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Learning to live in love: The center of discipleship by Matt Tebbe

images-4In keeping with the format of www.missioalliance.org, here’s a second post for the week from Matt Tebbe, a former pastor at Life on the Vine Christian Community, who currently serves River Valley Church (www.rivervalley.net) as pastor of spiritual formation. Read about him here. Matt regularly focuses on issues of spiritual formation (discipleship) and its relation to forming a missional people. His post today explores knowing and living in God’s love. Can we be present in God’s mission apart from this? You can engage Matt in the comments. Next post up is one by me on justice: “Looking for a Project” versus “Developing a Presence.”
If you were watching Jeopardy and a picture of YOU came up as the answer what would be the question?

Been thinking about the questions my life seeks to answer and I came across these two questions in a little book I’m reading by Jan Johnson, When the Soul Listens: Finding Rest and Direction in Contemplative PrayerThe words jumped off the page and stuck to the inside of my heart – God’s been incubating them in me since: 1. What must I do to be loved? 2. What must I do to be valued? How we answer these two questions will drive our decisions and shape our affections. Our answer to these questions determine the person we are and are becoming.

What must I do to be loved? What must I do to be valued?

Is love something you have, or something you lack? At the core of who you are – the deepest reality of ‘you’ – what is your belief about love? What makes you valuable? Do you have a scarcity or an abundance? Many of us feel chronically deficient in this area – so our fundamental posture is one of “I must find love; I must prove my worth” Others of us (for various reasons) don’t question that we are loved and valued. We live and move out of a deep, full awareness that love is at home in us and we are valued and have worth. We are loved.

Where are you? Below are some questions I ask to get at the core of how I’m living. Am I living from God’s love, or out of a lack of it? Am I trying to prove or assert my worth rather than rest in the reality that I am (and have) value(d):

  1. Am I trying to please God and others? Doing things to receive admiration and accolades? Am I a people pleaser?
  2.  Do I avoid things that I’m bad at because my value is tied to what I’m good at or produce? Am I a performer?
  3. Does being wrong or having to ask forgiveness scare me? Am I avoiding difficult conversations and living with unreconciled relationships because I can’t risk being wrong or a failure? Am I a do-gooder?
  4. When I sin, do I beat myself up? Do I tell myself I am someone other than who God says I am? Am I able to be gentle with my faults? Am I a critic?
  5. Do I feel “safe” to come out of hiding with God and others and authentically reveal who I am? Am I an escaper?

Love – God’s love in Jesus Christ, the love that pursues us through the pages of scripture in the OT and becomes flesh in the NT – changes everything. Love is so high and deep and wide and long that it completely fills us with all God’s fullness (Eph 3.18-19) Love answers the above questions like this:

  1.  Am I trying to please God and others? Doing things to receive admiration and accolades? Am I a people pleaser?You please me because I love you – I am already pleased with you before you obey or disobey. Will you trust that love today?” (Heb 11.6)
  2. Do I avoid things that I’m bad at because I can’t handle failure? Am I a performer? “My love for you isn’t compromised by failure – when you fail I will use it to teach you to trust my love – my success on your behalf – even more.” (1 Cor 12.8-10)
  3. Does being wrong or having to ask forgiveness scare me? Am I avoiding difficult conversations and living with unreconciled relationships because I can’t risk being wrong? Am I a do-gooder? “It is now safe for you to be wrong because with me there is forgiveness of sins. In fact, the only way to rest and remain in my love is to give up your prideful pursuit to always be right, to win, and to justify yourself.” (1 John 4.18)
  4. When I sin, do I beat myself up? Do I tell myself I am someone other than who God says I am? Am I able to be gentle with my faults? Am I a critic? “I was wounded for your transgressions, my beloved. By my wounds you are healed – why do you treat yourself in a way that denies the reality that I have paid your penalty in full? Your sin is another opportunity to surrender to my love.” (Rom 7.14-8.2) There is an Accuser who is always pointing out your faults to me – when you beat yourself up and practice self-condemnation you sound a lot like him. And – I went to great pains to defeat his power in your life. Won’t you trust me in this? You will never be able to hate yourself enough to not sin – but if you trust my love, you may be able to love yourself and others enough to not sin.” (Rom 8.31-39)
  5. Do I feel “safe” to come out of hiding with God and others and authentically reveal who I am? Am I an escape artist?My love is only accessible through honest, open, unpretentious living. The more you pretend you’re someone you’re not, the less access you have to the love available to you right in the midst of who you really are.” (1 John 1.8-9; 4.9-10)

How we answer these two questions – What must I do to be loved? What must I do to be valued? – will determine our choices and shape our affections. Friends – in Jesus Christ the good news of God is that we are loved and of infinite worth. Yes, we sin. Yes, we’ve rebelled against God’s good created order. But we are a “splendid ruin” (as Dallas Willard says) that God seeks to save by demonstrating his love for – and redeeming his OWN precious image in – us. Our loveliness and value are relational gifts we receive through surrender and trust in Jesus

How do you know you are loved and of worth? 

Do these above questions help you assess where your heart lies? 

Of the following: People-pleaser, Performer, Critic, Escape Artist, Do-gooder – how do you most often live outside of God’s love and value? 

What sorts of practices demonstrate we believe who God says we are? How do we bear fruit in keeping with repentance in these areas? What’s that look like for you?

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