The Greatest Command: It’s Okay to Love Yourself

2 Timothy 3:1-5 warns,

“But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.”

How often do we talk about the love we should have for ourselves? Maybe one reason we don’t do that very often is because 2 Tim 3:2 tells us that a horrible day is coming when people will be lovers of themselves. So we see love of self as an evil to be avoided. You might even feel guilty to think about loving yourself. But here is what Jesus said in Matthew 22,

““‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”

In these two verses we have love of God, love of others and an implied love of self. You will notice that Jesus didn’t need to command us to love ourselves but he did imply that we can and should have a healthy love for our own self. Commands are usually given for things we don’t do naturally…I mean, where is the command in the Bible to eat three meals a day, right? We don’t need anyone commanding us to do things that come naturally.We would all say that God loves us. Millions of people can quote John 3:16 which says exactly that. Many millions grew up singing, “Jesus loves me, this I know…for the Bible tells me so.” We know Jesus loves kids but once we become adults and become aware of our own sinfulness it becomes a lot harder to have a healthy love for yourself. It is hard to see ourselves as forgiven and let go of our guilt.

It is hard to see ourselves as valuable but here is the deal…we don’t have value apart from Christ. The only reason we have any value to begin with is solely because we are made in the image of God and in that passage in Genesis 1:26ff, Scripture says “Let us make man in our image…” – plural. Are we made in the image of Christ as well?, only to have sin mar that image only to later have Jesus come to reconcile and restore that within us back to our initial state? Here is my point…you do have value but not because of yourself. The value you have is because of God. God loves you, Jesus loves you, other Christians are commanded to love you…Jesus implies we ought to love ourselves as well…just don’t make the focus or the center of that love the love of self apart from Christ.

So, do you love yourself? If you struggle with that, what makes it so hard?

Richard Oster Has a New Commentary On Revelation Coming Out!

Great news from Richard Oster’s blog! Dr. Oster has completed and is about to have published his commentary on Revelation 1-3 entitled, “Seven Congregations in a Roman Crucible.  A Commentary on Revelation 1-3” This is going to be great and I recommend you guys get a copy of this book when it is available. As soon as I find out it is out I will put a post up to let you guys know. You can read more about it at his post, “The End is Near“. I love his opening line,

“With almost eschatological fervor I am expecting the publication of my commentary Seven Congregations in a Roman Crucible.  A Commentary on Revelation 1-3 within weeks rather than months.”


HT: Philip Cunningham

Principles Wrapped In Practices – Fasting

Jesus could just tell us to rely on God. Instead He taught His disciples how to fast. Jesus was the master teacher, wrapping up principles into practices. Repeating those practices solidify the principles Jesus wants us to make a part of our lives. What is more, Jesus doesn’t just tell them that they should fast and hope that they get the principles. Jesus tells them how the fasting is tied to the underlying principle,

““When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” – Matthew 6:16-18

Why not just lecture them to be more concerned about what God thinks than about what men think? Why not preach a sermon on the value of trusting in God for what we need? Jesus could have pulled aside the twelve and explained to them how fasting will bring God & God’s will into clearer focus. He didn’t do that because there was a better way to teach it than just using words. He wrapped those principles up into practices…Instead of just telling, Jesus prescribed a practice that solidified the underlying principle he wanted them to get. It is up to us to make these things more than teachings,

“Everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.” – Matthew 7:24-25

Principles Wrapped in Practices – The Lord’s Prayer

The Lord’s prayer offers us several great teachings about the Christian faith. We learn everything from God being our Father to kingdom values and the importance of God’s will being done. We learn about God providing for our necessities and the importance of forgiveness. Those are all amazing teachings. What is so great about the Lord’s Prayer is that it takes those core truths and wraps them in practice, the practice of prayer. This is not just something to think about…it is something to participate in, to create and experience. When we repeatedly participate in the practice of praying like this, those teachings and truths become more deeply engrained into our being. Jesus was after more than just mental ascent and ideological agreement with his teaching…Jesus was after our hearts, transforming the very essence of who we are…to become more like Him.

This, then, is how you should pray:

“Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one.
-Matthew 6:9-13

The Greatest Commandment: God, Others, and Self

Sometimes I hear the greatest command summed up as “love God and love others”. That misses the only person in the whole world who isn’t included in those two categories, self. But Jesus did include loving yourself in the greatest commandment,

37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'” – Matthew 22:37-38

Paul echoes this in Ephesians 5:28-29, “28 In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church”

God doesn’t want us to get so caught up in loving ourselves that we get self-centered and fail at the first two greatest commandments in Jesus lists. I do wonder though, if we avoid talking about the love of self for fear people won’t handle it very well. What can happen is people end up feeling pretty beat up, guilty and lacking a biblical concept of God’s love for them and a healthy love for themselves. Maybe that is just so obvious that I am the only guy in the room that hasn’t picked up on that.

1 Corinthians 13 Young Adult Remix

If you want to reach 20 Somethings, here is the key – Love them and let them know it. You may not have all the “right” programs (as if there is a giant cookie cutter you can press into your congregation and make it work). Your worship may not be flashy. Your members may be aging. The nursery may be empty. You may not know all the right things to say, the questions to ask or be up on all the latest cultural trends, viral videos or newest songs…but if you can just have a heart for this generation and reach out to them in love…embrace them and give them space to explore faith in a non-threatening, non-judgmental way…you will be amazed what will happen.

Here is why this works. You spend time with the people you love. That generates a connection greater than giving them the next great program or ministry. You give attention and affection to the people you love. That will build their trust. You will gain and earn the respect to speak words of truth into their lives, give them the guidance they need and be there to pick them up lovingly when they make a mistake. Love is key because love shoots right through all the surface issues of why they leave and why we don’t keep them around.

Do we love them like we should and do they know it? Is our love for them at least as evident as our love for doctrine and tradition? If your answer to that is no, then I would ask you to read what Paul told the Corinthians in 1 Corinthians 13. Today it might sound something like this…

1 Corinthians 13 Young Adult Remix

“If I speak all the true doctrines of the church, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of speaking where the Bible speaks and being silent where it is silent, take the Lord’s Supper every first day of the week, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess in the Sunday morning offering plate and worship a capella, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails. But where there are traditions of the church, they will cease; where there are tongues that teach church doctrine, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part,10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”

If you read 1 Cor 13 in context going back into 1 Corinthians 12 you will see that Paul didn’t think any of these gifts were bad things. In fact, he said to seek them out. Same for us. Doctrine is important. Even our traditions can be important to us. We just have to make sure that all of these things are seen and done through the lens of what will remain and the greatest thing that will remain, is love. So please don’t read my re-write as any slam on the church. If it is a slam on anything it is on those who take perfectly good things and use and abuse them and run people off (especially young people) because they “have not love” in how they use and practice those things. I just want to be clear on that.

Praying Like Paul

I am touched and motivated by this prayer by Paul in Ephesians 3:14-21. We prayed this payer over our LIFE group tonight,

“14 For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15 from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. 16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.”

I am going to start incorporating this into my intercessory prayers.


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