Not Traditional, Original

He Who Has Ears to Hear, Let Him Hear

Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has arisen no one greater than John the Baptist. Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and the violent take it by force. For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John, and if you are willing to accept it, he is Elijah who is to come. He who has ears to hear, let him hear.  (Matthew 11:11-15 ESV)

One of the things that Jesus taught was having ears to hear, a euphemism meaning to hear to the point of truly understanding and following through on what was said.  In the above verses Jesus talks about John the Baptist, and compares him to Elijah, one of the most powerful prophets in the Old Testament.  Jesus was especially critical in this section because of the People’s response to John’s message:

 “But to what shall I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to their playmates, “‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn.’ For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon.’ The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Yet wisdom is justified by her deeds.” Then he began to denounce the cities where most of his mighty works had been done, because they did not repent.  (Matthew 11:16-20 ESV)

Here we see that Jesus is talking about how so many people do not really listen. Remember a lot of these people Jesus talks about as not listening were religious people, people who thought they were righteous and following God because they were continuing in the tradition of their church (synagogue).  When John the Baptist spoke many of these people, religious or not, said that he had a devil because he did things like fasting and living in the desert. And when Jesus spoke, because he “wined and dined” with people, many people said that he was a glutton and a drunkard. This is an interesting way of saying that people, even people who look like good, churchgoing folks, will find a reason not to listen to you, and pick fault with whatever your manner of life is.

But the point of this lesson is to not be one of those people that doesn’t hear the wisdom of God when it is spoken.  The end result of that mistake are some pretty bad things:

 “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I tell you, it will be more bearable on the day of judgment for Tyre and Sidon than for you. And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? You will be brought down to Hades. For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. But I tell you that it will be more tolerable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom than for you.”  (Matthew 11:21-24 ESV)

This is as serious a condemnation as Jesus makes. He says that the people of Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum are going to be more severely judged than those of Sodom. And we know what happened to the people of Sodom, it is as famous a tragedy worldwide as anything in the literature or history.

Another place that Jesus preaches the “he who has ears to hear” principle is in regard to the parable of the sower. Here we have good teaching taught to many people, and again there are many people who do not bring forth the fruit of the teaching. Some people don’t hear it all because there isn’t much in them to begin with. Other people hear initially, but because of all the rocks and thorns and thistles in their life they lose what they hear. Then there are those that are fertile ground, and are able to hold onto what grows, and those are the long-term winners.

Part of the problem that goes on here is the idea of mindsets. The principle of “mindsets” is actually a good thing. A mindset is a group of principles, axioms, and ideas that become firmly established in a person or group of people.

Mindsets can be good or bad. Some cultures have (had) the mindset that human sacrifice is necessary in order to have good fortune of this life.  In olden times many a baby was sacrificed in order that there might be a fertile crop, or a good growing season. In modern times, some say that abortion is just a continuation of this ideal where women sacrifice the inconvenience of having to raise a baby in order to have a better life.  Whether abortion is acceptable or not illustrates the point of different mindsets.

Modern mindsets can include the ideas that it is important to have a strong central government that regulates crime, and safeguards a marketplace that enables prosperity.

In other words, mindsets, in of themselves, are neutral. So, if they are neutral, what needs to take place if the mindset of the group of people is to be truly healthy?

There needs to be a willingness to ferret out the best ideals, while at the same time, a strong commitment is made to maintaining those ideals. You need both. If all you’re doing is constantly seeking out the best new idea then you can literally just go from one camp to the next without ever being in one place long enough for things to take root. On the other hand if all you do is stubbornly adhere to what you or the group you belong to says is the way to go, then you may just be stuck in a stubborn mindset that is really not the best, or even a long-term disaster.

Paul wrote about sticking to a mindset when he wrote about being steadfast and unmovable:

 Wherefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labor is not vain in the Lord.  (1 Corinthians 15:58 ASV)

if so be that ye continue in the faith, grounded and stedfast, and not moved away from the hope of the gospel which ye heard, which was preached in all creation under heaven; whereof I Paul was made a minister.  (Colossians 1:23 ASV)

It’s important that we get the right mindset and stick to it. But it’s got a be the right mindset which is referred to here as “the hope of the gospel”.

I ran across the negative side of mindsets in a crossword puzzle where the clue related to the concept of idée fixe.  Idée fixe is really a psychological term with negative implications.  Someone who has an idée fixe is really obsessed with us some ideas that are harmful to them.  Idée fixe is the extreme negative mindset.  It goes to show you that as useful as mindsets are in adhering to good ideas they can be a runaway trains when it comes to negative ones.

What I would like to propose to you is that what a lot of people think are the basic tenets of the Christian faith are really negative mindsets. If that were not true there would be so many arguments as shown on this website over so many issues where people have abandoned fellowship with each other, and even killed each other over doctrines of faith.

Sure, it’s easy to see that somebody in a cult like the Jim Jones fiasco has an idée fixe.  Or even those that advocate that it was (is) okay for Christians to kill Christians over issues like infant baptism or the Trinity.  But don’t the incredible disagreements over so many doctrines like biblical inerrancy, the right form of church government, end times theology, whether the gifts have ceased, the role of women as leaders, and even less powerful, but still controversial issues such as whether or not it’s acceptable to drink alcohol, whether tithing is still required or not, whether Genesis 1 was a literal 168 hour period or not, or that the KJV is the perfect, literal word of God are just some of the illustrations that show that there have got to be a lot of faulty mindsets in churches everywhere.

All of these matters point to the fact that modern-day Christianity is not original Christianity.

The law, the prophets, the Psalms, the teachings of Jesus, these are the elements of Christianity that we really have in common.   They are the foundation of original Christianity.

And in that regard, as our Savior Jesus taught, “he who has ears to hear, let him hear”.

© copyright 2012 Mark W Smith, all rights reserved.

April 2nd, 2012 Posted by | Jesus' Teaching and Miracles | no comments

Jesus’ Word of God; Original Christianity’s Canon Of Scripture

And he said unto them, These are my words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must needs be fulfilled, which are written in the law of Moses, and the prophets, and the psalms, concerning me.  (Luke 24:44 ASV)

Jesus referred to the word of God as The Law and the Prophets, including the Psalms.  There was an old Testament Bible in existence at the time of Jesus called the Septuagint. Modern construction of the Old Testament includes the Law and the Prophets, but also what are known as the poetic books, like Job, Proverbs, and Esther, as well as historical records, such as Kings and Chronicles. All of these books were in the Septuagint.  Just as Jesus never mentioned the Septuagint as the Word of God, he never mentioned the poetic and historical books as the Word of God.

In churches and ministries that I have attended, in order to harmonize this verse with modern teaching Churches teach that Jesus was referring to the whole Bible when he spoke this verse.  The prevailing teaching given was that  Psalms was a generic term that means the rest of the writings.  Further explanation included the term Bible hadn’t been put into use yet, and putting it all together you can conclude that when Jesus referred to the law, the prophets, and the psalms he was referring to the same Bible that you and I use today.

That explanation doesn’t make any sense on several fronts.  Yes, there was an old Testament called the Septuagint, a version of a collection of Jewish scrolls that had been translated into Greek.  But Jesus never referred to those books as the Word of God. That may have been Jewish practice at the time, but that was not his practice.  Second, while he did quote from what we would call the Old Testament, he only referred to books that would be called the law, the prophets, and psalms.  If you do a search for Jesus’ references to the Old Testament you will find that Jesus made numerous references to the Law and the Prophets, including the Psalms, written by David, who was a prophet.[i]

I don’t know about you, but my example is Jesus Christ.  And if traditional Christianity varies from what Jesus did, I am not going to just automatically follow tradition.  Jesus was very specific when he referenced the Word of God.  He only referenced the law, the prophets, and the psalms.  Therefore Jesus’ canon of scripture only included the law, the prophets, and the psalms.  When we look a little later in time we see that the first believers after Christ followed this practice also.  The development of the canon of scripture that we have now took hundreds of years after this to develop.

That is not say that the other books are not valuable, they are.  Joshua wrote down the account of his leadership (Josh 24:26) and the account is inspirational. The same for some of the other books. But who knows who wrote Esther, Ruth, Job, and a number of other books?

What that means is that the word of God is not the KJV or any modern Bible, or even the officially canonized list of the Books of the Bible. (Do you disagree?  Then why is the listing of the Old Testament books in the Canon different from what we have today. From the creation of the canon in 397[ii] alone we see that the Christians of 397 a.d. declared Tobias and Maccabbees canonized. How can it be if the Old Testament we have today is the word of God that it is different from the Old Testament canonized ages ago?)

Jesus never referred to the whole Old Testament as Scripture.  Jesus set the standard for What the Word of God is, the Law and the Prophets, and the Psalms.  That was his canon of scripture.

[i] There is a listing of Jesus’ references to the Old Testament at JewsForJesus.org, this page located at http://jewsforjesus.org/publications/newsletter/2008_09/05.

[ii] Here is the text of canon of Scripture:

Canon 24. Besides the canonical Scriptures, nothing shall be read in church under the name of divine Scriptures. Moreover, the canonical Scriptures are these: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Joshua the son of Nun, Judges, Ruth, the four books of the Kings, the two books of Chronicles, Job, the Psalms of David, five books of Solomon, the book of the Twelve [minor] Prophets, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, Tobias, Judith, Esther, the two books of Ezra, and the two books of the Maccabees. The books of the New Testament: the Gospels, four books; the Acts of the Apostles, one book; the epistles of the apostle Paul, thirteen; of the same to the Hebrews, one epistle; of Peter, two; of John the apostle, three; of James, one; of Jude, one; the Revelation of John. Concerning the confirmation of this canon, the Church across the sea shall be consulted. On the anniversaries of martyrs, their acts shall also be read.

© copyright 2012 Mark W Smith, all rights reserved.

February 21st, 2012 Posted by | Jesus' Teaching and Miracles | no comments

Jesus Charged us to Live By the Word of God

One of the first stories in the gospels is the record of Jesus being tempted by the Devil.  His famous response sets the example of how we are to live.

But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God. (Matthew 4:4 ASV)

He emphasizes here that we are to live by the word of God!  Jesus fasted for 40 days to illustrate that it was more important to live by the Word of God than anything else.  Jesus showed that to live by the Word of God simply means to act in every situation as God would have us instead of doing what we would like to do when what we would like to do is different from what God would have us do.

Luke records that teaching the Word of God was what Jesus did and the people “pressed” him to teach it:

And it came to pass, that, as the people pressed upon him to hear the word of God, he stood by the lake of Gennesaret, (Luke 5:1 KJV)

Jesus taught about the Word of God in the parable of the sower and the seed where the sower sowed seed in various places and got various results.  He expounded on his point when he declared:

Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God. (Luke 8:11 ASV)

This parable is about the growth of the Word of God.  Jesus goes to great lengths to explain this in the verses following the parable:

And he said, Unto you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God: but to the rest in parables; that seeing they may not see, and hearing they may not understand. Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God. And those by the way side are they that have heard; then cometh the devil, and taketh away the word from their heart, that they may not believe and be saved. And those on the rock are they who, when they have heard, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, who for a while believe, and in time of temptation fall away. And that which fell among the thorns, these are they that have heard, and as they go on their way they are choked with cares and riches and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to perfection. And that in the good ground, these are such as in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, hold it fast, and bring forth fruit with patience. And no man, when he hath lighted a lamp, covereth it with a vessel, or putteth it under a bed; but putteth it on a stand, that they that enter in may see the light. For nothing is hid, that shall not be made manifest; nor anything secret, that shall not be known and come to light. Take heed therefore how ye hear: for whosoever hath, to him shall be given; and whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that which he thinketh he hath. And there came to him his mother and brethren, and they could not come at him for the crowd. And it was told him, Thy mother and thy brethren stand without, desiring to see thee. But he answered and said unto them, My mother and my brethren are these that hear the word of God, and do it. (Luke 8:10-21 ASV)

Here we see various responses to the Word of God in people’s lives, the ultimate being to hold fast to the Word and bring forth fruit with patience.  But there are many that don’t respond with a steadfast holding to the Word.  There are those that have hear, then the devil comes, and takes away the word from their heart.  How does that happen?  These people listen to the naysayers, those that say that Christianity is a bunch of bunk.  These naysayers point to things like the errors in the texts and the sins of believers and the scandals in the Catholic Church.  They point to the impossibility of the miracles in the Bible and how evil the God looks in the Old Testament.  The person becomes persuaded against Christ and the word of God and loses the joy that they recieved when they heard the word.

The second group that Jesus talks about are those that hear the Word of God and enjoy the love, joy, and peace of the andundant life for a while.  But they don’t guard their hearts and strengthen their faith so when the temptations of the world come they give in and turn away from God to follow the temptation.  The temptation could be many things; chasing dollars at work and acquiring wealth, having unhealthy relationships with people for gratification of any number of desires, partying,  gossiping, focusing on past hurts and angers, or seeking the favor of some crowd that doesn’t believe the word of God.  The end result is the same; they abandon the Word of God.

Luke 11:28 again emphasizes Jesus’ promotion of the Word of God.

 But he said, Yea rather, blessed are they that hear the word of God, and keep it. (Luke 11:28 ASV)

But there is those that hear the Word of God and bury it deep in their hearts.  They guard against others that try to persuade them to not trust the Word of God.  They change their minds as they change their actions to avoid actions that steal the Word of God from their lives.  They discipline themselves to take the a righteous stand for the truth of God’s Word in spite of all the challenges everywhere, in the world, and even in the church sometimes! They are the good ground.

In Matthew 15:1-9 we see more verses that emphasize Jesus stand on the importance of the Word of God in Peoples lives even in the religious world.  People can think they have the Word of God in a church or synagogue setting when they really don’t:

Then there come to Jesus from Jerusalem Pharisees and scribes, saying, Why do thy disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? for they wash not their hands when they eat bread. And he answered and said unto them, Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God because of your tradition? For God said, Honor thy father and thy mother: and, He that speaketh evil of father or mother, let him die the death. But ye say, Whosoever shall say to his father or his mother, That wherewith thou mightest have been profited by me is given to God; he shall not honor his father. And ye have made void the word of God because of your tradition. Ye hypocrites, well did Isaiah prophesy of you, saying, This people honoreth me with their lips; But their heart is far from me. But in vain do they worship me, Teaching as their doctrines the precepts of men.  (Mat 15:1-9)

Here we have the example of people who are religious but are clearly marked by the Lord as not having the Word of God in their lives.  In their religion they have replaced the Word of God with tradions.  The lures of traditions are powerful and seem righteous.  But people teach their own humanly reasoned traditions as the Word of God when they are the opposite of the Word of God.  This is what happens when people elevate their religious tradtions to the status of the Word of God.

The warning in scripture is clear: some people elevate their own humanly reasoned traditions to be the Word of God.  Learn to recognize it and turn away from any tradition that negates the true Word of God!

This is certain, that Jesus lived by the Word of God and taught others to do likewise.  If you are like me, you want to be in the good ground group.

© copyright 2012 Mark W Smith, all rights reserved.  Revised 2019.

February 20th, 2012 Posted by | Jesus' Teaching and Miracles | no comments

The Beatitudes

“Beatitudes” comes from the Latin word for “blessings”.  “The beatitudes” refers to eight blessings that the Gospel of Matthew says that Jesus proclaimed in the Sermon on the Mount.

And seeing the multitudes, he went up into the mountain: and when he had sat down, his disciples came unto him: and he opened his mouth and taught them, saying,
Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.
Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called sons of God.
Blessed are they that have been persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are ye when men shall reproach you, and persecute you, and say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets that were before you.  (Matthew 5:1-12 ASV)

In one respect The Beatitudes are a teaching on character, the kind of character a believer wants to have. More than that, they are a listing of character traits that bring rewards. Each of the Beatitudes has a blessing attached.  So they are a teaching on the blessings attached to good character.  They are a teaching on character because the blessings are a result of choices.  The poor in spirit could have chosen different paths, i.e., to steal, and/or to pursue wealth.  Those that mourn could have chosen to be angry, or numb, or to even to join the wicked who oppressed them if that is the case.  The meek have chosen to be teachable.  You can see the same truth in each of the beatitudes.

Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

It’s important to recognize that this is not saying blessed are the poor. It’s not saying that is a blessing to lack the necessities of life, there is no blessing in starving, not having a roof over your head, or not being able to get health care.

The opposite of being poor is being rich.  Jesus warns in numerous places against the dangers of riches, the mammon of unrighteousness.   But Jesus does not say that it is sinful to have riches, he says that it is sinful to serve riches, to seek wealth. The point is that it is available to have money, without having a spirit of being rich. It’s okay to have money as long as the money doesn’t rule you. That goes for anything that money can buy. It’s okay to have a nice house as long as the nice house doesn’t rule your life. It’s okay to have nice clothes, car, or furnishings as long as getting those things isn’t that what you serve.

People who don’t serve riches are blessed. That’s what this Beatitude says. And specifically, it says that the blessing is the kingdom of heaven. To live in this world means working hard to get more and nicer stuff. It means that your life is not fulfilling, enjoyable, or worthwhile if you’re not getting the nice things in life. The kingdom of heaven is the life of joy, peace, love, long-suffering, patience, goodness, and other fruits of the spirit.

Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.

Morning, grieving is a necessary part of life. To not mourn, to not be able to grieve is hard heartedness. Most people readily think of losing a loved one when they think of morning. But there are other things that are mourned. Proverbs 29:2 says that the people mourn when they are oppressed of the government or by the rich. James 4:9 says that people mourn when they are afflicted.  When someone is in mourning it means that they have suffered loss. It can be the death of a loved one, loss of freedon, loss of a relationship, or property lost. This is so wonderfully comforting that Jesus promises us that we will be comforted.

Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.

Meekness to many means shyness, a fear of social encounters.  That’s not what meekness means here. Meekness means coachable, trainable. A horse that accepted training is called meek. Think about the power and majesty of the mighty horse when you think of this word “meek” because God doesn’t want us to be weak and powerless, rather he wants to train us to use our power that he has put in us for his purposes and glory. the promise, the reward for being meek is inheriting the earth. That is just incredible.

Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.

Righteousness means a right, just a way of life. When we don’t steal, lie, lust after the things of others, moreover when we care for others as we do ourselves we have righteousness. Obviously there are lots of areas where righteousness is lacking in the world, and because we are sinners, even in us. But the promise of this beatitude is not that those who live righteously will get something, but those that “hunger and thirst after righteousness” will be filled. I don’t know but you but I take great comfort in that promise.

Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.

To be merciful is to withhold judgment.

But if ye had known what this meaneth, I desire mercy, and not sacrifice; ye would not have condemned the guiltless. (Matthew 12:7)

There is an expression, “there but for the grace of God go I”. That expression encapsulates the idea of the mercy of God. How many of us, at some point in our lives, have needed mercy? Perhaps it was in the school, or at a job, or even that we got into a little bit of trouble. And somebody didn’t exact just punishment for our transgressions. They showed mercy; they overlooked the fault.

The opposite of mercy is to exact judgment or revenge. People without mercy are cruel.

The Lord’s words are very encouraging. If we want to mercy, we need to show mercy.

Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.

It’s a very interesting study to see what this term “pure” means.  Here are a few verses that help us understand the term “pure”.

For he knew him that should betray him; therefore said he, Ye are not all clean.  (John 13:11)

I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman. Every branch in me that beareth not fruit, he taketh it away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he cleanseth it, that it may bear more fruit. Already ye are clean because of the word which I have spoken unto you.  (John 15:1-3)

In the above versus the word “clean” is the same Greek word as “pure” in the beatitude.   From John 13:11 we see that the opposite of a pure person is someone that betrays.  And from John 15:1 – three we see that the Lord tells us that his word, what he teaches us,  cleanses us and makes us pure.

A pure heart has no guile, which means manipulation, trickery, artful deceit. For example you can ask somebody if they want to do something, or you can try to manipulate them into doing it.  The first response is pure, the second is manipulative.

This is an important trait or else it would’ve been included by Jesus in these blessings. Do you want to see God? Then put away the guile, the manipulation, the deception.

Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called sons of God.

A peacemaker is someone that does things to pursue peace, that quality of stillness and calm that refreshes us and allows us to feel love, joy, and other fruits of the spirit. God must really love this quality because Jesus says that those that have this quality shall be called God. Part of being a son of God, therefore, is doing things, that make for peace.

Blessed are they that have been persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are ye when men shall reproach you, and persecute you, and say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets that were before you.

One of the sad things, one of the things that are mourned about being a believer is persecution. Persecution can come in many forms. It can be alienation from kids in grade school because you believe in Jesus and they don’t. It can come in the form of snide remarks, “oh don’t you hate those Bible thumpers”  or “she’s just another Jesus freak”. And of course, those are just the light examples. There are large sections of the world, i.e., Muslim countries, communist regimes, and so forth where standing for Jesus can mean anything from loss of social standing to torture, imprisonment, or even death.  Jesus says our reward is great when we suffer persecution, and even that we should rejoice, because our reward is so great, and we are in the company of prophets.

There in The Beatitudes, just 141 words in the ASV version we have a tremendously powerful teaching by Jesus on some of the desirable qualities of believers and the benefits of following him. Be poor in spirit, mourn, be teachable, hunger and thirst after righteousness, be merciful, be pure in heart, do the things that make for peace, and rejoice when you are persecuted because the rewards include the kingdom of heaven, comfort, inheriting the earth, being filled with righteousness, obtaining mercy, seeing God, being called a son of God, and having a great reward in heaven. Wow!

© copyright 2011 Mark W Smith, all rights reserved.

February 28th, 2011 Posted by | Jesus' Teaching and Miracles | no comments

Jesus Taught Men To Love God

And one of the scribes came, and heard them questioning together, and knowing that he had answered them well, asked him, What commandment is the first of all? (Mark 12:28)

Jesus answered, The first is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God, the Lord is one: and thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength. The second is this, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these. (Mark 12:29-31)

Jesus taught that the greatest thing we are commanded to do is to love God.  The language for this commandment is intense, “with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind and with all your strength.”  This means that it not a half hearted effort,  Its not weekend only effort.  It is a 24/7 effort.  This verse emphasizes the intensity that the Lord looks for in this effort.

Heart  (kardia in the Greek)in the bible refers to a person’s innermost thoughts and concerns.  They are the things that matter most to someone.  To love God with all your heart means God is very important to you, very near and dear to your heart.

Soul (psuche in the Greek) in the bible refers to someone’s life.  To love God with all your soul means that God is the highest priority in everything that you do.

Mind (dianoia in the Greek) in the mind refers to thoughts.  To love God with all your mind means that he is always in your thoughts.

Strength (ischus in the Greek) is self explanatory.  To love God with all your strength means that your efforts with respect to God are not half-hearted.  There is no token effort that is acceptable when loving God; it is full steam ahead.

I think you can tell how much a person loves God by their prayers.  So many prayers look like this.


  • Heal me
  • Help me get that promotion
  • Help me by changing that person or get them out of the way
  • Help me get that car I have been eyeing
  • Help my kids learn and do better in school, or even,
  • Help my friend overcome her problem…

All of those prayers might be part of godly prayers as long as you are not asking amiss (James 4:3), and God is concerned about them.  But they are all about us getting something from God.    Asking for things is something that you do from people that love you.    When you love someone you do things for them,  look at the following verses from the Gospel of John:

Even as the Father hath loved me, I also have loved you: abide ye in my love. If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love. These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full. This is my commandment, that ye love one another, even as I have loved you. Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. Ye are my friends, if ye do the things which I command you. (John 15:9-14)

To love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength means that you are doing things for God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.  Moreover, what you are doing are the things that God has commanded us to do.  Certainly that means keeping the ten commandments as they are just ways to love God and men, but more than that you give in all the ways God has commanded, financially, with your time and talents, and in your care to others.

But it is even more than that.   When you love someone you are involved in their lives, in what they are doing.  God has a plan and a purpose.  The accounts in the bible tell of God’s plan.  God wants us to be part of that.  Being part of God’s plan for the redemption for all mankind is part of loving God.  And Jesus directs us there in his teaching to let our light shine. When we love God this way we experience the full joy that only comes with the full commitment of loving with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.

We can learn what it means to love the right way by looking at Jesus’ teaching on the wrong ways to love.  In each of the verses below the word love is the Greek word Agapao which means selfless, unconditional love and is the kind of love Jesus wants us to do in Mark 12 above:

And this is the judgment, that the light is come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the light; for their works were evil. (John 3:19)

We love the wrong way when we love darkness, sin, and things that are evil. Obvious examples of sin are murder, adultery, stealing, and lying but more subtle examples might be always having the upper hand, loving your possessions like your house and clothes or talking badly about people.  We love the right way when we love the light, the truth that comes from our Lord, the ways of living that God directs.

Woe unto you Pharisees! for ye love the chief seats in the synagogues, and the salutations in the marketplaces. (Luke 11:43)

We love the wrong way when we love being the prominent person, the top dog, the big cheese.  We love the right way when we don’t care about being the prominent person, but we serve people with humility in whatever position we are in.

Nevertheless even of the rulers many believed on him; but because of the Pharisees they did not confess it, lest they should be put out of the synagogue: for they loved the glory that is of men more than the glory that is of God. (John 12:42-43)

Glory refers to displays of power.  A ruler, employer, boss is glorious when they exercise their authority and cause things to happen.  When people are more impressed with the power of men rather than God they are not loving God and his power and putting God first.

This next section of our Lord’s words relates directly to the Agapao love that he wants us to love with:

But I say unto you that hear, Love your enemies, do good to them that hate you, bless them that curse you, pray for them that despitefully use you. To him that smiteth thee on the one cheek offer also the other; and from him that taketh away thy cloak withhold not thy coat also. Give to every one that asketh thee; and of him that taketh away thy goods ask them not again. And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise. And if ye love them that love you, what thank have ye? for even sinners love those that love them. And if ye do good to them that do good to you, what thank have ye? for even sinners do the same. And if ye lend to them of whom ye hope to receive, what thank have ye? even sinners lend to sinners, to receive again as much. But love your enemies, and do them good, and lend, never despairing; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be sons of the Most High: for he is kind toward the unthankful and evil. Be ye merciful, even as your Father is merciful. And judge not, and ye shall not be judged: and condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: release, and ye shall be released: give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, shall they give into your bosom. For with what measure ye mete it shall be measured to you again. (Luke 6:27-38)

This is a very powerful section.  The love of God is not just loving them that love you because that is not the love of God.  People that just love their family or their friends are not Agapao loving. They are Phileo loving which is the love people have for their friends.

Agapao loving means loving people even when curse you or use you.  That doesn’t mean that you don’t use wisdom and try to avoid problems like that.  It doesn’t mean that you look for situations where people can use you or hurt you. It doesn’t mean that you don’t speak up and address people when they are wrong because Jesus stood up to people and walked away from people that sought to harm him.  But you still do the godly and appropriate action in those circumstances.

Agapao loving means helping people who may not return the favor, lending to people even though they may not pay you back, being merciful and not judgmental, refraining from condemning people.  Agapao loving is giving generously.  And there is a principle stated and a promise given here, that however you give will be given back to you.  If you give generously it shall be given back to you “pressed down, shaken together, running over”.  What a sweet fruit that is.

February 16th, 2011 Posted by | Jesus' Teaching and Miracles | no comments