by, Isam Itson III
Matthew 22:36-40 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 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. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”
Love God and your neighbor, even your enemy, unconditionally. So simple. Jesus declares that this is the sum of the Law and Prophets. The Jewish religious leaders agreed with Jesus on this fact. Jesus taught this to his disciples. Jesus declared in John 13:35 that their love for one another would be the proof that they were his true followers.
Yet, we have never had the strength to fulfill God’s law by ourselves. In Acts 1:8, we learn that this fundamental obedience is so far beyond our ability to fulfill that Jesus tells his disciples to wait until they have been filled with the Holy Spirit so that they can actually fulfill their mission as leaders of his church.
Where do we falter without reliance upon God’s Spirit? Our pride. We refuse to humble ourselves and accept the fact that we cannot be good enough without God’s grace to help us. Therefore, we either hold others to a standard that God does not even hold us to, or we beat ourselves up over the fact that we keep failing and sinning. There is one provision for our sin before Christ and after Christ. That provision is acceptance of God’s grace, and reliance upon God’s grace. God’s grace is the power of God unto salvation for everyone who trusts him. God forgives wickedness, sin, and rebellion.
In relationship with the Jewish people, God accepted the sacrifice of blameless animals as a penalty for their sin. In relationship with all people through Jesus Christ, God accepts the sacrifice of Jesus Christ as a penalty for sin. In each case, God allowed another to carry the weight of punishment so that his people could follow him without fear of judgment.
For the Jewish people the sacrifices took place twice a day, everyday, and on special national holy days on behalf of the entire nation, in the Temple at Jerusalem. Throughout the year people brought their individual sacrifices and offerings as a sign of their acknowledgment of their personal sins and their individual gratitude to God for his protection and provision in their lives.
The death of Jesus Christ on the cross represents all of God’s people for all of time as the sacrificial penalty for everyone’s sin. The voluntary sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross paid the penalty of sin for all people everywhere, forever. We simply need to acknowledge the truth that we need God’s help to live lives that honor God’s love and faithfulness as the source and strength of life for everyone.
We are not alone. God is with us and God is for us no matter what we suffer in this life. God remains committed to us no matter how much we fail. God stands with us, helps us learn from our mistakes, and move forward with the fulfillment of his purpose for our lives.
As followers of Jesus Christ we rely upon God’s grace, his love and his faithfulness, to help us help others in the name of Jesus. Without the Spirit of God our efforts at consistently loving one another at our own expense are hopeless. We are not sufficient in and of ourselves to live lives that honor God and bless others.
When we give in to our pride we feel shame and anger because of our essential powerlessness. When we humbly accept the truth that we cannot please God without God’s help we are filled to overflowing with gratitude for God’s love for us. That’s the irony. Our strength of character demands that we acknowledge our weakness. Only then can we experience the joy of God’s strength and faithfulness on our behalf.
1. Accept the fact that you are powerless to please God without his grace.
2. Thank God for his grace, expressed completely and perfectly in Jesus Christ.
3. Ask God to fill you with the Holy Spirit so that you can honor his sovereignty, love, and faithfulness for yourself and for your neighbor.