Our services have officially started! In addition, the video and audio recordings of our sermons are available below. The following sermon was prepared by Ps Lucas Stoltz this week for your edification and uplifting.

Click here: Mark 12:28-34, to download or stream the audio sermon, or click here: Mark 12:28-34, for the video feed, and follow the notes below. May the Lord speak into your hearts as you worship.

Mark 12:28-34, A Lesson on Loving God:
• When it comes to the subject of love, the conversation can go in every direction. But let us go back 108 years ago. Before the unsinkable ship, the Titanic, sank on its first voyage, where over 1,500 passengers died. At the time of its departure, pastor and preacher John Harper and six year old daughter boarded the Titanic.
• They were traveling for the privilege of preaching at Moody Church in Chicago. The church was anxiously awaiting his arrival not only because of the pending services, but to meet their next pastor, as Harper planned to accept their invitation.

• Now when the Titanic hit the iceberg, Harper successfully led his daughter to a lifeboat. Being a widower he may have been allowed to join her but instead forsook his own rescue, choosing to provide the masses with one more chance to know Christ. Harper ran person to person, passionately telling others about Christ.
• As the water began to fill the “unsinkable” ship, Harper was heard shouting, “women, children, and the unsaved into the lifeboats.” Rejected by a certain man at the offer of salvation, Harper gave him his own life vest, saying, “you need this more than I do.”

• The ship disappeared beneath the deep waters leaving hundreds struggling in its wake with no realistic chance for rescue. Harper struggled through hyperthermia to swim to as many people as he could, still sharing the Gospel. Harper evidentially would lose his battle with hypothermia but not before giving many people one last glorious Gospel witness.
• Four years after the tragedy at a Titanic survivor’s meeting in Ontario, Canada, one survivor recounted his interaction with Harper in the middle of the icy waters of the Atlantic. He testified he was clinging to ship debris when Harper swam up to him, twice challenging him with a biblical invitation to “believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved.”

• He rejected the offer once. Yet given the second chance and with miles of water beneath his feet, the man gave his life to Christ. Then as Harper succumbed to his watery grave, this new believer was rescued by a returning lifeboat.
• Up until the last moment on the ship Harper pleaded with people to give their lives to Jesus. Harpers actions revealed a deep & true love for God, and by loving God, he loved God’s image by pleading with all who he could – whether they listened or not.

• And in our passage this morning, we will learn more about how we can also be faithful in our love for God and His image bearers! We’ll do this by looking at the qualification for loving God and the instruction on loving God. But first, let’s consider…

  1. The Context:
    • Text – 12:28-34
    • Explanation – As you come to verse 28 it says, “One of the scribes came,” this is the third wave of questions coming from representatives of the Sanhedrin. First was the Pharisees, then the Sadducees, and now this scribe.
    • But you need to know the introduction to this. There was a meeting held by the Sanhedrin. Matthew 22:34, says “they were gathered together.” The meeting of the Sanhedrin reconvened again because the first two traps were unsuccessful.
    • Now majority of the scribes were legal experts, they were the ones who studied the law. So the scribe was sent to test Jesus. And it might seem as if he was the only one, but he was more the spokesman.

• Illustration – He would have heard the previous argument over the resurrection with the Sadducees and maybe heard the previous argument to that about the Pharisees’ concern regarding whether or not you’re to pay tax to Caesar.
• And he was stunned by the answers that Jesus gave, recognizing that He had answered them well. So he comes with another question. Here’s the question, “What commandment is the foremost of all? What commandment is the foremost of all?” Now you ask the question at this point, why is a trap connected to this question?

• Well the answer is simple. The Pharisees felt that the gospel that Jesus preached was contrary to the teaching of the Law. So the Sanhedrin comes up with a question they can all agree to. What is the greatest commandment or what is the most important commandment, what is the foremost commandment.
• And their hope is that He’s going to give them something that is not found in the Law of Moses, something that surpasses Moses. Something that contradicts this law so that they can get rid of Jesus.

• Application – Now why was Moses elevated so much? Well, if you know your Old Testament, you would know that Moses had some fairly unique experiences with God. It was assumed that no one would’ve ever been nearer to God than Moses. Therefore, no reflection of the Word of God would be purer and truer than that which came from Moses.
• So if Jesus were to reject this, they’d reject Him as the Messiah and then they could sell the idea to Rome that this was a rebel who was a potential threat to Roman security and even to Caesar and should be executed.

• So let’s pick it up in verse 29. Jesus responded to the scribe with what was perhaps both a simple and a stunning answer. Jesus’ responded by quoting what became known as the Shema, found in Deuteronomy 6:4–5.
• Jesus says that “the most important” commandment is to love God completely. Every part of our being is to be devoted to God. And all my strength and energy must be His. As loving God is both the beginning and the end of a relationship with God.

• Conclusion – Further, Jesus’ answer implies obedience to all of God’s commandments. In some ways, the scribe was asking a good, but the wrong, question. He should have been asking, “How can I be made right with God since I do not love him completely and comprehensively?”
• This is because people deceive themselves about their love for God, because we love the God we want rather than loving the God who is. We don’t love God who has revealed himself in the Scriptures, we love the god who is the figment of our own imagination.

• Many who are near but not in the kingdom of God worship a false god: a god who indulges our worldliness rather than the God who stands against it, a god who is impressed with our arrogance and pride, a god who appreciates our autonomy rather than the God who calls us to submit to those who have authority over us!

• A god who is pleased with our being entertained by sin rather than the God who expects us to set nothing wicked before our eyes; a god who has no rules rather than the God who has revealed His righteous rules for our good and for his glory.

• Bridge – my dear friends, therefore God is to be loved completely and totally (v. 30) because He alone, is God and because he has made a covenant of love with his people. But in order to love God, something has to happen that makes this possible. Let’s turn to…

  1. The Qualification for Loving God:
    • Text – 12:30
    • Explanation – Now this is very important, many may say that they love God. Especially when you come from a Christian home. You grow up around people who say they love God and so you assume the same. But, you can’t just love God. You need to be made new in His love in order to experience His love so that you can love.

• Illustration – 1 John 4:19, “We love because he first loved us.” If there is no conversion to Christ, there is no real love for God. Ezekiel 36:26 says, “I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.”

• Application – If this hasn’t taken place, the heart of stone doesn’t know love. Just like the Scribe assumes His love for God, many others do… Therefore in answering him, Jesus says – ‘you are not far from the kingdom.’

• Conclusion – Friends, he is not in the kingdom, he hasn’t loved God. But he might be close. He is close in the sense that he sees the truth, he just needs to now embrace. When you embrace it, when you embrace Him – Romans 5:5 says His love is poured into your hearts!
• So if you want to obey and fulfil these commandments, you need to qualify. You need to be enabled! This is only possible when God first loves us. Romans 5:6 says Christ died for while we were still weak, this is so that we can through ourselves before Him – trusting in Him for salvation.

• Bridge – And once we’ve been saved, we have been enabled to love Him. Then we are not close to the kingdom, but in the kingdom. And once we are here, we must learn to love Him His way, therefore we need to look at…

  1. The Instruction on Loving God:
    • Text – 12:30-31
    • Explanation – What you might have noticed is that these two commandments summarize the Ten Commandments that were given to Moses for the people of Israel. The first 4 are summarized by loving God. As there should be a sense of love connected to fearing God.
    • To the love Lord means that there will be no other gods before Him. Meaning there won’t be any one or thing that is acknowledged above God. Second you won’t have any idols, meaning any addition sharing the love & commitment that is meant for God alone.

• And thirdly, you won’t misuse or abuse the name of the LORD your God. Meaning to disregard the purity and holiness of His name, as His name reveals His character! The fourth addresses our regard for His word, to remember and keep the Sabbath – why, God created rest so that we can honour Him by setting a specific time aside to be in His presence to worship!

• Illustration – Therefore, the supreme, most comprehensive duty of man is to love God for who He is, and for what He has done. That’s why we are to love Him with our heart, soul and mind. And Jesus says, you are to love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength. Jesus shows us that loving God is about a way of being, not simply a list of things to do or ways to behave.
• What I mean is that we need to love God in the everyday moments of life, not just when you feel like worshipping Him. Why with your heart, soul, mind and strength? Because we always do what is in our hearts. When the alcoholic turns to the bottle, she is saying, “This is what I trust to satisfy and fulfill me. This is what I trust to save my soul.”

• Application – And when the dad has his hopes tuned to the success or happiness of his children, he is saying, “My family is what I trust to satisfy and fulfill me. This is what I trust to save my soul.” Behavior problems are belief problems.
• Therefore, Jesus starts the Great Commandment by saying: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one”. His response to the scribe is a quoting of the shema, which is a sort of “pledge of allegiance” to God. Our love is to be acceptable. It is to be the outflow of a heart that is believing in the gospel. It is the mind that takes the thoughts of God captive, it is through our strength we act either in a way that glorifies God or not!

• Conclusion – Let’s not forget the second part of the Greatest Commandment: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” The command to love God with everything in us is inseparably connected to the command to love others.
• That’s the next 6. You’re respectful to your parents. You have respect for authority, you have a respect for life. No killing people. You have a respect for moral purity, you don’t commit adultery. Respect for others’ goods and rights, you don’t steal. You have respect for what is true, you don’t lie.

• Have respect for what God has provided and you’re content, you don’t covet. All that has to do with man to man. The first half has to do with man to God, then man to man, so that these two commandments are simply a summarization of the whole law.
• It means to regard God’s creation highly, for man was created in His image! All man has been created in His image, Genesis 1:26-27. And so when we sin against one another, we sin against God who created us in His image.

• Bridge – being image bearers and knowing we are His image bearers call us to look at people differently. To look at them with grace for the image to them is distorted. Friends, hear me, in a season with farm murders, gender-based violence, abortion and everything else, we may be tempted to look at each with hate or disregard.
• But loving your neighbour means, as women, we don’t pre-judge all men as abusers, but image bearers – someone created in God’s image. It means to look at the unborn as image bearers who have been given life, but who haven’t experienced that life on the earth yet.
• It means, as a farmer, to not look at a black man as a terrorist. And as a black man not to look at a farmer as a racist and an enemy. For we are all first and foremost created in the image of God. And therefore our preconceived ideas about others cannot limit our approach or care to others, for our love for God & His creation are to determine how we respond to one another!

Application:
• Truly, that’s the lesson here. And hear me, yes – there people killing our farmers and their workers. That are men who are abusing our women and children. There are folks who murder their babies. And in many cases, there is a majority of a certain ethnicity that are tied to these crimes.
• But we commit a gross sin when we generalize the actions of people and tie it to a certain class. James 4:11-12 says “Do not speak evil against one another, brothers. The one who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks evil against the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. There is only one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbour?”

• Let me conclude, Jesus says we are to love the Lord God with our entire being, and to love His image bearers as we love ourselves – for these are the most important commandments. But in order to do this, we need to be enabled, and that is only through Him who saves us.
• So friends, if you have experienced a tragedy, from someone from another ethnicity or gender, and you are hurting and hating, you are no better than that sinner. I want to therefore challenge you, come to Christ for forgiveness and restoration. Harper was concerned about salvation.