Praying for and practicing God's love; the command of Matthew 5:44-48, beautifully explained in a practical way in this beautiful book, ABCs of Bible prayer by Glenn Coon, pages 74 -76 (suggested by Azadeh):
Now we come to the fourth section of our study. Now we want to know the A, B, C's of sharing or displaying the Lord's love. If we are retaliating at all - in any way to anyone - then we need this love. We need it badly. Have you ever retaliated? I have. Have you ever retaliated since becoming a Christian? I have retaliated since becoming a minister. So we're all in the same boat. But it's a pretty poor place to be and we must not stay there. This divine love for which the Sabbath stands, is creative love. In Genesis 2:1-3 and Exodus 20:8-11 we are told that the Sabbath is a sign of God's creative power. He worked six days in which He spoke the world into existence and rested on the seventh day - therefore we ought to rest as He did and as He has commanded us to. The Sabbath is a sign of our God being a creator.
Now we take a promise by which to get the love that comes from God. Romans 5:5, "And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us."
This is the promise. We can kneel down and put our finger on Romans 5:5 and ask God for the fulfillment of the promise. We can boldly ask Him for this creative love that comes from the God of the universe. We ask Him to fill our hearts with this love.
Or you may wish to claim Ezekiel 36:26 where the promise is made: "A new heart will I give you...." Only the Creator can give you a new heart. He has promised a new spirit as well. "And," God promises, "I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh."
Or you may wish to take Psalm 51:10, "Create in me a clean heart, 0 God; and renew a right spirit within me."
Another promise is couched in the language of Romans 8:9 where it says, "Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his." We can be one of God's children if we ask. This verse tells us that to be one of Christ's children we must have the spirit of love and joy which Christ had. This is ours - Christ promised it to you and to me.
We can place our hand on any of these promises and claim just the promise it makes. How many times I have taken Ezekiel 36:26 and placed my hand on that promise and asked God for love and understanding of my brethren. How often I have taken Romans 8:9 and prayed for the Spirit of Christ to flood my soul. Psalm 51 has many tear-stains on it where I have wept and let the tears fall on the Book. God hears and marvelous things have happened in this old heart of mine.
It's so simple, yet so powerful! First we find the promise. Then placing our finger on it we ask God for this love to be shed abroad in our hearts. We look into His face and say, "Now Lord, because You are the Creator as well as my Redeemer, You have the power to speak a world into existence, and You can speak a new heart into existence. I have misrepresented Your love, dear Lord, for the Sabbath is a sign of divine love, and I haven't displayed it. Someone said some mean thing about me, and I retaliated. Forgive me, Lord. Now I ask You to shed abroad Your love. I know I can't speak kind words unless my heart is kind; I can't show love unless I have a reservoir of love in my heart. Lord, I need the love that comes from You. Please let Your love be shed abroad in my heart. Now Lord I believe You are doing it. I believe and claim it and return thanks to You for having done it."
Now what do I do? I follow the instruction of Matthew 5:44 where it tells me to love my enemy. I now make a list of all of the good qualities of the one that is being mean and unkind to me. You’ll be amazed at what happens when you start doing that. All of the good qualities are there in black and white! The devil won't like that. He doesn't want you to make a list like that. It points up the good in the one whom he would have us think has not one good quality.
"Bless them that curse you...." Read the list over and let your ears hear these good qualities. This is blessing them. God didn't say, "bless them out!" He said, "Bless them. . . ." Many people would like to add the word 'out' into the phrase, but it isn't there! God says, "Say something good about your enemies..."
Now God says, "do good to them," This isn't just an idea - this is a command. It isn't my idea - this is God's program. It came from the One who said, "Be perfect..." You and I cannot change our motives; this has to be done by divine love. But we can ask and believe and claim this divine love, and if I claim it and return thanks that I have it, I'll start doing it. This is what happens. If I cannot change my motives, and I realize I can't; when I obey God and begin to do some kind, good acts to someone who has done a mean act to me, God gives me the emotion when I use the motion He tells me to.
Many years ago, my wife and I were living in a house trailer. We were in itinerant evangelism. We came to a little city and found a trailer park and arranged to park the trailer in a trailer space. There was an empty space right next to our space and I parked the car on that space. I had no idea it was being used by my neighbor, but when he came home and found I had parked my car on this empty space, he was very unhappy with me. I might say he was mad, for it was just that bad! He came out to where I was and he blessed me out, good and proper!
I explained immediately that I had no idea that this was his parking space and I apologized for having taken it, but he wouldn't accept my apology at all. He might be called a thoroughbred, registered publican! I went into my house trailer and I'll have to admit I didn't feel very good. Here I had apologized and this man had simply refused to accept my apology. In the first place I didn't know it was his parking space; in the second place I never would have parked there if I had known it was his space. In the third place I had apologized; and in the fourth place the man didn't accept it in the first place!! This didn't make me feel very good.
I didn't know what to do. A man feels miserable when he's upset emotionally. So I had to have a talk with the Lord. I said, "Lord, do something to these emotions."
The Lord said, "Do what I have told you to do - do something good."
"But what can I do to a man who won't even accept an apology?"
The Lord said, "Didn't you bring a load of oranges and grapefruit up from Florida? Go and share some of them with the rascal!"
So I went into the cupboard and picked out some nice oranges and grapefruit and took them over to his trailer. This man literally stared at me. He just stood there and stared. I said, "Do you folk like oranges and grapefruit?" When I said that, I began to see the faintest smile come over his face.
"Why yes," he said, "we do."
"Well, I wonder if you could do me a favor. We brought so many with us and we would like to share these oranges with someone before they spoil. Could you use some?
At that they smiled - a real publican smile and said, "Thank you, thank you..."
I don't know if they belong to a church choir or a board of deacons and Ladies Aid Society, but when they saw those oranges and grapefruits - every evil trait was gone - it vanished! I know one thing: I surely felt better. When I first went over, I felt I lived in a mobile home and he lived in a trailer; when I returned, I felt we both lived in mobile homes!
God says, "Do good to them...." Express confidence that God has shed abroad His love in your heart and speak words of commendation and love for those that might be guilty of mistreating you. Do it. Only then will you experience the entrance of this divine love. This experience is part of the great Divine Plan God has made for His people; this is Seventh-day Adventism - and I like it! Anything less than this is not Seventh-day Adventism - it's Publicanism; it's 'hen-love'; it's 'cow-love'. What we must have is the love of Jesus. Not only must we possess it, but we must display it!
Notice Psalm 60:4, "Thou hast given a banner to them that fear thee, that it may be displayed because of the truth."
Do you love truth? God says if we love truth, we'll display it. We'll not merely talk about the truth, we'll display it. When we hear that someone has said something unkind about us, what will we do? Retaliate with an equally unkind story? No, for if we have spent time with God on our knees and claimed His promises and received a new spirit, we'll retaliate with - 'I know something good about him'. This will be the kind of retaliation we'll display.
Oh that we might appropriate this love to our hearts by the power of Jesus Christ. This is the armor that we'll need against the darts of the wicked one. It will be our only safeguard in the time of trouble that lies ahead. If we will ask, believe and claim the promise for victory, and allow heaven to create a new heart and spirit in us, then when Jesus comes, we'll be ready to go home with Him. May this be your experience, is my prayer."
Audio of these sermons here: