Instead of focusing on the negatives aspects of repenting, we focus on integrating into our lives the positive virtues of God. When we are doing good, there is no room for evil. The repenting, or doing away with ungodliness, automatically takes care of itself. What is our reward if we do this? Our reward is that we "become sanctified in Christ," receive a "remission of [our] sins," and become "holy, without spot."
Peter said, "Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature." Then he gave a list of attributes such as diligence, faith, virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, godliness, brotherly kindness and charity; after which, he added, "For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ." (2 Pet. 1:4-8.)
An attribute that we must possess if we are to partake of the "divine nature" of Christ is to possess the characteristic of "godliness." One way we do this is to deny ourselves all ungodliness. All of this is done by the "grace of God," as we have learned. Grace is that unearned gift, that which we cannot obtain for ourselves. Before we can claim that grace, though, we must show forth sincere desire and true intent with faith in Christ, that this endowment is of specific worth. Therefore, we deny ourselves all ungodliness, and love God with all of our heart, might, mind, soul and strength. When we do that, we will be true to the first and greatest commandment.
The Greatest Commandment
Once there was a Pharisee who tried to trick Jesus by asking, "Master, which is the great commandment in the law?" Jesus answered him, saying, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment." (Matt. 22:37-38.)
In Mark we read that a scribe asked Jesus which is the "first commandment of all," and Jesus responded with, "And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment." (Mark 12:30.)
Luke records that a certain lawyer tempted Jesus by asking, "Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?" To which Jesus replied, "... Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself." (Luke 10:27.)
This commandment was not new when Jesus lived in mortality. As Jehovah of the Old Testament the Lord gave ancient Israel a similar commandment. Through Moses He proclaims, "And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might." (Deut. 6:5.)
As we consider these attributes together, we could say that there are four that we must demonstrate to become sanctified by the grace of Christ. We are to serve Him with all of our heart, might, mind, strength, and soul. As we study these four attributes, we find that the definitions of one may be similar to another.
The Hebrew word for heart is lebab (lay-bawb’), meaning courage and understanding; the Greek word is kardia (kar-dee’-ah), meaning feelings, thoughts, and so forth. The Hebrew word for might is me‘od (meh-ode’), which means, diligently, wholly, speedily, and the like. The Greek word for mind is dianoia (dee-an’-oy-ah), meaning deep thought, imagination and understanding. The Greek word for strength is ischus (is-khoos’), meaning forcefulness, might and power. The Hebrew word for soul is nephesh (neh’-fesh), meaning vitality; the Greek word is psuche (psoo-khay’), meaning vitality and life.
There are other scriptures we could quote that contain one or more of these attributes, which time and space do not permit. It is sufficient only to say that God requires us to serve Him with all of our courage, forcefulness, power, strength, understanding, feelings, thoughts, and imagination. We are to serve Him diligently with all of our ability, and do it speedily, or now, with all of our vitality, life, and whole being. A couple of good examples from the Bible are Moses and the Apostle Paul. They seemed to have exhibited all of these qualities. That’s pretty comprehensive service for us to consider.
An Eye Single to the Glory of God
We must put the first commandment first. We are to follow the admonition found in Proverbs. "Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths." (Prov. 3:5-6.)
Time can go by quickly when we are anxiously engaged in the Lord’s work with all our heart, might, mind, strength and soul. When we are ready to commit all we have, time in the Lord’s service doesn’t drag along. This is especially true when we are focused on the work of Jesus Christ, which is due to our faith. How time goes by while in His service is a gauge of how we are doing as a servant of God, and how our spiritual attitude is developing.
There are many churchgoers who take their faith casually, and who often give lip service rather than service from the heart. This is partly because all are on differing planes of understanding. The Lord is usually patient with us as we grow and progress in Christ, but as He said in Genesis 6:3, "... My spirit shall not always strive with man..." However, a pure attitude and a single-minded relationship with the Savior are paramount when we want to be true disciples.
Church membership means that a person has his or her name officially listed on the membership records of a church, but the Lord looks at members of His church quite differently. Those who really belong to His church are those who have repented and turned their hearts totally over to Him. True church membership involves far more than simply being a member on the records of an organized religion. As important as some may be, all the ordinances and rituals in the world will not suffice, for faith in the Lord Jesus Christ is the foundation upon which sincere and meaningful repentance must be built. When we truly seek to put away sin, we first look to Him who is the Author of our salvation. We have an eye single to the praise and glorification of His holy name.
When we are not singly serving God, we are serving someone else, or some "thing" else. Because of pride, that "someone" is usually ourselves, and that "thing" is often some possession or position. It is interesting to realize that when we serve other entities, and not God, it is usually because of some personal selfish reason. That is pride, which is serving ourselves instead of serving the Lord.
The opposite of having an eye single to the glory of God is seeking our own glory. While walking the shores of Galilee the Savior taught, "He that speaketh of himself seeketh his own glory: but he that seeketh his glory that sent him, the same is true, and no unrighteousness is in him." (John 7:18.)
Man cannot serve God and the world, or ourselves, simultaneously. The scriptures tell us that "No man can serve two masters ... Ye cannot serve God and mammon," "Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation," and that "A double minded man is unstable in all his ways." However, it also says, "... if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light." (Matt. 6:24; 12:25; James 1:8; Matt. 6:22.)
Jesus said, "I receive not honour from men." (John 5:41.) One of our biggest challenges is not to seek honor from others. In his letter to the Galatians, Paul says, "For do I now persuade men, or God? or do I seek to please men? for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ." (Gal. 1:10.) The Savior’s example is, "I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me." (John 5:30.) We are instructed by the Lord to turn our thoughts, minds, and service over to Him, and seek for no honor or glory from the world.
The Christian glories not in himself, but glories in that which God commands. Wherever we go is in the name of the Lord, everything we do is in His name, all of our thoughts are directed unto God, and the affections of the heart are always towards Him. Satan knows that when we seek for the honors of man, we lose our focus of Christ. Many are called into the service of God because they have the proper focus.
The Treasure Is the Key
Many want to please others and be accepted by them, and the fear of rejection may, at times, be greater than their love for God. The Lord, however, expects our thoughts and affections to be upon Him, and on no one else or anything else. To have an eye single to the glory of God is to have a love for God that is greater than any other love. The first and great commandment teaches, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind." At another time Jesus simply said, "For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also." (Matt. 6:21.) So, there is a question we might ask ourselves: What do we love most?
A treasure is simply that which we treasure most. To the extent that we treasure other things, people, or activities more than we treasure our covenants with the Lord and our devotion to Him, to that same degree our hearts will not be upon Him. We have a tendency to serve those we love the most, those we give first consideration for our affection and desires. This helps us indicate where our allegiance and loyalty are. We cannot help but serve that which we love and consider first. Where we direct our passions and expectations, discloses where our fidelity remains.
In considering these most important thoughts, we must do some personal and honest soul searching. What do we really treasure most in our hearts? In seeking for the answer, we must become aware and consider where we put our energy, how we use our time, what we buy with our money, where we direct our interest, and so forth.
By focusing upon the pure love of Jesus, more than upon the crude and base things, or immoral thoughts and acts, we will truly know what we treasure most. We will know what our treasure is when we mostly pursue the Kingdom of God, and the things that do not corrupt, instead of our houses, cars, boats, or any other personal and material objects. We know where our treasure lies when we spend our energy seeking the treasures of eternal life, instead of the pursuit of money, sports, pleasure, and entertainment. When we direct more of our interest toward Jesus Christ, who has all charity, compassion, forgiveness, knowledge and light, than we do toward family, friends and associates, then again, we know where our heart truly is, and thus where our treasure is. Our heart will be upon God and godly things. But if we focus more of our attention and desires upon crude and base things; more upon immoral thoughts and acts; more upon money, houses, or other material objects; more upon sports and various forms of recreation and entertainment; or even more upon family, friends or associates than we do upon Jesus Christ, then we know where our treasure really is, and thus our hearts. These things then become our gods—false gods.
As a Man Thinketh
In Proverbs we read, "For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he." (Prov. 23:7.) We do not think with our hearts, we think with our minds. We previously read: "For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also." That means that where our treasure is, there will our "mind" be also. For the most part, we focus our mind on that which we love. By so doing, we choose that which we love. Love is equated with the heart so it is said that man "thinketh in his heart." In reality, we choose our treasure by permitting our minds to think in that direction, and our hearts love it. We treasure up in our hearts, or our minds, the things most dear to us. Those things are what motivate us and help us choose where we go, what we receive, and what type of beings we will become.
We often receive things that we do not pray for. Some may wonder why they have received certain troubles in life when they have not desired them, or certain blessings in life when they have not prayed for them. In too many cases the answer is that our mind and thinking may have been focused on that particular thing, person, place, or condition.
Perhaps a personal example can illustrate. I enjoy fine music and many years ago I wanted a compact disc (CD) player, notwithstanding large phonograph and cassette tape collections I already had. On occasion someone would leave theirs with me, which I used. Due to the high cost of one of the finer CD players at the time, though, I figured that I would not purchase one, at least for quite a while. However, I kept the thought of one foremost in my mind. Even though I couldn’t play them on anything, I still purchased a few CD’s with the hope of someday owning a player.
A time came when I had the opportunity to share some of my talents and services with a friend of the family at no cost. The friend, not having discussed the CD player issue with me, and to my utter surprise, gave me a player in appreciation for my help. For me, this item was a want and not a need, and I didn’t even pray for it. I felt there were other things more important to be considered and prayed for. The CD player was gratefully accepted. However, I realized from whom this gracious gift really came.
One day, while I was resting and listening as my new CD player produced lovely music, I wondered why the Lord blessed me with such a temporal gift when I felt I was in need of more spiritual blessings. Through the Spirit, then, the thought came forcefully to me that it was a desire of the heart. It was where I often and unknowingly focused much of my attention. Although I did not pray for it, having more important needs, that energy still reached up to the heavens and a desire of my heart was realized. In other words, the dominant thought of my mind came to pass.
Now there is no inherent evil in a compact disc player. In this case it was a blessing and perhaps a reward for unselfish service. However, the point to be made here is that we often focus our attention on more than that which is godlike, and we reap the results. When someone is serving on a mission in some far off and remote country, and his or her mind is not focused on the work, being on other concerns than the Lord, the mission could end as an unfortunate and sad experience. It is the same with marriages, employment, schooling, and so forth. If our attention is not focused on the important task and object at hand, unexpected disasters could result.
In the great intercessory prayer that Jesus offered, He expressed His feelings about His beloved disciples. He prayed, "That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us." (John 17:21.) To be one with God we serve Him. To serve Him is to know Him, for how can we know and serve the Lord when He is a stranger to us and far from our thoughts and heart? To increase in the spiritual endowments of God we become one with the Lord and fully turn to Him. When we cleave unto Christ, with full purpose of heart, we can increase in the knowledge of God, in the spirit of revelation, in the gift of prophecy, and in visions and dreams.
To be sanctified, our purpose is single with the purpose of Jesus Christ. We follow Him wholeheartedly, without hypocrisy and deception. This is the single intent of our repenting from all sin, and turning our hearts to Jesus Christ. The power is in us, along with the gift of grace, not to fall. When we intentionally stay focused upon God, we will not become focused upon the adversary’s plan. A house divided against itself cannot stand, nor can we serve two masters at the same time. We can receive Christ by choice, or Satan by default.
Having No Other Gods
Our treasure is what we think about—what we ponder and see in our mind’s eye. It is where we focus our attention with our mind. There are times when we may not even be aware of this focus, thinking that we love God and are mostly serving Him. It is possible to go through the religious rituals of "duty," while, at the same time, desiring something altogether different. If the outward appearance is contrary to our inner, central and true focus, we "deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us." (1 Jn. 1:8.)
What do you think about when you don’t have to think? Have you ever thought of that? When you can honestly answer that question you will then know where your focus is, and where your heart will be. If it isn’t with Jesus Christ, then you will know where your heart truly is.
The Apostle Paul said that we are not to be "unequally yoked together," but instead, "be of the same mind," that we become "perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment," and that we become "like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind." (2 Cor. 6:14; Rom. 12:16; 1 Cor. 1:10, Philip. 2:2.) These statements cannot only be applied to social relationships but inner, or personal, relationships as well. When our mind is one with the Lord’s, and when our loyalties are not divided, we have an eye single to God’s glory, and we do not become "lukewarm." (Rev. 3:16.)
The mind is conditioned by what is put into it—such things as movies and television watched, books read, music listened to, and people with whom we associate. All types of input help condition the mind, and we need to be conscious of how we train our thought patterns. An act is a direct response to thinking, and we become what we mostly think about. When we think worldly, we become like the world. When we think Godly, we become more like God. Though we may be in the world, we do not have to be of the world. It is important to put off all ungodliness of mind, all evil or unclean thinking, and even all casual acceptance or tolerance for things that are slightly off color. If we do not, it will inevitably lead to the realization of that mind set. Anciently the Lord said, "... come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues." (Rev. 18:4.)
Whatever one’s treasure is becomes their idol, because it is what they "idolize" most, but many people do not look at it this way. Many consider an idol to be something such as a golden statue, or image, that represents a God and is worshiped as divine. However, an idol can be where one’s attention is focused most of the time.
What does it means to "idolize" another person? How does that fit in with the first commandment when one venerates, reverences, glorifies and even "worships the ground" someone "walks on"? Many idolize movie stars, singing stars, athletic stars, and political stars, and some wrestle other fans for coveted autographs. When these things are the center focus, true commitment to the Lord is not there. Maybe it would be well to ponder what it means to be an idolatrous people.
When one desires to serve and worship the Lord with all his heart, might, mind, strength and soul, and only has an eye single to His glory and praise, then he will have a basis for a belief which eventually leads to the working of great miracles in his life. Jesus is to be our role model and our hero. Only with an eye (mind’s eye) single to His glory and not to our own praise, or praise for someone else, can we unselfishly serve Him.
A Christian has the faith and remembers that Jesus is the only worthwhile treasure. They do not lay up for themselves "treasures upon earth," but lay up for themselves "treasures in heaven." For where our treasure is, there will our hearts be also. If, therefore, our mind’s eye is single to His glory, our whole body shall be full of light. (Matt. 6:19-23.) When our faith is in the Lord Jesus Christ instead of man, or the things of man, when we treasure Him above all else, then we will move toward that mighty faith that brings light, which light is the miracle of the fulness of the Glory of God. Then we shall not be "barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ." We shall be "partakers of the divine nature," (2 Pet. 1:4-8) which is the greatest treasure and miracle of all.
We need to love God enough to trust that His love and grace are sufficient to bless us far more than we could bless ourselves. Jesus teaches us how to love God. He said, "If ye love me, keep my commandments." (John 14:15.) Keeping the commandments, and honoring our covenants, show that we love Him, and our love will grow as we continue to faithfully obey His will. Love teaches us what to do. The worldly man, or the flesh, is an enemy to God. Therefore, we must yield to the enticings of the Holy Spirit and put off the flesh and become a true disciple of Jesus Christ.
One way to put off the flesh is by covenant. God’s people are a covenant people. They always have been. God gave Israel commandments from Sinai because they would not keep the covenants of their forefathers, such as Abraham, made with God. The covenants that God wants us to make with Him automatically include all the commandments. Therefore, we do not need to worry about keeping commandments when we make covenants with Him and faithfully honor those covenants. Covenants are sacred, and God greatly blesses and gives special endowments to those who freely covenant with Him and unflinchingly keep those covenants. Once we know the true nature of God it becomes much easier to covenant with Him.
Anyone can keep a commandment, or God would not give the commandment in the first place. He does not expect us to do something that is beyond our ability, or beyond that which He has endowed us. Therefore, He will not ask us to do anything that is beyond our capability. Therefore, when the Lord commands, we can obey, when we choose to do so. However, it seems that few can make and faithfully keep covenants. Keeping commandments is one thing, but making covenants and keeping them is another.
The way that we become purified and sanctified through the blood of Christ is by way of covenant, not just by keeping commandments. To prove we are willing to put God first, above all else, we consecrate our lives wholly unto Him. This is done by making covenants. Then, and only then, can we have hope of salvation. In the final scheme of things, we will find that all who inherit the Father’s kingdom are those who covenant and give their lives totally to Christ. Paul taught, "For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth...." (Rom. 1:16.)
True conversion, with a testimony, involves a sincere desire to consecrate all things to God. It involves devoted faith in the Lord, love for our neighbor, sincere and complete repentance, a desire to sacrifice all upon the altar, keeping an eye single to the glory of God, and endurance to the end. When these things are achieved, we will not have to be concerned about being worthy, because worthiness will be the result of a natural process. We must understand that many people can become worthy of certain things because of obedience to laws and rules, but not be truly converted to righteousness. One can put down the right answers to a college exam, but are they converted to those concepts, or are they only jumping through the hoops, so to speak? When we are found worthy, which is determined by compliance to rules and guidelines, conversion to righteousness is only implied. Worthiness can be shallow, while conversion has depth.
The way we truly become clean, pure, sanctified, and receive an inheritance in the Kingdom of God, is to faithfully keep the first and great commandment of loving God. The depth of our conversion is measured by how much we are willing to sacrifice for Him and consecrate to Him, which signifies how much we love Him. As we consider this, we may be concerned about how others view us. The true disciple understands, however, that it isn’t so important to know who loves us, as it is to understand who we love.
Our Only Treasure
An act is a direct response to thinking, and we become what we mostly think about. When we think worldly thoughts, we become like the world. When we think Godly thoughts, we become more like God. Though we may be in the world, we do not have to be of the world. It is important to put off all ungodliness of mind, all evil or unclean thinking, and even all casual acceptance or tolerance for things that are slightly off color. If we do not, it will inevitably lead to the realization of a worldly mind set. Anciently God said, "... come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues." (Rev. 18:4.)
Through Moses the Lord commanded, "Thou shalt have NO other gods before me." (Ex. 20:3.) When we set other people up as heroes and we choose them instead of Jesus Christ, we honor them more than Jesus and are setting up false gods. When we allow other activities to take the place of worshiping and praising the only true God, those activities then become false gods. When we let the words of any other person take precedent over the whisperings of the Spirit, we are esteeming that person more than God and he or she becomes a false god.
When one desires to serve and worship the Lord with all his might, mind and strength, and only has an eye single to His glory, then he will have a basis for a belief which eventually leads to the working of great miracles in his life. Jesus is to be our role model and our hero. Only with an eye (mind’s eye) single to the glory of God and not to our own praise, or praise for someone else, can we unselfishly serve Him.
We must have faith and remember that Jesus is the only worthwhile treasure. We are not to lay up for ourselves treasures on earth, but to lay up for ourselves treasures in heaven. For where our treasures are, there will our hearts be also. If, therefore, our mind’s eye is single to His glory, our whole body shall be full of light. (Matt. 6:19-23.)
When our faith is in the Lord Jesus Christ, instead of man or the things of this world, when we treasure Him above all, then we will move toward that mighty faith that brings light, which light is the miracle of the fulness of God’s Glory. We shall not be "barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ." We shall be full of the pure love of Christ, and "partakers of the divine nature," (2 Pet. 1:4-8) which is the greatest treasure and miracle of all.
Because of the great value that our Father in Heaven places upon all of His children, and because He loves us, He "... gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." (John 3:16.) Our Heavenly Father loves us so much that He gave us His most prized possession. Are we to love Him any less?