Friday, December 14, 2012

Advent Family Devotions December 14, 2012

Love with Discernment

Opening Prayer: Dear Lord, even when we try to love others we can get tripped up.  Thank You for showing us a better way. Amen.

Scripture:  Philippians 1.9-11
And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.


     I once knew a man who gave away everything he had for Jesus. He was quite proud of that. He was especially proud of giving up his television.  But life didn't go so well for this fellow. He had trouble holding a job and taking care of his own needs. He soon needed the help of his family to keep going.

     Love is about giving up for others. But more than that, love is about being built up in order to help others. Love shouldn't primarily be about us and what we are giving. Love should be about God, what He has given us, and what we can give to others through Him. 

     The Apostle Paul wrote to the Philippians, "It is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment..."  How does that happen?  It happens when Christians are wise enough to listen to God, to learn from Him, and then to focus on the love that He commands.  When we say to ourselves, "I don't need to pay attention to my Sunday School teacher; I don't need to memorize that Bible passage; I don't need to go to any Bible class... I just need to do good things for the Lord..." We are bound to get tripped up.  

    God calls us to love our neighbors, but He also calls us to love Him. He gave these two commands, not just the first, because He knows that the only way we can truly love others is if we love God and have received His love in Jesus Christ.  Paul stresses that the "fruit of righteousness" (true good works that truly help people) "comes through Jesus Christ," and these are the only good works that ultimately do any good and that result in "the glory and praise of God."  

For Discussion:  
1. Why do you think people think good works are more important than listening to God? (We can be proud of our good works. Listening to God means we have to repent and recognize our need for God's forgiveness.)

2.  Why is it better to listen to God and then to do the good works He desires?  (If we listen to God, we can tell others about Him and they can see that the good we are doing is really from God and not from us. That will help them to love God also.)  

Prayer:  Dear Jesus, thank You for teaching us so many good things and for doing the best thing of all for us - giving up Your life for our forgiveness and salvation. Help us to remember the things You taught as well as what You did so that we might teach good things and do good things for others. Amen.  

Hymn:  "Blessed Jesus, At Thy Word" by Tobias Clausnitzer

Click here for the melody.

Click here for J. S. Bach's beautiful prelude - Orgelbuchlein - BWV 633 

Blessed Jesus, at Thy word
We are gathered all to hear Thee;
Let our hearts and souls be stirred
Now to seek and love and fear Thee,
By Thy teachings, sweet and holy,
Drawn from earth to love Thee solely.

All our knowledge, sense, and sight
Lie in deepest darkness shrouded
Till Thy Spirit breaks our night
With the beams of truth unclouded.
Thou alone to God canst win us;
Thou must work all good within us.

Glorious Lord, Thyself impart,
Light of Light, from God proceeding;
Open Thou our ears and heart,
Help us by Thy Spirit’s pleading;
Hear the cry Thy people raises,
Hear and bless our prayers and praises.

Father, Son, and Holy Ghost,
Praise to Thee and adoration!
Grant that we Thy Word may trust
And obtain true consolation
While we here below must wander,
Till we sing Thy praises yonder.

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