I think I would have made a great Pharisee. You see, I love rules. They provide a check-list of sorts to measure my life against, to prove that I am a “good Christian.” Read the Bible every day: Check. Go to church every week: Check. Don’t get drunk, don’t swear, don’t steal: Check. Give a tithe of your first fruits: Check…usually. Love your neighbor as yourself: Che… Wait a minute, where did that one come from?
As kids, we needed rules to help us know the difference between right and wrong, as well as to keep us safe. Rules were good. Even as adults, having a few rules is a good thing. But if our entire pursuit of God becomes a long list of dos and don’ts, shoulds and should-nots, then we have distorted the Gospel. In fact, the closer we draw to God, the farther we should get from legalism. Grace becomes the new “law” of our hearts, and it manifests itself as love for God and His people.
The last section of Hebrews 5 addresses a group of people who have not been pursuing spiritual maturity. They have remained babies of the faith and have stopped trying to understand anything beyond the basics of the Gospel. The writer of the book (likely Paul) urges them in chapter six to step it up and start pursuing maturity. One sign of that maturity is loving God by loving and serving other believers. Hebrews 6:11 reads, “Our great desire is that you will keep on loving others as long as life lasts, in order to make certain that what you hope for will come true.”
I am pretty good at digging in and searching out some deep truths of God’s Word. In fact, sometimes I get so wrapped up in these “deeper” things that I have to remind myself to go back and look just at Jesus. But when I read in Hebrews 6 that maturity shows up in how we love each other…well, then I have a little trouble. Because, like I said, I like rules and I like people who play by the rules. So much that I forget that my Christian brothers and sisters are real people: imperfect, struggling with sin just the way I am.
Hebrews 6:11 says that I need to focus on loving others as long as I live in order to make certain that what I hope for (salvation) will come true. This would be easy to use to distort the Gospel of Grace, taking the burden of salvation on ourselves, but that’s not what the author is getting at here. Instead, he is saying that our love for people will be an indication of what’s going on in our hearts. Galatians 5:22 says that when the Holy Spirit is guiding your life, He will produce in you fruit – evidence – of His presence. Love is part of that fruit. Thus, a life abundant in love for others is evidence of a life governed by the Holy Spirit, Who is God’s guarantee of our inheritance of eternal life (Ephesians 1:14), and a life governed by the Holy Spirit is one that is constantly striving for deeper spiritual maturity. And so it makes a full circle.
I will probably always be a person who likes rules. But I am learning to live my life by only two: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength;” and “Love your neighbor as yourself.” And in this, I pray I begin to look less like a Pharisee and more like my Savior.
By Angela Clark Logan, My Heart MinistryLeave a Comment