And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, ‘Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?’
Luke 10:25 – Scripture Of The Weekend (January 4-5, 2014)
What a great question! Even more than that, what interesting answers man has proposed over the ages to answer it! The atheist would say, “There is no eternal life and no God to give it to us.” The agnostic would say, “I’m not sure God or eternal life exist.” The deist would say, “God doesn’t care enough about us to grant us eternal life.” The Muslim would say, “Go on a jihad and eternal life is guaranteed.” The universalist would say, “Nothing, because God will grant eternal life to everyone.” The Calvinist would say, “Nothing, because God has already decided whether or not you will receive eternal life.” The current Pope would say, “You don’t even have to believe in Jesus to receive eternal life.” Numerous Catholics and Protestants would say, “Just be a basically good person, regardless of what church you go to or what doctrine you follow, and you’ll receive eternal life.” I could cite many more answers man has given to this lawyer’s question.
What is most important, in fact what is solely important, is the answer the Son of God gave to this lawyer’s question: “He said to him, ‘What is written in the Law? How do you read it?’ And he answered, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.’ And he said to him, ‘You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live'” (Luke 10:26-28). To love God means to obey him (1 John 5:3; John 14:15), and those who obey him will receive eternal life (Heb. 5:9; Matt. 7:21-27). To love our neighbor the same way we love ourselves is best illustrated in the parable of the Good Samaritan Jesus immediately gave to illustrate his point to the lawyer, and in the definition of love Paul gave to the Corinthians (Luke 10:29-37; 1 Cor. 13:1-7). When we obey God with all our being and love our fellow man the way in which God commanded us, eternal life is ours…not because we earned it (we could never earn it due to our sin – Rom. 3:23), but because of the grace of God whose instructions we followed (Eph. 2:8-10; Tit. 2:11-12).
Friends, have you ever stuck your foot in your mouth and said the wrong thing at the wrong time in the wrong way? Sure, you have; I have done the same (James 3:2-8). What makes it worse is that a lot of the times we say the wrong thing out of anger. As Christians, we must always be concerned about the possibility of our words and actions being done out of anger (Eph. 4:26-27). We must remember that words spoken and deeds committed out of anger cause us to be hypocrites whose mouths both “bless our God and Father…(and) curse men”(James 3:9-10). Even more importantly, using our tongues out of anger causes us to “defile the whole body”(James 3:6), both our own bodies (i.e., our reputations and the respect others have for us) and the body of Christ, his church (Col. 1:18), God’s temple that we must never destroy lest we be destroyed by God in eternal hell (1 Cor. 3:17; James 3:6b; Matt. 12:36-37).
Love is the solution to the problem of anger. If we truly love others, we will do our best to avoid offending them with loose, angry, unkind, bitter words and actions. 1 Corinthians 13:4-5’s definition of love teaches us that we will instead be very patient with them. We will speak kindly to them and be kind to them. We won’t be jealous of them. We won’t brag about ourselves to them. We won’t be arrogant to them, and we won’t be inconsiderate of their feelings by speaking rudely to them or being rude to them.
Moreover, if we truly love others we won’t allow their loose, angry, unkind, and bitter words and actions to take away our love for them. As love continues to be defined in 1 Corinthians 13:5-7, we see how this is so. Instead of being defensive, we will not seek our own. We will not be easily provoked by being extremely sensitive. Because love thinks no evil, we will always assume that others have the best intention…until their unrepentant actions prove otherwise (Matt. 7:16-20; Acts 26:20; 2 Cor. 7:11). Our highest priority will not be getting our own way or winning the argument, because love is more concerned about truth and doing what’s right. We will put up with snide remarks and rude slights, because love bears all things. We will give others the benefit of a doubt until their actions prove beyond a shadow of a doubt who and what they really are. Love hopes all things, so we will look for the best in others, and hope for the best in them. Because love endures all things, we will endure all things…including hurt feelings by unkind and unthoughtful words and actions.
Jesus told us to love each other in the same way he loves us (John 13:34). It is only by this that the world will know that we really are Christians (John 13:35). Loving each other – and showing our love through the ways we talk and interact with each other – is not only our duty, but our blessing!
Let’s say that a survey taker decided to make it his goal to stand outside of every church building in America each Sunday and ask every person who left the building if they loved God. How many do you think would answer in the negative? My guess would be that the overwhelming majority of churchgoers would gladly and sincerely profess their love for God, and I am thankful for that. It is due to their love of God that they are attending church in the first place. It’s because of their love of God that they own a Bible and peruse through it from time to time. Their love of God is a major reason why they love others and help others in their time of need. Professing a love of God is an importantfirst step.
“’First step’?” you might ask. “What do you mean, ‘first step’? I thought loving God is the ultimate, the pinnacle, the highest we can achieve!” That is true, but consider this. We say that we love God…but does God agree? Does God think we love him? Does God define us loving him the same way that we define loving him? We might be tempted to assume that he does, but God’s Word suggests otherwise (Is. 55:8-9). In fact, Jesus said that there would be religious people who call him “Lord” and are involved in many good works who would still be condemned at judgment (Matt. 7:21-23). Obviously, those who call Jesus “Lord” and do many good things in his name would also gladly say that they love him…so why are they being condemned?
The answer lies in finding out how God defines our love for him, and the way to do that is to go to his Word. This makes sense when you think about it. Consider your spouse and your closest friends and the love you have for them. When you think about it, the love you have for them and they have for you is based upon your mutual knowledge of each other. You know each other well, you understand each other, and that’s what causes your love for each other to grow more and more. It’s the same with our relationship with God. The more we come to know God, the more we will love him…especially when we grow in our understanding of just how much he loves us! (John 3:16; 1 John 3:16).
But how do we come to know God? The only way that will happen is by going to his Holy Spirit-inspired Word (2 Pet. 1:19-21; 2 Tim. 3:16-17). After all, no one knows the mind of God except the Spirit (2 Cor. 2:9-11), and the Spirit revealed the mind of God to the writers of Scripture (John 16:12-15; 1 Cor. 2:9-13; Eph. 3:3-5; 2 Pet. 2:19-21). When we study and meditate upon God’s Word day and night (Ps. 1:1-3), we grow in our knowledge of God and how he looks at things. We also grow in our knowledge and understanding of how God defines our love for him.
So just how does God define loving him? Over and over again, the Scriptures correlate love of God with obeying God (John 14:15, 21, 23-24; 1 John 5:3). In fact, obeying God is how we come to know him as well as to love him (1 John 2:3-5). Even in the Old Testament, God always defined the concepts of loving him and obeying him interchangeably (Deut. 6:4-5; 7:9; 10:12-13; 11:1). So if you obey God, you love him. If you choose to unrepentantly disobey God, you don’t love him. If you love him, you obey him. If you don’t love him, you will not obey him. It’s that simple.
With this in mind, go back to Matthew 7:21-23. Why did Jesus condemn some even though they called him “Lord” and did many good things in his name? He tells us why. “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord, will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” They weren’t doing the Father’s will. Perhaps they were doing some of it, but they weren’t obeying him in all areas of their lives. That’s why he called them “workers of lawlessness.”
Do we love God? Sure, we might say we do. We might sincerely think that we do, and perhaps in some areas of our lives we do. All of that is good and shouldn’t be ignored. Like I said earlier, it’s an important first step. However, ask yourselves this. How well do you know God? How well do you know the Bible? How often do you go out of your way to study his Word in depth? Furthermore, are you obeying his Word? Are you doing so as best you can in all areas of your life? Are you willing to obey God even if his revealed will in the Scriptures goes against your most cherished belief? Are you willing to put God above even family, even above self? When you disobey him, are you willing to repent? Are you willing to obey him no matter what?
That, and that alone, shows how much we truly love God.