Love God First

Love thy neighbor is being proclaimed by Christians in this virus crisis. What about the first part of the command to love God with our whole heart, soul and mind?

Through this Covid-19 shut down some have been concerned about the witness of the “church” if we don’t obey the government shut down orders. What would the public or neighbors think of the appearance of breaking the law they say. The world is watching. I was even asked what the mayor of our city would think about us not closing our doors. What about what God thinks? What is He saying?

Love thy neighbor is being proclaimed especially concerning the wearing of face masks. Which by the way, does little to no good against viruses as stated by many doctors and health officials. Even the most notable Dr. Fauci.

I saw a church sign that read, “When this is over, love thy neighbor”. When it’s over? What about now? Anyway… Was Jesus concerned with how men perceived His words and actions? Was He concerned with what the Pharisees and Sadducees thought? How about the Roman government, His own disciples or even His relatives? What about when He said you have to eat My flesh and drink My blood and many of His disciples quit following Him, John 6:53-67. Was Jesus concerned with pleasing men? No! A thousand times no!

Who was He concerned about pleasing? Right! His Father and His Father alone. All the men and women in scripture that God used mightily had to overcome what others might think if they were going to be faithful to God. 

Adam took the fruit from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil from his wife and ate it. God had told him not to eat from it or he would die. Adam was more concerned about what his wife thought than he was of what God thought, Genesis 3:17. That didn’t turn out well for any of us. The first king of Israel, King Saul, was more concerned about what people thought of him than God and we know how that ended, 1 Samuel 15:24.

In pressing times like these our true beliefs and values are revealed. Our core values determine our actions. If we are more concerned about what people think we are dealing with a man-pleasing spirit from the core value of self-preservation. Self-preservation causes us to override God’s commands. Even though we know what God has said the overwhelming need of safety and security, however perceived, drives us to do what it takes to be safe and secure. Self-preservation exalts percieved safety and the self-life. Peter was moved by self-preservation when he denied Christ. Let that sink in a bit. Pontius Pilate was also motivated by the core value of self-preservation. He knew Jesus was innocent but, sentenced Him to die by crucifixion anyway.

Jesus did not say, love your neighbor. He said, “You shall love the Lord God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, you shall love your neighbor as yourself”, Matt 22:37-39. We are to love God first. Second, we are to love our neighbor as ourself. We cannot love God without first receiving love from God. As we receive love from God we are then enabled to love Him in return which then gives us the ability to love our neighbor and our self with a healthy Biblical love. Love for people has limits unless it is born from God’s love. If we do not love God first we cannot love our neighbor as He commands. To love God first requires our faithfulness to Him first and foremost, not man. What He thinks is most important. At the end of the age each one of us will stand before God…alone. There is no doubt what He thinks will be the most important. It would be a good idea to practice living that way now, before an audience of one.

Do we love God with our whole heart, mind and soul? It is easy to say yes, however, our actions will prove our love. Jesus said, “If you love Me you will keep My commandments”, John 14:15. Love for God is expressed in faithful obedience to Him, period.

Joe Nicola

Is Jesus Pleased?

An updated repost from April 2019 that is even more relevant today in the midst of the Covid-19 crisis. 

Jesus entered Jerusalem and came into the temple; and after looking around at everything, He left for Bethany with the twelve, since it was already late, Mark 11:11.

Scripture tells us Jesus cleansed the Temple twice. Once at the beginning of His ministry and again at the end. The very fact that He did this twice should get our attention. The second time was during the last week of His earthly life. He went directly to the Temple and looked around at everything. Jesus was looking, listening, inspecting and checking everything out. What was He looking for? What was He listening for? Was He pleased with what He saw and heard? We know from what He did that He wasn’t pleased at all. What He heard and saw made Him righteously angry. Some have such an unbiblical view of Jesus they cannot even visualize Him angry upending tables and causing a complete disruption in what man has made out of worship and the purpose of our gatherings. 

Does He do the same today? Is He looking around at everything today, listening and watching? Yes, He is. Have we ever asked the question; Is Jesus pleased with our meetings? We may be pleased, but does that mean He is? I think we assume that He is if we are. The reverse could also be true. Just because we aren’t happy with our gatherings doesn’t mean He is. So, is He pleased with our music, worship, offerings, messages, programs, events, outreaches, etc.? When Jesus looks around at the condition of the church, ekklesia, is He pleased with what He sees? Are we being and doing what He expects? 

The question we must have an answer for is what does He want from us when we meet together? When He walked into the Temple what was He looking for? What was He listening for? If we do not know the meaning of what Jesus said He would build, an ekklesia and not a church, we cannot answer the question correctly. The very fact that so many Christians do not even believe it is important to meet together reveals they do not understand what Jesus said He would build or the purpose for it. 

In the Book of Revelation, Jesus told the Apostle John to write seven different letters to seven churches, ekklesias. John saw a vision of Jesus holding seven stars and He was walking among seven lampstands. Jesus then explains to John what the stars and lampstands mean.

Revelation 1:16 says this; In His right hand He held seven stars, and out of His mouth came a sharp two-edged sword; and His face was like the sun shining in its strength. Then in verse 20 Jesus explains to John the meaning of the seven stars and the seven lampstands. “As for the mystery of the seven stars which you saw in My right hand, and the seven golden lampstands: the seven stars are the angels of the seven churches ekklesias, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches ekklesias. (emphasis added)

The angels are the messengers, not spiritual beings. They are the apostolic leaders of the congregations. Jesus holds these messengers in His right hand, the hand of power and authority as well as intimacy. With these messengers in His right hand He walks among the churches, ekklesias. Do we even realize this is happening? Where does scripture say Jesus is walking? I do not know of a scripture that says Jesus is walking in my living room or around my office. We know He is with us at all times but there are no other scriptures like this one that tells us He is walking among us in the context of a gathering, an assembly, the ekklesia. He is walking with the apostolic leaders in His right hand as we are assembled together as the ekklesia. Jesus had these seven letters written for purpose. He is telling us what is important to Him in our meetings. It is not a secret. Read these letters. Notice what He mentions but, also notice what He doesn’t mention. 

Some things we think are important and make a priority in our meetings Jesus doesn’t even mention. Amazing!  

We are being reset and repositioned. 

Joe Nicola