Note: This is the second of a two-part series. Click here for part 1.
On Mt. Sinai, God revealed His desire to have an intimate relationship with His people. Their failure to press through to know God caused them to substitute a religious legal system for intimacy with Him.
That is why Jesus came with a message of correction, saying, "You missed it the first time at Mt. Sinai, but on a new mountain called Calvary, I will show you sacrificial love that proves how much the Father desires a loving relationship with you. No longer will you relate to God as slaves under the cold, hard requirements of a lifeless legal system, but you will understand through My example that a heart of love for the Father will enable you to walk in obedience to His commands."
On a nameless mountain somewhere outside the town of Capernaum, Jesus spoke to a crowd of followers with such authority and power that the people were astonished. And why not? For years they heard sterile interpretations of God's law taught by religious teachers who did not properly understand the letter of the law because they did not know the God who had given it to them.
As word after word poured from Jesus' lips, His listeners began to realize they could have a relationship with God that they had never before considered. Jesus declared that God cared for them, knew everything about them and was calling them to live a different way—a higher way. They were experiencing the miracle of hope! Their hearts were awakening to the awesome realization that God knew them and desired a loving relationship with them. Perhaps the words of the prophet Jeremiah rushed to the minds of some: "For I know the plans that I have for you, says the Lord, plans for peace and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope" (Jer. 29:11).
Many began to wonder if Jesus was the one to help them rebuild the walls of security and holy places within their hearts so they could meet with God. Could they escape the shadow of past failures and have hope for a prosperous and blessed future? To hope was only the beginning, however; they also needed new attitudes.
The message Jesus shared is known as the Sermon on the Mount. The setting of this sermon parallels the conditions that existed when Moses communicated the law to God's people. In both cases the people assembled at an appointed mountain to receive instruction from God's messenger.
Some theologians have even viewed this teaching as "New Testament law," rather than understanding it as an exposition of the heart and intent of the law. Jesus began His sermon with a series of statements that later became known as the "Beatitudes." The beatitudes laid a foundation for Jesus' teaching by stressing the heart attitude necessary to receive God's blessing. It is necessary for us to "be having a proper attitude" in our relationship with God if we are to please Him and be obedient to His commandments.
Many Christians suffer unnecessarily because they never fully commit themselves to cultivating a relationship with God and obeying His commands. They sense God's calling to deeper levels of intimacy, and yet they continue to circle the mountain. They never say, "Jesus, You're it, and I am pursuing no destiny other than You. I have no priority greater than my responsibility to be pleasing in Your sight."
Many are consumed with unhealthy attitudes toward God or their Christian brothers and sisters. They insist on embracing unforgiveness and bitterness that lead them into a downward spiral of misery, frustration, internal conflict and turmoil.
Ultimately, they become discouraged with their Christian life and angry with God. Disillusioned, they walk away from God, forfeiting the contentment and blessing available if they simply had changed their attitudes. A new attitude toward God and His law is needed, an attitude of love.
Lovers of God Keep His Commandments
Matthew 22 tells of an encounter Jesus had with a scribe. The scribe tested Jesus by asking Him to name the greatest commandment. Jesus answered:
"You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.' This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets" (Matt. 22:37b-40).
Jesus summarized the entire focus of the commandments in a single word: love. According to Jesus, genuine love for God was the framework upon which the law and prophets hinged. How the people must have marveled at the simplicity of Jesus' interpretation of the law!
While the Pharisees had burdened them with a complex moral code consisting of hundreds of minute rules and stipulations, Jesus was urging them to be lovers of God and man. The Gospel of John calls it "a new commandment" and says that true love for Him will exhibit itself in love for the brethren.
The grace that came to us through Jesus Christ loosed us from the bondage of regulations and formulas, and it liberated us to pursue a passionate love relationship with Jesus. James refers to this as "the perfect law of liberty."
How is it possible to have law and liberty? The perfect law of liberty is the desire to obey God's commandments out of love rather than pursuing self-gratification. An obedient response to God's law of love opens the door to blessing. Knowing what the law says is not enough; doing what the law says brings God's blessings.
Many things prevent us from seeing the manifestation of God's glory, power and victory in our lives. Pride, lack of trust in God's goodness, unforgiveness and failure to love are all contrary to the commandments and hinder the work of God in the life of the believer. Our conduct in the moment of a trial either postpones or expedites the blessing that God desires for our lives. Thank God that Jesus not only brought the law of truth but the power of God's grace to the hearts of believers to grant both desire and ability to walk in the light of His holy commandments.
Remember, Jesus summed up the entire law in terms of love toward God and love toward man. And the only way we can possibly do that is by having a living, loving relationship with the author of the commands—the author of life! When we have a living, loving relationship with Him, we are assured of walking in His blessings.
Please understand the blessings of the Lord are not necessarily physical riches and power. God's blessing takes different forms in different people's lives depending on His highest purpose and calling on each one. But His blessings always include peace, joy, spiritual prosperity and other things the world cannot give us or take away.
We have a free 10-day devotional available to help you reset your relationship with the Lord. You can download it from SomebodyCares.org/Reset. You can also get a copy of my book, Living Life Well: The Spirit of the Ten Commandments from our e-store at SomebodyCares.org if you want a more in-depth study on this topic.
Doug Stringer is founder and president of Somebody Cares America and Somebody Cares International, a global network bringing hope and healing to communities through prayer initiatives, compassion outreaches and cooperative efforts. He is the author of numerous books, including In Search of a Father's Blessing and Leadership Awakening: Foundational Principles for Lasting Success.
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