Practical Application of the Word of God
As Christians, we should immediately see what’s wrong with the question asked in the title of this post.
But do we?
If not, then hopefully this post – in answering this question – will help us to sharpen our discernment and reaffirm that we’re in sync with God, Jesus Christ, and the word of God.
In the end, if we don’t agree 100% with God, Jesus Christ, and the word of God, it doesn’t matter who else and how many others we agree with or who agree with us.
I believe a lot of us have lost sight of this basic understanding about Who and what we must be at one with all the time and it has led to a lot of spiritual error and straying among the ekklesia.
The problem with the question in the title of this post is that it is God who tells us what is most important to Him, through His word. We don’t get to randomly pick what we think is most important to God in our spiritual walk.
Yet among the ekklesia, many of us are doing just that and deciding that our “things” are what are most important to God. Often, these “things” are either topics that God is mostly silent on or they are dead wrong when compared to scripture.
Anything we put above God and Jesus Christ and the mission statement that Christ Himself gave us in Matthew 6:33 – “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” – is another god.
In other words, our “things” that we deem most important that are out of sync with what God, Jesus Christ, and God’s word tell us is most important are idols.
Let’s examine the relationship between Matthew 22:37-39, Deuteronomy 5:6-10, and Matthew 6:33 a little more deeply than we may have considered before.
I’m going to work with the human analogy of parents and their children to flesh out the relationship of God’s command for us to have no other gods, of Christ’s statement of the first great commandment for us to obey, and seeking God’s kingdom and His righteousness to show what matters most to God about you and me as His spiritual children.
All parents should know that they have a responsibility to develop excellent moral character in their children. Without that foundation, nothing else matters.
God is no different as a parent to us. Seeking God’s kingdom and His righteousness, which is given as our mission statement right in the middle of Matthew 5, 6, and 7, is literally to have the perfect, holy, righteous character of God as the foundation of our lives.
For God, through Jesus Christ, to develop this in us as His children is of paramount importance to Him.
Right character means going to God for help and guidance. Right character means trusting God alone to direct our footsteps.
Right character means we respect, defer to, and honor God (the 5th commandment applies to both God and to physical parents and it serves as the bridge between the two commandments that Jesus Christ summarized in Matthew 22).
Right character means submitting to and obeying God willingly, giving Him and His authority all deference, even when we might think we have a better idea (like physical children, we are really clueless about the spiritual big picture and don’t see, know, or understand even a minute fraction of what there is to see, know, and understand) or we don’t understand why.
Parents – and that includes God our Father – know that children can go through the motions of obeying them without their heart being in it, without their minds being subject to and willing in obedience, or because their children want something and believe that a surface agreement to and/or appearance of doing what their parents want will result in a reward.
Two of Christ’s parables that illustrate this spring to mind. The prodigal son and his brother and the two sons of the father who asked them to work in the vineyard.
The two brothers who ostensibly looked like they were obeying their fathers are revealed to have deceptive, unforgiving, or proud hearts, while the two who stumbled (one a lot and one a little) are revealed to have hearts that could be changed and corrected.
Character mattered most to their fathers and it clearly mattered most to Jesus Christ, so we know that it matters most to God the Father.
Godly character comes from God’s spirit working with the inner person of each of us and us responding to that. Part of that response is our obedience to what God clearly spells out in His word that He expects of us.
There is a lot in scripture that we don’t understand. On the other hand, there is a lot in scripture that is spelled out in detail for our understanding.
Just focusing on obeying, with God’s help, what God reveals in full – and much of this has to do with the transformation of our hearts, souls, and mind from our human, carnal thinking, reasoning, pride, ego, and vanity to God and Jesus Christ’s spiritual perfection – is the conversion process that is beyond our reach, even with God’s help, in this physical lifetime.
But our commitment and continual responses to that, with our focus, hearts, souls, and minds on God and Jesus Christ alone, is how God develops His character in us.
Even when we fall down and fall short in disobedience, there are opportunities to learn and grow and take a step forward toward God’s character and away from our defective character.
Just like with our physical children, we can be taught by God the character lessons behind obedience through allowing Jesus Christ to work in us to transform the inside so that we come to realize and understand, over time, that His way is good for us and that His way is the right thing to do and be.
When we decide that anything other than putting on the mind of Christ and becoming complete like our Father in heaven (God’s righteousness) through obedience to the crystal clear instructions and commandments we are given in His word, we are being wise in our own eyes, leaning to our own understanding, and deciding for ourselves what is most important to God instead of agreeing with what He tells us is most important to Him.
And we’re putting our own opinions, ideas, and thinking (much of which can often be the result of going into the weeds spiritually and hanging our hats on things we either cannot definitively prove or cannot prove at all out of God’s word) above what God says He expects of us, which is idolatry.
We need to be aware of our tendency toward idolatry.
It is always hard for me to wrap my head around the fact that Joshua had to tell the Israelites, after 40+ years of having being led by God through the wilderness and seeing all they saw literally of God’s authority and power, to put away their foreign gods before going into the promised land, and yet the warning and the lesson is there for us of how prone we are to worshiping everything but the true God (and many times, we’re not even aware that’s what we are doing).
We need to be constantly and vigilantly searching the entirety of our lives to see where idolatry lurks and take immediate action to repent and ask God to help us remove it and keep it out of our lives.
It’s there for all of us and the temptation is strong. We don’t all have the same false gods tempting us, but we all have false gods in our lives to contend with and to, with God’s help, expel permanently.
This is a character issue for us as to whether we believe Him and are willing to obey Him, having the faith to work and cooperate with Jesus Christ in accomplishing what is expressly and clearly spelled out in God’s word for our lives’ work.
Are we willing?