At Mark 12:28-34, we read the story of a scribe who approached Jesus Christ and asked, “What commandment is the foremost of all?” Jesus answered him and said, “…’YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND, AND WITH ALL YOUR STRENGTH.’” Then Jesus added, “the second is this: ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.’ There is no other commandment greater than these” (Mark 12: 28-31). The scribe then agreed with Jesus and remarked that the above-mentioned two commandments were “much more than all the burnt offerings and sacrifices” (Mark 12:33). Jesus then revealed to the scribe that he was “not far from the kingdom of God” (Mark 12:34). Apparently, Luke described the same or similar conversation between a scribe and Jesus at Luke 10:25-28. As the reader might recall, the Gospel of Mark was written first, probably during the AD 60s. Mark’s Gospel was guided primarily by Peter’s recollections. Luke added some additional information in his recounting of the story, which he believed was important for our edification. Luke included that the scribe initially asked, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” (Luke 10:25). Obtaining or possessing eternal life is inextricably connected to loving God and loving one’s neighbor. In Luke’s account, after the scribe cited God’s commandments to love God and neighbor, Jesus told the scribe that he had correctly identified how to inherit eternal life. Jesus then said, “do this and live” (Luke 10:28), and “you are not far from the kingdom of God” (Mark 12:34).
The reader may recall that I contend that eternal life is much more than a never-ending existence. Eternal Life is God’s own life that He wishes to share with us. The reader might also recall Jesus’s conversation with the Rich Young Ruler. All of the Gospels record the Rich Young Ruler asking Jesus how he might obtain or acquire Eternal Life. In all of these passages, we find Jesus mentioning a number of Old Testament laws dealing with appropriate human-to-human relationships, such as not committing murder or adultery, not stealing, or not bearing false testimony. Jesus also added the necessity of obeying God’s commandments to honor your mother and father and to love your neighbor. Matthew added that the Rich Young Ruler stated, “All of these I have kept, what am I still lacking?” (Matt. 19:20) It is important to note that the Rich Young Ruler seemed to be aware that he was lacking something in his spiritual quest. Jesus then challenged the Rich Young Ruler and said, “If you want to be complete, go and sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come follow Me” (Matt. 19:21). The story notes that the Rich Young Ruler went away dejected because he had many possessions. Then Jesus said to His disciples that “it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich person to enter into the kingdom of God” (Matt. 19:23). There is an equivalency between Eternal Life and life in the Kingdom of God. However, at this point, we are still missing some important information about Eternal Life and Kingdom Living.
Following Jesus Christ and living in the Kingdom God is an all-consuming proposition. It requires complete devotion. It cannot be accomplished with “one foot in and one foot out.” Obviously, Jesus Christ does not require every faithful disciple to sell all of his or her possessions. Wealthy Heroes of Faith include the likes of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, and David. We could also add Nicodemus to the list. He was an influential member of the Sanhedrin during the time of Jesus. The reader might also recall that Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea (another rich man) obtained the body of Jesus from Pontius Pilate and arranged for His proper burial (John 19: 38-42). This action exhibited bravery and exposed them to potential persecution from other members of the Sanhedrin.
When we first meet Nicodemus in Chapter 3 of the Gospel of John, he appeared as a more timid and questioning student. Nicodemus came to Jesus under the cover of darkness and said, “Rabbi, we know that you have come from God as a teacher; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with Him” (John 3:2). Jesus responded that no one can see the Kingdom of God unless he has been born from above (John 3:3). It is extremely important to note that the text uses the Greek word anothen, which is best translated as “from above.” Correct understanding and insight comes from God via the Holy Spirit. God’s guidance comes down to us from Heaven. If we want to see and understand the Kingdom of God, we must receive disclosures from God via the Holy Spirit. Our Spiritual Life is a spiritual quest empowered by the Holy Spirit.
Like many of us, Nicodemus over literalized the words of Jesus. Nicodemus said, “How can a person be born when he is old? He cannot enter his mother’s womb a second time and be born, can he?” (John 3:4). Then Jesus explained, “[U]nless someone is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the Kingdom of God” (John 3:5). A baby is born physically in conjunction with the breaking of the mother’s water sac. A person is born from above by the Holy Spirit. At the moment of first believing, the Holy Spirit reveals to the person the truth about the true identity of Jesus. It is also true that Kingdom Living is impossible without the Holy Spirit. We must be led by the Spirit (Rom 8: 6-14; Gal. 5: 16-18). In fact, we are called to enter into a near continual and uninterrupted fellowship with God by means of the Holy Spirit. Yes, from time to time, we all sin and break fellowship with God. When this happens, we must simply acknowledge our sin and get back into fellowship with God (1 John 1:9).
As previously explained, the Christian Spiritual Life acknowledges the commandments and teachings found in the Old Testament, but we are not required to follow things like the Jewish dietary laws, the sacrificial system, circumcision, Sabbath observance, or the observance of Jewish Feast Days, etc. However, we might ask what the key difference is between the New Covenant as compared to the Old Covenant. Unlike under the Old Covenant, it must be understood that under the New Covenant, we have the benefit of an enhanced ministry of God, the Holy Spirit (Acts 2). Living in intimate fellowship with God changes everything. The Holy Spirit provides us great power to execute the Spiritual Life. The Holy Spirit is our means to share in the life of God.
Living with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit is not burdensome. God is an easy companion. However, some might wonder why it is sometimes so hard to ascertain God’s will. We must understand that strong emotion or lust (strong desire) will interfere with our ability to perceive guidance from the Holy Spirit (1 John 2:15-17). For example, the Old Testament teaches us that our hands should be open to the poor (Deut. 15:11; Prov. 31:20). This is an important principle to remember, but in determining when, or where, or how much to give, we should look for guidance from the Holy Spirit. We cannot allow emotion or any type of lust to interfere with our decision-making. This is equally true when we seek to make good decisions in marriage, family, social life, or even in business. On many occasions in life, we must back off our decision for a time in order to collect our thoughts and calm our emotions. Sometimes, we need to seek good advice from others. Sometimes, we must study the situation. God wants us to think reasonably and rationally, not emotionally. It is important to note, however, that spiritual thinking is not the same thing as emotional thinking. We are most likely to clearly hear God when we are calm and clear-headed. Most of our stupid decisions have been clouded by excessive emotion. Lust is loud, but the Spirit is a still, quiet, calm voice (1 Kings 19:11-12). Human emotion has its place, but we cannot allow emotion to interfere with rational and reasonable decision-making led by the Holy Spirit.
In summation, all of God’s commandments hang on the two great ideas of loving God and neighbor (Matt. 22:40). However, we cannot fulfill this obligation unless we, by means of the Holy Spirit, live in near constant fellowship with and in obedience to God. By doing so, we share in and participate in the life of God, which is also called Eternal Life. In eternity, before God created energy, matter, space, and time, God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit shared a life of fellowship, love and joy. They want to share their life with us.
The featured image on this page is titled “Sermon on the Mount” by Carl Henrich Bloch. Available on public domain. Courtesy of www.carlbloch.org.
 “G509 – anōthen – Strong’s Greek Lexicon (nasb20).” Blue Letter Bible. Web. 31 Jan, 2022. <https://www.blueletterbible.org/lexicon/g509/nasb20/mgnt/0-1/>.