March 23

Deuteronomy 5:29 (NIV) 29Oh, that their hearts would be inclined to fear me and keep all my commands always, so that it might go well with them and their children forever!

The church of the last century took a giant swing from preaching the fear of God to preaching the love of God. Both are important and both are needed. We need to see all of the character of God, as a focus on only one aspect is sure to get us off balance. When Jonathan Edwards preached his famous sermon, Sinners in the Hand of an Angry God, the listeners had such a vision of hell that they clung to their pews for fear of falling in. Today we almost laugh at that image, but remember that people were coming to Christ and confessing their sins. When Moody began to be popular he preached along this same vein, until he heard a young evangelist preach on the love of God. He saw people accepting Christ and was upset. Then he began to realize what a wonderful drawing power the love of God has on man. "We love Him because He first loved us." He saw it was true in the Scriptures. Gradually American preaching started to shift from hellfire and damnation to the love of God.

Neither emphasis is wrong, for both are true of the nature of God. God hates sin because it destroys us. He hates sin because it is contrary to who He is and because He is good. He is a just and righteous God that will give a just sentence to those who insistently rebel against His goodness. Hell is real and is perfect justice for all who will be sent there.

In today's passage, we see again that God has good intentions for us. To disobey means to walk toward destruction and evil. That is why we need to fear the Holy One and heed His commands. We can love Him and fear Him when we realize His commands are out of concern and love for us, to keep us from the Destroyer.

Consider: Incline your heart to fear Him and keep His commands.

March 23

Matthew 23:5-8 (NIV) 5"Everything they do is done for men to see: They make their phylacteries wide and the tassels on their garments long; 6they love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues; 7they love to be greeted in the marketplaces and to have men call them 'Rabbi.' 8"But you are not to be called 'Rabbi,' for you have only one Master and you are all brothers.

The religious leaders of Jesus' day had one motivating force, 'what will men think of me?' Their religion was about pride in being the spiritual elite. They prayed in public with flowery words, distorted their faces when fasting, and publicly gave their tithes that were accurate down to the last mint leaf. They wore boxes that contained Scripture, which the Law encouraged, but they made extra large. They believed the tassel of the Messiah's garment would have the power to heal, so they made theirs extra long as if to say, "Perhaps I am He." Jesus said their reward for such effort was the respect of man. They had the titles, the best seats, and the places of honor. That is all.

Jesus taught His disciples that the way of the Pharisee was not to be their way. They were to please God not man. They were not to seek after the title, Rabbi, which means teacher. Why? There is only one Master. We are all on equal footing as brothers. We are all being taught by the Teacher, the Holy Spirit. Man so desires to have a king, a hero, an elevated figure to look to. We have one King, one Hero, one elevated One. When we get our eyes on a man, we are taking them off of Jesus. The Apostle Paul said to follow him, but he is quick to add, "as I follow Christ". Look past the leader to Jesus. If the leader is following closely in the footprints of the Leader, follow on.

This is not a word for us to judge others, but to search our own hearts. Why am I acting as I do? Who do I want others to observe my actions? Would I do this if no one ever knew? Jesus encourages us to act in secret so that only our Father will see. Then our reward will be entirely from Him.

Consider: As you do things for the Lord, make every effort to see that no one knows. Keep it between you and God.