The Bible in a Nutshell
Call to Communion
At the table of Jesus the Messiah, we are surrounded by the love of our God. At the table, we are called to experience and practice what it is to love and care for one another. At the table, all conflicts can be set aside as we see and hear and feel God’s bigger picture. At the table, the most important thing of all, the thing that defines the Messiah and defines us, is love.
Prayer of Dedication
We bring these gifts to you, Our God, as a sign of our love and devotion. We pray that your blessing will be upon them and your Spirit will guide their use. Fill them with your loving power that they might be a conduit of Christ’s peace and a beacon of your compassion for all people. Amen
(Philippians 3:4b-14) — You will need a boat anchor (a real one) or a large box with a rope attached. If you use a box, write “500 pounds” on it. Place the anchor or the box at the back of the sanctuary. Gather the children. As the children go to the front, you go to the back and attach the weight to your leg. Start moving very slowly toward the front of the Sanctuary, dragging the weight. Sometimes, we let things drag us down and keep us from following the way Jesus taught us. We might think that the mistakes we have made will keep us from God. We might think we are not good enough to be a Christian. We might think that everything
else can keep us from God. But Jesus helps us to keep going. Ask the children to help untie the weight. In Christ, we are freed from what is holding us back. Let’s pray.
The Bible in a Nutshell by Daniel Richter
Frances bought me a new computer desk and hutch. Now I’m good with tools and assembly, but as I was putting it together this week. I had a few problems, I started like I always do – I open the box and then looked at the instruction manual. It was for 6 different models and I had problems reading the plans.
Now I did alright, and the finished product looks nice, but I didn’t go about things in what one might call “the right way.” I stepped back and boiled it down to the essentials and within a few minutes, I was happily working away
. Don’t you wish we could do that with everything in life? Don’t you wish we could take all of those things that are confusing, difficult to understand, or just overwhelming because of the sheer volume of what we have to digest, take them and boil them down to what’s important, to the basics. Something that we can grasp and understand and when we can understand something, we’re more likely to accomplish what we need to and to do it well.
Do you ever wish that you could do that with the Bible. It would be great to get all of the vast Truth and Wisdom of God’s word summed up for us in a few sentences. What’s the central idea, what’s the most important thing for me to be doing in my life to grow in a relationship with God and to be fulfilling His purposes in my life? If we could go beyond memorizing and knowing Scripture, which are essential things, to truly understanding the heart of the message, we would be much more effective in our walk. As we turn back to the book of Matthew and continue to look at Christ’s teaching, we see that He does just this for us in another run in with the Pharisees. Jesus has just finished telling three stories, the parables of the 2 Sons, the Tenants, and the Wedding Feast. Each of these stories pointed out the hypocrisy of the Pharisees and we’re told that they are actively looking for a way to arrest Him but they are scared of the people. So they begin to look for ways to discredit him publicly, to trick him into saying something that would prove that he was not a prophet at all and was certainly not the Son of God.
They sent their disciples first with a question on paying taxes, hoping that they could get him in trouble with the Roman government. It didn’t work and the Pharisee’s disciples were amazed at His answer. Next, a group called the Sadducees posed a question. The Sadducees were a group of men who fancied themselves very religious and, at the same time, they thought they were very intellectual. These were deep thinkers. As deep thinkers, they had concluded that God was a nice thought and they would accept that but that there could not be anything beyond this life, there was no heaven or hell. They carried their perception of reality, of the current visible world, into their belief of the future invisible world, refusing to believe that God could do anything other than what they could see before them in the present. It was a new belief system within Judaism that was gaining momentum and so to help their cause, they wanted to discredit anyone whose beliefs differed from theirs. That would include Christ. They pose their question about the afterlife to Jesus, hoping to reduce the idea of immortality of the soul, of heaven to absurdity. Jesus wastes little time with these men. He goes right to the root of the issue and says: A. You don’t know the Scriptures (eternity is a central Truth) and B. You don’t know God. What they were seeing was just a glimpse of what God was capable of, not the maximum extent of His power and Sovereignty. He fielded their question and answered with such authority that we’re told that the Sadducees, these deep thinkers, were literally speechless.
I had a friend of mine who was ordained a few years back. He told me the oral interview was not going well and he was asked to defend his position on a certain topic with Scripture. He struggled and hemmed and hawed and was getting frustrated because the men that were questioning him had a different interpretation and belief on this subject. Finally, in frustration, he said to the pastors on the board, if you guys are so smart, you justify your position with Scripture. Now, in ordination interview, this is not really a path you want to head down. Without raising his head, one of the men, a godly man and an veteran pastor, began to quote verse after verse that supported his position. When he had finished, my friend said that he was completely speechless. The pastor had spoken truth in such a clear way and with such authority that there was nothing my friend could say.
This is how Jesus spoke to the Sadducees and they had no response. The Pharisees saw, how Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, and they regroup for another attack.
Read Matthew 22:34-40.
34But when the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered themselves together.
35One of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him,
36"Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?"
37And He said to him, " 'YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND.'
38"This is the great and foremost commandment.
39"The second is like it, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.'
40"On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets."
In the old days of fighting wars when all of the combat was hand to hand. If you had suffered a losses, you would retreat, regroup, and have another go at it. That’s what the Pharisees do here. Jesus has humiliated them with His parables, He has fielded their questions with authority and ease. Instead of exposing and discrediting Jesus as a result of these confrontations, the people are getting a glimpse of the power and authority that he has! So, they regroup and they take another crack at it. This time they send a lawyer. An expert of the law, to ask Jesus what the most important commandment was for the people to follow. The hope was that he would trip himself up with His answer or that He would show an ignorance of the Law that would expose Him as a phony. We’ve talked before about what these Pharisees had done with the God’s commands and the Law. They had turned what was to be for their benefit into an impossible system of rights and wrongs that would guilt people into acting a certain way. They had turned a relationship with God into legalism and the problem with legalism is that the focus is on following laws instead of imitating God. They had taken the 10 commandments and the first 5 books of the Bible and came up with over 600 rules and regulations that they determined had to be followed in order to please God. The thing that made it even more confusing, other than having over 600 laws to follow, was the religious teachers couldn’t even determine which of the laws were the most important to follow. They would often debate which of the laws, was the most important. They believed that if you obeyed many of the heavier, more important laws, some of the smaller, less important ones, could be overlooked.
Kind of like saying I stop at stop sign and red lights therefore I can drive a little faster the posted limit. The system of laws the Pharisees had created was something like this. Each one wanted to concentrate on certain laws so that they could have that outer holiness; they would look good for others. So, they debated which laws should be worked harder at, which were the most important.
Well, Jesus answers their question and instead of being tripped up, Jesus’ answer encompasses all of God’s Law and God’s revelation to the people over the years. Jesus gives us the essential of the OT. He says: Love God. That’s the most important, and love people, that’s right there with it. All of the Law, those things that God commanded His people to obey, not the things the Pharisees had added, and all of the Prophets, those revelations from God spoken and recorded by men, were summed up in these commands. He literally says that the Scriptures hang on these commandments. The word used here for hang means literally to depend on, in the sense of a foundation, something to build something else on. So, the foundation for the law and the prophets, what they are built upon, are the commands to love God and to love people. Think about it. If you take the 10 Commandments, the original Law handed down from God to His people found in Exodus 20, these two things cover all 10 commands. If you love God you won’t have another God before Him, you won’t bow down to idols, you won’t use His name in vain, and you will honor the Sabbath as a day to spend enjoying your relationship with the one you love. If you love people you’ll honor and obey your parents, you won’t murder, you won’t mess around with someone else’s spouse or cheat on your own spouse, you won’t lie, you won’t steal, and you won’t covet what your neighbors have because people will be more important to you than things. They’re all covered! They are all built on and depend on these two Truths that we are to love God first and then love our neighbors as ourselves.
The Pharisees had made the commands of God about the law, Jesus says that they were never about the law, they were about love. His answer, to love, is quite a contrast with the ideas and practices of legalism. But love is what has always defined God and His relationship with us, so it makes sense that it should define us as well. Let’s look first at the first command He gives us in verse 38.
I. Love God
This is first and foremost. This is where it all begins. This love will effect every other relationship that we have. C.S. Lewis once said, “When I have learned to love God better than my earthly dearest, I shall love my earthly dearest better than I do now.”
Now let’s stop and be honest with ourselves, how many of us can say that we truly keep this command. It would have been easier for some of us if Jesus had said that the most important commandment was to go to church, or to tithe, or to help the poor, or to love our families. Those things we can do, it’s easy for us. But He says the most important thing is to love God. This is to be at the center of everything that we do. Our lives are to be marked by a deep love for God.
As I was preparing for this sermon, I thought how many of us have allowed ourselves to become so distracted by other things that we can no longer say that love defines our relationship with God. If our first and greatest priority is to love God, we can’t convince ourselves that we love him and then be annoyed when he wants our time. It is a love that is to consume us.
Jesus tells us the intensity that is to mark this kind of love. We are to love God with all of our:
This is the center of our emotions. Many people try to separate their emotions and their Christianity. You can’t do it. There is a danger if your relationship with God is strictly emotional because emotions change and your relationship would be one big roller coaster ride. But you can’t love God without an emotional response and our relationship with Him will cover the whole range of emotions. We are to love Him with all of our hearts. Our relationship with Him is to be full of awe, passion, joy, and zeal.
We’re also to love Him with all of our:
We are to love him on an emotional level, our hearts, and we are to love him on a spiritual and eternal level, our souls. The soul is the core of our being, it’s who we are when you strip everything else away. This is a level that penetrates deeper than our emotions. Our love for God is to be unshakable. It is to come from the deepest depths of who we are. We are to love God with all of our souls.
We’re also commanded to love God with all of our:
Loving God is not just an emotional thing. God wants us to be convinced with our minds that His words are the Truth. This is love on an intellectual level. Our love for God is to consume all of us. Our emotions, our soul, and our mind are all to be a part of our relationship with God, they are all to involved in knowing and falling in love with God.
So the greatest commandment, the big idea of the Bible is to love God. We show that love through our worship and our devotion to Him. We show that love through our obedience to Him. Those are vertical ways to show God our Love, they’re directed towards Him. This has to come first. But we can’t get so caught up in the vertical that we miss the horizontal. The second command that Jesus points out is another way to show God our love. This one is the horizontal, directed at people. We are to:
II. Love People
Our love for God is shown practically through the way that we love people.
JN 13:34 "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another."
In a world where many people just aren’t nice. In a world where the philosophy of the masses is to look out for number one, the one who loves God is commanded to put the needs of others first, to forgive, to treat people the way that we want to be treated, to display the love of God through the way that we live and interact. This is behavior that will stick out, this is behavior that will be noticed, this is behavior that makes people want to know why you act differently. It’s behavior that ultimately will point people to a relationship with God through Jesus Christ. The reputation of God’s kingdom has suffered greatly because of mean Christians. Christians who say they love God but treat people like dirt. Jesus says love God and love people.
Why should we love others?
1) Because God Does –
That should be reason enough. My parents loved my wife. They loved her for who she is and she’s easy to love, but even if she wasn’t easy to love. Even if she treated them terribly, they would ‘have loved Frances because they love me and I love her. God loves His creation, all of them! All of them are created in His image.
1 John 4:9 God showed how much he loved us by sending his only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. 10 This is real love. It is not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.
11 Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other.
The entire Bible is a love story, a story of a loving God passionately pursuing those He created. If we understand this, that God loves each person with the same love that he has for us, it should change the way that we treat them.
2) It Reflects God’s Love
You can’t see God, but when His people love others, you get a glimpse of who He is.
12 No one has ever seen God. But if we love each other, God lives in us, and his love has been brought to full expression through us.
We can talk about love, we can preach love, we can be in love with the idea of love, but until it is shown through the way we treat others, people will not be able to see the reflection of God that our lives are meant to be.
If those two don’t work for you, I’ll make it simple and beyond any argument:
Because God Commands It
We’ve already looked at the verse here in this passage. Love your neighbor as yourself. It’s a command, it made God’s top two, as a Christian, there is no reason, no excuse not to love. Whatever you are holding on to that is keeping your from loving the unlovable in your life, give it to God and humble yourself and be obedient to His command to love. Try it and watch the ways that you’ll grow and the ways that God will bless your obedience. Loving others is a command.
Love God and love people. All of the Scriptures hang on, are built on these two commands. Everything that God will ever ask of you, everything that we could ever accomplish for his glory will be found in the obedience to these commands in our lives.
We love God through: Personal Time, Prayer Time, Learning about Him (eagerly),Committing to His Church, Obedience – Living Right
We love people through: Serving them, Putting their needs first, Praying for them, Caring for their physical needs, and Caring for their spiritual needs
What does this message have to do with Missions? Everything. It’s the basis and backbone for missions. If we love others we will be concerned about their spiritual needs. We will desire to point them to the Truth and to model godly living before them. Without a passionate love for God and a deep love for people, there would be no missions. This passage is called the Great Commandment, and it’s a desire to obey the great commandment that pushes us to fulfill the great commission, to go into all the world and preach the gospel. To take the gospel to places where people have never heard, to a country that’s not your own and to a people that’s not your own, requires two things: A love for God, and a love for His people. The people that you will see and hear over the next few days are human just like us. They’re not super Christians to be placed on a pedestal. But you can know one thing when you meet them, they are living, breathing examples of what it looks like to follow these commands to love God and to love people.
So, there it is. The Bible in a nutshell. The Truth boiled down to its essence. We can stop trying to figure everything out. All of our obligations to God can be summed up in these two commands. Are you obeying them. Are you living them? Our lives are to be marked by two things. A deep, passionate love for God and out of that love, a love for others. These, according to God Himself, are the most important commands that He gave. What priority have you given them.
We go from this time and place of worship to continue to love God with all our hearts and with all our souls and with all our minds. We go to love our neighbors even as we continue to learn how to love ourselves. We go in the name of the Messiah, God’s anointed one, Divine Love Incarnate. Amen.