Three Commands That Form the Faithful

2022 February Topical Sermons  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  35:30
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God is All About Relationships

Abraham Lived Out Faith in Relationship

Abraham believed God, and it was considered righteousness. Faith in God led to a real relationship with the God of the universe. For him, it was as natural as sleep to understand God’ messages to him, even as others though he was crazy.

At Sinai, God Wanted Relationship

The first place the Israelites stopped after the exodus from Egypt was at the mountain of God, Sinai.
Moses told them to prepare the meet the Holy God of the Universe with 3 days of cleansing themselves to be presentable to the Holy One.
So God spoke, and the people thought it was too hard to hear.
“Moses, you go listen to God then tell us what he said. We can’t stand to hear what he tells us. So you tell us and we’ll listen to you, Moses.”
But the Israelites were not good at relationship with the living, unseen God. They constantly turned to idols and pagan practices. They really did not have the kind of faith in God that would result in a loving relationship where they might want to please the Lord God because they loved him.

Moses Brought Them Law

Moses brought the tablets of the law, and so much more. There were more than just 10 commandments on the tablets; for the book of Exodus, chapter 32 speaks of the hand of God writing on both sides of the stone tablet; in chapter 34, the Lord give certain laws and commands to Moses for the new tablets that are beyond the ten commandments.
Now, who knows the number of laws and commandments in the Old Testament?
Scholars count 613 laws and commandments. 248 Positive Commandments and 365 Negative Commandments.
>>>So it should be pretty clear from those numbers that . . .

Law Complicates

… the connections we have with one another. And especially in our relationship with God.
Most of us can’t even remember the Ten Commandments from the original tablets brought down from Sinai—at least without a cheat-sheet.
How can we live, subject to spiritual arrest because of laws we don’t know, or understand, or take seriously?
613 laws. 248 that are “do this” and 365 that are “don’t do that.”
I am sure you know every law, right? What is most important to you: That you are right or that you are righteous?
But that is the nature of law. It is designed to limit human behavior, not enhance it.
Visit a lawyer’s inner office, and you will see a bookcase or two lined with thick volumes of books, most filled with “case law”. Those records tells the lawyer what decisions the courts have made when a law is challenged, and what interpretations the courts have made of the law. Law complicates relationship.
>>>But the good news is that there is another way: for while law complicates our relationships, …

Love Cures

… Our relationships with God and with one another. That’s why we can come to this message today, ready to think about the Three Commands That Form the Faithful.
As I said, law is designed to limit human behavior; but love is designed to enhance and expand connections, with God and with one another.
The first command is designed to cure our relationship with God; the second is to cure our relationships with other people in general. And the third command is designed to enhance and expand our relationship with other Christians.
I don’t have to tell you that human efforts to follow these three basic commands of love are laced with human failure.
Yet they are the most important commands of the Bible. We need to take care to make these the heart of our practice of faith.
The context of the first two commands is one event, where Jesus answers a challenge question with a faithful and full answer.
Earlier, Jesus was tested by the Sadducees. These liberal practitioners of their faith had failed to trick Jesus into an offense of the law or its interpretation.
>>>What they got instead of an offence against the law was instead, each time, a teaching for them. This clarity was . . .

Clarity Born From A Plot to Trap

>>>Seeing the success of Jesus, we read in Matthew 22:34 that a plot is brewing against Jesus by the Pharisees, the conservative opposites of the liberal Sadducees:
Matthew 22:34 CSB
34 When the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they came together.
Anytime that the Pharisees came together when Jesus was the subject, there was a plot afoot.
>>>So they picked a real expert in the law from their number to carry out the trap they had set:
Matthew 22:35 CSB
35 And one of them, an expert in the law, asked a question to test him:
Seems like this is going to be a rocky road, doesn’t it? Here’s the plan: trap jesus with a question he can’t get out of. Trap him into saying something that can be misquoted. Then make up a charge against him. They wanted to find a way to legally charge him with heresy. Then they can certainly know who are the “good Jews”, and who are not. They wanted to create a divide between their own followers and the followers of Jesus.
Matthew 22:36 CSB
36 “Teacher, which command in the law is the greatest?”
There’s the question.
613 laws. Some were considered more important than others, and there were different opinions about what those were. This question was loaded.
Now, Jesus was never afraid of a question, whether it is from a faithful follower or a fellow who needs to be reformed.
>>>So Jesus answers the query with clarity and simple confidence in the given word of God in scripture. Jesus says, . . .

The First Great Command: Love God

Which is the answer that should be obvious to every person of faith who had any history in the synagogue or Temple. It is stated in Deuteronomy 6:4-5
Deuteronomy 6:4–5 CSB
4 “Listen, Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 5 Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.
So, when the Pharisee came to ask Jesus, Jesus spoke the Shema statement that every Jewish boy should know in Hebrew and probably started his day and ended his night:
Matthew 22:37 CSB
37 He said to him, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.
Now, we tend to add the forth layer to that, to include “Love the Lord with all your strength.”
That last one is not needed for the Hebrew, for how do you separate heart, soul and mind from the body and live?
Matthew 22:38 CSB
38 This is the greatest and most important command.
Here is a love that cures. This love cures the brokenness between God and humanity.
God already loves us; that is made clear in the presence of Jesus, the Son of God sent for us because God loves us. It’s our side that needs to respond in love. We are the ones who need a cure for our self-justification.
To Love the Lord this way, in the Greek the word is agapao: It means, as I shared a few weeks ago, to love on purpose; to love in relationship; to love because you want to give love as a gift to the one you love.

Are you willing to go all in to love God?

Do you want to give your love to God, on purpose, because he deserves it and because you need to do it?
That is the first and greatest command.
But Jesus has a little more to say about what we should think about when we are thinking about what is the greatest command. Sure, the Shema tops everyone’s list.
Love God. Easy, right? Well, challenging.
But in a world of relationships, loving God alone will not get you where you need to be. So Jesus reaches into the book of Leviticus, where in Leviticus 19:18 we read, “18 Do not take revenge or bear a grudge against members of your community, but love your neighbor as yourself; I am the Lord.”
>>>So Jesus adds to the First and Greatest Commandment. . .

The Second Command: Love Others

Jesus isn’t quoted as saying the first part of Lev 19:18 about not carrying a grudge against another, but I’m sure he may have said it:
Matthew 22:39 CSB
39 The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.
Just like the love we have for God is supposed to be on purpose, the love we have for people around us is a love that is on purpose.
Not a spontaneous love, nor a romantic love nor a love of loyalty.
Agapao, love on purpose.
And like the people Jesus first said this to, for us, loving our neighbor as ourselves seems too costly.
It certainly felt that way for the people of Jesus’ day.
An expert in the law that tried a different question to trick Jesus, in Luke 10, didn’t come out clean either.
Jesus asked him what were the most important commandments.
That man answered with these two commands. Love God, love your neighbor. Jesus give him a big thumbs up, and then the Pharisee tried to protect his own practices.

Who is my neighbor?

For the Pharisee, he might have thought about where he lived, like we do. Or thought about people that he knows and likes. Maybe thinking that his neighbor, according to this commandment, was just the people he already loved.
Jesus was not about to let him get off the hook easily. In Luke 10, 29-37, Jesus answered the Pharisee with the story of the Good Samaritan.
“OK, so you want to know who your neighbor is according to the Law: I’ll tell you who that is. It’s a person who is a different race than your are. It’s a person who lives in a different place than you live. It’s a person that just happens to show more mercy to someone who hates him than the Pharisee was willing to show Jesus.
Luke 10:36–37 CSB
36 “Which of these three do you think proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?” 37 “The one who showed mercy to him,” he said. Then Jesus told him, “Go and do the same.”
So, the second great command is to love our neighbor as ourselves.

Are you willing to go all in to love others?

Then he says something that shares his own authority for his statement:
Matthew 22:40 CSB
40 All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commands.”
ALL the. . . .

Laws and the Prophets Reduced to Two Laws

What Jesus means by that is that the very word of God will collapse if these two commands are not key to understanding it all.
The Law means the first 5 books of the Bible; The Prophets means the writing prophets and the 12 minor prophets, leaving only the Psalms and the wisdom literature. So without these tow commands, the Word of God cannot stand.
So these two laws make the fulcrum for our rightness and our righteousness.
We don’t have to have great memories. We simply have to have great love.
So many people stop right there, because those are the two commands that Jesus spoke in response to the trick question of the Pharisees.
Jesus was quoting the Old Laws, he wasn’t saying anything new. The Son of God, the very Word Made Flesh, has something else to share with us that we can’t afford to miss.
We need to read John 13 to find the command that comes from the heart of Jesus to his disciples as he is about to leave them, through the way of the cross, resurrection and ascension.
And there we find . . .

The Third Command: Love Other Christians

Which should be the easy and automatic part. And yet, it can be the hardest thing for us to do consistently and fully.
That’s because in Christ we are to be one body, and yet we differ in attitudes, in actions, in talents and in understandings. We are one family of God, each of us a child of God through faith in Jesus Christ.
But families fight more fiercely than strangers. Families hold on to grudges, ignore one another, and separate from one another. Calling out names. Calling out faults. Calling out behavior.
>>>So what is this third command? Those of you who know my preaching and teaching know well that I am talking about the Command that Jesus gives as the disciples are gathered for their last meal with Jesus.

Love Each Other

And this one needs context to know it is about how this is different than the other two great commands.
You would think that loving God with all we have and loving our neighbor as ourselves would cover loving each other when we are Christians. But Jesus needed to tell us this was important:
This is not an old command from the law. This is

A New Command From Jesus

John 13:34–35 CSB
34 “I give you a new command: Love one another. Just as I have loved you, you are also to love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
The new command comes with a new caveat: Love . . .

Like Christ Loves You

Christ Calls Us to Overcome Ourselves

Jesus Christ Tells Us

Be A Witness of Love to the World

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