When I was a boy, there was a very popular magazine that I used to read just about every month called The Reader’s Digest. This magazine consisted of summarized articles from many other magazines and newspapers. At the back of the magazine there was always a condensed book for quick reading. However, when summarizing, a lot of details were left out that may have been important to the story.
The Bible has many summary statements in which huge amounts of information are summarized in just a few sentences. For example, Matthew 22:37–40 contains in two or three sentences a summary statement by Jesus Christ. Jesus said that on these two things, the whole law and the prophets – everything – hangs.
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus gave an even shorter summary that is often referred to as the golden rule. He said, “Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 7:12).
I have tried for many years to understand that sentence. There is an interesting paragraph from the book, The Desire of Ages, 640, that states, “Millions upon millions of human souls ready to perish, bound in chains of ignorance and sin, have never so much as heard of Christ’s love for them. Were our condition and theirs to be reversed, what would we desire for them to do for us? All this, so far as lies in our power, we are under the most solemn obligation to do for them. Christ’s rule of life, by which every one of us must stand or fall in the judgment, is, ‘Whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them’ (Matthew 7:12).”
This is the golden rule that will determine each person’s eternal destiny in the judgment. It is unfortunate that Christians spend so much time fighting with each other over differences of understanding about theology. However, that is reality. Some years ago, back in the 1990s, a huge controversy arose about whether Jesus died the first death or the second death on the cross of Calvary. The prophecy concerning what the Messiah would suffer for the human family is recorded in Psalm 18:4, 5. It says, “The pangs of death encompassed Me, the floods of ungodliness made Me afraid. The sorrows of Sheol surrounded Me; the snares of death confronted Me” (literal translation).
Some people have a rather shallow view of the cross of Christ, seeing Christ as only somebody who died as a martyr. But Jesus did not die on the cross of Calvary the death of the martyr. When the martyrs died, they died having a great hope. They knew that although other men put them to death, they would be raised again to eternal life. It is recorded as one man was being led to his martyrdom, a clergyman said to him, “We are going to cut you off from the church militant.” The martyr replied, “But not from the church triumphant. You might cut me off now, but you can’t cut me off forever because I’m going to be in the resurrection.”
Martyrs died with that hope. In fact, if you have ever studied a book such as Martyr’s Mirror or Foxes Book of Martyrs, you will know that there were many martyrs. Two examples were John Huss and Jerome. Both were burned at the stake. When the fire was lit and their bodies burned there was no screaming. Witnesses reported that as the flames arose around them they sang and the vehemence of the fire could scarcely stop their voices, and they died singing. Just before they died their lips were seen moving in prayer. They died singing and praying, because in their death they had hope. They knew it was temporary. By contrast, in recent years there have been a number of people who have lit themselves on fire and burned to death in terrible screaming agony.
Life in this world, whether you are killed or martyred or not, is very temporary. One time there was a family that was brought before the judges for their faith. One of the youngest boys said, When we have family worship, we always pray for the government and the leaders for the government. The judges were deeply moved by this testimony, that this was a family that not only prayed, but they prayed for their enemies and the government, the people who were leading the government. However, because of their prejudice, they said that the father and the oldest son had to be burned at the stake anyway. As they were tied to the stake and the fire was lit, the son said to the father, Look up! I see the heavens opened and I see an innumerable company watching us. Angels were always present on those occasions. If you are one of God’s children, the Bible says angels accompany you everywhere you are, whatever you are doing, and they protect and guard God’s children from the innumerable dangers of which we are unaware.
A clergyman that was present said, Oh no. You’re not seeing angels from heaven, you are seeing the devil’s angels. The boy replied, No. I’m not seeing the devil’s angels. I’m seeing angels from God. They are watching us. It was by divine power those people died praying and singing with great joy, knowing that very soon, it would be to them, almost instantaneous, they would meet the Lord again when He returns in the clouds.
Jesus Christ did not die the death of a martyr. In Matthew 27:46 it tells us the kind of death that Jesus died on the cross. “And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, ‘Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?’ that is, ‘My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?’ ” Jesus died the death that a fallen sinful man will die if he does not accept the gospel – the plan of salvation.
Jesus endured the pains of the second death – a death with no hope of a future. It is a death forsaken by God where the penalty of sin is paid by the sinner. Jesus endured that death so that you could be set free.
“The great sin of God’s people at the present time is, we do not appreciate the value of the blessings God has bestowed upon us. We serve God with a divided heart. We cherish some idol and worship at its shrine.” This Day With God, 50.
What does this divided heart mean? Suppose a suitor came to a young woman and told her, “I love you with half of my heart.” Would she respond, “That is wonderful, that is what I always wanted”? If he got it up to three quarters would she be completely satisfied? Never.
Dear friend, do you realize that we have a habit of doing this to the Lord all the time? We say we love Him and choose to follow Him, but our heart is divided. The book of James explains why there are so many people claiming their prayers are not answered. James 1:8 says, “… he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.” Verse 7 says that person is not going to receive anything in answer to his prayers and becomes discouraged with the Christian religion, believing he has tried it and found it doesn’t work. His prayer was unanswered because of his divided heart.
The very first commandment and basic principle of the Christian religion is to love God with all your heart, soul, and mind. “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever” (1 John 2:15–17). The devil is expert in luring people by the love of those three things.
Modern advertising has captured the minds of people with lewd suggestive displays in store front windows, magazine ads, internet pop-ups, and on billboards. Everywhere the eye turns are pictures designed to appeal to the lust of the flesh. One must be diligent to make a covenant with their eyes to keep their minds pure.
If the devil cannot trap you that way then he tries the lust of the eyes, your possessions. With some people, it is clothes and with others it is houses. With a lot of young men, in my generation, it was cars. I remember when I was in high school one young man’s father decided to buy his son a new car. This man came over with this new car to show it to all of us. It was a new type of Ford, a two-door hardtop convertible that the roof came down, one of the first ones made. It made a huge impression on the young men of my generation. I do not know whether the young men were impressed with girls more or cars, but they were impressed with the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes.
If the devil cannot get you with either the lust of the flesh or the lust of the eyes he will try to get you with pride, which is one of the most fundamental problems with humanity. The apostle warned not to love those things that the rest of the world loves because they are all temporary.
Do you appreciate what God has done for you, and do you tell Him so? Do you live like you appreciate it or is your heart divided? James 1:17 says, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.”
Every good gift, whether it comes through father or husband or daughter or anyone, comes from God, the ultimate Source of every good gift. For that reason, He deserves appreciation.
“As the Giver of every blessing, God claims a certain portion of all we possess. This is His provision to sustain the preaching of the gospel. And by making this return to God, we are to show our appreciation of His gifts. But if we withhold from Him that which is His own, how can we claim His blessing? If we are unfaithful stewards of earthly things, how can we expect Him to entrust us with the things of heaven? It may be that here is the secret of unanswered prayer.” Prayer, 309.
A problem for God’s professed people for thousands of years is that many do not appreciate Him. In the book of Malachi, it says, “ ‘For I am the Lord, I do not change … from the days of your fathers you have gone away from My ordinances and have not kept them. Return to Me, and I will return to you,’ says the Lord of hosts. ‘But you said, “In what way shall we turn?” ‘Will a man rob God? Yet you have robbed Me! But you say, “In what way have we robbed You?” In tithes and offerings. You are cursed with a curse, for you have robbed Me, even this whole nation. Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be food in My house, and try [prove] Me now in this,’ says the Lord of hosts, ‘If I will not open for you the windows of heaven, and pour out for you such blessing that there will not be room enough to receive it’ ” (Malachi 3:6–10).
I have met many people during my ministry who have told me that they cannot afford to pay tithe. But in reality, are you sure that you can afford not to pay tithe?
The Lord promises those who honor Him that He will pour out a blessing on them so abundant that they will not even be able to receive it. Those who know and refuse are under a curse. A tithe is a tenth. Many can testify that 90% of your increase with God’s blessing stretches much further than 100% with God’s curse.
Those in greatest need of God’s blessing on their finances are often those who say they can’t afford to do it. Accept that as a perfect opportunity to put the God of heaven to the test. In fact, He says, “Try Me now in this” (Malachi 3:10).
When my wife and I took a leave of absence and went to Southern California to graduate school we got into a situation where our expenses were more than our income for several months, so I know what it’s like to be financially tried. However, we did not stop paying tithe. In giving back a part of what God has given to us we are not enriching God, but we simply showed that we appreciated what the Lord Jesus has done for us.
Another way to show appreciation for what God has done for you is to consider others in their need. Remember Jesus said to do for others what you would want men to do for you, for this is the law and the prophets. He points us to people around us, to the poor, the suffering and the oppressed.
In Matthew 25:31–33 it says, “When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. All nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats. And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left.”
Verses 34–36: “Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was hungry and you gave me food; I was thirsty and you gave me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’ ”
They say, Lord, when did this ever happen? We don’t know when that ever happened. We don’t remember doing any of those things.
Look at verse 40: “And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’ ”
Notice, Jesus identifies Himself with those who are in trouble – the people who need food, the people who need clothing, the people who are sick, the people who are in prison, as will those who identify with Him.
Paul wrote, “But recall the former days in which, after you were illuminated (became Christians) you endured a great struggle with sufferings: partly while you were made a spectacle both by reproaches and tribulations, and partly while you became companions of those who were so treated; for you had compassion on me in my chains, and joyfully accepted the plundering of your goods, knowing that you have a better and an enduring possession for yourselves in heaven” (Hebrews 10:32–34).
Too often it is considered that people in trouble have caused it themselves and they should be left to suffer the consequences. Adam and Eve made a conscious choice to do the wrong thing, but they were given help to recover from the consequences.
Remember Jesus’ rule, Whatever you want men to do to you, you do to them. Ask yourself, what would I want if I were in the hospital, or in jail? What if I didn’t have enough food or money to buy the clothes that I needed? Would I want somebody to say, Well, it’s your own fault because you made these mistakes back there. After all, don’t we all make some bad decisions at times?
The best illustration of appreciation is recorded in all four of the gospels. “Then one of the Pharisees asked Him (Jesus) to eat with him. And He went to the Pharisee’s house, and sat down to eat. And behold, a woman in the city who was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at the table in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster flask of fragrant oil, and stood at His feet behind Him weeping; and she began to wash His feet with her tears, and wiped them with the hair of her head; and she kissed His feet and anointed them with the fragrant oil. Now when the Pharisee who had invited Him saw this, he spoke to himself, saying, ‘This man, if He were a prophet, would know who and what manner of woman this is who is touching Him, for she is a sinner.’ ” (Luke 7:36–39).
She was looked down on by everybody in that society because of the terrible sins that she had committed. It was common knowledge throughout that region who this woman was and what she had done. And how arrogant of Simon, who had been cured by the Lord Jesus of leprosy and saved from a living death himself, to criticize this woman who he, himself would not touch.
“And Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Simon, I have something to say to you.’ So he said, ‘Teacher, say it.’ ‘There was a certain creditor who had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. And when they had nothing with which to repay, he freely forgave them both. Tell Me, therefore, which of them will love him more?’
“Simon answered and said, ‘I suppose the one whom He forgave more.’ And He said to him, ‘You have rightly judged.’ Then He turned to the woman and said to Simon, ‘Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave Me no water for My feet, but she has washed My feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head. You gave Me no kiss, but this woman has not ceased to kiss My feet since the time I came in. You did not anoint My head with oil, but this woman has anointed My feet with fragrant oil. Therefore I say to you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much. But to whom little is forgiven, the same loves little.’ Then He said to her, ‘Your sins are forgiven.’ And those who sat at the table with Him began to say to themselves, ‘Who is this who even forgives sins?’ Then He said to the woman, ‘Your faith has saved you. Go in peace.’ ” (verses 40–50).
Notice. There are still both types in the world today, those who, like the Pharisee, look down on “big sinners,” considering them unworthy, and the truly repentant ones who know they are sinners and accept the forgiveness of Jesus.
This woman, considered one of the worst sinners in town, accepted the grace offered her by her Saviour. To show her appreciation she bought an alabaster box containing oil of spikenard, one of the most expensive perfumes that has ever been developed or made. The oil she used in anointing Jesus does not wash off and the fragrance remains for approximately 30 days.
As horrible as it was when Jesus went to the cross, He knew from the fragrance poured on His body six days earlier that there was at least one person in the world who appreciated what He was doing, making it possible for her sins to be forgiven. Jesus told His disciples that anywhere in the whole world that they would preach the gospel, they were to tell this story.
Everyone wants a response from those they love. Jesus’ love for you is greater than any human love and He also would appreciate a response. The way you live, the way you treat your fellow men, how you support His work is evidence of how much you appreciate what He has done for you.
Thank Jesus Christ for what He has done for you. In the way that you support His work, in the way that you treat and relate to your fellow men, you will show to the whole universe your appreciation for the gift of salvation.
(Unless appearing in quoted references or otherwise identified, Bible texts are from the New King James Version.)Pastor John J. Grosboll is Director of Steps to Life and pastors the Prairie Meadows Church in Wichita, Kansas. He may be contacted by email at: email@example.com, or by telephone at: 316-788-5559.