Sunday, June 19, 2011

[Matt's Messages] "The Law of Love" Leviticus 19:18

“The Law of Love”
FBW Finale / Fathers’ Day
June 19, 2011
Leviticus 19:18

This has been a great week.

On top of it being Father’s Day today, we’ve enjoyed a great Family Bible Week.

I am so thankful that our church loves to serve so much.  That we have servants like Sylvia Gisewhite and her incredible team of servants who put on such a great week.

And I’m so thankful that this church prioritizes Bible teaching by providing a full supper for four nights.  That is no small accomplishment, and our ladies do it with style!

And not just supper, but games, and contests, and prizes, and fun, and loving each other because of Jesus.

On top of that, it was a week of anniversaries for me.

Yesterday was the most important anniversary.  Heather and I celebrated 17 years of her being patient with me in holy matrimony!

And, joyfully, we love each other more today than we did then.

And most of those 17 years have been lived out right here at Lanse Free Church.

On Tuesday, I celebrated the completion of 13 full years as the pastor of this church.

And, joyfully, I can say that I love you more today than I did then.

And love is what I want to talk about this morning.

I’m going to do something now that I have never done in 13, now going on 14 full years of preaching ministry here at Lanse Free Church.

I’m going to say, “Please turn in your Bibles with me to the book of Leviticus!”

Chapter 19.

I’ve never preached even one message out of the book Leviticus in 13 years here.

In 2003, I preached Genesis, every verse. In 2005, Exodus. In 2007...Numbers!

We skipped over Leviticus.

And there was a good reason for that.  In odd numbered years, I’ve been trying to preaching the Big Story of the Old Testament–not every book in it but the Big Story.

And we got off track this year, we should have been in Judges, but I’ve had to adjust my plan.

Leviticus doesn’t have much story in it.

Our Family Bible Week Adult Class has been studying Leviticus all week, and we found that out.

Leviticus is not a story book, it’s a book of Law.

Laws for the Israelites.

And lawbooks are just not that exciting.

And I don’t think that even lawyers find law books all that exciting.

But laws are necessary, aren’t they?

And laws (even if they are not exciting) can be really, really good.

Laws can be bad, but they can also be really, really, good.

And that’s what Leviticus is.  It’s book of really, really good laws.

That’s what the Old Testament believers thought.

In Psalm 119, the writer says, “Oh, how I LOVE your law!  I meditate on it day all day long. . .”

He says, “My soul is consumed with longing for your laws at all times. . .Your statutes are my delight; they are my counselors.”

He says, “Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law.”

Now, that’s not how we typically think about the law, is it?

We think about the law like lawbreakers do.  We don’t like constraints.

We don’t like to be told what to do.

And sometimes the law we have to deal with isn’t just and good, so it is hard to love.

But this law was exceedingly good and full of love.

And it commanded love.

That’s what we’re going to see this morning.

Now, our adult class learned this week that one of the other reasons why we find Leviticus so difficult is that we forget where it falls in the story.

Leviticus comes AFTER Exodus.

I know you know that, but we often make the mistake (and the Pharisees made the mistake) of acting like Leviticus came before Exodus.

What happened in Exodus?

The Red Sea Rescue, right?

The Passover.  The people of Israel were saved from Egypt and brought to the LORD, and He made a covenant with them.

He made them His people.

And then He moved into their neighborhood.

At the end of Exodus, they built the tabernacle according to God’s blueprints.

It was tent-temple for God to manifest His presence and move into the midst of His people.

They lived in tents, so would He.

And Leviticus explains how those people should live with a holy God in their midst.

We often act as if the law was given before the rescue.

“If you straighten up, then I’ll save you!”

But that is not how it works.

The law came after the salvation.  And it taught the people how to live with a holy God.

Leviticus 19 starts in verse 1 with these words:

“The LORD said to Moses, ‘Speak to the entire assembly of Israel and say to them: ‘Be holy because I, the LORD your God, am holy.’’”

These laws are based upon relationship.

The LORD was THEIR God.  They were HIS people.

And because of that, they were to be holy.

So, chapter 19 is full of holy commands.

Some are strange and hard to understand.

Some very straightforward.

And one of them, sums just about all of them up.

Now, we know that the believers in the Old Testament loved Leviticus because of how they talked about the law.

But how about the New Testament writers?  Did they like Leviticus?

Oh yes.  Read the book of Hebrews sometime. We’ve been reading it on Wednesdays at Prayer Meeting.  It’s all about Leviticus and now the New Covenant that has come that is even better than old one!

In fact, Leviticus is #6 of Old Testament books quoted in the New Testament.

Genesis, Exodus, Deuteronomy, Psalms, and Isaiah.

And then, Leviticus.

And one of the biggest reasons for that is that Jesus thought that chapter 19, verse 18 was one of the most important verses in the whole Bible.

Look down there and read it.   Leviticus 19:18

“Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against one of your people, but love your neighbor as yourself.  I am the LORD.”

The New Testament quotes Leviticus 19:18 at least 9 times.

And probably the most important is when Jesus said it was at the top of the commandments.

The gospel of Matthew, chapter 22, says, “[T]he Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested [Jesus] with this question: ‘Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?’  Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' [That’s in Deuteronomy.] This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it [Leviticus 19:18]: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'  All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.’”

Christians have for centuries seen how the first 4 or 5 commandments of the 10 Commandments relate to the “Love the Lord your God with all your heart...”

No other gods, no idols, don’t take the LORD’s name in vain, keep the Sabbath holy.  And honor your parents, who are in authority like and teach you about God.

And then the last 5 commandments of the 10 big ones are about loving your neighbor.

Do not murder.
Do not commit adultery.
Do not steal.
Do not lie.
Do not covet your neighbor’s stuff.

Love your neighbor as yourself.

That’s the kind of thing is that’s here in Leviticus 19.  Look up to verse 11.

It sounds like the 10 commandments.

“Do not steal. Do not lie. Do not deceive one another. Do not swear falsely by my name and so profane the name of your God. I am the LORD. 

Do not defraud your neighbor or rob him. Do not hold back the wages of a hired man overnight.  Do not curse the deaf or put a stumbling block in front of the blind, but fear your God. I am the LORD.

Do not pervert justice; do not show partiality to the poor or favoritism to the great, but judge your neighbor fairly.

Do not go about spreading slander among your people. [By the way, that’s another of the resisting gossip verses.  Remember the spy that I told you about a few weeks ago?  The rakil in Hebrew?  This says to not go about as a rakil.  Don’t go rakiling about.  Spying out bad news and spreading it around town.]

Do not do anything that endangers your neighbor's life. I am the LORD. 

Do not hate your brother in your heart. Rebuke your neighbor frankly so you will not share in his guilt.

Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against one of your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD.”

Now, it might seem strange at first to have law to love.  A command to love.

But that’s because we don’t know what love is.

Love is not (primarily, or ultimately, or necessarily) a warm fuzzy about someone.

That’s how the radio uses the word, “love,” and it’s part of love, especially romantic or family love.


But most of the time, biblical love is not a feeling at all.  It’s a committment.

It’s a seeking.

It’s a action.

It’s an actively seeking the best for someone else.

It involves the heart, but it’s a heart bent on doing good by someone else.

1 Corinthians 13 gives us a description of love in action.

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.  Love never fails.”

“Love your neighbor as yourself.”

Nobody has to teach us to love ourselves.

We already seek our own good.

We don’t always do it wisely.  We don’t always seek what is truly good.

But we are always bent on a mission to seek the good we think we should have.

And God says that we should bend that energy not only to ourselves but to our neighbors.

“Love your neighbor as yourself.”

Why?  “I am the LORD your God.”

Don’t miss that motivation.

Again, it’s because of our relationship to God that we obey Him.

Not to earn brownie points and get into His good favor.

We are there already through Jesus, now we need to live like it.

Right?  Like we learned last week with the two coats?

“Love your neighbor as yourself.”

That’s the law of love.

This how we’d want to be treated, right?

Does anyone here want to be lied to?

Does anyone here want be defrauded?

Does anyone here want to be on the wrong end of favoritism?

Does anyone here want someone to nurture a grudge against them?

Of course not.

So, the LORD says, don’t do it to others.

“Love your neighbor as yourself.”

Now, of course, that raises the question of “Who is my neighbor?”

In verse 18, it seems to be fellow Israelites.

“Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against one of your people, but love your neighbor, as yourself.”

It seems to mean family here.  Israelite family.

And some rabbis began to teach that this obviously meant to love fellow Israelites, but to hate non-Israelites. 

“Hate your enemy.”

But Jesus came along in the Sermon on the Mount and corrected that misunderstanding.

Matthew 5.

“You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that?  And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

Love your neighbor (even if he’s your enemy) as you love yourself.

Your neighbor is the one who has the need that is near you.

That was the point of the Good Samaritan story, wasn’t it?

Luke 10?

Jesus asked the law expert, “‘Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?’ The expert in the law replied, ‘The one who had mercy on him.’ Jesus told him, ‘Go and do likewise.’”

“Love your neighbor as yourself.”

Now, let me say three brief things in application of this verse.

#1.  DO IT.

It’s not that hard to figure out.

God wants us to live this way.

We ought to.

We’ve seen it again and again in the resisting gossip series, haven’t we?

Don’t talk about people in ways that you wouldn’t want to be talked about.

“Love your neighbor as yourself.”

Talk about people in ways that you would want to be talked about.

“Love your neighbor as yourself.”

But it’s bigger and better than just gossip, right?

Do this on the job.

“Love your neighbor as yourself.”

Treat your co-workers and your boss and your employees and your clients and your competitors as you would have them treat you.

“Love your neighbor as yourself.”

Dads, this is your day.

“Love your kids as yourself.”

Try to give them the childhood that you would want if you were in their position.

If the kids were in this room, I’d say the same thing to them.

“Love your Dad as yourself.”

Do this out on the open road.

Love that other driver (the one that cut you off!) as yourself.

Now, that doesn’t mean let them off the hook.

Love doesn’t pretend that everything is alright.

Love hardly ever pretends anything!

But love seeks the good for someone.

And that often means rebuke.

Did you see that in verse 17?

“Do not hate your brother in your heart. [Okay. What does love look like?] Rebuke your neighbor frankly so you will not share in his guilt.”

Love rebukes frankly when it is in someone else’s best interests.

Do it!

Dads, rebuke your children.  IN LOVE!

Not in hate.
Not because they bug you.
Not because they get on your nerves.

But because you love them and want what is best for them.

Most of the time, they won’t figure that out on their own.

Rebuke them in love.

Rebuke me in love.

Last Sunday, I said that I am so thankful for my wife’s loving rebukes.

You might think I’m joking, but I’m deadly serious.

Proverb says, “Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.”

I’m glad my wife does both.

And has for 17 years.

You folks are invited to rebuke me, too, as long as it is in love.

I remember when I candidated here 17 years ago, that was one of the questions that was asked of me in my Q&A Session with the congregation.
“How do you handle criticism?”

I remember saying something like that I didn’t like getting criticized but if it was offered in love, I’d listen carefully.

Because Proverbs 15 says, “He who listens to a life-giving rebuke will be at home among the wise.”

“Love your neighbor as yourself.”

Do it.
However, #2.  YOU CAN’T DO IT.

Not perfectly, at least.

Whenever I come up against this verse, I am struck with how simple it is and yet how so very hard it is.

It’s simple but not easy.

“Love your neighbor as yourself” is not that easy to do.

How many times have I failed at this one?

How many ways are there to get it wrong?

A couple of weeks ago, I got a call from someone who didn’t believe in the Trinity. 
And was cold-calling me to debate me on the topic.

And, I, like a fool, allowed myself to get dragged into a debate on the phone.

I should have realized what I was doing and gotten out sooner.

He wasn’t teachable, and I was going to best him a battle of skillful arguments.

And as I got drug further into the conversation, some really bad things started to come out of my heart.

I started to hate him.

I started to want bad for him.

So, I started to jab at him instead of humbly loving him.

He wasn’t right, and I wasn’t enjoying this at all.

But I wasn’t loving him as I loved myself.

If I had been trapped like he is, then I would want a Christian pastor to treat me differently than I did him.

I did humble myself and ask for his forgiveness.

I didn’t compromise on what I believed, but I did try to start living it out more.

It didn’t help our conversation at all, and I felt terrible about the whole thing for a whole weekend.

Mainly because I had failed to love.

I didn’t do it.

I found that, on my own, I couldn’t do it.

But here’s the good news.

Jesus did it.

Jesus lived out Leviticus 19:18 without fail.

In fact, He fulfilled it.

And when Jesus went to the cross, He took His perfect record of keeping the law of love with Him.

And gave it to us.

Isn’t that good news?

Our sinful shortcomings on Him.
His obedient covenant keeping on us.

What a deal!

Jesus died for our sins and gives us His righteousness.

Jesus did it.

Have you trusted Him as your Savior and Lord?

Have you put your faith in His sacrifice for you?

He came back to life to give you life.

And to teach us to love our neighbors as ourselves.

In fact, we’re to love them one step more than just as ourselves now that Jesus has come.

We’re to love our brothers and sisters in Christ like Jesus loved us.

John 13:34-35

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”


Love your neighbor as yourself BECAUSE God has loved you in Jesus.

You won’t do it perfectly.

Only Jesus could.

But by faith, in the power of the Holy Spirit, trusting in the promises of God, you and I can love our neighbors as ourselves.

Old Testament scholar Jay Sklar says this about Leviticus 19:18.
The Lord redeemed his people in his patient and merciful love and called them to reflect that love in their relationship to him and to one another. Indeed, just as his love was radical towards them, so must their love be radical to one another, being as quick to care for and forgive one another as they were with themselves. So too with us: Jesus’ love for us is inexhaustible in its mercy and it is this same love he calls us to show one another (John 15:12). It is by remembering his radical, merciful, and undeserved love for us that we are able to show the same radical love to others (cf. Matt 18:21-35). Go then, as those who have been loved with a love indescribable, and share that love with the world!

Vroom, Vroom.

What are you going to do differently today, tomorrow, this week...because you’ve heard the Lord give us His law of love?