the one and only



“One of the teachers of religious law was standing there listening to the debate. He realized that Jesus had answered well, so he asked, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”  Jesus replied, “The most important commandment is this: ‘Listen, O Israel! The Lord our God is the one and only Lord.  And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.’” (Mark 12:28-30 NLT)

At it’s heart, this is a commandment for God’s people to be loyal to him.  You do not have to be an expert in the Old Testament to know that staying loyal to the LORD was the challenge the Israelites faced.  The people of the exodus struggled to stay loyal in spite of their wilderness wanderings.  The people of the conquest struggled to stay loyal in spite of the fact that it meant fighting what seemed a hopeless cause.  The people of the monarchy struggled to stay loyal in spite of the constant temptation to give in to other deities – often being tempted to do so by their own kings and priests.

Every generation has its own test of loyalty.  Ours is no different that the ones who have come and gone.  It is our test – it is not God’s.  He knows who he is.  He knew the time in the beginning when no one else existed.  He had no rivals.  He also knows about eternity future.  He has appointed a day of judgment.  He knows that there will be no rival standing after that day.  He has a day of destruction coming that will deal effectively with all his enemies. One by one, all humans and all demons who have dared compete with him for the allegiance of others will be judged, punished, and destroyed, until the last enemy (death itself) will be destroyed (1 Cor. 15:26). The Judgment Day is the Final Exam. It is the time when all will see who made it to the next term (which, in this case, is eternity).

The standard is this: loving the LORD as the one and only lord.  The apostle Paul said:

“There may be so-called gods both in heaven and on earth, and some people actually worship many gods and many lords. But we know that there is only one God, the Father, who created everything, and we live for him. And there is only one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom God made everything and through whom we have been given life.” (1 Corinthians 8:5-6 NLT)

Living for the one creator and trusting in his one means of life is what Christians do.  It is how we show our loyalty to our LORD.  We have been born into a generation of religious pluralism, but we dare to be religious singularists. We will tolerate and befriend others who hold to other faiths, and accept them as individuals.  We may even defend their right to believe what they do.  But we cannot join their worship, not allow our children to be proselytized.  The Bible teaches the truth. Things that contradict the Bible’s message cannot be taught or accepted without breaking the most important commandment.

Our God looks beyond this age with its relativism and uncertainty.  He sees into eternity, when no rival to his throne exists.  He knows what is real and what is just a passing fancy.  The Christian is challenged to see this world as God sees it.  Today it is filled with things that are temporary, but there are some things that will remain.  Loyalty to the LORD makes sense, because only he and those who cling to him will last. It is not just that we want to be on the winning team. It is that we understand that even the contest is temporary.  God’s enemies will be destroyed.  Those who follow them will be destroyed.  Jesus is not just one of those offering life: he is the life.

“And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.  The one who has the Son has this eternal life; the one who does not have the Son of God does not have this eternal life.” (1 John 5:11-12 NET).

The life we are born into is a gift from our creator.  The life that we expect to receive at our resurrection is a gift from our redeemer.  He is coming in the clouds one day, and he has a gift with him.  We are so certain that he is coming back and has that gift for us that we can talk about having it now.  It is a done deal, because it is a promise from the one who loves us so much that he went to the cross for us.  He is not going to let us down.  So, whether we are alive when he comes, or asleep in death, we know we will live along with him.  He is the firstfruits from among those who sleep (1 Cor. 15:20,23).  Just as he was raised (awakened) to life again, so we will be raised (awakened) as well.


In ancient days, the heart was more than the seat of the emotions. It was the organ of loyalty.  When God told the Israelites that they would rebel against him, he also promised that “The LORD your God will also cleanse your heart and the hearts of your descendants so that you may love him with all your heart and soul and so that you may live.” (Deuteronomy 30:6 NET).  If the opposite of loving God is rebellion, how do we show our love for him?  Those who rebel must return.  You cannot love God if you remain distant.  The first Christians were taught how to live because “the aim of our instruction is love that comes from a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith” (1 Timothy 1:5).  You have a heart which is capable of clinging to the LORD in loyal love.  The Father knows that you will do it.  He sees into the future, and sees you loving and serving him forever (if you are a believer now). 


Your soul is not some invisible life force which survives death and flies away when the body dies.  Your soul is your life itself.  The Old Testament Hebrew word nephesh is related to a Ugaritic  word for neck or throat.  It had to do with eating and breathing.  The word came to express one’s life.  In the New Testament, Jesus said:

“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?” (Matthew 6:25 ESV). 

That word “life” was the word psuche, the Greek word for soul.  It had to do with eating and drinking. Disembodied souls do not eat and drink, but living souls do, because eating and drinking keeps them alive.  Jesus was challenging his disciples to live lives so loyal to him that the LORD was more important that staying alive. That is what it means to love the LORD with all your soul.


To love the LORD with all your mind entails surrendering your mind to his.  It is not simply allowing someone to indoctrinate you in religious things.  It is setting your mind free to become what God intends it to be.  A mind loyal to God is always open to learn.  The prophets in the ancient world has students, and taught them how to see what God sees.  Jesus gathered disciples around him, invited them to follow him, and promised to turn them into something more than they were.  To simple fishermen, he promised to make them into fishers of men (Matthew 4:19; Mark 1:17).  To teachers in Israel he promised to teach them heavenly things (John 3:12).

Satan wants to keep us from devoting our minds to the LORD’s service.  He likes to convince people that God is not interested in their minds: he only wants their hearts.  But this commandment requires us to be completely and comprehensively loyal to the LORD.  There is no hierarchy of loyalty.  Our thought lives are just as important to God as our emotions are.  Especially in this age where all religions are criticized for being primeval, we need men and women who dare to challenge that assumption.  We need Christian doctors and lawyers and teachers to unashamedly proclaim that God is sovereign in the classroom as well as the prayer room.


For the Hebrews, the word strength had the connotation of youth and vigor (Joshua 14:11).  Another strategy that the Enemy uses against the LORD is to convince people to waste their strong years on themselves, and to put aside the LORD’s work until retirement.  But the LORD commands prime time loyalty.  He wants the years of our strength.  In fact, if we dedicate our strength to loving him, he will renew that youth (Psalm 103:5). This appears to have been what happened in Caleb’s life.  Sadly, the Calebs of this world are few, because Satan has convinced most that there is plenty of time for religion later on, after you spend your life on other pursuits. But, imagine a generation of young men and women whose hearts and souls and minds and strengths are wholly committed to the LORD!


The greatest commandment challenges us to forsake a life of many pursuits and to concentrate our devotion and efforts on God: the one and only.  Most of us who want to be good Christians struggle with this.  Like Martha, we are “distracted by (our) many tasks” (Luke 10:40 NRSV).  Jesus commended Mary because “There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:42 NLT).  Have you discovered it yet?  Life is like a puzzle that only makes sense when you see the big picture. Then, you can put it all together.  Discover Christ – the one and only — and keeping the greatest commandment can be done.  Come, sit at his feet, and your life will have meaning. 



ACST 54: The Life

CHU04 (3)

A truly saved person has both repented of his past sins and trusted Christ for his present and future life. This converted person will live a life of faith that reflects his new commitments. The life lived in faith makes the gospel real to the believer, and confirms his testimony. The Bible gives us both examples and descriptions of that life. John wrote that “all who have this eager expectation will keep themselves pure, just as he is pure.”[1] It is a life that aspires to the purity of Jesus.

Anyone attempting to live a life of sinlessness will immediately encounter obstacles in doing so. We have been changed, and we no longer want to sin, but sin and the sinful nature is still with us. As a result, we will constantly find ourselves conflicted, as Paul was in Romans 7:

“I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my

flesh. For I want to do the good, but I cannot do it.

19 For I do not do the good I want, but I do the very

evil I do not want! 20 Now if I do what I do not want,

it is no longer me doing it but sin that lives in me.

21 So, I find the law that when I want to do good,

evil is present with me. 22 For I delight in the law

of God in my inner being. 23 But I see a different

law in my members waging war against the law of

my mind and making me captive to the law of sin

that is in my members.”[2]

The bad news about the Christian life is that all of us are going to live with this kind of struggle going on inside. Even great Christians like Paul admitted to the inability to be completely what he wanted to be. Yet, Paul also knew the good news of the Christian life, and he went on to explain that good news in Romans 8:

“There is therefore now no condemnation for

those who are in Christ Jesus. 2 For the law

of the life-giving Spirit in Christ Jesus has set

you free from the law of sin and death. 3 For

God achieved what the law could not do

because it was weakened through the flesh.

By sending his own Son in the likeness of

sinful flesh and concerning sin, he condemned

sin in the flesh, 4 so that the righteous

requirement of the law may be fulfilled in us,

who do not walk according to the flesh but

according to the Spirit.”[3]

The good news is not that Jesus has already changed our nature so that we are no longer tempted to sin. It is that Jesus has already paid the price for our sins, so that they no longer separate us from God. Therefore, the Holy Spirit is free to work with and within us to actually accomplish righteous acts, as we surrender to him. We are in a temporary state in which the laws of two dominions apply to us. The law of sin and death is still at work, so we will fail at times. But the law of the Spirit of new life in Christ Jesus is also at work, so we can actually please God as well. Both freedom and bondage are possible, depending on who we choose to surrender to.

a forgiven life

A person living this life reflects a confidence that his sins have been forgiven, and God will never forsake him. Paul told the Colossian Christians that “you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses.”[4] As a result of this new status, they were free to forgive others who offended them. He said “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.”[5] A forgiven life is a forgiving life. Instead of seeking revenge, or passing judgment on someone else who wrongs them, people who live the forgiving life remember that they too have been forgiven, and follow Christ’s example and forgive. A negative example of this reality is found in Jesus’ parable of the unforgiving servant:

“Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be

compared to a king who wished to settle

accounts with his servants. 24 When he began

to settle, one was brought to him who owed

him ten thousand talents. 25 And since he

could not pay, his master ordered him to be

sold, with his wife and children and all that

he had, and payment to be made. 26 So the

servant fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Have

patience with me, and I will pay you

everything.’ 27 And out of pity for him, the

master of that servant released him and

forgave him the debt. 28 But when that same

servant went out, he found one of his fellow

servants who owed him a hundred denarii,

and seizing him, he began to choke him, saying,

‘Pay what you owe.’ 29 So his fellow servant

fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have

patience with me, and I will pay you.’

30 He refused and went and put him in prison

until he should pay the debt. 31 When his

fellow servants saw what had taken place,

they were greatly distressed, and they went

and reported to their master all that had

taken place. 32 Then his master summoned

him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I

forgave you all that debt because you pleaded

with me. 33 And should not you have had

mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy

on you?’ 34 And in anger his master

delivered him to the jailers, until he

should pay all his debt. 35 So also my

heavenly Father will do to every one of

you, if you do not forgive your brother

from your heart.”[6]

Jesus’ story reveals some helpful parallels in the subject matter of sanctification. First, the grace by which the master forgives the servant is the result of the master’s choice. Second, it is unmerited by the servant. Third, the servant’s choice to not forgive his fellow servant for the lesser debt was wrong. Now, notice this: if the servant had not been forgiven by his master, he would have been under no obligation to be lenient on his debtor. But, since he had been forgiven a great debt, he was not under obligation because of grace to forgive the lesser debts. Since he had been saved, he was now expected to imitate the kindness and generosity of his savior.

The forgiven life implies more to us than the mere fact that we should forgive others. It also means that we can live outside of the condemnation that our debt had put on us. Having been forgiven, we are free to live and love as never before. Thus, we can express our love for others because we are no longer under the bondage of self-condemnation. An example of this aspect of the forgiven life is found in the Gospels:

“One of the Pharisees asked him to eat with him,

and he went into the Pharisee’s house and took

his place at the table. 37 And behold, a woman

of the city, who was a sinner, when she learned

that he was reclining at table in the Pharisee’s

house, brought an alabaster flask of ointment,

38 and standing behind him at his feet, weeping,

she began to wet his feet with her tears and

wiped them with the hair of her head and kissed

his feet and anointed them with the ointment.

39 Now when the Pharisee who had invited

him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man

were a prophet, he would have known who and

what sort of woman this is who is touching him,

for she is a sinner.” 40 And Jesus answering said

to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.”

And he answered, “Say it, Teacher.” 41 “A certain

moneylender had two debtors. One owed five

hundred denarii, and the other fifty. 42 When

they could not pay, he cancelled the debt of

both. Now which of them will love him more?”

43 Simon answered, “The one, I suppose, for

whom he cancelled the larger debt.” And he

said to him, “You have judged rightly.” 44 Then

turning toward the woman he said to Simon, “Do

you see this woman? I entered your house; you

gave me no water for my feet, but she has wet

my feet with her tears and wiped them with her

hair. 45 You gave me no kiss, but from the time

I came in she has not ceased to kiss my feet.

46 You did not anoint my head with oil, but she

has anointed my feet with ointment. 47

Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many,

are forgiven- for she loved much. But he who

is forgiven little, loves little.””[7]

Simon’s concept of life was minimalistic. He gave only to the extent that he perceived others deserved it. He felt only what he perceived was appropriate. This sinful woman, however, had been set free. Her encounter with Jesus removed the bondage that had inhibited her life. It was not the gift that Jesus was impressed with. He knew this woman’s heart. She gave not in order to be forgiven, but because she knew forgiveness already. The love she showed Jesus was not the means of her reconciliation, but the method she used to proclaim it. It is the same for Christians as they live the forgiven life. We love, not in order to be forgiven, but because we have been forgiven.

an obedient life

A person living this life submits to the lordship of Christ, obeying his commands. The commands of Christ are important to him because he has a relationship with the commander. Jesus gave numerous commands to his disciples, which can be summarized as follows:

1. Invest your life in eternity. Seek PERMANENCE, don’t get sidetracked with the things that are only temporary.

2. Put God first. Make DEVOTION to him your reason for living.

3. Be what you claim to be. Let your GENUINENESS declare to others the veracity of your testimony.

4. Rely on God to do what you cannot do. TRUST him to provide for the needs which are beyond your capability.

5. Keep in contact with God. Make PRAYER the link between your life on earth and your Master in heaven.

6. Learn, proclaim and keep God’s Word. Let his TRUTH guide your mind.

7. Be used by God to fulfill his will. Let his POWER flow through you as a conduit.

8. Live in expectancy of Christ’s second coming. Let his ADVENT be the focus of your actions.[8]

an eternal life

The eternal life we have in Christ is real but not yet actual. It is a promise. Christ promises to raise us to immortality at his second coming. But one of the keys to living the sanctified life is living out that promise, putting less emphasis on the things that are temporary, and more on those which are permanent. Our present needs are real, but they have less importance because of the future in which all our needs are going to be met. Therefore, we can forego meeting some needs for a time, and concentrate on meeting other peoples’ needs.

Knowing that we were created to have an eternal relationship with God allows us to make the kind of decisions that put him first. We see our devotional life as a necessity, and thus are not likely to put it aside when things get busy. Nothing is more important when seen from the standpoint of eternity – not even other people. The one relationship which we are going to have forever is our relationship with God.

Someday we will be able to look back on all the deeds that we have done in this age and see them for what they really were. Everything done out of false motives and for wrong reasons will be clearly exposed. The Christian seeks to live in such a way that his genuineness will never be called into question. It is not just a matter of appearances. The Christian knows that he has only one life. He does not have a public life and a private life. His entire life is public before the one who matters. God sees all. The Christian does what is right in order to be honest to God.

This life will put us to test. All of the famous biblical saints were tested as they sought to live out the life given them. The same will be true for anyone who dares to proclaim Christ. Suffering will be the rule rather than the exception. The trust involved in living the Christian life in spite of suffering is a testimony to the reality of the faith.

The Christian life is lived on the knees. Through prayer we keep the link between our temporary present, and our eternal hope. Every Christian who tries to live the Christian life without regular, sustained prayer knows how difficult it can be. Those with genuine faith all know that prayer is essential. Prayer does not change things. God changes things. But God keeps us safe in the transition by sustaining us in prayer.

The Christian life is a biblical life. God has sent us a text message, and we rely upon it. We look for answers in his words and keep looking because we trust him. The Bible is not an object that we venerate, but a subject we investigate. We look to his word because we want him. His truth guides us.

The Christian life takes advantage of power that the world does not know. We have the advantage of being able to see beyond the laws of nature, and gain access to another set of laws altogether. We can trust our mustard seed prayers to do what all the nuclear bombs cannot. We have access to the power that God had when he said ‘let there be light’ and when Jesus said ‘little child, arise.” That is power.

The Christian life is also lived with the awareness that even if we fail, we will eventually win. We are free to take enormous risks, because we know we are on the winning team. The eternal life we are living has a king who is coming soon. The things we endure for him are worth it, because he is returning. Nothing is going to prevent his keeping his promises.

a community life

In systematic theology, having first dealt with the reality of the saved person as an individual, we then naturally progress to study the saved as a whole: the church. Who and what the church is, and what the church does, is always important because Christ not only died for me, he died for all of the redeemed. The life that we live in Christ is not just an individual life. It is part of a greater whole.

[1] 1 John 3:3 NLT.

[2] Romans 7:18-23 NET.

[3] Romans 8:1-4 NET.

[4] Colossians 2:13 ESV.

[5] Colossians 3:12-13 ESV.

[6] Matthew 18:23-35 ESV.

[7] Luke 7:36-47 ESV.

[8] For more on these commands, see