Keep it Simple By Peter Brusati

Keep It Simple By Peter Brusati "But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ." (2 Corinthians 12:3) There are a lot of things we need to keep in mind as we live our day-to-day lives. The cares of this life can cause us to get side-tracked from the most important things as we allow ourselves to be distracted by the lesser things. The urgent things can cause us to neglect the important things, so we need to keep our priorities straight! What should be our first priority? Jesus made it clear that the greatest commandment is to “. . . love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” (Matthew 22:37) Then He went on to say, “The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ Upon these two commandments hang the whole Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 22:39-40) So God’s priorities are very clear! I believe doctrine is very important, so I spend a lot of time studying the Bible and theology. I often listen to people that have completely different theological points of view than I do, because I believe we can learn from anybody. But, just like many other things in this life, even Bible study can be a distraction from really following Jesus! For example, things can get ugly when people get into unfriendly doctrinal disputes. In many cases, we don’t need more teaching, we need more obedience. And you don''t need a PhD in theology to understand the Gospel. In fact, the Gospel is so simple that a little child can understand it. “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish, but have eternal life.” (John 3:16) Jesus also said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the one who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life.” (John 5:24) That’s pretty simple. God does not forgive our sins and adopt us into His family because we are Bible experts. He simply promises eternal life to all who put their trust in Him. We need to keep it simple, because, when we make it complicated, we can end up "straining out gnats while swallowing camels." The pharisees were perfect examples of this. They were experts in God’s law, but they hated Jesus. If I''m not growing in my love for God and for others, I''m not becoming the person that God wants me to be. If I’m not demonstrating the love of God to those around me, I’m not going to make a difference for God’s kingdom. If I want my life to have a positive impact on the world, I need to make sure that my priorities are God''s priorities. So, what are some important things that we need to remember? We need to remember that the primary characteristic of a Christ follower is love. We are to have unconditional love for those who may have hurt us. We are even called to love our enemies. According to Jesus, the proof that we are really following Him is that we love one another. He said, “By this all people will know that you are My disciples: if you have love for one another.” (John 13:35) The Apostle John said, "Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love.” (1 John 4:7-8) The Bible does not merely say that God is loving, but that He IS love. He puts His love in our hearts. If He lives in me, then His love will shine through me. What does that look like? 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 is probably the best description of His love: Love is patient, love is kind, it is not jealous; love does not brag, it is not arrogant. It does not act disgracefully, it does not seek its own benefit; it is not easily provoked, does not keep an account of a wrong suffered, it does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; it keeps every confidence, it believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Knowledge is good, and it can be very helpful. However, if all we have is knowledge we are in big trouble! God''s Word says, "If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing." (1 Corinthians 13:2) Am I walking in the patience, kindness, and forgiveness of Christ? Are those godly characteristics increasing in my life? They should be, because that’s what really matters to God. The Bible encourages believers to pursue love (1 Corinthians 14:1), to keep ourselves in the love of God (Jude 1:21), and to make sure that all we do is done in love (1 Corinthians 16:14). If I am not showing love for others, I do not really love God. The Scripture says, “If someone says, ‘I love God,’ and yet he hates his brother or sister, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother and sister whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from Him, that the one who loves God must also love his brother and sister.” (1 John 4:20-21) In Matthew 24:12 Jesus warns us that “. . . because lawlessness is increased, most people’s love will become cold.” Don''t let that happen to you! By God’s grace we must choose to be patient, respectful, forgiving, and kind – even if we don’t feel like it. Love is a choice. Another passage of Scripture that helps me to keep my priorities straight comes from 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18. It says to “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.” That’s pretty simple. Let’s break that down: We rejoice always because there is great joy in knowing that Christ loves us so much that He has purchased us with His own blood (Revelation 1:5), that He did everything that needed to be done for our eternal salvation (Colossians 2:10), and that His love for us is greater than our sin! (James 2:13) I get joy when I think about what He’s done for me. We pray without ceasing because we trust in The Living God, who is rich in mercy to all who call on Him (Psalm 86:5), and because God’s throne is a throne of grace. (Hebrews 4:16) I believe that the best thing we can do for those we love is to pray for them. And in everything we give thanks because we know that God is causing all things to work together for good. (Romans 8:28) We are grateful that God gives us victory in Christ. (2 Corinthians 2:14) One way we express our faith in God is by thanking Him in advance for what He has promised He will do. We may have uncertainty about some aspects of God’s will, but if we are doing those things listed above, we can be certain that we are pleasing to Him! As we learn to walk in God’s ways it is important to remember how much He loves us. The Bible says, “We love Him, because He first loved us.” (1 John 4:19, KJV) God bless you as you follow Jesus! (Unless otherwise noted, all Bible quotations are from the New American Standard Bible.)