The Greatest Commandment (Matthew Sermon 111 of 151)
January 17, 2010 | Andy Davis
The Law of God, Judgement Day, Love of God
It was the last week of Jesus' life. We've been studying this last week of Jesus' life in another gospel account. In John's gospel, we have the account of Jesus' visit, his final visit to his friends, Martha and Mary, and Lazarus. You remember that it was Lazarus that Jesus had raised from the dead, and Martha and Mary, he loved them dearly. And they had dinner together, and after dinner this rather stunning episode took place.
It's recorded in John 12:3-5, “Then Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus' feet, and she wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. But one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray him, objected. ‘Why wasn't this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year's wages.’ And Jesus said, ‘Leave her alone. She's done a beautiful thing for me. The poor you will always have with you, and you can help them any time you want, but you will not always have me. What she did, she did to prepare me for my burial. And I tell you the truth, wherever this gospel is preached, throughout the world, what she has done will also be told in memory of her.’”
That's an incredible encounter, isn't it? This lavish gift worth a year's wages, 300 denarii, just poured out on Jesus, just poured out on him. And the house just filled with this odor of pure nard. Nard came from Northern India. It was imported at great expense in these tiny little alabaster boxes, very expensive, and John's account gives us a sense. This was pure nard, this was the best stuff. Poured it all out on Jesus. And Jesus actually defends this action. This lavish action of luxury poured out on him, he defended it.
I believe that this encounter literally happened, a physical thing that did happen, but I think it also speaks to me of something that God wants from me. The most precious thing that I have to offer. It's not in an alabaster box, it's in my heart. It's the affection, the love of my heart toward him, he wants that. He wants my uppermost affection given to him, poured out on him. That's what he wants. And every one of you came here today with that same gift. You have it, you have it to give, it's yours and you can give it to anyone you want. But God wants it for himself. He wants you to pour out your alabaster box of affection on Jesus, on God, through Christ. That's what he wants. That's what I think this commandment is standing over us for every moment of our lives, commanding us to do.
And as we venture forth into a new decade, as we enter a new year, I think, the greatest single issue in our lives this morning is simply this, do you love God at all? And if you do, do you love God more now than you did a year ago? Is your affection for God growing and healthy and strong? Do you yearn for God and the things of God? Are you able to say, “My heart yearns for him as in a dry and weary land where there is no water. I yearn for God, and I want him and he satisfies me”? Is this love that you have for God growing stronger and stronger or is it growing weaker? Or as I say with all seriousness in my heart, is it even there at all? Do you even love God? Are you even born again? Are you even alive at all, spiritually? This is what's standing over us today as Jesus opens up the law of Moses.
And I think what struck me this morning, I really hadn't thought about it until now, but we are taking a trip this morning as a congregation to the foot of Mount Sinai. And here behind these statements, we should hear the terrors of the law. “This is the law,” said Jesus. This is the summation of the Law of Moses. And so we're taking a trip this morning to the base of Mount Sinai, to try to understand these commandments.
What is the Greatest Commandment?
Context: A Week of Biter Testing
This is part of the final week of Jesus' life, a week of bitter testing when Jesus would be rejected by his own people. He was despised and rejected, Isaiah 53. He was not esteemed, he was not loved. He was rejected by his people.
And this chapter, Matthew 22, is a chapter of one contest after another, one conflict after another with some of Jesus' enemies who are trying to snare him and trap him. You remember the Pharisees and the Herodians with the question of taxation; and then the Sadducees with their question on the resurrection.
An Expert in the Law
Now here is this expert in the law, verse 34, “Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together.” They are assembling together. Acts 4, quoting Psalm 2, “‘Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers gather together against the Lord and against his Anointed One.’ Indeed,” Acts 4, “Herod and Pontius Pilate met together with the Gentiles and the people of this city to conspire against your holy servant Jesus. They did what your power and will had determined beforehand should happen.”
So here it is, this is the conspiracy against Jesus. And now they're sending forth this expert in the law to trap Jesus. But this man, I think it was a little different than most of Jesus' enemies. He was literally a lawyer, that meant he focused, spent his full-time on the Law of Moses. That's what lawyer meant here. But he was more than just one who studied the law, I think he loved the law. And I think he wanted to love the Lord who gave it. It's interesting in Mark 12, a fuller account of this whole thing, in Mark 12:28, this expert of the law noticed that Jesus had given a good answer and then began to speak based on that. “‘Well said, Teacher,’ the man replied, ‘You are right in saying that God is one and there is no other but him. To love him with all your heart, and with all your understanding, and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all the burnt offerings and sacrifices.’” That's what he said after Jesus had given his answer.
And then Jesus said this, “When Jesus saw that he had answered wisely, he said to him, ‘You are not far from the Kingdom of God.’”
The Testing Question
So that's who this man was. Now, what was the testing question? Look at verse 36, “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the law?” Now again, the law was the law of Moses, the law given by God to Israel, the nation of Israel, mediated through Moses. Moses was therefore, I think, the most revered man in Judaism.
And Jesus, it seemed, at certain points of his ministry was challenging Moses' supremacy, like in the Sermon on the Mount: “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not murder,’ but I say to you that anyone who is angry with his brother is in danger of the fire of hell. And you have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery,’ but I say to you that anyone who even looks at a woman lustfully has committed adultery with her in his heart.” Jesus seems to be supplanting Moses, then, in his own mind and that's blasphemous to the Jews.
Now, centuries of scribal tradition had encrusted the Jewish reading of the law. They struggled to hear the Word of God clearly and purely. Over the centuries, rabbis had determined that since there were 613 Hebrew letters in the Ten Commandments, there are also 613 separate commandments in the Law of Moses, generally. And they divided those 613 laws, the rabbis did, into two categories, 248 affirmative laws, things you must do. And they said this was one for each part of the human body, as they supposed. And then there were 365 prohibitions, one for each day of the year.
They also divided the laws of Moses into two categories, light and heavy. Heavy meant something that was absolutely universally binding, all the time. Light meant not so significant, but they could never agree as to which were the light and which were the heavy commandments. So it gave them something to argue about, which they did pretty much full-time, talking about the Rabbis. They are arguing all the time about the law. And so this question was actually a typical rabbinic question. But I think it also, in the context of Jesus' life and the hatred of the Pharisees, had a hidden barb. It was an effort once again, to entrap Jesus in his own words and have him arrested as a blasphemer.
Love God With Everything You Are
Jesus’ Very Orthodox Answer
And so they asked him which of all the laws of Moses was the greatest commandment. And Jesus gave, in verse 37, a very orthodox answer. There really is no surprise here. Jesus replied, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” That's what it says in Matthew. Mark gives a fuller account of Jesus' answer. “‘The most important one,’ answered Jesus, ‘is this: “Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.”’”
So Jesus goes to the “shema”, that's just the transliteration of the word here, “Shema Israel,” “Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one.” So significant was this one statement from Deuteronomy 6, that the Jews wrote it down on little pieces of parchment and they put it in little boxes that they put on their forearms or on their foreheads, called phylacteries. And they would put them also on the doorposts of their homes, because that's literally what it said to do in Deuteronomy 6. He then, Jesus, gave the commandment that was the centerpiece of all that God commanded Israel to do, also from that same chapter. Deuteronomy 6, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength.” This was recited by pious Jews every day. It was recited by the Jews together in the synagogue every week, every Sabbath. Jesus was no innovator here. This is not a shocking answer. He's not coming out of left field, sometimes he can do that with surprising scriptures they had never thought about, but not here. In effect, Jesus is saying, “This law has been in front of your eyes every day of your lives. There's nothing new here.” But there is an infinite difference between knowing the commandment and obeying it.
What the Words Mean
Now, what do these words mean? Well, it begins with this topic of love. The Hebrew word for love, “ahev”, is a deep and multi-faceted word. It's interesting to me that the first time that the word “love” appears in the Bible is in the context of a father-son relationship. I find that fascinating. I don't think there are any accidents in the Bible, generally, but especially not in the book of Genesis. As things get going, God is communicating to the human race.
And so the first time we see the word “love” is in Genesis 22. “Then God said, ‘Take your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains I'll show you about.’” Why is that significant to me as a Christian theologian? Because I think the most, the most significant love relationship in the universe is the love relationship between the Father and the Son. And every other love relationship is a reflection, an image of that love. And we as sinners are saved only on the basis of the strength of that love. I'll talk more about that in a moment but that's the foundational love there is in the universe, the love that the Father has for the Son.
The second time that the word love appears in the Bible is in the context of a marriage relationship. It has to do with Isaac again. And Isaac met Rebekah, you remember how she, let's give her, alighted from her camel. I'm thinking that's what happened. Others think she fell from the camel but that's fine. In any case, that was the first time that Isaac saw Rebekah. And it says that “Isaac took Rebekah into the tent of his mother, Sarah, and he married Rebekah. So she became his wife and he loved her.” So, again, it's that use of the word love, the love of a husband for a wife.
Interestingly, the third example is also from Isaac's life. And that's at the end of his life. Genesis 27:4 “When he said to his son, Esau, ‘Prepare me the kind of tasty food that I love and bring it to me to eat so I may give you a blessing before I die.’” Same word.
And we use the same word in English. I love God. I love my wife. I love a good steak. And I'm actually gonna argue that there's an intrinsic similarity and sameness to all those kinds of love. It has to do with the heart direction, a heart affection. And what I said at the beginning of the sermon is the uppermost affection that you have should be given to God. And any created thing you put above God is an idol. We'll talk more about that in two weeks.
Love the Lord your God with Everything You Are
So what does he command here? Well, you are to love the Lord your God with everything you are. He says, “With all your heart.” Now, what is the heart? The heart is the central part of you, it's the core of your being. And in the scripture, the heart does many different things. For example, the heart thinks. It says in Psalm 139, “Search me, O God, and know my heart. Test me, and know my anxious thoughts.”
Secondly, the heart feels emotions, feelings. In Romans 9:2, the Apostle Paul speaking of the nation of Israel and their apostasy from God and their rejection of Christ, he said, “I speak the truth in Christ, I'm not lying, my conscience confirms it in the Holy Spirit that I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart.” So the heart is the root of emotions. The heart is also the root of joy, as well. Zephaniah 3:14, “Sing, O daughter of Zion; shout aloud, O Israel! Be glad and rejoice with all your heart, O daughter of Jerusalem!” So, it's a feeling.
Thirdly, the heart decides. 2 Corinthians 9:7, on giving money, it says “Each of you must give as he has decided in his heart.” So the heart is the root of the will, it's the root of the decision process by which you make decisions.
The heart also plans. Proverbs 16:1, “To man belong the plans of the heart.” So your heart plans.
The heart also yearns and desires. How many of you have cherished Psalm 37:4, “Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you,” what? “the desires of your heart.” It's the heart that yearns. It's the heart that desires.
The heart does all of those things. It seems, to some degree, that there's no internal thing that the heart doesn't do. And yet the Lord gives us two more internal words: Soul and mind. You are to love the Lord your God with all of your soul. Since the heart does so much, what's left for the soul to do, you may ask. Actually, in many verses, the heart and the soul are linked together and seem to be almost interchangeable.
The phrase “with all your heart and all your soul,” appears nine times in Deuteronomy alone. You remember when Jonathan wanted to take on the Philistine army all by himself, remember? And there was an outpost of the Philistines and he's got his shield bearer with him, remember? And he says, I wanna go up there and fight them, and the shield bearer says “Do everything you have in mind. Go ahead because I'm with you heart and soul.” Basically, it's everything inside me just wants to be with you, Jonathan, let's go do it. So the soul could be said to be that immaterial part of you that relates to God. But let's not be too precise about that because we're already told that we're supposed to love God with all of our hearts.
So long story short, I'm really not sure what the difference is between heart and soul. The word for soul is “nephesh”, and it relates to just living creatures, even animals. In Genesis 1:21, it says that “God created the great,” KJV, “the great whales and every living creature that moveth,” and the Hebrew word there is “nephesh”, all the living creatures, all the living nepheshes, and whatever, nepheshim, I guess.
But those are all the living things. So basically, think of it in terms of the principle of life inside you, that principle that makes you alive. Genesis 2:7, “Then the Lord God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being,” a nephesh. So as God just breathes life into you, that's your soul.
So, I think he's saying, you're to love the Lord your God with all your heart and soul, with every fiber of your being, everything you are inside you. But then he adds this third word, mind. The same thing with the mind, the mind is the part of you that thinks and reasons, all of that. Christ is commanding that all of your thought life be pleasing to God. That your intellect be fully given over to loving God, that you should love him in the depths of your mind.
Your imagination should be in full service to your love for God. You should be imagining in reference to God. Your mental powers, your science, your technology, your mathematics, your philosophy, your logic, your deductive skills, your reasoning skills, your powers of observation and argumentation. All of this should be given over fully to God, to loving God. And you should invent new ways of expressing love for God. Sinners invent ways of doing evil, Romans 1:30. That is, they contrive new ways of rebelling against God. Therefore, the opposite would be to invent new ways of expressing love for God.
Charles Wesley put it this way: “O for a thousand tongues to sing my great redeemer's praise. The glories of my God and king, The triumphs of his grace.” Now, I don't think that Wesley wanted himself a thousand tongues, that would be grotesque, but I think what he wanted was a thousand-person choir. I checked with Eric and he thinks that that's probably right, okay? I don't know what Charles Wesley would have looked like with a thousand tongues but I don't think I'd wanna see it. But a thousand-member choir to sing forth the praise and the glories. Oh, that I had that. He's using his imagination to think of ways to love God.
And then, finally, he says we are to love God with all of our strength. The focus here is on our body. That our bodies would be given over full strength to loving God. That you would present your body to God at every moment as a living sacrifice. That your arms and your legs and every part of your body, your mouth, all the parts of you would be given over fully in service to God. That you would pour out your strength fully to God at every moment. That you would be spent, used up, poured out, given over completely in service to God. At the end of your life that you can say, like the Apostle Paul did, I'm already being poured out like a drink offering and the time has come for my departure. When God is through with me, all that will be left is my lifeless body. I have nothing left to give to God.
And those are the component parts but you are to love God with all of your heart, and all of your soul, and all of your mind, and all of your strength. The implication is, all the time. There's not a moment of the day that you should not be loving God like this. You should hold nothing back to love God completely, with everything you have, that's whole-hearted devotion. Psalm 9:1, “I will praise you, O Lord, with all my heart, I will tell of all your wonders.” Psalm 119:2, “Blessed are those who keep his testimonies, who seek him with their whole heart.” Oh, dear friends, we have the tendency to spare ourselves, do we not? To hold back some in reserve.
Athletes, I think, come the closest to doing something with all of their heart in our culture, maybe soldiers too. But there's an athlete, I remember some years ago, watching the end of the Ironman triathlon in Hawaii. This is for true sadists. I can't imagine why anyone would wanna do this to themselves. It all begins with a 2.4-mile swim in the ocean. That would finish most of us. I mean, literally finish us. That would be it. After that, a 112-mile bike ride. And then and only then can you begin the marathon, the 26.2-mile marathon. That's the full-blooded Ironman triathlon.
And I was watching this on TV. And there was this individual, and he was within half a mile of the finish line. He was leading at the time, but he had nothing left to give. And so he was crawling on his belly, on his hands and knees, his hands were bloody, his knees were bloody, his body was bloody and he was dragging himself to the finish line. He ended up finishing 14th or something like that, as others passed him by. He had nothing left to give. The standard of love that God demands from us in the law here is 100 percent every day of your life.
A Second Commandment is Like It
Everything Depends on these Two Commands
He also adds, and we'll talk more in a separate sermon, a second commandment is like it, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” And he says that everything depends on these two commandments. He organizes however many, 613, commands in the laws of Moses, organizes all of them, prohibitions and positive commands, everything comes down to these two. All the law and the prophets hang on these two commandments. And so therefore, if you truly love God as God commands, if you truly love your neighbor in the same way, you will be perfectly obeying the commands of God. The Ten Commandments is a brief summary of the 600-plus laws. These two commands, even briefer summary of the Ten Commandments. It's a summation of everything that God wants from us.
Everything then comes down to this one word: love. “The goal of our instruction,” 1 Timothy 1:5, “is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.” Everything that we do at FBC should promote love for God, and love for neighbor. And if it doesn't, I tell you, it is worthless, it is chaff, it will be blown away on Judgment Day. Every one of my sermons should engender love in your heart for God, and for your neighbor. And all of our ministries should be organized and set up for that purpose, that love would be developed in our hearts and be expressed. And if we don't love, 1 Corinthians 13, says we are nothing.
God Actually Requires This...But You Can’t Do It
Now, here's the stunning thing dear friends, God actually requires this of us. And this is where I bring you to the base of Mount Sinai, with all the terrors of the law. If you don't love God, every moment of your life that you are under the just wrath of God, and the punishment the wages of sin is eternal death for not loving God. God actually requires this. On Judgment Day, you will stand before God and the court will be seated and the books will be opened. And there'll be another book, The Book of Life, which is our only hope, but the dead will be judged by what they had done as recorded in the books.
And I am just trembling. This morning, I just trembled in my heart for lost people. If there are any lost people that are here today, who do not love God, God commands you to love him. And you have already disobeyed that command, you're already under the wrath of God for disobeying this law. Do you not realize how perilous these words are for you? God will look at the full record of your words and deeds, the motives of your heart. And he may say something like this, “I created you. I knit you together in your mother's womb. I sustained you every day of your life with food, clothing and shelter. I gave you rich experiences filled with joy and pleasure. I feasted your eyes with the delights of nature, of mountain grandeur, of gentle spring scenery, of rugged cliffs and tiny wild flowers, of grizzly bears and timid chipmunks, of roaring hurricanes and gentle zephyrs.
“I surrounded you with the love of family and friends. I gave you a loving wife and three children. And through them came thousands of gifts of love. I fed your mind with education, I gave you opportunities to grow and learn, I provided labor for you to do and a sense of satisfaction at a job well done. I paid you wages, money, with which you were fully supplied and sustained. I healed you when you were wounded and when you were sick. I renewed your strength when you were weary. I fed your stomach with nourishing foods while delighting your tongues with flavors rich, delicious, pleasurable exotic, varied. I entertained you with sports and movies, and books, and music, every good and pleasant moment you ever enjoyed in this world was a direct gift from me.
“Beyond that, I surrounded you with scriptural influences. You drove by countless churches, almost every day of your life. I put Christians in your life who loved you and who lived out their imperfect faith before your eyes as witnesses. Though you do not know the total number, I sent evangelists 173 times over the 69 years of your life, specifically to proclaim to you personally, the good news of Christ's birth, life, death on the cross and resurrection from the dead. And to appeal to you to repent of your sins and to find faith and forgiveness in Christ. Those evangelists used many different approaches to win you. Some of them were sweet and tender. Others were fiery and powerful. Some reasoned with your mind, others appealed to your heart and your emotions. You read in your lifetime 21 different tracks on Christ in the gospel, 1,377 times you heard some Christian radio or TV programming.
“Each of those were efforts that I was making to reach out to you directly and personally with the gospel of Jesus Christ. And after every time that you rejected the gospel command to repent and believe, I graciously covered your sins and sustained your life more, healing your diseases and feeding your stomach while holding out my hands to you that you would repent and believe in Christ. That's how I loved you, all the 69 years of your life. But I commanded you to love me. Did you? Did you love me with all of your heart, with all of your soul, with all of your mind, and with all of your strength? Did you pour yourself out, day after day, in worship and adoration in your prayer closet? Did you thank me and praise me for each of those blessings with which I blessed you? Did you make sacrifices for me? Did you give money sacrificially to the poor and needy? Did you sacrifice time and bodily effort to serve me and to obey my commandments? Did you cherish me in your heart?
“Did you love Father, Son and Holy Spirit? Did your heart leap for joy again and again at the greatness of what I did for the world in Christ? Did you delight to hear of sinners converted, of marriages restored, of orphans cared for, of drug addicts rescued? Did your heart melt in singing songs to me or speaking words of praise to me? Did you love me with every fiber of your being, every moment that you lived?”
Dear friends, I dare not put words in the mouth of God. But I believe that these words are consistent with the commands of God. And with what I understand the Judgment Day to look like as we are judged by what we did as recorded in the books of the law. Did we obey it? Did we obey the law?
Saving Yourself Is Impossible
And now I tell you that saving yourself is impossible. Romans 3:20 “By works of the law, no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.” Are you feeling it? I felt it this morning, I feel it still, through the law comes the knowledge of sin. This is the perfect law that Paul had in mind when he wrote that. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, with all your mind. Love your neighbor as yourself. This is what he had in mind.
You cannot save yourself by means of this law, it cannot be done. Charles Spurgeon put it this way. “Is there someone here so profoundly brainless as to reply, ‘I intend to keep it, I believe I actually perfectly can obey this. I think I can get to heaven by obedience to it, from here on out.’ Man, you're either a fool or else willfully ignorant. For sure, if you truly understand this commandment, you will at once hang down your hands as if to say, obedience to that is quite impossible. Thorough, and perfect obedience to that no man can hope to reach to. Some of you will think you will go to heaven by your good works. Do you really think that? This is the first stone you're to step on your stairway to heaven. I am sure it is too high for you to reach. You might as well try to climb up to heaven by the mountains of the earth, and take the Himalayas as your first step. For to obey this must ever be an impossibility. But remember, you cannot be saved by your works, if you cannot obey this perfectly entirely constantly and forever.
“‘Well,’ someone replies, ‘I dare say, if I try and obey it as well as I can, that will do.’ No sir, it will not. God demands that you perfectly obey this and if you do not perfectly obey it, he will condemn you. ‘Oh!’ someone cries out, ‘Who then can be saved?’ Oh, that is the point to which I wish to bring you this morning. Who then can be saved by this law? Why, no one in the world salvation by the works of the law has proved to be a clean impossibility. None of you therefore will say you will try to obey it and so hope to be saved. I hear the best Christian in the world groan out his thoughts, ‘Oh God,’ he says, ‘I am guilty. And should you cast me into hell? I dare not say otherwise. I have broken this command from my youth up, ever since my conversion, even. I have violated it every day. I know that if you should lay justice to the line and righteousness to the plumb line, I must be swept away forever. Lord, I renounce my trust in the law for by it I know I can never see your face and be accepted.’”
Do you not see it? We must have a savior. We must have a savior. We can't save ourselves by the law. And isn't it incredible that there is actually one man who has perfectly obeyed this law. Isn't that astonishing, be amazed. Oh may your heart melt in worship for him. His name is Jesus Christ. Jesus has cleanly and perfectly obeyed this command, every moment of his life.
How to Develop a Love Relationship with God
Start with Christ: Imputed Righteousness is His Perfect Obedience to these Commandments
And his perfect obedience to this law is our only hope. That and the fact that God has graciously agreed that if you just believe in him, he'll count his, Christ's, love as though it were your own. As though you had loved God as well as Jesus had. Isn't that incredible, the gift of imputed righteousness? That's the gift of the wedding clothes that you must wear on that wedding banquet day. We already covered that in that parable a few weeks ago. It's the love of Jesus for his Father that's gonna cleanse you and clothe you, and Christ did in fact do this every moment of his life.
And the ultimate measure of it, dear friends, is the cross, is it not? The cross of Jesus Christ. As he was talking to His disciples, the night before he was crucified, He said in John 14, “The prince of this world is coming for me, and he has nothing on me.” What does that mean? I am sinless. I've never done anything that Satan can accuse me of. Listen to this though, John 14:31 “But the world must learn that I love the Father, and that I do exactly what the Father has commanded me to do.” Oh, what a verse! How deep and how rich is that. The world must learn that I love my Father. How does the world learn that? Watch and see as I go to die. As I go pour out my blood for the Father. It was for love of the Father above all things, that he did it. And yes, it was to love his neighbor as himself. Yes, that as well, but above all things, he did it to love and obey his Father. And that is the gift of righteousness that God wants to give you.
How about this one, John 8:29, who of you can say this, Jesus can, “I always do what pleases him.” That is the righteousness he's offering you here today, as a free gift. Oh, how sweet, how wonderful! Our salvation in Christ is based on this love. It was for love of the Father that Christ died for us. Christ Jesus has become for us righteousness. And this righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God and are justified freely by his grace.
Now, you need to say to yourself, “I can never perfectly love God with all my heart, but Jesus did. And by simple faith in Christ, God sees me as righteous.” You might have walked in here lost, right now, you can say that, by faith. Say “Jesus, save me. Jesus, just save me. Give me your perfect obedience to law, give me your love for the Father and I will be cleansed, I will be holy. Give it to me now by faith.” You don't need to go anywhere. You don't need to walk the aisle, you don't need to come forward, you don't need to sign anything, you just need to believe.
And Christians, you need to realize this will forever be your righteousness. But don't stop there, dear Christians. And we're not going to. I'm gonna go back to this text again in two weeks. Because this is just the beginning of your salvation, this justification. Then you know what happens? The righteous requirements of the law need to be fully met in you who do not live according to the flesh, but according to the spirit. You know what the spirit's gonna do the rest of your life? Tell you this, “Love God, love your neighbor, Love God, love your neighbor, give everything you have for God, give everything you have for your neighbor. Pour yourself out the rest of your lives.”
And so what we're gonna do in two weeks is we're gonna do some diagnostic work. It's gonna become like a hospital here. We're gonna do the cardio test, we'll put you on the treadmill, and you're just going to be searched by the Word of God, and if you find that you have some defects in your love for God, we're going to show you the scriptural way whereby your love and your affection for God can be rekindled. So, that's in two weeks. In the meantime, I urge you, just look at James 4 because that's our text. The reason that our hearts as Christians grow cold to God is one simple word: idolatry. That's why. We become idolaters, we start to worship created things more than the Creator. And James 4, among other passages, is the cure for idolatry. Close with me in prayer.