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loveGodPeopleshoesLast time, we discussed the importance of the vertical relationship between you and God.  We talked about how your relationship with God is the most important relationship you will ever have.  We also discussed that according to Jesus in Matthew 7, never knowing him = those working lawlessness.  We also talked about how this vertical relationship where we know and love God is the basis for loving others.  This is because we live to love and please Him rather than the “rules,” and in so doing, we won’t be coveting our neighbors wife, we won’t be stealing, and you won’t be committing adultery, etc.  We also examined some pertinent questions regarding how you might see God.  Is He a loving father or someone who can’t wait to get you for breaking the rules?  If you haven’t looked at part one of this series yet, then I strongly suggest that you stop here and read that first.  It’s a short read, but it will give you a good foundation for what is in today’s post.  Last week was all about the vertical relationship with God. Today, we’re going to look at the horizontal relationships, which is loving others.

Going Horizontal

Let’s go back to our foundational scripture for a moment.

Matt 22:34-40  But hearing that He had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees were gathered together.   Then one of them, a lawyer, asked, tempting Him and saying,  Master, which is the great commandment in the Law?  Jesus said to him, 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.

Let’s zoom in to that second commandment:

You shall love your neighbor as yourself.

This commandment is a little different.  It’s a two-fold commandment.  The first part of this commandment is pretty straight forward.

You shall love your neighbor…

It’s the rest of that commandment that gives people trouble.

… as yourself.

The reason it gives people trouble because it begs for you to answer one really important question, which is:  Do you love yourself?

The Wuest translation puts it this way:

You shall love your neighbor in the same manner as you do yourself.

In other words, our ability to love others is tied to two factors.  We have the vertical dynamic which is our relationship with God. We learned about that last time.  The horizontal dynamic is tied directly to how we view ourselves which in turn, is tied to our relationship with God.

Let’s take a look at Matthew 19:16-22.

Matt 19:16-22  And behold, one came and said to Him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life?  And He said to him, Why do you call Me good? There is none good but one, that is, God. But if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments.  He said to Him, Which? Jesus said, You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not bear false witness, honor your father and mother, and, you shall love your neighbor as yourself.  The young man said to Him, I have kept all these things from my youth up; what do I lack yet? Jesus said to him, If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you shall have treasure in Heaven. And come, follow Me. But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful; for he had great possessions.

This is the story of the rich young ruler.  He’s a religious man and like many religious people he was proud and arrogant. When he told Jesus that he had kept all of the commandments that Jesus mentioned from his youth and asked what he lacked, he was probably expecting Jesus to pat him on the back and announce the he had finally found the perfect man.  But Jesus didn’t do that.  Instead, Jesus sought to expose his heart.  Did he really love his neighbor as himself?  Jesus put that to the test by telling him:  If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you shall have treasure in Heaven. And come, follow Me.

How did the man react to this?  He went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.  You see, the reality was that he really couldn’t love his neighbors as himself, not because he had those possessions, but because those possessions had him.  He loved his possessions and the status that his wealth gave him in life.  You see, God doesn’t have a problem with you having wealth as long as your heart is clean and you’re willing to help others as he directs you. This is part of loving your neighbor as yourself.  If your neighbor is out of food, are you willing to meet that need for them?  If their car quit working, are you willing to drive them or help them get their car repaired?  The rich your ruler couldn’t do any of those things.  Jesus has some more to say about this.  Let’s read some more.

Matt 19:23  Then Jesus said to His disciples, Truly I say to you that a rich man will with great difficulty enter into the kingdom of Heaven.
Matt 19:24  And again I say to you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.
Matt 19:25  When His disciples heard, they were exceedingly amazed, saying, Who then can be saved?
Matt 19:26  But Jesus looked on them and said to them, With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.
Matt 19:27  Then answering Peter said to Him, Behold, we have forsaken all and have followed You. Therefore what shall we have?
Matt 19:28  And Jesus said to them, Truly I say to you that you who have followed Me, in the regeneration, when the Son of Man shall sit in the throne of His glory, you also shall sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.
Matt 19:29  And everyone who left houses, or brothers, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for My name’s sake, shall receive a hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life.
Matt 19:30  But many who are first shall be last; and the last shall be first.

In verse 23 Jesus is telling his disciples that a rich man will have difficulty getting into heaven. In verse 24, He is restating this by using an illustration that his disciples could relate to. In verse 25, we can see that his disciples understood what Jesus said in verse 24 and were so amazed that they asked, “Who then can be saved?” Jesus responded to this question by saying “With men this is impossible, but with God, all things are possible.”  Let’s take a closer look at this exchange because unless you understand the illustration that Jesus gave, you will not be able to unpack what is being said here.

In verse 24 Jesus says the following:

Matt 19:24  And again I say to you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.

eye-of-the-needle_1

Eye of needle within the gate

This is one of those sayings that is easily misunderstood if you’re viewing it from the lens of modern man.  First of all, he is NOT referring to a sewing needle here.  What he is referring to is the tiny entrance to the city.  You see, cities back in those days were walled off for protection.  During the day, the big city gate was opened to allow travelers easy access to come and go.  At night, they would close the big gate to the city and lock it.  However, the big city gate would often have another smaller gate built into it or there might be a secondary entrance on the same wall with a small gate.  These small gates were referred to as the eye of the needle because of their shape.  They were purposely built to allow only one person through at a time.  This was to offer some protection from an invading force as only one invader could get through at a time.  The

eyeofneedle_2

Eye of needle

shape of the gate would also barely accommodate one camel.  So, if you were a trader or someone wealthy and you arrived late, you either had to wait outside the city’s gate (not safe) or you had to go through the eye of the needle.  However, to pass through this eye of the needle, you had to unpack your treasures off of the camel and leave them outside the gate and then you led your camel through.  Once the camel was through the gate, then you went back out and picked up your belongings and brought those through the eye again and repacked your camel.  You had to trust that nobody would steal your stuff while moving your camel through the eye. Then you had to trust people on both sides as your went back and forth picking stuff up from the outside and bringing it inside and repacking the camel.  You can see from the image that I provided, this wouldn’t be an easy task.  Hopefully, you can see now what Jesus was describing.  Keep that image in your mind as we continue.  Once again, Jesus said:

Matt 19:24  And again I say to you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.

Why is it difficult?  It comes down to one word: TRUST.  The trader or wealthy man had to trust those outside the city gate and those inside the gate as they picked up stuff from outside and moved it inside to repack the camel.  In the same way, a wealthy believer must trust God so that when God says to lay it all down for him, that he can do so knowing that he will either have treasure in heaven or at the very least, that God will give it back to him yet in this life.  The Rich young ruler couldn’t do that.

The disciples understood what was being said here.  We know this because of how they reacted and the questions they asked.  Notice when they heard, the were “exceedingly amazed.”  They weren’t somewhat amazed or a little surprised.  It says they were exceedingly amazed.  So much so, that they asked “Who then can be saved?”  Notice, their reaction…  They didn’t respond with “haha, it serves those rich guys right!”  Instead, it was “who then can be saved?” I think Jesus’ comment may have been hitting close to home.  Jesus responded to the “Who then can be saved?” question with this:  With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.

I think what he was saying was that God could change men’s hearts so they could and would forsake everything for Him.  Peter understood what he was saying and asked him this question: Behold, we have forsaken all and have followed You. Therefore what shall we have?

That’s a pretty bold question.  It was bold because he understood the eternal consequences of their actions.

Matt 19:28-30  And Jesus said to them, Truly I say to you that you who have followed Me, in the regeneration, when the Son of Man shall sit in the throne of His glory, you also shall sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.  And everyone who left houses, or brothers, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for My name’s sake, shall receive a hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life.  But many who are first shall be last; and the last shall be first.

The disciples had unpacked everything they had.  They walk away from everything to follow Jesus.  They were given a new life in Him along with eternal life.  Their treasure was in heaven and no longer here on this earth.  These men weren’t failures before they met Christ.  They were successful in their chosen professions.  This is why they asked “Who then can be saved?” because they were in that same group.  They had homes, they had boats and gear, they had possessions, and yet they chose to walk away from it to follow Him.  Because of this, Jesus told them of their treasure in heaven.

What we’re seeing at work here is a law of the Kingdom.  It’s sowing and reaping.  It’s give and it shall be given unto you.  It is dying to yourself so you can be raised up in newness of life.

Rom 6:4  Therefore we were buried with Him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father; even so we also should walk in newness of life.

Paul said the following in his letter to the Philippians:

Philippians 2:5-11  For let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, and took upon Himself the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men. And being found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Therefore God has highly exalted Him, and has given Him a name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of heavenly ones, and of earthly ones, and of ones under the earth; and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Paul is telling us to be of the same mind as Christ.  Humble and obedient even unto death if necessary.  We have to unpack it all for him and leave it at the foot of the cross and trust him as we enter the Kingdom through the narrow gate.

I apologize for taking the scenic route to get to my final point.  Let’s go back to the rich young ruler for a moment.  Jesus was exposing this man’s heart by showing him that he really wasn’t able to love others as he loved himself.  He loved his things and the social status those things brought him. He couldn’t let those things go.  He couldn’t let go because he couldn’t trust God.  He trusted only in himself.  He couldn’t enter through the narrow gate to the Kingdom.  The question here isn’t about stuff or possessions.  It is all about the condition of our hearts.  Do we really love Him with everything we have?  Are we willing to let go of things in order to give to others?  What are you clinging onto that is preventing you from fully entering His Kingdom?  It is these things that prevent you from trusting Him and truly loving others.  So far, we have been discussing this in the context of wealth and resources.  But it doesn’t have to be that.  What sin are you hiding and are unwilling to relinquish?  Perhaps your sin is harming your marriage, your family and others that you care about.  Are you not simply loving yourself at the exclusion of others?  Do you think this is free from any consequences?  Please consider this from Ephesians:

Eph 5:1-5  Therefore be followers of God, as dear children.  And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us, and has given Himself for us as an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet smelling savor. For let fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness not be once named among you, as becomes saints, neither baseness, foolish talking, jesting, which are not becoming, but rather giving of thanks.  For you know this, that no fornicator, or unclean person, or covetous one (who is an idolater), has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.

Paul’s writings are filled with warnings such as this. I suggest you take a look at Galatians 5:19-21, I Corinthians 6:9-10, II Corinthians 12:20-21 and also Revelation 21:7-8 (this last one is from John not Paul).  I won’t expound on this any further.  Instead, I want to leave you today with this final question:  What is it that has such a hold on you that it prevents you from walking in the fullness of the Kingdom of God?

My friend, if you are the person who has become entrapped by such a sin as this, you are caught in the thorns and can’t get out… or so you believe.  You can try to bury these things and hide them in your heart, but trust me when I tell you that will not work.  As we learned in the previous series, when you try to just bury these things, they become seeds and like all seeds, they will grow and continue to produce more of the bad fruit or thorns that will only entrap you further.  Beloved brother or sister in Christ, you cannot cling on to these things.  If you do, you will never enter in to His rest nor the Kingdom.  But, there is an answer for you.

1John 1:7-9  But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.  If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

My friend, whatever it is that has a hold on you, it has its power over you because you give it that power.  You give it power because you love your own life and you love whatever is holding you captive.  The way out is to flip things around, and you do that by bringing this thing out into the light instead of hiding it in darkness. To do that, you must die to yourself. The enemy no longer has power over you when you are exposing (confessing) your sin to others.  You may think “I can’t do that!  Others will know what I have done.”  Right there is the trap.  The truth is you can’t dodge Numbers 32:23 forever.  Eventually, your sin WILL find you out, and when it does, great will be the destruction for you and those you care about.  So, you have a choice.  You can hang onto it and have it be a tombstone that memorializes your failings or you can let go of it and turn it into a testimony of God’s redeeming grace in your life.  The choice is yours.

Let’s go back to our foundational scripture for a moment.

Matt 22:34-40  But hearing that He had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees were gathered together.   Then one of them, a lawyer, asked, tempting Him and saying,  Master, which is the great commandment in the Law?  Jesus said to him, 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.

In the final analysis, what we learned today is the thing that prevents you from loving others as yourself is YOUR SELF;  whether it is wealth and riches that is holding your heart or it is the entrapment of sin.  It is the protection of your self that matters.  This, combined with a lack of trust in God and others, prevents you from being able to actually love others as yourself.  Someone in this position can love others up to a point, until it involves having their junk exposed.  Then they’ll throw others under the bus.  We also learned that the way out is to bring that junk out into the light and to leave it at the cross while we make our way through that tiny gate, trusting that God is a rewarder of those who diligently seek him.

Until next time, may God’s richest blessings be yours is Christ Jesus.

 

Copyright  (C) 2019  M. Unruh