“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?
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.
In today’s Bible reading, we read of the coming of the perfect new heavens and new earth. The perfectly-adorned bride of Christ is revealed. There’s no more sin or anything associated with it. There’s no more crying. There’s no more death. God dwells with His people. An angel measures heaven with a gold-standard. Everything is perfect. There’s no need for a sun or moon, for God Himself is the light. There’s no need for a temple because God Himself and the Lamb (Jesus) are the temple. Even the people there are perfect:
Nothing unclean will ever enter it,
nor anyone who does what is detestable or false,
but only those written in the Lamb’s book of life.
Revelation 21:27 (CSB)
The central idea behind Revelation 21 is, “Then he said to me, ‘It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. I will freely give to the thirsty from the spring of the water of life.'” Revelation 21:6 (CSB)
When God says, “It is done” He uses the perfect tense, meaning that it has already been done. There is nothing left to continue doing in the present or to do in the future. It’s complete. It’s perfect.
One of the hallmarks of the Gospel message is the completion of Jesus’ ministry. Jesus’ death on the cross and His resurrection accomplished everything necessary for us to be right with God. It is so complete that we can’t add anything to our salvation (as if we had anything to contribute anyway!).
And that’s great news!
In today’s Bible reading, John is commanded to eat the scroll held by the angel straddling the earth and sea. The angel warns John that the little scroll will taste sweet, but will upset his stomach.
God’s Word is difficult to digest but is sweet to Believers. The Psalmist says, “How sweet your word is to my taste— sweeter than honey in my mouth.” (Psalm 119:103 CSB) and “The fear of the LORD is pure, enduring forever; the ordinances of the LORD are reliable and altogether righteous. They are more desirable than gold— than an abundance of pure gold; and sweeter than honey dripping from a honeycomb.” (Psalm 19:9–10 CSB)
Ezekiel, too, was told to eat a scroll. (Ezekiel 3:1-3) His scroll was also sweet when he ate it. In both cases, having eaten the scroll, the men are commanded to prophesy (to speak God’s Word)
All too often, preachers prepare their sermons by studying the Bible without personally applying it to their lives. Oftentimes we will let our sermon prep be the only time we read and study the Word. It’s very easy to fall into this habit. And that is very sad.
Fortunately, most of us aren’t preachers. But how do you approach your Bible reading? How often does God’s Word come across as bitter to you? Perhaps it doesn’t sit well with how you have understood it in the past. Or perhaps it highlights something in your life that doesn’t line up with God’s character or His ways as revealed in His Word.
I would venture to say that if you aren’t confronted and convicted by God’s Word, you aren’t reading/studying it well. How does that taste? Bitter?
God has inspired His Word to teach you, but also to confront your sin and to prepare you for doing His work, regardless of whether or not you are a preacher or Bible Study teacher.
Spend some time asking God to show you something new in His Word as you read and study it. Ask Him to sanctify you with His Word, because His Word is truth. (John 17:17)
Expect to be confronted. Expected to be convicted.