“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.
At the end of today’s Bible reading, we read about the religious leaders questioning of Jesus’ authority: Where does it come from? (Mark 11:27-33) Jesus offers to answer their question if they will answer His own question.
“Regarding John the Baptizer, where did his authority come from?” The religious leaders knew that Jesus had just trapped them. If they said that John’s authority was from God, they would be asked why they didn’t believe. But if they answered that John’s authority didn’t come from God, the people would revolt against them; the people believed that John was sent by God. So the cowards told Jesus they didn’t know where John’s authority came from.
Jesus’ question was one of those critical questions that, when considered with its ramifications, demands an answer. And in refusing to answer the question, one actually does answer the question.
Jesus says, “Neither will I tell you where my authority comes from.” (Mark 11:33)
“What will you do with Jesus?”
That is the key question you can — and should — pose to anyone you’re telling about Jesus. How they answer the question will reveal their answer, even if they try to avoid it, especially if they try to skirt the issue.
Why? Because one day soon — no one knows when — everyone will have to answer that question.
Someone can try to pass off Jesus as a prophet or a good moral teacher. But doing so reveals that they don’t know what Jesus really said. He said that He is the way to God; no one comes to God except by Him. (John 14:6) No other way leads to God. All other religions and philosophies are completely incompatible with Jesus’ claims to be the only way, the only truth, and the only life.
Either Jesus was Who He claimed to be … or He wasn’t. If He wasn’t Who He claimed to be, He isn’t worth following because He’s a liar. But…
But if Jesus was Who He claimed to be, each of us must come to terms with Who He claimed to be and adjust our lives accordingly. If He was Who He claimed to be, He is worthy of worship! He is worth laying down your life for. He is worth forsaking your own way for. He is worth turning away from everything else for.
So what will you do with Jesus?
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!
If you’ve been around church for long, you’ve probably heard the parable of the soils (Mark 4), part of today’s Bible reading. Jesus pointed out that He spoke in parables to reveal secrets of the Kingdom of God to those who would inherit His Kingdom. (Mark 4:11) Yet His parables cloaked the secrets of the Kingdom from those who would not inherit His Kingdom. (Mark 4:12)
So who will inherit God’s Kingdom? Who can understand the secrets hidden in the parables?
It seems obvious that those whose hearts are “good soil” are the heirs to the Kingdom. They are the ones who will receive God’s Word enthusiastically and apply its teachings to their lives. They are the ones who will protect their hearts from being choked by distractions. They are the ones who will prepare their hearts to give His Word even more depth to grow.
So how do you have good soil? How do you make the most of it?
If you’re asking these questions, you’re on the right track! You position your heart to listen. You position your heart to receive all that God would say in His Word. You do everything you can to clean out those things from your heart that would seek to distract you from letting God’s Word grow deeper. You do everything you can to drink in all of the nourishment from God’s Word so it can grow even more.
Here are some practical ways to “do everything you can”: Implement as many Spiritual Disciplines as you can. Prayer, Bible Study, Bible Reading, Bible Memory, Worship, Fasting, Witnessing, Fellowship with other Believers, Giving of your time, talent, and treasures, and Giving thanks.
That will get you started!
In today’s Bible reading, Jesus says, “And when Jesus heard it, he said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” Mark 2:17 (ESV)
Does that mean that Jesus only came for the Pharisees, Sadducees, and other First Century Religious leaders? After all, they were the most righeous. Right? Uh, no.
Ask anyone who has ever been through a recovery program what is the first step. They will tell you that the first step to recovery — the first step to wellness — is to admit you have a problem. The first step to being healed spiritually is admitting you have a problem. We all have a problem. It’s the same problem. It’s the sin problem.
Adam and Eve’s decision to choose their independence from God in Genesis 3 affected all of us to the very core of who we are. It twisted their DNA and altered every human being who would ever come after them. And like an alcoholic, each of us chooses to participate in sin. When we do, we become addicted to it.
The only way we will gain victory over sin and live a life that pleases God — and gives us ultimate satisfaction — is to admit we have a problem. Admitting that we have a problem begins a life of repentance, turning from our life of self-satisfaction, self-sufficiency (and self-deceit!) and turning to Jesus, accepting His death as our atoning sacrifice for our sin. The result is a relationship with God through Jesus Christ. A relationship that will grow in time as we continue to walk out our life in constant repentance and reliance on God’s Holy Spirit to live a godly life.
If you have never turned from sin and to Jesus, please do it today. If you’d like help with that, give me a shout!