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Friday, 3 January 2014

New Year, New Day

On January 1st  this year, I read Ecclesiastes 12: 13, which is what Solomon, the wise, wrote near the end of his life. "The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man."

Reading this verse got me thinking about God's commandments. I thought about what Jesus answered when asked, "Teacher, what is the greatest commandment in the Law?  And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets." Matthew 22:35-40

Why did Jesus pick these two, which are not officially part of the Ten Commandments, and why did he claim that all the Law and Prophets depend on these two commands?

I think it is because Jesus knows that love motivates us to put the commandments into practice. If we love God, we will not want other gods, and if we love others we will want to to treat them well.

The other verse that came to mind is found in Micah 6:8

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
    And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
    and to walk humbly with your God.

I think that this is what obeying those commands looks like.

But how do I live like this, what are the components that make up a life lived by acting justly, loving mercy and walking humbly? What came to mind then was this: "Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony." Colossians 3:12-14

Jesus led the way. He lived like this.

These verses are not new to me; I've read them before. I've failed in observing them many times, and God in his grace has forgiven me many times.

I cannot live like this by making resolutions, or by willing it.
I cannot even start on this life by myself, my nature wars against it. My natural tendency is to look after me and my own. I need him.  "God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2:4-9

I am his work in progress, and I cannot grow unless I abide in him.

He said "Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.

 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing." John 15:4 &5

What is the fruit that we bear when we remain in him?
"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law." Galatians 5:22-23

The Bible is repetitive; God stresses love.

He is our Father; he wants what is best for us all.

The word also talks about putting on the armour of God, but it is not because he wants us to be a violent people. He does not tell us to take up arms against one another, but against an enemy that is not of flesh and blood. The enemy that would have humankind devour itself with hatred, greed, pride, selfishness, self-centeredness and self-preservation.

The Armour of God

The belt of truth
Breastplate of righteousness
Shod with the readiness given by the gospel of peace
The shield of faith
The helmet of salvation
The sword of the Spirit; the word of God

To stand against oppression, cruelty, and injustice; to reach out in Christ's grace, mercy, and love; to treat others with respect, and seek to understand; to bless even those who curse us and to forgive because we have been forgiven.