The Greatest Command

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 De 6:4 "Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one!
 5 "You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.  6 "And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart.
 7 "You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up.
 8 "You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes.
 9 "You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.
 1Co 7:29 But this I say, brethren, the time is short, so that from now on even those who have wives should be as though they had none,  30 those who weep as though they did not weep, those who rejoice as though they did not rejoice, those who buy as though they did not possess,
 31 and those who use this world as not misusing it. For the form of this world is passing away.
 Mt 6:19 "Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal;  20 "but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.
 21 "For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
 22 "The lamp of the body is the eye. If therefore your eye is good, your whole body will be full of light.
 23 "But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in you is darkness, how great is that darkness!
In our OT lesson today, we have what is called the Shema. Shema means hear in Hebrew. Not just hearing in an audible sense, but hearing, and proving that you have heard by your response to what has been spoken. To this day, to the Jew, this is the most important text in the OT.

This text says, ďthere is only one God and you shall love Him with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your might.Ē Jesus Himself agreed that this is indeed the greatest of all commandments:

 Mt 22:36 "Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?"
 37 Jesus said to him," 'You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.'
 38 "This is the first and great commandment.
 39 "And the second is like it: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'
 40 "On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets."

Isnít it interesting though that Jesus didnít stop with the first great commandment, rather he continues and gives equal status to the second commandment to ďlove your neighbor as yourself.Ē

Itís like He was saying, the first great commandment is  ďhear O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.......but you really havenít Shema, (heard) this commandment until you do the second your neighbor as yourself.

And once again my mind turns to our mission statement here at Living Word.....To declare the truth as found in Godís Word....the Bible. And to glorify Christ as we learn to live for the sake of others rather than ourselves.

As I read verse 6 in our OT reading, I looked at it in a way I had never viewed it before. Rather than looking at it as a command, I looked at it as a promise. I would encourage you to do the same because it gives us a whole new perspective on what is being said here.

ďAnd these words which I command you today shall be in your heart.Ē

Now think about that as a promise. What if God were saying to His people, ďbelieve Me, one day I will move these words, My Law,  from the external to the internal. One day I will write these words on your heart. And the people would hang onto that promise because it was connected to faith in the coming Messiah.

Just as the prophet Ezekiel would later explain:

 Eze 36:24 "For I will take you from among the nations, gather you out of all countries, and bring you into your own land.
 25 "Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols.
 26 "I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.
 27 "I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them.

By faith in such a promise, by faith in the coming Messiah and the subsequent blessings He would bring, these people would indeed have a supernatural love for the Lord their God deposited in their heart!  Because of faith, they would teach these words diligently to their children, knowing that by faith God would one day instill these words in their hearts.

Because of faith, and this supernatural love for God, the people would talk about Godís Word in their houses, when they traveled,, before they went to bed and immediately after rising in the morning. The Word of God would ever be before them in their houses. His faithfulness would always be remembered.

Then one day, the Messiah came, and the promise of Ezekiel and Dt 6:6 came to pass.

God called us out of the heathen lands through the gospel, and in water baptism, He washed away our sins and put the Holy Spirit in us.  Tit 3:5 He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit,...or water baptism

In our baptism He gave us heart of flesh rather than stone. A living heart of faith that places this supernatural love for Him in our hearts, and this love in turn produces that desire to love our neighbors as ourselves.

Oh, what a blessed promise, and we too then teach these words diligently to our baptized children, so that they might be nurtured in the faith. And we talk about them in our homes and in our travels. And before we go to bed and when we rise up in the morning, and we too decorate our homes with these wonderful truths of Scripture....externally affirming what God has already placed internally in our  hearts.

I have two children ages 31 and 28 and what a blessing it is to be able to speak freely with them about the things of God. The groundwork was laid for this kind of openness as we practiced family devotions, and I remember Joanie especially always seemed ready to bring God into our everyday conversations. By Godís grace, we also sought to live out our faith before our children.  

Recently I had an opportunity to spend some time with another young man whose parents also made it a practice to have a family time of devotion. What a joy to be able to speak freely about the things of God and to join our hearts together in prayer.
Parents, God has placed this treasure in your children at their baptism, and though the devil, and the world, and your flesh will do everything they can do to prevent you from nurturing this great treasure, I urge you to fight it and persevere in bringing this Word to your children through regular family devotions.

But donít just talk about it, allow them to witness the Spirit and His fruit at work in your own life, and yes, even in the decor of your home. Let them know that God and His Word matters to you because of what God has done in your heart!

I urge you to not neglect this gift that was given to you in your baptism. You donít have to live like a stone, cold to the things of God. God has given you a heart of flesh, a heart occupied by His Spirit, trust Him to cause you to walk according to the will of God, as found in His Word....the Bible.

In our reading from 1 Corinthians, Paul reminds us of the importance of following the Spirit as we seek to live according to the will of God.  He says the time is short! Oh my, if it was short then, how short is it now?

Paul warned the Corinthians as he warns us that the form of this world is passing away. Donít invest your time and energy in the things that will not last. Yes, live in this world. Marry in it! Weep in it! Rejoice in it! Buy and sell in it. Be in it, but not of it! There is nothing of eternal value in it! Itís form is passing away.      (Financial planners)
And in our Gospel lesson....well, Jesus doesnít beat around the bush does He?

Donít go chasing after the things of the world for they are temporary! They are subject to rust, moths, and thieves....rather seek to store up things eternal. What are things eternal? For starters, God is eternal and so is His Word.

 Lu 21:33 "Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away.

So fix your affection on God. Invest in Him and His Word. Ask the Holy Spirit that has been deposited in you to help you love the Lord your God with all heart, soul, and strength. Then allow that love to break forth in action as you yield to the Spiritís prompting to love your neighbor as yourself.  These are the things that are eternal. Love of God and expressed love of neighbor can never be taken away.

 Mr 9:41 "For whoever gives you a cup of water to drink in My name, because you belong to Christ, assuredly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward.

Are you concerned about your heart? Is it cold toward God and your neighbor? Is it lukewarm? Well the way to rekindle that love is not to force yourself to do good works, rather it is to listen to the Gospel one more time.
You were a sinner, destined to die because thatís the wage of your sin. But God loved you so much that He sent His only Son to die in your place and HE offers you this exchange (death for life) with no strings attached. Believe it! Receive it! All your sins are forgiven! Your broken relationship with God is restored because of His great gift.

If that doesnít rekindle a love in your heart for God, which in turn will kindle a love in your heart for your neighbor, then Iím afraid you are spiritually dead! You donít understand your condition and what has been offered to you!

This love of God will cause you to want to buy into a mission statement such as what we have here at Living Word. To declare the truth as found in Godís Word...the Bible. And to glorify Christ as we learn to live for the sake of others rather than ourselves.

Jesus lived for the sake of others. He lived for your sake. He lived for my sake,  rather than Himself, it was the Fatherís will. And so we are to yield to the Spirit of Jesus in us and learn to live for the sake of others because it too is the Fatherís will.

It not only gives credence to our message. It proves we have ďheard.Ē More importantly, as we learn to live for the sake of others rather than ourselves, we give a physical snapshot of the spiritual reality of the gospel.

What does it look live for the sake of others rather than ourselves? What can we do to get a feel for such activity in our lives.  Well to give you an opportunity to see what thatís like, we are going to conduct a little experiment this week.

Youíre not going to believe this, but for whatever reason, God has decided to bless you with a little something extra in your paycheck this week. You are all going to be given 20 dollars. All you need to do is remember that it is a gift from God! Do with it what you will, but try to remember these things:

Try to remember our mission statement, To declare the truth as found in Godís Word....the Bible. And to glorify Christ as we learn to live for the sake of others rather than ourselves.

And try to remember that each time we give to the poor with no strings attached, with no thought of being repaid, we mirror the spiritual truth of the Gospel.

Be prayerful, be creative, and have fun. Taste of what it is like to give to others who cannot pay you back. Taste of the gospel in action! Sample of what we want to become here at Living Word. A truth speaking church that seeks to learn to live for others rather than ourselves. I am looking forward to hearing some testimonies from you next week.