Confused About the Goal
In Matthew 22:37-39 and Mark 12:29-31, Jesus tells us that the two great commands are to love God with our entire being and love our neighbors. The concept is simple but the execution is difficult. Only two commands and if we’re honest, we admit that we cannot keep either one of them on our own.
If these are the two great commands, it seems that every time Scripture is taught, every time a sermon is delivered, every time we worship in song, it should encourage us to the fulfillment of these.
Yet, often we miss the opportunity to reinforce these commands in our expressions on a Sunday. We should come away from worship with a burning desire to love as God commands us to love.
The Goal is Love
The Apostle Paul reinforced love as the goal when he wrote to his protégé Timothy. He writes, “the aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.” (1 Timothy 1:5)
The goal, the end game, the desired result, the proof that we have progressed is love. What is the source of that kind of love? The source is a pure heart, a good conscience and sincere faith. Encouraging people to this kind of love should be the goal of every teaching opportunity.
The Path Toward the Goal
From this passage in 1 Timothy, we can see that if our teaching is geared toward developing a pure heart, a good conscience and a sincere faith, that teaching will be in support of the two great commands.
David asks a pair of rhetorical questions in Psalm 24:3, “Who shall ascend the hill of the LORD?
And who shall stand in his holy place?” His response is found in the following verse where he writes, “He who has clean hands and a pure heart.” In Psalm 51:10, David cries out to God “create in me a clean heart” after confessing his sin with Bathsheba.
A clean heart, a pure heart is required to love as God wants us to love. I am reminded that in 1 John 1:9 we read, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Through the work of Jesus Christ on the cross and confession of our sin, we can have a pure heart.
Romans 5:1 tells us that we are not condemned if we are in Christ Jesus. We can have a good conscience if we are waling in the Spirit (see Galatians 5:16). To be waking in the Spirit precludes any behavior that would tarnish our conscience.
The Greek word translated sincere in this verse means literally without hypocrisy. In other words, the faith that is on display is genuine; what is on the inside matches what is on the outside. I should also point out that the value of faith is dependent upon the object of faith. As a Christian, our faith is dependent upon Christ and the reality of who he is.
While not every sermon should have the two great commands as their subject, every sermon should have the two great commands as their goal. Everything that is said from the pulpit should be evaluated by preacher and pew sitter alike in light of the two commands.
My guess is that if we did a better job of this, our churches and our world might be a lot different than they are.