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Friday, March 14, 2014

Not Far from the Kingdom of God

When someone asks you what your favorite food is you could say, "Beef," or, "Potatoes," but that isn't normally how you answer. You answer with your favorite meal. That's because one food often defines the other. For example, you might say that your favorite food is chicken and dumplings or steak and and a baked potato or spaghetti with meat balls. You do so, not because you don't realize that you could have one without the other, because in your mind they go together so well that you don't want one without the other.

This is the case of what some want to call the first and second commandments. Yes, Jesus did define them in that way but He was only asked to give the greatest commandment. Greatest is a superlative. Favorite is a superlative. A superlative should only have one item in the answer. Jesus did indeed designate one commandment as the greatest but combined it with another. Therefore, we must conclude that they are inseparable and define each other.

We live in a world with great sentiment but very little discernment. We want everyone to be happy even if the things they claim to give them happiness are drawing them away from God. Movies have become so understanding toward sin that sin no longer exists. The vigilante is justified in revenge because of the pain she feels, the adulterer deserves love outside of his marriage and the thief is merely filling his own needs from the abundance of others. Thus, we can have a sinless world as long as we can find compassion in everything everyone does.

Of course, the world could go the other direction too. The world could claim to love God so much that it builds great monuments to Him on the backs of people. It could take everything that others have worked for in order to fund such projects. It could demand attendance in religious events even if that meant people would have to abandon their positions in hospitals and fire stations. They could claim that this was all for the love of God and care nothing for mankind.

But Jesus brilliantly gave the two commandments as if they were one. The first left no doubt where our love should go. It takes all of our hearts, souls, minds and strength to adequately love God. Jesus said that loving God required obedience. Still, loving God meant loving others. God's love is so entwined with love for others that they can't be separated. You can't love God without loving others. You can't really love others without loving God.

This doesn't diminish your compassion for others. You still love the one who has committed sin but you love him or her so deeply that you don't approve of that sin. This love is defined by our love of God. God gave us a morality that would fulfill us. It centered around His holiness. It enabled us to know Him.

Thus, when I say that adultery is wrong I am not denying love for the adulterer. I am repeating what God has said in His love. A love so pure that we can't improve on it. A love so holy that there isn't even the slightest measure of hate.

The greatest commandment is the canvas on which the second commandment is painted. Take away the love of God and true love for others falls apart. You are not far from the kingdom of God when you understand this.

Mark 12:28-34 (ESV)
28 And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, asked him, “Which commandment is the most important of all?” 29 Jesus answered, “The most important 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 and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” 32 And the scribe said to him, “You are right, Teacher. You have truly said that he is one, and there is no other besides him. 33 And to love him with all the heart and with all the understanding and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself, is much more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” 34 And when Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” And after that no one dared to ask him any more questions.


Anthony Chia said...

Ps Prentis, I also wrote on this text (the equivalent in Matt 22) some time in 2011; as your entry title and Jesus' words suggest, it is a very important understanding to be having, I have taken the liberty to reproduce it here, although it is somewhat long (taking up 4 comments pages).

Matt 22:36-39 - No oxymoron here, but the very essence of love
Article text: Matt 22:36-39 -

36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” 37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’

Where got room anymore
There are people who have problem with this Matthew passage (Matt 22:36-39): They say it is oxymoron or self-contradictory! The argument is that we are called to love God with all of us, with all of our heart, all of our soul and our mind, and then we are told to also love our neighbors; “where got room anymore!” Since all is used up in loving God, can there be any room left for anything, including loving our neighbors.

His righteousness
Call Him a jealous God, call Him a demanding God or call Him a “all or nothing” God, the point is that He is God and is a holy God; and principally, His wisdom and His holiness, working together give rise to His righteousness. Everyone just needs to conform to this righteousness, which is coming from the nature attributes of God. God is like that, it is Him; He has no choice, for He is governed by who He is. And we have no choice, for we are His Creation. No one creates something to irk himself! If what is created irks him, does he NOT have every right to destroy it or re-create it? Shall the clay talk back to the Potter or man, to God? (Romans 9:19-21 – The Potter and the clay {Many people read this article of mine, if you have the time, read it; it's about the sovereignty of God}).

Only one knows it fully!
Scripture talked about who knows the mind of God; and it is the Spirit of God who knows the mind of God. Can the Spirit be at odd with God? Never! For the Spirit is always right on, with God. For the Spirit knows what is on God’s mind, what He is thinking, wanting, desiring, and what He wants to do, and when He wants to do a thing. In other words, the Spirit is always right with God, and what is right, is about “what is right in God’s eyes”, and NOT in any other. The “rightnesses” of God is His righteousness.

The Holy Spirit is always righteous, for He is always right with God, or we say He is in sync with the righteousness of God. Even Jesus spoke of the Holy Spirit that way: Jesus said that when He (Jesus) was gone (back to Heaven), the Holy Spirit would be sent, He (the Holy Spirit) would NOT speak or do anything of His own, but only that which He gets from God (which incl. Jesus Himself). You may say, “This is well and good, but what does it got to do with love, and the Matthew passage?” It is because it has everything to do with God and with love; wisdom, holiness, and consequently, righteousness, are everything to God, and are everything to matter of love or God’s love.

God only move in righteousness, including in loving Man ('ahab love)
Because of God’s holiness, God can only move in righteousness! His wisdom enables Him to do that. There is no other way; Scripture said God is holy, and in Him there is no darkness at all. There is no evil or wickedness in God. God just cannot move in any wickedness; He only moves in righteousness, and, and this is an important truth and revelation, it is that ultimately, God can only love Man unto righteousness ('ahab love). Many people have just preached about agape love, a dimension of God’s love revealed more fully in the New Testament, side-stepping that which was already revealed in the Old Testament about the love of God, and that it was a love unto righteousness, even as it was a sacrificial love. For greater understanding of this 'ahab love, read: 'ahab love - love unto righteousness.


Anthony Chia said...

Cont. From above

Agape needs to be expanded
The word, “agape” came from the Greek language, the language of the New Testament Scriptures. The Greek understanding however was NOT adequate, for their love language, so to speak, had no idea of loving unto righteousness, but “agape” is the closest love word to use (there are a few Greek love words). To me, if we do NOT want to use the Hebrew phrase of ‘ahab love, then agape love should be redefined to include love unto righteousness. Now, it should make more sense! Let me explain further below.

We too, must love Him back according to His righteousness
Now, God can only move in righteousness, and so also, God can only love men unto righteousness. Just as the Spirit can never be at odd with God, the only way men can be NOT at odd with God is for men to “read the mind of God”! Of course, men cannot read the mind of God like the Holy Spirit. But the idea is still that men are to be righteous, which ultimately is about being right on, with God, fully agreeing with what is on God’s mind (How can men know what is on God’s mind or what God considers as right? Through the Word and through the Holy Spirit). In order to be in harmony with God, we must be moving also in the ways of God. What is God’s ways? Righteous ways, according to His righteousness. So, when we love, we must also love righteously, for God loves us unto righteousness. So, we have established that when we love God, we are to love Him, righteously. Yah, what does it got to do with the “all” as in with all our heart, all our soul and all our mind?

There is no room for any other righteousness
The “all” is to denote the requirement to love God according to His righteousness; for that is the only way we can be in harmony with God; that is the only way it is acceptable to God, for He is a holy and righteous God. The “all” is to emphasize that there is no room for righteousness according to any other, NOT that of other deities, men or ourselves; only to be filled and governed by the righteousness of God. Of course, we should be clear that the fallen men have no acceptable standard of righteousness as far as the strict holiness of God demands (although in Old Testament times, I believe God did prescribe highest achievable standards (temporal), instead of The Standard); Scriptures put it that all have fallen short.

Matthew 22:37 is indicative of all of our love is directed at God, in accordance with His righteousness; and because it is in accordance with His righteousness solely, we are able still to love another, NOT with our own love, but with the love of God, or that there can be hatred even (holy hatred!), in our heart. In a nutshell, it is right to look upon our love for another, as “I love you with the love of God”. It is NOT wrong that we have no more love OF OUR OWN for anyone else; for ALL of our love is (you are supposed to) directed to God. Therefore, correctly, when we love others (other than God), we love with His love; likewise, we hate, with His hatred! You don’t get?! Let me explain below:

Loving our neighbours is flow-out from our love for God
Because when we love God, we love Him in accordance to His righteousness (you are supposed to), and so, you will do according to what God would do, as directed by His righteousness; remember we say God can only move according to His righteousness. Because we will (you are to) 100% subscription to His righteousness in our love for Him (love with all), we therefore, accordingly are to move according to His righteousness. God’s righteousness calls for loving men unto righteousness (and God loves men unto righteousness), and so, accordingly, His righteousness also called for men to love one another unto righteousness. So, when we go by His righteousness (we are to), we cannot but love our neighbors, and so, are moving in His love, because we are fully subscribed to His righteousness; or put it in another way, we love (another) with the love of God.


Anthony Chia said...

Cont. From above

The second commandment which stated that we are to love our neighbors “as ourselves”, is indicative that it is with God’s love that we are to love our neighbors with, for God loves your neighbors as much as He loves you. So, if you are with your neighbor, and God gives you a pie, what is the thing to do? Think about that. What standard of righteousness God demands!

If you still have difficulty catching the point that when we love God with our all, we would be loving one another with His love, and NOT our love, for there is none left of our own, consider this: When we love God with our all, we become true steward of God, including being the steward of His love. Steward goes by the righteousness of God, and that righteousness calls for loving men; and so, we love men, for God, with God's love.

John 13:34 reads: "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.

When Jesus said "A new command I give you", what is the new thing? The command of loving one another is NOT new. It is new because of the words Jesus added after it - "As I have loved you, so you must love one another". What does it mean?

The new thing is this: In the same way Jesus has loved the disciples, so must the Disciples (and so, us, too) love one another. How has Jesus loved His Disciples or followers? Jesus repreatedly claimed this: that He only did what the Father wanted done or had done (John 5:19;30). In other words, Jesus loved with the Father's love. And so, too, we are to love one another with God's love; and the God's love for men is love unto righteousness.

Hate another with the love of God!
Many also are puzzled by this text (words of Jesus) in Gospel of Luke, Luke 14:26-27 -

26 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters—yes, even his own life—he cannot be my disciple. 27 And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.

We have established that when we love another, we love with the love of God. When we hate (another), we, likewise, can only do it according to the righteousness of God. Can we say we hate with the hatred of God? Why NOT? There is no evil or wickedness in God, but God does hate! What does God hate? Evil, wickedness, sins, that which is in opposition to His righteousness. Of course, a more pleasant way of saying the same is “We hate (another) with the love of God”, for the love of God is love unto righteousness. Very simply, the Luke text was saying that we are to deny everything and everyone, including ourselves, if it or the person, conflicts with the righteousness of God. Jesus knew it is NOT easy for men; that was why he said “carry your cross and follow Me”.

Love each other with the love of God, not your own love!
Incidentally, spouses and loved ones, with correct understanding of this, will NOT be upset with their spouses or loved ones, when they are being told (by their spouses or loved ones) that they are loved with the love of God. If the person loved you with the love of God, that is the best love he can give you, and you should be happy that he love you with the love of God, and NOT the love of His own, for the love of God is love unto righteousness, and is the only love that gives life. If the person gives you his own love, He has NOT loved God with all his heart, all his soul and all his mind, and so he is NOT in perfect harmony with God. Would you rather he, be in perfect harmony with God, or to love you with his own love? If you demand he loves you with his own love, you are NOT loving God with all your heart, all your soul and all your mind, for the righteousness of God demands that he gives all of his love to God. You want to love God with all your hearts, all your soul and all your mind, then let him to do likewise!


Anthony Chia said...

Cont. From above

No oxymoron, but essence of love, embrace it
That Matthew passage (Matt 22:36-39), is NOT oxymoron or self-contradictory! Verse 37 does indicate all our love is to be directed at God, and yet because we are loving Him back in accordance to His righteousness, we are still able to love another with His (God's) love. Be opened, and receive this revelation of love; and then strive to walk in it, even as I am trying.

There is no conflict between love and commands/laws!
Those who have understanding of what I said about love, can appreciate such sayings of Jesus that those who love God obeys His commands (John 14:15), and those who obeys His commands are the ones who love Him (John 14:21a). It is all because the love Jesus was talking about, is love unto righteousness ('ahab love). The righteousness of God is given to us in His commands, in His Word, and through the Spirit; we obey in love. Also, those who argue that Jesus came to do away laws and commandments, have no right understanding of the subject of love. To explain this specifically would take another article, but the above should be basis enough for this claim of their poor understanding.

Only one love
Love for God is NOT first, as in at the top of a list; rather it is TOTAL, ALL. We are to have only ONE love, LOVE FOR GOD; everything else is we are moving in accordance to righteousness of God. When we love God with our all, we are steward of God's love, and when the righteousness of God calls for love, we love, when it calls to hate, we hate, and when it calls to forgive, we forgive.

Anthony Chia, high.expressions – Lord, may you use this article to open the eyes of many more to appreciate that, ultimately you can only love Man unto righteousness ('ahab love), and we can love you back no other way, except in accordance with your righteousness. In the precious name of love, Jesus Christ, I pray. Amen.

PS: By the way, these 2 pillars of love are NOT new; the greatest commandment was in Deu 6:5, and the second, in Lev 19:18.

Note: there are some links in the above article, but the links (to other articles, likes 'ahab love), do not show up here (non-clickable); to assess them, just google search with appropriate key words and add in Anthony Chia and/or high.expressions.

Ps Prentis, you are "not far from the Kingdom of God".