled through a little bit of what it means to love Jesus through obedience and follow Him by denying ourselves and taking up our cross daily that we might be conformed to His likeness. This message of true discipleship is so abnormal for us in the West, but the Bible describes it as normal Christianity. We must let this shock us and realize that the message has not changed because culture has changed. Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever.
In my last post of this short series, I briefly wrote about what it means to “deny ourselves” and how it specifically relates to obedience, the way that God defines how we love Him. Jesus’ call to deny ourselves entails a violent, radical resistance to self-promotion, self-preservation, and every expression of self-service in our time, emotions, thoughts, money, and every level of our existence. It requires a reorientation of our entire existence to understanding that we take in breath not for ourselves, but for His sake (Luke 9:23-24; Luke 14:26-27). I’d encourage you to read a previous blog I wrote on this particular phrase here for more.
“Love” is a loaded word. It does not take a philosopher or psychologist to discover that it means so many different things to so many different people. What matters most to the Christian, however, is how Jesus defines “love”. The mistake we often make, in both gross and subtle ways, is applying our own definition of the word to our relationship with Jesus. Can you imagine the horror of standing before Him on that Day and Him asking us a question like “did you learn to love?” and not having walked according to His definition? Thankfully, He has not made His definition of “love” either mysterious or impossible to understand.
In John 14, Jesus gave a clear definition of how to love Him, and what those who said loved Him would do: obey Him. For Jesus, love is expressed through obedience.
““If you love Me, keep My commandments. He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him…If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him.” (John 14:15, 21, 23 NKJV)