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Standards I

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“And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others?  Do not even pagans do that?” [Matthew 5.47] Jesus said to the disciples when He first taught on the command of love of enemies.  Later in Luke 6 when He repeated the teaching and brought it to a deeper level, He said, “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you?  Even ‘sinners’ love those who love them.  And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you?  Even ‘sinners’ do that.  And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you?  Even ‘sinners’ lend to ‘sinners,’ expecting to be repaid in full.” [Luke 6.32-34]

As such, the standard that Jesus set there for us, His disciples, especially those who desire to be sons of God, is that it must be more… much more than the good that pagans and sinners do to each other.  And in this manner… because Jesus tied the teaching and the practice of love of enemies to the availability and the guarantee of sonship when He said, “…that you may be sons of your Father in Heaven,” [Matthew 5.45] and that “…you will be sons of the Most High…” [Luke 6.35] then, elect, our conduct to our Father must exceed that of the sons and daughters of pagans to their fathers… and that of sinners, even if they are religious.

Satan challenged God about Job, saying, “Does Job fear God for nothing?  Have You not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has?  You have blessed the work of his hands, so that his flocks and herds are spread throughout the land.  But stretch out Your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse You to Your face.” [Job 1.9-11] Meaning that Job only worshipped God because God was blessing him… but curse him and the true heart of Job would be found out.

Likewise, in this world most sons and daughters love their fathers because their fathers are kind and generous to them, and they hang around their fathers because of the promise of inheritance, but take that away from them and many would leave their parents.  However, there are some who are filial children, who are loving and care for their parents regardless of whether their parents love them or even leave them an inheritance as well.

As such, if even pagans and sinners who have children who would love them and care for them regardless of how they have treated the children in whether they are rich enough to leave them an inheritance, then how much more we are to do so to our Heavenly Father?  What credit is it to us if we love God our Father with all our hearts, souls, might and minds because God loved us first?  What credit is it for us if we love God our Father as we love ourselves because He had mercy on us?  As such, even those who worship God can fulfil the commandments of loving God and neighbour, then likewise our standard that gives us credit must be above that.

For if we are to love our enemies to be sons of our Father… then what is the standard of love that credits us as His children (sons and daughters) when it comes to the love of our Father and our God?  Jesus is the One who set the standard of love for His Father that we must at least aspire to imitate and desire to exceed if we truly hold to this truth:  “…anyone who has faith in Me will do what I have been doing.  He will do even greater things than these…” [John 14.12]

We know now without having to go back over the details that everything Jesus did was done out of love for His Father – His obedience, His absolute obedience to His will.  Indeed, at His first public appearance in the temple as He overturned the tables of the money changers and drove out those selling cattle, sheep and doves… His behaviour was encapsulated by this verse:  “Zeal for your house will consume me.” [John 2.7; Psalm 69.9] And when He was forsaken upon the cross and cried out, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” [Matthew 27.46; Mark 15.34] in His distress He never cried out, “My Father…” but “My God…” and yet, though forsaken, He finished the work that His Father had given Him, not what God had given Him but what His Father had given Him.

As such, elect, the practice of love of enemies, aside from making us perfect and merciful as our Heavenly Father is perfect and merciful, sets the standard, the unspoken standard of how we are to behave, love and obey at all levels of our relationship with God and one another.  For we are at anytime children, sons, friends, brothers and servants of our God and our Father, and so whatever we do as servants, friends, disciples, believers, brothers, and sons or daughters can be done by pagans or sinners.  It gives us no credit and therefore no glory to our Lord, Master, Teacher, God and Father.  But rather, as believers we must go beyond believing our God for blessings, for if we are only praying and making worship so that we may be blessed, what credit is that to us?  Do not even the pagans do that?  Do they not seek their gods and indeed with stricter observance to their religious rules than we that they may be blessed?  Then surely as believers of our God, we should seek, worship and pray to our God more diligently and earnestly than any pagan for not our blessing, but the blessing of all who do not yet believe our God.

As disciples of our Lord and God, what credit is it to us if we zealously practise and hold to the teachings of our Lord and God as it is prescribed?  Do not even the pagans do that?  So what must we do that gives us credit as the disciples of our Lord and also gives glory to our God?  For the disciples of pagans practise what they are taught to be blessed themselves, so we must practise what we are taught not to bless ourselves, but to serve and bless those who do not believe in our Lord and are not disciples of our Lord.  So that our earnest practice of His words to be entrusted with power and authority is so that the disciples of other teachers and other gods are blessed, not cursed, by our earnestness.

If the servants of other gods serve their gods for a future reward in the next age as well as blessings in this present age, what credit is it to us if we do likewise?  None… and therefore no glory to our God.  But rather, as servants of our God, our service should be done not for securing for ourselves a future in the next age, but securing a future for those who do not serve our God even in the next age, and blessings in this present age.

And if the friends of pagan gods can go about this life using their lives in the business of their gods, then what credit is it to us as friends of Jesus who do what He commands us… for do not the pagans do that and can they not do likewise?  Of course… so just because we do what Jesus commands, what credit is that to us?  As Jesus said, we should say, “We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.” [Luke 17.10] If the friends of the cripple can carry their friend onto a roof and make a hole in the roof to lower him in front of Jesus, then what credit is it to us if we do what Jesus commanded us?  For surely it was not the cripple who commanded his friends to make a hole in the roof to get him before Jesus, but his friends by their own volition.  So then as friends of Jesus, not only must we do what He commanded but to go the extra mile and beyond to do what He has commanded, and while doing what is commanded, seek the opportunity to do more than what He asked to give Him more than He expected.

Jesus has asked, “However, when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the Earth?” [Luke 18.8] Therein lays the clue as to what we must aim for… more than faith, more than knowledge, more than love – glory, glory that rivals even the glory that He is coming back in, for after all has not the Spirit of God chosen His elect to finish the work so that these days may be shortened?

Then finally as brothers, what credit is it to us if we likewise only love our brothers who love our Father and us, who stay at home to look after our share of inheritance, who demand fairness of treatment for our hard work when we see our Father being generous to a brother or sister who has been squandering the family wealth?  It gives us no credit.  So then, though you know you have worked harder and more earnestly to increase the wealth of your Father, should you not insist and ensure that the Father has the freedom to do with it whatsoever He wishes?  Unlike the older son in the story of the prodigal, should you not rejoice with the Father over the return of your brother, and not only rejoice but offer half of your share to him so that he is restored to being a son equal to you before your Father?

And finally as sons of your Father, what credit is it to us if we draw near to our Father when He has kind words to speak to us?  What credit is it to us to draw near to the Father so that He may whisper in our ears kind and gentle words?  Do not the pagans do that with their fathers?  And what glory does it give our Father if we stand afar from Him when we have been disobedient and hide from Him so that He has to search us out and shout at us so that all the neighbours could hear?  Do not the pagans do that to their fathers?  Did you not do that to your earthly father?  So what credit is that to you as sons of your Father in Heaven?  Have you not read, have you not seen, have you not heard… when Elijah ran away from Mount Carmel before the cloud of glory arrived and then ran away from Jezebel to hide in the mountain and so enraged the Spirit of God that mountains were torn apart and rocks were shattered with earthquakes and fire… that the Lord spoke in his ear in a gentle whisper and a voice said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”? [1 Kings 19.13]

For you see, elect, our God and our Father prefers to discipline us by whispering in our ears His displeasure so that to all who are watching from a distance, it is as if He is showing you His tender love in the gracious intimacy of a loving Father.  So do not be like the pagans who draw near to their fathers when their fathers are well pleased with them.  Do not be like Adam who ran and hid when he knew he had disobeyed.  But draw near when you know you have displeased Him so that He does not have to seek you out nor shout at you.  That way you do not put Him to shame and disgrace before His household for having a disobedient wayward child!  For if earthly fathers, though they are evil, know not to give a scorpion to their children when they ask for bread as Jesus said, “…how much more will your Father in Heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!” [Luke 11.13] Why?  Because even when the Spirit is enraged, He comes close to whisper His anger because He knows we are but dust and because He loves us and will not disgrace us before His enemies and our enemies.  And have you not read, have you not heard, have you not seen… when the Father is well pleased with His Son, He speaks out of the Heavens with a voice like thunder so that all creation knows “This is My Son… with Him I am well pleased.” [Matthew 3.17]

So then understand this, elect:  Even as surely as the Kingdom of God is the kingdom of power, the power is not so that we can do what the pagans are doing better… no, it is to do what no pagan will do.  That is why until you learn to love your enemies and love one another as Jesus has loved you, you can see the Kingdom of God, you can even enter the Kingdom of God, but you will not be entrusted with the power of the Kingdom of God and its secrets to use them according to whatever you wish and will.  For the power of the Kingdom of God is for those who seek to glorify their God and their Father in a manner no pagan is willing to do for his god.

So as surely as the love of enemies is the first step to being like your Heavenly Father – perfect and merciful – see that the standard by which we are to exercise that perfection and mercy must be beyond and above what any sinner or pagan would do.  For if the pagans and sinners can do it, what credit is that to you?  What glory is there for God?

So consider your childish ways and rise up, for glory awaits… glory that would suitably welcome our Lord and King on His arrival.  So be wiser and wise, for what glory did it give the bridegroom when only half the virgins were waiting to greet him and he had to turn away the other five?  That is what the Kingdom of Heaven is like, but you are of the Kingdom of God.  So consider the parables of the Kingdom of Heaven and you will see the standard required for the Kingdom of God.

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