Second, mentally set aside any preconceived notions you have of what it means to be a Christian. I am about to blow away everything you've ever been taught by mainstream religion. You should know my standard of truth is God's word, not religion or the opinions of man. My allegiance is to Jesus the Anointed One, Emmanuel Himself, God among us, and not to a church, a denomination, a religion, or any confession of faith, historic or current.
So here we go.
Contrary to what you've been taught in church, the measure of your adoration of Jesus, and the only way you will ever truly love others, is to love yourself.
Now I know that most Christian teachers try to make you think that you are nothing but a worm; a vile, wretched sinner that causes God to want to puke when He thinks of you. I know that the institutional church has sought to ingrain within you a feeling that you must perform to get God to like you. Because of the dogmatic assertion that you are worthless, churches define spirituality, preachers claim spiritual authority, and both churches and preachers demand your conformity.
Yet when Jesus was approached by a young Jewish attorney and asked "Teacher, what is the greatest commandment in the Law?" Jesus responded, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments" (Matthew 22:36-40).
According to Jesus, if you do not love yourself, you will be unable to love your neighbor. More importantly, it is impossible to love God "with all our heart and with all your soul and with all your mind" until you are captivated with God's love for you. Everyone knows from personal experience that real, genuine heartfelt love is drawn from a heart that is being loved!. The soul that is loved unconditionally, radically, faithfully and steadfastly is magnetically drawn to love in return. Until a human being comprehends God's radical love in Jesus, a human being will never radically love God because of Jesus. We love Him because He first loved us.
Don't misunderstand. There is a subtle difference between loving yourself and demanding others love you. Loving yourself means you are free from the pressure that others love you. What does it matter if others reject you if Jesus loves you and you love yourself? Demanding others love you is a tell-tale sign that there is actually no self-love. Crazy as it may seem (I call it "upside-down-wisdom"), the more you seek love the less you self-love.
I propose to you the reason the institutional Christian church often leads members to personal bondage is because followers of Jesus have never been captivated by God's love in the remarkable truth of an obscure verse in Hebrews. Many would say John 3:16 is the most important verse in the Bible (and, without doubt, that verse is beautiful!), but I propose that Hebrews 8:13 is the most important verse of Scripture because you can't fully appreciate the love of God mentioned in John 3:16 until you comprehend the glorious truth of Jesus in Hebrews 8:13.
"When He (Jesus) said, “A new covenant,” He has made the first obsolete. But whatever is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to disappear." (Hebrews 8:13)The night before Jesus died, He took a cup of wine and said to His disciples that this wine represented His blood which is shed so a "a new covenant (agreement)" might be made between God and His people. Jesus came to shed His blood to cause"the first (covenant)" to become "obsolete" and "disappear."
Wow. Think about that. The first covenant, that is the Old Covenant with Israel (found in the OLD Testament), Jesus caused to become obsolete and disappear. Everything in the Old Covenant--Temple worship, the male priesthood of Israel, sacrifices, the feasts and festivals of Israel, the Law, and all other things associated with Israel's ritualistic worship of God in the Old Covenant-- became obsolete and disappeared because of the person and work of Jesus.
Jesus Christ "fulfilled the Law," every jot and tittle of it, and then abolished it. There are no longer any Temple rituals. The Law of Israel is obsolete. There is no Sabbath day any more. Believers find there rest every day in Jesus. The people of God are no longer the Hebrew people only; every ethnicity forms His people. The priests of God are no longer just males, for females share in the eternal priesthood. The Temple of God is no longer in Jerusalem, for "you are the Temple of the Holy Spirit." The festivals are no longer in effect for Jesus fulfilled the festivals. Jesus abolished and caused to disappear the "Old Covenant" with Israel.
Then what good purpose does the Law (Old Covenant) serve? The Old Covenant is the shadow that points you to the appearing of Jesus Christ, and it is the "schoolmaster" that takes you by the hand and leads you to be taught by the Teacher. Jesus' miraculous birth, sinless life, substitutionary death, and powerful resurrection cause you to see HE fulfilled the Law for you. You come to see your absolute inability to be righteous before God by your conformity to any Law, and you come to rest by faith in Jesus! If you read the Old Testament and see a set of laws for you to keep, then you have missed Christ and the New Agreement He instituted with His blood. If you ask, "But what motivates a believer to love people (and therefore not steal, not envy, not lie, etc...)?" I respond, "It is the comprehension of the love of God for your soul through Jesus which translates into loving yourself, which spills over into loving others as you love yourself" (II Cor. 5:14). Being in awe of Jesus leads to loving yourself.
Any pastor who takes Old Covenant rituals and practices and brings them into the New Covenant, slapping Christian terminology on those Old Covenant rituals and practices, is deceiving believers and leading them away from 'the rest' that comes through faith in Jesus Christ's work. For example, if you've been taught that the church building is "the Temple of God," then you have been misled. The person who comes to rest in the work of Christ is the Temple of the living God. Everywhere you go, God is, because the life of God is in you. If you've been led to believe that if you don't give 10% to your church then you are "stealing from God," the pastor of your church is misleading you. God actually owns all that you have, and you are but a steward of it all. Give as the Spirit of God leads you, wherever He leads you, because the institutional church this side of the cross is not the Old Covenant Temple of God prior to the cross. If you have been led to believe that only males can be teachers and proclaimers of truth and that only men can lead, then you have been duped into believing that the Old Covenant principles of male priesthood are still in effect, and you have missed the New Covenant principle that every believer, whether male or female "is a priest unto God." If you have been taught that there are people with "spiritual authority" over you, then you have never seen the truth that Christ alone possesses all authority in the New Agreement and dispenses His authority through the gifts of the Spirit and the servant acts of His people, not the positions and titles bestowed by fellow man..
Jesus Christ ended the Old Covenant and initiated a New Agreement. That's the purpose for which Jesus came. 40 years after the first Passover, Israel entered into Canaan. 40 years after the Lamb of God died at Calvary at Passover (fulfilling the Law of Passover in His death) the Temple in Jerusalem and all Old Covenant rituals were destroyed so that believers in Jesus entered totally unhindered into their spiritual rest. The Law that was "soon to disappear" in Hebrews 8:13 God officially became obsolete in 70 AD with the destruction of the Temple. Daniel (in his scroll), Jesus (in His Matthew 24 prophecy) and John in the book of Revelation all predicted the same thing: The Old Covenant would come to an end through God's judgment and divorce of the Hebrews for their infidelity. But the wonderful Good News is that God did Himself what no sinner can do. To be a Christian simply means you enter into an eternal rest through faith in what Jesus did for you and become so overwhelmed by the love of God, that you love yourself BECAUSE God loves you and you begin to love others as you love yourself in Jesus.
Hang your hat on this: If God Himself came to die for you, if God Himself gave His life for you, if God Himself shed His blood to redeem you, if God Himself--the God who flung the stars and holds the earth in its orbit--if this God deemed you worthy of coming to earth, fulfilling the Law in your place, dying in your stead because of your sin, then the love of this God in the death of Jesus should be sufficient enough to convince you that you are indeed someone very, very special. I propose to you that only when you are utterly captivated by what Jesus has done for you will you become overwhelmed with the value, worth and dignity of your person.
If God loves you, then nobody and nothing can separate you from His eternal love. If God loves you, then it is truly unbelief to deny His love. If God loves you, then to hate yourself is to hate God. God died for you while you were yet a sinner, but it is the love of God for your sinful soul that makes you valuable. God loves sinners, not the self-righteous.
Therefore, the man or woman that hates himself cannot love others. But the man or woman that becomes captivated by the love of God in Jesus Christ cannot help but love himself. Ironically, when you love yourself deeply, you are able to love others radically.
Therefore, stop performing and start trusting Jesus. Stop condemning yourself and start loving yourself. Stop slapping Christian terms on Old Covenant rituals and start wrapping your arms of faith around Jesus. The radical love of God is seen in Jesus coming to make the Old Covenant obsolete and causing it to disappear.
He's done that - so now rest in Him and love yourself. I have written it down theologically, but this man, Jefferson Bethke, raps it poetically. Before you reject what he raps, think through Hebrews 8:13 again.