The Second Greatest Commandment (Matthew Sermon 113 of 151)
February 14, 2010 | Andrew Davis
Sanctification, The Law of God, Life in the Spirit, Brotherly Love
“And now these three remain, faith, hope and love, but the greatest of these is love.” So says the final verse of 1 Corinthians 13. And as I meditate on that, I think about what does it mean these three remain? Could it be at the end of your life, when there's nothing else left? You're conscious that you're dying, you're at the end of your life, you're not sure what else is left, these three will still be there: Faith, hope, and love, at the end of your life. But you know what's gonna happen if you believe in Christ? Soon faith and hope itself will drop off. Faith will become sight, and you'll no longer need to hope for what you do not have, you'll have it. And you know what we'd be left with then? Love.
And as Jonathan Edwards put it in an incredible sermon I read, “Heaven is a World of Love.” You will step across that divide that river of death, and you'll step into a world of love that can scarcely be described. A world rich with love, with the consummation of love, with love incarnate there on his throne, Jesus Christ, and your own heart will be transformed in an instant and all the things you labored for all your life to love God with all of your heart, soul, mind, and strength, to love your neighbor as yourself, will be instantly given you as a gift. And you'll be transformed into a person of love, fit for a world of love. And you'll be welcomed in at that point. That's the consummation. Isn't it? That's what we're looking for.
Heaven is a world of love. But this world is not a world of love. It's not characterized by love. It ought to be, but it isn't. And so, we are surrounded by 6 billion people, and very few of them really know what love is, have experienced the love of Christ. Few there are that find it, Jesus said. And sometimes in the simplest acts of kindness and generosity, there can be an oasis of love in the middle of all that, that gives us a foretaste of that future world of love. And how sweet is that?
Sometimes, it can even happen while watching a movie. It doesn't always happen, but sometimes it can happen. And here I'm talking about a really sweet and pure love scene. Not that sordid type that we know about. But I was watching this movie called Driving Miss Daisy, sometime ago. Maybe you've seen it, about an elderly African American gentleman, Morgan Freeman, who is hired to drive around an even more elderly Southern lady. And the movie just traces the development of their relationship. As it goes first from kind of suspicion and not really sure where they are with each other, of an employer-employee relationship and that's all. She didn't really want him to drive. She doesn't use him. He drives along and she's walking and will not get in the car. And it's quite a scene.
So there's some mistrust but as the relationship develops, a really beautiful thing to see, just friendship is what it is. Friendship.
And the consummation of that is, at the end, the final scene, and by this time she's quite elderly and she is suffering from dementia, and she's in a nursing home. And she's sitting at a table, and it's Thanksgiving and Morgan Freeman goes to visit her. And she's got a piece of pie there. And it's on the table and there's a fork there, but she doesn't seem to be aware of it. And so he sits down and he's trying to talk to her. And he just decides to feed her the pie. And that's just one of the most spectacular scenes in all moviedom for me. Like, that's boring. No, it's not boring, it's awesome because as he feeds her the pie, he seems to be eating it through her. As though her joy is his joy. As though the taste of the pie in her mouth as though he is enjoying it. He doesn't have a bite of the pie. Your pleasure is my pleasure, your joy is my joy. Your pie is my pie, and I'm not taking it from you. You go ahead and eat it all, but I can enjoy it through you.
Friends, that is that horizontal love that God is commanding of us here in this passage today. That we would love our neighbor like that, that we would love our neighbor as ourselves. And you know, we can't do it. Our heart is so hardened and we're so corrupt in sin that we can't do that naturally. We need a supernatural work of God to fulfill this command. And that supernatural work of God is available to us through the grace that's given us in Christ Jesus.
He came, it says in Ephesians 2, talking about the hostility between Jews and Gentiles, that's the context, but I'm gonna extend it just to all human relationships. He came to destroy, to put to death all hostility between the two. And to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace. He's come to do that, friends, not just with Jew and Gentile, but with people. Person A and Person B, in Christ, becoming one together. And in this way, I think, Christ died to fulfill this second commandment. He died loving his neighbor as himself. He died in order that we might love our neighbors as ourselves.
So, let's set this in context. You know, it's the final week of Jesus' life. Jesus is having strife and conflict with his enemies, who are seeking to kill him. They hate him, and they try to lay one trap after another for him. In Matthew 22, the Pharisees and Herodians bring him this question on taxation. “Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar or not?” He deals with that. Then the Sadducees come with that ridiculous question on resurrection and whose wife will she be of the seven. He deals with that. And then this expert in the law tests him with this question, “‘Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the law?’ And Jesus replied: ‘“Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” All the law and the prophets hang on these two commandments.’”
A Dark History
When the Vertical Goes, the Horizontal Goes With It
Now, for the last two sermons, we've looked at the first and greatest commandment, it had its proper place. It comes first. It should be first. Talk more about that in a moment, but that is that vertical relationship toward God, that we should love God with all of our hearts above everything else. But we cannot love God and hate our neighbors. And again, I'm gonna talk more about that. And so, it must move out. Jesus gives beyond what the lawyer asked, a second commandment which he said is like it, love your neighbor as yourself.
And so, we come to this issue of our horizontal relationship with one another, our love relationship with the other 6 billion people on the face of the earth. You are not alone. There are other people. That's a central pillar of our parenting. We're teaching our children, they're not alone, there are other people. Those other people are precious. They're created in the image of God, this kind of thing. And so we're not alone. And so we've got this horizontal, and dear friends, we come therefore into a dark history. In the Bible, there's a dark history of that horizontal relationship.
Adam and Eve: Marriage Damaged
I believe because our fellowship with God was broken, our fellowship with one another was broken. Because Adam and Eve disobeyed God, they were soon in hostility toward one another. And we see evidence of it right from the start, Genesis 3:7 “Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized that they were naked; and so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.” This is just evidence of a distance that's come between the man and his wife, between Adam and Eve because of sin.
And then when God confronted Adam, Adam sought to blame his wife and God, too. You remember that, Genesis 3:12, “The man said, ‘This woman you put here with me, she gave me some fruit from the tree and I ate it.’” And so therefore, I think that broken vertical relationship with God inevitably results in broken horizontal relationships.
First and foremost, here in marriage, Adam and Eve covering themselves, and blaming each other for sin. That's just the beginning of marital difficulties. All manner of problems would then pollute the marriage relationship after that. Conflicts, arguments, dissensions, jealousy, adultery and divorce, even murder would sully marriage in the generations to come.
Then in the very next chapter, Cain and Abel, as the sin spreads more horizontally, we see the brotherly affections dissolved, destroyed as Cain is jealous of his brother, Abel, and murders him. By the end of the chapter, we have this man Lamech who murders a man just for insulting him. And you could just see the degeneration of that horizontal relationship.
By the time of Noah, the world was filled with violence, it says. That's why I believe that the death penalty was established for murder after the flood was over. If any man sheds a man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed, for the image of God has God made man. He re-establishes the dignity of humanity concerning murder. You can't murder a person, because they're created in the image of God. Terrible wickedness in Noah's day.
And so it continued beyond that. Abraham was called and then Ishmael was born, and then Isaac afterwards and Ishmael mocks Isaac. And they're in hostility with one another. That brotherly affection destroyed, if it ever existed, in that relationship.
Then Jacob and Esau come, the twins who are struggling in the womb, and come out struggling and struggled all the way through. And how Jacob swindled his father and stole Esau's blessing and then Esau wanted to murder him. He comforted himself, he consoled himself with the thought of murdering his brother. And so Jacobs has to flee.
And so he runs and meets Laban. Oh, what a man Laban was. And so now we get the employer-employee relationship destroyed as Laban swindles him again and again. And then you have Rachel and Leah, and the hostility there is sister to sister, as they're in a clearly dysfunctional family. And the relationships are just very, very tough. Joseph and his four, I guess, wives give birth to the patriarchs and they hate Joseph. And they wanna murder him for his coat of many colors, they're jealous of him, instead, they sell him for money as a slave.
And so the Book of Genesis, you just see the degeneration of that horizontal relationship and you know the story doesn't end there. And it's continued right to this present time. All you have to do is click into a CNN site or whatever, and you're just gonna find the evidence of hostility, person-to-person, wars and rumors of wars, of crimes and murders, of divorce and hostility and broken relationships, of even church factions and divisions.
And so it's a dark history we face today. But dear friends, there is hope, isn't there? Isn't there hope in the gospel of Jesus Christ? Isn't there hope for that world of love? We have to trace out this dark history, we have to look at the darkness of our own hearts. But know this, the future is infinitely bright, and someday this hostility will be put to death, and it will be gone forever and ever, amen.
The Two Commandments Intertwined
So we have these two commandments. We have that vertical commandment, love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. We have that horizontal commandment, Love your neighbor as yourself. And as I already touched on but I'll say now more fully, those two commandments are completely intertwined. You can't pick and choose. That's why Jesus went beyond what the lawyer asked him, gave the second commandment. The lawyer didn't say which are the top two commandments, but Jesus knew that he could not give a summation of all the Law and the Prophets without the second command.
True Love for Neighbor Depends on First Loving God
And so I say this: true love for your neighbor depends on your love for God. If you don't love God, you cannot love your neighbor properly. I speak now to unbelievers who do charitable works. You're not really loving your neighbor, not as God intended. And why is that? Why do I say that? Well, because you cannot, you must not, love your neighbor more than you love God. Frankly, you must not love anything more than you love God. If you love anything more than you love God, you're an idolater.
So you cannot make an idol of your neighbor. But quite frankly, most people who are not Christians who do good works, works of benevolence and charity, they're really just loving themselves in a sinful and idolatrous way. There is a pride involved in some of those good works. So I say to you, you cannot really love your neighbor if you don't first love God through Jesus Christ.
True Love for God ALWAYS Results in Love for Neighbor
But secondly, we know this is true as well, true love for God always results in a horizontal commitment to love others. You cannot really be loving God if you don't love your neighbor. The two of them go together. So 1 John 4:20 says, “If anyone says ‘I love God’ and yet hates his brother, he's a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen." So the two are intertwined, we must have them both.
Humanity Judged Based on these Two Laws
The Standard of Judgment is the Law of God
Now, I've already said before, and I say again, it's very, very plain. This is the law of God, these two commandments, this is the law. This is Sinai, this is what God requires of you. This is what he's standing on you and with threatenings and with earthquake and with flashing lightning, and thunder with a loud voice. He says you must obey these two commands. You must love me with all of your heart, soul, mind and strength, and you must love your neighbor as yourself. This is the standard of judgment, this is the law of God, the Ten Commandments can be arranged in these two tables.
The first table, the vertical table, the first four commandments. You shall have no other gods besides me. You shall not make any idols or bow down to any idols or worship any idols. You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain. And remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. These are the vertical commands in the Ten Commandments. It's that love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.
And then the last six are all horizontal. Honor your father and mother. You shall not murder. You shall not commit adultery. You shall not steal. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor and you shall not covet your neighbor's belongings, anything that belongs to your neighbor. Those six commandments are summed up in this one commandment, “love your neighbor as yourself.” Romans 13, Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore, love is the fulfillment of that second table of the law.
God Really Intends that the Human Race Obey
And as I've said before, God really does intend for the human race to obey this. You must be righteous in these two senses. You must have loved God, and you must have loved your neighbor as yourself. These are not idle words. These words are our life, Deuteronomy. And if we have not obeyed, we stand guilty and condemned before the law of God.
By this Law We are Condemned
Romans 3:10-20, says by this law, we are condemned, not saved. As it says, “There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become 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 and misery mark their ways, and the way of peace they do not know. There is no fear of God before their eyes.”
Do you not see the two commandments right there in that list that Paul gives? Their feet are swift to shed blood, that's horizontal. There's no fear of God before their eyes, that's vertical. They're not obeying the law. Paul continues. “Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God. Therefore, no one will be justified, no one will be declared righteous in God's sight by obeying the law; rather, through the law, we become conscious of sin.”
It should not surprise you, then, if you listen to a sermon on the first and greatest commandment and you become conscious of sin. And it should not surprise you, again if you hear a sermon on the second greatest commandment, that you become conscious of sin in your life, expect it friends. Expect that you'll be convicted by the Spirit, that you'll find that you have not been loving as you should. You've not loved your neighbor as yourself.
Law and Gospel: Christ Fulfills the Law
And so we must have a savior. We must have a gospel, if it's only law, we are condemned, we're lost. But it's always law plus gospel. That's my pleasure. My delight is to proclaim both law and gospel to you. And so, I proclaim, not just to you, but to my own soul. There is hope in Jesus.
Christ Came to Fulfill the Law
But Jesus said in Matthew 5:17, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I've not come to abolish them, but to fulfill them.” And he came to fulfill them in many different ways. He came to fulfill them just by obeying them. He just obeyed them. He just loved God with all of his heart, soul, mind, and strength. He loved his neighbors as himself. He perfectly obeyed the laws of God.
This is the Only Hope
And he won a perfect righteousness, which he then offers to us as a free gift. And this “righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. 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 through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus,” Romans 3:21-24. There is our hope.
Having Been Justified We Are Called to Law Obedience
Jesus was obedient, and so in Him, you can be seen to be obedient too, simply by faith. But is that the end? Is that the end of our encounter with the two great commandments? Friends, you know, it's not. As I've said before, God isn't giving you a free pass. “Now that you're justified, forget about loving me, and don't worry about loving your neighbor,” he's not saying that. He's saying, “Okay now, now that you're justified, I have given you the gift of my indwelling Holy Spirit. You're an adopted son or daughter of the living God.” Now he turns you and he faces you to the law and says, “Now do this. Do it. Walk in these ways.”
Romans 8:4, “In order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.” He wants you to love God, and friends, horizontally, he wants you to love your neighbor as yourself. And he wants you to do it by the power of God.
What Is Love for Neighbor?
So, what does it mean then to love your neighbor as yourself? Now, I'm gonna talk more next week about “as yourself,” we're gonna talk more about that phrase, I'll save that till next week.
But let me give you a definition similar to the one I gave you concerning that vertical love for God. Remember how I said it was cheerful sacrificial obedience to God's commands? I'm gonna do something similar horizontally, just shift the words a bit. Horizontally then, love, love for neighbor is cheerful sacrifice, resulting in beneficial action for the glory of God. That's what true love is.
We'll start with the end, it's got to be done for the glory of God. If it isn't, then there's something wrong with it, it's defective. So we've got to do it for the glory of God. But with that arranged, we've already talked about that in the previous two sermons, then what is it? Okay, well it's cheerful sacrifice resulting in beneficial actions in the world, helping them in some way.
I'm gonna take that and break it into two senses. This clarity I think came to me very much in prayer this morning. I see that there are two aspects in the New Testament, and we've got to understand them both. And I'm devoting this sermon to one and then next week's sermon to the second aspect. Okay. There is a heart affection aspect, and there's a physical action in the world aspect. And without both of those, you're not loving. You got to have them both.
So there's a heart affection for the neighbor, a delight from the heart, going out from the inside, resulting in sacrificial acts of service to them that are gonna help them in some way. And I believe there are two great scriptures that describe those two. The heart aspect of love is 1 Corinthians 13, you can turn your Bibles there, I'm gonna trace along with that, this morning. 1 Corinthians 13 describes the heart affection aspect, that internal sense that must be there, or it isn't love.
The external actions part, I could choose a lot of passages, but Luke 10 the parable of the Good Samaritan describes that. Sacrificial acts of service to benefit the person. We'll discuss that next week. Okay. The two have to be there, so love is an affection, it's a heart movement toward a person, it must come from the heart, that's included in the word cheerful, you're cheerful and you're glad to do it. And it's got to be a sacrifice that is a willingness to give something valuable: Time, energy, money, yourself, your attention, your gifts, your personality, your listening ear, something of value, something you sacrifice, without the sacrifice there's no love and it results in beneficial action in the world.
Something has to actually happen in space and time. They need to know you did something for 'em. So there's actually some kind of act of service. It could just be a word spoken of encouragement, but if something happens, so that there's an internal feeling aspect and in that external sacrificial service aspect.
Love is a Feeling, and Not Less than a Feeling
And so love is a feeling, friends. It's not less than a feeling. It just is more than a feeling, but it's not less than a feeling. Okay? And common expressions of love fill the world. “Oh, I love this song! It's my favorite!” says a teenage girl and leans forward and turns up the radio. It's happened before.
“I love this time of year,” says a woman at the spring when the warm winds begin to blow and the flowers are poking up from the soil, and the birds have returned and the days are getting warmer and longer. Do you sense I can't wait for it to come. Come spring. I've gotten soft since I moved down here. I couldn't ever live in Massachusetts again. I just don't think I could do it. I don't know how our brothers and sisters made it through. I don't want to. My relatives they’d probably call me soft. I can't handle any more blizzards, you know they're pretty until they get all salty and dirty and sandy and all that and then it's not so fun. But at any rate.
“I just love the mountains with all the spectacular scenery,” says a hiker to his partner as they just look at one of those scenic overlooks. Or, “Daddy loves you so much,” says the Father who has been away for a week on a business trip to his little daughter as she runs with her arms stretched out. “I love chocolate,” says the wife as she opens up the package later this afternoon or maybe already this morning. It's already happened. “I love March Madness,” says the guy as he settles back into the easy chair and watches the first of 16 consecutive basketball games. No more comments on that, you know who you are.
Now the question is how are all of these loves related? Are they related? Are they connected? A song on the radio, a season in the year, a mountain scenery, a four-year-old daughter running with her arm outstretched, chocolate, college basketball, and God. How do they all relate? They do relate. It's wrong for you to think they don't relate. There's a reason that we use the same word for all of them. They are clearly different, but they all just relate.
And as I said last week, Jonathan Edwards helped me organize this and see that they all do relate: The heart has the ability to assess and analyze things, and then be attracted or repulsed from them, it's what the heart does. It's what your heart was designed by God to do. And the essence of true religion according to Edwards is affection of the heart, primarily expressed vertically toward God. But it also moves horizontally toward the neighbor. The heart is moved in attraction toward the neighbor. That's what I'm gonna try to describe to you today, there's a heart movement toward the neighbor. And without that heart movement toward the neighbor, it isn't really love, whatever you do it for.
1 Corinthians 13 I think makes this plain. Look at verse 3, “If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.” Okay, what Paul's saying there is he's talking about sacrifice in the highest sense of the word, the highest level of sacrifice. You give all of your possessions, and then you give your body to death. You have nothing left to give, that's Christ, that's what Jesus did. His possessions were gambled over to fulfill prophecy, and then his body was just given out fully for us.
Even if you did that though, and you had not loved you would gain nothing. It would not be commendable before God. Isn't that terrifying? Think about it. It's like, I don't even do anything close to that. It's like, but even if you did, if you did that and you didn't have love, so therefore I assert to you love must be more than just sacrificial actions. There's got to be something else, something in the heart, there's gotta be a heart affection for the individual.
John Piper in his classic Desiring God makes it plain that what he calls disinterested benevolence is not truly loving, saying, I don't get anything out of the things I give, I don't get anything. I hope you husbands did your duty and bought your wives something, “Oh don't mention it, hun, it was just my duty.” That's not gonna get you anything dear friends, oh actually that it gets you a lot, it won't get you what you want. She doesn't want to think it was your duty.
One Christian writer was talking about this. Suppose a husband says to his wife, “Must I kiss you goodnight every night?” She says, “Yes you must, but not that kind of must.” In other words, if it doesn't come from your heart I don't want it. So there's got to be something inside you that says “I want to do this for you.” We should delight in doing good to others. We should enjoy benefiting them. And if you don't, it isn't love. So 2 Corinthians 9:7, “Each man should give what he has decided to give in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”
Dear friends, how much of your service to Christ and others did that just weed out right there? “Reluctantly or under compulsion,” that is so convicting, isn't it? If you're doing it reluctantly you're doing it like 'cause you have to, it isn't really love. God wants you to do it cheerfully. And why should we be cheerful givers? Well, we should just think of the joy and delight that we bring God by obeying his commands. We are loving God by doing this, that should make us happy.
And then horizontally we should just be pondering the blessing and the benefit we're bringing to another person. We're alleviating their suffering, we're making them happy, in some way that should make you cheerful. And you should think thirdly about the rewards you get, your stored up treasure in heaven. And someday you're going to experience God's pleasure in what you did, when he says, “Well done, good and faithful servant,” you've got three good reasons for being cheerful and giving.
So it should make you very very happy to give. So therefore genuine love is a feeling that fills the heart. It's an internal motivator and attraction towards the person. “I want to bless you. It is my pleasure to help you to bring you joy. I want to ease your pain and suffering.” And without that feeling it isn't love, it's hypocrisy.
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 to take them, as it were, into himself. Thus when they are happy he feels it. He partakes with them, and is happy in their happiness. This is so far from being inconsistent with the freeness of generosity, but on the contrary free generosity and kindness, consist in it.”
In other words, if your mind can't expand to then include this other person, so that you're happy because they're happy, you haven't really loved, that's what Edwards is saying. Powerful statements. Ponder it the rest of the day because it's so life transforming.
Love Results in Sacrificial Action to Benefit Someone
Now of course, as we've said and we'll talk more next week, the feeling isn't enough I must balance it. Say I had so many good intentions. I really really felt lots of good feelings toward the members of this church. But did you do anything for them?
I mean did anything ever happen because of it? Well, that's James' job. James comes in and does that, also I John, both of them teach about the same thing. But James 2:15-17 says, “Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes or daily food. If one of you says to him ‘Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way,” he makes the point, “faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.”
I don't think it's a stretch to say love is the same way, love without actions isn't love, it's dead. So there's got to be something physical done for the individual. So, 1 Corinthians 13:3 says you can't just have the actions, you've got to have the feeling. Got it? James 2 says you can't just have the feeling, you've got to have the actions, you've got to put them together in order to get biblical love. Does that make sense? All the rest is just exegesis of 1 Corinthians 13, should we skip it? No we're not gonna skip it, let's go ahead.
Jesus gives us a display of this again and again in his ministry, do you not see it? How many times does his heart go out to somebody, and then he does something for them? Beautiful example, you should look at it in Luke chapter 7, don't turn there but just later on, read it.
Jesus comes into Nain. And there's a widow there and it's a funeral procession, she is burying her only son. I mean, you just have to understand how tough that is, she's a widow, no husband, and now she's burying her only son. She is bereft of provision and protection in the world in that society. And it says in Luke 7:13, “When the Lord saw her, his heart went out to her and he said, ‘Don't cry.’” Do you see that? His heart went out and he said something, “Don't cry.” And then he raised the son from the dead. Don't you wish you could do that? Wouldn't that be beautiful? But he acts and does something for her.
Again, with the leper in Mark chapter 1, “A leper came to him imploring him and kneeling to him and said, ‘If you will, you can make me clean,’” Now listen to verse, 41, Mark 1:41 this captures it, “Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand." That's it, friends. That's the combination. Do you see it? “Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand and healed him, ‘I am willing be clean.’” There it is.
Jesus has shown the way for us. He's done this again and again. I could multiply examples. But his heart is moved, and then he acts. It started in heaven. His heart was moved toward us and he entered the world. And that's what he's done. And so he's still in heaven, he's up there in heaven and he's still doing it.
Hebrews 4:15 says, “We do not have a high priest who cannot be touched with our infirmities, the feeling of our infirmities,” KJV, it's beautiful. He is moved by what we're going through and prays for us, based on that.
Two Great Clarifying Texts: 1 Corinthians 13, Luke 10
What Kind of Heart Attitude is Truly Loving?: 1 Corinthians 13
Alright, so 1 Corinthians 13, what kind of heart attitude is truly loving? Well look at verses 4-6, “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast. It is not proud. It is not rude. It is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices with the truth.” Let's just look at those verses there, there's enough there.
Love is patient, that's long-suffering, you put up with things for a long time, that's a heart state, a state of patience. Conversely, love is not impatient. We are an impatient people. So a loving neighbor cannot be impatient with his neighbor. Don't impatiently wait for your neighbor to finish their sentence so you can finally say what you want to say. That's not loving. Give them all the time they need. Even if you don't get to say what you want to say. Don't be impatient as all the checkout lines at the supermarket are full and this person seems to not know how to do you scan. Don't let the emotions of impatience rise up in your heart, give them the time they need to figure it out.
Love is kind, there's a mildness in the heart that is loving, there's a gentleness toward an affection, a tenderness, love is kind. Conversely, anti-love is unkind, we are more and more characterized by unkindness, we are becoming an unkind harsh people. People who cut down people with a clever remark, or show somebody up at a meeting or grab a parking spot right out from under somebody just as they're sizing it up.
Love does not envy, envy is a feeling of jealousy. Do you know how good it's gonna feel to be free of that in heaven? I mean it's gonna be beautiful, to just enjoy the exaltation of the martyrs and the great men and women of the faith higher than you and me, and not feel even the slightest motion of jealousy or envy toward them but just delight in what God did in and through them. That's gonna be awesome to be that out of yourself and free of yourself to feel no envy or jealousy at all.
Love doesn't boast, there's no boasting in it. You're not saying, “I'm the greatest of all times,” Muhammad Ali said that, remember, “I'm the greatest of all times.” In doing that he's putting down all the other boxers; that's just not loving. It may be what our athletes do these days but it's not Christian.
Love isn't proud it says, pride is the root sin, it's celebrating yourself too much. We could go on and on about that one. Love is not rude, dear friends, do you not see the growth of rudeness in our culture?
I was reading one journalist who was talking about rudeness in America, I came across this story. See if you can relate: “The other day I went into a juice place, ordered a smoothie and watched the girl behind the counter fill to overflowing, cram the top on and slide it across the counter at me with such vehemence I wondered if she was training for some Olympic shuffleboard event. Luckily my reflexes are quick and I caught it just in time. But then came the challenge of inserting the straw, which of course resulted in the top popping off and the smoothie squishing out all over the counter. She watched me the whole time and did nothing to assist me as I went through the futile motions of trying to mop up the mess with the tiny squares of napkins they provide. Finally I asked her for another top. ‘You mean a lid? You want a lid?’ She snarled before shoving another one across the counter.”
Have you had any kind of encounter like that before? Even worse, have you ever been like that before? That's the hard part. Love isn't rude, like that. There is more and more rudeness. It bothers me when I put my directional on to change lanes, I'm one of the few people that uses their directional... That was a prideful statement, wasn't it? I actually have started to notice how many turns are made without them. I saw a bumper sticker once and it's “visualize using your directional,” I love that. All right, just picture it in your mind. But you put the directional on saying I would like to change lanes and the person speeds up to prevent you from getting over. I don't, I don't understand that.
And so what I do is I say those same tendencies are in my own heart, be sure I don't do it too. Be sure I don't do it too, because whenever you judge someone else you're judging yourself it's out there.
Love isn't selfish, you're not looking for your own things, it's not easily angered, flaming into anger at any moment. And it keeps no record of wrongs. Could it be that sometimes your marriage relationship or church relationships are poison because you're keeping a record of wrongs? You haven't really forgiven? Love doesn't do that.
Love does not delight in evil. I've mentioned before in sermons this “shadenfreude” this delight in somebody else's demise, or delight in their trouble. Watching YouTube videos of the world's worst drivers, with a secret delight knowing you're not one of them. Boy it's fun to watch that lady, take six minutes to size up a parking spot in Walmart until the guy finally does it for her, boy isn't that fun? And it's like yeah you laugh at it and all that but then you're like you're delighting in somebody's struggle trouble, they're having a hard time. Even worse, is delighting in somebody else's sin. And you see that too with, you know, with a Rick Pitino or a Tiger Woods or something like that and there just seems to be a fascination with it. And I think it's ultimately self-serving and prideful.
Love doesn't delight in evil, but what does it do, where do we end up here? We end up with delight, cheerfulness, it rejoices in the truth, it rejoices in the truth, and here at last, friends, the two of them come together, what is the truth? Jesus is the truth. And so horizontally I'm gonna delight in giving you Jesus. Christian or non-Christian, I want you to have Jesus, or thy word is true, sanctify them by the truth. Your word is truth. I want to give you the word.
And so the vertical then flows out into the horizontal, I wanna give you Jesus, I wanna give you the word, I wanna delight in the truth in your life. So we're gonna watch over one another in brotherly love, and we're gonna sanctify each other, and pray for each other and delight in the truth. I'll zero in on that word delight, love delights in truth coming up in that person's heart.
Friends, assess your heart, assess your heart. Can you listen to this and not be convicted? Can you listen to this and make it through unscathed? So say 1 Corinthians 13 is my favorite chapter in the Bible. It's the wedding chapter. It's so beautiful. It is the toughest chapter in the Bible friends. It's a chapter with teeth. And it digs in and says, “Are you doing this?” These aren't just pretty words. This is the heart state of affection, you should have for other human beings, for every other human being.
This is what God wants from you. Now next week we're gonna talk about okay so what, maybe we have those feelings, maybe God's worked them, what kind of life of action should we seek? How can we serve the poor and needy? How can we see that kind of love come alive in a marriage, and in a church? What kinds of acts of service and sacrifice does God expect from us? Close with me if you would in prayer.