I would like to begin this morning by referring to an incident found in the tenth chapter of Luke. When Jesus was here on earth, one day He was speaking to the people and a lawyer came up to Him and asked Him a question (This story is found in Luke 10:25-37). He said, "Master, what should I do to inherit eternal life?" Now, that's the ultimate question, isn't it. That is the ultimate question for you and me and the whole world today: "What should I do to inherit eternal life?"
"Well," Jesus said, "what's written in the law? How readest thou?"
The answer came back, "Thou shalt love the Lord with all thy heart, and with all thy soul and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind.; and thy neighbor as thyself."
Jesus said, "You've given a good answer. If you do that you live." It's quite a way, isn't it. "You do that, you love and you will live."
But the lawyer asked another question: "Who is my neighbor?"
Now, you remember that the Jews didn't consider the heathen their neighbors. They didn't consider the Samaritans their neighbors. They didn't even consider one of their own race their neighbors. It was only their very close friends, the ones they got along with and loved were their neighbors.
Well, Jesus answered that question by telling of an incident that probably just recently happened. He said, "There was a man on his way down to Jericho and some thieves jumped him. They robbed him then they mugged him and then they left him lying in his own blood thinking that perhaps he would die. He finally came to, and tried to get up but he couldn't. It was getting late in the day and he felt that maybe all things were lost, but then he sees someone coming. He looks again and lo, it's a preacher And he said, "Surely this man will help me." But the man didn't even slow down. He passes by on the other side and goes on down the road.
What do you suppose was in the mind of that preacher? Well, I think sometimes we may be a little too hard on him. We might reason a little bit like he did that day. You see, he was probably on his way to deliver a sermon down in the synagog in Jericho. It was a very important sermon. Maybe he was planning to give a sermon on brotherly love, and it had to be given.
The man sinks back thinking there's no hope. Will anyone else come by? Or will it be too late?
Another man came by. Good news! This man is a church treasurer, a Levite. Surely he can help him. Maybe he can even get me some clothes. Maybe he can help pay the medical bills. Hope rises in the man's heart. But his words only come out in a groan. The Levite looks down at him and hurries off. Well, of course the church treasurer must hurry on because he's carrying the bag full of money. It wouldn't be right to risk the Lord's money. Maybe the robbers are still around. After all, his wife and his children are expecting him.
It looks hopeless, now. But then, lo and behold, he hears footsteps again. Could it be possible that someone else is coming? He strains his eyes and looks and sees... Oh, it's a Samaritan. Well, you know the relationship between the Jews and the Samaritans. He remembered how badly he had treated those Samaritans so he thought, "This man probably won't help me. He'll probably come over and spit on me or give me a good kick." But the Samaritan slowed down and came near. The man braces himself for the blow. But the Samaritan speaks gently. "You're hurt. Let me help you." The man can't believe it. He came to bind up his wound, pouring in oil. He realized this man was cold. He took his cloak and wraps him. He puts him on his donkey and takes him to the closest inn.
As they went along the Samaritan tries to encourage him to believe that he will have a full recovery. As that man sinks into the warmth and comfort of that bed provided by the Samaritan he can hardly believe his good fortune. The Samaritan cares for him all through the long night and in the morning he makes arrangements for the man to rest as long as necessary at his expense.
You know, that Samaritan went on his way a happy man. With a good feeling in his heart, a fulfillment of joy with love and grace of God in his heart.
Christ spoke to the religious leaders of that day, those Pharisees, those preachers, those scribes, those Levites. He said, "Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites. You tithe mint and dill and cumin and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice, mercy and faith. It is these you ought to have practiced without neglecting others, you blind guides. You strain at a gnat and swallow a camel."
Did you catch the words, "the weightier matters of the law?" He said, "You pay your tithe, but what about the weightier matters of the law?" Well, what are the weightier matters of the law? Jesus said they were justice, mercy and faith. What is justice, anyway? Justice is rightness between you and me. It has to do with human relationships. What is mercy? That is compassion between you and me. Again, human relationships. What is faith? The parallel account given in Luke, he calls it love. Love. How I treat human beings all around me. My family, my friends, and all I come in contact with.
Jesus said these Pharisees were straining at a gnat and swallowing a camel. You know, it was a custom of those Pharisees to put a cloth over the cup they poured the wine in because in the record of the unclean food in Leviticus 11 probably the smallest one was the gnat and the largest one was the camel. Quite a contrast.. They wanted to be sure not to swallow an unclean gnat so they strained their wine. But they were unmindful of the camel that was floating around in that cup. You see, they were strict keepers of the law, but they knew nothing of the love and the mercy of God.
Now, God had given law at Mount Sinai and He wanted that to be a demonstration of His love. That's what we're told over in Deuteronomy 33:2. It says, And he said, The Lord came from Sinai, and rose up from Seir unto them; He shined forth from mount Paran, and came with ten thousands of saints: from His right hand a fiery law for them.
Yea, He loved the people. Actually what he was doing at Sinai was defining His love. You see, the Commandments were given to show how we would live if we really loved God. The Law is God's character in written form. God is love. So, the Law, in one word, is love.
But, you see, the people didn't take it that way. They responded to what God was trying to give them. They said, "Well, if we have to keep that Law we will do it. If we have to obey these Commandments to earn a place in your kingdom we will do it." But God says, "No, that's not what I want. I want you to keep My Commandments because you love Me and because you love one another."
So, God called that agreement, that covenant the "Old Covenant." It was faulty. There wasn't anything wrong with the Law. There wasn't anything wrong with the covenant that God was trying to give. The problem was with the people. We read over in Hebrew 8:8, For finding fault with them, he said, "Behold, the days come," saith the Lord, "when I will make a new covenant with the house of Judah." "I will put my Law in your hearts, not just on stone. I will give you a new heart."
You see, He said, "I want My Law to be in you, a part of your being, to become your character so it will flow out to all." You see, those Jews didn't even have the very basic element in their relationship to God. God is love. True Commandment keeping is simply the out-working of His love in our hearts.
The pen of inspiration tells us, "When self is merged in Christ, love springs forth spontaneously." We don't go around thinking, "Well, I/ve got to do this and I've got to do that. I've got to keep this commandment." It just springs forth spontaneously.
The Jews became strict keepers of the Law according to the letter, but they were void of the love and the grace of God. As Paul said in Romans 10:3, For they being ignorant of God's righteousness and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God. They never attained to righteousness. They never became righteous. They didn't attain to righteousness because they were looking at their performance. They were always saying, "I've got to do this, I've got to do that. I've got to try harder. I've got to work and work." They were ignorant of Christ's righteousness.
Paul tells of his experience in Philippians 3:5-7. Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee:
Concerning zeal, persecuting the church: touching righteousness which is in the law, blameless. Keeping the Law. But on the way to Damascus he met Christ, and his life was changed. He realized that keeping the law did not justify him. He said in Romans 3:24, Being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. And notice that he says, "I want to be found not having my own righteousness, which is of the Law." You see, when we try to keep the Law to become righteous, that's our righteousness. And what does the Bible say about our righteousness? Isaiah 64:6 says, But wee are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousness are as filthy rags: He says in Philippians 3:9, And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith. That which God gives to us. That which He writes after our names in the books of heaven.
Did you know, dear friends, that even your prayers are not acceptable to God unless they are covered by the righteousness of Christ? Let me read you what the pen of inspiration tells us. "The religious services, the prayers, the praise, the penance, the confession of sin, a sin from true believers is as incense in the heavenly sanctuary, but passing through the corrupt channels of humanity they are so defiled and unless purified by blood they can never be of value to God, unless they Intercessor presents and purifies all by His righteousness it is not acceptable to God." (Documentation not supplied.) You see, the high priest in the sanctuary stood there before the altar of incense as the smoke, as the clouds of incense went up, the high priest offering that. Christ is our High Priest. He presents our prayers to God and mingles His righteousness in with our confession and that's the only way they are acceptable to God.
You see, it is only perfect righteousness that is acceptable to God. Only perfect. What is perfect righteousness? You know, I think that sometimes we don't realize that: "Higher than the highest human thought...(See Counsels to Teachers p. 365)" When you begin to think what it would be absolutely perfect, never speak a wrong word, never get the least impatient, never leave anything done, never sin of omission, always do everything exactly on time when it should be done, done exactly as it should be done, never have a wrong thought. You know, when you talk about perfection, you are talking about something indeed that is higher than the highest human thought. How in the world can we ever get that kind of perfection? Because that's what's required if we're ever going to get to heaven.
How can you get it? The answer is, we have a wonderful Savior. He had that perfect righteousness. And, He offers to give it to you and me. He offers to write it after our names. You see, Jesus is everything to us. If we could just comprehend it more fully that without Jesus we are nothing. With Him we are everything because Jesus is everything. If we could grasp that more fully, what a freedom we would have to live and to truly love.
I'm told that the great conductor, Arturo Toscanini, was rehearsing Beethoven's Ninth Symphony with the New York Philharmonic orchestra. After the last note of that moving finale faded away, Toscanini spoke. He said, "Who am I? Who am I? Who is Toscanini?" No one spoke. There was quietness. He said again, "Who am I? Who am I? Who is Toscanini? It is Beethoven. He is everything." O dear friends, we need to grasp the truth that Jesus is everything and we can never fully radiate the love of Jesus to the world until we understand that.
You know, this was the experience of Abraham as we read there in Romans 4:1-5. He says, What shall I say then that Abraham our father, as pertaining to the flesh, hath found? For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God. For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness. Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.
Now, that verb, count, is to put down to a person's account, to impute. Paul said there in Romans 3:20, Therfore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin. Verse 24, Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. The pen of inspiration puts it this way in Steps to Christ, p. 62, "The condition of eternal life is now just what it has always been,--just what it was in Paradise before the fall of our first parents,--perfect obedience to the law of God, perfect righteousness...."
"It was possible for Adam before the fall, to form a righteous character by obedience to God's law. But he failed to do this, and because of his sin our natures are fallen and we cannot make ourselves righteous. Since we are sinful, unholy, we cannot perfectly obey the holy law."
Did you get that? "We cannot perfectly obey the law. We cannot perfectly obey the law." But good news! Christ has made a way of escape for us. If you give yourself to Him an accept Him as your Savior, then sinful though your life has been, for His sake you are accounted as righteous. His character stand in the place of your character and you are accepted before God just as if you had not sinned.
Well, if you stand before God as though you had never sinned, are you perfect? Absolutely. You have absolute perfection. You are perfect in Him. Then He changes the heart. His love abide in our heart and it flows out to all.
This then is that new covenant. When God gave that first covenant, that old covenant it was faulty. He say, "I'm going to give you a new covenant." Yes, our wonderful Savior takes our place. He died for us that our sins might be forgiven. He gives us His perfect righteousness. It is placed after our names in the books of heaven. He puts His love, His commandments, in our hearts. He writes them there so they become our character and they spontaneously flow out to all. He said, "Then you are My sons and My daughters. I will take you to My home. We will be one family. We will live together forever. We will visit millions of worlds through space. We will have peace and happiness forever. This is My promise. This is My covenant. My everlasting covenant. My new covenant."
When we accept this covenant the God so freely offers us, we then begin to grow. We begin to grow in grace. Oh, we still make some mistakes. Many times we make the same mistakes over and over again, because sanctification is an ongoing process. In fact, the pen of inspiration says in Volume 1 of the Testimonies to the Church, p. 340, "So long as Satan reigns, we shall have self to subdue, besetments to overcome, and there is no stopping place, there is no point to which we can come and say we have attained."
What did Paul say? Philippians 3:13,14, Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before. I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.
But dear friends, the good news is that wherever you are in the process of sanctification, you are just as saved as you will ever be. You don't know how long you're going to live after you accept Christ. Suppose you are baptized and then a week later you're killed in an automobile accident. You haven't had any time to grow., You haven't even had any time to gain this victory or that victory. Are you lost because you haven't had time? Why, of course not! Wherever you are in the process of sanctification you are covered. You have that perfect righteousness in Christ Jesus. The thief on the cross didn't have much time, did he? No, he didn't have much time.
I've heard people say, "Well, Jesus is gong to come. I have to get ready. I've surely got to try harder. I've got to get ready. I'm not ready, but I'm surely working on it." Dear friend, how long does it take? Does it take a year? Six months? Five years? How long does it take? You can know today. You can know this hour. You can know that you have perfect righteousness which is required to enter heaven because Jesus Christ gives it to you.
The servant of God says, "When it is in the heart to obey God, when efforts are put forth to this end, Jesus accepts this disposition and effort as man's best service and He makes up for the deficiency with his own merit; for He is the source of every right impulse." (No reference given.) When it's in the heart, your determination, your purpose is to obey God and you try. You put forth effort. God accepts that. Doesn't that fill you heart with joy and assurance? That Christ will give you His perfect righteousness. No, if you go ahead and deliberately choose to sin and you deliberately break His commandments, you are choosing another master. That's the only way you can separate yourself from God. If you make mistakes, you are not separated from God. He loves you just as a mother loves her child when that child makes a mistake.
Paul said in 1 Corinthians 13:13, And now abideth faith, hope, and charity (love), these three; but the greatest of these is charity (love).
Jesus said, when He was in the upper room on that last night, He said to His disciples (John 13:34), A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. "Love one another as I have loved you." The eleventh commandment. A new dimension: "As I have loved you, I want you to love ." This final statement: "Love to man is the earthward manifestation of the love of God It was to implant this love, to make us children of one family, that the King of glory became one with us. And when His parting words are fulfilled, 'Love one another, as I have loved you" (John 15:12); when we love the world as He loved it, then for us His mission is accomplished. We are fitted for heaven; for we have heaven in our hearts." - Desire of Ages by EG White, p. 641.5.
Jesus says, "I want you to love as I have loved you." And, we are told, when we love the world, when we love our families, our friends, when we love the world as He loved it, we're fitted for heaven. Why? Because heaven is in our hearts.
Dear friends, may we open our hearts that we might have that love and the we might be more like Jesus.
Hymn of Praise: #228, A Hymn of Glory Let Us Sing Scripture: 1 John 4:7-11 Hymn of Response: #184, Jesus Paid It All
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last updated 6/27/2001 by Bob Beckett.