Saturday, November 12, 2011

The 2nd Greatest Commandment

This is a study I prepared for myself after being convicted by a sermon given at the Feast of Tabernacles this year. This is not an attempt to re-create that Feast sermon but a study I did to deal with my own shortcomings and judgmental attitudes. I thought I’d share it with you today in case you too might find it helpful.

As we make our way through this world each day, we encounter others who do not know God’s truth and their words and their actions give testimony to that fact. They’re just trying to make their way in this world too but do it without the benefit of God’s Spirit and His truth to guide their way.

Either they haven’t been given the instruction manual to life or they haven’t been given the key to unlocking its contents. In other words, they don’t know any better. But how do we react to others we meet along the way?

Do we ever shake our heads or roll our eyes in disdain because of what someone says or the way they act? Maybe they let their children dress up as demons to celebrate Halloween or they’re decorating their house for the Christmas holidays?

Just shaking our heads or rolling our eyes without engaging with them doesn’t enlighten them to change their behavior and bashing them over the head with a few choice verses certainly doesn’t help either.

“You know, in Jeremiah 10 it says we shouldn’t put up Christmas trees!”

We have been given the truth and the ability to understand the deep things of God but to them it has not been given. (1Cor 2:10) So how can we hold that against them? And who are we to treat them like heathens? (1Cor 1:26-31) Sometimes we can forget from whence we came, once we have come into His marvelous light. (1Pet2:9)

There have probably been many times in the past when we have felt like we have had to defend our faith against the attacks of non-believers, be they family or friends, and against false Christianity in general, such that we’re in an ever ready state to go on the offensive. Maybe we even have a chip on our shoulder, a “Christian chip”, daring anyone to just try and knock it off! Standing at the ready with our sword, so at the slightest appearance of a provocation we can cut asunder their false beliefs and pagan practices, (Heb 4:12) but to what end? Does it further the cause of Christ? Or is it only an attempt to justify our own beliefs, to prove that we are right and to exalt ourselves over them.

Let’s turn to Luke 18:9 and let’s see where this can lead in the extreme. We can get to the point where we have forgotten that it is only by God’s grace that have been called, not by anything we’ve done, but it is the gift of God.

Luke 18:9-14 New King James Version (NKJV)
9 Also He spoke this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others:

[Who did they trust in? What was their attitude toward the others?]

10 “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.
11 The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other men—extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. [or this Catholic, or that Methodist]

12 I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.’ 

[I keep the Sabbath, I keep the Holy Days, I don’t eat pork or shrimp, I don’t do Christmas.]

13 And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’
14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

The Pharisee was diligent to follow the letter of the law and thought of himself as one in right standing with God, one of His true disciples, but he thought of those who were not as beneath him and ignorant and unworthy.

Is this how the guardians of God’s truth are to act? Is the look on our face one of a loving brother who understands why they err and tries to gently reveal to them the Father (Matt 11:27) or is it one of superiority and self-righteousness. Sometimes our pride in our own knowledge can get in the way.

Keep in mind this was a study for me dealing with my own issues. Ever have to give yourself a good talking to?

We have been given so much by God - truth, knowledge, and understanding and yet sometimes we hold it against those to whom it has not been given. When someone gives you a special gift, do you act like you’re maybe a little better than others who didn’t receive one? We know intellectually that we shouldn’t do that but deep down do our actions demonstrate otherwise? Do we act like we’re better than others because we have received such a marvelous gift?

Or are you quick to give credit to the giver and tell them from whom you got the gift and how much it means to you? Maybe even tell them of the special relationship you have with that person and how special they are to you and you to them.

When we see those who have not been called, do the things they do, let’s not be judgmental or hold them in contempt. Jesus Himself told us that second only to loving God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, you shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang ALL the Law and the prophets. (Matt 22:37-40)  Both are important! Let’s look at Mark 12:28 –

Getting our relationship right with God is a full-time job, at least for me it is. And we sometimes have a tendency to put our entire focus on that and that alone.

Mark 12:28-34 New King James Version (NKJV)

28 Then one of the scribes came, and having heard them reasoning together, perceiving that He had answered them well, asked Him, “Which is the first commandment of all?”
29 Jesus answered him, “The first of all the commandments is: ‘Hear, O Israel, the LORD our God, the LORD is one.
30 And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment.
31 And the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”

THIS is the 2nd Greatest Commandment!

32 So the scribe said to Him, “Well said, Teacher. You have spoken the truth, for there is one God, and there is no other but He.
33 And to love Him with all the heart, with all the understanding, with all the soul, and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself, is more than all the whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.”
34 Now when Jesus saw that he answered wisely, He said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” [And isn’t that what we all are seeking?]

So we must love both God and our neighbor. For who can say, “I love God,” and hate his brother… for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen? (1John 4:20) The parable of the good Samaritan helping the stranger in Luke chapter 10 teaches us that our neighbor is not just the guy next door, or the people who live in our community, it’s everyone we meet! This parable also teaches us that we can’t sit idly by either, we have to get involved!

We are called to be fishers of men. (Matt 4:19) But you have to do something to attract the fish. You have to engage. As we know, only God the Father can draw them (John 6:44), but we bait the hook. 

When someone says to you, "Jesus is the reason for the season!”, instead of keeping quiet, or saying, "No, he's not! Christmas goes all the way back to Babylon and Mithraism, sun worship and the Saturnalia! Say instead something like, "What makes you say that"? drawing them into conversation. You may just get an opening to give them a tidbit of truth to chew on.

Let’s not hold people in contempt for not knowing the truth. Let’s instead show compassion for them, knowing how they must be suffering inside going through the same struggles we face in this life but having to do so without the precious gift we’ve been given. And it’s only going to get worse.

Let’s not give them a reason to dismiss the good news of the kingdom of God because of our attitude. (Mark 1:14-15) Instead, let’s give them every reason to ask us about the light that shines within us. (1Pet 3:15-16; Matt 5:16) Let’s be good ambassadors for Christ. (2Cor 5:20)

We might have all knowledge, and understand all the mysteries of God but if we turn people away by our Christian pride or condescending attitude, what good is it? 1 Corinthians 13, the love chapter puts it all in perspective. Let’s turn there.

1 Corinthians 13:1-3 New King James Version (NKJV)

 1 Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal.
2 And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.
3 And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing.

We are to love others despite how they act. It is not up to us to judge them. (Matt7:1-2) That Day of Judgment rapidly approaches. Though others trample on the truth of God or even mistreat us without cause, let’s remember our Lord’s response to worse treatment than we have ever experienced.

Luke chapter 23, verse 34
This was after Jesus was rejected and scourged beyond recognition. After all they had done to him, what was His response

Luke 23:34 King James Version (KJV)

34 Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.

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I strive to be as the Bereans spoken of in Acts 17:10-11 receiving the word with all readiness of mind, and searching the scriptures daily, whether those things are so. Check up on me in your own bible. Should you find me in error please let me know immediately. We must prove all things (1Thes 5:21) and rightly divide the word of truth (2Tim 2:15) together lest we be deceived. (Matt 24:24)

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Micah 6:8 He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?

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