Monday, February 18, 2013

A Higher Standard

So far all we have talked about are applying basic principles of all relationships to our relationship with God, but Jesus gave us a higher standard. Most Christians recognize that there is a higher standard and in response claim Jesus as their number one. In other words they are saying that on their list of priorities Jesus is at the top. This implies that their first priority is to spend time with Jesus and then, once they have finished with that, they can go on to the rest of their list. But Jesus gave us a even higher standard than that. In John 15:4 He said,

"Abide in me, and I in you." 

From this verse we see something different. We don't see Jesus as being the first thing on a list of priorities but as a place where we should live and dwell. We see Him encompassing the entire list, being a part of it all. Jesus should not be our first priority, He should be our only priority. We need to learn to place everything we are in Him and then to include Him in everything we do, in our whole life. We need to stop being satisfied with our Sunday services, or even our daily devotions. We need to learn to be in Him when we are with our friends, at work, and everything else we might do throughout the day. Smith Wigglesworth, when asked how long he usually prayed for, responded by saying, "I rarely pray for more than fifteen minutes at a time, but I never go fifteen minutes without praying." Like Wigglesworth, we need to learn to talk and listen to God throughout our entire day.

Another verse where Jesus clearly sets a higher standard for our relationship with Him is Luke 14:26. 

"If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple." 

When I first read this I was confused. I had been told my whole life that the Bible was God's Word and that it does not have any contradictions but I was sure I had found one. In Matthew Jesus says that we should love one another, and names that as the second greatest of all commandments, binding it together with the first commandment to love God. Yet here Jesus is telling us that we should hate everyone who is close to us and that unless we do we are not worthy to follow Him. At first glance this looks like an unquestionable contradiction, however there is more to it than that. Jesus is not telling us to hate everyone close to us, but He is setting a higher standard for our love for Him. He's telling us that the amount of love we have for Him should be so much that in comparison it looks like we hate everyone else. This same sentiment is shown when the man comes to Jesus and says, "I'll follow you but let me first go and bury my father." Then Jesus responds by saying, "let the dead bury the dead." In other words, He is telling the man to put Him before his father. This is also shown in today's society when a man or woman feels called to go on the mission field and leaves his/her entire family behind. Often, on the outside, this can look like disrespect, or possibly even hatred, towards his/her family, but really it is just them understanding this higher standard that Jesus has set.

One of the most common reasons for a lack of authority in today's church is a lack of relationship. Throughout the Bible we see people, who act in God's authority, called friends of God, but today we have religious servants who have no relationship with the Heavenly Father. They might go to church, pray, read their Bible, but they do it because it is their religious duty, because they are supposed to. They might tell a few people about Jesus but they do it simply out of guilt or pressure. We need preachers who will start introducing their congregations to their best friend and Father rather than just talking about a God whom they don't even know. We need Christians who want to get to know Jesus and not just learn about Him. Then and only then will we begin to return to the power and authority that was so evident in the early church.

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