The Law of Love

Bible Book: Matthew  22 : 36-40
Subject: Love; Love for God; Love for Others

The Law of Love

Dr. J. Mike Minnix, Editor, www.pastorlife.com
Introduction

Our text today is found in Matthew 22:36-40 ...

36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?” 37 Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and great commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”

Today our subject is love, and it is always fitting to look closely at this subject in regard to our relationship with God and others.

Love is a subject that interests everyone, but we must be careful where we place our love - who we love -  what we love. Someone once said, “Never fall in love with a tennis player. To him, love means nothing.” When it comes to our walk with God love means everything. For this reason, I want us to look at the subject of love today from the divine, biblical point of view.

Did you hear about the lady who said to her husband,  “You remind me of Don Juan.” The husband was flattered and asked, “Oh, yes, how?” She replied, “Well, for one thing, he has been dead for years.”

Friends it is a bad thing when love dies, or grows cold. This is even more important when it happens to your love for the Lord. Jesus said, "...and because lawlessness will increase so much, the love of many will grow cold." (Matthew 24:12 NET) In other words, in the day when sin becomes popular many believers will become frosty toward the Lord by becoming warm toward the ways of the world.

Our text today, found in Matthew 22:36-40, is very familiar to those who read and study the Bible, yet there are subtleties here that are elusive to the general reader. Some important issues regarding our love for God and our neighbors can easily be missed unless we stop to consider the full context of what Jesus said.

So, let's look first at ...

I. The Command to Love

Jesus was asked about the greatest commandment and He proceeded to talk about the command to love God and others. Interestingly, love for God and others is a command and not just a good idea. We do not think of love as a command, a law within itself, but that is what we see in this passage of scripture. We think of love as something we either feel or we do not feel. The Lord reveals that we can control our love - if not, why would He have commanded it?

Note how we get the idea of love wrong at times.

A. For us, Love is Esteem

We think of love in terms of the things which we like - what we esteem. To esteem means to respect or consider. We say that we love certain cars, clothes, sports teams, when actually we simply esteem them. They are important to us so we use the term love when we speak of them. You might here a person say, "I love the Atlanta Braves - that is my team." The person saying that doesn't likely know a single person involved in the Atlanta Braves program personally, yet he will use the word 'love' when speaking of the tearm. Actually, he simply esteems them - looks up to them - pulls for them to win when they play baseball. We mix up the word love with the idea of esteem all the time. We might say something like this: I love potato chips. Simply put, it means we count them worthy of our attention and use. Someone else may hate potato chips. In fact, we may love potato chips one day and hate them the next day - especially when we get on our the scales at home or the doctor's office to weigh after eating quite a few of them.

Several years ago I had a family in my church that had a young son who loved vanilla wafers. He ate a box a week of the things. One day the husband and father in the family opened the cabinet and saw about five unopened boxes of vanilla wafers. He turned to his wife and said, “What are we doing with five boxes of vanilla wafers in the cabinet?” She answered, “Rodney turned on them!” She meant that their son, Rodney, had gone from loving vanilla wafers to not particularly liking vanilla wafers. That is the way we are with some things in our lives. We think of love in terms of how much we esteem a certain person, place or thing. Most of us in this service loved something at one time and then changed to be totally indifference toward it later on.

I was in a revival one week and I used an illustration about playing golf. After the service, a man came up to me and said, "Let me tell you about my experience with golf. I was playing one day with my regular group of partners. We played at least once a week together for years. Well, on that day I hit a ball in the water. I took out another ball and I hit it in the water. By this time, I was absolutely frustrated. I told my group that if I hit one more ball in the water I was going to quit golf forever. I hit the third ball in the water. I picked my bag, walked down to the pond, and tossed the bag and all my clubs into the water. I tramped off toward my car. Then, I turned around, walked back past my friends who were in shock,  down to the pond, waded out into the water, picked up my bag, reached in one of the pockets and got my car keys. I quit that day and I have gone to golf course again." So, he went from 'loving' golf to 'hating' golf in a just a few minutes. Actually, he esteemed the game for years, and then he disregarded the game after hitting that third ball in the water.

We can love a game, good food, television programs and other things but then leave those things behind us as time passes. For us, love is esteem and it can change.

Note also that ...

B. For us, Love is Emotion

We also think of love as emotion. In other words, our love depends on how we feel. Since we are very fickled as human beings we often have emotions that change like the wind. We may feel a certain way on Monday and then feel another way by Friday of the same week. That makes human love a very dangerous thing. Our emotions tend to run upward and downward, left and right,  backward and forward. We are on fire one day and then grow cold toward someting later on.

Emotions cannot be trusted. How we feel can be influenced by many things and we must be careful not to let emotions drive our lives. Many people are in prison today because they lost their tempter - that is, they lost control of their emotions - for just a few minutes. One man said, "I lose my tempter. I blow up but I'm always over it in a minute or two." His friend said, "Yes, a shotgun goes off in a second and then stops, but look at the damage it can do!"

But now let's think about love from God's viewpoint ...

C. For God, Love is Essential

To God, love is an essential thing. That is, love is God's nature. He loves because He is love, which means that for us to love the way God loves requires His supernatural help. And you can be sure that for every child of God this divine help is available.

Look at Romans 5:5 ...

“And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.”

Since His love has been poured into our hearts, it is possible for us to love the way He loves  - to love as He has told to us to love.

Loving the way God loves is a bit strange to us. You see, God laid down the "law" regarding love. He commands us to love Him properly and others properly. We normally do not link love and law together. For example, the government can make you pay your taxes but they cannot create a law that makes you love doing it.

When we consider the law and love the way God speaks of it we see that we can be ordered to do something and we can like doing it at the same time. When I was a boy my dad would tell me to do something. A couple of times I answered, "I don't want to." My father's answer to that was, "Your going to do it and your going to like it!" I often smiled while doing what he said but I didn't like it. With God's love it is different. Love must be at the root of our relationship with Him. When we get love in the right place we can do what He orders and we can like it at the same time. In fact, if this is not true we are failing to meet the standard which He has set for us - we are missing the joy He died and rose to give us.

Now think with me about ...

II. The Conduct of Love

When we are saved, God puts His love in us and we are to yield to that love so that we can love as He loves and live as He desires us to live. He even went so far as to say to us, “As I have loved you, you should love one another” (John 13:34).

Note three things about the conduct of the love he commands and provides.

A. The Recognition it Prompts

Note that we are told to love the Lord, our God. He is Lord. True love for God and for others begins with understanding who is in charge in our relationships. When we fail to love God properly we are actually trying to unseat the Lord from His rightful throne in our hearts. If He is your Lord, your God, then you are to have the mind of Christ in you (Philippians 2:5). First and foremost, loving properly begins with recognizing the Lord as the one in control of our hearts and minds.

B. The Results it Produces

When we love as we should, it is not just a feeling, nor is it merely expressed with words; rather, true love for God results in obedience to His Word. Look at I John 5:2-3 ...

“This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out his commands. This is love for God: to obey his commands. And his commands are not burdensome.”

Loving God means that we obey Him and that the obedience we give to Him is not burdensome. That is, we obey with a spirit of joy and readiness, not begrudging what He asks us to do. We love others, not because they deserve it or meet our approval, but because we are loved by God and we count it a joy to love others for His sake. In John we read ...

“He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me.”(John 14:21) We read in 2 John 1:6 “And this is love, that we walk after his commandments.”

Of course we fail in this matter, and God has a provision for that. When we realize that our love has grown cold toward the Lord, we are to repent and return. We read about this issue in the Church at Ephesus as recorded in the book of Revelation. In Revelation 2:4-5 we read part of what Jesus said to this church ...

"4Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love. 5Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place - unless you repent."

Jesus clearly told this chuch to get its love-life right or lose its light to the world. We cannot be ambassors for Christ when we are not reflecting the love of God in our attitudes and actions.

C. The Rest it Provides

To allow the love of God to flow through you and back to Him and to others is to abide in a place of peace and rest. Look at John 15:10 ...

“If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father's commandments, and abide in his love.”

Abiding in His love means to rest in Him. This means to have the assurance of our salvation. This means to have assurance of His leadership in our lives.

A songwriter some years ago penned the romantic words as stated from a girl toward her boyfriend ...

To know, know, know him, is to love, love, love him and I do.”[i]

We can say of Christ that, “To love, love, love Him, is to obey, obey, obey Him, and I do!” When we love as He states that we must, we have a wonderful peace, rest and ease in our lives. Anger, envy, jealousy towards others creates stress, tension and a lack of joy. Letting go and loving God's way grants peace, ease and rest to the soul, mind and body.

Note also ...

III. The Consequences of Love

His love produces rest, but it produces more than that. Let’s look at two great results of abiding in His love!

A. The Presence of the Lord

The Lord reveals Himself to those who love Him, which means to know Him in our experiences in everyday life. The more I love Him and love others, the more real He is to me. Some people want God to be real to them, but they do not have a love for Him that involves obedience and a love for others that is equal to self-love.

Look at John 14:21 ...

“Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him.”

He will show Himself to those who love Him, and those who love Him are those who obey Him. We know God has a corporate love for the whole world, but be assured that Jesus is talking about something else here. He is saying that loving as we should - as the Spirit will lead us to love - means a closer walk with God. When we love Him properly we will see Him more personally.  The Lord will uniquely reveal Himself to those who love Him and others.

Do you sometimes feel that the Lord is far from you? Do you pray but sense that your words stop at the ceiling? It just might be that your love life is not where it is supposed to be. Get rid of he barriers you have placed in your heart toward God and others. If you want to walk with God, you must walk in love.

B. The Power of the Lord

The Lord anoints those who love Him with Spiritual power and a greater knowledge of His Word. Read 1 John 2:14 ff. You will find there that those who do not love the world, but love the Lord, have an anointing so that they will understand the voice and Word of the Lord. How much we all need heavenly, spiritual anointing to help us live godly, meaningful lives. Someone has rightly sai ...

"The Christian cannot function without unction."

How true that is. Unction means to outpouring of God's Spirit and blessing upon a believer. We need the infilling power of the Holy Spirit in order to know and do the will of God. We cannot be filled with His Spirit when a spirit of indifference, bitterness, anger, grudges and other attitudes are present in our hearts. When those aberant and preverse attitudes are in our hearts, we cannot possible be filled with God's love and power.

Selfish desires have a way of cutting off the voice of God so that we cannot hear. In John 8:43-45 Jesus said ...

“Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say. You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father's desire. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. Yet because I tell the truth, you do not believe me!"

Jesus was saying that they were not listening to His voice. Why? Because their hearts were filled with lust and the desires of the devil; therefore, they could not and did not hear the truth.

Sometimes Christians will say, "I need God to show me what to do, but I can't get any direction from Him." Is it possible that your heart is not filled with the love God demands of us? Perhaps that is why so few sense God's clear direction in life. Do you want to hear from God? Then become honest with Him about your sin. Let His love fill your heart and then His Word will fill your ears, and His direction will guide your steps.

Conclusion

Our time is running out for this message. Let me hasten to the final and perhaps most important thought. Is it possible for a Christian to cultivate a greater love for the Lord and others? Yes, indeed it is.

Just think of all that Jesus has done for you. When a woman came into the room where Jesus was and poured precious perfume on him, some of the disciples criticized her. Jesus pointed out that those who realize what they have been forgiven will always show a greater gratitude. In other words, the self-righteous ones in the crowd complained but the one woman who knew the incredible forgiveness she had been shown was willing to express her love openly.

To cultivate greater love for God and others, just remember where God brought your from. That alone ought to move you to a loving response to Him, and that will grant you the best life possible in this world.

If you do not know Jesus as Lord and Savior, please understand that God loved you so much that came in human form to live perfectly and die lovingly for your sins. Accept His love for you by giving your heart to Him today.

One other thing that improves our love is to remember what it cost Jesus to forgive our sins. Look back and the old rugged cross. Standing there before Him as He dies, how could we not have a heart full of love for Him and for others. After all, the ground is level at the cross.

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[i] Phil Specter, 1958.