by Paul Benson
If God were your Father, ye would love me: for I proceeded forth and came from God… -Jesus Christ
Have you ever asked yourself: ‘Just how much do I really love the Lord?’ I occasionally pose that question to myself; and I must honestly admit there have been times I was not entirely satisfied with the answer. Quite dissatisfied in fact! But, over the years, I have learned how to put that dissatisfaction to good use.
The Scriptures give us many keys as to what a true love for God is, and how that love is properly expressed in the life of a believer. And holding our own love for God up against that standard of his Word can be quite convicting! But it need not be merely an exercise in condemnation; it can be very beneficial to our faith if we let it prompt us to draw closer to God.
I am a firm believer in the beneficial nature of self-examination. Sometimes it takes a great dissatisfaction with the place we are now at spiritually to propel us to seek a higher plateau in our relationship with Christ Jesus. Let’s take a look at what the Bible says a true love for God looks like, and see how we measure up.
And Jesus answered him, The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord: 30 And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment. Mark 12:29-30
I must admit the word ALL in that passage of Scripture has slapped me down on numerous occasions! Can any of us really boast we have come to the place where every facet of our life, heart, will, emotions and personal endeavors are a complete and perfect expression of love for the Lord?
I know better; and I think you do also.
But I have learned to see that standard as a goal I am working toward; instead of an unattainable demand that condemns and discourages me. (…let us go on to perfection. Hebrews 6:1)
As a Christian I hope you have the understanding that the Law was given to show us not only God’s standard of righteousness; but also our inability to (in our own strength) live up to that standard. The Law showed us our need for a Savior! And I also hope you have grasped the truth that in Christ (and with Christ in us) we have a source of grace and truth to empower us to come into alignment with the will of God. We CAN walk pleasing to God! But it is a growth process we have to apply ourselves to. And it takes effort!
We see that even many of the Old Testament writers recognized the wisdom of calling out to God for the assistance to follow him in a manner that was pleasing to him.
So will not we go back from thee: quicken us, and we will call upon thy name. 19 Turn us again, O LORD God of hosts, cause thy face to shine; and we shall be saved. Psalms 80:18-19
Psalms 80 is a plea for revival. A cry for the reviving of not only God’s favor upon his people; but also for a resurgence of the divine life in his people that gives them the strength to walk in his ways and live pleasing to him. The psalmist wisely recognized that the grace to walk uprightly before the Lord is truly a gift from him. The LORD will give strength unto his people… Psalms 29:11
I get so tired of the namby-pamby, sissified, anemic, milk-toast, ‘come as you are – stay as you are’, backslid gospel I hear so many preaching today. It is not the Gospel our Lord and his Apostles preached! They preached that a life-changing, heart-changing, fruit-changing grace was available to those who would call upon the name of Jesus and draw near to him in a true assurance of faith. They preached the grace of God as an inward strength not merely an outward white-wash!
If we try to love God and serve him in our own strength we will fail miserably and consistently. But recognizing that inward grace (Christ in you – the hope of glory) as the true source of the strength to wholeheartedly love our God, and to serve him acceptably, is wisdom well applied! So let’s draw upon that inward strength we have in Christ; and apply ourselves to returning to God the love he has so abundantly shown to us.
I love them that love me; and those that seek me early shall find me. Proverbs 8:17
Because he hath set his love upon me, therefore will I deliver him: I will set him on high, because he hath known my name. Psalms 91:14
Whether you realize it or not your love for God is very important to him! And moreover the Bible teaches that he responds to that love. He promises that he will draw near to them who love him enough to make the effort to draw near to him (James 4:8); and even promises to deliver them and set them on high (verse above)! So we see the great significance in expressing our love to the Father. And the Scriptures detail many ways we can properly express that love.
He saith to him again the second time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my sheep. John 21:16
One of the greatest ways we can show our love for our Lord is to take concern for the well-being of his children. That is one of the primary reasons I spend the time I do writing books and blogging. I desire to see the Body of Christ trusting only the nourishing and enlightening Word of God; and to see them develop discernment to safeguard against the poisonous religious error that is so prominent in this day. Helping the Lord’s flock find good pasture is very commendable in his sight.
Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another. Romans 14:19
You say, ‘Well brother Paul I am not a preacher or teacher so I cannot feed the Lord’s flock.’ It may be true we are not all called to preach or teach, but we ALL have the ability to edify one another!
There are many ways we can edify our brothers and sisters in Christ: Praying for one another, sharing words of encouragement or exhortation, giving to a need, (or even just a simple act of kindness that demonstrates the love of Christ in us) all are good means of edification to others. But they all require a common ingredient: effort!
The effort (or lack thereof) we make in seeking to edify and care for our fellow believers is a very strong indication of our love for not only God’s flock, but also for the Lord himself. (I don’t know about you but I had to stop and say OUCH! at that one myself!) The Lord takes our regard for the well-being of others quite personally. Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me. (Matt. 25:40)
If ye love me, keep my commandments. John14:15
Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him. John14:23
A most certain indicant of our love for Jesus is found in our level of commitment to seek out and follow his true teachings. I firmly believe that some where along the line modern Christianity left off following the commands of our Lord Jesus Christ and started following the teachings of man instead. Teachings which set aside the very words of Christ and replace them with the wisdom of man and his carnal reasoning!
We have ingeniously developed an excuse or clause that allows the disobedience of teaching after teaching of the wonderful and life-giving Word of God! The Gospel of Christ has been replaced with the ‘Gospel of Loopholes’. But a true love for the Lord does not have us looking for ways to do an end-run around his commands; it has us looking instead for the grace and strength to conform to his will.
- If Jesus said to pray, fast, and give in secret then that is how we will seek to do those things; instead of the self-aggrandizing tenancy to sound a trumpet in one form or another and gain the praise of men. This includes the record keeping of your giving most churches do. Jesus said if you seek to get your reward here on earth that is all the reward you will have! (Matt. 6:1)
- If Jesus said don’t seek to be called by a title ie. Rabbi, Pastor, Prophet etc. (Matt. 23:8) then we will shun any such practice; and follow the example of the one who constantly strove to make himself of no reputation. (Phil 2:7)
- If Jesus forbid a structure of hierarchy among his followers (Matt. 20:25-28) then we will shun the pattern of organization and assembly embraced by most fellowships; and just gather together under the headship of Christ allowing his Holy Spirit to direct the function of his Body in our meetings.
SIDE-NOTE: (I like to ask folks: ‘Who is the head of your church?’; very seldom has the answer not been: ‘Well, Brother so and so is the head of our church!’ A sad indicator of the condition of the modern Church is that most cannot see that a hierarchical structure that sets aside the headship of Christ, and the control of the Holy Spirit over a ‘full Body’ application of ministry, and places a man at the helm instead, is a function of the spirit of Antichrist at work.)
- If Jesus flat out stated it is adultery to put away your mate and marry another why is this practice so widely accepted by the modern Church? (I know I will get some flack on this one!)
And he saith unto them, Whosoever shall put away his wife, and marry another, committeth adultery against her. 12 And if a woman shall put away her husband, and be married to another, she committeth adultery. Mark 10:11
One of the most popular (and most dangerous!) setting asides of the commands of Jesus we see today is the way that modern preaching has twisted the words of Scripture to excuse away the sin of marrying a divorced person whose covenant partner is still living. Many loopholes and justifications now days excuse a practice which the Church had in times past strictly forbidden. And thus divorce and remarriage has become nearly as common in today’s churches as it is among the unbelievers!
The churches of decades gone by taught firmly against the sin of divorce and remarriage. Most would not even allow membership of those in that state (though to attend the services was normally allowed by any and all; as it should be). Not because they were legalistic or unenlightened; but because they still had a grip on the biblical concept of the marriage covenant being unto death (1Cor. 7:39). They held to the Scriptural standard that a divorced woman was to remain single or return to her husband which she was still in covenant with. (1Cor. 7:10-11)
Because of the backslid teachings of the modern Church there are today a multitude of professing believers living in a situation God calls adultery thinking they are secure within the grace of God. I don’t see a loophole for adultery in Paul’s words: they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God (Galatians 5:21). God help us return to a proper understanding of his ways!
And just in case you may have the impression I am being insensitive about this matter here is a scoop for you. I am one who has been right in the thick of this quandary myself! I am not one who does well living alone; but have done so for many years out of obedience to the dealings of God upon me.
When I came into faith in Christ I was separated from my wife (and two children) and had been for several years. She was living with another man and pregnant with his child. I met a sweet (I thought!) young Christian lady and we fell for each other. The church I was attending counseled us it was okay for me to divorce my wife and marry my girlfriend as there had been marital unfaithfulness (on both sides). So I did.
Eventually God brought me to a place of repentance; and I acknowledged that which he had spoken to my heart from the beginning – that I was not to be involved in this marriage and it was adulterous in his sight. He had spoken this to me from day one; but I didn’t want to hear it, and listened instead to the compromised counsel of man’s religion.
But God had mercy on me, showed me the truth through his Word, and set me free from that adultery; and now I clearly see (and firmly teach) that a legitimate marriage covenant is severed only by death. And to remarry while your covenant partner is still living is adultery.
But I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery. Matthew 5:32
And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery. Matthew 19:9
FOOD4THOUGHT: The ‘fornication clause’ in Matthew 5:32 and 19:9 is not the excuse many make it out to be. Adultery is the violation of a marriage covenant. If divorce severs the marriage covenant Jesus would NOT have declared it to be adultery to marry a divorced person! Many people refuse to grasp that truth.
The only divorce and remarriage that is acceptable in God’s sight is that of a person who was in a marriage that was not sanctified to begin with. Meaning an adulterous remarriage, or one that had been entered into under deceitful pretenses. The clause ‘except it be for fornication’ (deceptively translated as marital unfaithfulness in many versions) was referring to premarital sex, not unfaithfulness in a marriage. That ‘clause’ was meant to deal with a women who had presented herself as chaste to her betrothed but was actually sexually impure. The betrayed husband upon discovering this lack of chastity could, if he so chose, put away this wife without bearing the guilt of causing any adultery.
Maybe you do not agree with my view on divorce and remarriage. That is between you and God. You will stand before him and not me when you give an account of your life. My duty is to faithfully preach it the way he has showed it to me, regardless of what your opinion may be. And I mean no offense to any. Honestly. But can you tell me you do not see a serious departure from the standard of the Scriptures in what is being taught and accepted concerning marriage in the modern Church? I mean seriously people!
Bottom line? We can either seek out and accept the true teachings of Jesus (and live by them), or reject his words and pattern our lives after the unbiblical teachings of man. God help us discern the difference and make the correct choice!
- If Jesus said we are not to follow after those claiming his Return is at hand (imminent) then WHY are so many following the teachings of those who are claiming that very thing?
Luke 21:8 And he said, Take heed that ye be not deceived: for many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and the time draweth near (is imminent): go ye not therefore after them.
Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him, 2 That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand (is imminent). 3 Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come except… 2Thessalonians 2:1-3
Jesus and Paul both taught against following those preaching an imminent return of Christ! But in this day and age we have folks by the multitudes teaching just the opposite. They claim both Paul as well as Jesus taught that unbiblical concept of ‘imminent return’. How can we have come to the place where so easily grasped instruction in the Scriptures is set aside in favor of man’s wayward theories? Has willful ignorance gone to seed? I think so!
These examples given here, of the true teachings of Christ, that are set aside by modern theology and backslid Christianity, are just a few of many we could list and discuss. The point here is that the discrepancy between what man is teaching and what the Scriptures actually state is a gulf that is only traversed by significant effort. There is that E-word again! EFFORT!
Only those with a genuine love for Christ, and the truth of his words, will make that effort to distinguish between the true teachings of Christ and man’s faulty interpretations of them.
He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep. John 21:17
I cannot help but think it must have cut Peter to the heart the third time Jesus questioned his love for him. But Jesus had a purpose in mind with his questioning of Peter’s love for his Lord. A purpose that was not only for own Peter’s benefit, but also for that of the countless millions (those of that time and those down through the centuries) who would be touched through Peter’s efforts at ministry!
So it is not a calloused act (nor an insignificant thing) if I ask you to question your own love for our Christ. It is for your benefit as well as that of those who will be impacted by your life. And that is serious business!
So will you please join me as I once again ask myself:
Hey Paul! Are you really demonstrating a love for Jesus with your life and your actions? Are you showing God your love by crying out for the grace and strength to life right and serve him acceptably? Are you showing your love for the Lord by taking thought for the safety and well-being of his holy flock? Are you showing Jesus your love for him by seeking out and obeying his true teachings, and rejecting the teachings of man that set aside his words? Paul, are you really making good EFFORT to demonstrate your love for your Lord?
Behold, as the eyes of servants look unto the hand of their masters, and as the eyes of a maiden unto the hand of her mistress; so our eyes wait upon the LORD our God, until that he have mercy upon us. Psalms 123:2
As I said before I don’t think I have ever come to the place where I could honestly say that I have perfectly obeyed the call to love the Lord my God with ALL my heart, mind, soul, and strength…
But I sure do want to!
How about you? Let’s apply some diligent effort to this task and show the Lord we mean business, shall we? Perhaps he will pour out a greater measure of his grace, and quicken us to soar with the eagles!
But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint. Isaiah 40:31
…If a man love me he will keep my words. -Jesus Christ
Blessings and peace upon all who love our Christ;
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