Sermon preached on Sunday, March 25, 2012 at Garden Valley Chapel during our morning worship service based on Matthew 7:7-8.
Take your Bible if you will and open it to the seventh chapter of the book of Matthew where we begin a new study on verses 7 to 12.
I invite you stand in the reading of God´s Word. Read Matthew 7:7-12.
Verse 12 is the key verse in this passage. It is about how we treat people, what we would do to them.
Not only does this one verse sum up the "Law and the Prophets" (v. 12) but it summarizes what we have been covering from the beginning of this chapter and that is our relationship with other people - how we relate to others.
We are reminded once again that in this masterful sermon our Lord has given us metaphors by which we look at our Christian life.
In the Sermon on the Mount we are told of God´s kingdom and that we live in a monarchy in which God is king. God is reigning on high and it is He who rules, who is sovereign king and we are His subjects.
But that is not the only metaphor. We, as His subjects, are also a family - a family of God where God is "our Father who is heaven" (6:9) and we are His children.
The kingdom concept deals with rule and the family concept deals with relationship. It is this family concept where we consider our relationship with other people.
Within this rule, reign, and kingdom is this relationship of a father to his children and this relationship of his children toward one another.
In fact later in Matthew´s Gospel we read of a lawyer asking our Lord this important question in Matt 22:36-40 -
36 "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 foremost commandment.
39 "The second is like it, `You shall love your neighbor as yourself.´
40 "On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets."
On these two elements depend the whole Law and the Prophets. Everything else that God required of believers hung on those two commandments.
Here lies "the perfect standard of all righteousness" as Calvin wrote in his 1537 Catechism. Here lies the summation of the "eternal will of the Lord."
It brings us back to the two tablets in which God wrote to address our relationship to Him and to others.
In Deuteronomy 6:5 you have the first one -
5 "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.
In Leviticus 19:18 you have the second commandment -
18 `You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the sons of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself; I am the Lord.
And you cannot fulfill the second commandment reiterated by our Lord, without fulfilling the first one. In no way can you fulfill Matthew 7:12 without rightly fulfilling and dealing with the "great and foremost commandment" to love the Lord with all you heart, soul, and mind.
Yet it is this discussion of our dealings one another that dominates the first twelve verses of this chapter. In chapter 6 our Lord taught us concerning our relationship to our Father who is in heaven and now in chapter 7 he will teach us how we are to love our neighbor.
o In verses 1-6, He tells us what not to do.
o In verses 7-12, He tells us what to do.
He first gives a negative and then a positive and the sum of these two is enough to govern all our human relations.
It is not enough to say "I do not hate my brother, condemn my brother, I am not bitter toward my brother, I do not criticize my brother."
But even more so, you are to love your brother. We must love your brother as we ought to, if you haven´t done so already, start loving your brother!
Q: One might say, "Isn´t the loving thing to do is for me not to criticize or unduly condemn my brother?"
A: And I would say that love is much more than not doing something.
Next time your spouse asks you, "Do you love me?" I would recommend not saying, "Well I don´t hate you?" or "I have not done anything bad towards you, have I?"
It reminds me of the righteousness of God. It is not enough for you to be depleted of all your unrighteousness, you must be filled with the righteousness of God.
It is not enough to not have a critical, unmerciful attitude toward your brother, you are to love them!
Now, you might say, "I am up for the challenge. I am ready to love my brother as I should. I am ready to love my neighbor as myself. I am ready to treat people the same way I want them to treat me."
But you run into two massive walls. The wall of sin and self.
Independent of your willingness and desire to love as you ought to there is a real problem that you face - the wall of sin and self.
That first problem is that of Sin. We have a "carnal and corrupt nature" that "wars against the spiritual Law of God" (Calvin).
The flesh is man´s unredeemed humanness. It attacks from the inside where you are weak.
It is no wonder that Peter cautioned believers in 1 Pet 2:11 -
11 Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul.
The flesh is inherently evil. Paul knew it. Thus he writes in Rom 7:18 -
18 For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not.
The flesh is hostile to God. That is what Paul will later write in 8:7-8 -
7 because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so,
8 and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
That is an unbeliever in a nutshell. They hate the Law of God. They do not want it. His whole attitude towards God´s law is wrong.
Though it is different for a believer, who "are not in the flesh but in the Spirit" (8:9), you still wrestle with your unredeemed flesh.
This is what Paul wrote of in Romans 6:19 -
19 I am speaking in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh. For just as you presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness, resulting in further lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness, resulting in sanctification.
He later writes that we are to "make no provision for the flesh" (Rom 13:14).
You struggle to love because of sin - because of the weakness of your flesh.
The law is an expression of God´s holy will and His royal law for you to love your brother is what you and I struggle with and it is because of the weakness of your flesh.
Not only that but you struggle to love as God intended you to love because of Self. Let´s face it you and I are selfish individuals.
God tells us to "treat people the same way [we] want them to treat [us]" and we struggle with this because the whole time you are thinking only about yourself.
That is the condition of man in sin as the result of the Fall. He is entirely self-centered. It is true of the unbeliever and the believer.
Instinctively we are all self-centered.
"Love your neighbor as yourself" and that is pretty much where we stop. We stop at ourselves - loving ourselves, thinking only of ourselves.
You and I have no problem loving ourselves. The problem lies in that we never think of the other person.
Again, this is the wall of sin and self that we come up against the moment you want to put love into practice.
Q: Well if that is the case, how can I ever conform to our Lord´s instruction here to love? How can I love?
A: The answer is very simple: You must start with God.
You must start with the generous nature of our heavenly Father. You must start with His example. You must start with His benevolence, His graciousness; You must start with the love of God. You must start feasting upon the love of God.
O love of God, how rich and pure! How measureless and strong! It shall forevermore endure-the saints´ and angels´ song.
If we are to love our neighbor as ourselves, we must begin with God.
And so we begin with God.
Here God in Christ reveals the standards for kingdom living. If you are to love others the way God wants you to love, then you must begin with God as the epicenter of all
To this end, our Lord gives us three ways we look upon God as our motive for loving others...
1. His promises for His children (vv. 7-8)
2. His pattern for His children to follow (v. 11)
3. His principle for His children to live (v. 12)
So let´s begin looking at the first way. Follow along in part one of "Start Loving."
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