The Second Greatest Commandment (Mark Sermon 66)
November 05, 2023 | Andy Davis
Brotherly Love, Deity of Christ
Christ died to fulfill the Second Great Commandment — love your neighbor as yourself, and to enable us at last to fulfill it ourselves for all eternity!
- SERMON TRANSCRIPT -
I want to begin this sermon by speaking directly to all of you, who are my brothers and sisters in Christ. I feel a privilege this morning as a messenger of God to tell you that you are infinitely rich, and not only are you infinitely rich, you're getting richer by the day, and someday you're going to come into an infinite inheritance, the scope and magnitude of which I guarantee you underestimate. My task this morning as I begin this sermon is to give you a sense of that richness, the sense of that wealth, that inheritance.
Imagine that I were a lawyer entrusted with the opening up of a sealed will, and you've been invited to come and hear as an heir what you're going to get. Imagine a fabulously wealthy business magnate has died, and you're part of the family, and I am going to read the will. I read your name, and I tell you that you stand to inherit millions of shares of blue-chip stock in a Fortune 500 company, thousands of bonds, shares in some oil fields in the Persian Gulf. The list goes on, and on and your mind starts to spin with the realization that all your financial problems are solved forever. That's not what's happening today. I'm not doing any of that, but I am telling you that if you're a Christian, you are an heir to a vast fortune of immeasurably, even infinitely, greater value than any of those things I just listed.
Ephesians chapter 1 mentions the word “inheritance” three times. I was pondering that this morning. Ephesians 1:11 says, "In Christ, we have obtained an inheritance having been predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will, so that we who are the first to hope in Christ might be for the praise of His glory." The first mention of the word “inheritance" in Ephesians 1:11and then Ephesians 1:13, "In Him also, you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, having believed you are sealed in Him with the promised Holy Spirit who is a deposit guaranteeing your full inheritance until we acquire possession of it.” That's the second mention of inheritance and the gift of the Holy Spirit as a down payment, a payment or a foretaste of that full inheritance.
But the one that really captivated me this morning, the reason I'm mentioning it to you now, is the third mention of the word “inheritance” in Ephesians chapter 1. Paul prays for the Ephesian Christians and, through Him, for all of us, that the eyes of our heart would be enlightened in order that we would know the hope to which He has called us, the riches of His glorious inheritance in the saints, and His incomparably great power for us who believe. That phrase captivates me this morning. That's why I'm even mentioning this whole concept to you today, the vast inheritance you have in the saints. Sometimes, when we're listing the various forms of wealth held by fabulously wealthy people, we talk about how they made their wealth and what their wealth was in. We use that kind of language, like we would say that Rockefeller made his money in oil. Carnegie made all his money in steel. Vanderbilt made his money in railroads, that kind of thing. Warren Buffett made his money in stocks.
So what's our inheritance? According to Ephesians 1:18, our wealth is in saints. Your wealth is in the saints. I'm not going to have you do it, but look around, look left and right. That's your wealth, right there. Your brothers and sisters in Christ are part of your inheritance. You might say that's a little bit of a letdown. I was hoping for something better in heaven. You know that again and again, from this pulpit, I've preached that your genuine wealth is God. What you get when you go to heaven is, you get God. There are so many statements of this, so many pictures of this— the Levites didn't get an inheritance, but God was their inheritance. They represent all of us, I think.
A beautiful statement in Genesis 15:1, "Fear not Abram, I am your shield. I am your very great reward." God is your reward. God is what you get. Heaven is all about God. Heaven is all about the glory of God. That's what you get. However, there are other verses that expand our sense of the inheritance. A simple one in the Sermon in the Mount is “blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.” We don't just say, "God, we get the earth. We inherit the earth." There are many other such statements and Ephesians 1:18 is one of those. If you look at the earth, we, the redeemed, are going to get the earth. We're going to get not this cursed earth, but we get this earth, I believe, resurrected in a new form called the new heaven and new earth. You're going to get it. You're going to be an heir with Abraham of the earth, and that new heaven, new earth is going to shine with the glory of God. They're not separate. You get God in the form of the new heaven, the new earth, as He has made it beautiful, and His radiance and His glory will shine, for the earth is full of His glory, and it'll be even more evident in the new heaven, the new earth.
So with that idea, go back to Ephesians 1:18, our inheritance is in the saints. We are rich in the saints. Our wealth will be in some part each other, and that is in a multitude greater than anyone could count from every tribe, language, people, and nation. That's why I say you are immeasurably wealthy, and you get wealthier every day because every day more people cross over from death to life, and they become part of your inheritance, and you get them just like they get you. I understand why you would feel a little bit disappointed in this because you know you're no great shakes. I'm not trying to insult you, but it's only recently that these words would be overtly true of you. Romans chapter 3, "There was no one righteous, not even one. No one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away. They've together become worthless." Think about that word. Imagine a worthless inheritance, but that's what we were, but it is not what we are. We were at one time worthless, "There is no one who does good, not even one. Their throats are open graves, their tongues practice deceit. The poison of vipers is on their lips. Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness. Their feet are swift to shed blood. Ruin in misery mark their ways, and the way of peace they do not know. There is no fear of God before their eyes." That's what you were. That's what I was, but it is not what I am, and it is not what I will be for all eternity.
However, because of how terrible we are in our sin, it's not surprising, a little bit shocking, that one of the foremost philosophers of the 20th century in 1944, John-Paul Sartre, said famously, "Hell is other people." Hell is other people. Imagine being his friend and reading that. “Tell me, Jean-Paul, how you really feel about our friendship?” Hell is other people. What I'm saying today, based on Ephesians 1:18, is, heaven is other people. Think about that. Heaven is other people, in part, not in any way minimizing that God is our reward. Actually, it's because the glory of God is going to be shining in unique and beautiful ways through each of the redeemed that each one of them is part of your inheritance because each one of them will shine with the glory of God and of the Father in ways that will be special, unique, and beautiful, and I argue because I believe in a dynamic heaven in which you'll never be omniscient.
You'll have a lot to learn. You haven't met most of your inheritance yet. You don't know them yet. You won't know them when you die. You'll meet them in heaven, and it's going to take a long, long, long, long time to meet them, as God in some sense says, "Have you considered My servant Job? Have you considered My servant so-and-so?" You will have the opportunity to consider each of your brothers and sisters and the glories of each one. At that time, the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father, and you are going to see how beautiful they are, how radiant they are, and how glorious they are. As it says in John chapter 3, "Everyone who lives by the lie does not come to the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But everyone who lives by the truth comes into the light so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God." So each of their good works, which will have been perfected by the fire of Judgment Day and come through shining, each one of them will be a display of the glory of God in their lives. Their glories will be your glories, their honors will be your honors, their privileges will be your privileges because we're all part of one body, and when one part of the body is honored, the whole body is honored with it. You have a glorious inheritance in the saints, and it's getting richer every day, not just in the redemption of people crossing over from death to life but in the good works they're doing. They're enriching the kingdom of God every day, and so are you, by your good works. I believe that it's relevant to today's text because it is the perfect fulfillment of the second great commandment when we get to heaven.
Our sin has made us constricted. We pull into ourselves. All we really care about is us. We pull in, and we become like a medieval castle with a moat and a drawbridge. The drawbridge is pulled up, and we're all about me, intensely committed to selfish me. That's what sin does to us. Redemption does the opposite. It makes us open and expansive to include others more and more and more so that others’ delights are our delights, others' blessedness becomes ours, and we get to live that out now by the power of the Spirit. The more we do, the more the glorious gospel of Jesus will be put on display. The more our church is characterized by that kind of heavenly openness and love in which we really genuinely delight in the blessedness of others, we're willing to sacrifice to make somebody else blessed, and we find delight, personal delight in somebody else's happiness, the more the gospel's going to shine in this church.
I tell you, this region, this country needs it. This is a dark place, and we are put like a light up on a pedestal to shine in this dark place. We're a city on a hill. We're called to do this. “Behold how they love one another,” one of the ancient observers of Christians said. Or as Jesus said, "By this will all men know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." It's this open expansiveness that gets up out of self and includes another in our own happiness so that their blessedness is ours, their delight is ours.
Years ago, I saw a movie that pictured this for me, and it depicted a love scene in the movie. It wasn't actually romantic at all, but it was between a man and a woman. It comes from the movie Driving Miss Daisy. Morgan Freeman plays an African-American man hired to drive around an older Jewish woman in the South a number of decades ago, and it depicts their budding relationship. It moves from employer-employee, eventually, at the end of the movie, to friends, just genuinely friends. Morgan Freeman is very elderly at this point, as is the woman Jessica Tandy plays. The woman is very old, she's in a nursing home, and maybe some mild dementia, et cetera. He goes to visit her at the nursing home, and she's sitting there. It's Thanksgiving time, and they have a conversation. They haven't seen each other in a number of years, they get reconnected, and she's not all there, but she definitely knows that he's with her, and she has a piece of pie in front of her that she hasn't started yet, and at some point he says, "Now you haven't eaten your pie." He starts to feed it to her, and as he feeds her each piece, the acting is just really excellent in this. As he feeds her each piece, it's like you can see him enjoying it as though he's enjoying it through her. The enjoyment of that pie is his. It's a beautiful scene, and I think it captures a little bit of what I think it means to love your neighbor as yourself, that you are expanded, your heart is expanded into the joy of someone else's joy. Or we could say negatively, "If someone else is suffering, you're suffering with them, and then to alleviate that suffering brings you delight." You're free now from that pain because you are so joined in your heart. That's what I think it means to love your neighbors yourself.
Let's talk about the context. It's the last week of Jesus' life. He's already made the triumphal entry to the cries of “Hosanna.” He's cleared the Temple of its filthy money changers, and He continues his ministry of teaching and of healing there in the temple area. He's in the final stage of His life because His enemies are overtly, clearly plotting His death. They want to kill Him. The chief priest, the Scribes, the Pharisees, the Sadducees, the Herodians, they want to kill Him. They set up one trap after another. First, the Pharisees and Herodians, with their question on taxation, designed to get him in trouble with the Romans and get Him killed. Then the Sadducees, with their ridiculous question about resurrection, that case study with the man that had seven brothers and married to the one woman. Remember that? Then, along in Mark's Gospel, comes this expert in the law who seems different than them. He's a different spirit. I think he really genuinely wanted to know the answer that of all the commandments, which is the greatest, and Jesus's commendation of him is unusual. Jesus answers, "The most important one is this, 'Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, with all your strength.' The second is this, 'Love your neighbors yourself.' There is no commandment greater than these."
In the last few sermons, we've looked at the first and Greatest Commandment, the vertical one, love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. Now we're going to look at the second one. This commandment is an old commandment that's made new. It's an ancient commandment. Jesus is quoting the law of Moses, as He did with the first and greatest commandment. He's quoting again with the second commandment. It's Leviticus 19:18, "Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord." Love your neighbor as yourself. What does that mean?
It's not, you have to first love yourself, and then you'll be able to love your neighbor. It's not that. In the sense of this verse, you already fanatically do love yourself. From infancy, you have been fanatically committed to yourself. The infant howling at 3:00 AM is loving him or herself. They can't articulate it, but that is what is going on. They have a need, they want it met. They're increasingly aware of a particular person who keeps meeting the need, and they want that person. They can't even say mama yet, but they are, from infancy, committed to self. This is innate. The command tells us to do for others what we've been doing all our lives for ourselves.
One of the articulations of this is in marriage, and I think it makes it a little clearer exactly what this commandment entails in marriage. It says, "Husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife, loves himself. After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it." That's a very practical explication of the Second Great Commandment in the context of marriage. It's very easy to see a very clear connection between the Second Great Commandment and the one Paul gives in marriage, but he specifically is very physical with it. The way the husband feeds and cares for his own body is the way he should look after his wife. I think we could say the same thing in general for our neighbor.
Look how you care for yourself. When your stomach is growling and empty, you feed it. When your tongue is dry, you drink. When you have an itch, you scratch it, even if it's right between your shoulder blades and very difficult to reach. You do what you need to do to alleviate the pain. If you are in pain in any way, you alleviate it, you shift how you're sitting in your pew. If one part of your body is falling asleep or whatever, you're going to adjust to alleviate the pain. If your body is cold, you're going to put on a sweater. If it's hot, you're going to get into some AC and alleviate it. If it's raining, you seek shelter. You do this constantly. You've been doing this every day of your life, pretty much every moment of your life, from infancy. The way you've been doing that for yourself, do it for your neighbor, do it for everyone else.
I. An Old Commandment Made New
This is an ancient command—love your neighbor as you already do love yourself. But . . . we’re told a new commandment, a new command. Jesus said in John 13:34-35, after the foot washing, He said, "A new command I give you, love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this will everyone know that you're My disciples if you love one another." It is effectively an old commandment made new, as John writes in 1 John 2:7-8, "Dear friends, I'm not writing you a new command but an old one which you've had from the beginning. This old command is the message you have heard. Yet I am writing you a new command. Its truth is seen in Him and in you because the darkness is passing and the true light is already shining."
How is this old command, or ancient command, made new? Jesus is the answer. It's because of Jesus that this old command is now incarnated and it is made new. How is that? First, by Jesus's example; Jesus showed us how to love our neighbor as ourselves. He gave us a role model that we should imitate. He's the only one in history that has ever perfectly fulfilled this horizontal commandment. As we read Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, we see all of His encounters with men and women and children and with everyone. We just have much information education now in what it looks like to love our neighbor as own self. Then we see it definitely in the atoning work of Jesus and the atonement of Jesus. Jesus said in general universal principle, John 15:13, "Greater love has no one than this, that he laid down his life for his friends. You are My friends if you do what I command you." The principle is laying down your life. Jesus's teaching tells us what it means to love our neighbor.
Jesus's death on the cross is the perfect pinnacle of a human being loving his neighbors. It is a perfect pinnacle example of the Second Great Commandment being fulfilled. As it says in Romans 5:8, "God demonstrates His own love for us in this. While we're still sinners, Christ died for us." Jesus loved His enemies. He gave the infinite gift of Himself under the wrath of God so that we would not suffer eternity in hell. He cared about where we were heading. He cared about alleviating eternal suffering, and He was willing to take it into Himself so that we would be set free, and by gazing therefore at the example of Jesus and at the cross of Jesus.
This is a new command. It's an ancient command made new now, and it's made new because the Spirit of Christ is in us working it. If you're a Christian, the Spirit of Jesus is in you, working this horizontal command so that you'll love your neighbor as yourself, and by the Spirit alone can we do it. We've seen this again and again in Ezekiel 36:26-27, "I'll give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you. I'll remove from you your heart of stone, and I'll give you a heart of flesh and I will put My Spirit in you and move you to follow My decrees and be careful to keep my laws." Consummated in the two Great Commandments., the Spirit of Christ is in us, moving us to love God with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength and to love our neighbor as ourselves. That's what the Spirit is moving you to do if you're a Christian.
Therefore, in Galatians 5:22, the first thing it says, "The fruit of the Spirit is love." That's what the Spirit does in you. When He's working in you, He makes you love. Only by the spirit of the indwelling Spirit of Christ can we truly love our neighbors. God is the source of that love, and He gives us that love that flows out vertically through us, then horizontally out by Christ's mediatorial work and by the linking, connecting work of the Holy Spirit of God. That's how it happens. 1 John 4:7-8, "Dear friends, let us love one another. For love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” There is a beautiful picture in Revelation 22 of the throne of God in the center of the new Jerusalem and the river of the water of life flowing eternally and endlessly generated from the throne, and out it flows. This river of the water of life is crystal clear. I don't think it's very difficult to say, it's also a river of love. So love just flows from God, for from Him, through Him, and to Him are all things. He is the source of love, and you cannot love, not like this, apart from Christ.
"Love just flows from God, for from Him, through Him, and to Him are all things. He is the source of love, and you cannot love, not like this, apart from Christ."
Let me stop and say to all of you, are you in Christ or are you apart from Christ? Have you received from Jesus Christ the forgiveness of your sins? Have you realized that you are that sinner described in Romans 3, that you are worthless and a viper, and on your way to hell? Jesus came to intervene, to save you, and to die into the wrath of God for your violation of God's laws. Have you come to that place and asked Him? Have you called in the name of the Lord for the forgiveness of your sins? If so, that the moment that happened, you received the gift of the indwelling Spirit of Christ. You began a career of love vertically, and horizontally.
II. Love Defined
Let's try to understand it. What is love? How will we understand love? We're going to go again to Jonathan Edwards, and Edwards taught us that the soul has two faculties. First, the ability to comprehend or understand things in the universe, including our neighbor, that we're able to understand. It has that capacity to study and know. Then secondly, to be inclined or disinclined to that thing that it studies and knows to a greater less degree, such as liking or loving or disliking and hating. The soul does this. This is what is designed to do by God.
I pictured it in terms of a magnetic attraction like a bar magnet north-south attracted, and then, to a greater less degree is, that number line of affection, positive being liking on up to loving and the negative numbers being disliking onto hating. Therefore, I give this definition of love. Love is a heart attraction that results in cheerful, sacrificial action. Love is a heart attraction that results in cheerful, sacrificial action.
First, it's heart attraction. Your heart is attracted to your neighbor. Your heart goes out to your neighbor and includes your neighbor within yourself. Therefore, it is not enough just to act. Many people say love is an action, and they're quoting a verse I'm about to quote. It's important that love is action, I get that, but first there has to be the heart attraction. If there's no heart in it, there's no love. You can give the utmost gift, the costliest gift, but if your heart isn't attracted, if it doesn't go out to your neighbor and yearn to bless that, and you don't find personal delight in it, it's nothing. 1 Corinthians 13:3, maybe, in some sense, one of the harshest verses in the Bible, "If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames but have not love, I gain nothing." Wow. I can't imagine a more amazing gift. The individual gave all of their worldly possessions to the poor and died, and they get nothing. Why? Because they didn't do it in love. It's incredible. What that means is, behind that is, there must be a heart attraction. There has to be a yearning to bless the person. My heart is linked to yours. Jonathan Edwards put it this way, "In some sense, the most benevolent, generous person in the world seeks his own happiness in doing good to others because he places his happiness in their good. His mind is so enlarged as to take them as it were into himself. Thus, when they're happy, he feels it. He partakes with them and is happy in their happiness." Isn't that beautiful? That's Morgan Freeman enjoying the pie through Jessica Tandy. That's what it is. My heart is going out. It's expanded and includes you. If you personally get no delight out of your service to your neighbor, you get nothing on Judgment Day. You have to enjoy doing it, delight in doing it.
But there has to be an action. Now we get to that other verse I was mentioning. You can't just have really sweet feelings for everybody, and it never amounts to anything. 1 John 3:16-18, "This is how we know what love is. Jesus Christ laid down His life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech, but with actions and in truth." So you've got to have both sides of that equation. You got to put it together. You can't just have the sweet feelings and do nothing. You can't just do things and not have the feelings. It's together. But it has to be sacrificial actions, it’s got to cost you something. Isn't that what sacrifice is? David said, "I will not offer the Lord a sacrifice that costs me nothing." It's got to cost you. You can measure love by sacrifice. “Greater love has no one than this, that he laid down his life for his friends.” You see, it's a measurement, greater love. So the more the sacrifice, the more love has been revealed.
Obviously, literally, to die for someone else is the greatest sacrifice anyone... It's the greatest thing you could ever do. But lesser gifts are sacrifices as well. You're giving of your time, of your energy, of your money. You're giving something that costs you something. You are in some way depleted because you gave to your neighbor, you made a sacrifice for them. But it has to be cheerful. So it's like, "Pastor, you put too much in the definition." But there are Bible verses behind each of these. What kind of giver does God love? God doesn't just love a giver, God loves a cheerful giver. 2 Corinthians 9:7, "Each of you should give..." He's talking about finances, "Each of you should give what he has determined in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion because God loves a cheerful giver." Therefore, Jesus was a cheerful giver on the cross. This is infinitely mysterious, but it's true. In Hebrews 12:2 it says, "We should fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who, for the joy that was set before Him, endured the cross scorning in shame and sat down at the right hand of God." He looked beyond the misery and the horror of the cross to the good thing that would come from it, the joy. What is that joy? His joy in saving a multitude from every tribe, language, people, and nation, so that they would be with Him and see His glory and spend eternity in heaven. This is my composite definition of love. Love is a heart attraction to another person that results in cheerful, sacrificial action on behalf of that person.
"Love is a heart attraction to another person that results in cheerful, sacrificial action on behalf of that person."
IV. What Love Is and Is Not
Let's describe it a little more— what love is and what love is not. 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 describes negatively and positively what it is and is not, "Love is patient. Love is kind. It doesn't envy. It doesn't boast. It's not easily angered. It's not proud, it's not rude. It's not self-seeking. It keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trust, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails."
So love is patient, it puts up with a lot. It's long-suffering. It's kind. It freely does good things for people. There's a kindness to love. There's a gladness, a gentleness, a giving nature to love that is wrapped up in the word “kind”. There's a kindness to it. It doesn't envy. It's not jealous over the benefits given to others. There's no envy or jealousy. It is glad to see other people blessed and benefit. You're not in competition with them in that regard. It doesn't boast. It's not proud. This love that we're talking about here is actually a very humble thing. It's humble. It's not rude. Let's put it this way, it's well-mannered. There's just good manners to love. I think all that system of manners that parents teach their children, it's basically Second Commandment stuff. When you're at the table, you don't talk with your mouthful. All of those rules are preciousness of others, you’re caring about others. So it's not rude. It's not self-seeking. It doesn't constantly say, "What's in it for me?"
We shouldn't misunderstand that. There should be heart desire. So there is something in it for me. I should desire it. But it's not that selfish, independent, "I want to get something whether you get anything or not." That's what self-seeking means. It's not easily angered. It has a short fuse, it doesn't fly off the handle quickly, and it keeps no record of wrongs. How difficult is that? I'm not remembering what you did to me last week. I'm ready to forgive because I've been forgiven much. It doesn't delight in evil. There's no schadenfreude. It seems like so much of the internet, so much of the digital media is delighting in other people's misfortune, finding humor in some bad thing that happens to another person. Love doesn't do that. That’s not loving. If we see somebody dragged down, we don't delight in it. We rejoice in the truth. What does that mean? Jesus is the truth. I rejoice to see Jesus come into somebody's life. I rejoice to see the Bible's truth flourishing. It delights in Christ and the Bible succeeding in the world and people living according to it. We love that. Then it always protects, always trust, always hopes, always perseveres. It never fails. It just stands with individuals, and it's there permanently. If you ask, what is love like and what is it not like? I would commend 1 Corinthians 13:4-8. How does it act? I can tell you how it does not act. It doesn't do any harm to the neighbor. Romans 13:9-10, "The commandments, 'You shall not commit adultery, you shall not murder, you shall not steal, you shall not covet.' And whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this one command, 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' Love does no harm to his neighbor. Therefore, love is the fulfillment of the law.” Remember, I talked a few weeks ago about there have to be negatives after prohibition? You can't just tell our corrupt generation, love is love. Just love how you feel. No, there's a bunch of prohibitions in the Bible, but what Paul says in Romans 13 is that all of those prohibitions are summed up in the positive command to love. Because love doesn't do any harm to the neighbor. So you shall not commit adultery. It is not loving to break up someone's marriage to be a homewrecker. That's not love. Paul talks about that in another place. Don't take advantage of your brother by winning over his wife. That's not love. That's damaging to him, stealing, damaging, taking his things. Those prohibitions are summed up in the statement “love”, because love doesn't do any harm. So that's what love does not do. We don't damage each other, hurt each other. That's where gossip and slander comes in. If I'm gossiping and slandering, I'm destroying somebody's reputation.
What does love do? It acts in such a way that the individual is, in some way, blessed. You could do it negatively by alleviating suffering, positively by helping them grow and grace in the knowledge of Christ, bringing blessings into their lives materially, physically. A great statement is Jesus' depiction of Judgment Day in Matthew 25, "All the nations will be gathered before Him and He's going to separate the people one from another as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He'll say to the sheep, the righteous on His right. He'll say, 'I was hungry, you gave Me something to eat. I was thirsty. You gave Me something to drink. I was a stranger, you invited Me in. I needed clothes, and you clothed Me. I was sick, and you looked after Me. I was in prison, and you came to visit Me.'" That's a whole list of actions that you can do out of love. Those are all Second Great Commandment actions, especially on the issue of alleviation of suffering. We Christians should care about suffering. We should care about all suffering, and we should desire to alleviate it.
Next week, I'm going to preach on mercy ministry, on the Good Samaritan, and the alleviation of temporal suffering. I heard a long time ago, and I like this, we Christians care about the alleviation of all suffering, but especially eternal suffering. What is eternal suffering? It is the torment of hell. How could that torment be alleviated? There's only one way, by repentance and faith in Jesus Christ. How should we care about that? We should care whether people are going to hell or not. It should matter to us, and this is what I taught this past week, Romans 9:1-3. The apostle Paul said this, "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. For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my own people, the nation of Israel." What is he saying? Saying, "I would be willing to give up my own salvation if they could be saved. I could wish that, but I can't because I'm not their mediator. I'm not their savior. That was already done by Jesus. But I'm telling you that's the level of my concern for them.” I believe that we don't witness, we don't share our faith like we should, because we don't grieve over lostness and over its ultimate destination like we should. We should ask God to give us a heart of grief and brokenness over lost people, the alleviation of eternal suffering. That's what it is.
V. Heaven: Love Perfected
As I close today, I just want to expand your mind and bring you into that heavenly realm that we're going to go to, that new heaven, new earth, that eternal state. When both of these commandments, the First and Second Commandment, will be consummated in each of us, how much are you looking forward to that? How beautiful is that world of love going to be when, at last, you'll finally love God with all of your heart, with all of your soul, with all of your mind, and with all of your strength, and you'll at last love all of your neighbors as yourself? And you're going to have a lot of neighbors. Revelation 7:9-10, "After this I looked, and there before me, it was a great multitude that no one could count, from every tribe and language and people in nation standing before the throne and the front of the lamb. They were wearing white robes and they were holding palm branches in their hands. They cried out in a loud voice, 'Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.'"
Let's imagine that the thesis of my Heaven book is true. That you'll have a perfect mind and a perfect heart, but you'll never be omniscient. What that means is, you'll be able to learn things in heaven, and the central topic of heaven is the glory of God. The central and the greatest display ever there has ever been of the glory of God is in the redemption of His people by the blood of Jesus Christ. It's the greatest display of glory there ever has been, ever will be. How much of it did you know here on earth? A very, very tiny percent, 0.0001%. How much will you learn in heaven? Much. All of it. How long will it take? Forever.
Imagine meeting a new brother or sister, one that lived 263 years before you. They'll be in heaven. He's not the God of the dead but of the living, and you'll meet them. How could you know them? You couldn't. But you'll meet them in heaven and imagine two things. You want to know two things. How were they saved, and how were they used? Imagine being so expansive in your love that you'll actually care about the answers. “Tell me your testimony. How long do we have? Okay, I'll give you two minutes.” It's not going to take two minutes to find out how God sovereignly saved each of your brothers and sisters in Christ, what He orchestrated providentially to bring messengers and evangelists into their lives, either through their family, through missionaries, or through an evangelists, and you're going to be enthralled because it is to the glory of God how they got saved.
As the elder asked a couple verses later in Revelation, these in the white robes, "Who are they and where did they come from? You've got forever to answer that question. How awesome will that be? "So please tell me, how did God save you?" Imagine Jesus himself saying, "Let me tell you what I did in his life or her life." Then the second question, "How did God use them? What are their good works? What are their rewards?" Again, you're not in competition because if one part of the body is honored, the whole body will be honored with it. You're going to be delighting in their honors, performance, and privileges as though they were your own because we're part of one body. How awesome will that be? That is where we're heading, brothers and sisters. The more we can live it now, the better for the gospel here in the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill area.
Close with me in prayer. Father, thank You for the time we've had to just immerse ourselves in the Second Commandment. We know that it's for the failure of the Second Commandment that all the wars, dissensions, factions, divorces, fighting, and crimes have ever been committed. We thank You that You, Lord Jesus, by Your blood and by Your spirit, are the only remedy, and You are a perfect remedy. We thank You that You have made us rich now in each other, and You're making us richer by the day. Enable us, oh Lord, to love one another by the power of the Spirit to live out the gospel and put the gospel on display here in this region. In Jesus' name, amen.