Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” (Matt. 22:36–40)
How often do professing believers ask themselves if they have truly given their entire heart, soul, and mind to Christ? There must be a standard to make an honest assessment. If we focus on the obvious sins we don’t commit, we can miss our subtle sins against the Lord.
Many, either because of being born into a believing family or having made a one-time profession of faith, are often nonchalant when it comes to current offenses against God and His law. They assure themselves that since they do not commit the big sins (murder, adultery, or theft), they get a passing grade, in spite of areas of sin they want to keep unexamined. This results in a diminished witness in those areas where they do hold Biblical values and perspectives. Why? While they may be convinced that their offenses are hidden, they are often all too obvious to those who are eager to watch them trip up. Moreover, they are less likely to be the salt and light they are called to be regarding sins that aren’t their “preferred ones,” to avoid a closer investigation into their own sinful thoughts, words, and deeds.
God’s law does not accept the “close enough” plea when it comes to how our lives conform to His directives, nor does He grade on a curve. James 2:10 confirms,
For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.
It has become commonplace to believe that “there is no condemnation in Christ Jesus” (Rom 8:1) means that any sin you commit will be forgiven by God. This not only reflects a faulty theology of God’s patience and forbearance, but minimizes the enormous cost of Calvary.
Answering the Question
When asked about the most important aspect of following God, Jesus didn’t pull any punches. His answer was that those who were His were to be completely surrendered to His sovereignty and providence. Then, and only then, would they be in a position to know how to truly love anyone else. This was not a new concept but a restatement of Deuteronomy 6:5, and demonstrates the harmony of the law and the gospel.
Deliberate Christianity, as I like to call it, involves examining every area of our lives and thoughts and measuring them against God’s Word, down to the detail. If we avoid this process, we are only hindering ourselves—mistakenly believing we are in genuine fellowship with Him when we are not.
Many want to enjoy the promised benefits and blessings of the Christian life, without confronting the conditions necessary for blessings. A “potluck” mentality prevails with a “pick and choose” orientation as to which of God’s commandments one will focus on. This is obvious with the prevailing attitude that God’s law is no longer operable and that as long as we conform to modern church standards and traditions, we will squeak into the doors of Heaven. The culture then becomes the determiner of what is acceptable and what is not. This is essentially syncretism and is “accidental” Christianity (at best) rather than deliberate Christianity. Rushdoony notes,
The churches today are very much like old Israel, syncretistic. Too often, we get, not Christianity from the pulpit, but a smorgasbord of assorted religious ideas. All this adds up to the word of man, not the Word of God. “[T]he word of truth” (Eph. 1:13) cannot be diluted without ceasing to be the truth … [S]yncretism … stands for nothing. Our Lord tells us that the first and great commandment is to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, and mind, with all our being (Matt. 22:36–38). No syncretist can keep that law.1
I know many who are very vocal about their sincere Christianity who disregard the laws of fornication, or theft, etc. (or define them very narrowly) and are offended when it is suggested that they don’t love Jesus. The standard has sunk so low, that the modern media, social networks, and modern trends become the arbiters of good and evil.
Human beings were created to worship. They either worship the living and true God or they find replacements. Many believe that weekly church attendance fulfills their obligation to worship God. They do not understand that every second of their lives should be occupied with worship and show homage to the King of kings and Lord of lords.
The question I’m often asked when I run into someone whose church I previously attended is “Where do you worship now?” Not, “How is your service to the Kingdom?” It is as though going to a church (any church) is enough to fulfill the command to worship God. This reveals a very limited understanding of the greatest commandment, and highlights outward appearances over inward conviction. In addition, most churches are not faithfully proclaiming the full counsel of God. Instead, they highlight the “inoffensive” parts of Scripture and thus hijack the true meaning of the gospel message. Rushdoony considers it theft in the truest sense of the word.
The greatest robbery of our day is the stealing of the church. The church properly belongs to Jesus Christ. It exists in His name, and its purpose is to preach the Word of God, administer the sacraments, and faithfully apply godly discipline to Christ’s members. But the church has been stolen. The thieves are the modernists, socialists, humanists, all of which adds up to one fact, anti-Christianity. Using the name of Christ, these sanctimonious thieves have crept into the church, gained control of it, captured the pulpit and the bank accounts and endowed funds, and they are using the church to advance their anti-Christian purposes. Instead of proclaiming Christ, the church is now preaching social revolution and financing it … [T]he church has been stolen from Jesus Christ.2
The locale of worship is not a place or a building. Since we are to present our bodies as a living sacrifice (Rom 12:1), all aspects and facets of our lives should be manifestations of worship. When Jesus was questioned by the Samaritan woman, His answer was to the point when she asked,
Our fathers worshipped in this mountain; and ye say, that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship. Jesus saith unto her, Woman, believe me, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father. Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews. But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth. (John 4:20–24)
Jesus refuses to be drawn into such a discussion because He is the true and living Temple. Neither Jerusalem nor Samaria is the center. All the same, “salvation of the Jews,” the promise of the great messianic redemption, comes from Judaea. The true worshipper will worship in the Spirit and in truth. God is not limited by space and time, because God is Spirit, and He can only be worshipped in Spirit and truth. He cannot be localized even in the greatest Temple, even in one built in terms of His word. In Himself, Jesus Christ is God incarnate, as the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6); He is the revelation of the invisible God (vv. 21–24).3
Only when we reflect on our faithfulness to the two Greatest Commandments, the Ten Commandments, and the application in the case laws of Scripture will we be able to be the salt Jesus instructs us to be in His Sermon on the Mount. This isn’t a suggestion or a “when you get a chance” directive: It is how we take dominion in Jesus’ name.
The meaning of salt here is thus preservation. A sinful and corrupt world will rapidly decay and collapse unless the Christian element therein acts as the agent of preservation. Apart from them, society and the state are readily and quickly corrupt; only the Christians can prevent the radical deterioration of society and civil government. If they fail to work as the preserving agent, the Lord decrees that they shall “be trodden under foot of men.” Christians must either preserve their society from destruction or become themselves a particular target of destruction.4
Apparently, the choice is ours.
1. R. J. Rushdoony, A Word in Season, vol. 4 (Vallecito, CA: Ross House Books, 2012), p. 111.
2. R. J. Rushdoony, A Word in Season, vol. 2 (Vallecito, CA: Ross House Books, 2011), p. 112.
3. R.J. Rushdoony, Gospel of John (Vallecito, CA: Ross House Books, 2000), p. 38.
4. R.J. Rushdoony, Sermon on the Mount (Vallecito, CA: Ross House Books, 2009), p. 44.