To be a real follower of Christ and to love like He did, you understand that it will cost you something. Experiencing authentic love should make you want to pay it forward. Loving like Jesus means reaching out to the person that is nothing like you and loving them with actions, not just words. That kind of love is difficult and may cost you your time, reputation and your friends. Jesus was moved by the outcasts of society to the point that He sought them out. By showing those people amazing love, He planned to change the world. His calling in life was to reach the sinners and to teach us how to love. Jesus staked His life and reputation on that. It eventually cost Him everything. We need to love the people that are hard to love. By investing in them, they will get to experience authentic love for possibly the first time in their life. The love of Christ is life changing and by paying that love forward, you can be that change for someone else. When it costs you something, then you know it’s real.
In order to love like Jesus, you need to forgive. By doing that, the direction of your life will change and you will be free to live a life fully devoted to Jesus. Pastor Michael spoke about the amazing display of forgiveness that was given by Jesus while He was on the cross. Right to the very end, He was teaching us how to love by asking God to forgive the people who were beating, mocking and nailing Him to the cross. Jesus continued to pray for those participating in the unforgiveable. Jesus paid the price for all of humanity by giving unconditional forgiveness for our let downs, mess ups and sins. He provides you with unlimited second chances, which should make you want to extend that same forgiveness and love to others. You should forgive as you have been forgiven, but how do you do that? You pray for the people who have wronged you. That type of love is difficult, unnatural and requires action. You have to make the decision every day to forgive. Forgiveness doesn’t mean letting the person who hurt you off the hook. It means that you have given that hurt to God and are allowing Him to be the judge and jury for that person. Holding on to that pain is like carrying around dead weight that will rot you from the inside out. Nothing good ever comes out of holding a grudge. Let forgiveness in. It can’t change the past, but it will definitely change your future.
Rich is a moving target as there is always a “richer” so what you have seems to never be enough. As your appetite for wealth grows, you keep stuffing it with things. Often we equate intelligence with money by thinking if they are rich they must be smart because they have all of these expensive things. Money can change you if you let it get your heart. Money doesn’t make a good savior for your life. Rich people are not good at being generous as giving away their money is almost like they are giving away their soul. Greed has their heart. Poor people do not place their hope in money and would be willing to give you the shirt off their back because their heart belongs to God. God has provided you with so many blessings and opportunities which you should enjoy. There has to be a balance in your life between posessions and honoring God. Pastor Michael shared his idea, that if followed, will prevent your hope from migrating towards money. He calls it the David principle which states: My one goal is to honor God with everything I possess. We are only uses of the wealth as everything comes from God and everything belongs to God. Pastor Michael challenges you to make giving a priority by creating a giving plan. By giving, you are honoring God with a way to further His Kingdom. Remember that as God provides, I will be good at being rich.
A good rule to live by is: As God provides, I will be good at being rich. No matter how many possessions you have or how much money you make, you may never consider yourself to be rich. Rich is a category in your heart that comes from thanking God for providing you with all of the blessings and opportunities that you have in life. That kind of rich is a mindset that culture does not teach you. Being rich monetarily changes people. It causes them to become arrogant and to place their hope in their wealth rather than in God. The wealth becomes their self worth so they need more of it and begin to hoard it. When you view wealth in that manner, there is no way you can be generous or willing to share. The wealth is what defines you, but the problem with doing that is when it comes crashing down, it destroys you. Money can take your joy and happiness away. Through generosity, you will find true life on Earth. Being rich in good deeds provides you with a peaceful spirit. Pastor Michael spoke about priority giving. That is making God a priority in your budget and giving to Him first. When God has blessed you with income then your first action should be to give some back. By giving to God first, it creates a shift in your thinking making it difficult to become arrogant because your focus is on how to be generous and good. The second is percentage giving as the percentage given matters more than the sum. Take some time this week to pray about giving and decide what to do. Take the first step and progress as your blessings progress. Make God a priority and remember as He provides, be good at being rich.
There is a missing ingredient in our lives. Often it is difficult to see it in ourselves, but we can see it in others. This ingredient is even missing in the church which is where it should be found. Christmas is about God sending us something we needed, but didn’t deserve. God sent us the missing ingredient in a remarkable and unmistakable way with the birth of Jesus. God became flesh and walked among us through Jesus. The thoughts of God were brought to us. Jesus was full of truth and grace. That was hard to believe as those words have opposite meanings. How could He be both? John the Baptist believed and followed Jesus saying He was the one. John the writer also said this is the guy I have been talking about my whole life.
Jesus loves us so much that He gives us more grace than we need. Jesus gives us grace in place of grace already received. Jesus reached out to everyone, even those who didn’t deserve it. People flocked to Him because of it. On the grace side, He understands that we are not perfect and that we are lawbreakers. Sin exists so we are going to need grace. We are not worthy, but he will make us worthy. On the truth side there is right and wrong. People know the law, but Jesus brought the law even higher by raising the standard. Jesus lived His life to show us who God was and how He feels about us.
If you haven’t already guessed it, the missing ingredient is grace. The opportunity to be completely forgiven and made right with God. When grace is missing, it distorts your relationship with God. Jesus has paid the price for everything we have done wrong. Accept His grace and forgive yourself. God loves you and wants you to succeed. He may also want you to extend some undeserving grace to someone else. It’s not always about who is right or wrong. It’s about embracing the gift that God gave you and being able to acknowledge your hurt, but giving grace anyway.