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Point of Reference

    by Fred Price

The Most Important Thing
Date Posted: August 19, 2022

In speaking of God’s purpose for mankind, St. Augustine declared, “You have made us for yourself,…”; which when truly understood enables us to find direction and contentment in our relationship with Him. He went on to assert that,”…our hearts are restless until they find rest in you.” Rest denoting completion and confidence gained through a recognition of God’s will; the very things we often claim to need and want but seldom find the time to properly cultivate.

A proper understanding of God’s being and desire is critical to a proper appreciation of our place in his plan. That’s why in response to the question, “…what must I do to inherit eternal life?”, Jesus replied by reminding his petitioner of the only real source of goodness – God – encouraging him to then keep His commands and fulfill His expectations; to which the young man responded, “All these I have kept since I was a boy…” Possibly sensing a bit of self-satisfaction with his own goodness and self-reliance in his wealth, Jesus then challenged him to show what he was really made of by noting, “You still lack one thing, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” It was no real surprise then that the rich young man dejectedly left with all his possessions intact along with a deep sense of disappointment as well.

Does this mean followers of Jesus Christ must take vows of poverty? I don’t think so. It does however, highlight how wealth and possessions can get in the way of our realizing the desperate state of our souls and the absolute need we have for God to provide for our salvation. Material wealth often becomes a hindrance to the prioritizing of our time and talent in service to God and our fellowman; as the more we possess, the more time and effort it takes to keep and maintain it. ( Luke 18:18-23See also Matthew 16:25)

This episode somewhat mirrors the one where Jesus was asked, “…which is the greatest commandment in the law?” (Suggesting the idea that if we could identify that one most important thing and do it, we would gain God’s favor.) To which Jesus replied, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is this: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and Prophets hang on these two commandments. There is no commandment greater than these.” Matthew 22:37-40 & Mark 12:29-31 Is that it? Sounds easy enough! Then why do we struggle so much to meet the standard of righteousness set for us by God?

What standard? Doesn’t love cover it all? Yes – but genuine love is always expressed in tangible ways . As Paul says, “The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.” Galatians 5:6 If we genuinely love God more than anyone or anything else, we will be willing to do, say, go and be whatever he desires. Obedience no longer being the issue; pleasing God is.

What must I do to be saved? Believe in the one God has sent ( John 6:29 & 3:16-18) and then follow his example of obedient service. ( Philippians 2:8 & Romans 5:19) How is that expressed? Through the single most important character trait of Christ – love. ( John 13:34,35) Paul, the Apostle of freedom, realized the debt of love we owe Christ and the necessity of expressing our gratitude to him through worship and service to others. Carrying each other’s burdens fulfills God’s “royal” law ( Galatians 6:2 & James 2:8); which is summed up in the command to, “Love your neighbors as yourself.” ( Galatians 5:14); doing to others as we would have done to us. ( Matthew 7:12) The purpose of the written law was to educate people in the proper way to act and react – revealing the heart of God – with the expectation that at some point they would begin to act and react instinctively out of genuine love for God and others rather than out of duty. ( Leviticus 19:18 & Exodus 20:12-16) Paul exhorting us to, “Let no debt remain outstanding except the continuing debt to love one another,… The commandments, ‘Do not commit adultery,’ ‘Do not murder,’ ‘Do not steal,’ ‘Do not covet,’ and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this one rule: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ (For) Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the Law.” Romans 13:8-10

As we age and become more involved in the world around us, the ever-increasing responsibilities of life tend to strip away our innocence and the simplicity with which we once viewed it, thus requiring an increased reliance on God to help us re-evaluate and prioritize our life’s pursuits and goals. “For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open.” Luke 8:17 It not being unimportant to acquire an education, to work hard to provide for our families or to be involved in community affairs; but we must never lose sight of the most important thing – Jesus presence in our lives and our response to his expectations. (Jesus promising his never-ending presence as we become obedient to his will. Matthew 28:20 See also Romans 1:5) Genuinely following after and becoming the people of God can be costly – Jesus expecting us to commit our lives, preferences, wants and will to him. ( Matthew 10:37-39) Sad to say though, many of us are far more willing to sacrifice or pay a price to be entertained and comforted than to be instructed in holiness. Some of the most potent distractions to a deep relationship with God being the busyness of a life filled with the tremendous amount of “choice” options available to us today. Yet Jesus asks, “What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?” Matthew 16:26 (See also Luke 16:19-31)

Living in the presence of Jesus – walking with our Lord – can be both intimidating and encouraging. Adam and Eve did so – literally – before being separated from him by sin ( Genesis 3:8), while Enoch steadfastly retained his walk with God and was rewarded accordingly. ( Genesis 5:21-24) Building an ark, leading an army, managing a fledgling nation or ruling a prosperous kingdom could be overwhelming; sometimes just being nice is difficult. But we can walk with God, and in so doing become his friend as Noah, Moses and Abraham were ( Genesis 6:8,9; Exodus 33:4 & 2 Chronicles 20:7); developing a heart and outlook patterned after God’s own, like David. ( 1 Samuel 13:14) That kind of relationship is all-important, allowing the impossible to become possible ( Matthew 19:26 & Mark 9:23); translated into acts of loving-kindness done in Jesus’ name. ( Matthew 25:31 – 45)

The most important thing? Knowing Jesus Christ our Lord! ( Philippians 3:8)

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Biography Information:

Fred Price - married (49 years), father of two grown children, grandfather of six.

Fred retired earlier this year after 42 years as a factory worker.  He has always had a heart for young people and the challenges they face today.  Over the years Fred has taught Discipleship Groups for High School and college students.  

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