Thursday, April 9, 2015

The First and Greatest Commandment

     The other day on Facebook, my dear daughter in law posted a wonderful reminder to us of what Jesus spoke in the Word.  He was confronted by the Pharisees and one of them, a lawyer (expert in the Law of God), asked Him this:  "Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?' And 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.  This is the great and first commandment.  And a second is like it.  You shall love your neighbor as yourself.  On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets'" (Matthew 22:36-40).  Jesus summarized in this statement the intent of "The Ten Commandments".  We are to love God first and foremost with all of our being and secondly, we are to love our neighbor in the
Rilyn and Bennett loving one another
same way we want to be loved.  The first four commandments deal with our relationship to God and the last six deal with our responsibility to one another.  This forms the moral foundation and character for the believer and for society.  It is an impossible task to do this without the help of the Holy Spirit. So what are the implications of this statement?
     As I was considering this the other day, an example came to my mind through a very ordinary activity.  I was peeling potatoes for dinner when I accidentally nicked my finger.  It  did not bleed so I paid no attention to it until I added a pinch of salt to my recipe.  Then, the nick in my finger screamed for mercy as the salt entered the wound.  It burned!  If I had forgotten about my cut, I remembered it then.  In the same way, Jesus calls us to be salt and light in our world, society and culture (Matthew 5:13-16, The Sermon on the Mount to believers).  Salt is a preservative and a flavor enhancer.  It kills bacteria harmful to the human body.  So when our mothers told us to gargle with salt water for a sore throat, they were right!  However, when we act as salt in our society, there may come occasions when the Lord, whom we represent, will bring a sense of conviction to those caught in sin.  This is similar to having salt go into a cut.
      Presently our society is dealing with many issues that fly in the face of God and His Word.  One in particular, Gay marriage, is a predominant concern for some.  If we are to love God with all our heart and mind and soul, then how do we respond to this as a believer?  First, we must turn to God's Word and see what the Lord says.  In Leviticus 18:22, the Lord says:  "You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination."  Then in the New Testament, Paul writes in I Corinthians 6:9-10:  "Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. "  Other verses pertaining to this sin include:  Romans 1:26-28; Leviticus 20:13; Jude 1:7 to name a few.  We know that God's design for marriage from the beginning of all creation was one man and one woman (Genesis 2: 18-25).   We also know that God hates sin and calls upon us to be holy as He is holy.  Psalm 97:10 reads:  "Hate evil, you who love the LORD, Who preserves the souls of His godly ones; He delivers them from the hand of the wicked."  When we, as believers, consider what God says about sin and this act in particular, how can we approve what God calls an abomination?  Yet, today, there are some churches who condone this and applaud it saying "This is how we love our neighbor as ourself."
     Dear Ones, if we love our neighbor as ourself, then we will show them the truth of God's Word by living it out in front them and confronting sin when we find it.  Hating the sin is far different from hating the sinner.  We are all sinners (Romans 3:23) as the Bible tells us.  God sent His Son to die for our sins because of His great love for us (John 3:16).  However, when we become a believer, we are not to continue in our sin or condone the sin of others.  We are to be holy as God is holy and live according to His Laws.  Jesus never came to abolish the moral Laws of God as given in The Ten Commandments.  He came to fulfill the Law by making a way for sinful man to come to God through Him.  Paul said it well in his letter to the Romans 6:1-4:  "What shall we say then?  Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound?  By no means!  How can we who died to sin still live in it?  Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death?  We are buried therefore with Him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life."
     Unfortunately, our society is not just calling for Gay marriage to take place.  The culture in which we live also wants us to accept it, respect it and praise it as being a normal part of our society.  This is where the Christian has to act as salt.  If we love God with all our heart, soul and mind, we must think as He thinks about sin as revealed in His Word which is truth.  We must obey God rather than caving to the pressure of society.  Sinners want society to approve of their sins and say it's okay, but God calls us to a different walk which will always put us at odds with this world because this is not our home.  We are citizens of heaven.
      What about loving our neighbors?  We are to love them where they are at, but also, not leave them there.  We must tell them the truth of God's Word and share the wonderful news of redemption through Christ.  The results are in God's hands.  We cannot change others for only the Holy Spirit can do that, but if we love others, we will want them to know about the Savior.  It is far more loving to tell our neighbor the truth then to condone a life without Christ at the center.
      Do we love God?  Then, we must obey Him and love what He loves and hate what He hates.  We must be transformed into a new life ourselves and then reach out to our neighbors to share this news with them.  We must remember that Jesus called us to be salt and light in this world.  We may sting like salt in a wound when we share the truth, but salt is meant to kill bacteria and preserve things.  If we lose our saltiness in an effort to go along with society, we may end up like this:  "...but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored?  It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people's feet" (Matthew 5:13b,c).  Compromise with the world and its ideas means losing our saltiness.  Believers let us love the Lord with all our heart, soul and mind and our neighbors as ourselves not giving in to the way of this world.  Selah!

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