daily biblical sermons

Loving God with all our heart and soul only comes from being born again through faith in Christ and leads us to a whole new way of living
Fr. Steven Scherrer, MM, Th.D.
Homily of Sunday, 30th Sunday of the Year, October 25, 2020
Exodus 22:20-26, Psalm 17, 1 Thessalonians 1:5c-10, Matthew 22:34-40


Biblical quotations are taken from the Revised Standard Version unless otherwise noted




“But when the Pharisees heard that he [Jesus] had silenced the Sadducees, they came together. And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question, to test him. ‘Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?’ And he said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And the second is like it, you shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets’” (Matthew 22:34-40).



Today Jesus teaches us the two greatest commandments of the law, namely to love God with all our heart and soul, mind and strength, which is the first and greatest of all, and then the second, to love our neighbor as ourselves.



But to do this is no easy matter. It requires that we be justified and redeemed from our sins, which was the purpose of Christ’s coming into the world. He came to redeem us from our sinful state of alienation from God and reconcile us with him by suffering for us the punishment that we owe God for our sins, thereby paying the debt that we have with God of suffering and death in punishment for our sins and so reconciling us with him and lifting from us the pain of guilt for our sins.



When we put our faith in Christ, God therefore declares us ungodly sinners righteous and reckons to us his own righteousness (Romans 4:5) so that we shine with the righteousness of God himself. This makes us a “new man” (Ephesians 4:22-24) and a new creature in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17), which gives us a new possibility of living according to these two greatest commandments of Jesus, that otherwise go against the grain of our fallen human nature.



These two commandments show us how far short we fall of the perfection that Christ expects of us and how continually we have need of his redemptive action on the cross through our faith in him. “How humbling and condemning they [these two commandments] are! How much they prove our daily need of mercy and the precious blood of atonement!” (JC Ryle, 1856). “We cannot have love to God and man without faith in Christ, and without regeneration. The way to spread true love in the world, is to teach the atonement of Christ, and the work of the Holy Spirit” (JC Ryle).



“But how shall we obtain this love towards God? It is no natural feeling. We are born in sin, and, as sinners, are afraid of God. How then can we love Him? We can never really love Him until we are at peace with Him through Christ. When we feel our sins forgiven, and ourselves reconciled to our holy Maker, then, and not until then, we shall love Him and have the spirit of adoption … They love most who feel most forgiven” (JC Ryle, emphasis in the text).



But once we do begin to love God by being reconciled to him and feeling ourselves clean, with our sins forgiven, our guilt removed, and the fear of eternal punishment for our sins after death canceled by Christ’s death on the cross, which we have put our faith in, and once God has declared us righteous and reckoned to us his own righteousness, then what happens to us? Then we are to begin to live a new type of life, and these two commandments guide us to know what kind of life it is that God now wants us to live. It is a life focused and centered on the love of God. It is a life in which we delight to do his will and desire nothing more than to do his will and to have him as the center of our life, seeking our joy in him, rather than seeking it in unnecessary worldly pleasures that only dilute the love of God in our heart and diffuse it in many directions that divide our heart away from an undivided love of the Lord.



“Love is the grand secret of true obedience to God. When we feel towards Him as children feel towards a dear father, we shall delight to do His will. We shall not find His commandments grievous, and work for Him like slaves under fear of the lash. We shall take pleasure in trying to keep His laws, and mourn when we transgress them. None work so well as those who work out of love. The fear of punishment, or the desire of reward, are principles of far less power. They do the will of God best, who do it from the heart” (JC Ryle, emphasis in the text).



So, what is this new way of life that God wants us as born-again Christians to now live? He wants us to live according to these two great commandments. And what does that mean concretely? The New Testament is full of teachings of Jesus showing us exactly what this means. It means a life of self-denial for the sake of loving God with an undivided heart. It means renouncing the distracting, heart-dividing unnecessary pleasures of the world for the sake of loving God with an undivided heart, whereby we are focused on him as much as possible.



That is why Jesus tells us that we should choose the more difficult way, not the wide gate and the easy path that most people take that leads them to dissipating the love of their heart and ultimately to destruction. The true way of life that God wants us to choose is narrow and difficult, and few find it. So, Jesus says, “Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is easy, that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard, that leads to life, and those who find it are few” (Matthew 7:13-14).



A whole new way of life is described by this saying of Jesus. The path of constantly pursuing unnecessary, distracting, and even harmful worldly pleasures is the way that most people choose, even most Christians. But this is the way “that leads to destruction,” “for the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many” (Matthew 7:13).



So, let us not judge by the number of people and even by the number of Christians who are taking this wide and easy path and come to the false conclusion that this must be the right path and the best way to go, rather than the narrow, difficult path that so few find. We want company, so many pick the path most chosen, but the truth is just the opposite of what seems to be the truth. Indeed, things are not always what they seem to be.



Most people fear and avoid the narrow gate and the difficult path with few people on it. Most prefer to be surrounded by lots of companions on the wide, broad, easy and enjoyable path, but unfortunately for them that is the path “that leads to destruction” (Matthew 7:13). It is not the path of life. Rather the narrow gate and the hard path, which most people avoid, is the way of life, “For the gate is narrow and the way is hard, that leads to life, and those who find it are few” (Matthew 7:14).



Therefore, we should learn the one great lesson that Jesus taught us when he said, “Whoever would save his life will lose it; and whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it” (Mark 8:35). What does this mean? It means the same thing as the saying about the narrow and the wide paths. Those that try to save their life are those that pick the path with the most people on it, the path that is the widest and is filled with entertainments, refreshments, and lots of unnecessary worldly pleasures. These are the ones that want to save their life in a worldly way.



What will happen to them? They “will lose it [their life]” (Mark 8:35). So, what is the way that we should follow to truly save our life with God? It is the way of the narrow gate and the hard path that worldly people wrongly think is the way of losing your life. The way of life is the way of the narrow gate and the hard path that few choose. “For whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it” (Mark 8:35).



How do we lose our life for Christ’s sake and the gospel’s? We do it by following him, by living according to his teachings, by taking the narrow gate and the hard way, by losing our life for his sake, instead of trying to save it by living a riotous worldly life of unnecessary worldly pleasures.



So, we should not try to pursue unnecessary worldly pleasures, because if we do, we will not succeed in pursuing the Lord, because we will be like the slave that is trying to serve two masters, each one giving him contradictory orders.



In trying to fulfill the contradictory orders of each master, he ends up tearing himself in two, because one master tells them to live a worldly life, while the other tells him to live a life of self-denial. If you try to follow both of these contradictory commands at the same time, what will happen to you? You won’t succeed in doing anything. Following the Lord will spoil your worldly pleasure, while the commands of your worldly master will spoil your life with the Lord. Simply put, you will get nowhere and accomplish nothing.



That is why Jesus told us, “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon” (Matthew 6:24).



So, what should we do? We should be crucified to the world and to worldly living, and rather live for the Lord with all the love of our heart, as St. Paul says that he himself is trying to do, “But far be it from me to glory except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world” (Galatians 6:14). When we crucify ourselves to the world and to worldly living for the love of God, we will begin to live a life in which we love God with all our heart and soul, mind and strength, rather than living with a divided heart, trying to love two contradictory things at the same time, namely a life of worldly pleasure and a life of self-denial.



Temptations, of course, will naturally come to everyone. They come from our passions and pass through our minds and thoughts, but we must not carry them out in action. Even the thoughts of them we should try to distract ourselves from by engaging in worthwhile activities like writing sermons or reading worthwhile articles or books.



To be tempted by the desires of the flesh and of the world is not a sin. God himself allows us to be tempted to test us in order to strengthen us by giving us opportunities to resist these temptations and thereby grow in virtue. Jesus himself, the Son of God, was tempted in the desert for forty days and forty nights, so how do we think that we mere human beings can escape what Jesus himself could not escape.



So, in resisting temptation and renouncing a life of unnecessary worldly pleasures, we are to live a life of self-denial, as Jesus taught us, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me” (Luke 9:23 NKJV).


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