1999-06-10 - Magnificent Simplicity
Matt 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 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." (NAS)
By the time Jesus came to live among us, the Jewish leadership had been hard at work defining what the law really meant when things were a little gray. Between the Talmud and the Mishnah, which included the Talmud, the collection of oral and written traditions was kept that held the collected thought of 2,000 Rabbis over a period of 250 years with regard to the Law of Moses. The work is obviously huge and certainly not without value.
At some point the Pharisees began to give these works equal or greater consideration with the Scriptures. Jesus ran into this vein of thinking and rebutted it (Matt. 15:3). When one of the lawyers of the Pharisees questioned Jesus in Matt 22 (above), the Lord reduced the Law of Moses to two irreducible minimums. Instruction in how to love God and how to love Man reflect the two tables of the Law. The first four commandments and the last six each can be reduced to one singular thought. Just as it has been said that in breaking any one commandment all the commandments are violated, breaking one of the minimized commandments breaks the other.
Before we are too hard on the Pharisees, do you have your own collection of rules? They are easy to begin collecting. I dare you to throw them out. I urge you to at least take them out and review them one by one. Consider the ways we over-complicate our faith. The simplest truths are the ones that burn deeply into our lives. A noted, and fairly liberal, theologian was once asked to recall the most profound thought he had ever had. His reply was fascinating. He said, "Jesus loves me. This I know, for the Bible tells me so." I can imagine a few were stunned at this simplistic thought. But the power behind the single thought that Jesus Christ, the Creator of the Universe, cares for each one of us is staggering. The idea that the Creator stooped down to put on mortal flesh and died in our place to save us, while we were still His sworn enemies is mind-bending. It is almost illogical to us. The truth of it is simply that there was no other way to help us.
Matt 5:27-28 "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall not commit adultery'; 28 but I say to you, that everyone who looks on a woman to lust for her has committed adultery with her already in his heart. (NAS)
Jesus came to remove the chaff of man-made trappings of religion from the relationship He wanted to have with mankind. He stripped away the layers of regulations and trivia to reveal God's love for man. The Lord showed us clearly that we could not live up to the Law of Moses. In mercy, the self-deception that we could meet the requirements of the Law was removed. In grace the Law was fulfilled in His sinless life, which poured out to crush the simple bonds of sin that held us.
Why would God do this for you? You may have killed, sold drugs, betrayed friend or family. You may not think that God can forgive you. I can tell you that there is nothing that God will not forgive. Why? The answer is simple. He loves you. He made that as simple and as clear as can be.
Lord Jesus, Help us to remove the excess from our faith. Give us the courage to review the things we call important. Show us what to keep and what we can do without. Help us walk in the simplicity of of the new life You give us, so that simple life will be a light set on a hill drawing men to You. Amen
Grace & Peace,