And take…the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Ephesians 6:17
Volume 18, Number
In this issue:
Joe R. Price
This was said to explain an elder’s defense of unscriptural activities by a local church of Christ. It seems this comment about the elder’s heart intended to convey that, regardless of what he had said (which was error), he meant well. His intentions were good. Discussion over; he was sincere in his error.
Apparently, the “good heart” defense covers a multitude of sins. Are we to conclude that the elder’s good heart nullified his justification of false doctrine and unauthorized church work? When disagreements occur over God’s word, should we conclude the problem is solved as long as we all have “good hearts?”
Without question, a good heart is essential to have God’s approval (Jas. 4:8).
However, a good heart does not refuse God’s word. Jesus explained this when He said, “But the ones that fell on the good ground are those who, having heard the word with a noble and good heart, keep it and bear fruit with patience” (Lk. 8:15, emp. added). So, a good heart holds fast God’s word, keeps it and bears fruit with patience.
Back to the elder. Since he rejected God’s word on the work of the local church, how exactly was his heart “good” in this matter?
Good intentions do not equate to God’s approval for whatever one believes and does (Acts 23:1; 26:9-11). Sincerity is not the basis of right and wrong; God’s word is (2 Tim. 3:16-17). So, be sure your heart is good by hearing God’s word, keeping it and bearing good fruit that pleases God.
Love is surely one of the least understood subjects in the Bible. The Bible teaches us “God is love,” and that “God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son...” (1 Jno. 4:8; Jno. 3:16). How desperately this world needs to learn of God’s love and practice it toward others. Crime runs rampant, selfishness abounds and harm is regularly dispensed by man upon his fellow man. God is held in irreverence and mockery. Mankind must learn to love God and one another if things are to ever change.
Love is an action of the will, a determination of the heart to seek the welfare and benefit of others before and rather than oneself. God defines love, and commands it of us (1 Jno. 4:7-11). “He who does not love does not know God, for God is love” (1 Jno. 4:8).
When Jesus was asked which commandment was “first of all,” He quoted Deuteronomy 6:4-5: “The first of all the commandments is: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment. And the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these” (Mark 12:29-31). Loving God is the foundation for keeping all the commandments of God (whether those of the law of Moses by Israel while it was in force, or the gospel of Christ by all men today). True obedience only occurs as the result of love for God (Jno. 14:15). A thorough description of love is given in 1 Corinthians 13. It deserves to be implemented into our lives, for without love motivating us, we are “nothing” (1 Cor. 13:2).
God must be the first object of our love. Not ourselves, our family, our friends, or anybody else (Matt. 10:37). Jesus made this clear when He quoted Deuteronomy 6:4. The sovereignty and majesty of God compels every thoughtful human being to love Him. As the scribe noted, “Of a truth...there is none other but he” (Mk. 12:32). God’s singular presence and might is the compelling reason to lay our full love and devotion at His feet.
The Israelites were taught the depth of love to have for the Lord in Deuteronomy 6:5, and Jesus quoted it in Mark 12:30 to describe the type of love we must have for God. Our love for God must not be divided. We cannot serve two masters (Matt. 6:24). Our love for God must reach the very depth of our heart and soul (“with all your heart...soul”). It must fully engage our mind. All of our understanding is to be directed toward loving God (“with all your mind”). And, every fiber of our being must be focused on loving God (“with all your strength”). Jesus calls on each of us to give a full and complete expression of love to God. Love for God is the active expression of our faith that obeys Him and conforms our lives to His will (Jno. 14:15; 1 Jno. 4:16; 5:2-3).
What a different place this world would be if everybody loved God with all their heart, soul, mind and strength. For you see, when a person fully loves God it affects the way he treats his neighbor. For that reason, Jesus said the second greatest commandment is to love our neighbor as ourselves (Mk. 12:31). How many of us genuinely love our neighbors like we love ourselves? Before answering that question, consider how we love ourselves. First, we do not hate ourselves. Instead, we nourish and cherish ourselves (Eph. 5:29). We take care of ourselves, making sure to give ourselves good things. Secondly, we do not work evil against ourselves. We do not harm ourselves, and loving our neighbor means we do not harm him, either. “Love does no harm to a neighbor” (Rom. 13:10). We love ourselves by doing good things for ourselves. Even so, we must love each other “in deed and in truth” (1 Jno. 3:18). When we love our neighbor as ourselves we will act in his best interests as easily and completely as we do our own.
Love for God and for others undergirds all of God’s commandments. It was so with “the Law and the Prophets,” and it remains true today (Matt. 22:40). As a door hangs by its hinges, God’s commands are supported by and put into motion when we love God and others (Matt. 22:40). J. W. McGarvey put it this way when commenting on Matthew 22:40: “Love without law is power without direction, and law without love is machinery without a motor” (The Fourfold Gospel, 604).
Every word we say and every action we take ought to grow out of loving God and others. When they do, abuse, selfishness, arrogance and every sort of evil will be erased from our conduct. Sacrifice, humility and service will compel our every deed. Yes, the world needs to learn to love God and to love others. And, so do we.
You can find the complete outline of this sermon plus PowerPoint and MP3 Audio files at BIBLE ANSWERS
Scripture Reading: Psalm 103:1-10
Religionists have attempted to integrate psychology and the Bible.
I. REDEFINING FAITH, Heb. 11:1; Rom. 10:17.
-Should we deal
with problems of life from a position of faith, or reliance upon the wisdom
of men? 1 Cor. 1:21; Col. 2:8
FoxNews.com reported Thursday that
“An ultra-rare stamp could sell for more than $1 million when it hits the auction block in New York City next week, analysts have estimated. It was one of 100 “inverted Jenny” stamps, legends among collectors. They were issued in 1918 to celebrate the launch of U.S. air mail, but showed the Curtiss JN-4H “Jenny” biplane inverted. A savvy customer bought a 100-stamp sheet before anyone realized the error” (“'Inverted Jenny' stamp could fetch more than $1M at upcoming auction,” foxnews.com).
The shrewdness of the customer who bought a 100-stamp sheet of this 24-cent stamp is obvious; He knew its value would increase. We cannot help but remember the parable of the man who found a hidden treasure in a field, who sold all he had to purchase the field (Matt. 13:44). In the parable, Jesus teaches us to value the kingdom of heaven and to pay whatever price must be paid to obtain it.
Also notice how the value of the stamp increased over time. Rarity corresponds to its value. Similarly, our hope of heaven grows “sweeter as the years go by.” We do not tire of Christ’s gospel or its message of hope. By shaping our hearts and lives with the gospel, its nature and its value becomes more and more intertwined with our very being. The kingdom of heaven is more precious to us than when we first believed, even as “our salvation is nearer than when we first believed” (Rom. 13:11). We are compelled to wake up spiritually, to be alert and vigilant disciples, because we recognize our spiritual investment will reap an eternal reward (2 Tim. 1:12; 1 Pet. 4:19; 2 Tim. 4:7-8). The rarity of the kingdom of heaven increases its value. Its worth grows as heaven draws nearer.
Created by Chuck Sibbing, last updated. 05/29/2016
The Spirit's Sword is a free,
weekly publication of the Mt. Baker church of Christ, Bellingham, WA