Giving Our Maximum Instead Of Our Minimum For The Lord
In our last study we looked at the difference between being religious and spiritual. We would like to think a little bit more about that because it is such a vital area to be a true Christian.
We all know the difference between a servant - a worker working in a shop or a factory and a son working for his own father in the same shop or factory. Their attitude towards their work will be fundamentally different. A servant will be working for wages. He works for certain fixed hours. If he has to work longer than that, he expects to be payed overtime. He may possibly expect a bonus at the end of the year. And after one or two years, he may expect a raise in salary. But a son is different. He doesn't think in terms of the number of hours he works. There may be more work required in the office or the shop or the factory and the son would gladly stay on long after the workers have gone away. And if the factory is going through a difficult time financially, the son will not expect his father to give him any money. What is the difference?
In the difference between the attitude of the worker and the attitude of son, we can see the difference between the Old Testament way of life and the New Testament way of life. You know that your Bible is divided into two parts: the Old Testament and the New Testament or it is also called the Old Covenant and the New Covenant. Now these are not words that we use so much today. Testament, Covenant - they sound more like legal words. In very simple language it means an agreement.
We all know what an agreement is like. When a person sells a property or hires a worker, they sign an agreement - both the person who is buying and the person who is selling or the person who is employing and person who is being employed. And that agreement is the picture of this Old Testament and the New Testament. God made an agreement with man in the Old Testament times with Israel. But when Jesus came (He is called the mediator of the new covenant), God made a new agreement with man.
In very simple terms, we could say, under the old agreement man was like a servant. You know a servant can't call his master, 'father' and, that is why in the Old Testament the Jews could never call God, 'Father', because they were servants. They could call Him, 'O Lord,' 'God,' 'Mighty Master,' and all that, but they couldn't call Him 'Father.' But when Jesus came, He gathered His disciples around and said, 'I am going to teach you how to pray under the New Covenant. When you pray you say, 'Our Father, who is in heaven." What does this mean? - That this was a new agreement.
We are now going to be like sons and daughters of God and our relationship with God is not going to be any more like that of a Master and a servant. It was not even going to be like that of a friend - a friend is higher to the master than a servant. It is going to be more than a friendship. Abraham was called the friend of God. But you know the difference between a friend and a son. If a rich man says, 'This is my friend' and points to another one and says, 'This is my son,' you know who has the inheritance. Who is going to receive everything from the father? - Not the friend, but the son. To be a son of God is greater than to be a servant of God. It is greater than to be a friend of God.
Now, very often we use the expression that, so and so is the Lord's servants and, subconsciously, we think that that man is greater than the other person who is only the son of God. But is that really true? If you were to come to my house and I introduce you to two people and say, 'This is my servant and this is my son,' who would you think is more important in my house? Is it greater to be the servant of the Lord than to be the son of God ? These are all wrong concepts that we have got in our mind which are not from Scripture. Of course, the son of God should also be a servant, if he is a responsible son.
We need to recognize that Jesus came to deliver us from merely becoming slaves and wants us to become sons. There we see the difference between being religious and being spiritual. A religious person behaves exactly like a servant. A spiritual person will behave like a son. Let's put it in two different words. A servant would think in terms of the minimum that he has to do in order to fulfill his duties, whereas a son - a responsible son that is, would think in terms of maximum that he can do to please his father or to help his father. In these two terms - the minimum and the maximum, you can see the difference between the Old Covenant and the New Covenant, between being a slave and being a son.
That is why, when Jesus was preaching, what is known as the Sermon on the Mount, He tried to teach his disciples the spirit behind the commands. He said, for example, under the Old Dispensation, you were told, 'You shall not commit murder'. That is good. What is the minimum required? - You shall not commit murder. But, is that the maximum that God required? Certainly not. What would the maximum be in that realm - in that area to please the Father?
Where does murder come from? It comes from anger. So Jesus said, "I say to you "don't be angry."" What was He trying to say? He was trying to say, 'If you meditate on the commandment, 'thou shall not commit murder,' you will discover that that is just the minimum.' If you meditate on it you will discover the way to please the Father. If your attitude is, 'What is the maximum I can do,' then it will be, 'I should not even get angry with my brother or with anyone.' Then I have pleased the Father. I have not pleased the Father if I have only refrained from committing murder.
Now a religious person is one who takes the letter of the law and says, 'Well, I have kept it.' Religious people become Pharisees, and Pharisees gradually drift away from the truth. In every denomination of Christianity you will find Pharisees - people who have taken up the letter with the traditions and who are more interested in keeping those external traditions of their particular group than in life in Jesus Christ. This is the form of godliness that we are told in 2 Timothy 3:5 to beware of.
See, if you keep your fellowship with people who are proud and arrogant, gradually you will get a little of their spirit. If you constantly keep companionship with murderers, you will get their spirit. And in the same way, if you keep companionship with the people who are a little bit godly, you will get their spirit. So, when it says in 2 Timothy 3:5 to avoid people, who have only a form of godliness, it is to preserve us in life. The Holy Spirit warns us not to spend a lot of time with people who are just doing the letter of the law, who are righteous externally. That type of religiosity does not please God at all. Be a son, be a responsible son.
In the same way, when Jesus spoke about adultery, He said, under the Old Dispensation, the thing was to avoid adultery - the physical act. That was certainly a sin, but is that the maximum that God required? No, that was the minimum. What was the maximum? The son would look at that commandment of God and meditate on it and say, 'Well that is the minimum that God requires.' It is like the servant saying, 'well I got to work from 9 AM to 5 PM. Once my eight hour shift is over, I will be home.' But a son may stay on until 9 PM or all through the night, if there is work to be done. So the 9 to 5 attitude says, 'I don't have to commit adultery, that's all.' But the son's attitude is what is behind that? - 'I should not be impure in my attitude or thoughts towards anyone. There must be purity in thoughts towards the opposite sex.' Jesus emphasized it to such an extent that He said, "If your eye offends you, it is better to pluck it out."
Now who understands that? Only a son, who is desperate to please his Father, who has longed that his Father will be totally satisfied with his life. Only such a person can be really spiritual. He seeks to understand the spirit behind the commandments in Scripture and not just the letter of the law.
The Bible says that our relationship with Jesus Christ is like that of a bride to bridegroom. This is true Christianity - It is a marriage, it is not a religion. It is a relationship between two people. It is not worshipping a book; it is being united to a person - to the person of Jesus Christ. Religious people worship a book. The Bible is the most important thing to them. Now the Bible is very important to me, but not more important than Jesus Christ. If I didn't have the fellowship of Jesus Christ, the Bible would become a dead book to me. It is living because Jesus can speak to me through it.
Our relationship to Christ is to be like that of an earthly bride who is deeply in love with her bridegroom. The Bible speaks of our relationship with Christ like that, and then one day, Christ will come and will be married to her. It is the exact picture of a bride who is engaged, waiting for her wedding day, eager to correspond to her bridegroom, to telephone and to listen to her bridegroom, and wanting to spend time with him, until the day of the marriage. During that time, how does she live? She is only interested in her bridegroom's opinion. She is not concerned with what anybody else in the world thinks about her. She wants to please her bridegroom and she doesn't do the minimum.
Think of an engaged couple that are deeply in love with each other. When they get an opportunity to spend time with each other, do they think of the minimum time required? Do they look at the watch and say, 'Ok, we have spent ten minutes and it is enough?' No, they feel even five hours is not enough! When they write letters to each other, an engaged couple that are deeply in love with one another, how long are those letters going to be - half a page? Do they say, 'Well that is enough, I have told you I am okay and hope you are okay?' No, they may write 25 pages and next day they may write another 25 pages again! This is due to love.
True spirituality is the result of a loving relationship with Christ. Religiosity, on the other hand, is a merely formal relationship with Christ, like a servant to a master. Let us seek to be spiritual.