Summary: This sermon will help you increase your desire for the crown of life.
James 1:12 Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.
The Promise: Life for Love
We have been studying through the book of James and we come today to 1:12. This is one of those verses that is so rich and jammed full of truth that we won’t make it any further today than this one verse. So, whatever kind of Bible you have, take a look at the last phrase in verse 12.
…the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.
I am going to argue in a minute that crown of life refers to the reward of eternal life with God in heaven. And if that’s correct, then this little phrase is James’ shorthand version of the gospel. God made a promise. He promised that He would give the crown of life to one certain group of people: those who love him. James says something very similar in chapter 2.
James 2:5 Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him?
God has promised some things to those who love Him. That is James’ way of describing the saved. They are the people who love God.
Fundamental, Yet Not Widely Known
Isn’t it an amazing thing to think that nothing is more fundamental to our duty as human beings than loving God? That is the essential core of what God requires of us. The most fundamental command is not that we do things for Him, or give things to Him, or that we behave according to a certain religious code of conduct. It is that we love Him. An expert in the Old Testament law came up to Jesus and asked Him, “Of all the hundreds of commands in the Bible, which is the most important?” Jesus said, “That’s easy – love God.” Love God – that is not only the most important command – it is the summary of all the commands. When you do that; you have done it all.
The reason I say that is amazing is that even though Jesus made that crystal clear, very few people in our society have the slightest clue about this. Do you ever run into an unbeliever who has loving God even on their radar? Walk up to a random person on the street and say, “What is the main thing God requires of us?” and see if anyone even comes close to saying, “To love Him.” Most of them will probably say “To love one another.” Or they might say, “To serve Him” or “Go to church,” “be a nice person,” or something like that. But never anything about loving God. When people confess their sin, you hear things like, “I’ve been selfish, I’ve hurt people, I’ve lied, cheated, stolen…,” but when do you ever hear some unbeliever broken down in tears of remorse saying, “I haven’t loved God”?
Why? Why doesn’t the world know this is God’s requirement? It is not like Jesus is an unknown figure. And it’s not like Jesus taught this in some obscure, veiled parable that is really hard to understand. He just came right out and said, “The greatest command is to love God.” That is recorded in Matthew, in Mark, and in Luke.
And even if Jesus hadn’t said it, it really is not all that hard to figure out from the Old Testament. In Exodus 20 (the chapter that gives the 10 Commandments), God promises to show love to a thousand generations of those who love Him (Ex.20:6).
Deuteronomy 6:5 Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.
The Jews understood the importance of that. They quoted that verse multiple times a day every day. They knew that was basic – probably because it is repeated so many times. Just in Deuteronomy:
Deuteronomy 11:1 Love the LORD your God
11:13 faithfully obey the commands I am giving you today--to love the LORD your God
11:22 carefully observe all these commands I am giving you to follow--to love the LORD your God
7:9 he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him
19:9 carefully follow all these laws I command you today--to love the LORD your God
30:16 I command you today to love the LORD your God
When Moses, the lawgiver, summed up all the things God was commanding, over and over he said, “Basically all this amounts to loving God.” And what will God do for those who love Him? What is the outcome of loving God? Life!