We will always have many ethnicities in the church, in this church, praise God.
And the gospel doesn't stamp all the varieties of ethnic diversities. But the church becomes one new race. The church becomes one united priesthood. The church becomes one holy nation belonging uniquely to God.
And our mission is to declare the praises of Him who called us out of darkness into this marvelous light. It's not uncommon for us humans to think of people in terms of race. We might even make judgments about others based on their skin color or their nationality. God doesn't think in terms of races as we often do. God thinks of all the redeemed, of every tribe and tongue and nation as one race, united under Him, with Christ as our leader. God commands us to interact and relate with each other in a way that our unity is on display. Today on Wisdom for the Heart, Stephen Davey continues through his series, The Law of Love.
Stephen's called the lesson you're about to hear, The King's Commandment. A young Hispanic nurse who attends our church, being discipled by one of the women in our church, grew up in a town inside the country of Mexico. She came up to me after one of the services. We introduced the subject of partiality and prejudice from the second chapter of James. And she told me that she had been raised in this small town that was literally built up and around the side of a small mountain. And even though they were all Mexican, they all spoke the same language, that town was divided into sort of an invisible class system. And it played out physically in relation to where you lived on that mountain. The people at the bottom of the hill were the poor. The people in the middle were the middle class.
The people at the top were of course the upper class where the finest homes were. She told me that all through her growing up years in high school, even though all the kids came who lived all over the mountain to that school, they segregated themselves by virtue of their location on the mountain. Someone from the top of the mountain, she told me, would never socialize with those who lived literally below them. She told me that because she lived at the bottom of the mountain, she never fit in with the kids who lived on the top of the mountain. I couldn't help but think that that's a perfect metaphor, that hill, for the kind of attitude that James is condemning.
He goes on to say it's inconsistent with the gospel of Christ. And we began our study with the opening of this chapter in verse one with the paraphrase still ringing in my minds from the Amplified Bible that says, stop holding your faith in the glorious Lord Jesus Christ with snobbery. Stop being what?
You remember? All right, let me try it again. Stop being one, two, three. Snobs, you got it. All right, so stop being snobs. James is saying, get your nose out of the air and get over where you came from and where you live on the mountain.
I thought this was classic. A Chicago bank once asked a Boston investment house for a letter of recommendation. They were interested in a young man who had applied to work at the bank. He actually worked for this investment house. So they sent a sterling letter of recommendation about his family. They couldn't say enough good things about the young man's pedigree. His father, they wrote to the bank, was a Cabot. His mother was a Lowell. Even further back in his lineage was a blend of salton stalls and pea bodies and other notables from among Boston's finest families. A few days later, the Chicago bank sent a brief note back saying, the information you supplied is unimportant. We are not contemplating using this young man for breeding.
We just want to know if he can work. We would expect the world to be impressed by that kind of thing. Connections and image are everything, are they not? Status, education, rank, you throw in the right name brand, an attractive face, politically correct lingo, and you got a man or a woman who knows how to go from the bottom of the hill to the top. So that's the DNA of our cultural fallen, cultural norm. And the gospel comes along and it topples the norm, doesn't it? Jesus Christ did not come down to us from the top of the mountain. He was actually more than that. He lived higher than the top of the mountain. In fact, he created the mountain.
He rides the winds above the mountain. And that's how he condescended in joining the human race. And you'd think though that being God and he could choose that when he came down, he would choose to come and land on top of the mountain and show us all how to move up there. That's prosperity theology, which is corrupt. Instead, he comes to the bottom and he shows us all how to come down.
He descended to the bottom rung. In Matthew's gospel account, Jesus Christ, he records, delivers this unconventional message, the first shall be last. The way to lead is to serve.
The way to live is to die to self. No wonder he wasn't a bestseller back then. You see, Jesus Christ turned the mountain upside down and James, now pastoring, one of the Lord's half brothers, a leading elder in the church in Jerusalem, was watching and he saw very early on that Christianity and partiality were being mixed together. And so under the inspiring movement of the Holy Spirit, he exhorts the believer to live out the gospel, to bring his faith down to earth. And in chapter two, he challenges the believer to look past the face, to not mix Christianity with classism or racism or culturalism. We will always have many ethnicities in the church, in this church, praise God. And the gospel doesn't stamp all the varieties of ethnic diversities. But the church, however, becomes one new race. The church becomes one united priesthood. The church becomes one holy nation belonging uniquely to God and our mission is to declare the praises of him who called us out of darkness into this marvelous light. We are the demonstration of the gospel of Christ who came all the way down, all the way down to the bottom of the hill. Now you remember if you were with us in our last study, the believers are having a problem with us. They're having the same problem in the first century that we have in the 21st century. And so James illustrates the problem of prejudice and partiality by taking us inside a church service.
It's already underway. A rich man comes in. You remember Mr. Bling Bling, don't you?
I just wanted to use that word one more time. He got the red carpet all the way down to the front seats, the chief seats, which lets us know this wasn't the Baptist church after all. The poor man comes in late.
He's told to sit on the floor, go stand over there by the wall, just stay out of the way. James tells us several reasons why this response so small was actually a huge indicator that how the world was acting on the outside had gotten on the inside. James neither pities the poor man or condemns the rich man, nor does God. Money is not the root of all evil. The love of money is the root of all evil. 1 Timothy 6, 10. You can be poor and extremely greedy.
You can be in the middle class and live and love, live for and love money. But that isn't James' issue here. He's interested in how the congregation is responding. And he watches as he illustrates how the congregation fawns over this rich man. The word for look after or pay attention to, we studied, means to look with covetousness. They're saying in their heart, we want to be this guy.
We'd love to have his life. And what's left behind is the gospel. The implication is, and Greek scholars believe it to be true, and I would throw my hat in with them, that the rich man and the poor man are both unbelievers and they've come to church to find out what's going on on the inside and they are going to leave believing the church isn't any different inside than the world is outside.
See, in the church, they're chasing each other up the mountain too. I can't help but think in my study this past week that Jesus Christ would have been exactly the kind of young man they would have asked to sit on the floor and go stand by the wall. And to this day, isn't it interesting that Jesus Christ still uniquely calls and chooses those who aren't connected, they aren't wealthy, they aren't noble, which then demonstrates the gospel of grace.
As I studied this text, I couldn't help but think of Spurgeon, I'm reading his autobiography right now, two volumes, some in the beginning chapters of volume two. He was what we would call a country bumpkin. He was raised in a poor pastor's home. In fact, at one point so poor, his dad being bivocational, we'd call that today, meaning he had another job because his church couldn't afford to pay him and not to live off of. At one point so poor, they sent Charles to live with his grandfather and grandmother so he could eat. Charles' grandfather was a pastor also, a little more successful, a little more well paid, but they couldn't afford much. However, his grandmother did pay him a penny for each hymn he memorized.
And to this day, if you ever pull out any of Spurgeon's sermons, never a sermon goes by without the quoting of a hymn or two. He began preaching at the age of 17. He preached in a makeshift barn to about 40 people. They asked him to be their pastor. He accepted. Within two years, there were 450 people, causing that little barn to bulge. And then he got an invitation to come to London, the city, and preach at the famous New Park Street Chapel that had been pastored by Dr. Gill. His body of divinity is still in print today.
This was the upper crust of society. He thought they'd made a mistake in inviting him. They hadn't made a mistake. They'd heard of this young preacher boy preaching in a barn with passion. So they invited him to come and his dad told him it was a mistake to go. He did go and he arrived to preach to less than 100 people even though that auditorium sat a thousand.
It was dying. It had a past but no future, it seemed. A teenage girl in that congregation that Sunday recalled how Spurgeon did not fit in at all. It was obvious he was from the other side of the tracks. In fact, she said his appearance was distracting, if not comical. She wrote and I quote this teenage girl, she said his hair was long and badly trimmed. And I've seen a picture, it just kind of stuck out. He had a cow lick.
I don't have that problem, which is really good. He was wearing an oversized black coat, he'd obviously borrowed, and his mismatched blue handkerchief with large white spots, which he graphically described as an illustration in his sermon, calling all the more attention to it, which awakened in me feelings of amusement. She would later become his wife and pick out his handkerchief for it. He accepted the call to that little dying church and it grew.
Within two years they needed to build to seat 1800 people. And then later the tabernacle was built, the Metropolitan Tabernacle, which seated 5000, and Spurgeon would preach there for a little more than 35 years. Isn't it great the way God does that? Not many noble, not many wise according to the flesh. God has chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise. Eugene Peterson says it this way, he's chosen nobodies to confound the somebodies of the world. See, God has turned the mountain upside down. And it's time we get it right. So what's the solution, James?
I mean, how do you get this right? Well, in verses 8 to 13, which is the final paragraph of this discussion, this is sort of part two here, he delivers the answer. He's going to deliver, and I'll paraphrase what he says in three statements.
I had as many as five, now we needed to condense it down to three. Here it is, the first statement. Let's get reacquainted with the heart of God. Let's get reacquainted with the heart of the Father. Look at verse 8. If, however, you are fulfilling the royal law, according to the scripture, you shall love your neighbor as yourself, you are doing well. Now, a lot of ink has been spilled on defining what exactly James is referring to here.
The phrase the royal law is never used as an expression anywhere else in the New Testament. But James gives us a rather obvious clue. He's repeating the words of Jesus Christ from Matthew chapter 22. And there's a first section that James leaves off, not because it's unimportant, but because it doesn't fit the context of what he's stressing. The first part is to love the Lord your God, right, with all your heart, soul, and mind. And he says this is the foremost commandment. The second is like it, love your neighbor as yourself. And then Jesus says that on these two commandments depend, hang all the law and the prophets. In other words, that's the heart of it.
And Jesus will broaden the definition of neighbor to anybody who needs your help. This is the king's commandment. And it reflects the nature and the heart of the king. It's the law of the sovereign. It flows out of his nature.
It flows out of his character. And it is a law, by the way, which means it's binding. There's no higher court of appeal. We believe it. We're to act it. We're to obey it, follow it, because it is from the king.
It is supreme. Perhaps that's the idea of the word royal, supreme, in that it having come from our supreme sovereign, it also demonstrates the supremacy of the gospel of grace and mercy. So all the law then, in the words of Christ, and what James is focusing on here, can be broken down into two relationships, a relationship with God and a relationship with each other.
Jesus Christ summarized all the ingredients of the law in Matthew. And in that summary, and he said it all, here it is, love God, love people. This is the vertical relationship. You love God.
This is the horizontal relationship. We love people. If we love God, we will love people. We will care for them as God brings them into our lives. We can't say we love God if we're not loving. And we can't just say, well, I love people, but I don't love God.
They hang together. You see, in the early church, in James' generation, the Jewish scholars believed that the law was a series of detached commands. They were all separated. And if you can envision it, the Ten Commandments, they viewed as, if you went bowling and there are those ten pins, and you roll your ball down there, and you're supposed to knock some of them over and avoid the two things along the edge, which my ball, I think there's some, well, anyhow, but you knock two over and there's eight left, but there are still eight standing. That's the Jewish comprehension during the days of James with the law. To keep one law is to gain credit. To break a law is, that goes on the other side of the column. And so at the end of the day, you might have enough of these that outweigh this, and you're all right, which of course developed into something that the human heart panders after.
It makes us feel good. And there are a lot of people who think they're going to get to heaven because of that, and they envision God up there somewhere sitting by a scale with your name on it, and the good things you do get added to this side, and the bad things get added to this side, and if you can behave long enough, you can outweigh the bad with the good, and God will say, come on in. You did fairly well, but the law isn't that at all. It isn't separated bowling pins. It isn't deeds that we can categorize.
It's a chain. In fact, look at verse 10. Whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point has become guilty of all. See, that is we are all considered law breakers because we have broken any one law. And that gives us the verdict. You are law breakers.
You're transgressors. If you break one link of the law, you break the chain and become a law breaker. By the way, if you're hanging on this over the side of a cliff and you're holding on to a chain with 10 links, which link is really important to you? You know, the third one doesn't matter. The ninth.
I mean, I've got eight out of 10. That's all connected. I think there's another way to understand the unity of the law, which James is describing, by which we all find ourselves to be law breakers, is that they are all directly or indirectly related. And so I did this little exercise. If you take the sin of partiality or prejudice and connect it to the 10 commandments, you discover that in some way, either directly or indirectly, you have violated all 10.
Here we go. The first and second commandments are broken simply because God commands us to not show partiality. And to do so is to deny his will and place our will above his, thus idolizing our own opinion and not God's alone. The third commandment is broken because to favor someone over another is to misrepresent the name and nature of God. The fourth commandment is broken as we show favoritism in church, thus defiling our sacred worship. The fifth commandment dishonors the poor, and we should dishonor no one, especially those whom we should give our care and concern. Prejudice and favoritism effectively kills the spirit and the hopes of the poor by demeaning them and thus violates the sixth commandment. The seventh commandment is violated as we favor the rich and powerful and in so doing show infidelity and unfaithfulness to our Lord and to the bonds of this Christian fellowship. The eighth commandment is broken as we steal from the poor the dignity that is theirs as unique creations of God. The ninth commandment bears false witness because prejudice implies they have less worth than others and that is a lie. And the tenth commandment is broken because favoring the rich is a form of covetousness which values possessions over and above the value of a human being.
All ten. Now the people in this assembly might try to say, well, okay, we broke this little thing law, but we did show some love. I mean, we didn't kick the guy out. We let the poor guy stand by the wall and sit. He had the same warmth we had. He got to hear the same message we heard. We love him too.
We just show it a little differently than when we showed it to the rich guy. No, love doesn't avoid the law. It is the highest law and it must be dispensed equally because the law is supreme and the law of love is over and above all other laws. In fact, the royal law is the law of love. Just because you love doesn't mean you're not accountable to all the other laws. You can't excuse it.
Well, I love this guy, but I'm doing all these things. It doesn't matter. No, you can't say that. Look, if I get pulled over by a state trooper on the way home today after church, now you got to use your imagination on this, but I get pulled over because on Penny Road it's 45 miles an hour and I'm doing 47. And I get pulled over.
I hate it when they do that. I'm only doing 47 and I get pulled over, but I do. Okay, so I did. And that policeman comes up to my car and he says, Mr. Davey, I'm on my pickup truck. And he says, I'm going to have to write you a ticket. What if I said, but I love you, officer. I mean, I really love you.
But what's he going to do? He's going to look down in the window and he's going to say, excuse me, sir. And I would say, well, I, I just want you to know I love all the policemen of the world. You would have me get out of the truck and breathe into this little plastic thing. Listen, if I promise to love all of the state troopers, can I speed? Maybe.
I mean, I mean, no. True love does not set aside the law. It should make us want to keep the law. James is saying, if you really want to love, you keep the law. So classism and racism and culturalism and favoritism in James' mind are not just little misdemeanors, by the way, they violate the greatest, most supreme law. The greatest and supreme law is that we love the Lord with all of our hearts and that we love our neighbor as ourself.
There are some people in your life that you likely find quite easy to love and perhaps some that you find difficult. We hope this lesson and this series will help you. Stephen called this series the law of love and today's lesson is entitled the King's commandment. There is more to this lesson, but what we don't have more of, at least for today, is time. We're stopping here and we're going to conclude this lesson on our next broadcast.
This is Wisdom for the Heart with Stephen Davey. Stephen is the pastor of the Shepherds Church in Cary, North Carolina. In addition, Stephen is also the president of Shepherds Theological Seminary. Shepherds Seminary is equipping and training pastors and Christian leaders for a lifetime of service. But even if you don't feel called to full-time Christian ministry, Shepherds Theological Seminary can equip you to better understand God's word. You can study online right where you live. There's also a very unique one-year program where you can relocate to this area for a year. During that time you would study God's word, experience authentic community, grow in discipleship, take a trip to Israel and do some study there, and earn your master's degree in theological studies.
You can do all of that in one year. We've had college students come and participate right after college, but before entering the workforce. We've had retired people come and do this program. If something like this sounds interesting to you, we'd like you to learn more. If you navigate to our website and then scroll to the bottom of the page, there's a link to Shepherds Theological Seminary where you can learn more. You'll find us online at wisdomonline.org. Another great way to learn more about us is by signing up to be on our email list. We send ministry updates and special offers to those who sign up.
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Using that guide each day will help you remain grounded in God's Word. The magazine is called Heart to Heart. We send Heart to Heart magazine to all of our wisdom partners, but we'd be happy to send you the next three issues if you'd like to see it for yourself. All you need to do is visit wisdomonline.org. When you get there, you'll find a link that says magazine. Go there and fill out that form and we're going to add you to our email list. Again, to show our appreciation, we're going to send you a gift of the next three issues of our magazine. We can also help you over the phone if you call 866-48-BIBLE. I hope the rest of your day is filled with God's blessing and that you'll be back with us next time, here on Wisdom for the Heart.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-03-31 18:22:50 / 2023-03-31 18:32:51 / 10