Saturday, March 5, 2011
Love One Another
Now his older son was in the field, and when he came and approached the house, he heard music and dancing, and he summoned one of the servants and began inquiring what these things could be. And he said to him, your brother has come, and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has received him back safe and sound. But he became angry and was not willing to go in; and his father came out and began pleading with him. But he answered and said to his father, Look! For so many years I have been serving you and I have never neglected a command of yours; and yet you have never given me a young goat, so that I might celebrate with my friends; but when this son of yours came, who has devoured your wealth with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him. And he said to him, ‘Son, you have always been with me, and all that is mine is yours. But we had to celebrate and rejoice, for this brother of yours was dead and has begun to live, and was lost and has been found.
What does it mean to live the Christian life? Four Words: Love God, Love Neighbor.
Jesus more clearly defined loving God when He said: “If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. “These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full. John 15:7-11
Jesus goes further in Three Words, when He said: “This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:12-13.
LOVE ONE ANOTHER.
The story of the Prodigal Son gives us deeper understanding on three people: the younger, disobedient, and self-centered son; the loving Father; and the older son. Today we will look at the older son. Jesus uses this story to illustrate the judgmental and prideful character traits that are so easily fallen into by those of us seeking to earn God’s favor and blessings. These traits were also most obvious in the supposedly more spiritually mature religious leaders, the Scribes and Pharisees.
The older son had served his father faithfully, and from a human perspective had every right to be disgusted with his brother for what he had done to bring shame to his father, and the family. You can only imagine his hurt when he came home from working hard in the field, and learned that his father was throwing a big celebration in the younger brother’s honor. Jealousy and anger took control and caused him to act foolishly and disrespectfully to his father; and in an unloving and judgmental way towards his brother. I imagine most Pharisees listening to Jesus explain the story would have agreed with the older brother’s response.
In our world today, it is quite common for Christians to view those who openly sin with contempt, especially those who confess Christ as their Savior. Hypocrisy is one trait that most of us despise … especially when it comes to Christians. This is especially true among unbelievers. How many times have we heard unbelievers quick to point out: "Christians are hypocrites?" But the key point here is that Jesus has made it clear that loving our neighbor is the most important commandment … singular. This is the Law of Christ.
Can anyone disagree that for a Christian to disregard the law of Christ is the greatest hypocrisy possible?
As we take steps to grow in Christian maturity: becoming loving …. like Jesus, is our primary goal. Our natural man has a tendency to get lost in “not sinning” and become guilty of the worst sin of all: a judgmental, unloving spirit. This is typically the result of unconsciously directing the focus off of one's own sins, and onto someone else. We are the only one we can change, not someone else. We must always remember that while we were sinners, and like the prodigal in a number of ways … Christ died for us. And Jesus said: “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.” The older son judged his brother and had allowed his feelings to grow into disregard for his brother. The father was joyful because his son was lost, and had been found. The father was loving, the older son was not. If anyone had the reasons and the right to be angry with the prodigal, it was the father. Similarly, our heavenly father has every reason and right to judge and hold us accountable for our sins; but instead, he paid the penalty on the cross for our sins and with open arms invites us all to join him throughout eternity. We must always have the same forgiveness and loving spirit for all. “For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?” Matthew 7:1-5
This is so hard because our mind has not yet been totally transformed and renewed. Once we have a clear understanding of and commitment to the gospel of grace and what the “love of Christ controlling us” actually means, then our new man will begin to unconsciously follow the direction of the Holy Spirit. We need to meditate on the character qualities of Jesus Christ, and His Spirit will transform our minds to follow the leading of our Lord and Savior.
The older son was following his feelings and old self-centered ways when he argued with and disrespected his father. Like the Pharisees, the son was defining sin by outward actions, rather than inward attitudes. He failed to recognize that it is the inward attitudes that result in the outward actions and sins. The brother was actually appealing to his father; “I am the one worthy of celebration, not the prodigal, and that the father was ungrateful for his work and faithfulness.” The brother’s focus was on building up himself, and giving the prodigal what he deserved. The repentance and forgiveness of his younger brother never even entered his mind. He chose isolation and suffering over reconciliation and restoration. He was most likely concerned that his inheritance might be in jeopardy.
A primary problem here was that the older son had a mindset that was based upon good works, rather than loving one another. Many Christians fall into the same trap. They are quick to point out the error of the works based non-Christian cults; but like the Pharisees they have fallen into a religion of good works. Many hope to earn blessings from God; and as a result of obedience merit eternal life. Unfortunately, that is not possible. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus.” Romans 3:23-24. Only the sacrifice of Jesus Christ at Calvary can save us. For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. Ephesians 2:8-9
The Apostle Paul further clarified these truths in Romans: And if by grace, then it is no longer by works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace. Romans 11:6 and another favorite of mine: Owe no man anything, save to love one another: for he that loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law. For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not covet, and if there be any other commandment, it is summed up in this word, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. Love does no ill to his neighbor: love therefore is the fulfillment of the law. Romans 13:8-10.
Jesus, our Heavenly Father offers us forgiveness and salvation through grace, not works; and promises peace, joy, hope and mercy to all who trust in Him. Our mission is clearly defined: "So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful. Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God. Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father."
God Bless you my friends, Bob