Monthly Archives: June 2010

The Greatest Commandment; June 23, 2010

The Greatest Commandment

Love the Lord your God…

Multiple times in the gospels Jesus is asked which is the greatest commandment or He is discussing the greatest commandment with someone.  Without fail the two that are mentioned are “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength” and “Love your neighbor as yourself.”  This should be no surprise to anyone who has read the first four books of the New Testament.  The complexity of the commands, however, is usually missed.  We read over the list and try and love God and be nice to people.  If that is the extent of our effort to follow the greatest commandments we have gravely underestimated the weight of these commands.

Let us first look at the first command, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength.”  If we were to examine the depth of the four areas with which we are to love God, we would find that there is not a single aspect of ourselves that should ever cease to show love to God.  Every action, thought, personality trait, and emotion should at all times be showing our love for God.  There is nothing that we possess that is reserved for ourselves.  All of who we are is to be submitted to God.  I would venture to say that few of us at first glance would interpret such depth into that one command, but that is the truth of what it is to love God.  There is nothing in us that should show love to anything other than Christ.

As we reserve ourselves for loving God and nothing else, we cannot help but love others in the process.  Interwoven in the holiness of God is a loving nature of giving grace to those who don’t deserve it (you and me).  As we surrender our entire being to God in loving him with all of our hearts, souls, minds, and strength, the Lord builds in us a desire to love His creation as He loves them.

Now, if you’re like me, you will wrestle with a very natural question once we grasp how difficult the first commandment is.  How can we really love God with all that we are?  It is impossible to think that every thought, emotion, or motivation has to show love to God.  Just this morning I was driving on the road and was cut off by an eighteen-wheeler going about 45 miles per hour when the speed limit is 65.  My reaction was frustration.  I realized immediately that that reaction was not showing love for God.  It seems that it is impossible to follow this command, much any of the others.  And there we find the point of the law of God.  They are impossible.  Paul says in Romans 3 that through the law and commandments we become “conscious of sin” which means that when we try to be obedient to the law we begin to understand that we can never be obedient to it.

The law pushes us towards Christ.  It is Christ in us that transforms us.  The more we try to do it on our own, the more we fail and realize that it is impossible.  We need a savior.  When we seek to abide in Christ and allow His righteousness to become ours, we are changed.  Every aspect of us is changed.  Our heart is changed, our mind is changed, our soul is changed and our strength changes.  All through what Christ has done.  Push into Christ, that is the essence of the greatest commandment.  Love y’all more than you know.  Grace and peace,

JOT

Final thought on James; June 16, 2010

Final thoughts on James…

Begins and ends with faith…

The book of James takes us on a journey through the tapestry of a Christian’s walk.  Unsurprisingly, James begins and ends with faith.  For the Christian, faith is what separates us from the world.  It’s what grants us power and understanding not found in the world.  It is our faith in Christ that ushers us into the presence of God and saves us for eternity.  And so, James goes to great lengths to show us the importance of faith and what it looks like in the life of a Christian.

In beginning with faith, James attempts to show us the role that faith plays in our lives.  Faith in Christ is not simply a list of religious duties or a mantra that is repeated in one’s mind and heart.  Faith in Christ is something completely different.  It is a total trust in the relationship established with almighty God.  A trust that exposes the hidden places in the human heart and allows them to be changed.  Faith in Christ exposes the true conditions of our hearts and transforms them from dark to light.

Because this faith in Christ changes us if we totally surrender to Him “with no doubting (1:6),” our outward actions are changed as well.  We no longer accuse God of tempting us (1:13-18).  We no longer are satisfied with knowing about God’s word, but we are eager to put it into practice (1:19-27, 2:14-26).  We love everyone without showing partiality (2:1-13).  We surrender what we say and how we say things to the Lord for his glory (3:1-12).  And finally, we choose the things of God over the things of this world (4:1-12).

We allow these things to be changed within us because we have found relationship with our Heavenly Father.  We allow ourselves to be changed so that He may be glorified in us.  We allow worthless things to be sacrificed for the sake of His name instead of holding on so that we can deceive ourselves into believing we’re fine on our own.

The Father desires to use us, but instead of putting all of our faith in Him, we choose to put our faith in our own strength.  Sometimes we put our faith in popularity, intelligence, abilities and gifts, or in other people.  Anytime we put our faith in something other than Christ, we are setting up idols made with our own hands or ideas.  The Lord is calling us back to Him, that we may be used by Him and for His glory.  Get into the Word and find out what it looks like to put complete faith in Him.  I love y’all more than you know. Grace and peace,

JOT

James 4:1-10; June 2, 2010

James 4:1-10 (I encourage you to read these verses for yourself before reading my notes on them)

Draw near…

James chapter 4 is the beginning of James conclusion to his letter to Christians, and honestly he’s through pulling punches.  True he has already called us self-deceiving (1:22), double-minded (1:7) snobs (2:1) who walk in a dead faith (2:17).  Of course James is not simply trying to beat us down in our faith.  He is simply giving us an accurate picture of how most Christians live.  Often we become very offended by this, but that’s only because it’s true and we simply don’t want to change.  Please notice that I use “we” and not “you”.  This is something that applies to Christians across the board and even applied to James.

In chapter 4 James pushes us to a whole new level of conviction.  He goes so far as to say that we set ourselves to be enemies of God (4:4).  Now that is a lot more extreme than simply walking around in a dead faith.  But James wants to make it very clear that there is no gray area in our relationship with God.  There is no middle ground in which we are simply neutral in our faith.  We are either for God or we are against Him.  And unfortunately, it is not enough to simply say that we are for God.  If we simply say that we believe but don’t actually do anything that lines up with those words we are useless and make ourselves enemies of God.

Something that is important to keep in mind is that we are not just enemies of God when we are doing things that are bad on the outside.  Some of us don’t struggle with killing people, sleeping around, or substance abuse.  Some of us simply try to be good in our own strength and think that because we don’t do bad things we are being obedient to God.  This is simply not the case.  Read Luke 18:9-14.  Jesus tells the parable of a Pharisee and a tax collector who are praying in the temple.  The Pharisee prays and thanks God that he’s not a bad guy.  He even does really good things like fasts twice a week and tithes regularly out of obedience with God’s commands.  Now we get tricked sometimes because this guy is a Pharisee.  Jesus rarely had anything good to say about them, but this guy isn’t a bad guy.  We’d probably like him and he’d probably like us.  We’re not extortioners, unjust, or adulterers.  He was a good guy and did good things.  Despite that he was not brought into right relationship with God through his prayer.  His focus was on all the things “he” had done.  He had made himself righteous by acting a certain way.  The tax collector in the story is brought into right relationship with God because he recognized his sin and need of grace.  In humility he came before God and recognizing that even the good things he had done weren’t enough to save him.

Sometimes we get in the mindset that as long as we go to church, read the Bible every now and then and don’t do bad things we are in right relationship with God.  That simply is not the case.  We can do nothing to earn right relationship to God.  Even the good things we do are not enough.  You can go on every mission trip, conference or youth camp you can think of and that won’t bring you into right relationship with God.  James says “submit (4:7)” and “draw near (4:8)” and that is what brings us into right relationship.  We should be broken by our sin and turn to God.  And when we are able to do that, the Lord is able to use us and change us more into the likeness of Christ.  It’s not easy to submit everything to God, but it’s so worth it.  For those of you who are struggling with temptations, submit to God.  It is only through submission to God that we can resist the devil.  If we are not submitting to God, we can give no resistance to the devil.

Want to know what submitting to God looks like?  Get in the Word.  Want to know how to draw near to God? Get in the Word.  Want to be able to resist the devil?  Get in the Word.  Are you picking up on the theme here?  If you need a reminder about getting in the Word, let me know.  I’ll call you, text you, email you, facebook you, or send a pigeon if that’s what it takes.  I love y’all more than you know.  Grace and peace,

JOT