Michael Youssef - Growing In Your Love For Jesus - Part 2
There can be no doubt that all of us without exception, if we wanna grow deeper in our love for Jesus, we will face rocky roads, and we gonna face bumpy bumps along the way, and the difference between those who keep on climbing and go deeper in the love for Jesus and those who don't and stunt their growth are the ones who allow the rocks to be as steppingstones, not obstacles. How you view these obstacles is of vital importance. So, the question, then, is this: How do you use these obstacles as stepping-stones rather than hindrances? From my experience, I saw many Christian believers who allowed these distractions to stunt their growing love for Jesus.
Some might say, "Well, Michael, how does this happen"? Well, we all start our walk with Christ when we become born again. The moment we discover this incredible revelation that Jesus loved us and died on the cross for us, and then we experience the forgiveness of sins and the assurance of eternity with him. When we come to that moment, I think none of us would deny the fact that we have fallen in love with Jesus, because we were overwhelmed by his love, but then somewhere along the way, we hit a wall. Whatever wall it may be, and there are many walls. It could financial wall, or it could be a relationship wall, or it could be illness wall. Whatever it might be.
And so, what do we do? We begin to focus on that wall, and get distracted and allow our love for Jesus to cool off, and I promise you, if you stay in this condition of getting distracted, you will see your love for Jesus stunted. And before you know it, your love for Jesus begins to cool. Other things have taken their place, but the opposite sometimes is true. Sometimes, listen carefully, sometimes prosperity and blessings can work the same way as a wall, and we begin to take our eyes off the blesser, and then we focus on the blessing, and our love for Jesus cools off nonetheless. You see, these are Satan's way of distracting us, in both the pain and the prosperity, in both the sunshine and the deluge, in both abundance and lack. That's why Proverbs says neither riches nor poverty. These can be obstacles that will cool off our love for Jesus.
Beloved, that sometimes happen in marriage. I wish I had time that I can get into this, but I might do it throughout in the coming messages, but in all cases, the answer is repentance. In all that, the answer is to retrace your steps. The answer is to discover where you have fallen and get up. The answer is acknowledging of sin, not hiding it or rationalizing it, as that causes a distraction. The answer is the renewal of your love for Jesus. That's what the answer is. Three things: First of all, the inability to accept correction. Secondly, the unwillingness to grow and change, and thirdly, the susceptibility, we're all susceptible to confusing the journey with the destination. Let's look at these very, very quickly. The inability to accept correction.
I can hear someone saying, "Well, Michael, what is this inability to accept correction got to do with my growing love for Jesus"? Great question. There are very, very, very, very few people who have the unique gift and ability to see themselves as they really are. Very few. Most of us have that uncanny ability to see ourselves as we want to be. We want to see ourselves as wonderful and lovable and perceptive and clever and knowledgeable and, boy, people just are waiting with a bated breath to hear our opinion on everything. Read my lips: That's a fantasy. Most people imagine themselves as they want to be, not as they are. I don't think there's a single person here would not agree with the fact that arrogance can keep us from growing in our love for Jesus. The question is how do I know when I'm arrogant, right? How do I know? Most of us don't discern when we are arrogant and prideful and self-sufficient.
Ah, that is where a good and godly brother or sister in Christ comes in. You cannot love Jesus in isolation. You cannot love Jesus in isolation. That's why our small-group ministry or home-group ministry is a vital ministry in this church, and the apostle John makes it very clear in all of his Epistles, he said our love for Jesus is evident in our love for the brothers and sisters. The ability to accept correction from godly friends moves a huge obstacle in our growing for love for Jesus and going deep in our love for Jesus. Let me stop here for a reality check. There are some who are professional critics. There are some who are controlled by a critical spirit. There are some who criticize everything and everyone all the time. You know who I'm talking about, right?
There are some who just criticize in order to score off points of us. That's not what I'm talking about. These folks are easily identified and should be either ignored or rebuked. I'm talking about a genuine, real, honest, loving, affirming correction, why? Because genuine, loving, affirming correction leads to self-examination, and self-examination is gonna lead you into growing in your love for Jesus. Correction, and not just blind criticism, must always be exercised in a mutual caring and commitment environment. Correction must always, always, always be exercised in an atmosphere of affirmation. Do you know that when our Lord Jesus Christ hung on that cross, he was affirming us and criticizing us all at the same time? Did you know that? On the cross, he was affirming us by saying, "I love you, and I'm paying the price for your sin".
On the other hand, he was rebuking us and saying, "It's your sin that hung me on that cross. It's your rebellion against the Holy God that had put me on that cross", and that's why we have the rebellious anti-God forces who do not want to be rebuked or affirmed, want to remove the crosses from public eye. That's why they wanna remove the cross. For those of us who have been redeemed by that cross, for those of us who have been forgiven by that cross, to us, that very cross says yes. It is a great rebuke, and it is criticism for our sin, but thank God it's also affirming us and assuring us of his love for us. To refuse to accept the genuine correction is to refuse to comprehend the depth of God's love for you and me.
I showed you in the last message that failing to comprehend the depth and the width and the height of the love of God is gonna stop us from growing and loving him back. A loving correction is like what Jesus does. He often permits brokenness to come into our lives, as he did in my life in 1990, I'll never forget it, in order to rebuild us stronger. He permits wounding in order that he may heals and strengthens us, like a loving surgeon who would cut us but only to remove the cancerous tumor. Non-loving criticism destroys people. Let me repeat this: Non-loving criticism destroys people. That is why it must never, never, never happen in the family of God.
And so, it's willingness to receive godly correction is the secret for your growing love for Jesus. Secondly, it's your willingness to change and grow is the vital ingredients in your deepening of your love for Jesus. The Lord Jesus often talked about seeds and sowing and planting and growing and harvest, but if the seed is not growing, most likely it is because it was sterile or dead seed. Growing is about change. Now, I'm not one of those people who say change, all change is good. I'm not one of those people. Some change is good. Some change is terrible. I'm talking about growing and changing as you grow deeper in your love for Jesus. I know, I know, I know there are some people who just detest change, right? I know that. I know that many people actually afraid of change, and many people want to cling to the past, any past, but Christian believers more than any people on the face of the earth, we ought to champion good and godly change, especially the change that come from our growing deeper in our love for Jesus.
So, the question is why have so many believers lose their first love? As we saw, and the whole reason for this series of messages came out of the letter of Jesus to the church in Ephesus several weeks ago, when the church was growing and doing great things, but he said, "I have one thing against you: You have lose, you have forsaken your first love". And that's what gave rise to this series of messages. And so, the inability to accept correction will hamper your growing love for Jesus. Your unwillingness to change and grow will stump your growing love for Jesus.
Finally, thirdly, confusing the journey with the destination is always, always, not sometimes, always will stump your growth and love for Jesus. Can I get an amen? The truth is we're all susceptible to this conviction, including your pastor. We're all susceptible to the temptation of wanting to swim in the world's water and of wanting to eat the world's food and wanting to drink the world's wine, and that, my beloved friends, listen to me, is the biggest barrier for growing in your love for Jesus. You either see yourself as a citizen of this world with passing interest in heaven, or you see yourself as a traveler passing through this strange land, and let me tell you, it's getting stranger by the day. It's getting stranger by the day. Ask yourself the question: Am I a traveler, or am I a settler? Am I a renter, or I'm a landlord? That does not mean that I'm recommending that you put on white robes, head for the mountains, and wait for your spaceship. Not at all. Not at all.
Jesus clearly prays to the Father, that high priestly prayer in John chapter 17, and he said, "Father, I don't ask you to take them from the world but to keep them from the evil one". Loving Jesus deeply, growing in your love for Jesus daily, experiencing greater depths in your love for Jesus, all that means that you love what Jesus loves. The Word of God, it tells us very clearly, Jesus loves redeeming sinners. Jesus loves reconciling repentant sinners with his Father. Jesus loves seeing the lost be found. Jesus loves to lift up repentant people from the mud of sin and the world. That's what Jesus loves. Let me repeat this. To love Jesus is to love what Jesus loves. So many Christians fall in the trap of wanting Jesus to love what they love. Hello. They really do. They want Jesus to love what they love. Please, please, don't fall for that trick of Satan.
The apostle Paul told the Romans, "Do not conform but rather be transformed". Do not what? But rather? What does that mean? Don't conform, but transform. Instead of conforming to the world's standards, you be a transforming agent. Instead of adopting the cultural thinking, you transform the cultural thinking. Conformity to the world's standards is relentless in its pressure. It is very slow in its molding and shaping our thinking, but molding and shaping it does. And it will. Question: How can anyone claim to love Jesus when they confuse the journey for the destination? Ask yourself that question, please. Another question you need to ask yourself is this: If I die today and I'm looking to Jesus in his eyes and I'm looking to him face to face, will I say to him... can I say to him, "Lord, I have loved what you love"? I pray that you will answer that question to yourself before the day is out.
I'm gonna conclude by telling you a true story. It's a true story, but I pray to God that anyone under the sound of my voice would not be in the place of this character in the true story of regret. Thomas Carlyle was a well-known Scottish writer and a poet. He was a bachelor for many years, but finally he married his secretary: Jane Welsh. Now, Jane was a daughter of a very prominent doctor in that town. Not long after their marriage, they discovered that Jane had a terminal cancer. Carlyle was very famous of his day, well-known, and he traveled the world speaking to adoring crowds, and when he was home, he was focusing mostly on his writings. He could go for weeks at a time without seeing his wife. The months have passed and eventually, Jane died. She was buried in a country cemetery, actually not far from their home.
After the funeral, several of the friends came and gathered in Carlyle's house, but he himself excused himself from his friends and went upstairs. And he went into Jane's bedroom and sat on a chair by her bed, and there he saw a book on the nightstand, and he didn't know what it was. He picked it up, it was her diary. So, he began to read. He read, "He came by today, and it was like heaven to me. Oh, I love him so". And then he continued reading until he came to the last page, where obviously she was too weak to write, but her last words were as followed: "The day has grown long. The shadows are up the hall. I have not heard his footsteps. I know he will not be coming today. Oh, I wish I could tell him one more time how I love him". Carlyle's friends were startled by him coming down the stairs, and he dashed through the house and went out the house, and one of them said, "The cemetery. The cemetery. He must be going to the cemetery". And they ran after him to the grave where Jane had just been buried few hours earlier, and sure enough, there was Thomas Carlyle himself lying on that fresh, wet dirt of his wife's grave, pounding his fist on the ground. "Ah, if I had only known, if I had only known".
Now, my beloved friend, please listen to me. I'm about to finish. Why do you wait until you hit a wall in your life before you recognize that your love for Jesus has grown cold? Ah, you're ministering, you're serving and you're doing all kinds of Christian things. Why do you have to wait until you hit a wall in your life before you recognize that your love for Jesus has gone by the wayside? Oh, listen. As I said, you might be doing good things, serving in committees and ministering and doing all kinds of stuff, boards, and all kinds of good stuff, but deep down, deep down, your love for Jesus has grown cold. I know that feeling. I pray none of us would stay in that. I pray that everyone today will say, "Lord, I will not refuse correction. Lord, I'll not refuse growing and changing deeper into my love for you. Lord, I will not focus on the journey and confuse it with a destination. Help me. Lord, I will not allow any of this to freeze my growing in love for you deeper every day".