July 7, 2016

What Must I Do To Have Eternal Spiritual Life? (Proper 15)

Jesus is asked the big question - and He gives the big answer. Notice that he does not give the usual Gospel of John answer about believing in Jesus. Instead, since he is asked as a test of Hebrew orthodoxy; he gives what we might call the “Hebrew” answer. In everyday use we tend to shorten this to “love God and your neighbour” We tend to:
·         Leave out the “With all your heart” part.
·         Define neighbour too narrowly
·         Skim over the “as yourself part”
Jesus deepened, widened and strengthened the definition of love.

1. Jesus deepened the definition of “Love God”
It is very easy to miss the depth of meaning of the word “love”. We often use this word carelessly to describe both the relationship we have with our family and with our hobby. Hopefully we don’t ‘love’ hockey in the same way as we ‘love’ our spouses. The Scriptures actually use the word “fear” to describe our relationship with God more often than the word “love”.
·         In the time of Jesus the love of God or fear of God had been reduced, for most people, to keeping the religious Law and participation in rituals and in offering animal sacrifices.
·         Jesus summary of the Law widened the definition to a total focus on being in love with God - beyond head knowledge and obedience to suggest a total emotional or heart commitment. I
·         Ten Commandments are all about specific ways in which we can fail to love God or what God has created.
·         Jesus mission was to bring people back into a new love relationship with a God who wanted an intimate relationship with each individual.
·         Amos had this kind of relationship with God - he was paying attention to what God had done in the past and was doing in the present
·         Relationship is based on knowledge and personal experience of God

2. Jesus also widened the definition of “neighbour”
If we are to love our neighbour as ourselves we must begin by loving ourselves. If we cannot love ourselves we will not be able to love our neighbour. Jesus widened the definition of neighbour to include everyone who comes across our path in life:
·         Samaritans were considered outcasts, not members of either the religious or political state of Israel. .
  • Who you help is determined by where you are.
  • How you help is determined by what their need is.
  • Samaritan loves with his whole heart and assumes responsibility
  • Bible teaches that the main reason men have to work is not for their own needs but so that they will be able to give something to the needy.

3. Jesus and Paul strengthened the definition of love
Both Jesus and Paul taught that those who really love God, themselves and their neighbour are in for a fight. Both were publicly rejected, physically attacked, beaten and crucified by the people they loved and tried to help. This is still going on in our time:
·         More Christians killed for their faith than at any time in history.
·         Saddened by church leaders who ignore this and focus on not offending people more than proclaiming Good News of forgiveness
·         Paul gives us a Military model of love as confrontation – as opposed to the modern Liberal model of education which has failed
·         He models a mission of aggressively rescuing people from a dominion of spiritual darkness and bringing them into a kingdom of spiritual light
·         Paul describes the Colossians twice as “holy people”
·         Holiness is essential to eternal Christian spiritual life
·         Contrary to modern culture we do not become holy by being good
·         It is hard for us to realise that we cannot save ourselves from death
·         Good news is that God allows Jesus sacrificial death to cover our guilt and have a new spiritual life– if we repent and believe
·         Colossians had recognised their need for Jesus, repented received forgiveness and the gifts of the Holy Spirit
·         Prays that God will “...fill you with the knowledge of His will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives” (Colossians !.9)
·         They have been “...brought into the Kingdom of the son He loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” (Col. 1.13-14)
·         Like Amos and Paul we grew spiritually as we grew in holiness and knowledge through struggle, difficult acts of love and experiences of God working in our lives through the Holy Spirit
What we must do to have an eternal spiritual life of joy is:
  • Recognise that we cannot save ourselves by being good
  • Turn to Jesus for help in self-examination and forgiveness
  • Come into a personal love relationship with Jesus through Bible Reading, prayer, worship, Christian fellowship and healing
  • Continue growing in our spiritual life as we ask for and receive the gifts of the Holy Spirit - love, joy and peace

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