A couple weeks ago, I got to teach the older kids class at our church, and as you might guess, our text was Mark 10:17–27 about the Rich Young Ruler. I thought I’d share it with you, so below I’ve put the highlights from our study that we had together…
What must I do?
And as he [Jesus] was setting out on his journey, a man ran up and knelt before him and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”Mark 10:17
It’s pretty obvious that the Rich Young Ruler wants to get to heaven on his own merit. Even his question “what must I do” implies he wants a task to accomplish.
And, he’s not alone, we all like the idea of earning things, and wanting to earn our way to heaven is no exception.
But there’s a major problem: none of us are perfect (Romans 3:23).
And as the young man is going to find out, he can’t get enteral life on his own…
And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.’ ”
And he said to him, “Teacher, all these I have kept from my youth.”
And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.”
Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.Mark 10:18–22
As we read what Jesus tells him, we realize that was Jesus is telling the young man is that he must be perfect to attain eternal life. Jesus begins by reminding him of a few of the 10 commandments listing the standard given by God for perfection.
The young man tells Jesus that he has kept all of the outward commandments and so Jesus then proceeds to remind him of the inward ones.
Notice that Jesus says “You lack one thing”. He goes from the general laws to the specific issue that this man faces.
And here’s why: Money had become this young man’s functional god. He had broken the first commandment: “you shall have no other gods before me”.
In the case of the Rich Young Ruler, his love of money was at least one of the many things that kept him from God’s perfection (and let’s be honest, how many of us would be willing to give up everything we have if Jesus told us to).
But Money Isn’t Even the Real Issue
Jesus never asks anyone else in scripture to completely give up their money (even more on that later). And because of that, we can infer that He was trying to make a point: We can’t earn our way to heaven because we’re all imperfect.
Jesus chose the thing that He knew the man would not give up, and we all have those things, don’t we? We all hold imperfections in our character and hearts that keep us from the perfection that eternal life with God requires.
In fact, money is simply a tangible asset that enables us to hold on to things as our functional savior instead of surrendering to God.
Here’s a few examples of things that money can “give” us so that we hold onto money instead of holding onto God…
The list goes on…
Obviously, money cannot provide any of these things perfectly (that’s kind of the point), but they can become false substitutes for what only God can give us.
We don’t know what the Rich Young Ruler struggled with most, but it’s no denying that money can take on many different roles in our lives and it can easily keep us from having God be our only and first love.
So, What Did Jesus Really Want From The Young Man?
Ultimately, God doesn’t care about our money, possessions or skills. We are imperfect sinners and so the best we can offer is still tainted with sin.
Jesus wanted him to humbly surrender.
He wanted the young man to stop
To realize he couldn’t measure up to God’s perfection
And for him to accept God’s grace.
The young man was created to enjoy a complete and whole relationship with God and to live in a way that reflected God as a result.
Unfortunately, his (and our) sin gets in the way and we become disconnected from God, Who is the Giver of life. And we cannot be reconnected to Him without becoming perfect.
In this passage, Jesus is essentially telling the Rich Young Ruler that he needs to be perfect to “inherit eternal life”. And so Jesus points out an area of imperfection in his life and says it has to be corrected in order for him to earn his way to heaven, all the while knowing that it would be too much for the man to do.
Unfortunately, it’s not even that simple.
In order to earn our relationship back with God, we must be perfect our entire lives: so even if you “clean up” now, it’s already too late!
What Jesus really wanted from this conversation was for the Rich Young Ruler to realize he wasn’t good enough to inherit eternal life and that what he really needed a Savior, just like everyone else.
“Then Who Can Be Saved?”
And Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How difficult it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!”
And the disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said to them again, “Children, how difficult it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.”
And they were exceedingly astonished, and said to him, “Then who can be saved?”Mark 10:23-26
After the Rich Young Ruler determines he cannot go to heaven on his own merit, he walks away sorrowful.
Have you ever considered this problem before?
God’s requirement is perfection, and there is no way that you or I are meeting that.
For many of us, just like him, this is the end of the story.
If only he had stayed a little longer.
Because after he left, Jesus told His disciples that it is extremely difficult for wealthy people to enter the kingdom of heaven. And He then follows it up with comparing it to a camel going through the eye of a needle (which is not going to happen).
Their response is what we should all ask: “then who can be saved?”
And that is a very good question.
**Please note that when Jesus said it’s difficult for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God, He is not saying that it’s wrong to be rich. What I believe Jesus was getting at is that when you are rich, you are all the more able to hide behind and hold onto the things in your heart that separate you from relying on God. It’s simply harder to choose to surrender and trust God as first in your life when you have such a tangible ability to “trust in yourself” for all of life’s needs and problems. Jesus is merely saying that it is a natural roadblock to salvation, not that it is wrong to be rich.**
What Jesus Offers Us (And The Rich Young Ruler)
Jesus looked at them and said, “With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.” Mark 10:27
If only the young man had stuck around.
He had finally come to the end of himself.
He had finally realized that he could not earn eternal life.
He had tried his hardest,
And when he realized that wasn’t good enough,
He figured that was the end of it.
(After all, he was rich and probably didn’t ask for help often)
But he had forgotten about the only One Who could really help.
He Had Forgotten About God.
The Rich Young Ruler, unfortunately, left before Jesus had a chance to remind Him that God’s grace is an option for Him to inherit eternal life.
What’s a little ironic, is that the Rich Young Ruler wanted to know what he could do to “inherit eternal life” when an inheritance is far from earned.
To inherit eternal life, you merely have to become an heir. In this case, an heir of God.
And we once were heirs,
Until sin entered the world and our hearts.
From then on out we were separated from God,
And removed from His inheritance.
There is nothing we can do,
as the Rich Young Ruler found out.
We can’t offer God a complete and perfect heart and life.
But what the Rich Young Ruler missed was this:
There was something God could, and would, do.
To give us the inheritance we could not earn ourselves.
And He was standing right in front of him.
As part of His Salvation plan,
Jesus would take His rightful inheritance,
And would trade it for our lack of inheritance.
The Rich Young Ruler (and all of us as well) wanted to earn his way, but as Paul wrote in Romans “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). And that’s not a good wage.
But in that same verse we learn that “the grace of God is eternal life” (Romans 6:23).
You want to earn eternal life?
Sorry, that ship has sailed.
That’s not going to happen.
But are you willing to receive it?
Are you willing to accept God’s free gift through His Son?
That Jesus paid your price,
That Jesus accepted the wages for your sin,
And that Jesus gave you His rightful inheritance?
Then you can receive, you can inherit, eternal life.
What Happens If We Receive This Free Gift?
If you accept Jesus’ free gift of life, there’s a few things that happen.
- He gives His Spirit to be inside of you (and every receiver), to be with you, and to transform you to be more like Him. Remember, we were created to worship God, be in relationship with Him, and reflect Him in our lives. By receiving Jesus’ free gift of eternal life, your eternal life starts now. Instead of waiting for eternity, God wants to start now. He wants you to be close to Him, now.
- As you continue to rely on His grace for your inheritance, and on His Spirit for your daily life, you will supernaturally become more like Him. These changes will take place in personal inward thoughts and desires, and also in your outward actions and words. This is a continuation of the first part as mentioned earlier that our relationship and closeness to God is what continues to transform us to be more like Him.
And there is no better example for this story than the rich man who was saved shortly after this passage.
In Luke 19:1-10, we meet Zacchaeus who is not only a rich person, but clearly an unethical one as he was a chief tax collector. To spare you the details, he essentially gets saved and tells Jesus he’s going to repay everyone back what he has stolen from them and essentially obey the Hebrew law that God put in place.
He’s not giving away all his wealth. He’ll actually probably still be fairly wealthy when he’s done.
Yet he is saved, while the other wasn’t.
It’s because his salvation didn’t come from his work,
It came from receiving Jesus’ grace.
Zacchaeus received Jesus’ message of repentance and forgiveness and was transformed because of it.
Is he perfect?
But he was saved, has been given eternal life and now is being transformed by God from the inside out.
Did he give away all he had?
But he joyfully gave back what he had stolen, and I am sure that if he remained in Jesus’ grace and love, he continued to joyfully give, love and surrender in many areas of life, including his finances.
The Difference Between The Two Rich Men
In these passages we saw two rich men.
The first wanted to earn his eternal life.
The second realized it was a free gift.
The first desired to earn an inheritance by being perfect himself.
The second was given an inheritance through Jesus’ perfection.
The first could not be perfect and walked away to continue earning his wage of death.
The second received eternal life and began living a generous and love filled life that reflected the great gift he had been given.
The first left feeling like his life was probably over.
The second left feeling like his life was just beginning.
Which do you feel like today?
Which do you want to be like?
The Prayer Of Salvation
To close this post, I wanted to remind you of another rich man who found eternal life in one of Jesus’ parables. In the chapter previous in Luke’s Gospel, Jesus tells of a tax collector who went to the temple to pray and left righteous. Here is all he prayed:
“…the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’Luke 18:13
Do you have that same prayer of repentance and humility?
Do you hold to that same mercy that God offers us through Jesus?
It’s your only way to eternal life.
If you already know Jesus, then reflect back on His grace and come back to those first joys of salvation. We all tend to drift away from that feeling and mindset, and it is important to draw near again.
If you don’t already know Jesus, please contact me with any questions you have about what it means to be forgiven for sins, have enteral life, and to know and follow Jesus.
Last week, we covered the attitude we need to have when approaching the Bible to study it. If you haven’t read that yet, I encourage you to at THIS LINK.
Now that we’ve prepared our hearts to receive from God’s Word, we’re going to cover the simple three step process and tools for you to study the Bible with.
All good study begins with observation. This takes the form of noticing key characters, events, locations, etc.
Sometimes this means looking at a book of the Bible as a whole to know more about the context, such as who was the author and who was the original reader, but oftentimes we can gain enough to understand a passage by reading a few verses beforehand and a few after in order to see what the author was trying to communicate.
Remember that the original writing wasn’t broken up by chapters and verses (except for the Psalms and some of Proverbs) and so consider reading a previous chapter to gain more context. By observing, we can learn the context for something that was said or done.
One helpful tip for this section is to use the 5 W’s and an H.
Look at the text and ask yourself, who is this about, what is happening, when is this happening, where did it take place and how is it happening or how is God working in this situation, etc.
But save the last “w" (why) for the next section…
Observing words and actions without interpretation is meaningless.
After observing the passage, we are confronted with a big "so what?”
What truth is God communicating to us through this passage?
Why is this important or valuable?
And the primary way we can learn to interpret scripture well is through other verses in the Bible.
Imagine that someone wrote a very detailed explanation of the reason for life and how to live it well.
That book would be riddled with references to other sections within the same book to help gain clarity and context without rewriting all of the same content.
Now imagine that book was written thousands of years ago in another language and culture and has now been brought to your native language but has kept all of it’s cultural references.
That would be very much like the Bible we have today.
So, what do we do with all of these internal references and explanations and having cultural references that are not our own?
A big piece of interpretation is bridging the gap between how the original readers would understand a passage and how our western and modern eyes read it.
This gap, thankfully, is something we can learn to adjust to, and as we learn more scripture, it become increasingly easier.
To start, however, there are many resources at our disposal. We have many specific books, podcasts, and online helps listed on my “Bible Study Resources Page”, but here are a few ideas:
Sermons – Many great pastors have broken down parts of the Bible and explained interpretation for any of us to be able to listen to at our leisure online.
Verse References – Many Bibles include verse references to show passages that relate to the passage you’re reading. Not every verse will seem applicable, but many have obvious connections that help bring understanding to the meaning of the passage. Blue Letter Bible in particular has a great section for each verse in the Bible called their "treasury of scripture" feature that lists related verses.
Concordances – Similar to verse references, concordances show each place a specific word is used. Keep in mind that because the Bible was originally written in different languages, we are reading translated versions which means that sometimes you could look up a word and have it point to sections that use other words, but they were the same word in the original language. This also helps bring clarity to the meaning the purpose of a passage of scripture. The Strongs and Vines concordances are the most common, and both can be found for free on Blue Letter Bible as well.
Commentaries – Much like sermons, commentaries break down sections of scripture and normally are more in depth and focused on simply interpretation rather than application (depending on the commentary). I personally use many commentaries, but I think the Warren Wiersbe Commentaries set listed on my RESOURCES PAGE is one of the most helpful if you only have time for one. As another great suggestion, and my wife’s favorite, is by David Guzik which can be found on Blue Letter Bible for free.
After we interpret the meaning of a passage, we are left with a complete waste of time unless we apply the passage to our lives.
This means that we need to connect the information we’ve received to a direct and practical response that can be lived out in our own lives.
I, like many others, believe that there is only one interpretation of scripture, but that there can be many applications.
For example, let’s take 1 Timothy 1:15 which states that "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners – of whom I am the worst."
The interpretation, of this passage is that Jesus came into the world as our Savior with the purpose of saving everyone and anyone is is willing to receive His salvation.
Furthermore, we recognize that all sin is extremely devastating to our relationship with God and therefore we cannot judge others as worse than ourselves in order to gain a status above them or become judgmental on them, as demonstrated by Paul in this passage.
- One application we could take is to remember how much we personally need the grace of God, and that we are never too far from God for His grace to save, redeem, and transform us. So we humble ourselves before God and ask Him to forgive us for sins and to transform us to be more like Him.
- A second way we could apply this passage is to focus on the part where it reminds us that Christ Jesus came to save sinners. This was His whole purpose, and He has called us to share this Gospel. Not only is it our calling to share Jesus’ grace with others, but the latter part of the verse reminds us that He can save anyone, and because of that we are to take any opportunity we are given to share His Gospel.
These are just two ways we could apply this passage, but notice that we never deviated from the basic interpretation of the message. Its truth remained the same wherever we applied it.
Similar to a bandage that can be applied to any part of the body, God’s Word is meant to be applied in many areas of our lives.
To conclude these big ideas, I want to leave you with an analogy from everyday life that will hopefully take away some of the intimidation of studying the Bible.
Imagine you’re in your kitchen and you notice that the light on your dishwasher is on (OBSERVATION).
Because the light is on, you’re aware that the dishwasher is currently running (INTERPRETATION)
And since the dishwasher is running, you decide to put the dish in the sink rather than inside the dishwasher, since then you’d end up with water all over your floor (APPLICATION).
That example may seem simplistic, but that’s really all that is happening when we read the Bible.
Yes, you may need to look at the dishwasher’s manual in order to understand what that light means just as we go to commentaries and other parts of scripture, but the concept is still the same.
I hope this has helped diffuse any fear of reading the Bible that you may have, and that it has equipped you to study it better.
Please remember that no matter what the cost of understanding the Bible, this is the most important and valuable thing you will ever do.
Without studying and submitting to God’s Word, we cannot hope to see God Himself and have a transformed life with Him. When we study and apply God’s Word well, we can say, like the Psalmist:
"I rejoice at Your Word like one who finds great spoil.” Psalm 119:162
The Bible is much more than just a book.
Even more than a compilation of 66 books.
The Bible has been described as "God lowering Himself to the status of an author," and since He has, we should read and respond to it as though it must be the most valuable piece ever written.
But where do we start?
How do we begin reading the Bible?
People attend seminaries and various schools and study the Bible for their entire life, while still claiming there’s more to learn – and I believe them. If God truly wrote a book, I’d expect it’s entire depth and teaching to be beyond anything I could grasp in my lifetime.
At the same time, the Bible is simple enough for any of us to gain all that we need to have a full and vibrant life and relationship God.
It’s been said that the Bible is shallow enough for the youngest child to splash in its water, yet deep enough for the most studious scholar to never reach its bottom. It is this Word that we have the pleasure, benefit, and duty to ready, study, and apply.
Because of the depth of God’s Word, we can’t go into all aspects of studying it, but I think part of the problem most people face is that they let the depth of the Bible paralyze them from gleaning anything. If this describes you, I want to help you.
The simple inductive Bible method we’ll go over is:
We’re going to look at this three step process next week, in a way that will help us study any passage of scripture, but before we do, there’s an attitude and approach to reading God’s Word that we need to clarify:
1. The purpose of studying the Bible is to know Jesus better
Jesus told the Pharisees in John 5:39, “you study the scriptures, for in them you think you have life, but it is they that speak of Me.”
Jesus was telling the Bible scholars of His day that they missed the entire point of the scriptures they devoted their lives to studying. They had studied the Bible in hopes that they could be saved because of their religious activity, while God’s purpose in His Word is for us to find our salvation in a life-giving and life-changing relationship with Jesus.
Whenever we read the Bible simply as a self-help book or tips to a better life, we miss the entire point of drawing nearer to Jesus.
2. This is a supernatural endeavor
I don’t mean to say that studying the Bible is not also a scholarly endeavor, it is actually both.
However, I think too often we try to boil down the Bible to merely a really amazing piece of writing and not the actual Word of God which requires our spiritual eyes to be open and not merely our physical ones.
In order to truly understand and apply God’s Word to our lives, we need to come before God humbly, knowing that only He can teach us spiritual things and give us life. I encourage everyone to begin their time in God’s Word with prayer, asking Him to speak to them and work in their lives through His Word.
3. Are we the teacher, or God?
I know this seems silly to even say, but so often we can come to God’s Word with our own agenda and want God to simply enforce our current beliefs.
If there are never truths in God’s Word that require you to change your belief or submit to it even though you naturally disagree, then you are not letting God be your teacher, but you are instead trying to read your predetermined beliefs into the Bible.
As one pastor recalled, when someone had asked him what he should do if he disagreed with something the Bible said, the pastor told the man, “Then you must be wrong, and you should change your belief.”
Sometimes we try to be God’s teacher rather than letting God teach us. If you come to the Bible with this perspective, you will not receive from the Bible what God would desire you to have.
4. None of this matters if we don’t apply it
Although the third step in this inductive Bible method (Application) is simply applying what we read in scripture, it’s important to come to God’s Word with a desire to have change in our hearts and lives.
The book of James warns us that we can become hard to the Word and that our faith is not true faith if it doesn’t affect our lives (James 1:22-25). We should always be on guard of hearing God’s truth and not acting on it because as we begin that cycle it becomes easier and easier to not obey and follow Jesus.
It’s only after we have prepared our heart and mind for God’s Word that we are ready to study the Bible. Next week, we’ll cover some different tools and methods you can use to study the Bible for yourself.
Since we celebrated Father’s Day yesterday, I wanted to write some encouragement to the fathers in my life as well as anyone who has struggled with the “father figure” in their life.
If you missed (or would like a refresher) on what I wrote for Mother’s Day, I’m going to be be building off of that same foundation. You can check out my post on that at this link: Mothers: Reflecting God’s Image.
Mother’s Day Recap
God Is Seen In Every Person And Position and it is important to realize that God is revealing different parts of His character and giving us different ways to relate to Him when He compares Himself to a king, a mother, a shepherd, or even a father.
Unfortunately, We (As Examples Of God) Are Broken And Imperfect and that means that regardless of how “good” of an example we have in those ways, we do not know of a single perfect example besides God Himself – and this includes the father’s we’ve known.
Regardless of the Examples We’ve Seen (Good or Bad), God Desires All Of Them to Point to Him and His Perfection, which brings us to the context of Father’s Day.
(again, you can check out my Mothers: Reflecting God’s Image post for more details on the above points).
Fatherhood Displayed In Today’s Culture
Out of all the analogies the Bible uses to explain God’s relationship to us, God as our “Heavenly Father” is one of the most common, and I believe holds a special place in the Bible.
We read that even Jesus Himself taught us to relate to God as “our Father Who is in heaven” (Matthew 6:9) which can be difficult for many of us to understand and appreciate in today’s culture.
Unfortunately, fathers have become the ridicule of movies, TV shows, and general storytelling. Fathers are generally shown to be absent, overly harsh, or completely incompetent – and these descriptions sadly represent what many have personally experienced.
Because of these poor examples, we have become completely ignorant of what a “God Who is our Father” is like – and what our own fathers ought to be like.
Our Heavenly (And Perfect) Father
Whether you are a father, or want to be able to see God’s Fatherhood in your life more clearly, the Bible is always the best place to go. Below is a small list of attributes that tells us how God displays His Fatherhood in our lives.
“Father of the fatherless and protector of widows is God in his holy habitation.” – Psalm 68:5
“As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him.” – Psalm 103:13
“My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline or be weary of his reproof, for the Lord reproves him whom he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights.” – Proverbs 3:11–12
“But now, O Lord, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand.” – Isaiah 64:8
“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” – Matthew 7:7–11
“And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons? ‘My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.’” – Hebrews 12:5–6
God is our perfect Father…
The Standard For Fatherhood Has Been Set (And Unmet)
As a father of two, I can tell you that I fall short of God’s fatherly perfection, as described above, on a daily basis.
And if you too look at the list above and feel completely lacking or insufficient, that’s completely normal and even good. When comparing ourselves to God, we should see areas we lack and come up short.
But it shouldn’t leave us there.
The Bible continually tells us to strive for perfection, to be Holy as God is Holy and to live up to the standards we were created to be like… But we simply can’t on our own.
As Paul explains in the book of Romans, the law (the revealing of God’s standard of perfection) was NOT created so we could pull ourselves up to God’s level: to try harder and do better. No, God’s perfect standard was revealed to show us our imperfection and that we need Him.
So, where does that leave us?
Well, if you recognize your lack, it should point you to God, to ask for His help.
The Redeemer Of Imperfections
I don’t want anyone reading this to reflect on their imperfections and to feel like they’ve done, or experienced, irreversible damage.
Fortunately, God offers grace to cover all of our shortcomings: including in fatherhood.
We have all seen kids grow up incredibly well in spite of poor father figures and this should bring us comfort knowing that God can redeem any failings we have. Whether as the father, or as the child: God is our heavenly Father who brings beauty from ashes.
I hope that seeing God’s perfection in Fatherhood would serve you as a reminder that since we have imperfections, we ought to seek God for Him to make us into fathers more like Himself and to provide grace in our shortcomings.
The Ultimate Goal of Fatherhood (And Their Children)
Regardless of how well you parent or experienced parenting, there is certainly one thing that cannot be missed:
None of it has any eternal value without Jesus.
As a father, I know I have (and will) mess up.
Sometimes in small ways, other times in big ways.
But I also know my goal as a parent:
That, even in my imperfections
In my struggles
In my repentance
In my words
In my prayers
In my actions
In my life
That I would point my kids to Jesus and pray they follow Him as well.
And that is successful fatherhood.
Representing the loving God to your children
But making it clear to them at the same time:
There is a Father Who is their truest and ultimate Father.
That, just as the sacrificial system in the Old Testament was a shadow and picture of Jesus Who is our perfect Savior,
I want my fathering to them to be a shadow and picture of God who is their perfect Father.
That I am their father on earth
But God is their Father in heaven.
I am their father temporarily
But God is their Father for eternity.
That even in my imperfections
They can look to their Heavenly Father Who is perfect.
Everything else is good.
To teach them how to live wisely, act kindly, work hard and enjoy life:
But to teach them Who God is and His love for them surpasses all those other things.
What To Do Now
Whether you have experienced a godly example for a father
Or if you have even been one yourself,
We all can learn from our fathers.
But we can all take away that they are examples, guides, and shadows pointing to our heavenly Father Who is perfect.
So, celebrate Father’s Day.
For fathers, enjoy getting to be such an important example of God in your children’s lives,
And be comforted in your shortcomings knowing that we are all imperfect, and rejoice knowing your (and your child’s) heavenly Father is truly perfect.
And for children (kids and adults) on this special day, take some time to enjoy your father,
Thanking God for every part of them,
And for giving a role in your life that was made to point you to God.
A little over a year ago, I was awoken around 7am on a Sunday morning and was asked if I could preach last minute at church that morning. It was sudden and unexpected so I had to immediately go to God and ask Him what He would have for that fated morning.
As I was reflected on various truths and Bible passages I was brought to a very simple, yet often overlooked one, and I knew it was needed:
The Love of God.
The Love of God is a theme I’ve revisited many times and is one that I have to remind myself of often and I felt I should share it with you as well.
Although we live in a culture that has devalued and misconstrued love as something you feel or an undirected affirmation of anything someone else wants, God’s love towards us is an undying care an affection that we could study our entire lives and never reach it’s depths or expanse.
One of my favorite hymns describes God’s love this way…
Could we with ink the ocean fill,
And were the skies of parchment made,
Were every stalk on earth a quill,
And every man a scribe by trade;
To write the love of God above,
Would drain the ocean dry
Nor could the scroll contain the whole
Though stretched from sky to sky
That verse paints such a vivid picture of how we cannot fully understand or appreciate the vast love of God.
But we can certainly try.
And so I have tried to make the habit of taking 5-10 minutes a day to simply reflect on the love of God, and I invite you to join me.
I’ve written some verses below for you to simply read through,
To slow down,
And simply think about God’s love and care for you.
“Know therefore that the Lord your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations.” – Deuteronomy 7:9
“But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.” – Psalm 86:15
“Give thanks to the God of heaven, for his steadfast love endures forever.” – Psalm 136:26
“The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.” – Zephaniah 3:17
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” – John 3:16
“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” – John 15:9–13
“But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” – Romans 5:8
“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.
For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” – Romans 8:37–39
“But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us,
even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved.” – Ephesians 2:4–5
“See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him.” – 1 John 3:1
“I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” – Galatians 2:20
“In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins..” – 1 John 4:9–10
Since we celebrated Mother’s Day yesterday, I wanted to add some encouragement to the mothers in my life. And I think this is important because in today’s culture, we tend to either idolize or demonize people and positions – and neither does any good.
We can talk about how incredible and “perfect” mothers are, and unintentionally crush them into guilt as we put more on them than they can live up to.
OR, we talk of the imperfections we’ve seen in mothers or how we have been hurt by mother figures, and that does just as little good for all the mothers we ought to be thankful for.
Ultimately, the approach we should have towards mothers is one of thankfulness for the role they’ve played in our lives, and more importantly, their lives and roles should cause us to look towards God in thankfulness and worship.
So, let’s back up…
God Seen In Every Person And Position
As human beings, we have a very special position before God: we are “made in his image,” or “likeness” (Genesis 1:27).
But, even more than that, God has revealed Himself and His character throughout scripture by giving us comparisons for us to understand Who He is.
A classic example is that God is like a loving Father Who has compassion on His children (Psalm 103:13)…
But that is merely one example. The Bible is filled with comparisons so that we may get an idea of God’s goodness, love, kindness, gentleness and all Who God is by collecting these hundreds of glimpses into a single picture.
Here’s a few more examples to help explain what I mean:
God is described as or compared to a…
Shepherd (Psalm 23)
Warrior (Exodus 15:3)
King (Psalm 29:10)
Potter (Isaiah 29:16)
A friend (James 2:23)
Teacher/Guide (John 16:13)
And many more…
Each of these tells us an aspect of God’s unchanging character and role in our lives.
And one of the most great comparisons is how God is like a mother
God has used parental figures in His Word very frequently, which I’m sure is intentional since we all experience a parental figure in our lives at some point.
Here are just a few examples we see from scripture of how God is like our mothers.
Keep in mind that many of these are specifically God’s relationship to His covenant people, Israel, but we can definitely apply this love and character to God in how He loves and cares for all His people, especially now those who have been added to through His Son, Jesus (Ephesians 2:19, Ephesians 3:6, Romans 11:17-24)
“Yet it was I who taught Ephraim to walk; I took them up by their arms, but they did not know that I healed them. I led them with cords of kindness, with the bands of love, and I became to them as one who eases the yoke on their jaws, and I bent down to them and fed them.” – Hosea 11:3–4
“As one whom his mother comforts, so I will comfort you; you shall be comforted in Jerusalem.” – Isaiah 66:13
“Can a woman forget her nursing child, that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you.” – Isaiah 49:15
“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!” – Matthew 23:37
Mothers have been used many times to remind us of God’s undying love, protection, compassion, care, teaching, leadership and so many more things that most of us have experienced from our own mothers.
And, for these great examples of God’s Character, we ought to be thankful to our mothers…
Unfortunately, We (As Examples Of God) Are Broken And Imperfect
And this is where the problem begins.
We see how God compares Himself to mothers.
And we begin to lift them up to a place they don’t belong.
On a day when we should simply be thankful for our mothers,
Many, even in churches, begin to act as if they’re perfect (or that they ought to be)
And this puts an impossible burden on them.
Or we go the other route.
And maybe we’ve seen poor examples of mothers,
And we begin bashing the hurtful things mothers have done to those we love.
And neither way is good.
Because we were never meant to expect perfection from our mothers.
Like every other person alive,
Mothers represent a piece of God.
They have been made in the image of God
And have the special role of motherhood to exemplify specific traits from God.
But they are not God.
As with every other person alive, their role as an image bearer is to have their lives point to God as the One Who is perfect, Who is complete, Who is lacking nothing.
Just as we have been made as image bearers of God (Genesis 1:27)
Just as every Christian is an ambassador for Christ (2 Corinthians 5:11-21)
Mothers are to point us to God, who is the perfect and complete “mother” we all need.
And as we look at our mothers, we can see their strong points. Their godly characteristics. And know that our God is even more so.
And when we also look at our mothers, and we see their faults. Their imperfections. We are rest assured that our God is not lacking in any way.
And when we look at our mothers this way, we can be thankful for everything they are.
Their strengths, as they help point us to God’s even greater strength.
And their weaknesses and lack, as they also point us to God’s strength and fullness.
There is no need to put them on a pedestal, to put a burden on them that would merely crush them; because it’s a weight they weren’t meant to bear.
Instead, we can enjoy them more fully,
Thanking God for every part of them,
And having their role in our lives bring us even more blessing as it points us to God.