Summary: The Second Sermon of a Seven Part Series, ‘Stepping Stones and Stumbling Blocks to Faith.’
(Slide 1) If you could ask Jesus one question what would it be? If you were able to have 10 minutes face-to-face with Jesus, alone, what would you ask Him?
In the Gospel accounts of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John there were many people who asked Jesus questions. But there were two men who asked Jesus two important questions and the questions are very much related to one another and one underscores our next stepping stone to faith that we examine this morning – the stepping stone of love. Not only are the two questions related, the two men who asked them had much in common: power, influence, culture, and wealth.
The first question was asked by a very learned man who was probably wealthy to some degree. The second question was asked by a very wealthy man who had great religious knowledge and practice.
The first question is found Mark 12:28-34.
‘One of the teachers of religious law was standing there listening to the discussion. He realized that Jesus had answered well, so he asked, (Slide 2) “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”
Jesus replied, “The most important commandment is this: ‘Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is the one and only Lord. And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.’ The second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ No other commandment is greater than these.”
The teacher of religious law replied, “Well said, Teacher. You have spoken the truth by saying that there is only one God and no other. And I know it is important to love him with all my heart and all my understanding and all my strength, and to love my neighbors as myself. This is more important than to offer all of the burnt offerings and sacrifices required in the law.”
Realizing this man’s understanding, Jesus said to him, “You are not far from the Kingdom of God.” And after that, no one dared to ask him any more questions.
To love God is the most important commandment. Jesus makes that very clear.
In talking about love, we can talk for a while about this major subject. I did a search of the word ‘love’ in the Bible software that I use and it identified over 600 Bible verses!
(Slide 3) I did an internet search of the word ‘love’ on two major sites, Google and Yahoo. (Slide 3a) The Google search revealed this number 1,900,000,000 – how much is that? It is 1.9 billion entries! (Slide 3b) The Yahoo search revealed this number 3,560,000,000 – how much is that? 3.6 billion entries!
Love is a major issue (and a major search topic) for us humans! And I would remind us this morning that the there are two key verses in the Bible, in addition to Jesus’ statement in verse 29, that remind us of the strategic centrality of love in the heart and character of God and thus our faith:
John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.
I John 4:8 But anyone who does not love does not know God—for God is love.
Without love what good are we? Without love what good is God? Without love why bother with faith and church? Without love why care?
Last week I referred to the writing of James Stalker, a pastor/preacher of another generation, in regards to the stepping stone of humility and the stumbling block of pride. He also has some things to say about love and another stumbling block – greed.
After writing about the various aspects of human love, he makes a very penetrating point regarding the love of God that we need to seriously consider and reflect upon. ‘The essential question is not,’ he says, ‘how love began, but whether it is growing.’ (Slide 5)
Let’s think about this for a moment… How is your love for your spouse these days? Is your love for him/her stronger and deeper than when you first met and married?
What about love for your kids? In spite of what has happened (or not happened) is your caring and respect for them stronger and deeper than it was a year ago?
What about your love for God? Is more alive and rooted than it was the day you first believed?
What about your love for this church? Do you care more for those who sit in front and behind you than you did when you first came here? Do you care about the condition of their souls? Do you care about the condition of those who visit or those who have left and you know they don’t go anywhere?