Wednesday, 18 July 2018

T The restoration of God's people

The most severe sin

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When God gave His law to His people, He also appointed a group of people that would represent the people of Israel before Him. They were the ones doing the tabernacle and later temple duties. They were the mediators between God and man. This group of people, the priests, used the law that God gave to Moses. That law was the basis of their priesthood. But when Jesus came, that all changed. Not only was the priesthood changed, but because of that the law changed as well.

For the priesthood being changed, of necessity there is also a change of the law.
Hebrews 7:12

This tells us that God now demands a whole different way of thinking and acting from us. The law of Moses basically said that if you would keep the rules, you would be justified. However, as we all know, no one was able to keep that law. They all failed. Even in this time, when we try to keep the law, we will all fail. Then what’s the use of this law? It is the law that: 

  • Shows us Who God Is;
  • Shows us what His standard is;
  • Shows us what our condition is;
  • Shows us our need of a Savior Priest and Mediator

When the Word became flesh, and when Jesus Christ was born on earth, it started a whole new chapter in the history of mankind. When He lived His life on earth, His lifestyle has set a whole new standard for leadership, being one of love, humbleness, serving, committing, consisting, integer, competent, sincere and reliable. Each detail in His life was perfected. His great love for us was shown by His sacrifice, by being tormented and crucified. He went to hell and back for us. He conquered death and became the Victorious Son of God, with an unimaginable love for us. By His doing, His life didn’t only start a new chapter, it also made it a chapter without end. Through it all, He showed what true love is, He showed His trustworthiness, His faithfulness and He introduced the new type of priesthood. And as Hebrews 7:12 says, because of that there was also a change of law. 

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.
Matthew 22:37-40

The leaders of that time really disliked Jesus and His teachings. So they tried to catch Him in sin. One of the Pharisees, who also happened to be a lawyer in the law of Moses, asked Him which law was to be considered as the greatest of all. The answer Jesus gave was a revolutionary change, but not in contradiction with the law of Moses. Here Jesus pointed out that ‘just’ keeping the law was no longer good enough. Not only is it important to God what we do, but more important is why we do it. What this ‘why’ should be, was clearly mentioned by Jesus: love. 

By offering the most Lovable, Precious, Greatest yet Humblest, Powerful, Majestic King of kings, being Jesus Christ, God showed His great love for us. By accepting this great sacrifice, by accepting Jesus Christ as our Messiah, we accept His love and God will pour out His love in our hearts. It also demands from us that we redefine for ourselves what love is, by God’s standard. God’s love is available to us in full measure, all the time, everywhere and unlimited. From the moment we accept Jesus Christ, we need to start learning what love is. Although love is available, our ability to receive that love needs attention. The more time we spent with God, the more we put our trust in Him, the more love will be able to reach all the areas of our heart. It is only God Who can help us to reach the point where we are able to love in full measure as well. We need Him. Therefore our focus should be on Him always. Our trust should be in Him always.

With the love that God gives us, we may love Him back. But God demands that when we decide to love Him, that we love Him with all our heart, all our soul and all our mind. That means that all the intensions and motivations of our heart should be in line with love. The type of love that He showed us. It means that all our emotions should be in line with love. The type of love that He showed us. It means that our entire way of thinking should be in line with love. The type of love He showed us. In other words, God doesn’t leave any open spots or area’s in our life that can afford not to love. And honestly, this is a process. Love is something we must learn. But we can only learn it from the Master. It starts with a decision, not with an emotion. It continues by us asking for understanding and wisdom, to be able to get it. It is perfected by Jesus, Who reveals it to us. It is a journey, and like every journey, it means it is ongoing. It is always in motion and only stops when we stop.

With every bit we learn about love, God wants us to use it to love Him. Secondly He also wants us to learn to love ourselves. That is not a proud kind of ‘love’. The closer we come to God, the more we see our desperate need of a Savior. So approaching closer to His love and in His presence opens our eyes for all the bad things that are and were going on in our life. It will not leave any possibility to love that, and requires us to wonder what it is that God loves about us. It requires us not to look at ourselves with our own eyes, because then there is nothing left to love. But when we look to ourselves from His point of view, we can see someone who is lovable. Because of His love. Because He loved us first. Because of His grace. It is the type of love that is not based on what we do, but on who we are. And we only are because He is. At the moment we realize this, we also realize the great merci that was granted to us. We also realize that we have nothing to boast on. And with that same kind of love and mercy, God wants us to love our neighbors. Not by looking at them by what they do, but by who God says they are: a precious and lovable human being for whom Jesus gave His life as well. That requires us to love with the same love that God loves us with. It requires us to have the same mercy that God granted to us, regardless of what they did, because He also gave it to us, regardless of what we did. That became the law that Jesus gave us. Love. And it requires change from us. Not by our own strength, but by His strength. 

For as many as have sinned without law will also perish without law, and as many as have sinned in the law will be judged by the law (for not the hearers of the law are just in the sight of God, but the doers of the law will be justified; for when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do the things in the law, these, although not having the law, are a law to themselves, who show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and between themselves their thoughts accusing or else excusing them) in the day when God will judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ, according to my gospel.
Romans 2:12-16

If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you do well; but if you show partiality, you commit sin, and are convicted by the law as transgressors.
James 2:8-9

When Jesus taught about love, He talked about love without restraint. When we love, we should love all the way. With all of our heart, all of our soul and all of our mind, leaving no room for anything else. The law of Moses was basically about what we do. Those things were visible. People could see if you were keeping the law. But this new law about love, that is all living inside of us. We can do all the right things, without our heart, soul and mind being involved, in which case we commit a crime against love. In Romans Paul said that there will be a day when all our secrets will be judged by Jesus. In James it literally says that those who only love ‘partial’ will be ‘exposed by the law of love’ as transgressors. 

When Jesus gave this ‘law of love’, He added that those commandments include all other laws. So what is the most severe sin? It is sinning against love. When do we sin against love?

But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.
Matthew 5:28

For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all. For He who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not murder.” Now if you do not commit adultery, but you do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. So speak and so do as those who will be judged by the law of liberty. For judgment is without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.
James 2:10-13

The second we start to consider an evil thought as an option, it becomes sin. Even if you did not do the deed. This new law of love is about what lives in our hearts. If it lives in our hearts, we can’t love God with all of our heart, because there is a reservation. We can’t completely love ourselves because of that. And if we can’t love ourselves, we can’t love our neighbors. When we look at someone to lust for him/her, we have committed adultery. When we look at someone, wishing to kill them, we are guilty of murder. When we look at something, considering to steal it, we are guilty of theft. You see how far this goes? 

James goes even further. He says that when you break one law, you break all of them. So with that in mind, when you start to consider a sin (no matter which one) as an option, even if you did not do the deed yet, you become a transgressor of all the law. Guilty of adultery, guilty of murder, guilty of theft, guilty of blasphemy, guilty of idolatry, guilty of lying etc. Then who can stand? That answer is simple. Without His mercy, no one can stand. The law was not meant to justify us, it was meant to make us realize the condition we are in. Realizing the condition we are in makes us realize how desperately we need a Savior. Why are we guilty of breaking the entire law when we just break one of the rules? That is because of where the sin is coming from. The source of all sins is exactly the same.

For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies.
Matthew 15:19

And even now the ax is laid to the root of the trees. Therefore every tree which does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.
Matthew 3:10

While the old covenant just dealt with sin, Jesus goes further and deals with the root of sin, showing that that is the real sin. Everything that we do, every sin we commit, is a fruit of what lives inside our heart. Jesus was pointing out that our ‘visible sins’ are not the most important problem, but that which is hidden, where it originates from: the heart. When the heart is changing, the fruits are changing. The problem is that we all have the same kind of heart Jesus was talking about. We all need our hearts to be changed. The things that Jesus described in Matthew 15:19 are the things that are in our carnal hearts. All of it. Evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies. So when we judge someone, we basically judge ourselves, for we have the same sort of heart that produced the sin that we are judging. 

When we still talk in terms as ‘the most severe sin’, it means we do not yet have a clear understanding of what grace is. What is the purpose to grade a sin? It is always to adjust a suitable punishment. But when we talk about punishment, we talk about condemnation. And when we talk about punishment, judgment and condemnation, we talk about the law without mercy. That, my friend, is a dangerous area. Like the Word says: For judgment is without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy.

Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
Hebrews 12:1-2

To each and every one who has accepted Jesus Christ, who admits the condition of his/her heart and who is willing to change, there is mercy available. I’m not talking about being able to change, I’m talking about the willingness in our hearts. That is the part Jesus is looking at. He is the One Who gives us the ability, as soon as He sees our willingness. So speak and so do as those who will be judged by the law of liberty. Let us show mercy as well, to those who need it the most. Mercy triumphs over judgment.

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