Sunday, July 7, 2019

Sunday Praise & Worship Message - Serve with Love

When asked by the Pharisees which commandment in the law of Moses is the most important, Jesus, in Matthew 22, replies, “37 ‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.

When you think about Jesus’ response to the Pharisees, all of the laws of Moses rest on the two principles of relationships. The first principle is to love God with all your heart, soul and mind. That means that we withhold nothing and we give ourselves over to Him completely and without reservation. The second principle is that we are to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. 

As you think about all of the laws of Moses, each deals with one of these basic irrefutable principles. For example, look at the Ten Commandments written on the tablet by God’s own finger. The first four commandments deal with our relationship to God. The last six commandments govern our relationship with one another. Once again, keeping in mind the words of Jesus, we see the two principles reflected in the Ten Commandments. 

Look at what Jesus says later in that passage, “40 The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.

All the laws given to us by God and recorded in the holy scriptures and their demands are based on and fulfilled by our following of those two basic principles. Many will over-complicate the scriptures and push their own agenda. The Bible, especially the words and teachings of Jesus, is quite clear and requires no degree in biblical studies to understand. These simple words of Jesus carry the full faith and credit of God’s word and His will for our lives. It is man who tends to read more into those words. 

As we come to the conclusion of the Fourth of July holiday weekend, let us always remember the freedom that we as Christians enjoy. It is the freedom from sin that we have through the blood of Jesus and his sacrifice for our sins. It is through that freedom from sin that we are able to do so many wonderful things. We are able to go to the Father in prayer. The curtain that separated us from Him was torn in two from top to bottom. We have free access to the Father through the blood of His son, Christ Jesus. 

In Hebrews 4, we are told, “14 So then, since we have a great High Priest who has entered heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to what we believe. 15 This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin. 16 So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.

We can only boldly go to the throne of God to receive mercy, love and grace because of Christ Jesus. It is because of him that we can do these things. Our works and good deeds cannot buy our way to the throne. It is only through Christ Jesus that this is possible.

Once we establish our relationship with the Father, we must also establish our relationship with those around us. We are to love our neighbors as ourselves. We are to become our “brother’s keeper” and to take care of the widows and orphans. We are to love one another even if it means laying down our lives for others. The relationship with our neighbors must be as strong as our relationship with the Lord.

Paul writes, in his epistle to the Galatians in chapter 5, “13 For you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters. But don’t use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love. 14 For the whole law can be summed up in this one command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 15 But if you are always biting and devouring one another, watch out! Beware of destroying one another.

If we continue to follow the example of the world, we will bite and devour one another. We will grow to distrust those around us and suspicion will become our religion. We will no longer exemplify the love of Jesus and our Father to those around us. We will, once again, become a denizen of a sinful world.

When I reflect on the words of Paul, especially the warning he gives about destroying one another, I think about a book that I read while in college, The Lord of the Flies. This book, written by William Golding in 1954, tells us a story about young boys stranded on an island. They work to establish laws governing their relationship with one another. Later, their society breaks down and they turn on one another. They become like animals resorting to savagery and ultimately murder. 

What if they had remembered the words of Jesus and Paul and practiced love for the Father and love for one another? I believe things would have been so different. They would have served each other in love rather than falling from grace and returning to the ways of a fallen, sinful world. 

At the end of the novel, the boys are rescued, but their rescuers are shocked by the actions of the boys. The British naval officer who discovers the boys could not believe their actions and their behavior towards each other. How could this happen? 

When we lack the love of the Lord and the love for our neighbors, including our enemies, we will slip back into our old ways and become savages and sinners. It is so very easy for us to say that it cannot happen, but it can. If we do not remember and heed the words of Christ Jesus and the apostle Paul, we can soon find ourselves separated not only from each other but also separated from the Father. Disobedience will soon snake its way back into our lives. 

As you go through this week, I ask that you think about the words of Jesus and the apostle Paul. In Matthew 5, Jesus tells us, “43 You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy. 44 But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! 45 In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike. 46 If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that? Even corrupt tax collectors do that much. 47 If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else? Even pagans do that. 48 But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect.

Strive to live a life that is Christ-like in all respects. When you do that, you can stand firm in His grace.

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.

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