For the Love of God
Over a nine season career, Clinton Portis became the second leading rusher in the history of the Washington Redskins. When he was only twenty-two, he signed what was the largest contract ever given at the time in NFL history to a running back, and he made more than $43 million dollars in his NFL career. He was a frequent flyer on MTV Cribs where he would show off his numerous, opulent homes, and in his homes you would find the garages always filled dozens of the most extravagant cars that you could imagine. And, what was even more apparent, was that everybody loved Clinton. You’d see him there, and he’d always have a girlfriend or two or three. He’d have his buddies, and his houses would be full. I’ve read accounts where he could rent out entire restaurants or vacation villas, and huge groups of people would travel with him. But, then something happened. The well ran dry. After being taken to the cleaner by a group of unethical financial advisers and due to his own opulence and gambling addiction, in 2015, Portis had to file for bankruptcy, and the party ended. And, guess what happened. His girlfriends went away. And, his friends went home. And, the party ended.
You see, here’s what was revealed about all of them: They didn’t love Clinton Portis. They loved what Clinton Portis could do for them. Their love was self-centered, perverse, and counterfeit. And, this morning, I wonder if that’s how many of us love God. We love forgiveness. We love heaven. We love grace. We love mercy. We love streets of gold. We love what God can potentially do for us. But, we don’t actually love God. I must confess to you this morning that I am preaching this sermon from a particular place of conviction as the Lord has revealed to me so many areas of hypocrisy and sin in my life this week, and I pray that you will encounter God with me in this text this morning. Let’s turn together.
“one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him” The leaders of Israel are continuing their smear campaign against Jesus. They want to turn the crowd against Jesus. Last week, we saw the Sadducees fail, and so, this week, we see the Pharisees jumping back into the game. And so, Matthew makes it clear what their heart is. They want to ‘test’ him. They want to give him a public ‘test’ so that He will fail that ‘test’ publicly. Now, when we think of the word ‘test’, we may not think of it in a positive way, but we don’t necessarily think of it in a negative way. But, that’s exactly how Matthew intends it. In fact, this is the exact same word that Matthew uses in chapter 4 to speak of Satan when in the wilderness he ‘tests’ Jesus. So, this is a Satanic test by the Pharisees.
“Which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Now, the man that asks this particular question is not just a Pharisee. He is an expert Pharisee. He is an expert in the Law. These were Law-loving folks, and even among them, he is called a lawyer. And so, he asks Jesus: “Which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” That is, according to the Law, what is our very greatest duty before God? Now, the Pharisees had carefully studied God’s law, and they had added up that there were 613 laws combined, and it was a common discussion among them as to which laws were weightier and which laws were lighter. Jesus even discusses this a couple of times over the course of the gospels. And, it’s likely that this was a common question that was often debated and hardly answered, of all the laws, which was the weightiest. There’s probably at least two reasons as to why the lawyer asks Jesus this question, and I think the second reason is the most primary. First of all, it’s because there would have been a lot of opinions on this subject, and they want to divide popular opinion on Jesus. Jesus is still very popular with the crowd, and they’re trying to turn people against him. So, if they can force him to choose a side, then they can force him to begin opposing large groups of people who very staunchly believe that their position is rooted in God’s Law. Secondly, and I believe chiefly, the accusation against Jesus was always that He was abolishing the Law of Moses and undoing God’s law. The constant accusation against him was that He didn’t care about the Sabbath or this or that; so much so that in , He even addresses it directly. So, in asking this question, they’re hoping to show that Jesus is going to show that He doesn’t give the Law much weight at all. That He’s going to find some way that dismisses the law or undermines the Law and they will be able to show that Jesus is in fact trying to abolish the Law and is a false teacher. //
Jesus Passes the Test
Jesus Passes the Test
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” With directness and without deliberation, Jesus answers. And, even that simple reality teaches us something. You know, I often hear it said that all sin is the same in God’s eyes. But, by Jesus’ simple willingness to provide answer to this question we see that this simply isn’t true. Sure, all sin is the same in that a single wrong motive is deserving of hell, but what we see here is that there are varying degrees of commands which implies varying degrees of sins. In other places, it is the clear teaching of Scripture that there are varying degrees of reward and varying degrees of punishment. And, I tell you that this morning because there’s a greater weightiness to what we’re talking about today than anything else that we talk about, and I tell you that with authority of Jesus Christ. Based upon his response, this is your greatest responsibility before God, and this will either be your greatest source of judgement or your greatest source of reward. So, this is something you’ve probably heard a hundred times, but brothers and sisters, you probably need to hear it anew!//
“your God” And so, Jesus said something that sounds strange to us but ordinary to them. He quoted to them the most familiar passage in all of Israel to them, the Shema. It’s , and it’s derivative of the very first commandment from the ten commandments. And so, Jesus tells them: “The greatest commandment is the first commandment. It’s the one you quote twice a day, every day. It’s one your children know by heart. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” Now, I told you that was normal for them. They were used to hearing that type of language. But, not us. It sounds strange to us to hear someone say that we’re commanded to love, doesn’t it? Our definition of love is too abstract for that, isn’t it? How can someone command me to love them? I have to fall in love and then stay in love and then they have to stay worthy of love. But, loving God is given as the greatest command and not loving God, especially when you’ve been offered God’s love and exposed to God’s love, is viewed throughout the Bible as the sins warranting the severest judgment. So, how can love be commanded? I want you to see the word ‘your’ here. It’s a subtle word, but man it’s a big one. Do you know what that word meant to Israel? Everything! Do you know what that word should mean to you? Everything! God isn’t distant! God had obligated himself to Israel and had been kind to Israel. God had made his glory evident among Israel and his power clear through Israel. God wasn’t some distant, higher power! He was their God. He was good and gracious and kind and benevolent and merciful. Do you see this? God is matchless in wonder, matchless in beauty, matchless in splendor, matchless in glory, matchless in kindness, and He has offered himself to YOU to be YOUR God. He is the only source of true good that you will ever know, and the only right, logical, and rational response is to pledge your total allegiance to him! So, this command is gracious and good and reasonable and glorious and loving! And, to break it is to reject him as ‘your’ God. //
The Forgiveness Gospel Verses the Kingdom Gospel
The Forgiveness Gospel Verses the Kingdom Gospel
APPLICATION: Now, there is a perversion of the gospel where we live that has the appearance of godliness but in fact denies its power that I think is important to talk about here. Around here, we call it the ‘forgiveness gospel.’ It is pervasive in our community, and I fear even some under my voice this morning may be under its spell. You see the ‘forgiveness gospel’ says that God loves me because God loved the world and so God sent his Son to die for me and I just have to mentally believe that and maybe have felt bad about my sins before or have been baptized before and God is obligated to forgive me. And, this is how the Gospel has been shared and perpetuated door-to-door, person-to-person, baptism-to-baptism, much of it well-meaning. We say, “You are a sinner. You are going to go to hell if you don’t find Jesus. Jesus died on the cross so that you won’t go to hell. Don’t you want to be forgiven? Don’t you want to go to heaven?” But, brothers and sisters, what is the problem? What is the problem with this gospel? We haven’t gotten to the greatest commandment yet? We haven’t told them that they have to love Christ! We haven’t told them that they must love God with all of their heart and all of their soul and all of their minds! You don’t have to love God to love forgiveness any more than you to love your waitress to love your food! And, so are pews are filled with people who would rather be anywhere else and homes are filled with people who believe that they are totally alleviated from any responsibility to the Kingdom of God! The difference in the ‘Kingdom-Gospel’, the true Gospel and the ‘forgiveness Gospel’ is that in the ‘Kingdom Gospel’ God does in fact love the world so much that He sends his one and only Son so that whoever believes in him will have everlasting life, but those who believe in him, namely his church, love him back! They love him back through a supernatural life that is marked by obedient, Spirit-filled living. They love him back through a life marked by a disciples’ devotion in every area of their life from family to finances to career. Brothers and sisters, the primary reason that our community, and even our churches, are filled with people who claim to be Christians but look nothing like Christ is because they love forgiveness and activity, bu they don’t actually love God. Do you love God? //
Do You Love God?
Do You Love God?
How can you know if you love God? Test yourself. For some of you, you're going to answer these questions, and you're going to realize something. You've responded to a preacher before about God or about forgiveness, but you've never actually loved God. You've never actually had any passion for God. You've never re-calibrated your life through Christian repentance so that your life was totally re-oriented around Jesus. And so, there was a time maybe that you thought that you were forgiven, but what I want you to realize is that you were taught a version of the Gospel that was incomplete and unable to save you. As a matter of fact, it abandoned the greatest commandment to love God with all that you are. Today, this morning, come to Christ and be delivered! Others of you, you have truly and sincerely loved God, but you're going to be like me this week, and God is going to wreck you and I ask these questions. He's going to wreck you like He wrecks a husband who loves his wife but never actually demonstrates that love to his wife. God wrecks husbands like that because He loves them. So, hopefully, Christian, these questions will diagnose your heart and reveal to you that, though you do love God, you aren't actually living like it. Ask yourself three questions according to the three 'alls' that Jesus gives. These are radical questions, but Christianity is a radical faith. //
Is God the greatest joy of your life? (heart) Am I able to have joy no matter what else is going on around me so long as I have God? Am I unhappy when I am robbed of my time with God? Do I find myself looking for time with him and wanting to talk with him and looking for ways to give him credit? Isn't that what love looks like? //
Is God the supreme center of your life? To love something with all of your soul is to love them with that part of you that no man can see. It's to love them in a way that is meant only for God. It's to place them at the center of your life and on the altar of your heart. But, there are ways this plays out in your life, too. No person would take you seriously if you said that you loved your wife with all of your heart if you neglected your wife and never spoke to your wife. So, what about your life? Is God really the center of your life? Is He at the center of your calendar, or does He just get what's left? Does He get your leftover time and your leftover energy, as long as it's not too rainy or too pretty or your not too tired or have too much coming up? Is He at the center of your budget? Do you budget in a way to love your neighbor well and to live generously and to live on mission and to support the gospel work of your local church? Or, does He just get what is left? Is God at the center of your family, or are your children? Is God at the center of your career, or is your income? Is God at the center, not in speech, not in theory, not in proposal, but in reality. It is a radical question, but Christianity is a radical faith. Are you loving God with all of your soul? //
And, is God the consuming thought of your mind? I travel a good bit, and I find that as often as I'm away from home that all I think about is home. I love my wife and my kids so much. And so, when I'm away, I'm constantly, instinctively wishing Megan were sharing this experience with me or how GK would laugh about this or remembering this memory. And, this is a picture of how we are to be with God. We think most about that which we love most. As we languish here on earth, our thoughts should be captivated by thoughts of the manifold glories of God! As we struggle with brokenness all around us, we should be constantly tending our wounds with the reminders of God's graces that are everywhere around us. There are enough thoughts about God to be found in staring at the sky to captivate the Christian mind for the rest of his life! And, man, God has given us his specific revelation, telling us exactly who He is! If you love him, you're thinking about him. How often is your mind captivated with thoughts of God? Whatever you think about more than God is an idol and is the very thing that can be your undoing. Ironically, for me, do you know what it is? The church. So, it can be good things! It can be your wife or your kids or your job. But, it throws all of life off kilter. So, listen: If you think about you kids more than you think about God, you have an idol, not children. If you think about your boyfriend or girlfriend more than you think about God, you have an idol. If you think about your husband or wife, you have an idol. If you think about your job more than you think about God, you have an idol. And, this is what creates anxiety! Because if God is the consuming thought, if God is the central thought of our lives, and jobs come next and children come next and family comes next and marriage comes next and money comes next and health comes next then all of it is placed its proper perspective that it flows from God and is entrusted to God so that our hearts are put to rest and our minds are put to ease! //
'All' is the most radical and difficult word that Jesus uses here. He doesn't say that we can love God partially or occasionally or marginally. Instead, He says that we are commanded and expected to love God entirely and totally. And, none of us have done that for five seconds in our entire lives.