Ifs, Ands, or Buts
I remember back as a child when my mother would give me instructions she would add a phrase at the end. It was especially when she was real serious and wasn’t going to put up with any excuses she would add, “and there won’t be any ifs, ands, or buts about it.” I knew that meant that I’d better do what she said, when she wanted it done and how she wanted it done. After all, “mother knows best.” Let’s be clear. In these moments my mother wasn’t asking a question or making a suggestion but giving a command. If I didn’t follow through I knew there would be serious consequences to my disobedience.
In a similar way, when God gives a command, He expects us to follow through in obedience and with respect. I realize we suffer from the delusion that since we live in a western, democratic society that we get a vote or we have the right to an opposing way of thinking. Yes, as it pertains to our relationship with government we have free speech and the freedom to worship as we see fit. However, that doesn’t apply to our relationship with God. Why? God is the all-powerful, all knowing, all present creator and sustainer of the universe. To sum it up in a short phrase, He has all authority. What does this mean to us? When He gives a command it isn’t a suggestion, recommendation or a question. He means . . . do it and there won’t be any ifs, ands or buts about it. And yes, in case we need a reminder, there are serious consequences when we disobey God.
There are many commands in the Bible but Jesus makes it simple for us to understand the heart of the matter. As recorded in Matthew 22:36-40, Jesus was asked, “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?” He simply said, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with our your soul and with all your mind.” Jesus also explained, as recorded in John 14:15, that the evidence of our love is obedience to His commands. This makes it straight forward. We either love God or we don’t and the evidence is obedience. You can’t simply just make a claim or have an opinion or make an exception as it relates to loving God. You love Jesus by taking action in obedience to His commands.
However, it is my fear that many of us so-named Christians say we love God and yet there are ifs, ands or buts that go with our claim. Let me give you an example. When God gave Moses the “Ten Commandments” on Mount Sinai as recorded in Exodus 20, the first commandment explicitly says, “You shall have no other gods before me.” Please note, the words “before” or “besides” in this text are both accurate. In other words, if we are living in obedience, God alone stands out as God absent of our pursuit of any other competing gods in any form. There are no exceptions whether it be a person, activity, object or thing.
Let’s explore this a little deeper. Have you ever said or thought the following: I love Jesus if ... I love Jesus and … I love Jesus but … ? Okay, we may not say it audibly and we may not want to admit it but, as the old adage goes, our actions speak louder than words. In any case, an if, and, or but areexamples of having other gods before or besides the One True God. First, our actions reflect when we love Jesus as if love is conditional. You know, we love Him “if” . . . we get our way, He gets us out of a jam, He heals our sickness or He helps us get a new job. Second, our priorities and schedule reveal when we say we love Jesus as if we can share our deepest affection with someone or something else. In this case, we say we love Jesus “and” . . . we worship other gods like family, money, popularity, power, prestige, sports and/or leisure. Last, but not least, our decisions often uncover when we say we love Jesus as if exceptions are acceptable. When faced with a decision, we say we love Jesus “but” . . . this is a great opportunity, this is a good thing, this is an incredible deal, I couldn’t pass this up and let’s not leave out, Jesus will understand. Yep. Jesus will understand sort of like your spouse accepting that you had an affair.
As my mother would look me in the eye, point her finger and say, “there won’t be any ifs, ands or buts about it.” She didn’t know it at the time but she was teaching me a very important lesson in theology. When it comes to God, in fact, “there are no ifs, ands or buts about it.” God is God alone. He is the great “I AM.” He wants it done His way, when He wants it done, and the way He wants it to be done. He isn’t making a suggestion or asking for an opinion. Sorry. You don’t get a vote. After all, God knows best. So, it comes down to this, either obey God or omit you don’t really love Him.
A Work in Progress,
“Making disciples in our world one heart at a time.”