Now that we have finished our study of Acts, we are beginning a study of the key passages in our Church's vision, mission, and methods. This week, we will be discussing Mark 12:30-21 where Jesus tells us what the two greatest commandments are:
- Love the Lord with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.
- Love your neighbor as yourself.
We will discuss this in detail Sunday night. However, I wanted to take some time to discuss the context of this passage and the profound implications it bears. In Mark 12:28, a scribe (teacher of the Law) heard Jesus answering His critics with wise words. The scribe, intrigued at Jesus responses, decided to ask Jesus an inquisitive rather than accusative question. Specifically, He asks Jesus what commandment is the greatest of all.
Jesus answered with commandments that have become central to Restoration's methodology: Love God with all you are and love people as you love yourself.
Sunday, we will discuss what that means, so I wont spend too much time on it here. Instead, I want to discuss the exchange that follows Jesus' profound answer.
The scribe paraphrases Jesus' answer back to Him (a sign that he had been listening) and seems to agree with every word. Jesus' response: "You are not far from the Kingdom of God."
What does it mean to be "not far" from the Kingdom of God? The scribe understood the profound value of loving God above all else and loving people as you love yourself. He seemed to be in absolute agreement with Jesus on these points. So, what was he missing? How did he get the two greatest commandments right and still wasn't all the way "in" the Kingdom of God?
While I can't say for certain what Jesus was referring to, I think I have a pretty good idea.
You cannot be in the Kingdom of God without making Jesus your King. The scribe shared the fundamental values of the Kingdom of God, but there is no evidence that He had trusted Jesus as his King. He loved God and loved people, but He didn't trust Jesus.
The more I engage with people outside the Church, the more I see people like the scribe in Mark 12. They speak readily about their love for God and people. Most are happy to talk about God's blessing on their lives and how they pray daily. They have the marks of spirituality yet lack the Lordship of Jesus.
They are nice people. Speaking plainly, I like them a lot better than most church people. They are kind, they are gracious, they have a value for spiritual things, but they are lost.
This begs the question: If people can be so good without Jesus, what is the difference between them and Jesus' followers? The answer is "surrender."
Without Jesus, spiritual people go on their way, asking God to be a part of the plans they lay for themselves. They seek God's blessing as they pursue their own will. They value God and value people, but they see themselves as the masters of their own destiny. They love God and love people as long as they can have their lives, but they still put themselves first.
They are tyrants on their own hearts' thrones, seemingly benevolent tyrants, but tyrants nonetheless. We were all once as they are (or perhaps are still as them). The true nature of that tyranny is revealed when we realize that God isn't serving our will but His own. All is well in the "kingdom of me" until my power is disputed. When pain and loss wrecks my kingdom, I realize that I am not in control as I thought I was. In such moments, I have two possible responses: To futilely grasp to regain control or to trust the rightful King of my heart.
Who has control when your dreams are crushed and you lose all that is important to you? If Jesus is my King, my will is aligned to His. I can lose everything and still have Him. The "spiritual" person loses everything and wonders where God is. The surrendered person loses everything and finds God all the more. The difference is surrender. Does God serve me or do I serve Him? Is He my King or my token?
God cannot merely be a good luck charm on my journey to reach my dreams; He must be my Lord. He must take His rightful place on the throne of my heart. As scary as it sounds to surrender control of your life, the reality is that He has good for you that you cannot comprehend.
Don't just be near the Kingdom of God; be in it. Until then, you are your own heart's tyrant. Depose the tyrant of your heart and feel what is like when the King is restored.