Prodigal’s Father

Last week we discussed the prodigal son, and how he believed his sins drove him away from his father’s love. However, his failures revealed the depth of his father’s love in a way that he could not understand until he had nothing but failure to offer him.

In the same way, we don’t understand the depths of God’s love for us until we begin to understand that we have nothing to offer God but sin. In the flesh, even our righteous acts are sin, for as Jesus said, everything that is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is of the Spirit. The works of the flesh cannot produce anything of the Spirit.

When we begin to grasp this truth is when we begin to understand that God doesn’t love us based on what we have done or not done, but based on who He is. God loves you because He is love, and the only barrier God has established is our faith in His word of promise.

Let’s begin studying this truth by looking at love by comparing the Old Testament to the New. The unveiling of our need began when Adam and Eve succumbed to the temptation in the garden. It began with questioning God’s love. Genesis 3:5

"For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil."

How subtle temptation can be. Man already had the knowledge of good. The only thing he lacked was the knowledge of sin. Before sin entered, man was God-conscious and only saw the good coming from the Lord. Once he stepped into sin, Adam and Eve’s eyes were opened, and though nothing in life had changed at this point, they became ashamed. They were ashamed because they now looked for good in themselves instead of receiving the righteousness of God. From the beginning, it has always been God’s intention to be our righteousness instead of demanding righteousness.

Once man set out on a quest to make himself good by human effort, the law began to take shape. In the beginning, there was only one law – don’t eat of the tree. Once the tree was taken away, man was in sin, but incapable of understanding his inability to be righteous outside of God. The Bible says that where there is no law, sin is not imputed. In order to reveal to man that good only comes from above, God began unveiling the law in order to drive mankind into the knowledge of sin outside of Him. The Law cannot make us good, it can only reveal our sin. Look at Romans 7:9-10, 12-14

9 I was alive once without the law, but when the commandment came, sin revived and I died.
10 And the commandment, which was to bring life, I found to bring death.

12 Therefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy and just and good.
13 Has then what is good become death to me? Certainly not! But sin, that it might appear sin, was producing death in me through what is good, so that sin through the commandment might become exceedingly sinful.
14 For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am carnal, sold under sin.

Let’s look at how the law was introduced, how it drives us to the knowledge we are sinful by nature and cannot become unsinful, and then see how God uses our weakness to reveal His love. In order to reveal the power of His love, God first based the Old Testament law on our love. Look at Deuteronomy 6:4-5

4 "Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one!
5 "You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.

The law was based upon the command to love God with all – not part – of our life. All your mind. All your heart. All your strength. If you fail to give God everything, you are guilty of breaking the law. The nation of Israel was put under the law, and they could not keep it. They began to shape the law into their culture, and then they strove to accomplish it through a never-ending expansion of the law. The question has always been, “Are you doing enough? Are you loving God enough?”

When the lawyers asked Jesus which was the greatest commandments, He quoted the above passage, but He used the word ‘agape’, which is the love of God. Man’s love is ‘philia’, or friendship love. Philia love is dependent upon receiving. Philia love dies or weakens when it is not returned, but agape is the unconditional love of God. Take time to read 1 Corinthians 13. This explains agape love – it seeks not its own, is not provoked, rejoices in truth, endures all things, and so on. It is beyond human capability to fulfill this. What’s more, is that if you do good deeds, and do not have agape love, your good works profit nothing. Look at 1 Corinthians 13:3

And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing.

Agape cannot be earned, nor can it be produced. Either our works are produced by God’s agape love, or they are worthless. Even our good deeds are mere acts of the flesh. This is why Isaiah 64:6 says that all our righteous acts are filthy rags in God’s sight.

This is what those focused on the law could not comprehend. This is why grace was a threat to the religious community at the birth of the church, and why trusting in grace is viewed as a threat today. No one wants to believe that their works profit nothing. Yet once we understand the love of God, we discover this doesn’t matter, for by faith we receive the greater blessing than what we were trying to earn before.

When Jesus quoted the law, it was always to reveal to those who trusted in their works the reality of their guilt. To the Pharisee who thought they were keeping the law, Jesus dismantled all their works. They brought a woman caught in adultery to Jesus knowing He would not condemn her. They said, “She was caught in the very act. The law says she must die, but what do you say?”

Jesus stooped down and began writing in the dirt. I imagine he was writing the secret sins He knew they were guilty of. Lust, greed, hatred. Perhaps He wrote the command to love God with all our soul, heart, and strength. Then underlined the word ‘all’. Why is Jesus writing these things, they wondered. Then they demanded, “The law says she must be stoned. What do you say?” The law had already condemned this woman, now those who trusted in the law thought the law could also condemn grace. But the reverse was true.

Jesus stood up and said, “Whichever among you is without guilt, let him be the first to cast a stone.” Then He returned to highlighting their sins in the dirt. One by one, they dropped their stones in frustration and walked away.

Under the law, we are all guilty. And if you look to your works or righteousness – or anything from yourself, you will find guilt instead of righteousness. And that is the purpose of the law. Look at Romans 3:19-20

19 Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God.
20 Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin.

The law was intended to show you are guilty because God wants you to understand that you are loved, not because you do good works. Not because of the sins you manage to avoid. Nor does God deny you because of your sins or lack of good works. God doesn’t love you because of what you do or don’t do. God loves you because He is love. God defeated sin for you in order to reveal that nothing can stand between you and the love of God. Nothing but your refusal of His love. People refuse God’s love because they either don’t believe God loves them because of their failures, or because they believe they can earn His love by human success. But the law never produces righteousness. It only reveals whether a person is already righteous by nature.

After the incident with the woman condemned by the law, Jesus began revealing how they are also under condemnation. He said, “You have heard it taught that if a woman leaves her husband for another, she has committed adultery. But I tell you, if you even look at a woman to lust after her, you have already committed adultery in your heart.”

To those who boasted of their righteousness, Jesus revealed their sin. The rich young ruler who said he loved his neighbor as himself was instructed to sell everything he had and give it to his poor neighbors. To those who condemned murderers, Jesus said that hatred in the heart makes you a murderer. To the person who condemns the thieving tax collectors, the Bible says that greed is equal to thievery. To the one who condemns idolaters, loving wealth is idolatry. Every sin we can observe is already in our own hearts, even if pride blinds us to its reality. Pride blinds us to our guilt, but the law reveals our condemnation. A condemnation that is removed in Christ.

Do you love God with everything? Every thought is based on love for Him? Every action is out of a love for Him? Everything in our heart is grounded in love for God? Our love for our neighbor is so great that we give from our own table to them?

Anyone who trusts in the law or believes they are keeping the law is deceiving themselves. Anyone who thinks they love God enough is living a lie.

That’s the bad news of the law. But the good news is that Jesus fulfilled the law for us to give us God’s favor, bore the penalty of sin for us to take it out of the way, and gives us birth into new life by the Spirit whose life is from God.

The Old Testament law is, do you love God enough. The New Testament says, “It’s not about your love at all. It’s about His love.” Look at 1 John 4:16-19

16 And we have known and believed the love that God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him.
17 Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness in the day of judgment; because as He is, so are we in this world.
18 There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love.
19 We love Him because He first loved us.

It was never about our love. It has always been about God’s love. In the beginning, man enjoyed fellowship with God until his focus was turned to himself. Remember the account of the tower of Babel? Their goal was to build a tower to heaven. Man’s goal has always been to make himself good, yet every good and perfect gift comes from God, not from man. The law reveals to you and I that our efforts can never be good enough, and it doesn’t matter. Our failure reveals God’s love.

The law was never about man. It has always been about God. The law unveils God’s perfect character and nature, and it unveils our inability to be perfect or attain to God’s standard of perfection – a standard that has always been about God. Now we see the promise, it isn’t about your love for God, but His love for you. God couldn’t have made this clearer than 1 John 4:10

In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.

It’s not that you love God, it’s that you know and believe in the love God has for you. That is the message of the prodigal son. It wasn’t about the son’s love. It was that the son could not comprehend the love of the father until he had nothing but failure to give to his father. It was then that he discovered the father loved him only because he was his child, and because that was the father’s nature. It was never about the son. It was about the father’s love for the son.

This is you. You are the focus of God’s love. He loves you because you are His child, and His love transforms you. But that transformation cannot take place until you come to the end of yourself – the point where you stop looking to you and begin to know and believe in His love for you.

You see this in the disciples of Jesus. Peter boasted of his love for Jesus. He proclaimed his willingness to fight for Jesus, die for Jesus, and affirmed that he would never forsake Jesus – even if all these others do. Who was the only disciple to deny Jesus? It was the one trusting in himself and his own love for God.

All the others forsook Jesus and fled for their lives – except one. John went to the palace with the crowd arresting Jesus. He is the one who helped Peter get into the courtyard where Jesus was being tried. He was the only disciple at the crucifixion. He was the one Jesus spoke to from the cross when Jesus delivered His mother into John’s care so she would not have to watch Him die. Now look at how the Bible describes John in these passages?

John 13:23

Now there was leaning on Jesus’ bosom one of His disciples, whom Jesus loved.

John 20:2

Then she ran and came to Simon Peter, and to the other disciple, whom Jesus loved, and said to them, "They have taken away the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid Him."

John 21:7

Therefore that disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, "It is the Lord!"

John 21:20

Then Peter, turning around, saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following,

Do you notice anything unusual about the disciple Jesus loved? Have you noticed this only appears in the gospel of John? John is called the disciple whom Jesus loved, but this only appears in John’s own writing. John endured because he understood the love of Christ for him. Never does he boast about his love for Jesus. In John’s latter years, he writes to the church and says, “It’s not that we love God, but that He first loved us.” Following this he says, “We have known and believed in the love He has for us.”

From here we have the promise that perfect love casts out fear. No fear can abide in the heart that is receiving perfect love. Human love can never be perfect. Perfect love is God’s love received into our hearts. When you understand that you are the disciple God loves, you will begin walking in confidence. Fear is forced out of your life, for the disciple God loves has no fear of judgment, but has confidence – even in the day of judgment. God loves you so much that He was punished for your sins. Someone who lives in that kind of love could never fear judgment.

There is no fear in life, for God has promised that He has worked out all things for your good – this includes now and in the future. If you know and believe in the love God has for you, and His love has already prepared the way, how can you fear anything this life can throw at you? Look now at Daniel 10:19

And he said, "O man greatly beloved, fear not! Peace be to you; be strong, yes, be strong!" So when he spoke to me I was strengthened, and said, "Let my lord speak, for you have strengthened me."

You are God’s greatly beloved. God’s beloved has no fear, but peace. And where does strength come from? God strengthens you and it is by His grace we stand. Don’t believe the lie that Jesus loves you and defends you to the Father. Indeed Jesus is our advocate, but He defends us when the accuser tries to condemn us with the law. Your Heavenly Father loves you and you must know and believe in His love. Look at the words of Jesus in John 16:26-27

26 "In that day you will ask in My name, and I do not say to you that I shall pray the Father for you;
27 "for the Father Himself loves you, because you have loved Me, and have believed that I came forth from God.

You and I are in that day. He is referring to the day when our redemption was complete in Christ. The barrier of the law was removed, sin was taken out of the way, and now the love of God is unveiled in all its glory. When we fall into a humanistic religious mindset, we falsely think God is pleased based on what we do for Him. Not so. Let’s wrap up with Hebrews 11:6

But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.

All of this is based on knowing and believing in the love God has for you. Have faith in His love for you. Many children go through rebellious attitudes during the transition from childhood to adulthood. During the dark years of adolescence, children doubt their parent’s love. I’ve heard children say, “My parents hate me,” when I know for certain that youth’s parent would give up everything for their child’s good. They work to provide every necessity, education, and gifts. Yet if a child disbelieves in their parent’s love, they will live life under a false ideology and their own perception becomes a reality in their lives.

We do the same with God. He has done everything to unveil His love for us, yet if we place ourselves under the perception of condemnation, we’ll live under condemnation, doubt, and frustration. We can live as a child who has an unpleasable father and never experience the love given to us.

During Jesus’ last prayer, He said the following in John 17:22-23

22 "And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one:
23 "I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me.

Your heavenly Father loves you just as much as He loves Jesus. You have the glory of God resting upon you, but you can live as a condemned man or woman. Or you can walk in God’s strength and trust in His love.

Know and believe in the love your Father in Heaven has for you. If there is one truth that will transform you into the victorious Christian life, it is this. Once you begin to believe in God’s unconditional love, you will begin walking as a child of the Kingdom. Once you understand you are loved, not because of your own abilities, but because God delights in you solely because you are His beloved child, you will experience a life of love. And God’s agape love transforms lives because it is the power of God within you.

Abide in God’s love. Know and believe in the love He has for you. In this rests all the promises of the life we have been given. It’s all a gift of God’s love for you. You are the disciple God loves!

Eddie Snipes 2014
Listen to Eddie’s weekly podcast at
https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/hollydale-baptist-church/id893226987

The Prodigal Son

For the next three weeks, we are going to study the parable of the prodigal son. We call it the prodigal son, but it’s more than just a story about a wayward son. It’s one of the richest illustrations ever told. It’s about a son whose life was changed by the love of his father, and a brother who didn’t understand grace.

We are going to study this story from all three perspectives, that of the son, the father, and the brother. Let’s begin by reading the entire illustration from Luke 15:11-32

11 Then He said: "A certain man had two sons.
12 "And the younger of them said to his father, `Father, give me the portion of goods that falls to me.’ So he divided to them his livelihood.
13 "And not many days after, the younger son gathered all together, journeyed to a far country, and there wasted his possessions with prodigal living.
14 "But when he had spent all, there arose a severe famine in that land, and he began to be in want.
15 "Then he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country, and he sent him into his fields to feed swine.
16 "And he would gladly have filled his stomach with the pods that the swine ate, and no one gave him anything.
17 "But when he came to himself, he said, `How many of my father’s hired servants have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger!
18 `I will arise and go to my father, and will say to him, "Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you,
19 "and I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Make me like one of your hired servants."’
20 "And he arose and came to his father. But when he was still a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him.
21 "And the son said to him, `Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight, and am no longer worthy to be called your son.’
22 "But the father said to his servants, `Bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet.
23 `And bring the fatted calf here and kill it, and let us eat and be merry;
24 `for this my son was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ And they began to be merry.
25 "Now his older son was in the field. And as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing.
26 "So he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant.
27 "And he said to him, `Your brother has come, and because he has received him safe and sound, your father has killed the fatted calf.’
28 "But he was angry and would not go in. Therefore his father came out and pleaded with him.
29 "So he answered and said to his father, `Lo, these many years I have been serving you; I never transgressed your commandment at any time; and yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might make merry with my friends.
30 `But as soon as this son of yours came, who has devoured your livelihood with harlots, you killed the fatted calf for him.’
31 "And he said to him, `Son, you are always with me, and all that I have is yours.
32 `It was right that we should make merry and be glad, for your brother was dead and is alive again, and was lost and is found.’"

Prodigal Son

You and I are either the prodigal, or the brother. Keep in mind that Jesus told this parable in response to those who criticized him for showing acceptance of prostitutes, drunkards, tax collectors, and other sinful people that the religious community shunned as unworthy of God’s acceptance.

In the ancient Jewish culture, to dine with someone is a declaration of acceptance. No Jew would ever dine with someone they didn’t consider respectable and acceptable. Do you remember the story of Jesus and the woman at the well? When Jesus asked her to draw out water for Him, she was shocked. No Jew would dare speak to a Samaritan. They were considered polluted people. They would not even acknowledge their presence, and certainly wouldn’t stoop so low as to ask one for help. Jesus not only spoke to this woman, but He spent two days with the Samaritans, dining with them and teaching them.

If you want to understand the heart of the Father, look at Jesus. We like to separate the Father and the Son as though the Father is angry and the Son appeases Him. Nothing could be further from the truth. The Father sent the Son and the Spirit empowered Him to perform miracles, teach, and fulfill the mission He came to accomplish. The Bible says that Jesus, though He existed in the form of God, veiled His glory and took upon Himself the form of a bondservant, and came in the likeness of sinful flesh.

The power of Christ was veiled for His earthly ministry, and His power on earth was the same power we have on earth – the ministry of the Spirit. This is why the Bible speaks of Christ this way in Luke 4:18-19

18 "The Spirit of the LORD is upon Me, Because He has anointed Me To preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives And recovery of sight to the blind, To set at liberty those who are oppressed;
19 To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD."

This is also why Jesus said in John 14:12-13

12 "Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father.
13 "And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.

God is not a seething angry judge. Wrath is against sin, not against you. When Jesus took upon Himself the wrath of God, judgment was satisfied and we now have absolute confidence in the Father’s love toward us. Look at 1 John 4:17-19

17 Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness in the day of judgment; because as He is, so are we in this world.
18 There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love.
19 We love Him because He first loved us.

You are not of fear, but of confidence. Your confidence should not be in yourself, or you will never have confidence. In Christ, the Bible says we have been given the adoption of God as sons. Until we became children of God, we could not have confidence. If a servant rebels, what happens? He will not be treated as a son, but as an offender. Yet we are not servants, but sons. Both men and women are sons of God.

Have you ever noticed how the Bible always talks about us as sons of God? We are sons of the inheritance? In the ancient culture when the Bible was written, women didn’t inherited the possessions of their father. They married into the inheritance of their husbands, but unless there were no sons, they did not inherit the estate of their family.

Though men and women have different gifts and callings in scripture, they both have the same inheritance, for the Bible says that in Christ there is neither male nor female, bond or free, Jew or Gentile. We are all one in Christ. When it comes to our lives in the flesh, we are male and female, but when it comes to the inheritance, we are all counted as sons. All who are of faith are counted as sons – there is no difference. There aren’t kings and queens in God’s kingdom. There are kings and priests – and we are blessed through faith and not gender.

Also absent from the kingdom is slave verses master. In the biblical culture, slavery was not a racial ideology as we think of in light of the 17-1800s. Slavery was the solution to bankruptcy. When someone borrowed money, but were unable to pay it back, they paid the debt through servitude. When borrowing money, the servitude would have been agreed upon before a loan was made.

In God’s kingdom, we are not slaves, for the debt has been paid through Christ. A son can never become a slave, even if he squanders his inheritance. Do you think the prodigal son understood his father’s love?

This immature young man had no concept of the value of his father’s love. Jesus uses this illustration to shock the hearers who didn’t understand God’s love. So he used a rebellious man’s love for money to drive the point hard. A son could not inherit the father’s wealth until after his death. Therefore, this young man is saying, “I wish you were dead. But since you don’t look like you are dying, I want you to just get out of the way and give me what I’ll get if you were dead.”

All the father had to say was, “No.” The young man would have had to stay, but this father understood that forced obedience was not valuable. He divided the inheritance and gave all he had to both his sons. The younger son probably sold off the cattle and goods, then took the money and said, “I’m out of here.” He left without caring how much his father loved him.

It was probably years that he was gone. He partied hard, and everyone is a friend to the big spender. Once the money was gone, the lad had to begin earning his keep. But life threw him a curve. A famine hit the land. In order to create a famine, there would have to be several years with no rain. No crops in the field meant no one was hiring laborers. The only job this man could find was helping a pig farmer.

You need to understand how low this job would have been to a Jewish man. The most vile creature on earth was a pig. Jews would never eat or even touch a pig. Not only that, but they considered themselves unclean if they touched anything or anyone who had come in contact with a pig. In an act of pure desperation, this man took the worst job imaginable.

The famine continued, and the young man grew so desperate that he not only worked in the pig sty, he also began eating the refuse thrown to the pigs. The food not fit for human consumption was the only thing he had available.

While choking down this vile slop, he finally realized he was as low as anyone could go. No friends. No money. No shelter. No food. Even the slaves back home had food, clothing, and shelter. He then rehearsed a speech that he would give to his father and headed home.

Do you think this young man had perfect love? Did he trust in his father’s love? Did he have any comprehension of how much his father loved him? No to all of the above. When he was at home, he wasn’t looking at his father. He was looking at the desire of temptation. After pursuing what he thought would bring fulfillment, he inherited the consequences of his life’s choices.

Do you think he was focused on the father’s love when he came to himself? No. He was still thinking about himself and his desperate situation. He didn’t think his father could love him. He looked at his sins, life’s choices, and the consequences of his own actions. He was certain that his sin had driven him away from his father. He would beg to become a slave just to survive.

How many sins did the father make his son recount before forgiving him? None. Did the father withhold love from the son? No. He loved him even while he was living in debauchery. The father knew the son could never understand his love until his son came to the end of himself. The love of the father never changed. The only thing that changed was that his son could never understand how much dad loved him until he had nothing in his life worthy of love.

Many of you are the prodigal son, or have been there. I have been there. In the past, I thought my sins were driving me away from God, but I discovered they were driving me to Him.

It was not until I had nothing to offer God but sin that I discovered God doesn’t love me because of who I am, but because of who He is. It isn’t until we understand that all we have to give to God is our sin that we can then understand that everything is about His love and not our efforts.

The prodigal son illustration was given because the people who thought of themselves as good were looking at Jesus and saying, “Why are you accepting these people who are bad?”

It isn’t until we understand that we have nothing good to give God that we can begin to comprehend the depth of God’s love.

The son practiced his rehearsed speech, and when he came to his father, something unexpected happened. While he was a long way off, the father ran to meet him. Before he could say a word, the father embraced him and began kissing him. A little is lost in translation here. There are two words used for ‘kiss’ in the New Testament. One means a fraternal kiss, or the common kiss on the cheek used in many cultures. The other means to kiss repeatedly. A good example of both usages is found when a woman known for her sinful lifestyle came when Jesus was dining at a Pharisee’s house. People were amazed that Jesus allowed this sinful woman to wash His feet with her tears. It was vile to be touched by such a woman.

Jesus explained how that someone with little sin doesn’t recognize the love of God, but a person who is hopelessly in debt to sin loves much because they are loved much. When they recognize the depth of the love of God, they recognize how much of a treasure they have been given. In this interaction, Jesus says the following in Luke 7:45

You gave Me no kiss, but this woman has not ceased to kiss My feet since the time I came in.

The first usage of the word ‘kiss’ is ‘philema’, which is a sign of respect and acceptance. It’s a fraternal kiss on each cheek. The second usage of the word kiss is the Greek word ‘kataphileo’, which is the act of continually kissing someone. It is to kiss again, and again, and again, and again.

I once saw a mother whose child was rescued from a well. The rescue was televised. She didn’t know if her son was alive or dead until a rescuer went down the shaft and came up with the child, safe and sound. She embraced him and kissed him over and over. This is what kataphileo is communicating, and it’s the word used in the prodigal son.

Before the son could say a word, the father embraced him with a bear hug and kissed him again, and again, and again, and again. Then they wept together until the son could speak. Then while the son is saying, “I have sinned,” the father is commanding the servants to put good sandals on his feet. While the son is saying, “I am not worthy to be called your son,” the father is crying out, “Bring the best robe for my son. Put the family ring on his finger.”

Was the son worthy? No. And that’s the point. It wasn’t about his worthiness, but about the father’s love.

Your faith is not about your worthiness. It isn’t about your sin, or ability to not sin. It’s not about your righteousness or works. It is about the father’s love for you. If you could be worthy, you miss the greatness of God’s love. It is when you have blown it to the point where you know you smell like you’ve been in a pig sty, you’ve been driven to despair by your sins, that is when you can understand the love of God.

God loves you because God is love. Your sins, failures, and weaknesses do not drive you away from God. They drive you to the reality of His love for you. It is only then that you are able to understand how much God loves you. When you understand that all you have to give God is filthy rags, that is when you will see God joyfully take away your rags and give you the robe of righteousness.

The sad reality is that we rarely can grasp how much we are loved until we have failed so miserably that we can no longer deceive ourselves into thinking we can please God by anything other than faith. Let’s wrap up this portion of study with Hebrews 11:6

But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.

It’s not works, righteousness, moral excellence, or religious activities that pleases God. It is faith. Faith says, “I know and believe in the love God has for me.” Faith says, “I am righteous because I am receive the righteousness of Christ.” Faith understands that all I can give God is my sins and failures, and He gladly gives me His goodness and righteousness. Faith is to believe in God’s grace, not our abilities or lack thereof. Faith reveals that my sin is not God’s barrier, and it isn’t sin that overthrows grace, but grace that overthrows sin.

Faith says, “It’s not about me, but it’s about Christ. It’s about His work given to me as a gift of God’s love.”

God transforms you through His power and gifts of love. You don’t make yourself acceptable to God. You are accepted in Christ, and it’s God’s job to transform you into His likeness. The more you learn to trust in God’s love, the more His love forces out of your life the things that hinder you.

Eddie Snipes 2014
Listen to Eddie’s weekly podcast at
https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/hollydale-baptist-church/id893226987

Yes, Virginia, Grace is Hyper!

I’m surprised at how many people have such a strong opposition to grace. One man gave me the warning of Luke 6:26, “Woe when all men speak well of you.” He then said, “This is the evidence you are a deceiver and a false prophet.”

Based on the response to grace, I’m in safe company. I get bombarded with criticism, and an occasional word of encouragement sprinkles in from time to time. From what I can see, those who are quoting Luke 6:26 are the ones being spoken well of, for preaching righteousness by human effort is widely accepted. The Apostle Paul said it best when he explained how persecution stops when the law is preached, for “then the offense of the cross has ceased.” When you take the works of righteousness out of man’s hands and say all good is a gift of God’s grace or it is a work of the flesh, that is when religion gets offended.

There are many well-meaning Christians that are creating divisions in the church. They preach division by labeling anyone who doesn’t subscribe to the boundaries of their denominational lines as a heretic or false teacher. A few weeks ago someone sent me an article titled ‘Six People who should be removed from Evangelicalism’. Is this the message of the gospel? As of this writing, there are over 33,000 denominations and sub-denominations in the world today.

Jesus said, “By this shall all men know you are My disciples, by your love (agape) for one another.” My friend, this is the reason for the decline of the church. It isn’t ‘those heretics’, it is the fact that with the absence of love for the brethren, the world has no way of seeing Christ in the church. When we see misunderstandings of doctrine, instead of taking to heart the example of Aquila and Priscilla and nurturing people into the way of truth, we take the hammer of judgmentalism and smash them over the head.

When these two mature believers heard Apollos teaching, they recognized mistakes in his teaching, but they also recognized his love for God. Instead of publicly skewering him, the Bible says, “They took him aside and expounded the way of God more accurately.” A little is lost in translation. The word ‘took’ is the Greek word ‘proslambano’, which means to take someone as a companion. They didn’t merely rebuke him or straighten him out. They welcomed him into their fellowship and extended agape love to him, and through the relationship, they nurtured him into a deeper understanding.

Apollos is mentioned ten different times in the New Testament. He became an influential missionary who crossed paths with the Apostle Paul and worked to establish the church throughout the Roman Empire. What would have happened if they rebuked Apollos or wrote to the churches that he should be expelled from fellowship because he had a flaws in his doctrine?

Here is another thought to ponder. Think about the most influential Christians throughout history. How many people who shot down others were instrumental in establishing the church or being used mightily of God? I’ll ask another question. Which person is more usable by God – someone who is abiding in the love of God (agape) but has weak doctrine, or a learned theologian who picks off heretics? Which one demonstrates the love of Christ to the world? Which one will the world look at and say, “Now that person is a disciple of Christ?”

I also once thought defending the faith from every form of error was the most important part of teaching. I once had thousands of pages of apologetics on my website (exchangedlife.com) but a few years back I wiped it all away and started over. Apologetics is a term meant to call ourselves a defender of the faith.

I was compelled to start from scratch when I began to understand how little I knew. Each new discovery in the word did two things. It unveiled a new world of truth to explore, and it revealed how little I had previously understood. New misunderstandings are dispelled every time I discover a new depth of truth. If I now see how many things I had wrong (and only God knows how many new discoveries will make my current beliefs appear foolish) how can I stand in condemnation because my fellow believer has things wrong? Do I deserve God’s patience with my limited understanding, but now I refuse to show that same patience to others? The evidence of our faith is NOT pointing out every error in others and demanding they submit to our beliefs.

Let me digress for a moment. Nowhere does the Bible call us defenders of the faith. God needs no defenders. Once we have to defend God or make ourselves protectors of His truth, we are already outside of true faith. He is our defender, and His truth has no rivals. Each time the word ‘defense’ or ‘apologia’ is used in scripture, it is us defending the reason for our hope. It is never given as a justification for attacking fellow believers. Nine times ‘defense’ is used in the New Testament. Not one time is it associated with anything other than someone defending their own hope in faith. Never is it used to assault someone in the name of God. There is a place for apologetics, but any apologia that does not give reason for our hope is an act of the flesh.

What’s more, the way to expound the way more accurately is not to rebuke or correct. It is to build companionship based on a mutual faith, exercising agape love to each other, and through fellowship, we can freely challenge each other and be challenged in the spirit of love. If a friend comes up and says, “I’m not sure if I agree with what you said,” we can sit down at a coffee shop and explore the scriptures and each other’s perspective. However, if I go up to someone I have not bothered to establish a companionship with and say I don’t agree with them, what will happen? They will be defensive, and I’m more likely to get conflict than showing them the way more perfectly.

The real failure is not in their doctrine, but in the fact that I have not bothered to create a companionship with my fellow believer. Until agape reigns, correction will always appear to be criticism. This is what is happening with the anti-grace movement. They call themselves defenders of grace from the hyper-grace movement, but as we’ll discuss shortly, you can’t believe in God’s grace too much.

Certainly there are people with misunderstandings of grace. There are non-Christians who use grace to justify their sins, just as they used other methods of self-justification before knowing about grace. There are fleshly minded Christians who will twist grace into justification of the flesh as well. But they were already in the flesh, and it isn’t grace that led them into error. The fleshly mind always seeks to manipulate truth for self-justification. As with all doctrines, grace without faith is an act of the flesh. We shouldn’t be surprised when the fleshly mind attempts to conform biblical truth into the ways of the flesh. We know that grace is only within faith, but this doesn’t keep people outside of faith from trying to manipulate it. But does this disprove grace? Or make it hyper? What about other biblical principles. The Apostle Peter said unlearned men would twist scriptures for their own destruction – but this doesn’t discredit the scriptures.

Jesus never showed hostility toward those who were ignorant, or even to those who were in sin. The only time Jesus dismantled religion was when people erected faith in their own self-righteousness. Grace always triumphs over sin. Self-righteousness always nullifies grace – God’s promises.

Why is grace the only thing the church establishment is openly hostile toward? People misuse scriptures and abuse the Bible in many ways, but it is only of grace that it is said, “We must keep it within boundaries.” It’s just as it was said in the 1st century. The religious community that began looking to Christ had no problems with faith – until faith called them to stop trusting in their own works. Then it became a threat. That’s why the Jewish church hated Paul. The other Apostles received him and called his writings ‘scripture’, but the community that believed in Jesus plus human effort (in their case the law), called grace heresy.

The organized church has no problem believing Ephesians 2:8-9, For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.

Resistance comes when you say, “The Christian life is lived by grace through faith. Everything is a gift of God and not of works so no one can boast.” That’s when conflict arises, but the Christian life is lived the same way it is entered – by grace through faith. If you take grace away, it becomes faith in human effort. If you take faith away, grace becomes a superstition of a flesh-focused religion. The Bible rebukes the Galatian church for leaving faith and turning back to human effort by saying, “Are you so foolish, having begun by faith, do you now think you are made perfect by works of the flesh?”

Grace IS hyper, for God called it so. Romans 5:20 says, where sin abounds, grace much more abounds. ‘Sin abounds’ uses the word ‘pleonazo’, which means increase or have abundance. It’s where we get our English word ‘plenty’. The second part of this passage says ‘grace much more abounds’. That word is huperperisseuo, which means abound beyond measure, abound exceeding, or to overflow into excess. It’s where we get our word hyperactive.

The concept is that sin cannot stand in the presence of grace, for God’s grace is so excessive, it overruns and drives sin out. When a sinner hears the gospel and receives Christ, what happens? God’s grace is poured upon him / her, sin is driven out, the flesh nature is cut away and driven out, and a new nature born of God fills the heart of the person. Is this hyper grace? You bet it is! So what happens to take people out of that joyful reception of grace and into a life struggling against sin again? Grace is replaced with human effort – which often comes in the form of church law. They began by looking to Christ and found victory, but they took their eyes off of Christ and returned it back to self. The very self that could do nothing before has now become that person’s dependence again. And we wonder why the Christian life is so hard.

The only person who can find true victory is the one who realizes self can’t do anything, it’s all of Christ. The church condemns their audacity to do nothing but receive grace, but those condemning them have no victory. They hide their weakness behind a façade, but when you really get to know people, even the best among us is in the same position. We all have weaknesses and struggles. Weaknesses defeat those trusting in human effort, but weakness becomes the glory of those who understand that God’s strength is made perfect in our weaknesses.

Victory emerges as we recognize that our weakness is designed into humanity so we can learn to receive the power of God. Your weakness is God’s gift. Weakness opens our eyes to the provision of God’s grace. It is through weakness that we receive His power of grace. (See 2 Corinthians 12:9) The only way this can’t happen is if we refuse to allow grace to flow. And the promise is nullified through the law (See Galatians 5:4).

Hypergrace condemners cannot comprehend the power of God because they are making Christ of no effect. (Romans 4:14) Then those who are putting their trust fully in Christ are experiencing abounding grace, and the church is condemning them and trying to draw them back into a legal system the human mind can comprehend.

Let’s ponder a few more questions. Is it possible to trust God too much? Is grace limited? If God has said He would give us more than we can think or ask, and others are saying, “Whoa. You are carrying this grace thing too far,” whose words will we trust?

I was saved at 13. I was already in very serious sin. From 13 to 32, I tried to live by the rules. I never felt free, never escaped condemnation, and my sins never lost their grip. They ruled my life – even though I tried with all my might to put myself under the guard of what I thought was Christianity. When I began to discover grace, I stopped condemning myself. I stopped worrying about my sins. I stopped focusing on my failures. I began learning how to focus on Christ and the promises of His gifts of grace through faith. My sins could not be defeated with my best efforts, and even after committing myself to obey, sin still ruled me. Yet under grace, without trying or focusing on my failures, the sins that were once undefeatable fell from my life and became irrelevant. Without my effort, they became valueless to me and I stopped desiring the things that led me into sin.

If grace is a threat to Christianity, why are so many people obeying the Christianized law failing to see victory? Why are people like me being given victory? Because God does not want you and I to defeat sin. He wants us to experience deliverance and victory as a gift of God through the power of the Spirit so we cannot boast. At least we can’t boast in anything but the Lord. It’s all about God’s glory. Self-victory is my glory. Grace only points to the glory of God.

Just because someone does not understand grace does not mean we should doubt it. Legalists don’t understand it. Those pursuing the lusts of the flesh don’t understand it. It can only be understood through faith – for God opens our eyes as we learn to trust enough to receive. This is the victory that overcomes the world – our faith. Not our efforts. Not our resistance to sin. Not our works. It’s all about faith. You are saved by and must now live by grace through faith. It is a gift of God, not of works or human effort so no one can boast. When you trust in grace, God is glorified!

Eddie Snipes 2014
Listen to Eddie’s weekly podcast at https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/hollydale-baptist-church/id893226987

Simple Faith-The Treasure of God’s Love

The Treasure of God’s Love.

The Bible says that we love God because he first loved us[1]. In fact, according to Romans, it’s the goodness of God that leads us to repentance. This is contrary to most people’s idea of repentance. Sometimes people have to see the futility of this temporary life before they can see the joy of eternal life, but ultimately, it’s God’s love that draws each person near.

It’s time to recognize the goodness of God. Why do people stray? Often times it’s the false belief that something better is out there somewhere. Everyday life testifies to this. We’ve all heard the saying, “The grass always looks greener on the other side of the fence.” When we get on the other side, we find the benefits we expected aren’t there. We must recognize that God desires what is good for us. Only then will we understand the value of trusting Him. The Lord understands our human perspective and gave us His promise to look out for our good. Consider this passage from Jeremiah 29:11

For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.

 

This passage was given to Israel before they were taken captive by Babylon when the Lord’s people chose to follow other gods instead of Him. When they chose to follow pagan gods, the Lord allowed the pagan nations to rule over His people. Even in the midst of their judgment, God made it clear that His thoughts were for their prosperity and good. The Old Testament is written in Hebrew, and the original Hebrew word means, thoughts, plans, or purpose. God’s plan is to bless and pour His love into their lives, and the same is true for any who will trust Him today. Look at the wonderful promises of Psalm 36:7-9

 7 How precious is Your loving kindness, O God! Therefore the children of men put their trust under the shadow of Your wings.
 8 They are abundantly satisfied with the fullness of Your house, And You give them drink from the river of Your pleasures.
 9 For with You is the fountain of life; In Your light we see light.

 

Follow the flow of thought in this amazing passage. It begins with trust. Those who trust God draw near and rest under the shadow of His wings. The picture is a mother hen protecting her brood. Jesus used this illustration when He wept over Jerusalem and cried, “How often I desired to gather you as a hen gathers her brood, but you would not come.” God still gives the same cry over his people today. It is His desire to gather us near Him, show us what it means to have true intimacy with God, and give us the plans He intends for us. But this is only found under the shadow of His wings – and only those who trust Him will come.

Look at the promise given to those who will come. They are abundantly satisfied with the fullness of His house. What does it mean to be abundantly satisfied? The picture is to overflow with abundance. It’s to have more than enough to satisfy our hearts. Does God want you to be deprived? No. God wants you to drink from His river of pleasures. His river is a fountain of life. The love of God reveals His plan to abundantly satisfy our lives, but it requires trust, and answering His call to come.

The world has a river, but it’s polluted with corruption and sin. It seems good, but only because we have never tasted the fresh waters of God’s river. Proverbs 10:22 says that the blessing of the Lord adds no sorrow with it. The same cannot be said for sin. On one side, we are trusting in our own actions to satisfy our desires. On the other side, God is calling us to leave our ways behind, trust Him, receive his love, and experience what it means to have fullness of joy. Until you believe the promise, you won’t trust God enough to leave the world behind.

The first step is to see the love of God, then receive that love. Once the love of God is poured out in our hearts, we will then have the power to love others. I cannot love the people I’m convinced don’t deserve it. Or perhaps the better way of putting it is that I can’t love those I feel deserve judgment. Yet, this is exactly what God commands me to do.

The Bible doesn’t command us to love with philia (friendship) love. This is because we naturally love those who return our love. I always feel love toward my friends. God doesn’t need to command us to love with eros, or affection. Think about marriage. When my spouse is affectionate, I don’t need to be commanded to return that affection.

The Bible repeatedly commands us to love with agape love. Since God has poured His agape love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, He has also empowered us to show that same love to others. By nature, agape is to love those who don’t deserve it. I am commanded to take the love God has given me, and pass it on to others. I’m called to take God’s undeserved love toward me, and love others without measuring their worthiness to be loved.

This is why Jesus said the second command comes from the first. I love God by establishing myself in the love He has given me (remember, we love God because he first loved us), and then I am loving my neighbor with the same love God has given me. In my human nature I cannot love my neighbor as myself. I will never take food off my table and feed a stranger while I starve. In truth, my natural reaction is to hoard extra while my neighbor is in need.

Like the rich young ruler, I cannot philia love my neighbor as myself because human nature lacks that capacity. I can, however, agape love my neighbor as myself. Philia love is natural to man and is given in response to what has been received or expected to be received. Agape love comes from the Holy Spirit within us and is not dependent upon our needs or self-centered desires.

Because of God’s love shown to me, I can take my underserved agape – given to me by the Spirit – and give it to my neighbor without measuring their worthiness. To understand this fully, take a look at 1 Corinthians 13:4-7

 4 Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up;
 5 does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil;
 6 does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth;
 7 bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

 

When the love of God is poured out in our hearts, it flows outward. Our self-will is the only thing that stands between the love of God in us and the love of God shown to others. When I’m acting according to selfish human nature, I see the need of others and the Spirit within me calls me to reach out. When I’m acting selfishly, I may resist the call of God and withhold love. Anger, disappointment, and other human emotions can rise up and tempt us to withhold God’s love. When we submit to human nature and resist the love of God, we are acting in the flesh and pushing against the love of God.

We all do this from time to time, but as we mature in the faith, we begin recognizing the value of allowing God to reign freely and discover a world of agape love that flows through us and toward others. Often we mistake philia love as agape, but it is not. Agape calls us to love even when we don’t feel like it. When it flows unhindered, the Spirit within us becomes a fountain of life. When agape love is hindered, life begins to stagnate.

 

Consider the attributes of agape love:

Agape / Love is patient
Does not envy
Does not lift itself up
Isn’t puffed up – or selfish
Isn’t rude
Isn’t self-seeking
Is not provoked
Doesn’t think evil
Endures all things
Hopes in all things

 

With these things in mind, we can identify the source of our love. If I require something in return before I can love, it isn’t agape. If I must be praised in order to stay motivated to show love, it isn’t agape. If being provoked or wronged causes me to cut off my love, it isn’t agape. Agape keeps giving without expectation – other than the hope of God being glorified through the love He has given me.

When we are provoked, human nature attempts to arise and take over our hearts. However, when we understand the command of God to love without condition, I can choose to resist human nature and submit to the love of God. It is not me producing agape. It is me submitting myself to God’s agape love so the Spirit flows outward from my life to others.

This is why understanding love is easy; but keeping the command to love is difficult. If it came natural, it wouldn’t require a command. Loving the loveable is easy; therefore we are not commanded to love with philia love. Loving with agape is difficult. By its nature, agape is not self-seeking; therefore, we must abide in the love of God and not allow our human nature to rule our hearts. As we move forward we’ll discuss how to put these things into practice. For now, we must understand that we keep ourselves in God’s love so we can remain empowered to love others. Consider this passage from Jude 1:20-21

 20 But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit,
 21 keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.

 

The next chapter will discuss faith in detail, but keep this passage in mind. As we build our lives upon our faith, we keep ourselves in the love of God and by this, we are able to love each other. Faith is important in this discussion. When I trust God, I believe in the command to love my neighbor. Though living out the love of God may cost me, I also have the assurance that God will fulfill His promise, and I will be abundantly satisfied in Him.

I am not looking to people as my source of fulfillment. God alone holds this role. I love because I am first loved, then because I have been commanded. I keep myself in his love knowing God will more than make up for anything I sacrifice. I can’t out love God. Nor can I sacrifice more than God will give. If I truly believe God, I can love when I don’t feel appreciated and give to those who are unworthy – just as God also gave to me when I was unworthy.


Eddie Snipes
Excerpted from Simple Faith



[1] 1 John 4:19

Simple Love–an excerpt from Simple Faith

Simple Love

For God so loved the world that he gave[1]…if God so loved us, we ought to love one another.[2]

We have already looked at how Jesus explained that God’s commandments are fulfilled in love. It’s not the other way around. Love fulfills the law, but the law cannot produce love. We’ll look at how the law is fulfilled through Christ in another chapter. This chapter will explain the love of God since it is the foundation everything is built upon. The Bible says that if we gave everything we possess to the poor and even if we give our own bodies as a burnt offering, without love it means nothing, and profits nothing.[3]

The Bible uses this extreme example to show Israel that the process of fulfilling the law cannot win God’s favor. In the Old Testament, God established a Law of Atonement where an animal would be sacrificed in their place as an offering for sin. This atonement was not what fulfilled the law of righteousness. Not only that, if they went beyond the law and offered themselves in sacrifice to God, it still would not be sufficient.

To understand the love of God we must first realize how it compares to human love. The New Testament scriptures were written in Greek. The Greek language has three words we translate into the word love.

Philia is a brotherly kindness type of love. It means to love with warm affection or friendship.

Eros means passion and is often referred to as a sexual type of love. The Bible never uses Eros as a word for love, but the Greeks used this word in much the way we hear it used today. People associate physical passion with love.

The last word is Agape. Agape is self-giving, self-sacrificing, outward focused love. It is the type of love that focuses on another without regard to self. The love of God is always referred to as Agape.

Philia and Eros are normal parts of human nature, but Agape is not. When I love another in my own human nature, it is always in light of how my life is fulfilled. I may give because it makes me feel good to sacrifice, or I may love my friends of whom I expect a returned friendship. Ultimately, I am seeking my own fulfillment through my love for others. While that isn’t necessarily wrong, it falls short of Agape.

Agape is the love of God. It is first given to us, and then we use it to express the love of God to others. Consider Romans 5:5

Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us. (Emphasis added)

 

This is why Jesus said the first commandment is the love of God and the second commandment comes out of the first. We must first experience the love of God and then we’ll have the power to love others because the Holy Spirit has placed God’s Agape love into our hearts.

To put human love into perspective, consider a rich young ruler who approached Jesus to ask how he could obtain eternal life. He begins with the wrong perspective and Jesus lets him know immediately. The man starts by calling Jesus a good rabbi (or as some translations word it, Good Teacher). Jesus responds by rebuking him for calling anyone good except for God.

In the religious culture of that day, people often put their Rabbis on a pedestal, and even called themselves after their teacher’s name. Jesus taught his disciples to not allow anyone to call them rabbi, father, teacher, or master. The reason is the same as Jesus explained to the ruler in this account – with only one exception – Himself. In this account, Jesus told the ruler not to look to him as a good rabbi, but to put his focus on God. When instructing His disciples, Jesus commanded them not to allow others to call them rabbi, and then he pointed to Himself as the only example of a rabbi or teacher.[4]

Jesus rebuked the young man for calling Him good, but then called Himself good when teaching about His own authority. Why the contradiction?

There is no contradiction. In both cases, Jesus is taking the focus off the flesh and pointing toward the spiritual. The young ruler wasn’t looking at Jesus as the Messiah, but as a human rabbi. He was not to be imitating the role of a teacher, but imitating God alone. Take a few minutes to read the story of the rich ruler in Matthew 19:16-26. From the beginning, the ruler was focused on his own human efforts. Whether looking at a teacher or at the rules of religion, the young man was focused solely on human abilities. His trust was also in his own ability to keep the law. As Jesus listed the commandments, the man declared his ability to keep them as though it were a checklist. Then Jesus gave the final test, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

The young ruler said, “I have kept all these commandments from my youth up.” It’s interesting that this man declared his own perfection, yet deep down he knew something was missing. The man was blind to his own inability to fulfill the requirements of the law. Therefore, Jesus pulled back the veil by saying, “If you will be perfect, go and sell all you have, give to the poor, and then come and follow me.”

Notice, even with this statement, Jesus was not declaring that giving up all his worldly goods would save him. The real solution was in following Christ, for as we shall see, salvation is found in Jesus alone. Yet, his requirement unveiled the problem. The man was not able to keep the law. If he truly loved his neighbor as himself, he would not have balked at giving his possessions to the poor. The requirement Jesus gave was intended to reveal the man’s inability to keep the commandments he claimed to have fulfilled.

Jesus met many rich men during his life, yet this is the only time we see Him asking someone to sell all their possessions. The truth is, money was this man’s god and his own works were his plan of salvation. Jesus dismantled his personal religion with one statement.

The same is true for you and me. If you are trying to love God by your own strength, you are the rich young ruler who comes to Christ wondering why you feel like you’ve done all the right things, yet something is still missing. Like the rich young ruler, God calls us to lay down our own efforts so we can receive the true riches-salvation and the love of God.

 
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[1] John 3:16

[2] 1 John 4:10-11

[3] 1 Corinthians 13:3

[4] Matthew 23:8