Thursday, December 24, 2009

Above All – 1 Peter 4:8

Above all hold unfailing your love for one another, since love covers a multitude of sins. (RSV)

There are a few “above all” commands in the Bible. Of course, different versions phrase it a bit differently but here are some of them.

1 Chron 16:25 For great is the Lord and most worthy of praise; he is to be feared above all gods. (NIV) The first I found is the command to fear the Lord above all other gods. This is also recorded as a psalm of David. He wrote this when he brought the ark of God into Jerusalem. In the psalm, he recounts a brief history of God’s miracles, His provision, and His character. He compares God with the idols that are in the other nations. He also wrote in 1 Chron 16:34 Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever. (NIV) While I need to have the proper respect (fear) for God, this psalm also reminds me that the multitude of my sins is covered because of His great love. The fear comes because I know that I don’t deserve His love. There is nothing I can do to earn it. It is there because of His nature and because He sent Jesus to pay for my sins. I can know Him because I accept Jesus. However, can you imagine what it would be like for someone to spurn God’s love by rejecting Jesus and what He went through to cover those sins? That person should have a fear of God, but it would be a fear of judgment. 1 Chron 16:33 for he comes to judge the earth. (NIV)

Prov 4:23 Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life. (NIV) It is important for me to guard my heart. It isn’t just the physical organ that pumps my blood but represents my soul. Jesus put it this way: Matt 15:18-19 But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a man. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, fornication, theft, false witness, slander. (RSV) The Bible also says that the heart is deceitful (Jer 17:9.) It also says that God will give me a new heart. Ezek 11:19 I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh. (NIV) I get that new heart when Jesus takes up residence there by faith (Eph 3:17.) Because Jesus is there, I need to guard what I take into my soul. I don’t want to dump garbage on my Lord. I don’t want to expose my heart to junk that takes my mind and my thoughts away from His kingdom and His goals. As an example I have to be careful to screen TV commercials as well as shows to make sure I’m not buying into the world’s value system. I have to eliminate anything (books, movies, acquaintances) that would lead me into sexual sin, greed, envy, lust, judgmentalness, or any other evils that would then come out of my heart and turn into speech and actions.

James 5:12 But above all, my brethren, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or with any other oath, but let your yes be yes and your no be no, that you may not fall under condemnation. (RSV) This is a command to be honest. It is a command to keep promises. I really get sick every time I see some character on TV saying to someone, “I promise I won’t let you be hurt.” The promise may be different but the situation is clearly out of the person’s control. There is no way that he or she can keep the promise. I think that they are sending the wrong message to kids and adults alike. The message is that I can promise anything but if the circumstances change, then I don’t have to complete it. It sets the stage for a multitude of sins. The command is to be honest in life, whether it is in marriage, business, with friends or children. The implication is that making a promise and breaking it is a sin and there will be condemnation if not consequences. Love isn’t going to break those promises thereby covering over, or better yet, avoiding sins.

2 Peter 1:20-21 Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet's own interpretation. For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. (NIV) I think that this could be the root of all the other “above all” commands. This is the very basis for my faith, that the Bible is the very words of God spoken through men. If I don’t have this as a firm foundation, then none of the other commands in the Bible are worth anything. If the Bible isn’t the words of God, then they have no authority. They may be very nice principles to live by, but they are optional. Because these words come from God, I can compare any other writing to them to determine if the other is truth or lie. If the Bible says there is only one way to the Father and that is through Jesus, and another “scripture” says that there are many ways, I know the latter is lying. If another “scripture” says that I need Jesus and works, Jesus and someone else, or Jesus and anything else, then I know it is also lying. This is why I must know what the Bible says. Otherwise I can be swayed by any teacher or charlatan that comes to town. Even worse, if I don’t know the Bible, then I can be swayed by my own evil desires. When I obey this “above all” I will know Jesus for who He is, turn to Him for my salvation, repent, and have Him living in my heart by faith. The multitude of my sins will be forgiven. My life may not become perfect but it will be better and another multitude of sins will be avoided.

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