Grace to You Resources
Grace to You - Resource

This morning we find ourselves coming to another of the great texts of this epistle, that is in chapter 13 verses 8 through 10, Romans chapter 13 verses 8 through 10.  Let me read this text in order that it might be fixed in your mind and then we'll look at what the Spirit of God is teaching us in it.  "Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another, for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law.  For this, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not murder, you shall not steal, you shall not covet, and if there is any other commandment it is summed up in this saying, you shall love your neighbor as yourself.  Love does no wrong to a neighbor.  Love therefore is the fulfillment of the law."

 

This great text focuses on the key to obedience.  When Jesus commissioned His disciples, you'll remember, and His church along with them to make disciples of all nations, He said that an essential part, an essential element in that enterprise was to teach them to obey everything I have commanded.  Inherent in the evangelization efforts of Christians is to teach people the necessity of obedience to the Word of God and the law of God.  When Jesus originally confronted the twelve apostles and called them to follow Him, He called them with the familiar words, "Follow Me."  He was establishing by that a relationship in which they would be servant and slave and He would be Lord and Master, a relationship in which He would give the commands and they would obey.  When Jesus responded to the rich young ruler who came to Him and wanted to know how to obtain eternal life, He didn't really answer the question until He had established another issue.  He said to the young man, "Sell all your possessions, take your money give to the poor and follow Me."  And the young man went away indifferent, rejecting that offer.  It wasn't that he didn't want eternal life, he did, it was that he didn't want obedience.  Jesus was going to take charge of his life and make demands and commands that were more than he was interested in responding to and so he walked away.  Jesus was saying in effect, if you aren't willing to follow Me, you cannot participate in eternal life.  When Jesus had to rebuke the erstwhile disciple, Peter, because of his inquisitiveness about what was going to happen to John in the future, Jesus said to Peter, "It's none of your business what happens to John, you follow Me."  And took him all the way back to the beginning as if to say, "Have you forgotten?  I give the orders and you obey them."

 

Now summing all of that up, those illustrations and many others that you could find on the pages of Scripture, nothing is truer of the gospel, I'll say that again, nothing is truer of the gospel than that it is a call to obey Jesus Christ.  When a person comes to Christ to receive salvation, it is a call to obedience.  In fact, the apostle Paul even called salvation the obedience of faith, a faith that obeys, a faith that submits, a faith that follows, a faith that subscribes itself to all the commands that God has given.

 

Such obedience is an essential component in our Christian living.  It is foundational to our power, our joy, our usefulness and our blessing.  And we would all acknowledge that, that coming to Jesus Christ for salvation was an affirmation that I will obey Him.  I'm reminded of 1 Peter chapter 1 where the apostle Peter writes in verse 2 that we have been sanctified by the Spirit in order that we may obey Jesus Christ.  We were set apart from sin by the Spirit unto God in order that we might obey Jesus Christ.  We understand that.  We know the Bible teaches that.  We affirm that as true.  However, we find such obedience difficult.  Michael Griffiths quipped one time, "Enthusiasm is easier than obedience."  He's right.  We can feel strongly about obedience and not be obedient.  We can feel that it's right to be obedient and not obey.  We can feel confident that obedience is the path to blessing and usefulness and joy and still not obey.  It's difficult.  The apostle Paul would certainly say an amen to the difficulty, wouldn't he?  For it was he, we know now, who said in Romans chapter 7, "What I really want to do I find myself not doing, and what I really don't want to do I find myself doing. I'm in a wretched condition."  In other words, in my inner man I love the law of God and with my inner man I desire to do it because it is holy, just and good, I want to obey, I long to obey, but I have a struggle in doing it.  We would agree with that.

 

Sometimes we're like a child who loves his mother and father, loves them deeply, knows they have his best interest in their hearts, but yet even in spite of their love and acceptance, and even an adoring attitude toward the parents, very often are put off when the parent gives them a command.  I know there were many times when my children, all, I think, loving children who gave mom and dad all the love that any parents could ever hope for and still do, there were times when I made commands to my children that were an invasion into their world of independence.  There were times when I made commands that something in them said I want to do but the command itself was ominous, threatening, irritating, stifling, frustrating and forced them to leave their pleasure.  But out of a healthy understanding that parents are to be feared, and I think a even stronger compulsion of love, children usually submitted.

 

It's that way with the Lord.  It isn't the question of whether we want to obey Him, we do.  It isn't a question of whether we know obedience brings blessing, we know that.  It isn't a question of what our deepest desire is, that is fixed, we desire that which is holy, just and good.  But there are those moments in which the commands of God somehow interrupt our otherwise pleasure-filled activities and sometimes they strike a blow against the...the desires of our flesh and they stifle and frustrate and irritate us because they make us yield up some pleasurable thing that our flesh enjoys.  If we are the true children of God, we want that yielding but find the difficulty in doing it.

 

This is very different, by the way, than non-saved people, people who don't know God, who don't love God, who aren't His children.  It's not so with them.  Did you ever try to order around somebody else's children?  It's a hopeless process.  So it is with the unregenerate in the world, the people who don't know God.  The Law of God is not any authority in their life.  God isn't going to rain on their parade.  God makes no binding claim on them.  He is not their Father and it doesn't matter to them what He says, they're not about to stop their pleasure.  But we're not like that.  To the true child of God, obedience is a sweet and desirable thing.  Obedience is the path of blessing.  We know that.  Obedience is the welcome expression of the deepest desire of the redeemed soul.  And we all can identify with David in Psalm 119 when he said, "I delight in Thy commandments which I love.  I lift my hands to Thy commandments which I love." When he said, "Thy Law is my delight."  When he said, "Oh how I love Thy Law."  We can all identify with that.  Certainly this marks the desire of the born-again child of God.  He has a willing heart and a willing spirit and longs to obey.  With his inner man, as it says in Romans, he loves the law of God.

 

But obedience is still not easy.  It's difficult.  And that poses the question then. How can I... How can I find the path to obedience?  How can I get on that track?  How can I get over the frustration of disobedience in my own life which really runs against the grain of my new nature?  And I believe Paul gives us the answer in this monumental text, one of the mountain peaks of this great epistle because it touches at the heart of an issue.  It is both central and comprehensive.  The apostle Paul says in verses 8 to 10 that the key to obedience is love.  That's the key to obedience.  Like the obedience of that child in the illustration, what ultimately compels the child to a willing obedience is love.  Fear may direct him to an unwilling obedience, which is not an obedience at all in God's eyes.  But the only thing that will compel him to a willing obedience is love.  The same is true in the spiritual dimension.  If I am going to do all things whatsoever Christ has commanded me, if I'm going to keep the law of God which I love, it is going to be because I love not only the law, but I love the God of the law and I love others.

 

I want us to look at these three verses just to capture the essence of this profound reality.  He starts out in verse 8 by saying, "Owe nothing to anyone."  That's a bridge.  He's been talking about pay your taxes.  You know, render to the government what you owe them, custom to whom custom is due, etc.  He said that governments are ordained of God.  They are the authority God has put in place.  They have a right to tax you, pay your taxes and don't owe anyone anything.  Be up-to-date in your debt to the government.  But he builds the bridge from there and he really moves away from that concept when he says, "Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another."  And he goes across that bridge to another debt that we owe, not the debt to the government, not the debt to someone from whom we borrowed money, but the debt that we have to everybody.  And he says you have a debt that you must pay and that is to love one another and though you pay it you will always owe it.  The only thing you have a right to still owe, the only thing that in a measure could be said to be overdue is love.

 

Now just a footnote.  When he says, "Owe no man anything," he's not saying that you should never borrow money.  That's not his point.  Jesus gave a parable at the close of Matthew in which He said to the unfaithful servant, "You should have put your money in the bank and earned interest."  Now if Jesus told a man to put his money in a bank and earn interest, then He knew that bank was loaning the money out to collect interest.  So Jesus was approving of the whole transaction of interest, whether given or taken.  For proper purposes that's good.  To go into debt, the Bible says, for luxuries, for things you don't need is wrong.  To overcharge interest is usury, that is wrong.  But a proper understanding of borrowing is not wrong as long as you know the borrower is the servant to the lender and as long as you know Psalm 37:21 says the wicked borrows and doesn't pay back, the righteous man then borrows and does pay back.  There is a place for that.  He's not forbidding that totally, he's saying if you owe something, pay it.  If you owe the government tax, pay it.  Implication, if you owe somebody something and you contracted to pay it at a certain rate, pay it.

 

But more importantly, moving away from those financial considerations, he says here's what I want you to owe.  I want you to owe people love.  I want you to feel like you are in debt constantly to love one another.  The debt of love is a permanent debt.  It never leaves us.  It's a debt that we pay all the time but never reduce.  We don't owe less love when we've paid some.  It's an undiminishing debt.  I wish you could kind of understand it, if you've ever had a loan where you've paid interest only and you never eliminate the principle.  The principle of love will always remain; we just give the interest on it.  The principle is always the same. We owe the same amount all the time.  This should mark us as Christians.  We owe love to each other.  John 13 says, "By this will the world know that you're My disciples if you have love for one another."  In John 15 Jesus said the kind of love I'm talking about is the kind of love whereby a person lays down his life for his friend.  In 1 John chapter 2 the writer tells us that this is a mark of a true Christian.  He says in 2:10, the one who loves his brother abides in the light.  Later on in chapter 3 he says if you don't love your brother, how can we say the love of God dwells in you?  You have a debt to love everyone.  In Matthew 5:44 Jesus even took it to the extreme; He said, "Love your enemies."  And in Galatians 6:10 Paul said, "Do good to all men, express your love to all men, especially those of the household of faith."  We're to love everybody.  We're to demonstrate the love of God to everyone.  Paul said in Colossians 3:14, we are to put on love which is the bond of our perfection.  In 1 Corinthians 14:1 he said we are to follow after love.  Philippians 1:9, to abound in love.  First Timothy 2:15, to continue in love.  First Peter 1:22, to have fervent love.  I mean, the Scripture just goes on and on and on about the obligation we have to love.

 

The question is, how is this debt discharged?  How are we to do this?  How are we to show this love?  Well, the Scripture's very clear about that.  It says we are to show love by teaching others, by ministering to the needs of others, by serving one another's spiritual growth through exemplary behavior that sets a godly pattern for them, by coming alongside them to bear their burdens and so fulfill the law of love, by covering their faults — love does cover a multitude of sins — by forgiving them as God for Christ's sake as forgiven you.  We are to love by sacrificing even our own lives.  That's the kind of love we're to show to other people.  We're to not look on our own things, Philippians 2 says, but on the things of others, consider others better than ourselves.  We're to love sacrificially those around us.  We have that debt.

 

I need to say that in this text here we need to...to place another concept, and that is this, the assumption here is that we have this capacity.  He would not say to us, "Owe no man anything except to love one another” if we didn’t have the capability to do that.  You'll remember that in our study of 1 Thessalonians Paul said, "You don't have anybody...you don't have any need for anybody to teach you how to love because you're taught of God to love one another," remember that?  You have been divinely taught to love.  Remember Romans 5:5 where Paul says the love of God is shed abroad in your hearts.  You remember chapter 3 of Ephesians where the apostle Paul said, "What I pray is that you would comprehend the love of Christ which passes all knowledge in its depth and height and length and breadth," to know this surpassing love and not to attain it but just to understand it, to grasp the reality of it, the magnitude of it, to grasp the presence of it shed abroad in your hearts, this capacity to love.  Every command in the Bible to love precludes the concept that we have that capacity.  God doesn't ask us to do what we have no capacity to do and so we want to comprehend the resource of love that is in us by the new life, the indwelling Spirit whose fruit is love, we have that capacity and we have that debt therefore.

 

It's as if the whole world was poor and we were infinitely rich.  It's as if the whole world was in poverty and we could pass out riches and never diminish our principle.  What he is saying is you have a reservoir of love, unlimited, immeasurable as to its heighth and breadth and length and depth, an incomprehensible capacity to love.  And your responsibility is to disseminate that to people all your life long.  That's your Christian life being lived out.  If you understand the resource, if you comprehend the love of Christ as Paul prayed that you would in Ephesians 3:13 to 21, if you submit to the Holy Spirit whose fruit is love, Galatians 5:22, if you purify your hearts from sin as Peter says in 1 Peter 1:22, purified your souls unto a sincere love, if you realize the urgency and the cry of people who desire to be loved, you will be fervent in your love.  This is your debt.  You have to make the choice.  You have to put on love.  That's a conscious choice.

 

One of the reasons you come to church, Hebrews 10:24, is to stimulate one another to love and good works. That's what that verse says.  You're here so that you may be stimulated to love, reminded to love.  So if we understand the resource, submit to the Spirit, purify our hearts, realize the urgency, make a conscious choice, a decisive choice, and mingle among believers who stimulate that love, then we're going to come to the place where we do what this command says we must do.  We have a debt.  I owe a world love.  I owe the church love.  I owe you love.  I have an unlimited resource, I can give as much away as possibly could be given away and I will never diminish the resource I have.

 

There's another way to look at it.  A reservoir of love is so inexhaustible that we never can give away the principle, if you can comprehend it in that sense.  There's another way to look at it. Think of it this way.  By its very nature, love is the duty which when done is never done.  Since the person loves truly who loves for the purpose of loving, the person loves not truly who loves for the purpose of ceasing to love.  Do you understand that?  Love is an amazing thing.  I can say, "You know, I need to do that for somebody and I want to do it so I can get it over with.  I need to do this thing over here because I really need to get that behind me.  I just keep thinking about it.  I want to do it so I get it over with."  Love is the one thing that you never purpose to cease doing by doing.  You don't love someone and say, "Well, I got that over with.  Boy, I'm glad.  I've been wanting to love that person for a long time, I'm glad I loved him and now it's over."  No, that's not how love works.  He loves not truly who loves for the purpose of ceasing to love.  In fact, I have found that the more I love, the more it exacerbates my loving condition and the more I love the more I love to love.  Love then is this deep desire rising from within my regenerate soul to seek the well-being of people around me.

 

You know, we live in a culture that doesn't know anything about this.  This has got to be the most selfish society in human history.  I can't imagine that any culture in human history could ever be as selfish as this one.  The continual degeneracy and debauchery of man's moral condition since the Fall makes man the most cumulatively wicked that he's ever been because the Bible says evil men grow worse and worse, so they're worse now than they've ever been.  And at the core of all sin and iniquity is the ugly, ugly reality of pride and pride is the death of love and so what happens is, the longer man lives on this earth and plunges into the morass of his declining morality, the less and less capacity or interest or care he has for each other and you have an escalating, growing independence in which people want only what satisfies them and they could care less about anybody else.  People don't get married for love today, they get married for lust.  And when the lust runs out, they drop each other like a hot potato.  They call it love.  It isn't love because it ceases.  And love by the very loving finds itself fulfilled and yet unsatisfied and wanting more.  We live in a world where trying to teach people how to love is frighteningly difficult.  But nonetheless we have this debt and this debt is to love each other.

 

You say, "Well yeah, but what does that have to do with the obedience thing?"  Well let's go to the second thought here.  At the end of verse 8 he says, "For he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law."  Now we're getting into the transition.  This is a very dynamic statement.

 

Some people might think that love and law are incompatible, that love and law are antithetical.  They're not.  They're really not.  And Paul shows us the relationship.  We go from the debt of love at the beginning of verse 8, to what we could call the discharge of love, the discharge of it.  Go to verse 9.  Paul says, looking back to the Ten Commandments, "You shall not commit adultery, you shall not murder, you shall not steal, you shall not covet."  There he lists four of the Ten Commandments.  Commandment 7, commandment 6, commandment 8, and commandment 10, just a sampler out of the second half of the Decalogue, the Ten Commandments.  He leaves out number 5 and number 9, not for any reason other than he's just being selective.  And to show you that he's being selective, he just throws in the little phrase, "and if there's any other commandment."  These are just samples.  But if there's any other, it's the same.  If there's any other, it's summed up in this saying, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself."

 

That's fascinating.  He says, "now I just take you to the commandments, look at the second half of the commandments.”  By the way, the first four commandments have to do with a man's relation to God and the last six have to do with a man's relation to his fellow man.  So he goes in to the ones related to our fellow man, picks out four of the six, and says, "These and the rest sum up in this statement, you shall love your neighbor as yourself."  There it is.  There's the key to obeying the entire law.  Love does not replace law, it makes obedience possible.  This is an amazing thing.  What is he saying here?  What is the point here?

 

Well let me show you.  Let me take you back to Exodus 20, the Ten Commandments.  Let's look at them.  Turn in your Bible to Exodus chapter 20 and I want to just run you very briefly through the Ten Commandments and give you another perspective.  We see them as law, "Thou shalt not, thou shalt not, thou shalt not," in the King James.  We remember that.  These are firm, strong commands by God and we see them as law.  But I want you to see them this morning not as law, but I want you to see them as love.  I want you to see them as love.

 

Verse 3 gives us the first of the Ten Commandments.  "You shall have no other gods before Me," Exodus 20 verse 3.  This is the first commandment that God gives to Moses to write down for the people, "You shall have no other gods before Me."  That's a command.  But listen, love will fulfill that command.  Love will fulfill that command.  You say how?  Because love is loyal, love is true to its object, love is not fickle.  Love is single-minded.  You don't have to tell a man to be faithful to his wife if he truly loves her.  Love produces loyalty.  You don't have to tell a Christian not to have other gods than the true God if he loves the true God because love is loyal.  See, love fulfills that law.

 

On the other hand, if the man doesn't love God, then he's going to have a very difficult time not having any other gods, right?  If he has no love for the true God, he will create all kinds of gods to satisfy him.  You see, love is loyal and when God says don't have any other gods, He's saying love Me singularly.  And if you do, you won't have any other gods.  I don't have a problem worshiping other gods, false gods. You don't either because you love God.  You don't need a sign in your house that says, "Remember, do not worship another god."  You say, "I'm not going to worship another god.  I love God.”  There are times when your weak flesh may begin to bow at some other earthly deity, success, prestige, power, or whatever, but that is an intrusion into your desire to love the true God and only relates to the weakness of your flesh.  And may I add, if you loved God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, then you would never have a problem with loving anything else.

 

The second command is in verse 4, "You shall not make for yourself an idol or any likeness of what is in heaven above, or on the earth beneath, or in the water or under the earth.  You shall not worship them or serve them for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children on the third and fourth generation of those who hate Me but showing loving-kindness to thousands to those who love Me and keep My commandments."  And this one just says, don't make any idols.  If you love God, you're not going to make an idol because love is not only loyal, love is faithful to a promise, faithful to a covenant.  You said you'd worship Him and you will.  Love is devoted to its object.  It's very much like the first command.  Love is loyal, not fickle, true to its object, faithful to the covenant it made.  You don't need a sign in your house that says, "Don't build an idol today, I know the temptation is strong to go out in the garage and carve one, don't you do it."  You don't... You're not pressured to do that.  "Don't worship the sun today."  "Don't bow down to some false god somewhere in a temple."  You don't have that problem because you love God, you're faithful.

 

The third command in verse 7, "You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain for the Lord will not leave him unpunished who takes His name in vain."  You don't... You don't want to be irreverent.  This is a command against irreverence.  But love is not irreverent.  If I love God, it's not my desire to be irreverent.  If I love God it's not my desire to take His name in vain.  I'm not going to... I'm not going to curse with His name.  I'm not going to dishonor His name, drag it down, use it in a way that brings reproach on Him, because I love Him.

 

Verses 8 to 10 give us the fourth command about the Sabbath day, keeping it holy.  And what this means is you've got to focus on the Lord and your relationship to the Lord and you've got to set yourself apart unto holiness.  Love is holy.  It is dedicated.  It is set apart to the object of its worship.

 

So the first four commands are pretty simple.  What they tell us is that if we love God, we're going to be loyal to God, faithful to God, reverent toward God and holy toward God.  That's not too difficult to understand.  I don't have to have a commandment that tells me to worship the Lord; there's something in my heart that does that.  I don't have to have a commandment written to say set apart time for worship and time for fellowship with God, time for communion.  That's in my heart to do that.  You see, in Matthew 22 verse 37 and 38, this man said to Jesus, "What's the greatest commandment?"  He said, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind."  I mean, that's...that's where it starts and that's exactly what the Ten Commandments are saying, if you love like that you're going to keep the Law.

 

Look at the second half of the law, and we're just lightly touching this.  Look at the second half of the law. From command number 5 on they relate to relationships to people.  Look at the fifth command in verse 12, "Honor your father and your mother that your days may be prolonged in the land which the Lord your God gives you."  What this means is love is respectful to parents.  Love starts right in the home.  You don't need a command, I trust, to love your parents.  I trust you have a heart to do that.  The regenerate nature longs to do that.  Oh sure, there may be times when you're unkind and insensitive and thoughtless and your flesh gets in the way, but there are impulses in you that long to show love to your parents.

 

In verse 13, 14, 15, 16 and 17 come the remaining commands.  Verse 13, "You shall not murder."  Love is protective.  Love is protective.  It is submissive to parents and loving, love is protective.  It doesn't seek to kill people, it seeks to save them.  Verse 14 gives the next one, "You shall not commit adultery."  Love is... Love is never seeking to stain someone.  Love doesn't seek to defile someone.  Fifteen: Love doesn't steal.  Why?  Because I don't want what you have, I love you, I want you to have what you have and I'd like you to have what I have.  Verse 16, "Don't bear false witness against your neighbor."  Love doesn't tell lies against people because it's not seeking to destroy people.  Verse 17 is the last one, "Don't covet your neighbor's house."  Why would love do that?  Love says I'm glad you've got what you've got.

 

Love is protective.  Love is pure.  Love is unselfish.  Love is truthful.  Love is absolutely content and happy about you.  Love isn’t...isn't going to be unkind to parents.  Love isn't going to kill somebody.  If I...I don't need a sign in my house that says, "Don't kill your children.  Remember now, don't kill your children.”  I'm not going to kill my children, I love my children.  I don't have a sign on my wall that says, "Don't commit adultery today; please don't commit adultery."  I love my wife.  I have no desire for that.  I don't have a sign in my house that says, "Now remember, don't steal anything.  Try to get through the day without stealing."  I don't want what somebody else has.  The impulses of my new nature want to give somebody else what I have.  I don't want to lie about somebody to their harm and I don't want what they have covetously.  That's the impulse of the new life. That's what it...that's the love that can overpower that unredeemed flesh that gets in the way of our obedience.  There are times when my flesh gets in the way and yours but the impulses of the new life are to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and Jesus said in Matthew chapter 22, that same text, the second is like unto it, love your neighbor as yourself and on this hang all the law and the prophets.

 

By the way, that statement here in our text, in Romans, that you're to love your neighbor as yourself, is taken directly out of Leviticus 19:18. It's an exact quote.  You don't need to look it up.  The end of verse 9, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself."  If you love God, you'll fulfill the first four commandments.  If you love your neighbor as yourself, you'll fulfill the last six.  And then that's fulfilling the law.  That's it.  Love Me, love men, and you'll fulfill the law.  If you have that heart, if you cultivate that spirit... I used to tell young people there’s a great principle for living the Christian life. It's this: Love God, love everybody else, do what you want.  That used to kind of blow their minds.  Do what you want?  Sure, because if you love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, you'll never do anything that would in any way violate Him.  You'll be loyal to Him, faithful to Him, reverent toward Him and holy.  And if you love others as you love yourself, you'll be protective, you'll desire their best, you'll be truthful, you won't covet and so forth.  See, those...those things are just basic.

 

In fact, I guess you could even go further and say, "You know, if everything is right in your life, you could...you could sin as much as you wanted."  You say, "What?"  Well the key is, you wouldn't want to because you'd love God too much to sin against Him and you'd love your fellow man too much to sin against him or her.  What does he mean when he says you shall love your neighbor as yourself?  There have been a lot of confusing things said about this.  It's a very simple thing.  All it means is give the same care and the same attention to somebody else that you give to you.  Is that too difficult to interpret?  Pretty simple.  I mean, we are very good at taking care of ourselves, are we not?  We make sure that everything that needs to be dealt with regarding us is first priority.  He says, "Well, now you have a living illustration of how you're supposed to treat everybody else.  As much as you pay attention to your own care, as much as you pay attention to your own needs, that's exactly the level of attention you need to give to other people.

So here we are in terms of human relationships.  We have all these laws that the Bible has laid down in the Ten Commandments and all the refinements of that that we find throughout the Old Testament and all the refinement we find throughout the New Testament about how we are to live and we look at this mass of data and we say, "How in the world am I going to obey all of this?  It's overwhelming."  And Paul in his incredible inspired ability to reduce everything to the irreducible minimum says, "Just love your neighbor the way you love yourself and you will fulfill the law of God."

 

Wow!  That's exactly what that young man asked Jesus in Matthew 22, "How can I... How can I know which is the most important commandment?"  And Jesus summed it up and He didn't just pick His two favorites, He said this is it, man.  "If you love God with everything you've got and you love your neighbor the same way you love yourself, you're going to fulfill the whole law."

 

So I submit to you that the key to obedience is love.  It's not some...some effort to try to catalog every single issue in life and figure out how I'm going to follow them all up.  It's to have a heart, soul committed to expressing the indwelling reservoir of the love of Christ toward others that it literally controls me.

 

Paul said this another way.  Really?  First Corinthians 13, listen to what he said.  "Love is patient, love is kind.  It's not jealous, love doesn't brag, and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly, does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth, bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things."  Now listen to that.  The Bible commands us to be patient with all men; love will do that.  The Bible commands us to be kind and do good to all men.  The Bible says love will do that.  Scripture says we are not to be jealous of others and covet.  Scripture says that love will do that.  We are told not to be proud and arrogant and brag.  Believe me, love will eliminate that because it looks on the things of others rather than our own.  Scripture says don't act in a manner that is not becoming.  Now that's a pretty broad sweep.  Love would preclude us ever acting in any way that was not fitting for a Christian.  Love doesn't seek its own.  Surely that is true because love is so humble.  Love doesn't get angry, it doesn't remember offenses against it, it doesn't rejoice in somebody else's unrighteousness.  It will endure everything.  It tends to believe everything.  It maintains enduring hope.  It can suffer through anything and it’ll never fail and therefore it will fulfill the whole law of God.

 

It's an incredible thing to realize the simplicity of this great reality.  We are called to love because Paul says twice, verse 8 and verse 10, "Love fulfills the whole law."  Remember when Jesus came and He said that He had not come to set aside the law but to what? Fulfill it?  This ought to be a key as to how...how to understand what Jesus meant.  Jesus fulfilled the law of God.  Do you know why?  Because He had perfect love for God and perfect love for men.  And so toward God He was loyal, toward God He was faithful, toward God He was absolutely reverent, toward God He was holy.  And toward men He was gracious, merciful, kind. Every good thing did He do and never did He do an evil deed to a living person.

 

You say, "What about sending people to hell?"  That's not evil, that's righteous, perfect compliance with the law of God.  And thus He fulfilled it, says Matthew 5:17.  If you would be an obedient Christian it's fine for you to know that obedience is required, it's fine for you to be committed to it.  But like the rest of us, you struggle because it isn't always as easy to do and as Griffith said, "Enthusiasm is a lot easier than obedience."  How then can you step out of the wish and into the reality of obedience?  And I believe it is by cultivating our love toward God and toward our fellow man.

 

You say, "How do I do that?"  Well, I guess the simplest summation is the fruit of the Spirit is love and if you walk in the Spirit you'll not fulfill the desire of the flesh but you'll fulfill the desire of the Spirit which produces fruit which will be to produce love.  So you need to walk in the Spirit.

 

What does that mean?  Letting the Word of Christ dwell in you richly and as the Word of God controls your mind and your behavior, the Spirit of God then has a handle to direct your life and in that direction He yields up the fruit, which is love.  But there might be some practical things you could do.  Apart from that spiritual devotion, there might be some practical things you could do to sort of put these things in place.  I jotted down a little list of things that I might suggest that you could do to begin to show love toward others in practical ways.  Things like this, this is not exhaustive, this may not even relate to you, but just an idea of what I mean when...when...when I say if you'll just begin to love people, you will begin to fulfill the whole law.  Here's some practical ways you can do it, a few suggestions.

 

One, mend a quarrel; mend a quarrel that you're in, take the blame for it.  Show love in that way.  Two, search out a forgotten friend that you forgot because you didn't have any interest in them anymore or they didn't bring anything to bear on your life that was significant.  Search out a forgotten friend and rekindle a relationship.  Dismiss a suspicion in your mind that you hold for someone and ask the Spirit of God to give you love and trust.  Let an old bitterness die.  Write a letter to someone who loves you.  Encourage someone you know who is discouraged.  Keep a promise.  Forget a wrong that was done to you.  Reduce your demands on others from that unrealistic level at which you aren't willing to live.  Say thanks all the time to people.  Tell somebody you love them, somebody that will be surprised to hear it.  Pray for an enemy.  Send a check to somebody who has a need with a little note. And ask God to help you love the way Jesus loved.

 

A lot of practical things we can do.  It's all summed up in Ephesians 5:2, "Walk in love," that's daily conduct, "just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us."  Walk in love, the kind of love Jesus showed that was sacrificial, kind of love which made Him give Himself for others.

 

Father, thank You for our time this morning in Your Word, just a magnificent passage to pull together all the loose ends of our spiritual experience into the one compelling reality of love.  Thank You that we have the capacity to do this because You've shed Your love abroad in our hearts.  Thank You that the Spirit dwelling within us produces that fruit of love.  Lord, help us to understand this resource and its depth, height, breadth and length.  Help us to fervently, passionately and zealously long to show that love to others.  And may, Lord, in loving we bring You pleasure because we fulfill Your law, which is holy, just and good and a reflection of Your will.  Thank You that we don't have to do this in our own strength, but you provide the strength in the inner man by the indwelling Spirit.  Give us the kind of love that will mark us as absolutely unique in a selfish and unloving world, that men may see our love and know we belong to You. In the name of our Lord, Jesus Christ we pray.  Amen.

 

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Grace to You
Unleashing God’s Truth, One Verse at a Time

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