If you love Me, keep My commandments. (John 14:15, NKJV)
Love is not unconditional. Worldly-minded people think love is unconditional, allowing them to justify their sin and demand your acceptance of them in spite of their sin. “Love is love”, they say, and, “if you love me you will accept me unconditionally”. These statements display a self-serving definition of love. God teaches us to love sinners, but He never teaches us to love sin or to have fellowship with, endorse or approve those who live in sin (Eph. 5:8-11; 2 Jno. 10-11). Those who love Jesus keep His commands. Obedience is the condition He stipulates as the love He accepts. Jesus went on to say, “He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him” (Jno. 14:21). Do you love Jesus? Your answer is found in whether or not you are obeying Jesus.
7 Therefore thus says the Lord of hosts: “Behold, I will refine them and try them; For how shall I deal with the daughter of My people? 8 Their tongue is an arrow shot out; It speaks deceit; One speaks peaceably to his neighbor with his mouth, but in his heart he lies in wait. 9 Shall I not punish them for these things?” says the Lord. “Shall I not avenge Myself on such a nation as this?” (Jeremiah 9:7–9, NKJV)
God’s ancient people needed refining; the dross had to be removed. Jerusalem and Judah was to be cleansed by God’s punishment (Babylonian destruction and exile, Jer. 25:1-14). One of their pervasive sins was speaking deceitful words. They spoke flattering lies with hearts full of malice. From this we learn that God takes note of our words and of our heart that prompts what we say. God saw their flattering, malicious lies as a personal affront to His holy character. He would avenge Himself on the unholy nation. This impresses us to realize that when we speak lies we sin against God Himself. Sins of the tongue do not escape His notice or His judgment. May we purify our hearts so that both our words and our hearts are acceptable to the Lord, the Holy One of Israel (Psa. 19:14).
25 But Jesus called them to Himself and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those who are great exercise authority over them. 26 Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant.” (Matthew 20:25–26, NKJV)
People of the world measure greatness by the position and power one has over others. Yielding to the appeal of pride and superiority, many succumb to this facade of importance. In the sight of God, however, greatness is defined by service. A humble heart that helps others, free of self-interest, is the standard of greatness pursued by disciples of Christ. After all, Jesus not only taught the virtue of humble service, He lived it: “…just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Matt. 20:28). Be great today. Serve someone instead of yourself.
18 “Come now, and let us reason together,” says the Lord, “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, they shall be as wool. 19 If you are willing and obedient, you shall eat the good of the land; 20 But if you refuse and rebel, you shall be devoured by the sword”; For the mouth of the Lord has spoken. (Isaiah 1:18–20, NKJV)
God “desires all men to be saved”, but He will not force His salvation on anyone. The freewill He gave us from creation must be exercised to come to Him with one’s whole heart. God would bless Judah and Jerusalem’s willing obedience with cleansing from their sins and the good abundance of their land. But, rebellious refusal to faithfully follow the Lord would bring their destruction. Jerusalem was eventually devoured by their enemies’ sword, a just punishment for her sins. The gospel of Christ calls every sinner to come to the Lord, to hear His words of mercy and call to repent and be baptized for the remission of sins (Acts 2:36-41). Receive God’s word with a willing heart and obedient life. He will cleanse you of your sins and give you abundant, eternal life. If not, remember that judgment is certain against all who rebel against the Lord (Rom. 2:6-11).
For your obedience has become known to all. Therefore I am glad on your behalf; but I want you to be wise in what is good, and simple concerning evil.” (Romans 16:19, NKJV)
Faithful, obedient living has a positive influence that reaches much farther than you think. To keep a good influence the Lord wants you to develop the ability to discern good and evil. God’s word teaches us the difference between good and evil. By obeying God’s word you show yourself to be wise. Furthermore, by doing so you will be innocent of evil and your obedience will encourage others to also obey the Lord.
14 Three times you shall keep a feast to Me in the year: 15 You shall keep the Feast of Unleavened Bread (you shall eat unleavened bread seven days, as I commanded you, at the time appointed in the month of Abib, for in it you came out of Egypt; none shall appear before Me empty); 16 and the Feast of Harvest, the firstfruits of your labors which you have sown in the field; and the Feast of Ingathering at the end of the year, when you have gathered in the fruit of your labors from the field. 17 Three times in the year all your males shall appear before the Lord God. (Exodus 23:14–17, NKJV)
Worship of the Lord God is not designed for our convenience. We do not choose to worship God only if there is nothing else happening we prefer to do. True worship is often inconvenient, demanding our commitment and sacrifice. It was no small task for the men of Israel to travel to the house of the Lord three times every year. The Law of Moses contained many other worship specifications dealing with offerings and sacrifices, none of which were arranged to accommodate the worshiper. Worship is not about you and me; it is about God. Develop your commitment to worship God “in spirit and truth”, making every sacrifice necessary in order to honor Him first (Jno. 4:24).
21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. 22 For Jews request a sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom; 23 but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness… (1 Corinthians 1:21–23, NKJV)
The message of a crucified king who saves the world continues to be viewed by an unbelieving world as foolish fables. That is not at all how men would write the script. The first-century Jews envisioned their mighty king riding in on a great steed, trampling over their enemies and vanquishing their foes by the sword in mighty battle. But, God’s king and His kingdom is not so inclined. God’s Anointed One rode into Jerusalem on the foal of a donkey, humble and lowly. It was not long before they cried out, “crucify him”. Those who elevate human wisdom count the message of the cross to be foolish. Belief in the gospel demands humility. Those who put stock in human wisdom become hardened by pride – an obvious barrier to humble faith. God still saves those believe the gospel. Therefore, we must continue to preach Christ regardless of faithless refusals.