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Is your faith in God Self Serving?

In follow up to: Is Religion a crutch and Winning peoples approval/co-dependency. I wanted to bring up Bernard of Clairvaux. He said there are 4 degrees of Love. The suggestion is that we come to God initially seeking God for selfish reasons and loving for selfish reasons but as we progress in our Sanctification we change toward a more divine way of thinking.

Sanctification can be described as someone washing a dish and putting it aside for special use. Sanctification is a bit deeper than you just keeping your coffee cup aside for exclusive use. Its a process in which God seeks to change us and to make us more like him. In salvation we do not clean ourselves up to get saved. We cant be accepted by doing some good stuff. Our personal righteousness is as filthy rags according to God. We have such a level of difference, we cannot perceive ourselves properly. It could be that people cant think long and hard enough about every motive of their own hearts. We act most of the time without doing an assessment. So there is no way we could keep up to the level of Holiness God has. And lets face it. Not everyone has pure motives. It only takes a few minutes of questions before people are exposed. They generally do not even know the condition of their selfish heart.

Romans 3:20-27 King James Version (KJV)

20 Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin. 21 But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; 22 Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference:

23 For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;

24 Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: 25 Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; 26 To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus. 27 Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay: but by the law of faith.

In salvation we are gifted with the grace of the cross. What does that mean? Jesus dying in our place is a type of imputed restitution made on our behalf. The death penalty for sins is passed on to Jesus Christ and He instead of us is penalized for our sins. While some might think they earned their salvation, in reality they have not and are in no way qualified. If salvation (reconciliation with God) was about your actions you would be disqualified. So, we come to God, we put our trust in him and we ask for mercy and forgiveness. Then and only then can we live for him under his tent and enter into a process of change called progressive sanctification. Salvation can be seen as the initial sanctification or setting apart of the vessel. It is also includes being accepted into the family of God. Its an adoption. Progressive sanctification is about becoming more like God in our nature as we live in his presence. If no changes happen or you fall back to live without him in your life then you have chosen to leave your initial sanctification/Salvation that you gained by his granting of grace and abandoned the faith. (Mathew Ch7 & Ch 25 )

God gives us his holy spirit as a deposit or guarantee of things to come, but He also gives us new life. Salvation reanimates our sinful dead spiritual body making us alive. So we have new life in Jesus Christ. Having new life does not mean we are entirely perfect or all knowing. It means we have a restoration of life with God; eternal life. Next…

Love is a complex word. The Greek has several words to describe love. There is an Eat your pizza sort of love, A brotherly sort of love, a Sexual sort of love and a Father God sort of love. The Law of Moses while not part of the new covenant, is instructive to our new rule as Christians. Jesus says, This new commandment I give you. Love one another. This commandment is not new, but with a change of covenants came a change of rules. Acts 15 and Hebrews 8 speak to these issues. Now we have Justification by faith: Because of the change we undergo we Love. I am moving a bit quickly through things, of what the gospel is, what the covenant is and sort of skipped over justification by faith vs. works but the gospel of salvation is about trust in God losing contempt and believing that Jesus will forgive you and then following him, reunited to your God. but moving on:

Bernard of clairvaux living around a thousand years ago helped shape the understanding of the deep truths of Christianity from imputed righteousness, and Sanctification, Not only was he a monk but he was a poet and a Abbot. Near the end of his life he was called upon to rally support for a new second crusade against the Muslim invasion of the Byzantine / Roman empire.

It might surprise you that what is still going on in the middle east, was going on then. The calls for death to America and the desire to destroy Israel is not new either.. These threats and actions from Iran has been going on for almost 1500 years. And a thousand years before that. But, Islam started 600 years after Christ and is more of a political movement than religious one. Muslims have wanted to re-write what had been known in history for over 600 years. When Islam came on the seen they started acting against the church and against Jesus Christ. They suggest that they are the next progression but it is not. Its not tied to Judaism or Christianity.

Bernard was born into this mess as are we. Then, Middle east rulers where calling Christians to mount up forces to join the Byzantines to fight Muslims and to take back the Holy land from the Muslims. It totally distorts what life with God is about.

In the middle of all this, Bernard of Clairvaux is seeking to know God more fully and to sanctify himself He wants to get closer to God. This is the aim of the gospel to forgive sin of those who wish to return to God so they can live under his Lordship. We might in our own battles be doing something with one hand while reading our bible in another trying to get a grip on what it is to be a Christian in these times. It wasn’t easy for Bernard then and not for us now to navigate Godliness in the face of conflict. Still moving swiftly on:

Now to the 4 degrees of Love.ézelay_(1146)

Quotes from Bernard of Clairvaux:

Spiritual life is like living water that springs up from the very depths of our own spiritual experience. In spiritual life everyone has to drink from his or her own well.

Love seeks no cause beyond itself and no fruit; it is its own fruit, its own enjoyment. I love because I love; I love in order that I may love.

You wish to see; listen. Hearing is a step toward Vision.

What we love we shall grow to resemble.

There are those who seek knowledge for the sake of knowledge; that is curiosity. There are those who seek knowledge to be known by others; that is vanity. There are those who seek knowledge in order to serve; that is Love.

My commentary on the 4 loves Bernard points out:

The first love we know is selfish to look after ourselves. We love others because of the benefit that comes to ourselves from doing so. Most of us come to God and serve God for our own selfish reasons. As in the last Op I pointed out that there is a level of greed involved in seeking out salvation in that there is a lot to be had in serving God. The expectation of an infinite life, a better more mature life now and forgiveness which in itself is freeing is worth it for our own selfish reasons. So while some may not realize it, they love God not because God is great but for the benefits he gives to us.

The third level of love in this construct of loves. Like Art. We admire it. But out of duty we love our children even when its hard because its for their sake, and so we can also love God simply because we know that by pleasing him and doing what he says pleases him. So we love him for his sake.

Finally there is a Love which is more of a 30,000 ft view of love, where we have got over ourselves and our needs and see eternity as so much more important. We might choose to drop most necessary things in this life. As a monk I could see Bernard leave so much behind. And he did and was known for that. And he like many get obsessed and detached from loving themselves or pleasing themselves. Mothers can do that. They buy clothes for the kids but then don’t look after themselves. My Daughter was over and rather than get goodies that I want, I got goodies that she likes. I didn’t need her approval but I just wanted to love her for her sake. Once we have reached a level of sanctification we then realize that we have forgotten our own needs and look after ourselves almost third party but we do this because God expects us to care for ourselves rather than out of a greed or lust for things.

In looking it over while this guy didn’t have all his ducks of theology in a row, he was reaching into the motives and workings of our hearts while in a world of strife and hardship. He was starting monasteries and calling on people to live holy and chased lives. He taught from the bible and from reflection.

When we look at Jesus christ. He took on no reputation but humbled himself. James 2 and Philippians 2. He the king of Glory had an ‘Agapa’ love a selfless fatherly Love toward people undeserving and didn’t have himself birthed into a mansion but into a manger. When he rode in as a King he rode in on a donkey not a white stallion showing us the type of attitude we should have. In the future he is pictured coming in on a white horse to claim victory and take over the world destroying evil.

We can learn from this introspection to consider that our minds if tied up in depression or Anxiety or self interest might just be tasked with the wrong tasks. Because of harms or tragedy of some sort we may have been misdirected to a harm reduction strategy and left in that mode. People with PTSD have a tendency to flip in to protection mode when Anxiety or pressure is put on them. When life gets you down, or in his case he is called on to preach for another Crusade to protect all that is good and holy, we can chose where our mind idles at. Are we focused on self or doing things for our benefit or do we relax knowing God sees our needs as Matthew 6:33 reminds us, and instead, let us focus on things above and let us chose better thoughts and more sanctified actions. Romans 8 And as the scripture says, set your minds on things above.

So where did this take us? It simply is a reminder that we can choose where our minds go, where our lives are focused and decide to do something different than worrying about what others think. Instead we can care for others. Think about the difference that would make. Rather than focusing on how someone hurt us we can focus on Loving others correcting our mistakes, loving ourselves because God wants us too and simply moving on to living life.

(Scroll way down to comment.) don’t forget to click on a link or two to find a related scripture.

Published by Evolution is a Hoax

I am a born again Christian. John 3:16 1 John 4:7-8

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