Here's A Thought...

Here are some "THOUGHTS" that will hopefully answer some of the questions that you may have about what the Bible has to say about our everyday lives. These articles are here to provoke thought; provide answers, guidance and resources; all in an effort to bring you into a closer relationship with your Heavenly Father!


Thursday, April 25, 2013

Love God-exceptions?

As I continue to search through God’s word and spend time in meditation and prayer; I feel as if I’m being taken to a place that is making me very uncomfortable. The place that I am talking about is a spiritual place of relationship with my Heavenly Father which brings more understanding of Him and His word. What is making me uncomfortable about this place is that I am finding myself in more and more
conversation where I am defending His word. I am finding myself more isolated and alone, standing apart from most “Christian” in my belief and that has sent me into deep reflection.
            “What do I mean by ‘defending His word’”; you’re probably asking yourself. I mean that I am having more and more conversations with people that either don’t agree with what the Word of God says or they don’t believe it applies to them. Now I’m not talking about those who don’t believe and don’t follow the teachings of Jesus Christ; I’m talking about professed Christians who don’t acknowledge all of the truth of the content of scripture. Not just the parts they like, but all of His word. What frightens me the most is how long I lived in denial myself and how long will our Heavenly Father be patient until His day of judgment is upon us?
            I am just going to pour out what is in my heart and just some of the scripture’s that have brought me to this place and I will leave it to you to either agree or disagree.
            I am going to start my position with the greatest commandment:
            And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he (Jesus) answered them well, asked him, “Which commandment is the most important of all?” Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:28-31 ESV)
            So; it seems as if Jesus makes everything plain and simple for us. Love God with everything and love others as you love yourself. However, take time to listen to what Jesus said. The greatest commandment is to “love the Lord our God with all our heart and with all our soul and with all our mind and with all our strength”. The word “all” seems to be very popular in this statement. It really doesn’t leave a whole lot of wiggle room for negotiation. He said; “all”.
            The first place that God began to take me to; or if you will, reveal to me about my heart, is that I want to love God – with exceptions. If you will indulge me, I will share with you just a few of the area’s that the Holy Spirit convicted me in:
·         I will love God with all that I am; just not with my time.
·         I will love God with all that I am; just not with my money.
·         I will love God with all that I am; just not with my marriage.
·         I will love God with all that I am; just not with my family.
·         I will love God with all that I am; just not with my work or career.
·         I will love God with all that I am; except for my neighbors.
·         I will love God with all that I am; except for my drugs and alcohol.
·         I will love God with all that I am; except for my sexual immorality.
Now, every time I start to have one of these conversations, I begin to hear the arguments of the defendants (word chosen deliberately and carefully):
·         We are covered by God’s grace.
·         God views all sin equally, no one sin is worse than another and we are all saved by grace.
·         Your advocating “works”, and we are not saved by works, it’s by grace through faith.
·         I’ve prayed to God and I have been forgiven.
I do not dispute any of the arguments that you just read or you may have. But what I would like to do; is to just take a few moments to examine scripture on what Jesus said about loving Him and our Heavenly Father:
            One of the most, if not the most quoted scriptures of the Bible is John 3:16 – For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. But if we were to just continue reading;
            “Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.” (John 3:18-21 ESV)
I don’t know about you, but there appears to be a suggestion that the things you do…may reflect what you believe. Chapter 3 finishes with this thought:
            Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him. (John 3:36 ESV)
Here we finish with if you believe, you will obey.

Jesus has more to say to his apostles when he promises the Holy Spirit and they question him:
             “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.
            “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.” Judas (not Iscariot) said to him, “Lord, how is it that you will manifest yourself to us, and not to the world?” Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father's who sent me. (John 14:15-24 ESV)
Jesus said very plainly and clearly; if you love him you will keep his commandments and those that do not love him do not keep his words. Jesus was very clear as Matthew recorded on the teachings of Jesus.
“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:17-19 ESV)

            What I have been sharing so far goes against much of what is being taught in “church” today, but I plead for your patience as we look at how Jesus impacted “sinners” and what instructions he gave to them.
            The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst they said to him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. Now in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?” This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground.
And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” And once more he bent down and wrote on the ground. But when they heard it, they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.” (John 8:3-11 ESV)
Notice here that after Jesus had shown this woman grace, he issued a commandment. He did not say; “You’re good; go back to committing adultery.” He said; “go, and from now on sin no more.” Grace and forgiveness was given with a commandment.
            Here’s another popular story. The story of Zacchaeus:
            He entered Jericho and was passing through. And behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus. He was a chief tax collector and was rich. And he was seeking to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was small in stature. So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him, for he was about to pass that way. And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today.” So he hurried and came down and received him joyfully. And when they saw it, they all grumbled, “He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.” And Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.” And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” (Luke 19:1-10 ESV)
Now here is Zacchaeus, a man who had been a cheat and a swindler. A man that once impacted by the presence of Jesus Christ, by allowing him not only into his home but into his heart, was markedly changed. After having “faith” in Jesus Christ, he gave away half of his possessions and to anyone he defrauded he returned four times as much. This is a man who’s behavior change is a reflection of his heart change.

            For those who desired to follow Christ as they were seeking eternal salvation, there were some stumbling blocks and Christ’s response was plain.
            And behold, a man came up to him, saying, “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?” And he said to him, “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you would enter life, keep the commandments.” He said to him, “Which ones?” And Jesus said, “You shall not murder, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother, and, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” The young man said to him, “All these I have kept. What do I still lack?” Jesus said to him, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” When the young man heard this he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.
            And Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly, I say to you, only with difficulty will a rich person enter the kingdom of heaven.
            Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished, saying, “Who then can be saved?” But Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” Then Peter said in reply, “See, we have left everything and followed you. What then will we have?” Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, in the new world, when the Son of Man will sit on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name's sake, will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first. (Matthew 19:16-30 ESV)

            As they were going along the road, someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” To another he said, “Follow me.” But he said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.”
            And Jesus said to him, “Leave the dead to bury their own dead. But as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” Yet another said, “I will follow you, Lord, but let me first say farewell to those at my home.” Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:57-62 ESV)
The message that Jesus is clearly conveying here is this; there should be nothing that is of greater importance than following Him. Not money, not a funeral, not saying goodbye to friends and family. Nothing is or can be more important. Love God with all – no exceptions.
            This is not a popular message and it sure doesn’t fit the “feel good” message that is so popular in our culture. But Christ addressed that as well:
            “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a person's enemies will be those of his own household. Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” (Matthew 10:34-39 ESV)
            There is even an interesting story in John chapter 6. After Jesus feeds the five thousand, he continues to teach that He is the bread of life and over simply put; all should be seeking him and nothing else. Now some of his disciples could not swallow all that he was teaching (pardon the pun), so the following ensued:
            When many of his disciples heard it, they said, “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?” But Jesus, knowing in himself that his disciples were grumbling about this, said to them, “Do you take offense at this? Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. But there are some of you who do not believe.” (For Jesus knew from the beginning who those were who did not believe, and who it was who would betray him.) And he said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.”
            After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. So Jesus said to the Twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?” Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.” (John 6:60-69 ESV)

            Now, I know that there are some of you that are already upset and you’re setting up your defenses; but I want you to understand that I just want to bring you the truth, so that you may be set free:
            So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” They answered him, “We are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone. How is it that you say, ‘You will become free’?”
            Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin. The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. I know that you are offspring of Abraham; yet you seek to kill me because my word finds no place in you. I speak of what I have seen with my Father, and you do what you have heard from your father.” (John 8:31-38 ESV)

Paul writes concerning the continuation of sin;
            What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. I am speaking in human terms, because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification.
            For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:15-23 ESV)

We all agree that we are saved by faith through grace, but remember James issues this challenge;
            What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.
            But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder! Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”—and he was called a friend of God. You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. And in the same way was not also Rahab the prostitute justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead. (James 2:14-26 ESV)

            I believe we are in the time that Paul wrote to his spiritual son Timothy about:
            I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. (2 Timothy 4:1-5 ESV)
So I urge you, I beg you and I plead with you; do not take anything that I have written here for granted. Do not take what your church or your pastor/priest/preacher tells you for granted. I implore you to read the Gospels, read the New Testament. Study the word and earnestly seek wisdom in prayer and meditation. Test all that you hear. So that the conclusion that you may come to, comes to you from our Heavenly Father and not from what anyone may tell you.

            The fact of the matter is that here in the United States we are sheltered and spoiled. While we sleep comfortably under the blanket of our freedom and our “rights”; there are those that have freely sacrificed all we enjoy to be a follower of Christ. There are those in other countries that by simply professing their Christianity; they are being disowned by their families, beat and tortured by their communities, and jailed by their governments. There are those that risk life and/or prison to smuggle bibles into countries where they are forbidden. There are those who leave America and are imprisoned for “simply” spreading the Gospel in Muslim led countries.
            We walk around arrogantly professing the love and “grace” of Christ with our mouths yet wallowing in the slavery to the sin in our hearts. We must begin to hold ourselves accountable. And before you take off down the road to start pointing fingers;
            Jesus also said; “Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.”
            He also told them a parable: “Can a blind man lead a blind man? Will they not both fall into a pit? A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher.
            Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take out the speck that is in your eye,’ when you yourself do not see the log that is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take out the speck that is in your brother's eye.
            “For no good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit, for each tree is known by its own fruit. For figs are not gathered from thornbushes, nor are grapes picked from a bramble bush. The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.” (Luke 6:37-45 ESV)

            This is a call to self-examination. This is a call to self-reflection. This is a call to repentance. This is a call to action. What are you willing to sacrifice for what you believe? Are you prepared to love the Lord your God with all that you are and all that you have…or are there exceptions? When Jesus Christ died on the cross, he died for all…without exception. Will you continue to love him back with exceptions?