If I do all the commandments, when will I do enough?


In asking this question, you have started off in the wrong direction. Essentially you have ask what is the minimum that I can do to be pleasing to God. Yet God doesn’t want our minimum effort. When a lawyer asked Jesus what he needed to do to have eternal life, Jesus asked him, “"What is written in the law? What is your reading of it?" So he answered and said," 'You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind,' and 'your neighbor as yourself.'" And He said to him, "You have answered rightly; do this and you will live." But he, wanting to justify himself, said to Jesus, "And who is my neighbor?"” (Luke 10:26-29). The lawyer knew what he needed to do to have eternal life. He had to love the Lord his God with all his being and strength. Jesus agreed that if he truly did this he would live. Yet the lawyer didn’t want that much effort. He questioned which of his neighbors he was supposed to love.

Jesus’ answer is the story of the good Samaritan. The point of the story is that everyone you come into contact with is your neighbor. When you look for the exception clause, you miss the whole point.

Jesus stated, “If you love Me, keep My commandments” (John 14:15). Can you imagine replying to Jesus, “which ones?” Love demands our all and even when we do everything possible, we know that it was only what was expected of us. “And which of you, having a servant plowing or tending sheep, will say to him when he has come in from the field, 'Come at once and sit down to eat'? But will he not rather say to him, 'Prepare something for my supper, and gird yourself and serve me till I have eaten and drunk, and afterward you will eat and drink'? Does he thank that servant because he did the things that were commanded him? I think not. So likewise you, when you have done all those things which you are commanded, say, 'We are unprofitable servants. We have done what was our duty to do.'” (Luke 17:7-10). It is our duty to serve God – not out of convenience, but out of our love for our Master. “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep His commandments, For this is man's all” (Ecclesiastes 12:13).

Under the old covenant, the Israelites were told, “And now, Israel, what does the LORD your God require of you, but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all His ways and to love Him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the commandments of the LORD and His statutes which I command you today for your good?” (Deuteronomy 10:12-13). Do you think that Moses had a minimum in mind that the Israelites had to follow? I certainly don’t. If that was required for the old covenant, what do you think God expects of the followers of the new covenant? “For if the word spoken through angels proved steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just reward, how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation, which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed to us by those who heard Him, God also bearing witness both with signs and wonders, with various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit, according to His own will?” (Hebrews 2:2-4).

Jesus told his disciples to teach His followers, “teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:20). What can you or I leave out and still observe all the things that Jesus commanded? The removal of even one small part changes it from all to only some. God warned the Israelites not to add to his word nor take anything away from it. ”Whatever I command you, be careful to observe it; you shall not add to it nor take away from it” (Deuteronomy 12:32).

By looking for the minimum to please God, a person is trying to figure out what parts he can safely subtract from God’s law. The answer is that it is never safe to nullify any of God’s commands. While God demands that we give Him our all, our very best effort, God understands that no one will be able to follow His commands perfectly. “This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us” (1 John 1:5-10). God knows we will stumble, so an avenue is given for recovering from our faults. Yet, the fact that we will sin does not mean we don’t try our very best to be found pleasing in His sight.

Nor can we say at some point, “I have reached the pinnacle, now I can relax.” Paul told this about his own life. “But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:7-14). It was only at the very end of his life, when Paul knew he would not be in the world much longer, that he was able to write, “For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing.” (II Timothy 4:6-8).

February 11, 2009