Thursday, February 13, 2014

Be in Awe of Jesus and Love Yourself

I have a two-fold request for you. First, read again the title of this post.

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.


Anonymous said...

Wade - Thanks for this. I have been duped. Struggling so with all of this. Happy Valentines Day to me! I appreciate your teachings. Deb - Mrs. Hillybilly

Wade Burleson said...


You are welcome. May the previous dupe reverse itself into a glorious truth.

Bob Cleveland said...

You know, I'll bet a lot of conventional pastors of this day will feel the same thing, reading this, that the conventional priests of 2000 years ago felt when they read what Jesus said.

Write on, you radical.....

Wade Burleson said...


Radical grace, radical love, radical Jesus.

Amen to radical! :)

Anonymous said...

Bro. Wade,
you said: " I am about to blow away everything you've ever been taught by mainstream religion."

Sorry, but I figured it out a long time ago. But thanks for the reminder.

Unfortunately though, a lot of people seem to prefer to live within the bondage of religion instead of the freedom of grace. I am not exactly sure why that is.

Thanks for an excellent Valentine's Day Post.

Off The Cuff

Wade Burleson said...

Off the Cuff,

Happy Valentine's Day as well to my fellow bare-footed pilgrim!


Beth Duncan said...

Just wonderful, Wade. I put a link to this on my fb page.

Tom Kelley said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tom Kelley said...

Thanks, Wade, for writing and sharing this. The church today so very much needs to hear the message of God's radical grace and to be reminded to cast off performance-based religion and instead be overwhelmed by God's unconditional and unfathomable love.

That said (and I don't wish to be disagreeable), I don't think that God's command to love your neighbor as you love yourself carries with it a command to love yourself. Rather, I believe it carries with it a recognition that we already naturally love ourselves (i.e., we desire what we think are good things for ourselves). The command is that, just as we love (want good things for) ourselves, we should likewise be willing to love (want good things for) others.

That we already love ourselves is borne out in several passages of scripture, one of which is Ephesians 5:29: "For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church."

Thus we don't have to learn to love ourselves before we can love others -- the assumption is that we already love ourselves. Humans possess an innate, God-given self-love. This is a good thing, but unfortunately, we often distort it into self-will or self-worship.

Even those who suffer from feelings of self-loathing or low self esteem have love for themselves, though they might not realize it. If I truly hated another person, I would not want good or better things for them, and I would be pleased when they did not get the good things they wanted. Likewise, if I truly hated myself, I would not want good things for myself and I would be pleased when bad things happened to me. If they truly hated themselves, they would be pleased by whatever it is about themselves that they find unappealing. But the fact that someone is unhappy with something about themselves is evidence that they innately think they should have something better or be something better -- evidence of their innate, God-given self-love.

All this is beside your main point of our need to love others and not be caught up in the wrong idea of a performance-based relationship with God. But I do think it is an important distinction to note that it is not a matter of learning to love ourselves before we can love others. Just as God already loved us before we loved Him, so we already love ourselves and we don't need to learn self-love, we just need to love others like we already love ourselves.

Victorious said...

Likewise, if I truly hated myself, I would not want good things for myself and I would be pleased when bad things happened to me. If they truly hated themselves, they would be pleased by whatever it is about themselves that they find unappealing.

I respectfully disagree with this Tom. The world is filled with people who are self-loathing and/or have extreme low self esteem. There are disabled, diseased, disfigured, battered, assaulted, poor, neglected individuals who are treated badly by others and even family. Many are starved for someone to love them; to look beyond their outside appearance; to recognize their value; to validate their very existence.

The love of Jesus may be the very first experience of a genuine, caring person who finds value in them as a human being.

We just can't assume everyone loves themselves or even possesses a healthy dose of self-esteem.

Many times anger masks the pain and sadness in one's life so the self-loathing may not manifest itself as such, but it's there nevertheless. Also many wear masks in an effort to hide their feelings of unhappiness in themselves.

These types do need to see themselves as worthy to be loved and develop a love of self. This can happen when they come to know the Savior and His unconditional love for them.

Tom Kelley said...

Hi Victorious,
I respectfully disagree with your respectful disagreement. :)

Perhaps I was not as clear as I hoped to be. I do recognize that people feel self-loathing and have low self-esteem. But I make a distinction between those feelings and a lack of self love.

I don't define love primarily in terms of emotion or affection, but rather in terms of action and attitude. If I truly love someone, I want good things for them (the best things for them, actually). What is truly best for them may not be what they want, or what I want. It may not always be what feels good for them or for me. But genuine love always wants the best for someone else.

A person may have a very high opinion of themselves and feel really great about themselves, but that isn't necessarily self love. They could be doing things that are damaging to themselves in the long run, but they make them feel good, so they feel happy and pleased with their choices. Such a person isn't truly acting in their own best interests.

Similarly, a person can have very low self esteem and feel self loathing, but that doesn't mean they have no self love. I believe it is really an indication that they have distorted their self love into self pity, self absorption, and self focus. They need to learn to love themselves correctly, based on God's view of them as a beloved child. But some degree of self love is already there because it is an innate, God-given gift.

So I'm not saying that all people feel great about themselves. Obviously many people don't I am saying that all people already innately possess some form of self love (desire for good and better things for ourselves). The person consumed with self-loathing feels that way precisely because they have an innate sense that things should be better for them than they are. They feel badly about themselves because somewhere inside their innate self love tells them something is wrong.

Again, when God commands us to love others as we love ourselves the implication is that we already love ourselves; it is not a command to love ourselves. Both basic grammar and the rest of the Bible's teachings bear this out.

Tom Kelley said...

Also, we are not loved by God because we are worthy of His love. We are loved because of His worthiness and in spite of our unworthiness. His love and salvation transform us so that we are no longer what we were, and in Him we become worthy, but all of that is because of who He is, not because of who we were. He loved us first, not because He saw something worth loving, but because He saw someone who needed to be loved.

Wade Burleson said...


I see both sides. I understand "total depravity." I believe we are all sinners. I get the imputation of sin.

What I'm trying to communicate is there IS WORTH in any person for whom Christ died.

I would have to respectfully disagree with the song that says "And did my Savior bleed for such a worm as I?"

I don't see King Jesus believing anyone for whom He died to be a worm. God the Father came to die for sinners BECAUSE of the dignity and worth of human beings.

Tom, I completely understand what you are saying about "self-love," but I'm tweaking it just a bit and lean more toward victorious and posit that what reformed theologians conjecture to be self-love is really self-hate - and only the love of God in Jesus brings real self-love.

So, naturally, we hate ourselves (for sin leads us to hate who we are and demand others to love us as we are), but Christ leads us to love who we are and give others freedom to reject us instead of loving us.

Good discussion.

Victorious said...

Tom, when we read in Isaiah 61 the prophetic words about Jesus, He specifically mentions the afflicted, the brokenhearted, those who are captives, those who mourn, are blind, etc.

Can we say these types of persons are self-absorbed and full of self-pity? Can we say they really do have self love, but they are just too self-focused to recognize it? If Jesus had compassion on those and recognized the pain of their suffering, He validated my point that there are many who do not have a love of self due to circumstances beyond their control. He came to repair, restore and reconcile. When those things are accomplished in one's life, they develop a degree of healthy self-esteem based on who they are in Him and what He has done to heal them.

I agree 100% that we are not loved by God because we are worthy but because we are His child once we are born into His Kingdom. We respond to His love because He first loved us.

Anonymous said...

It would seem to me Tom is correct. If I am downtrodden, burdened, and miserable that very misery proves I believe I deserve not to be so mistreated. Self love already in existence.


Tom Kelley said...

Hi Wade,
I don't agree with the "worm theology" either. And yes, humans have inherent worth and value to God, and I can agree with the idea that God provided salvation for us because of the worth He places on us.

Perhaps it just how the words strike me personally, but I see a difference between the idea of us having worth to God and us being worthy of his love and grace. In my mind, the word "worth" implies that God places value on us, but the word "worthy" implies that there is something about us that deserves or demands that He value us. I think he values us because we reflect His image (even if distorted by sin), not because He has to, but rather because He chooses to.

Regarding self-love vs self-hate, I do see your point. Apart from Christ even if we want to love ourselves (or anyone else) we can't get it right, so we need His power and Spirit to work in us for us to even love ourselves rightly. But I still think that when Jesus commands us to love others as we love ourselves, the implication is that we already do love ourselves to some degree, even if imperfectly. I would paraphrase the word "as" to "just as" -- i.e., love others, just as we love ourselves. Not meaning to the same degree, but meaning in an analogous way.

Tom Kelley said...

Hi Victorious,
I think we are talking about different aspects or nuances of the same topic. When I say that even those who have low self esteem possess some form of self love, I do not mean that every person who is suffering or mourning or afflicted is just being self absorbed. Clearly we all experience struggles and pain that are through no fault of our own and when we are going through those times we need compassion, not for someone to condemn us for thinking too much of ourselves.

As I've said, I realize that many people do experience feelings of self loathing and worthlessness. And I do not mean to dismiss anyone's emotional pain. How people feel about themselves and their circumstances matters very much to God.

But still I distinguish between love as an emotion and love as actions, choices and attitudes. When I say all people have some degree self love, the love I am referring to is not the emotion, but rather the desire for what is good or best for someone (including ourselves). So when I say the command to love others as we love ourselves implies that we already do love ourselves, based on how I am defining love, I am saying it could be translated, "desire what is good for others, just as you desire what is good for yourself."

I believe that everyone, even those who feel self-loathing still desire, somewhere inside, beneath all the pain, things that are good and better than what they have been experiencing. The pain is a reflection of a desire for something better for themselves.

Wade Burleson said...

"The pain is a reflection of a desire for something better for themselves."

Excellent! That's my point, Tom (but said much more eloquently by you!).

It is becoming in awe of Jesus that you discover the riches of His grace and DISCOVER your desire "for something better for myself" MET - in HIM!

So - Be in AWE of Jesus and LOVE yourself!


Tom Kelley said...

Amen, Wade!

Tom Rich said...

Wade - thanks for another post that seems to say what I wished I could have said and have felt in my heart for several years but couldn't express it like you just did.

Just one comment, where you say:

"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."

The sad truth is that many pastors don't just say that you must conform to get God to like you, but they have painted God as a genie in the sky waiting to curse you or harm you if you don't do this or that, or give a minimum 10% to their church. I believe this is what is driving young believers completely away from their faith. They hear this in their churches growing up, and then they enter college or the work force and realize they were lied to.

This dynamic of these false teachings on the basics of Christianity, young people ultimately realizing the false teachings, then rejecting their faith - it causes family turmoil and pain when the kids leave fundamentalism and one or both parents are still entrenched. All reasons fundamentalism is so dangerous and hurts good people.

ScottShaver said...

With respect to Tom Kelley:

There is the kind of person who needs a Saviour who is not as hard upon them as they are upon themselves.

...otherwise, they have no hope.

Appreciate your angle Wade.

ScottShaver said...

With respect to Tom Kelley:

There is the kind of person who needs a Saviour who is not as hard upon them as they are upon themselves.

...otherwise, they have no hope.

Appreciate your angle Wade.

Anonymous said...

Food for thought: not all systems of theology start with the premise humans are worthless or worms. Our time in the Wesleyan Holiness stream taught us mankind was created very good, and despite the fall we were of inestimable worth to God. Basically it was a more love and relationship centered faith. Very different from our brief sojourn in IFB heavy, and Lordship Salvation heavy Calvinism areas.


Darrel said...

Wade, Tom and others,
This is just the kind of double talk the church does not need. Are you seriously trying to start something new with this nonsense for the sake of notoriety, because your assumptions and assertions are foreign to Scripture? The "self esteem" and "love yourself" garbage is the root cause of the egotistical pulpit and has no place in the Body of Christ or Scripture. Did some one redact Luke 9:23-26 from your Bible? What about 1 Peter 5:5? That disappear too?

I hope you can find the time for some serious soul searching for what you are teaching is doing great harm to the church, not to mention the Name of the Lord Jesus. I would suggest an in depth study of the attributes of God with particular emphasis on His sovereignty, something that those who place themselves too highly in their own esteem tend to shy away from.

Anonymous said...

Wade do you not perhaps think that the love yourself that Jesus told as the second greatest commandment is built on the perspective that people already love themselves - the me first attitude - and so instead of loving self love others?