“Which is the most important commandment?” a young man asks Jesus in today’s Bible reading. (Mark 12:28)
At the time, the Jewish leaders of Jesus’ day had taken the original six hundred, thirteen Laws of Moses — which included the Ten Commandments — and added thousands of additional laws in the Midrash, a commentary on the Mosaic Law. The main idea behind adding the other laws was to “build a fence around the Law” to ensure that no one broke the laws of Moses.
For instance, the Fourth Commandment concerns resting on the Sabbath Day. (Exodus 20:8–11) The rabbis took that one commandment and added thirty-nine categories of qualifications to it. They defined how many steps you could take before you began to “travel”, thus violating the command to “rest” on the Sabbath.
But instead of helping the people to love, worship and obey God, the additional commandments built a bigger stumbling block that kept people from coming to God at all. The focus became on obeying the Law, not having a relationship with God. And that wasn’t good.
So when the young man asked Jesus which was the most important commandment, he wasn’t asking which of the “Big Ten” was the most important. He wasn’t asking which of the six hundred, thirteen was the most important. He was asking which of the thousands of laws was the most important.
And Jesus told Him which was the most important. In fact, the most important commandment is what the rest of the Law is based on. If you can master this one most important commandment, you won’t have to worry about any of the others. The problem is, no one has been able to master this one: Love God with everything you are. (Deuteronomy 6:5)
Here and elsewhere, I have referred to Christian Hedonism. It’s a term coined by John Piper, which he expanded in his first book, Desiring God: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist. Given that hedonists are pleasure-seekers, Christian Hedonists recognize that the highest source of pleasure can only be found in a relationship with God. And seeking the highest pleasure in a relationship with God brings the most glory to God.
CS Lewis rightly pointed out that our problem isn’t that we seek pleasure/satisfaction. Our problem is that we are far too easily satisfied. We settle for fleshly pleasures found in relationships with people, experiences, and things. But ultimate satisfaction can only be found in a relationship with God.
Do you pursue a love relationship with God? First of all, do you even have a relationship with God? Do you pursue Him with all that you are? Your heart? Your soul? Your strength?
Spend a few minutes today asking God to show you that your ultimate satisfaction is found in Him. Spend time in His Word. Spend time in prayer. Ask Him to satisfy you with all that He has for you in Jesus Christ.
I’m sure they meant well, but Jesus has some choice words for His Disciples in today’s Bible reading. Parents bring their children to Jesus and the Disciples try to turn them away. Jesus responds in a way we wouldn’t expect — at least those who see Jesus as only a mild-mannered only-loving Savior.
Mark says that Jesus was indignant, a “strong word of deep emotion”. (Mark 10:14) AT Robertson adds, “Surely it ought to be a joy to parents to bring their children to Jesus, certainly to allow them to come, but to hinder their coming is a crime. There are parents who will have to give answer to God for keeping their children away from Jesus.”
In fact, Jesus said that if someone does not receive the Kingdom of God as a child, they will not enter it. The word Mark uses for child means a child under school-age. There is an innocence in that age group. An innocence that is so trusting, so vulnerable and there’s no pretention.
Children are a big deal to God. In the Bible, children are seen as blessings from God. (Psalm 127:3) The concept of Gentiles as being adopted children of God is central to the Gospel Message. (Romans 8:15, 23; Galatians 4:5; Ephesians 1:5) Yes, as Robertson points out, parents will give an answer to God for keeping their children away from Jesus.
In contrast, in Western Civilization in the Twenty-First Century, children are merely commodities. Look at the way children are abused and trafficked. Look no further than Hollywood’s Michelle Williams. Last week as she clutched her “Best Actress” Golden Globe trophy, she said “I wouldn’t have been able to do this without employing a woman’s right to choose. To choose when to have my children and with whom. … I know my choices might look different but thank God or whomever you pray to that we live in a country founded on the principle that I am free to live by my faith and you are free to live by yours.”
Yes, children are a big deal to God. We will give an answer to God for keeping children from coming to Jesus. We will give an answer to God for putting up obstacles in our own lives that would prevent our own children from coming to Him. And we will give an answer to God for the way we have treated children as pawns in our lives.
Everyone who comes into a relationship with Jesus Christ has to do so by laying aside agendas. Laying aside pretentions. Laying aside themselves. Coming into a relationship with Jesus Christ requires that we come on His terms, not ours. (Mark 8:34-36)
Yes, the Gospel Message is about forgiveness. The Gospel Message is about grace. The Gospel Message is about mercy. But forgiveness, grace, and mercy are only available as we come to terms with our guilt as sinners. As sinners, we deserve punishment. We deserve death. We owe a debt we cannot pay. But Jesus has paid a debt He didn’t owe.
Have you laid aside your pretentions? Have you come to God, simply trusting Him at His Word?
 Robertson, A.T. Word Pictures in the New Testament. Nashville, TN: Broadman Press, 1933. Print.
Do you ever question the validity of your faith? Maybe you didn’t pray the right words. Maybe when you believed it didn’t “take”. How can you be sure?
Don Carson answers this question brilliantly. Watch and be blessed!
God inspired — literally breathed out — His Word so that we could be equipped to obey Him in our day-to-day lives. (2 Timothy 3:16-17) If we don’t regularly spend time in His Word, we starve our souls. Our spiritual malnutrition will result in not being adequately equipped and not having a sharp weapon for encountering the Spiritual Warfare that we will face.
This Bible Reading Plan I’m using was developed by the Navigators. Each day (five days a week), we’ll read an assigned chapter in the New Testament. The chapters are in order through a book in the Bible, but the books are not in the book order in the New Testament. In other words, we won’t start in Matthew and read straight through Revelation.
You can follow along by printing a copy of the reading plan or use the YouVersion Bible App. Just download it from the Apple App Store or Google Play. Other versions of the app are available, including the Web. Create a free account and search for Discipleship Journal’s 5x5x5 Reading Plan. Once you’ve subscribed, the app will track your readings. Depending on the translation you use, the App can even read out loud that day’s chapter. If you ever get behind, you can easily catch up. Given the fact that there are only five readings each week, it won’t be difficult to stay within a day or so if you just put in a little effort.
The best way to get my devotionals is to subscribe to my newsletter. Each morning we have a scheduled reading, you’ll receive an email with that day’s devotional. The easiest way to subscribe is to enter your email address below. Check your email and confirm that you want to subscribe.
Please invite your friends, family, and church to follow along as we go through the New Testament, gaining a 2020 vision for our lives and encountering God in His Word. My prayer is that as we dig into God’s Word, we’ll be transformed to be more like Jesus as we grow in a love relationship with Him.
Things continue escalating in today’s Bible reading. Seven angels pour out seven bowls of God’s wrath on the earth.
First Bowl: Painful Sores
Second Bowl: The sea turned to blood and all sea life died
Third Bowl: Rivers and springs became blood
Fourth Bowl: People are scorched by the sun. They blaspheme the One who has power over the plagues. They do not repent.
Fifth Bowl: The Beast’s kingdom is plunged into darkness. The people are in intense pain and blaspheme God and do not repent.
Sixth Bowl: The Euphrates River dries up, paving the way for the eastern kings to march to Armageddon.
Seventh Bowl: The greatest earthquake ever occurs. God pours out His wrath on Babylon the Great. One hundred pound hailstones fall and people blaspheme.
Once again, we see people refuse to repent of their sin when they’re face-to-face with God’s wrath. They don’t cry out for mercy. Instead, they blaspheme. They curse God.
We’ve seen this before. God brings hardships in order to call people to repent. And yet they don’t. Their hearts have grown so hard, they don’t see a need to ask for God’s help. Instead, they call down curses on God, the only One Who can stop or give any relief from the plagues.
So what does this say about God? It says that God is holy. God is righteous. God is just. And God is justified in pouring out His wrath on sinful, rebellious humanity. God is patient. But a Day is coming when He will no longer hold back His wrath. He will pour out His wrath and punish sin. He will punish those who pursue their sin. And that Day will be the worst day ever.
Are you ready for that Day? If you repent of your sin, God will credit the righteousness of Jesus to your account and His wrath will be satisfied in the punishment Jesus bore on a cross almost two thousand years ago.
You can face God’s wrath on your own. Or you can have Jesus to deal with God’s wrath for you. Turn to Jesus and repent of your sin today!