Terry Graves

When we put God first and passionately pursue Christ, how and where do people fit in? “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied with Him.” (John Piper) We were created to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. (Isaiah 43:7; I Corinthians 10:31; Psalm 37:4) The more we enjoy Him, the more He is glorified and honored. Glorifying God (honoring Him and putting Him in His proper place) involves seeking the highest good of people (I Corinthians 10:32-33; Philippians 2:3-4). We ascribe supreme worth and importance to our Creator-Savior-God. We can’t do this without attaching worth and importance to those created in His image.

We enjoy God to the degree that we know His delight. When our hearts can say with confidence, “I am my beloved’s and his desire is for me” (Song of Songs 7:10), then we are free to love God with abandonment. And then we are free to love others (spouse, children, family, church, friends, neighbors, the unlovable and unlikeable, strangers and enemies). Then we are free to love others unconditionally and compassionately as God Himself loves us.

As fallen, broken creatures who need love and security, we often tragically put people (especially family) in the place of God. Instead of learning to love and serve people as an overflow of our rich enjoyment of God and loving obedience to God, we end up fearing and needing people in very inappropriate and unhealthy ways. “Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is kept safe.” (Proverbs 29:25) People become the oxygen that we need to live. People become the electricity to improve our circuits. People become the executioners who have the power to take our life--to kill our joy and peace and security. People become the cocaine to medicate our pain. People become the prophets whose very word is truth. People become the priests who have the power to cleanse our consciences and make us feel acceptable. People become the kings who control us at will. (Scotty Smith)

And what happens to God? He becomes merely a means to a personal end--the satisfaction of our perceived needs and rights. God becomes my massage therapist, not my Master. God becomes my servant, not my Savior. God becomes my lounge chair, not my Lord. God becomes my gigolo, not my Husband. God becomes my means not my End. God becomes my clay, not my Potter. God becomes my scapegoat, not my Glory. (Scotty Smith)

Folks, we cannot, we will not, love and serve people (in a God-honoring, Christ-exalting way) as long as we pledge ultimate allegiance to them and place our ultimate dependence on them--as long we get our life and security and significance from them. We will not love and serve people appropriately as long as we give them the power of life and death over our hearts. As we rest in the unconditional love of Jesus--the grace, compassion and affection of the crucified and risen Jesus--as we put Him in the place of God and make him the primary source of our security and joy, we are freed to love others as He loves us. To be delighted in by God and made much of by God enables us to delight in God and make much of Him and we are freed to delight in others and make much of them in healthy appropriate ways.

We delight in Him because He first delighted in us. We love Him (and others) because He first loved us. As the saved and secure objects of His love and delight, we are freed to need people less but empowered to love them more. We are channels of blessing. We are conduits, not containers--not love tanks that leak, but vessels of mercy and grace poured out for others. As we stay close to God, He will continue to supply us with His grace and fill us with His love. Keep on keeping on.

Ron Highfield (teacher at Pepperdine) wrote: “Until we know that we are loved unconditionally we cannot really love the way we were created to love. God’s unselfish love for us, made so clear in the selfless, self-giving of Jesus Christ, eventually touches our hearts and sparks our love for God. This is the work of the Holy Spirit. We love God (and others) because God first loved us (I John 4:7-21) We grow as followers of Jesus to no longer think of God merely as a mere source for other things (love, health, wealth, happiness) or a resource in time of need (the one who gets us out of trouble). God is no longer a means to be used but an end to be cherished and enjoyed, a wonder to be praised rather than a power to be feared.

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Acts 4:32 All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had.

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