One of the things that I love about God is when He tells us to do something, He does it Himself too. God sets the example. He tells us to love Him because He loved us first. It’s not something that we initiate, but it is instead a reaction to how wonderful He is. For example, Leviticus 19:18 says,“Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against one of your people, but love your neighbor as yourself.”
God sets the example in two ways in this scripture. First of all, our God is a forgiving God who does not bear a grudge but instead forgives us for our sins. Secondly, God showed us how to love one another by putting skin on and dying for us on the cross. So with Gods ability to lead by example in mind, let’s look at Matt 5:33-37:
“Again, you have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not break your oath, but keep the oaths you have made to the Lord.’ But I tell you, Do not swear at all: either by Heaven, for it is God’s throne; or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King. And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black. Simply let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.”
This is a passage from Jesus Sermon on the Mount. Here we have Jesus telling us that anything we say we will do should be done. For example, if I tell my mother I’ll call her on Saturday, there isn’t any need for me to say, “Mother, I swear by the hair on my head that I shall call you before the sun sets on Saturday.” Just the fact that I said I would call should be more than sufficient.
God would never ask more of us that He could give, which is why I like to think of the Bible as a promise. I know I can take God at His Word. I know that if God says He loves me, there isn’t any need to swear by anything. His word alone can be trusted. As we go through more scriptures, look for two things: look for a challenge, and look for a promise. You’ll see what I mean.
One of the greatest challenges of being a Christian is not worrying. I get so caught up with work and my career, social engagements, my lack of a dating life, the list goes on and on. Eventually I get so concerned with all these side things that I forget that my primary focus should be on my walk with Christ; everything else is secondary, whether I can remember that or not. I feel like the disciples when Jesus feeds five thousand: They were so worried about the problem of feeding the crowds that they lost sight of the solution: Jesus Christ, who had the power to feed the crowd easily! (Just a neat little fact: this is the only miracle that is in all four gospels.) The bottom line is this: if we remain intently focused on Jesus, He will provide for us. He tells us this in Matt. 6:33
“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”
Ah yes, sweet relief. If I seek after His kingdom and His righteousness (challenge), then everything will be given to me as well (promise)! Yes! But wait a minute…what does seeking His kingdom and His righteousness mean? Do I need to find something? One of the things I’ve noticed and grown to appreciate about reading scripture is that its not about finding answers; its more about seeking a deeper understanding. When I get into the Word, I usually walk away with more questions than answers. So how do we seek His kingdom and His righteousness? Well if you look back at Exodus 20:1-7 you’ll see the first three commandments.
And God spoke all these words:
I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.
(1) You shall have no other gods before me.
(2) You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments. (There’s a challenge and a promise if I’ve ever seen one!)
(3) You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.
What I’d like to point out is that these are the first three commandments, and they’re all about your relationship with God. The next seven commandments are about your relationships with others. We are called to love God from the inside out. We must first focus on loving Him, and then we will have the ability to love one another. Deuteronomy 6:5 tells us how much we are supposed to love God:
“Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.”
So we have to love God from deep within us until we have no strength left, and then, just when you think you’re all out of love, we are supposed to love more. But this leads me to another question: How do I love God? What are signs of my love for God? Am I supposed to write ‘I heart God’ on my notebook? Well Jesus answers that question in John 14:21.
“Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my father, and I too will love him and show myself to him.”
Wow, so one of the signs of my love for Jesus is obedience to His commands? That’s a monumental challenge, but it also comes with a monumental promise. If I love God and develop an obedient attitude, He will love me and Jesus will love me and show himself to me. You want Jesus to show Himself to you? Well that’s easy, just obey His commands. But now I’m left wondering how to obey His commands. Well I’ve got the Ten Commandments as a good start, but it takes more than that. Lets look to Joshua 1:8 for some guidance.
“Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.”
God’s Word always amazes me. Here I’m told to meditate on God’s word. I can’t just read it and then brain-dump it. I need to chew on it. I need to look for deeper meaning than what can be easily seen by skimming through. But look at the promise that God gives us here. He tells us that we will be prosperous and successful. So the key to success isn’t thinking and growing rich, it’s thinking and growing in the word of God. There’s a difference between understand something and meditating on it. For example, if you look at the Pharisees, it’s clear that they understood what the scripture meant at face value. ‘Do not murder’ means that you don’t murder. Simple, right? Wrong! Jesus has a deeper understanding into what the Law really means. If you look at Matthew 5:21-22 you’ll see Jesus telling us what God really intended for us:
“You have heard that is was said to the people long ago, Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment. But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment.”
So it’s not about simply obeying the commands so that you can check off a list of accomplishments. Its about obeying these commands from the inside out. Psalm 119:9,11 paint an excellent picture of this:
How can a young man keep his way pure?
By living according to your word.
I have hidden your word in my heart,
That I might not sin against you.
Here David tells God that he has hidden Gods commandments in his heart. He had meditated on it, he has searched it for the deeper meaning, and he has realized that Gods word is key to living a Godly lifestyle. It seems so simple, but it’s a challenge.
So let’s review. First and foremost, you can trust God. He will always live up to His end of the deal. The real question is, ‘can we be faithful to Him?’ Next we learn that we need to focus on Him. If we look intently at God, all the problems of the world seem so much smaller in comparison. We learn that if we’re going to love God, we need to know how to follow Him. And finally, the key to loving and following God is getting into His word. So I encourage everyone to dig deep into the truth. If we listen carefully, we will hear what God has to say to us. And that, my friends, is the key to success!