08 Dec 2019
Whitney Houston sang in her hit single "The Greatest Love of All" is to learn to love yourself. How true is that? Jesus replied the scribe who asked him about the great commandment with a 2-part answer from the Old Testament scriptures- love God and love your neighbour- and that on these 2 commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets. We can then learn 3 things: 1. The Message of the Law: Jesus is saying that the main message about the Law is love. 2. The Measure of the Law: From these 2 commandments, we also learn the full measure of love- it is to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength; and to love our neighbour as ourselves. 3. The Misconception about the Law: This encounter between the scribe and Jesus also gave us an insight into a common misconception about the Law. Check out this sermon for the full details of what this all means. Finally, find out what the greatest love of all is when you listen all the way to the end!
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We have been looking at the life of Jesus Christ, that's the theme of the book of Matthew. It's all about Jesus about Him as King. And let me begin today with a simple trivia, not trivia, but something that I grew up with. When I was young, I would listen to music. I think everybody does, music is part of life. And there are famous singers.
Today, we have maybe Taylor Swift, Britney Spears, I have no clue what they sing, not interested. But my time, I'm interested in this famous diva. She's a well-known singer and she is none other than Whitney Houston, sounds like Winnie, but okay, it's not, Whitney Houston.
And she has many, many hits, of course. And one of the famous hits would be this song – The Greatest Love of All. Heard of that? Please say, “Yes,” otherwise I have to sing it, you know. It's, it is … it's going to ruin your Sunday. So, she has this song - The Greatest Love of All.
So according to Whitney Houston, what is the greatest love of all? She said, “Because the greatest love of all is happening to me. I found the greatest love of all inside of me.” So, what's the greatest love? She says again, “The greatest love of all, it's easy to achieve. And the greatest love of all, learning to love yourself, it is the greatest love of all.”
My question to you is, “How true is this statement or these lyrics, [sic: but] in the song Whitney Houston sang - The Greatest Love of All?” Is it to learn to love myself? Well, that's the question we would have answered in the passage before us.
I want to remind you that Matthew 22 really leads us to the last week of the life of Jesus Christ. And like that lamb that every Jewish family will have to slay in order to remind them of how God saved their family, Jesus will be that Passover lamb that will be slain, that those who believe in Him will be spared the wrath of God.
But that Passover lamb must be perfect; must be without blemish. And so, Jesus must be proven, inspected and tested, to be indeed flawless. So, God, in a sense, allowed this testing and inspection process to take place.
So two weeks ago, we learned about how the Pharisees and the Herodians, some religious group and political group, they got together and tried to find fault with Jesus asking a question about taxes paid to Caesar. Jesus passed that test with flying colors!
Then last week, we read about how the Sadducees came to ask Jesus a question about the resurrection. And again, we saw Jesus pass that test with flying colors. Today, we see another test. And this is going to be provided by a scribe.
So we read, “When the Pharisees heard that He had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together.” [Matthew 22:34] So they say, “Ha, we tried, we didn't succeed. So we let the Sadducees try and they also failed. So let's get together, let's crack our heads because we really need to kill Jesus. And to kill Jesus, we need to get a reason; an excuse, we need to find some fault in Him. Otherwise the people who love Him will turn against us.”
So they gathered together, they conspired to find another route through which they could get a handle of Christ, find an excuse and kill Him. So now, they decided, “Alright, we will send our champion,” like maybe the Philistines will send out Goliath. They will send out their champion. “And one of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question to test Him.” [Matthew 22:35]
Now when I read about lawyer, I'm scared. I don't know about you, but when you hear about lawyers, it's like, “Wah, they are the experts. They're not all the nitty-gritties. They can sue you, they can find fault with you very easily.”
Now, I don't think the scribe here, the lawyer here, is the kind we are familiar with. But you can tell that [sic: they] he is probably a sharp cookie. This guy is the top of the class. This guy is an expert of the Law. So he's going to come with some kind of question designed to trip Jesus up.
So they send their champion and interestingly, the question he asked, actually is not that tricky. He asked, actually a very important question. “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” [Matthew 22:36] Hey! That's not so hard!
Yeah, now you must understand that the Jews have counted the Old Testament Laws and came up with a figure of 613 Laws. They have 248 Laws that are positive, that are like - do this, do that. And then there are 365 Laws that are negative, in a sense - do not do this, do not do that. Added together, 613. So he asked, “Out of all the commandments in the Law, which is the great one?”
Maybe it's a bit hard you might think, to answer this question because if you answer anything with a particular pre-eminence or prominence, people may say, “Ah, you are disregarding the rest!” But Jesus was unapologetic in giving His response. He was clear! He immediately responded, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment.” [Matthew 22:37-38]
So His answer is in a two-part format. Part 1 - love God, all heart, soul mind strength. Part 2, “And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” [Matthew 22:39] And then Jesus gave a concluding statement. “On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” [Matthew 22:40]
So everything hangs on this first and great commandment and the second commandment. Every commandment hangs on these two great commandments. Now, what Jesus said is not in a sense, original. He's merely quoting the Old Testament. He's referring them to what they were familiar with.
Deuteronomy, chapter 6:4-5 says, “Hear, O Israel, the LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul and with all your might.” So this is in the Old Testament, and it is a very familiar passage to the Jew.
Now you are Singaporeans, I don't see any Jew here, or at least I do not know of any Jew here. So if you said, “I've never read Deuteronomy 6, I only read Matthew, Mark, Luke, John.” I understand that! But for a Jew growing up, this is super familiar, super-duper familiar.
This is where you have the preface, “Hear, O Israel.” And this is called the ‘shema’, in the Hebrew language. It's to hear. It's an important thing. Please listen. And the idea there, it's not only to listen but also to obey.
So, “Hear O, Israel,” “Shema, O Israel.” Hear what? Do what? Do this - love the LORD your God with all your heart, soul and might. [Deut 6:4-5] And this is what every Jewish child would know, because following that, God says, “You shall teach them diligently to your children…” [Deut 6:7] Make sure your children know this, and do this to love the Lord your God.
And in a sense, there is a picture attached to this teaching when God says, “You shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes.” [Deut 6:8] So this is very graphic! This teaching, this word, this loving God is so important, it should be always in front of you and on your hand. That whatever you're doing, you're reminded to love God - with all your heart, soul, mind, strength.
Now, [sic: I] when I read this would take this to refer to something quite figurative, representing like, it should be always in front of me, whatever I see, whatever I think. It should be something I remind myself of, whenever I do any work. But for the Jew, they took it very literally. So much so that if you go to Israel today, Jerusalem today, you will still see people with this.
You see this? They bind them as between frontlets between their eyes. This is what they call a phylactery. It's a box that they have verses hidden inside. So they took it so literally that they will put it on their forehead, and they will also bind them on their hands. How do they do that? Well, it will be something like this, there will be a phylactery somewhere in your, in your upper arm, and there'll be straps, leather straps that would be tied to your fingers.
So the Jews know this very, very well. Deuteronomy, chapter 6, and verse 4 and 5. Jesus is merely highlighting what they are already familiar with. And then Jesus also said, “The second commandment is to love your neighbor as yourself.” [Matthew 22:39] Now again, this is not original. This is a quotation from Leviticus, chapter 19:18. “You shall not take vengeance, or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD.”
So, what's the great commandment? Love God with all your heart, soul, strength. Second, love your neighbor as yourself, on these hang all the Law and the Prophets. Sermon is over! Now, you all laugh because you don't believe me, right? It's too early. Yes, all the children are beginning, they have just started the sermon time, so I have to keep you a little bit longer.
So, what do we learn? This is a simple Q&A but what are the lessons we can glean from this passage? What can we learn about the law? And that's what I am interested to share a little bit more with you about. Alright, so let's get into it, three things we can distill from this encounter between the lawyer and Jesus.
1. The Message of the Law
First of all, I'd like us to see the main message of the law. Now, there are many laws - how to kill an animal for sacrifice, how to offer the burnt offering. There are many laws, but what is the message of the Law? What's the main gist? What's the heart of the matter?
I think it will be clear to you now. The Law is about … ? Eh, I'm having cough, please ‘tolong’ [please help in Malay]. I can't go back and start again. So the Law is about …? Love. Thank you! Let's say that again, “What is the Law about?” The Law is about love, alright. I think we've got to get that, it's very simple. There are 613 commandments and we all know that in a sense, they can be summarized or be packed and packaged into the 10 commandments.
And the 10 commandments are, in a sense, an outflow of the first and second commandment of loving God and loving your neighbor. And this first and second commandment is all about love. So the message, the main thing about the law is not about the nitty gritty stuff as if doing that in and of itself is meritorious. But the heart of the Word of God, the Law of God is that we will be a people of love - loving God, and loving people all around us. That's what the Law of God is about! It's that simple!
I want you to notice, however, that love is not therefore something very empty. It's not just mere emotionalism. It is not just mere feelings, but there's some objectivity to love. There is some characteristics to love. There are some qualities of love that are very concrete. What does it mean to love God? What does it mean to love men?
1. No other gods
Well, I think, in a sense, you can say, “It's summarized by God when He said, “You shall have no other gods before Me.” Imagine a wife say, “Do you love me?” “I do love you but I also love other women.” “You don't love me!” And when we say we love God, it's clear we shall have no other gods. What does it mean to love God? It means - I will have no other competitors. My heart's devotion and loyalty will not be to Him and to something else. I will not be loving the things of the world, if I say, “I love God.” Loving God means no other gods.
2. No Idols
It also means that I will not have any false representations of God. You say, “I have only one God, but I prefer this God to be what I want Him to be.” Oh no! No graven image! No false representation! No human imposition on God and who He is, based on my own preference! But I'll worship Him the way and based on who He has revealed himself to be.
3. No taking God’s name in vain
To love God means that I do not take His Name in vain. But I honor His Name, I exalt His Name. I live in such a way that His Name is lifted up in my life, that He will not be shamed, but He will be made glorious and known because I love Him.
4. Keep the Sabbath holy
To love God means I will keep the Sabbath holy. That I will have that rhythm in my life, where I set God apart, where I remember His creation and His salvation. I have this Sabbath day where I can rest from my daily chores, and exercise faith and rested-ness in God, believing that He is my God. Everybody else is studying, everybody else is working, but I would say, “He is my God. I can trust Him. I love Him.”
What does it mean to love God? It's not just coming to church and sing loudly, and then go back and live in a way where we love the world, where we shame God's Name, where we live every day as if there is no God. Loving God is concrete.
5. Honor your Father and Mother
What does it mean then to love your neighbor? Again, it is not just feelings. Loving your neighbor means - Honor your father and your mother. Now, some people think that this belongs to the first table. Nobody really knows, and I can’t be absolute. You can take that to be if you believe that the parental figures are meant to be representative of God, that's fine.
But it can also be said that this is loving your neighbor, loving your parents, honoring your parents, honoring your father and your mother.
6. Do not murder
Loving your neighbor also means - I do not murder. I do not kill. I do not bear grudges or bitterness towards someone else. Jesus made this so clear. He said, “That the law is meant to be seen in this light. That do not murder is not just about the act itself, but it also regards the attitude.” It regards what you say, that if you say, “You fool!” Oh, you have been guilty of murder. You did not kill physically, but you killed with your words verbally. And certainly you killed in your heart. You were angry without a cause. That is already a violation of the sixth commandment.
In fact, Jesus brought it even further. You can check out Matthew chapter 5. He brought it even further by saying, “If someone is angry because of you, you better go and settle the problem first, because the sixth commandment is not just about an act, it is also about your heart.” And let me say, “It's not just about your heart. It's also about your neighbor’s heart.”
Wow! That's what it means to love my neighbor! I do not cause him unnecessary anger and grief. And I will not bear bitterness and grudges against him.
7. Do not commit adultery
It means that I will not commit adultery, not just when you're caught in a bed, but also in the head. That you will honor the other person with pure thoughts.
8. Do not steal
It means that we will not steal, not just about money and cars and houses and stuff, but perhaps even time. That I would make it a point in my life that I'll honor his time, their time that I will not be habitually late because I want to honor, I want to love my neighbor.
9. Do not bear false witness
It means that I will not bear false witness. I will not be deceitful and cheat and swindle with regards my business dealings. It's with regards to with my tax filing. It's regards to my [sic: but in my] school work, in the way I talk to my parents, do not bear false witness.
10. Do not covet
And I do not covert. I will not be greedy, I will not say, “I must have that!” And I'm envious when he has that and I do not have that. That's what it means to love your neighbor.
“For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal. You shall not covet, and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” [Romans 13:9] You see that? That's what Paul says. What's the law? It's about love!
The second table is here – “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” [Romans 13:9] And again, “Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.” [Romans 13:10]
So folks, what's the message of the Law? It's about love! It's about loving God and loving your neighbor. And let me have a word or two about the sequence alright. There is a sequence. Jesus did not say, “The first is the second, second is the first.” There is a clear priority here!
“Love God, that's the first and great commandment. And then the second is love your neighbor as yourself.” [Matthew 22:39] I suppose this means that I must be clear that my priority is my vertical relationship with God. That is the utmost priority! And it may also imply, that it is only when I get my vertical relationship right with God, that then I can truly live a life of love in my horizontal relationships.
Let me try to establish this a little bit more. Jesus in Matthew, chapter 5:44 spoke about loving your enemies. Now, this is hard, right? It's already hard for you to love your wife, love your husband, love your boss. Love your enemies! Wah, this is so hard! “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” [Matthew 5:44]
These are not just simple tiffs or little tiffs. These are people who want your life! But Jesus says, “You love them.” How, how do I love my enemy? I find nothing worthy in him for me to love! Well, the reasoning is, “So that you may be the sons of your Father who is in heaven.” [Matthew 5:45] You do this not because he is worthy, you do this because He is worthy, He's your Father.
So when you love God, then I think you can love Man. And again, verse 48, “You therefore must be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.” And again, another text you may see, “Beloved, let us love one another.” [1 John 4:7] Love one another in a church. Love one another in the family. Is it easy? Very hard eh! Auntie Linda says, “Very hard!” She's been in this church for a long time, she knows very hard. It's not easy!
Sometimes we think the opposite. We think church is where all the nice people are. Church is where all the godly people are. All the holy, holy people walk like that one. All the good people are here. “So aiyoh, when I come to church, I expect to find it very comfortable and nice.” And I would think, I think, “It's very easy to love one another.”
But I think actually, the Bible says, “It's not!” The reason why I think it's not, is because there are so many commands, so many reminders, so many exhortations throughout the Bible to love one another. If it is easy, you don't have to repeat it. But the fact of the matter is this - church is not made up of perfect people. Church is made up of sinful people who have been saved by grace.
Oh yes, we are a people marching towards holiness. But we have a long way to go and we have many flaws still in our lives. And we are not very easy people to live with. I ... I did this in church camp, I'll do this again. Can you look at the person beside you? Just look at him and her or her and say to him or her, “Please bear with me. I'm not very nice.”
Can you do that? Because let it, let it, let it, let this be done once and for all, alright? Let's be clear, let's honestly profess and confess - I'm not very nice, please bear with me. Because it's only when we realize that, then we see, “Oh, let us love one another, it's not so easy!”
It's really not easy. If you have been with any people group for any period of time, there will be people who say the wrong things, do the wrong things, disappoint you, upset you. There will be! But God tells us as a community, as a church, as a family, we are to love one another.
Oh yes, he may be very unreasonable. Oh, yes, you may have said, “How can he be a Christian if he's like that?” But the point is not what he has done. But what is your relationship with your Father? “Let us love one another, for love is from God and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.” [1 John 4:7]
You know why you love him? Not because he's lovely, you love him because - I'm born of God and I know God. I know His love. I know His saving grace. I know He gave His Son Jesus Christ, to pay for my sins. He has given me new life. I'm born of God. I'm born again. I have a new heart. His Spirit lives within me. I've tasted of His love at the cross of Jesus Christ. And because of all that, I have, in my relationship with God, I can bend that love outwards to those around me.
So my friends, the only way we can live a life of love is when you know God's love. The only way you can really love one another is when you are born again. The message of the Law is about love - love God, love your neighbor. And the Law sets this very high standard that makes us realize we can't do it by ourselves. We need God. We need God to change our hearts. We need God to give us a spirit and only when you are saved, only when you have the Spirit of God in you, then you can really love.
So the Law is not meant to save you. The Law can't! The Law only sets a very high standard. But the Law helps you realize you're, you're really in trouble. You have to run to Jesus to be saved, to be born again, to get a new heart, to have His spirit, then now you can live a life of love. So the Law is all about love.
2. The Measure of the Law
But let's move on. Not only do we see that the Law is about love, we see the measure of this Law. The vastness of this Law, the, the all-encompassing nature of this Law. Why? Because it does not only tell you to love God, it tells you, “To love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength.” That's found in Mark 12:30.
You love God with all that you are! Again, I say, love is not just a feeling. It's all - your heart, soul, mind, strength. Now, I do not want to be overly surgical or clinical in this area, but I think there are different nuances that are being communicated with each word - heart, soul, mind, strength, perhaps.
Now it's not going to be so precise but maybe the heart refers to the decisions, the commitments, the choices a person makes. It refers to the ultimate direction he makes or goes on in his life, whatever your heart chooses. So heart may refer to the decisions of life.
The soul refers to the desires of life, whatever your soul desires. Then the mind refers to the thinking, the understanding or the deliberations of life. And then strength refers to the things you do, the deeds of life.
So Jesus is saying, the Bible is saying, “In all your decisions, in all your desires, in all your deliberations and in all your deeds, everything about you, let it be for God. Love God with all that you are, and all that you have.”
A story is told of a little boy who just kept going to his daddy and hugged him and hugged him. And daddy was a little bit irritated because he was doing some work. And after a while he asked, “Son, why are you always running to me to hug me?” And the son says, “Dad, because I love you and I got to do something about it.” And I think that's very good!
If you really love God, you do something about it. Not just a feeling, but in all your thoughts, in all your desires, in all your decisions, in all the things you do, you say, I’m loving You, God. That's what the Law calls for! It's demanding! It's huge! It's wide! It's vast! “If you love Me, you will keep my commandments.” [John 14:15] The Bible says, “For this is the love of God that we keep His commandments and His commandments are not burdensome. “ [1 John 5:3]
So you see, the Law tells us the full measure of that love. But notice, it's not just to love God, remember Part B, which is to love your neighbor as yourself. Now this is also tough! Not easy! Now Whitney Houston says, “Learning to love yourself.” Is it wrong to love yourself? Ha … ha … ha, not easy to answer, right? Is it wrong to love yourself? Probably not! But it is wrong to love yourself - only.
That's the problem! Not wrong to love yourself, you are after all made in the image of God. But it is wrong to love yourself only. Now we love ourselves, but the command here is not to love yourself. The commandment is to love your neighbor as yourself.
And there's another way of looking at loving your neighbor. I think Jesus described it really well in Matthew 7:12, “So whatever you wish that others would do to you do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.”
Now, what is this? Well, this is what they call, “The Golden Rule or the Mount Everest of Ethics”. Wow! Sounds great! But yeah, this is like the pinnacle of human ethics. That's the best way you can live your life, humanly speaking - to do unto others, whatever you wish that others would do to you.
Now, “What's so special about this?” you say. On first glance, not big deal! But let me try to just give a contrast. Many of you will be familiar with 孔子[kǒng zǐ], which is Confucius. And he said, “己所不欲，勿施于人” [jǐ suǒ bú yù ，wù shī yú rén]. What does it mean? It means - do not do to others what you do not want done to you. Whatever you do not want, don't do it to others - Confucius teaching, right. Many of you would be familiar with this.
How about this Jewish Rabbi called Hillel? He said, “Whatever is hateful to yourself, do not do to someone else.” Hey! Sounds very similar to Confucius. Maybe they had a phone call, no … no, they lived at different times, alright. But he said the same thing, different culture but same conclusion.
Socrates, he says, “What stirs your anger when done to you by others, that do not do to others.” Again, very similar. So you'll notice that all three of them, great philosophers of times past, focus on - don't, don't and don't. Jesus? Do! So it is not just don't do bad things. Jesus says, “Do good things and not just do also to them, but whatever you wish that others would do to you.”
Notice, this is not do to them what they have done for you, not do to them what they will do for you, but do to them what you wish they will do for you. In other words, this is something that is unconditional. This is regardless of their performance.
So if he does not treat me well, it doesn't matter. The “Golden Rule and the Mount Everest of Ethics’ is to treat them the way I wish they had treated me - regardless of whether they actually treated me that way, or will ever treat me that way. The point is - I will do to them whatever I wish they would do to me.
I wish marriages would understand this a bit better. “Oh, I can never submit to my husband because he's like this and like that.” “I can never love my wife because she's like this and like that.” And, and truth be told, we all operate on that operating system. We operate on reciprocity. “You … you do this for me, I'll do this for you. You don't do this for me, I'll not do this.” Isn't this the way we operate?
But what is love? What is the commandment of God? What is the Law? To love your neighbor as yourself. Now. by the way you love yourself a lot. No matter what you do, you'll love yourself one. Now bend this outward, unconditional love toward yourself, bend this outward towards your neighbor. What you wish they would do to you, you do to him, you do to her. To the husband you just kicked out of the room, to the wife you just pulled hair off. Whatever it is, do to others, what you wish they would do to you.
That is the full measure of the love of God. To love God with all my heart, soul, mind, strength, and to love my neighbor in such an unconditional way.
3. The Misconception of the Law
Time is almost up, I thought I would be faster but okay, I'm slow. But the last thing I would like to say is what was continued in Mark, but not in Matthew. And it brings out a certain misconception people have about the Law.
You see after Jesus replied the scribe, “Love God, love your neighbor, on this hang all the Law and Prophets.” The scribe replied, “You are right, Teacher. You have truly said that he is one, and there is no other besides Him. [Mark 12:32] “And to love Him with all the heart and with all the understanding and with all the strength, and to love one's neighbor as oneself, is much more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” [Mark 12:33]
This is a remarkable statement! Because for a Jew and for a Pharisee and for a lawyer, a top-notch lawyer, they must be experts at how to prepare the love … er, not love offering, how to prepare the burnt offering, how to prepare the sacrifices. They are precise, meticulous!
They are very good at these things, but the scribe or the lawyer has now come to terms and realized, “Hah! Your answers have made me realize that the heart of the Jewish faith is not about the mint and cumin. It's not about these little, little nitty gritties. Not that they are unimportant, but the very heart of the matter is to love one's neighbor. He's beginning to see that the heart of the matter, is a matter of the heart and it's all about love.
And Jesus said to him, “You are not far from the Kingdom of God.” [Mark 12:34] You're beginning to understand that the Law is not about legalities, is not about the letter per se. It's more than anything else, about the spirit and the heart of love.
You see, Jesus had earlier condemned the religious leaders. They had hidden themselves behind all this web of legalities. And He said, “You hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy of you, when he said: “This people honor Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me;” [Matthew 15:7-8] They, they know what to say! But what worth is what they are saying, if their heart is far from Me?
You know today you can, you can turn up in church on time. You can sing the songs, the right notes, you don't sing off key. You know when to say, “Amen.” You know when to pray. You know all these things but if you have no love - you are nothing.
And again, “Woe to you Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence.” [Matthew 23:25] The heart of the matter is a matter of the heart, is to “Love one's neighbor as oneself.” [Matthew 12:33] It's all about love!
What an answer from Jesus! What an insight! A summary, a crystallization of the entire Law of God. Don't you think is amazing? I think it is. It's so simple and yet so clear.
Conclusion 1: The Law is good
So let me end of this few conclusions. Number one, the Law is good. I want you to not walk away from this message thinking, “Ah, the Law is bad! The Law only shows me my inadequacies.” Oh, no, no, no! The Law is good. There are people, there are churches today who seem to teach that the Law is bad. Now, the Law is not bad, the Law is good. The problem is we are bad. We are the ones who can't keep God's Laws, but the Law is good.
Don't you ever think that you can keep God's Law to get right with God. You know why? Not because the Law is bad but God but because you are rotten. I am rotten. We are sinful. We are inadequate. We are so flawed and diseased. We will never get to God with trying to obey the Law.
So, what the Law does is that it shows you up, it reveals your love-less-ness. It shows you how unloving you are, so that you may humble yourself and say, “Lord, I've sinned. I've not walked in love. Wash me clean with the blood of Your Son. Save me by Your grace. Thank you for Jesus dying for me on the cross and may you grant me repentance and faith. May I be born again.”
And when you come to God in such a humble spirit, poor in spirit like a beggar asking for mercy, perhaps in His mercy, He saves you. And then, only then, you have a new heart that is washed clean, that desires God's glory. Only then, will His Spirit live within you. And that's why Jesus said to Nicodemus, “You must be born again.” You can't keep the Law to get right with God, you must be born again.
So today I'm saying to you, when you hear God's high standards in the Law, I hope you will say, “I need to be born again. I need to be saved.” Because the Law is good, but it cannot save you from your sins. You need God's grace. So the Law is meant to condemn us, so that, we will now go to Jesus that He may save us. And may you be saved today.
Conclusion 2: The Distinctive of a Christian
The second thing I want to highlight is that the distinctive of the Christian is seen in this passage. What's the main characteristic of the Christian, oh, because his name is Hezekiah, Corinthian, whatever? No! No! No! No! No! The, the, the characteristic of a Christian is not in his name, in his necklace, in the fact that he calls or he's born in a Christian home.
The distinctive of the Christian folks is …? I want to see whether you got the message at all. The distinctive is …? Love. Thank you very much. Why? “If you love Me, you will keep my commandments.” And what is God's commandments? Love.
Do you really know God? Are you walking in love? Love to God, love to neighbors. That's how I know if I'm born again. That's how I know if I'm really a Christian, or I'm just playing a game, or I've just put on cultural churchianity on the outside, but my heart is untouched on the inside.
If you today are just washed on the outside, but inside is still dirty, I hope you will come to Jesus and ask Him to cleanse you from your sin. That's why you're here, that you might truly be saved.
Church, let us walk in love because that's what church is to be - full of grace and truth. That's what Jesus is. And we, as a people should be a people full of grace and truth as well. Oh, yeah, we need to know God's Word, we need to know truth, but at the same time, let us be a community of love. There will be misunderstandings, there will be quarrels, there will be grudges, but let us all bring that to the foot of the cross. Let us look at the love of God for us and let that motivate your heart to love one another.
And let me say this, love for one another is not just a feeling. It's seen in concrete actions, in acts of service. Don't come to Gospel Light and want to be just a consumer. That's not walking in love! Come to church because you want to love one another, serve one another, provide for one another, support one another. I think that's what church should be. That's how I think Gospel Light can be a light here in Punggol. Not just by our preaching, but by our lives. The distinctive of the church, that distinctive of the Christian is love.
Very end, what is the greatest love of all, love for God, but Whitney Houston said, “Learning to love yourself.” For us, the greatest love of all? That's not bad - love God with all your heart, soul, mind, strength, but I tell you that's not the greatest love of all. The greatest love of all, that's right, it's God's love for you.
“I know it's … you're cheeky lah, Jason.” Yah, okay, alright. But I want to remind you that we love Him because He first loved us. And I pray as a church, when we read the Bible, we would know it's a book about God's love for us. Oh, yes, when we love God, there will be many commandments we will obey, not legalistically but joyfully because we want to honor Him.
I said, “We learned - love is concrete, is seen in actions.” But more than anything else, let us be reminded about God's love for us. How do you know God's love for us? “Wah, my life is hard, I've gone through many trials and hardships. I feel like God does not love me.” It's very hard, I would say to judge and know God's love, based on circumstances alone. But let me tell you where you know God's love. Unquestionably, when you look back to the cross of Jesus Christ. While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
And the Bible declares that this love of God is so strong, nothing shall separate you from the love of God in Christ. So be reminded today about God's love for you. Each time you open the Bible, let this be a love letter from God. Let … let … let us all read with saying God help me to see you and to see Your love for me. Each time we pray, don't just pray for my dog to be well or my business to prosper, but to pray, “God help me to know Your love.”
You know, when I pray for my kids, I always catch myself, I always pray, “Lord, help my kids love You.” Then I'll check myself. No! No! No! No! That's not the right thing! “Lord, help them to see Your love for them.” That's number one! Because only when [sic: I], when one sees God's love for him, then will he be able to love. We love Him because He first loved us. The greatest love of all - God's love for you.
Let's bow for a word of prayer together. According to the Bible, with regards to salvation, there are only two significant events, in a sense. One, when Adam sinned and all of humanity fell with him. Two, when Jesus died and rose again and all who believe in Him, will be raised to everlasting life.
The Law is not the main thing. It really is not! The Law is added so that we might see our failures and our sinfulness. So there is no man today who can be saved by obeying the Laws because you can't. But the Law is meant to show your weaknesses, failures, inadequacies, sinfulness, that we might then humble ourselves and go to Jesus.
This morning, I'd like you to come to Jesus. This is what this church is all about - to be leading you to a life changing relationship with Jesus Christ. Why? Because the Law can't save you! Your pastor can't save you! Your friend can’t save you! Only Jesus died and rose again to save you. He is the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world. He is the gift of love from God Himself. Love is so amazing. We are such a wretched people who will incur the wrath of God but God loves you and gave His Son to die for you. So would you today, humble yourself, repent and believe in Jesus that you might be saved?
Oh church, will we be a people of love? I know it's very easy to sit in a sermon like this and say, “Ah, I learned the theory, I learned that the Law is about love. I, I learned about this and that.” The question is - do you love God? Will you walk in love? Would you fulfill the commandments? Now, don't fulfill it legalistically to earn favor with God, but look at the Law and say, “This is not burdensome because I love You God.”
So today, would you let go of grudges and bitterness in your heart? Would you take a step to serve one another and say, “I want to honor God. I want to worship God and worship is not just coming to a worship service. Worship is a way of life. Worship means I love Him. And I love my neighbor, my father, my mother, my wife, my kids, my colleagues, my helper. I love them because God first loves me.”
May we be a church that regularly drinks in the love of God in the Gospel. Every time you open the Bible, every time we pray, we are praying, “God help us to comprehend the length, the breath, the height, the depth of Your love for us.” Each time we gather in our care groups, let this not just be food and drinks, but that is be about love, provoking one another to loving good works. It's all about love!
So Father, we thank You this morning we can hear Your Word, bless each heart. There's so much spoken of today. I think there may be kind of an overwhelming but whatever you would want to do in each and every life, we pray that Your Spirit would drive it deep within our hearts.
O God, save souls, sanctify saints. Build up Your Church and may the Gospel continue to unpack the wonderful heart of God to us. We thank You and we pray all these in Jesus’ Name. Amen.
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