“And the second is like to it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:39).
After having told His followers that loving God with all of their heart, soul, and mind was the first and greatest commandment, Jesus continues with the second and equal commandment that the people did not expect: loving their neighbor as themselves.
We should never lose sight of the love we are to have toward our fellows, especially our brothers and sisters in Christ. And Jesus is not talking about a shallow, meaningless kind of love—it is a sincere love that stimulates a genuine concern for others. It is a love that is demonstrated.
Such a love requires that we set aside jealousy and selfish ambition and focus on developing our hearts to think the best of others and to do our best to help them become the best servant they can be for the Lord.
This kind of love is an identifying characteristic of God’s children—a love that, without which, we do not really have a substantial claim to be a faithful child of God.
“Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth!
“For the Lord has spoken:
“I have nourished and brought up children,
“And they have rebelled against Me;
“The ox knows its owner
“And the donkey its master’s crib;
“But Israel does not know,
“My people do not consider. ” (Isaiah 1:2-3).
Through this great prophet, God communicates His extreme displeasure for the way His people have responded to Him and to His will. In spite of the fact that God has had such care and concern for His people, they have turned against Him.
Their rebellion against God has included refusing to follow His instruction about how they should worship Him and how they should live according to the moral principles He has taught them. As well, they have even dipped into idolatry time and again.
Because of their refusing to listen, God’s judgment is pronounced against them—His decision was that punishment must come.
Our lesson from this tragic situation is profound: as our Creator, God has every right to demand our obedience to His word and our allegiance to Him. He has required the same from people living in every age of time; so, we must, as Paul, present our bodies a living sacrifice to be acceptable to God.
“He has shown you, O man, what is good;
And what does the Lord require of you
But to do justly,
To love mercy,
And to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8).
Because the people have highly displeased God by their rebellious, sinful lives, the two previous verses pose questions that probe what kind of punishment God will require for them to re-establish their relationship with Him.
Micah first points out that God has shown them what He requires. In other words, they should already know what God wants them to do: “to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.”
“To do justly” means they are fair and unbiased in their dealing with others, “to love mercy” means they are guided by loving kindness as they interact with their fellows, and “to walk humbly with your God” means they humbly live according to God’s instructions to them.
No better instruction could be given to people of any biblical age. When we follow these three rules, we are living as God wants us to.
“Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am tempted by God’; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed” (James 1:13-14).
Temptation is a natural part of life; the word means “the desire to do something, especially something wrong or unwise.” In a spiritual context, it refers to a desire to do something that is a violation of scripture.
James makes it clear that temptation does not come from God but rather from within the heart of an individual as he or she responds to the stimulus of everyday life. We develop a desire for something around us, and we allow it to develop into an “over desire.” And, if we allow it to conceive, it can become a controlling factor in our lives.
It is not a sin to be tempted: even the Savior of the universe suffered temptation. It is a sin, however, to allow a temptation to stay within our hearts long enough to develop into an “over desire.” To prevent such from happening, we follow Jesus’ example in that we call to mind scriptures that are designed to pull us away from the temptation; and, then, we get ourselves away from the source of the temptation.
The scriptures describe Satan as one who walks about seeking all who will give in to his enticements. His desire is for us to give in to temptation so that we can be drawn away from God and operate our lives independently of God—then he can claim success.
“Those who sow in tears
“Shall reap in joy.
“He who continually goes forth weeping,
“Bearing seed for sowing,
“Shall doubtless come again with rejoicing,
“Bringing his sheaves with him” (Psalm 126:5-6).
Written shortly after their return from Babylon captivity, this psalm pictures the mixed emotions God’s people feel as they return to their homeland: both sadness and joy.
They sowed the tears of sorrow when they were captives of the Babylonians, but they are now reaping the joy of freedom after returning to their homeland. They are, however, feeling some continuing sadness because not all of their countrymen have been allowed to return.
This verse has been used, rightfully so, to picture a natural sequence of emotions and consequences in the human experience; but, for the Christian, it can serve as an especially powerful source of encouragement in any generation.
Even under Christianity, we are not always going to experience the joyful side of our salvation: life can throw us some curve balls of hurt and suffering along the way. But, if we maintain a faithful relationship with God, there will be those days of joy promised in the scriptures—either in this life or in the life to come.
“Bondservants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh, not with eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but in sincerity of heart, fearing God. And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men” (Colossians 3:22-23).
This teaching comes at the end of a series of “behavioral instructions” to family members that Paul is sending to the Colossian church, this instruction being directed toward those called bondservants at that time—it corresponds to employees in our society.
The core of the message centers around integrity—he is teaching workers not to be hypocritical in their service to those over them: they are not to pretend to be good, honest, faithful workers when their supervisors are around and then be the opposite when they are not.
Paul carries his instruction further in the next verse by making it a spiritual command: whatever we do as a worker, we do it with the same fervor and integrity we have when we are working for the Lord. If all workers exercised this kind of work ethic, how different our world would be.
Continuation of last week’s Thought
“…that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God” (Colossians 1:10).
Paul explains the reason for the prayer he has made for the Christians to whom he is writing: that is, he wants them to be able to walk worthy of the Lord and to please Him by being fruitful and continuing to increase in knowledge.
Several beneficial messages come from this verse: one is that Christians are to “walk worthy,” not meaning they deserve anything the Lord has done for them but meaning they are faithful to adhere to the standard of life He has laid out in His word.
As well, the Lord has always told His people to be productive in His work, no matter the Age in which they are living. We, as followers of Jesus, are productive when we bear fruit for Him and when we continue our efforts to learn more about Him and His will; thus, we increase in knowledge.
God’s desires are not unreasonable nor impossible. It is quite possible for us to learn more about His will—as well, we can be a beneficial member of His Kingdom by working hard enough to help it to grow. It’s really a matter of our own desires—we have to want to.
“For this reason we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding.” (Colossians 1:9).
Paul has heard from several sources that the Colossians have great faith and have love for all the saints. Because of this fact, he is thankful; and he prays for something wonderful for them: that they be filled with knowledge as well as the wisdom to apply what they have learned.
Such a request could be made for every Christian in every generation: first of all, we need knowledge. And knowledge is available when we put forth the effort to read more—that is, to develop a program for reading the Bible regularly without distraction.
The next step is to pray for wisdom so that we can be discriminating in using this knowledge. Finally, we hold firmly to what we learn to be true.
To be successful spiritually and to show that we are making God the top priority in our lives, we must make these three steps a major part of our spiritual journey. In doing so, we can feel secure in holding the hope of heaven firmly in our hearts.
“And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, ‘Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.’ And he was called the friend of God” (James 2:23).
A friend is a person “with whom one has a bond of mutual affection, typically exclusive of intimacy or family relations.” The declaration in this passage indicates Abraham has the closest relationship a human could have with God. And, the basis of Abraham’s friendship with God is based on the fact that he “believed God.”
To be called a friend of God is tantamount to being called a friend of Jesus—and He is the one whom God sent to give the greatest expression of closeness one could ever give another. He sacrificed His life for every person who has ever lived or who will ever live.
If we seriously want to go to Heaven, we will want to be a friend of Jesus Christ; and to have Jesus as our friend, we must “believe” Him. Evidence of our belief is really quite simple: we follow the example Jesus left us, and we follow the direction He gave us in His word. The reward for this kind of friendship is a home with Him in Heaven.
“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7).
In scripture, the word “fear” is always used positively when it refers to our fear of God; but when it is used negatively, it refers to our feelings of hesitation when we are confronted with making a decision or having a biblical discussion that may bring a negative reaction from others. In this verse, it refers to the latter situation.
Paul advises this young preacher that he should not hesitate to stand up for what is right when it comes to matters relating to the gospel and the Lord Jesus Christ. Today, some do hesitate when an opportunity to share a precept from the gospel message presents itself.
The apostle says, “Don’t have this spirit of fear.” Perhaps it is a feeling of being shunned or ridiculed—even persecuted—or perhaps it is a feeling of inadequacy; but regardless, we must share what we know for the spiritual benefit of others and not let fear hold us back.
For our benefit, we have the power of the gospel, the love of God, and a sound mind that God has given to guide us in such situations, always being discreet in the use of our words and manifesting a spirit of love.