"I went to Jerusalem to become acquainted (Gk. istoria) with Cephas" - Paul's words from Galatians 1:18.

"I Love You" Is Imprinted In My Life, Not My Lips

Self-absorption is defined as "a preoccupation with one's own feelings, interests, or situation to the neglect of others." 

By nature, every person is self-absorbed (selfish). We constantly think about how we feel, what we like, and how we can change people around us to more enjoy our lives than we think about what is best for others.

Selfishness is like a slithering snake with a poisonous bite. Nobody sees it as it silently and secretly slithers closer. It is rarely noticed until it strikes. Few flaunt their love for self, and most deny ever loving self, but selfishness afflicts every human being.

When one thinks about self-absorption biblically (and logically), one may trace the source of every dysfunction and maladjustment in life to the serpent of self-absorption  "For where there is self-absorption and selfish ambition, there you will find disorder and every evil practice" (James 3:16).

Here are a few symptoms of the poison of self-absorption:

1. Your finger freezes in a permanent position of pointing at others.
2. Your brain fixates on fixing others with nary a thought of fixing yourself
3. Your tongue casts continual condemnations of character in others.
4. Your eyes lock on the worst in people but go blind when looking at yourself.
5. Your heart is searing in pain and you're unable to love the person you blame for the pain.

Self-absorption must be crushed to live life to its fullest.

I must die to self.

Jesus alone has the power to crush the head of the serpent that poisons my life. Surrendering to Him as Lord moves me to focus only on the sin in me (Genesis 3:15) and to always see the best in others. To be His disciple, "I must daily die to self and follow Him" (Luke 9:23).

So how do I know Jesus has crushed the head of the serpent of selfishness in my life?

Real Love Is the Antidote

"By your love, all will know that you are my disciples." (John 13:35)

There used to run on television a Wendy's commercial where an elderly lady would order a hamburger from a rival hamburger chain, separate the buns, and ask the question, "Where's the beef?"

I think those of us who name Christ as Lord should ask the question: "Where's the love?" 

I can claim to be Christ's disciple and can say "I love you," but the proof is in the way I live. Christ fills my heart with love for others because He daily crushes the serpent of self-absorption in me. 

The result of this crushing of self-absorption in me is similar to what happens when a thorned-stemmed rose is crushed. The sweet aroma that rises from me is the fragrance of love for others. 

Love In the Mirror

When a self-absorbed person says, "I love you," what he means is "You make me feel good," or "You make me look good," or "You make my life good."

Christ slays this self-absorbed concept of love and fills our hearts with real love.

So what does this real love look like?

It is beautifully described in I Corinthians 13. There are fifteen characteristics of real love.



1. Love is patient.

The Greek word translated "patience" is a compound word meaning longsuffering. I don't really display the love of God until I suffer. More pointedly, real love involves suffering a long time. To love while suffering is like the dark side of the moon. It is rarely seen or discussed. We all suffer deceit, broken promises, slander, disrespect, unjust anger, rejection, and innumerable kinds of other injuries. Most people "want out" of relationship when that happens. When self-absorption is not present, I'll suffer long and love others.

2. Love is kind.

Kindness is more than just "grinning and bearing it." This biblical word kindness means "doing good." "Do not repay evil for evil to anyone; but always do good to all" (Romans 12:17, 21). That is real love.  Love is not saying "I love you" because "You make me feel good." Real love is showing "I love you" by doing kind things for you even when you're evil towards me. 

3. Love does not envy. 

Christ causes His people to feel content "whether our rank is as high as that of angels, or as low as that of beggars." We have learned, by God's grace, to be content in any situation we are in (Philippians 4:11). So we "rejoice with those that are rejoicing" (Romans 12:15). Love means we find happiness in seeing others prosper. 

4. Love does not boast.

Love never exalts myself to a superior position by saying, "I would never do that!" or "That's one thing that can't be said about me!" Boasting is a declaration of comparison. Boasting is the belief that others are not as good as I. Rather than saying, "I am the very least of all the saints" (Ephesians 3:8) and "I am the foremost of sinners" (I Timothy 1:15), I'm conveying "I don't deserve this" through a spirit of superiority.  When I compare and boast I am defending myself, not loving others outside of myself.

5. Love is not arrogant (proud).

The difference between boasting and arrogance is similar to the difference between what is displayed on the outside of the house and what actually goes on in inside. Arrogance is an attitude; boasting is a behavior. I must be careful from assigning pride to others (I do not know others' hearts), but I must be diligent in identifying pride within myself. Love is not proud. Humility is not stooping to be smaller than I am, Humility is standing at my true height with an appreciation for the Highest. When I truly see God, I see myself as no big deal.  

6. Love does not dishonor others.

Facebook, politics, and Hollywood seek to convince me that rude, uncouth, unbecoming individuals are people I should admire or imitate. But Christ tells me something different. "Love does not act unbecomingly"  When I am rude, denigrating, and dishonoring to others, it's a sign that self-absorption rules and Christ's love is absent. Outward disappropriation of you is a sign of Divine reprobation in me.

7. Love is not self-seeking.

Before Christ, life was all about self. It was all about demanding my rights, getting what is due me, and forging my way ahead of others. But Jesus performs a transformational change within. He changes the inner compass. "Love is not self-seeking." As Albert Barnes writes,  "No man is a Christian who lives for himself alone. No man is a Christian who does not deny himself. No one who's not willing to sacrifice his own comfort, time, wealth, and ease, to advance the welfare of mankind has any part in Christ."

8. Love is not easily provoked.

The word translated provoke (paroxynomai) means "to make sharp, sharpen" as in stir up, stimulate,  irritate, arouse to anger, or exasperate. This verse is translated "not easily provoked" (KJV), "not provoked" (NASB, NKJV), "not irritable" (ESV), "not upset with others" (NCV). It's used only 4 times in the New Testament. Whenever we allow another person to control our emotions, we reveal self-absorption. We want to "feel," "experience,' or "live" a certain way, and the person who "provokes us" is getting in our way. What is it everyone wants in life? "What is desired in a man is steadfast love" (Proverbs 19:22). When I develop the habit of turning to the steadfast love of God (Psalm 33:20-22).

9. Love keeps no record of wrongs.

There is a distinction to be made between wrongs suffered by me and wrongs suffered by others. Resentment over the former is called hate; resentment over the latter is called honor. The refusal to keep a record of wrongs perpetrated against me is an act of genuine love. But God calls on me to protect the weak, the persecuted, and the defenseless people in our world, so I must notice wrongs done to others (and keep a record). "Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked" (Psalm 82:4).  God never wastes my experiences or sorrows. He reigns over the affairs of my life with transcendent goodness. I can rest, refusing to keep a record of wrongs done to me because "we know that God causes all things to work together for good" (Romans 8:28). Do you know this to be true in your life? If so, you'll keep no list of the wrongs done toward you. 

List keeping of the wrongs done toward you is not a list kept on a refrigerator door. It is a list locked in your mind and heart and revealed through your language:
List keepers use absolute language. "You always, you never, I would never, etc."
List keepers relate based on performance. Loved ones get tired of trying to measure up.
List keepers can't trust; they protect themselves. The prospect of future hurt paralyzes relationships.
List keepers hurt people because they hurt themselves. Healing only comes from Christ.
10. Love does not delight in unrighteousness.

What does this mean? The word unrighteousness translates the Greek adikia (a = not + dik√™ = right) and means "a condition of not being right."  A loving person will take steps to make right what is not right, help straighten what is bent, correct what is crooked, and adust what is unjust. But the motivation is always for the betterment of others, never oneself. Since God alone has the power to make right the unrighteous, God's people are only tools in God's hand. The tools remain on the shelf if the crooked one is blind to his crookedness. So we pray that God will turn on the light in another person's heart and patiently wait to be used by God when He turns the light on.

11. Love rejoices with the truth.

When Jesus is Lord, we come to grips with reality and rejoice! This is who I am. This is what I've done. This is where I've been. This is me. Truth in Greek is the compound word alethia. The little "a" means—not,  and "lethe" means - hiding; So truth means "not forgetting" or "not hiding" In ancient Greek mythology Lethe was the daughter of Eris, goddess of strife and discord. Lethe was known for her sleeping and hiding in the shadows. She is often contrasted to the goddess of memory and light—Mnemosyne. The Greeks gave to the river that flows through the valley of Hades the name Lethe. Ancient Greeks believed that souls were made to drink from the river Lethe before being reincarnated so that they would not remember their past lives. This forgetting and concealing were "good things" to the ancients.

But for the Christian, the little "a" (not) before "lethe" (hiding) best describes who we are. We are people who don't hide or cover. Real love never allows us to forget our faults and never encourages us to hide our harmful habits. We rejoice in alethia because God loves us "even when we were sinners." Why seek to get steadfast love from anyone else but Him.  The person who rejoices with the truth is always quick to seek forgiveness of others and never hides in shame when faults are pointed out by others because he or she is secure in God's love for them.

12. Love bears all things.

The word "bear" in English translates the Greek word stego. This words means "to cover" or "to hide." It conveys the idea that you will "cover" or "hide" the faults of those you love. You might object and say, "Wait! We just read that love "rejoices in the truth!" You're correct. Alethia means "to not hide" and people who love always rejoice in not hiding. So which is it? Do we hide and cover or do we not hide and not cover? 

Answer: Love means I am open about my faults, but I cover the faults of others. In every marriage counseling session when one spouse is more vocal about their mates' faults, I immediately began asking probing questions of the one pointing his or her finger at the other person. Marriages ultimately break down because someone is refusing to love the other person. "Love covers a multitude of sins" (I Peter 4:8). We are not ashamed to reveal our faults, our failures, our wrongs, our past, our sins. Jesus Christ has removed the guilt we feel and given us the love we need; we are open. But we get no joy or satisfaction pointing out weaknesses and failures in those we love.

This "bearing" does not mean "enabling." Not at all. Love means that I will always talk to the one I love about his problems for his sake, but I will refuse to talk with other people the problems of the one I love. 

13. Love believes all things.

Love looks beyond where a person has been to where a person is headed. That means one who loves looks beyond what others have done to what others are declaring. Love believes. This truth might cause some concern in some because it's different than what many have been taught. "Talk is cheap," we are told. "Doing is proving it." That's true when it comes to a personal evaluation of myself. But placing others on a performance scale is the opposite of loving people. Peter asked, "Lord, how often will my brother sin against me and I forgive him? (Matthew 18:21). Jesus responded, "Seventy times seven!" which actually is a Hebraism for infinity.

There is never an occasion where you are not to forgive the one you love.  In a parallel passage, Jesus says. "If your loved one sins against you seven times in a day, and returns to you seven times, saying, 'I repent,' forgive him" (Luke 17:4). The disciples respond, "Lord, increase our faith." (Matthew 5:38-48). It's not increased faith that is needed; it's increased love. Love believes the person who says, even if the person does repeatedly opposite of what he says. Believing others doesn't do us any real harm because being hoodwinked and defrauded by others is in God's hands, not ours. It's better to believe in someone and have your heart broken than to have no heart. British poet Alfred Tennyson wrote, "'Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all." If you've ever told somebody, "I don't believe you," you're actually saying, "I don't love you."

14. Love hopes all things.

"Love hopes" is not "wishful thinking" about other people. Hope conveys a settled certainty. Hope is the Greek word elpizo, and if you make elpizo negative by adding the preposition "a" in Greek (apelpizo), you have the Greek word  for "despair."  Hope in all people means you never despair over people. When I love others by never losing hope in people, I will not let myself become dependant on the actions of another for my personal happiness. I will never shut myself off from one who has mistreated me or wronged me. I will recognize that life's events are orchestrated by God for my good and His glory. I will always be conscious and aware that my need for control reveals my distrust in God. I will live life with the joy of each present moment and without any fear over the future. "Therefore having such a hope, we have great boldness" (II Corinthians 3:12).

15. Love endures all things.

When I endure, I abide in a relationship and do not personally abandon. This word "endure" is the Greek word hupomeno and occurs seventeen times in the New Testament. It is a compound word: hupounder and menoabide. It means "to abide under a burden." When I love someone, I don't abandon him or her, but you abide in the relationship. When I endure, I support you and feel no need to shame you. I am not enduring when things are going well; I am enjoying.  Endurance speaks of a burden. "Hupo" refers a willingness to abide under a burden, to lift, and to support. When I endure others and the burdens they bring, I love people the way Christ loves me. "Let's fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of God" (Hebrews 12:2). 

Summary: Next time we're moved to declare our love, we might consider reading I Corinthians 13 to ensure the love we profess is our way of living and not just our way of speaking. 

The Scepter Shall Not Depart Judah Until Shiloh Comes, and to Him Shall Be Obedience (Gen 49:10)

Of the dozens of Messianic prophecies from the Old Testament, each of them beautifully fulfilled in the coming of Jesus Christ to bring "peace" (i.e. the meaning of the Hebrew word Shiloh) between sinners and our Creator, the prophecy from Genesis 49:10 is my favorite.
"The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, 
until Shiloh comes, and to Him shall be the obedience of the peoples."
If you half an hour to spare and a willing mind, watch this video to help cement your understanding of why the Bible is unique among all other books and Jesus is sent from God as the Savior and Messiah of the world.

 
Wade Burleson: Until Shiloh Comes from Emmanuel Enid on Vimeo.