He loved me and Gave Himself for me

“Use your self-control.”

This is one of my favorite takeaways from my son’s preschool teachers this year.  They are so gentle and measured when they say it.

He’s ready to lose it over a near-tragedy—not getting to sit next to his good friend or struggling with the zipper to his backpack because it’s extra full that day.

Their gentle reminder is the same: “Use your self-control.”

I love that it assumes he  has self-control and that he can access it, that somehow this little pause and this little reminder gives him the ability to breathe….reflect….choose.

Meltdown?  Or self-control?

He’s in progress.  He sometimes  chooses meltdown.

Me too.

Fruitfulness is part of the Holy Spirit’s work in us.  It means He is alive, and He is active, and we are yielded to Him.

Paul tells us:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness,goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control. The law is not against such things (Galatians 5:22-23 CSB). 

It’s not a list for me to tackle like some holy agenda.  It is not up to me to manufacture goodness or to self-concoct gentleness or peace.   It takes  a leaning in with the full weight of my fractured soul on the strength and the character of God in me.

May He be at work and may the work-in-progress be me.

May He be the one to cultivate love in me, to stir up joy, to  grow patience, to establish goodness.

May I be the one to learn, to long for the Spirit and to open myself up to the work that He does.  May I be the one to  focus my eyes on Jesus and His own fruitfulness because He is the perfect model of:

Love.
Joy
Peace
Patience
Kindness
Goodness
Faithfulness
Gentleness
Self-Control

And when I see this fruit in Jesus,  I love Him for it.  I long to be like Him, to let Him shine in my heart, to turn over hardened ground and to till up the soil and to plant the seeds.  Fruitfulness, Lord.  Abundant fruitfulness in my life. 

It seems fitting during Holy Week to consider Jesus and the fruit He bore out on the cross.

Some conflict, some uncertainty, some worry, some stress may bring out the uglies in me.  I’m not always loving, not always peaceful, not always gentle when my kids are picking at each other at the kitchen table and we’re rushing because we need  to be out the door in 8 minutes and I’m still  trying  to cook dinner and give a practice spelling test to  a child.

But Jesus endured all of the pain of the garden, the betrayal, the trial, the beating, the mocking, the condemnation, the cross, the sin and the separation.

And the fruitfulness is still there:  He showed love, joy, peace.  Despite the pain, He was gentle and kind, good and faithful.

He also “used His self-control” by choosing the cross for Himself so He could offer forgiveness to us.  It was, after all, His choice to make.

He wrestled in prayer and made the final declaration on His knees:   “Not my will, but Thy will be done.”

That set His destination.   He would not give into fear or to  the flesh.  He would  choose the cross.

And He chose not to call down angels to rescue Him when the soldiers marched into the Garden of Gethsemane (Matthew 27:41-42).

With the very power of His voice there  in the Garden, He spoke the words:  I AM.  Then all of the military might fell to the ground, struck down by two  small words spoken by the Messiah.

What an embarrassing mess for them.  They were all geared up, swords and clubs at the ready, and a completely average-looking Jewish teacher said two little words and they landed on their backsides.

They walked out of the Garden with Jesus  as their captive because Jesus chose to be their captive.  Paul says it this way, Jesus “loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20 CSB).

The author, Selwyn Hughes, reminds me that Paul lists self-control last in the fruit of the Spirit.  It’s not first.  We don’t begin with self-control and then produce all  the other fruit, even though that’s likely what we try to do sometimes.

“I will be more holy. I will be more righteous. I will hate sin more.”

That’s self-righteousness at work.

Instead, Hughes writes that we begin with love—just as Paul lists it in Galatians 5– and “when you begin with love, you end up with self-control.”

Christ’s love covers us and compels us.

Because we are oh-so-loved by a Savior who is oh-so-good and who chose the cross for us,  we delight in Him and in what pleases Him and what pleases Him is the Spirit’s fruit in us.

Martyr Mom Returns the T-Shirt

Sighing.  I find myself doing it often.  It’s because I’m not a huge fan of interruptions and it’s because I’m selfish and neither of those issues mesh well with life as a work-at-home mom of three young daughters.

So, I sigh.  “Mom, can you?”  Big, shoulder-heaving sigh.  “Mom, I need help . .. ” Deeply dramatic sigh.  “Mom, I’m thirsty.  I’m hungry.  I’m tired.  Can I cuddle?  Can we play Candy Land?”   More sighing.

In her book, Be the Mom: Overcome Attitude Traps and Enjoy Your Kids, Tracey Lanter Ester calls this the “Martyr Mom.”

Do they sell t-shirts for that?

In all fairness to me, there’s something particularly frustrating about apparently hidden “Mom Alarms” on all the seats in the house.  The moment I begin to ease down into the sofa or a chair, a child (or two or three) yells out “Mom!!” somewhere in the house.

Treating service like martyrdom, though, reduces ministry to a burden instead of an honor and a privilege.

There’s neediness around us. Moms respond to cries and sniffles and grandmas to hands lifted up for a hug.  Perhaps at work you’re taking lunch breaks with the girl in the next cubicle over who shuffled in this morning with eyes reddened from tears.  There’s the cashier at the grocery store who needs you to hang up the cell phone and pause for a smile and the friend who needs you to take time for a phone call and a lunch date.

We’re foot washers.  That’s what God called us to be.  He asked us to bend down low, stooping down out of our own agendas of personal satisfaction and busyness, to touch the messiness of those around us with love and humility.

All without complaining or tossing out loud sighs of fatigue and annoyance.

Jesus, after all, did this for us.  He chose sacrifice for us, without complaint, without sighs of frustration and without dramatizing the heavy load of the burden.

The night Jesus was betrayed, He “crossed the Kidron valley” along the way to the garden where He loved to pray (John 18:1).

Beth Moore notes this valley was “a deep ravine which had been a large cemetery since before 1500 BC.  The Kidron Valley was infamous for being the center of death and the grave” (Moore, Living Beyond Yourself).

Oh how often he must have walked steadily through the graves, the literal valley of the shadow of death, in order to reach the familiar garden.

It wasn’t a one-time journey.  Judas the betrayer knew where to find Jesus that night because he “knew the place, because Jesus had often met there with his disciples” (John 18:2).

Christ chose to pray in the familiar place, knowing Judas, an insider, would find him easily.

Then the soldiers arrived along with “some officials from the chief priests and the Pharisees.  They were carrying torches, lanterns and weapons” (John 18:3).  Judas brought along a “detachment” of soldiers—a full 600 men—not just a few random Roman guards to protect him from the angry disciples.

 For a moment, it sounds like the sacrifice was forced.  Like Jesus’ death was imposed on him, the victory of Satan over a helpless man—of 600 soldiers over one unarmed Jewish leader.

And yet, Jesus, “knowing all that was going to happen to him, went out and asked them, ‘Who is it you want?’  ‘Jesus of Nazareth,’ they replied.  ‘I AM he,’ Jesus said . . . When Jesus said, ‘I AM he,’ they drew back and fell to the ground” (John 18:4-5).

Six-hundred armed soldiers fell to the ground simultaneously at the name of Jesus.
Beth Moore notes: “In the King James Version, the word he in verses 5 and 8 appears in italics, which means the word is not in the original text but is added for our understanding” (Living Beyond Yourself).

“Whom do you seek?”

“Jesus.”

“I AM.”

Jesus wasn’t carried off to trial, torture and crucifixion, helplessly caught up in the triumph of Satan and death and the grave.

He chose to go with 600 soldiers who couldn’t even stand on their feet at the sound of HIS HOLY NAME.

Paul tells us that Jesus “gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good” (Titus 2:14 NIV).

He says it again: Jesus “gave himself for our sins” (Galatians 1:4) and then later exhorted the church to “walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” (Ephesians 5:2 NIV).

Jesus gave himself up for us.  He chose sacrifice for us.

And Paul asks us to “walk in the way of love,” this very same sacrificial, non-complaining, freely given love, without sighs, but with joy in the worship of service.

Who has Christ asked you to serve today?

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer for www.myfrienddebbie.com and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  Her upcoming book, Ask Me Anything, Lord: Opening Our Hearts to God’s Questions, will be released in the Fall of 2013!  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2012 Heather King