Love God 

“ ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment. And the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:30 

The world is fascinated with love. Innumerable songs, books, plays and poetry have been written on the subject. Love is the favorite theme of Hollywood movies, gossip rags and television shows. We even have Valentine’s Day, where we celebrate love with flowers, candy and romantic sentiments. 

I grew up hearing the words “all we need is love” heralded through the airwaves. Love was an important subject in the times of Christ as well. When Jesus was asked what was the most important of all the commandments He responded, “ ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment. And the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:30 

The scribes understood exactly what Jesus was saying and agreed with Him fully. They said “to love God and to love others is more than all the offerings and sacrifices.” We have taken the greatest commandment and put it through the word processor of modern times and reduced it to one word: love. Even those who do not follow Jesus (and a few who do not even believe in Him) will quote Him as saying the greatest commandment is love. They will go on to espouse, that if we want to live and die right, all we need to do is be loving toward one another. Since Jesus declares that this is the most important of all commandments, it is vital that we understand that the command not only states love is the greatest responsibility of man, but also declares who we are to love. 

Just to love our family, or be compassionate toward those less fortunate than us, or to be kind to our fellow man, does not satisfy this commandment. We are only fulfilling the great commandment when we are loving God first, and loving others as an expression of our love for God. Ask yourself this morning, do I love God first? If you do, He should have first place in your life, which means He will have first place in your living. If you love Him, you will spend time with Him, in His Word and in prayer. You will seek to please Him with your actions and express your love to Him in worship. Just to love, or to herald the importance of love, does not satisfy the greatest commandment. Instead, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. ’ This is the first commandment. And the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself. ’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”
Pastor Jim

  

Divine Justice 

Psalm 109:2
“My knees are weak through fasting, and my flesh is feeble from lack of fatness.”

When I read the songs of David, I am fascinated with the level in which He knew the Lord. He expresses praise in a way that reveals the depths in which he understood the majesty of God. He speaks of mercy, grace and loving-kindness, not as one who studied it in a classroom, but as one who experienced it daily. This psalm reveals the level in which David understood the justice of God. If this Psalm seems harsh, it may be partly due to the limited understanding we have of God’s justice. We live in a world that finds it difficult to reconcile love, mercy and justice. We see it as unloving to punish an offender, yet we know it to be unjust to allow them to go free. It is common to project our limited understanding of righteousness on the Lord, only to then accuse Him of wrongdoing when He judges the ungodly. We must never forget, God is a holy and just God. When sin is committed it must be judged, God will bring justice upon those who have rebelled against Him, and mistreated His children. Ultimately, this judgment will be punitive and those who have rejected Christ will be separated from God.

CS Lewis put it like this, “God in the end really gives people what they want, including freedom from Himself. What could be more fair?”

But until then, the judgment of God is meant to draw people to Himself. God does not want the rebellious to continue in their sin, ignorant of how He feels about it. Instead, He desires all men everywhere to be saved.

Before we are too hard on David for the intensity of his prayer regarding the wicked, I think we have to visit where he had been. I am not talking about going through the kind of hardship that make us callous to others, but rather I am referring to the statement David makes in verse 24,

“My knees are weak through fasting, and my flesh is feeble from lack of fatness.”

To be honest, I am humbled by these words. David describes the physical weakness he experienced as a result of the intensity in which he was seeking the Lord. His prayer for the wicked to be judged was not birthed out of their mistreatment of him, but rather out of his time spent seeking the Lord on their behalf. The best thing for those who are living in rebellion against God is to taste a little of His severity, if it will bring them to a place of repentance that they might avoid eternal judgment.

As you seek to understand this Psalm, take a few moments to pray for your loved ones who are still living apart from Christ. Pray that they would surrender all without having to go through any more of the severity of God.

Pastor Jim

 

Enemies

Psalm 69:1-2
Save me, O God! For the waters have come up to my neck. I sink in deep mire, where there is no standing; I have come into deep waters, where the floods overflow me.”

This Psalm is fulfilled in at least three ways. First, it expresses an actual time in the life of David. His enemies have mounted up against him with such great force that he feels like one who is drowning in a mighty flood. The enemies he faces are those who have sided with Saul, to seek his life; those who were against him because he had chosen to follow God, and finally, and perhaps his greatest enemy, is his own sin. In the midst of the battle for his own life, sin had mounted up like an army, seeking to destroy him. David’s victory over these enemies is found as He seeks the mercy of God. He writes, “Hear me, O Lord, for Your lovingkindness is good; turn to me according to the multitude of Your tender mercies.” Psalm 69:16

Second, this Psalm has fulfillment in the daily life of the child of God. At times, we find ourselves facing enemies far greater than ourselves. Trials can be like a mighty force that we cannot overcome; there are even times when people turn against us. Like Job, when we need someone the most, we often feel like we have been deserted. However, the greatest enemy, the one that wages the most intense battle against us, is personal sin. We all know those times when our easily besetting sins seem to mount an offensive so great that we wonder when we will be taken down. It is in those times, we must follow the example of David, and look up to Heaven’s throne of Grace and cry out, “Hear me, O LORD, for Your loving-kindness is good; turn to me according to the multitude of Your tender mercies.”

Finally, this is another of the Messianic Psalms. It has it’s fulfillment at the Cross of Christ. Verse twenty-one draws our attention to the crucifixion; “They also gave me gall for my food, and for my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink” (Psalm 69:21). Jesus was also surrounded by enemies. The enemies He faced were the religious leaders, Roman soldiers, a multitude of onlookers, and even some who had once followed Him. They were all now crying out for His execution. When Peter explained the events of the crucifixion in Acts 2, he made it clear that it was not the Romans, or even the Jewish leaders, who were responsible for the execution of Christ. He said to a group of people, many who had traveled from a distant land, and were not present at the death of Christ, “ . . .you have taken (Him) by lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death” (Acts 2:23). Jesus went to the cross to satisfy the wrath of God. His death provided a way for the insurmountable forces of sin to be conquered, and eternal life to be provided. Our cry for mercy can be answered because of the atoning death of Christ. Even when our sins wage war against us, and it seems like a force too great to withstand, we can cry out to heaven for mercy, forgiveness and victory.

Take time to look to His mercy today.

Pastor Jim