Sunday, June 7, 2020

Sunday Praise & Worship Message - A New Old Commandment

During the course of this year, we have seen a lot of things that have occurred that have shaken our faith and our relationship with the Lord and with each other. We have witnessed a pandemic and have seen violence committed against one another. Individuals who I have talked with about this wish that this year hadn’t happened and cannot wait until this year ends. 

In a short period of time, we have witnessed a great many incidents of violence perpetrated for no apparent reason. It seems that nothing can stop any of this from occurring. We look to our elected officials and find no real words of guidance, comfort or help. Each seems to spout words of blame and rhetoric. Some have told me that they feel fearful and look at their neighbors differently. Some feel threatened by all that is going on. Some live in fear and wonder what will happen next to cause more violence and hatred.

If we choose to accept this as being the true nature of all of humankind, then we are surely doomed to live out our lives in fear, uncertainty and doubt. Instead of being quarantined because we are told to do so by government officials, we will isolate ourselves in fear of those around us.

Do we truly want to live this way? I don’t believe that anyone would want to live a life filled with fear or hatred. I believe that we are capable of being so much more and that we can rise above all of this only if we choose to do so. 

Our lives are full of choices each and every day. Some of them, like deciding where and what to eat, are very simple and often easy to answer. Others are more difficult and some are even almost impossible. Each choice that we make has consequences. Some are good while others are not so good. Consequences may even impact others and cause them to face choices that they really didn’t want to consider or make.

In the end, we are our brother’s keeper. No matter how you look at it, a simple choice could cause grave consequences not only for ourselves but also for others. We need to begin to understand how our lives are entwined. Nothing in life is ever simple or, at least, that is what we believe.

But, I am here to tell you that a simple truth can give us a glimmer of hope and turn things around for the better. The truth that I am speaking about is an old commandment given to us a long time ago. Over the years, we have forgotten its lesson and value to each of us.

When asked by the pharisees about which commandment was the most important, Jesus, in chapter twenty-two of the Gospel of Matthew, responds, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.”   

Jesus doesn’t give us anything new. Both of these commandments come from the Old Testament. In short, these are old commandments, but somehow they have been forgotten or given very little weight. To some then and even now, the words carry little or no weight. We just hear the words and we don’t consider their meaning in our life or their importance.

Look very closely at Jesus’ words regarding their importance. He says that the entire law and its demands are based on these two simple irrefutable laws. If we just loved the Lord wholeheartedly and loved our neighbors as we love ourselves, things would be a lot better for each of us. Notice what else Jesus says about these two commandments. He says that the second one is equally as important as the first. You don’t have to be a biblical scholar or a rocket scientist to understand what it means to be brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus. 

John, in chapter two of his first epistle, writes, “Dear friends, I am not writing a new commandment for you; rather it is an old one you have had from the very beginning. This old commandment—to love one another—is the same message you heard before. Yet it is also new. Jesus lived the truth of this commandment, and you also are living it. For the darkness is disappearing, and the true light is already shining.

In order for us to grope our way out of the darkness of this time, we must embrace the light of love for God and for each other. It is not enough to utter the words, we must live them daily and love one another as brothers and sisters. I know that this is difficult to do and sometimes it seems impossible, but we have to get past the earthly differences and work our way to not only understand each other but also understanding God’s will in our lives. 

When I was growing up in a small Texas town, I attended Sunday School at the First Baptist Church of Gatesville. While there, I was taught a simple song that most Christian children are still taught today. The words provide us with the best insight into the love of our Heavenly Father and of our Savior, Christ Jesus.

The lyrics of the song, “Jesus Loves the Little Children”, tell us that Jesus loves each of us no matter what color we are and that we are very precious to him. In fact, the second verse tells us that Jesus died for each of his children so that they could be free of sin and its consequence of death. Jesus died and rose for each and every one of us. He doesn’t see us as a color, but as children of the Father. Each is more precious than all of the gold and silver in the world.

On the night that Jesus was betrayed and turned over to those who wanted him dead, he gave his disciples one last command. Those words should guide our lives daily.

In chapter thirteen of the Gospel of John, Jesus says, “So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.

If we are to truly be brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus and children of our Heavenly Father, then we should always love one another. By showing the world that love, our lives are living testimonies that reflect God’s light and love. When there is light, there is no darkness at all. 

As you go through this week, take time to show that you love others by doing something that brings glory to the Father. It could be something as simple as helping someone in a grocery store to get something out of their reach on a high shelf. Or, even simpler, just smile and wish someone a wonderful and blessed day. If you take the first steps in living by this new, old commandment, you show the world that you are a disciple and follower of Jesus and a child of God the Father. By showing the world the same love that Jesus has for you, you can definitely stand firm in His grace.

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

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