The only things that matter in this life are our relationships.
All the teachings of the Bible are based on the two commandments found in Matthew 22:34: love God and love your neighbor.
1. Love is spelled T-I-M-E. Joshua 1:8
Money and possessions are replaceable, but our time is not. The Bible says in James 4:14 that life is like a morning fog and then it's gone.
What do you do with your time? Do you spend it for God, for others, or yourself? As Jesus says in Matthew 6:21, Where your treasure is, your heart will be also. When and for whom we spend our time is an indication of what is important to us.
2. Loving God starts with asking for forgiveness. 1 John 1:91 John 1:5-7 says that we are lying if we say we have fellowship with God but go on living in spiritual darkness. Having counseled many people in the ministry, Pastor Tommy has encountered many people who like to walk in darkness and believe that God accepts it. He gave the example of people who come to the Rock on Sundays, but continually choose a lifestyle of sleeping with their girlfriends/boyfriends, practicing homosexuality, drinking excessively, or doing drugs. Pastor Tommy's message for these people was: although you are always welcome at the Rock, you cannot really call it your church if you are choosing to walk in darkness. Galatians 6:7 says, Don't be misled-you cannot mock the justice of God. You will always harvest what you plant. 1 John 2:1-6 says that if someone claims to know God but doesn't obey God's commandments, that person is a liar and is not living in the truth. Until you try to walk away from the darkness and into the light, you will not experience the forgiveness of God nor His power to transform your lives.
3. To love God is to obey God. 1 John 2:3
Just having a fear of the wrath of God is not enough to cause us to change. When someone has seen a glimpse of life walking in God's light, s/he recognizes its irreplaceable value and wants to remain in that light. That is true obedience - not a fear of avoiding trouble, but a desire to be in communion with God.
Pastor Tommy gave an example from his youth when he was arrested for stealing candy bars. After awaiting the wrath and ensuing punishment of his father, he received something far worse: his father's words that expressed shame and disassociation.
Christ followers choose walking in the light over darkness, not because of the fear of the consequence they will receive, but because they want to remain in fellowship with the living God.
4. Hate will cause you to be blinded by darkness. 1 John 2:11
The Bible says in 1 John 2:7 that we must love one another. You can't walk in God's light while you have hate and resentment in your heart.
Jesus teaches in Matthew 5 that we must reconcile our broken relationships before offering a sacrifice to God. If there is brokenness between you and someone else, it doesn't matter who's right and who's wrong; you are responsible for letting go of your resentment and reconciling the relationship.
Here Pastor Tommy shared an example from his past when he was wrongfully arrested. As he was in jail paying for someone else's actions, he developed a burning rage in his heart toward that person. What followed was the blackest, darkest year of his life.
Because of experiences like this, he now knows the consequence of letting anger control him. Now as a believer, he also knows the unspeakable benefit of walking in God's light. Pastor Tommy made a suggestion for anyone struggling with hatred: write down your feelings so that you can see how your own anger is affecting your life, ask for God's forgiveness, and ask Him to cleanse you from that brokenness.
5. A love God hates is a love of the world. 1 John 2:16-17
"Love yourself" is a popular message in our culture, but it is not found in the Bible. Selfishness is at the core of most of our problems. James 4:1 If you want to love God and others, you have to stop loving yourself and serving yourself. The world offers us all sorts of things to please ourselves: toys, achievements, sex, drugs, power. But pleasing ourselves is what cuts us off from God's fellowship.
Galatians 5:16-17 says that we can't walk in the Spirit of God until we crucify our flesh. Do you spend your time serving and pleasing yourself or God? The key to loving God and others is to refocus your time on Him. This requires more than prayer and reflection - it requires action.
BONUS* An antichrist is anyone who denies Jesus. 1 John 2:22
We often think of the Antichrist as a person who will rise to power, but this is the only mention of the term "antichrist" in the Bible. There are many influential people in our society who deny Christ and instruct us to be true to ourselves rather than God, but we are called to love and obey God. Having had a glimpse of the light, walk in it!
Homework: With each action you do this week, ask yourself this question: "Who is this for?"
Remember that God's grace is much bigger than our sin. He has the power to forgive and change us. 1 John 1:9
Memory Verse: Matthew 22:36
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