GALATIANS 5:14 NIV 14 The entire law is summed up in a single command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
Most people understand it’s right to love our neighbor — but many do not realize it’s also God’s will for us to love ourselves.
We need to understand this correctly. We should not think of ourselves more highly than we ought (Romans 12:3). But we must remember God placed a high value on us when He gave Jesus to redeem us.
So we should not hate ourselves, or see ourselves as hopeless failures. We should not put ourselves down or speak critically of ourselves.
Without the Lord, we can be wretched creatures. But when we come to Jesus, He changes us and puts us in the family of God. Ephesians 2:10 says we are God’s workmanship (literally God’s work of art). For us to be critical of God’s work of art is not respectful of God.
When we realize we are valuable and precious — not because of what we do, but because God made us, then we can love our neighbor as we should — not because of what they do, but because God also loves them.
First Corinthians 13 tells us what love acts like. It is patient, kind, and accepting.
How should we love our self? We should be kind and respectful, just as we should be with others. We should forgive and forget the past rather than beating ourselves over the head with our failures and mistakes. Everyone makes mistakes. Why let them be an anchor holding us back from making progress?
We understand we are to forgive others, but many refuse to forgive themselves.
Don’t refuse to forgive yourself for the failures and sins of the past. God forgives you. Should your standards be higher than His? Since God forgives you, you should forgive yourself.
The command to love our self is not meant to make us selfish, but to take care of God’s creation. We are not to love ourselves more than we love our neighbor.
God loves our neighbor just as much as He does us. That does not mean we have the exact same responsibility toward our neighbor as we do concerning our own life, but we should care about them, in the same way as we do ourselves.
Loving yourself means taking care of yourself. And it means accepting yourself as you are — because God made you. (No, God didn’t make you to be in the shape you are in now, but He made YOU. And as long as you keep condemning yourself you will stay in bad shape.)
God loves you right now. Because you are good enough for God to love, then you are good enough for you to love. Your standards should not be higher than God’s.
LUKE 22:19 NLT 19 He took some bread and gave thanks to God for it. Then he broke it in pieces and gave it to the disciples, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this to remember me.”
Not only were these some of the last words of our Lord Jesus on earth, but they are the heart cry of every human: remember me. We all have a desire to be of value, to be significant, to be judged as someone important — at least to someone.
Jesus — in addition to everything else He is — is also human.
As Jesus faced the enormity of the task ahead of Him, He told His little band of followers: Remember me! Don’t let my life and my sacrifices be in vain. Don’t forget about me!
Do you remember? Or, have you forgotten?
Is Jesus at the forefront of your thoughts each day? Or, do you forget about Him — most of the time.
Do you walk and talk with Jesus? Or, does your life give no testimony to your belief in Him?
Do you live as if Jesus did not redeem you? Are your days lived just as if Jesus never existed? Do you neglect to remember Jesus except on Sunday, or Christmas?
Probably all of us have fallen short in this area. But the Lord is gracious and it is never too late to change.
MARK 12:31 NKJ 31 “And the second, like it, is this: `You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”
Eight times the Bible tells us to love our neighbor as we love our self.
Clearly, God considers this important. But what does it mean?
It means we should not just look out for our own interests, but also for those around us.
PHILIPPIANS 2:4 NKJ 4 Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.
Who is our neighbor?
Anyone — and everyone — who is near-by. If they are near us they are, at that moment, our neighbor. And according to God’s Word, we have an obligation to love them.
What does this word “love” mean in the original Greek language of the New Testament.
It is “agapao,” the word used of the kind of love God has for us. It gives and asks for nothing in return. It gives without waiting for the other person to love first. It is not a selfish love, but cares about the welfare and happiness of the person being loved.
To truly love your neighbor as yourself, you need to be a born again child of God. Love is of God, and to show this kind of love you need to be born of God (1 John 4:7). Without His love continually flowing out of your heart, it will not be possible.
2 THESSALONIANS 1:3 NLT 3 Dear brothers and sisters, we can’t help but thank God for you, because your faith is flourishing and your love for one another is growing.
God made you for a purpose. God has a plan. You are not an accident.
You may not have discovered where you fit and what your purpose is yet, but God has not forgotten you. He is still at work.
Most of us will not affect the whole world, or even an entire city. That does not mean you are not important.
The Bible uses the picture of a human body to illustrate the Body of Christ. Not every part is ever seen, but every part is important.
1 CORINTHIANS 12:22 NLT 22 In fact, some parts of the body that seem weakest and least important are actually the most necessary.
Even if no one knows the part you are doing, God does. You are important to God — important enough to die for.
God has a plan for you, and it lasts far beyond this life that we can now see.
HEBREWS 4:13-16 NLT 13 Nothing in all creation is hidden from God. Everything is naked and exposed before his eyes, and he is the one to whom we are accountable. 14 So then, since we have a great High Priest who has entered heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to what we believe. 15 This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin. 16 So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.
You should talk to God just as you would to a very respected friend. Don’t worry about using any special form of words. Just talk openly, honestly, and sincerely from your heart. (This is what “prayer” is supposed to be.)
God knows what you are thinking anyway. You can’t fool God or hide anything from Him. God knows you better than you know yourself. And the wonderful thing is that God still loves you!
Nothing that concerns you is unimportant to God. Remember, He even keeps count of how many hairs you have!
God is not too busy to hear about every detail of your life. I have no idea how God can listen to all of us, but He can. God is not bound by time like we are. However He does it, we don’t have to be concerned but can just trust Him.
JEREMIAH 33:3 NKJ 33 ‘Call to Me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know.’
What a privilege to have the input and counsel of God who knows everything! Don’t fail to take advantage of this tremendous opportunity.
We are called into fellowship with the Lord Jesus Christ! That means we should share everything with Him.
1 CORINTHIANS 1:9 NKJ 9 God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.
God invites us to fellowship with Him. That would include just discussing things. Just visiting. Just “hanging out” together. This is what God desires. So don’t disappoint Him!
Don’t talk at God, talk directly to God. Prayer should not be a spiritual exercise you have to get through. It’s a conversation with Someone who loves you, and is very smart.
“But what can I say to God?”
“Thank You!” would be a good start. What would you say to any friend who was with you? You wouldn’t have any trouble figuring out what to talk about with them would you?
“But,” you say, “God doesn’t talk back.”
Yes, that is a difference you have to get used to. True, God does not usually speak back to us in the normal human fashion. The main way He “speaks” to us is through inward impressions or ideas, all of which will line up with His written Word, the Bible. We have to learn His way of communicating.
1 THESSALONIANS 5:18 NLT 18 Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.
Some people have trouble being thankful unless they have a perfect life with everything they think they should have.
But with the right perspective, you can be thankful when you have nothing. You can be thankful at least that you are not being overwhelmed by bad things.
There are many people on a deathbed with cancer or other diseases, who would gladly give all their financial assets to be free from their disease. You probably would too, if you were in that situation.
So, if you are not afflicted with a deadly disease right now, then you can, and should be thankful, no matter what else is happening in your life.
“But preacher, I do have a deadly disease and the doctors say there is no hope. How can I be thankful?”
The fact that you are reading this demonstrates several things. First, you can read — and still have vision. That is more than many people have. You can be thankful for that.
No matter how bad your situation or circumstance in life may be, there is someone somewhere who has it worse than you do.
Some people desperately wish they had a large house or a fancy car like their neighbor, not realizing the huge payments their neighbor is making. You can be thankful you don’t have to make the big monthly payment.
If you are living in peace, you should be thankful that war is not raging on your doorstep.
Why not take a moment right now and make a list of all the bad things you are thankful that you don’t have.
1 CORINTHIANS 3:21b LB 21 For God has already given you everything you need.
(We don’t claim prosperity, or anything, from God. We are not making any demand on God.)
God has already made provision for us in every area of life. He created enough abundance for all mankind. Yet many Christians struggle with financial problems. But the problem is not that God is withholding from us.
Throughout the New Testament, we are told God has already given us everything we need, for example see: 2 Peter 1:3, Romans 8:17, Romans 8:32, Galatians 4:7, Ephesians 1:3.
The problem is that we’ve been allowing the devil to steal what belongs to us. We must quit allowing this to happen. We must stand in faith and claim what is ours. After all, Jesus paid a great price for us to have it!
Jesus came to redeem us from the control of the devil and set us free from the curse. Jesus paid the price for us to have abundant blessing in every area of life.
2 CORINTHIANS 8:9 ESV 9 For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.
But the devil is a thief. So we must claim prosperity from the devil who has stolen from us — and continues to steal from us if we let him.
Of course we should not be selfish or greedy. We should not serve money or let it control our decisions. But how can we help others if we are in poverty?
ISAIAH 53:5 ESV 5 But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed.
Jesus’ suffering brought us peace. (But unless you understand Hebrew it is unlikely you would realize all this means.)
Peace — shalom — means wholeness, nothing missing, nothing broken, nothing wrong. It definitely includes the idea of prosperity — every need met and having more than enough.
Jesus suffered so you could have this shalom — peace and prosperity. Part of the curse that Jesus redeemed you from is poverty.
And what a curse poverty is! It causes misery, disease, ruined lives, and destroyed families.
The devil has tried to convince Christians that poverty is a blessing because it will make you humble and more godly. While it is true that many rich people are arrogant and ungodly, that does not automatically mean being poor makes you godly. On the contrary, God is the richest being in the universe, and riches have not corrupted Him.
The devil is a thief. He has stolen money that belongs to you. You need to say, “That’s mine! Jesus paid for me to have abundant provision. Turn loose of it devil!”
That is what I mean by claiming prosperity.
After you receive legal notice that something is yours, you can claim it whenever you desire. God’s Word is our legal notice of what belongs to us as a gift because of the wonderful grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. It’s time we quit letting the devil steal what belongs to us.
1 THESSALONIANS 5:18 NLT 18 Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.
When you don’t know what to say or do — say “Thank You!”
Sometimes we feel like we don’t know what to do. We wonder what God’s perfect will is.
Certainly the will of God is not for us to start worrying and being fearful about missing His will. Instead we should stay in faith, knowing that God is working and guiding us even when we are not aware of it.
God is not responsible for the bad things that come our way in life — the devil and people are to blame.
But when we start complaining and criticizing, we step out of faith, joy, and peace. These spiritual forces (the “fruit” of the spirit) are for our protection.
So we can, and should, always thank God at all times. We should develop the habit of having an attitude of gratitude.
Our God is amazing! He can turn bad things around and take the sting out of them.
When we stay in faith, always being thankful, the sting is removed from the evil that comes against us. Then, instead of destroying us, it can become a stepping-stone to take us to a higher place of blessing.
So while God is not actually responsible for any of the bad things that happen, we should be thankful always — no matter what happens.
An attitude of constant gratitude provides a shield of faith protecting you and allowing God to freely act in your life, bringing blessing and deliverance.
So when something bad happens in your life, don’t complain. Don’t criticize God, or people. Don’t beat yourself over the head. Just begin (and continue) to say things like:
Thank You Lord that you are with me to guide me and help me, that You love me, that You are working in my life, that You protect me and preserve me and deliver me from evil, and that no weapon formed against me shall prosper or prevail!
The most appropriate words you can ever speak are “Thank You!”
ROMANS 15:7 NIV 7 Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.
We have only two choices, accept people, or reject them. When you realize this, it may change the way you treat people.
When we criticize or condemn people, we communicate rejection. When we try to change people, it communicates that they are not good enough for us, that we don’t like them.
“But what if they are not perfect? What if they don’t believe everything I believe?”
Were you born believing all you do now? Or did you go through a process of learning over time? Should we throw out people because they still have something to learn?
What happens when you don’t accept people as they are? It feeds the lie that they are no good and have no value.
We can accept people and celebrate their value without approving of their sins. But when we refuse to accept people until they are perfect, we communicate rejection.
When someone feels rejected, they tend to reject those who reject them, and what they represent. So when Christians communicate rejection to sinners, they assume God is rejecting them, and tend to reject God because they think He rejects them.
Whenever you reject someone, you have set yourself up as their judge, something only God is truly qualified to do.
To walk with Jesus you will have to treat people as Jesus would treat them. You may not like the way they look, talk, act, think, or smell, but if they are a human being you must acknowledge that Jesus Christ loves them enough to die for them.
Jesus is our perfect example, and He is not rejecting people (John 6:37). Instead, the Bible reveals that Jesus Christ is our Advocate, (our defense lawyer), not the one who condemns (1 John 2:1, Romans 8:34).
People are hurting. Usually they know they need to change, to be better, and to do better. What they have not discovered is a way they can change. They have probably tried, but given up in defeat.
Only God’s unconditional love can give them the strength they need to have hope. Most people realize that if they must earn God’s help there is no hope for them.
This is the main reason why so many people shun Christianity and want to have nothing to do with God. They have accepted a wrong image of God, thinking He is a stern Judge who is against them, instead of realizing the truth that He is a loving Father like the father in the story of the Prodigal Son that Jesus told us about in Luke 15:11-32.
God accepts people as they are. So should we. Christ died for the ungodly (Romans 5:6). God so loved the world that He gave.
People crave love. Unconditional love will draw people. It is God’s goodness that leads people to repent (Romans 2:4).
Every time we meet someone, we are faced with a choice: love them — or judge them, accept them as they are — or attempt to change them, make them feel respected — or despised, make them feel valuable and precious — or make them feel worthless.
You might as well accept people as they are instead of trying to change them. You can’t change people anyway. Only God can really change people. Our job is to love them and help them.
Also remember that God made people to be different. So don’t expect everyone will be exactly like you.
ROMANS 14:17 NKJ 17 for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.
Here is a description of the Kingdom of God: righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.
Righteousness means everything being right.
God has given us the gift of righteousness (Romans 5:17). That means He has put us in right standing with Himself. He has said that everything is right between us and Him. Sin no longer separates us from God, because the precious blood of Jesus has cleansed us and we are forgiven by God.
Because we have right standing with God (righteousness), we have peace. There is no more struggle. God is not mad at us. God is on our side.
Peace means more than the absence of conflict. Peace means nothing broken and nothing missing. Peace includes the idea of prosperity — having everything needful in abundance with no lack.
When you are right with God and have peace — nothing missing and nothing broken — you will have joy.
You can look at this as a progression, righteousness produces peace, and when you have righteousness and peace, joy will result.
God’s Kingdom is an everlasting kingdom. It is a kingdom of love. It is a kingdom where everything is right. In it there is no imperfection and no lack. It is a kingdom of peace. There is never any conflict because there is no selfishness. It is a kingdom of joy. Everyone rejoices because of the goodness of God.
God’s kingdom includes everywhere God reigns. In the world there is trouble (John 16:33). But by faith in Jesus, it can be overcome (1 John 5:5).