The Most Important Command
Jesus said, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence.’ This is the most important, the first on any list. But there is a second to set alongside it: ‘Love others as well as you love yourself.’ These two commands are pegs; everything in God’s Law and the Prophets hangs from them.”
People conceived and brought into life by God don’t make a practice of sin. How could they? God’s seed is deep within them, making them who they are. It’s not in the nature of the God-begotten to practice and parade sin. Here’s how you tell the difference between God’s children and the Devil’s children: The one who won’t practice righteous ways isn’t from God, nor is the one who won’t love brother or sister. A simple test.
(1 John 3:9-10)
When We Practice Real Love
My dear children, let’s not just talk about love; let’s practice real love.
This is the only way we’ll know we’re living truly, living in God’s reality. It’s also the way to shut down debilitating self-criticism, even when there is something to it.
For God is greater than our worried hearts and knows more about us than we do ourselves. (1 John 3:18-20)
Lord, I pray that I may be used by You to LIGHTEN many burdens!
May many souls be helped through my service to Your Kingdom. Amen.
This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again. Anyone who trusts in him is acquitted; anyone who refuses to trust him has long since been under the death sentence without knowing it. And why? Because of that person’s failure to believe in the one-of-a-kind Son of God when introduced to him.
This is the crisis we’re in: God-light streamed into the world, but men and women everywhere ran for the darkness. They went for the darkness because they were not really interested in pleasing God. Everyone who makes a practice of doing evil, addicted to denial and illusion, hates God-light and won’t come near it, fearing a painful exposure. But anyone working and living in truth and reality welcomes God-light so the work can be seen for the God-work it is.” (John 3:16-21)
Consider the kind of extravagant love the Father has lavished on us—He calls us children of God! It’s true; we are His beloved children. And in the same way the world didn’t recognize Him, the world does not recognize us either.
When we feel like we are not good enough to be loved by God, we should remember that God’s love is greater than our doubts. We must silence the sounds of condemnation so we can hear the voice of God’s loving assurance and remember that He has selected us to be part of His family.
My loved ones, we have been adopted into God’s family; and we are officially His children now. The full picture of our destiny is not yet clear, but we know this much: when Jesus appears, we will be like Him because we will see Him just as He is. All those who focus their hopes on Him and His coming seek to purify themselves just as He is pure.
Everyone who lives a life of habitual sin is living in moral anarchy. That’s what sin is. You realize that He came to eradicate sins, that there is not the slightest bit of sin in Him. The ones who live in an intimate relationship with Him do not persist in sin, but anyone who persists in sin has not seen and does not know the real Jesus.
Children, don’t let anyone pull one over on you. The one doing the right thing is just imitating Jesus, the Righteous One.
If you are wondering if your faith is authentic, take a look at your life. Are you doing what is right?
The one persisting in sin belongs to the diabolical one, who has been all about sin from the beginning. That is why the Son of God came into our world: to destroy the plague of destruction inflicted on the world by the diabolical one.
Everyone who has been born into God’s family avoids sin as a lifestyle because the genes of God’s children come from God Himself. Therefore, a child of God can’t live a life of persistent sin. So it is not hard to figure out who are the children of God and who are the children of the diabolical one: those who lack right standing and those who don’t show love for one another do not belong to God.
The central truth—the one you have heard since the beginning of your faith—is that we must love one another. Please do not act like Cain, who was of the evil one. He brutally murdered his own brother. Why would he do something so despicable? Because his life was devoted to evil and selfishness, and his brother chose to do what is right.
Brothers and sisters, don’t be shocked if the corrupt world despises you. We know that we have crossed over from death to real life because we are devoted to true love for our brothers and sisters. Anyone who does not love lives among corpses.
Do you ever wonder if you are just silently sleeping through days, months, and years? There is one indicator of real life: true love for others.
Everyone who hates other members of God’s family is a murderer. Does a murderer possess the beautiful life that never ends? No. We know what true love looks like because of Jesus. He gave His life for us, and He calls us to give our lives for our brothers and sisters.
If a person owns the kinds of things we need to make it in the world but refuses to share with those in need, is it even possible that God’s love lives in him? My little children, don’t just talk about love as an idea or a theory. Make it your true way of life, and live in the pattern of gracious love.
There is a sure way for us to know that we belong to the truth. Even though our inner thoughts may condemn us with storms of guilt and constant reminders of our failures, we can know in our hearts that in His presence God Himself is greater than any accusation. He knows all things. My loved ones, if our hearts cannot condemn us, then we can stand with confidence before God. Whatever we may ask, we receive it from Him because we follow His commands and take the path that pleases Him. His command is clear: believe in the name of His Son, Jesus the Anointed, and love one another as He commanded. (1 John 3)
People of Israel, you little bug, you have nothing to fear.
Eternal One: I will help you. I am One who saves you,
the Holy One of Israel.
I will turn you into a formidable threshing sledge
with brand new sharp blades that will mow down entire mountains
and turn the hills into chaff.
You will separate value from waste, and a great wind
and a strong storm will take away what is useless and unimportant.
You will take joy in the Eternal.
You will glow with pride in the Holy One of Israel.
And when people thirst, when those poor souls with parched tongues
look in vain for something to drink,
I, the Eternal, the God of Israel, won’t leave them to suffer. I will respond
By making the hard, brown hills sparkle with streams of fresh water
and causing valleys to come alive with springs.
I will see that gentle pools wait on the desert floor for the weary traveler,
and great fountains bubble up from dry ground;
In the desert, I will plant cedars, woody acacias,
myrtles, and olive trees.
I will establish great cypresses to flourish in the desert places,
plant oaks and pine trees side by side.
They’ll see all this and understand. They’ll ponder together
and come to know that it is the power of the Eternal One that produced this.
They will know that the Holy One of Israel created it.
Every word you give me is a miracle word—
how could I help but obey?
Break open your words, let the light shine out,
let ordinary people see the meaning.
Mouth open and panting,
I wanted your commands more than anything.
Turn my way, look kindly on me,
as you always do to those who personally love you.
Steady my steps with your Word of promise
so nothing malign gets the better of me.
Rescue me from the grip of bad men and women
so I can live life your way.
Smile on me, your servant;
teach me the right way to live.
I cry rivers of tears
because nobody’s living by your book!
Without faith no one can please God because the one coming to God must believe He exists, and He rewards those who come seeking.
I took one look at the quitters and was filled with loathing;
they walked away from your promises so casually!
Take note of how I love what you tell me;
out of your life of love, prolong my life.
Your words all add up to the sum total: Truth.
Your righteous decisions are eternal.
He who embodied the sins of the world carries His own blood into the holy presence.
We have seen how the law is simply a shadow of the good things to come. Since it is not the perfect form of these ultimate realities, the offering year after year of these imperfect sacrifices cannot bring perfection to those who come forward to worship. If they had served this purpose, wouldn’t the repetition of these sacrifices have become unnecessary? If they had worked—and cleansed the worshipers—then one sacrifice would have taken away their consciousness of sin.
But these sacrifices actually remind us that we sin again and again, year after year.
In the end, the blood of bulls and of goats is powerless to take away sins.
So when Jesus came into the world, He said,
Sacrifices and offerings were not what You wanted,
but instead a body that You prepared for Me.
Burnt offerings and sin offerings
were not what pleased You.
Then I said, “See, I have come to do Your will, God,
as it is inscribed of Me in the scroll of the book.”
Now when it says that God doesn’t want and takes no real pleasure in sacrifices, burnt offerings, and sin offerings (even though the law calls for them), and follows this with “See, I have come to do Your will,”He effectively takes away the first—animal sacrifice—in order to establish the second, more perfect sacrifice. By God’s will, we are made holy through the offering of the body of Jesus the Anointed once and for all time.
In the first covenant, every day every officiating priest stands at his post serving, offering over and over those same sacrifices that can never take away sin. But after He stepped up to offer His single sacrifice for sins for all time, He sat down in the position of honor at the right hand of God. Since then, He has been waiting for the day when He rests His feet on His enemies’ backs, as the psalm says. With one perfect offering, Jesus has perfected forever those who are being made holy, as the Holy Spirit keeps testifying to us through the prophet Jeremiah. After he says,
“But when those days are over,” says the Eternal One, “I will make
this kind of covenant with the people of Israel:
I will put My laws in their hearts
and write them upon their minds,”
then He adds,
I will erase their sins and wicked acts out of My memory
as though they had never existed.
When there is forgiveness such as this, there is no longer any need to make an offering for sin.
So, my friends, Jesus by His blood gives us courage to enter the most holy place. He has created for us a new and living way through the curtain, that is, through His flesh. Since we have a great High Priest who presides over the house of God, let us draw near with true hearts full of faith, with hearts rinsed clean of any evil conscience, and with bodies cleansed with pure water. Let us hold strong to the confession of our hope, never wavering, since the One who promised it to us is faithful. Let us consider how to inspire each other to greater love and to righteous deeds, not forgetting to gather as a community, as some have forgotten, but encouraging each other, especially as the day of His return approaches.
The word translated “church” in English Bibles means literally “assembly of the called”; it implies that members have said “yes” to God’s call in their lives. We assemble because we are called into being by God Himself. Some people, for reasons only they know, choose to live their Christian faiths in isolation. When they do, they cut themselves off from the gifts, encouragement, and vitality of others. And perhaps, just as tragically, they deprive the church of the grace and life God has invested in them.
Now if we willfully persist in sin after receiving such knowledge of the truth, then there is no sacrifice left for those sins— only the fearful prospect of judgment and a fierce fire that will consume God’s adversaries. Remember that those who depart from the law of Moses are put to death without mercy based on the testimony of two or three witnesses.Just think how much more severe the punishment will be for those who have turned their backs on the Son of God, trampled on the blood of the covenant by which He made them holy, and outraged the Spirit of grace with their contempt. For we know the God who said, “Vengeance belongs to Me—I will repay,”also said, “The Eternal One will judge His people.” It is truly a frightening thing to be on the wrong side of the living God.
Instead, think back to the days after you were first enlightened and understood who Jesus was: when you endured all sorts of suffering in the name of the Lord, when people held you up for public scorn and ridicule, or when they abused your partners and companions in the faith. Remember how you had compassion for those in prison and how you cheerfully accepted the seizure of your possessions, knowing that you have a far greater and more enduring possession.
Remember this, and do not abandon your confidence, which will lead to rich rewards.
As the prophet Habakkuk said,
In a little while, only a little longer,
the One who is coming will come without delay.
But My righteous one must live by faith,
for if he gives up his commitment,
My soul will have no pleasure in him.
My friends, we are not those who give up hope and so are lost; but we are of the company who live by faith and so are saved.
For those who love what you reveal, everything fits—
no stumbling around in the dark for them.
I wait expectantly for your salvation;
God, I do what you tell me.
My soul guards and keeps all your instructions—
oh, how much I love them!
I follow your directions, abide by your counsel;
my life’s an open book before you.
Let my cry come right into your presence, God;
provide me with the insight that comes only from your Word.
Give my request your personal attention,
rescue me on the terms of your promise.
Let praise cascade off my lips;
after all, you’ve taught me the truth about life!
And let your promises ring from my tongue;
every order you’ve given is right.
Put your hand out and steady me
since I’ve chosen to live by your counsel.
I’m homesick, God, for your salvation;
I love it when you show yourself!
Invigorate my soul so I can praise you well,
use your decrees to put iron in my soul.
And should I wander off like a lost sheep—seek me!
I’ll recognize the sound of your voice.