Today’s Reading: Judges 2:1-3:6, Matthew 22:34-46
Have you ever tried to surf? I did.
Every Christmas my family would head up the coast and spent weeks camping at a place called Bateau Bay where we would spend long hot summer days down by the beach. Like all young blonde Aussie boys I wanted to surf. So, one Christmas mum and dad bought me a Styrofoam surf board and my surfing career began.
What looked so simple (and seemed to be so simple for all the other young blokes) turned out to be impossible for me. I just couldn’t stand up on that board no matter what I tried. Over time the other guys graduated to fibreglass boards and then to Shelly’s – the surf beach around the corner. But I stayed stuck at Bateau Bay – the boy who could not surf.
Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and all your mind, and all your soul.
When the Pharisee’s asked the question “What is the greatest commandment” they may have expected something more complicated from Jesus – something more involved. Instead Jesus responded with a short simple statement: Love the Lord your God as No.1!
At face value it sounds simple. Certainly the statement is easy enough for the youngest child to understand. However, while Jesus command might roll off the tongue mastering a wayward heart is something else entirely.
This simple command is impossible to do.
And it gets harder. As Jesus goes on to explain in verse 39 the outworking of loving God is to love others as ourselves. I find I am so hopelessly self-absorbed that I even have difficulty loving the one person on the planet I hold dearest in the world – my wife. What hope have I of loving my neighbour – a complete stranger – or worse – loving those who hate me?
Clearly the ancient Israelites had difficulty giving God rightful place in their lives too. The summary passage in Judges 2 and 3 this morning describes the endlessly repeating cycling of rebellion – judgement – salvation – restoration, over and over again, generation after generation, as the Israelites tried and failed to serve God in their own strength.
We, like the Israelite’s, are addicted to sin. The First commandment is simple to say but impossible to do. Trying to be “good enough” will never be “good enough”.
The flawed surfer
Decades after I had given up any hope of a professional surfing career I discovered why I was never able to surf. My well-meaning parents had bought me a board without a fin! My surfing career was flawed from the outset – doomed to be a lowly body boarder all of my days!
Likewise we have no chance of completely loving God because we are hopelessly flawed. Our sin-addicted hearts will never allow us to completely serve God and love others. We will always fall short of Jesus first command.
We need to be born again. We need a new heart. We need a supernatural intervention. And the great news is that we can have that new start in Jesus.
A new Heart
Praise God for Jesus. Thank God that while we were still His enemy, he sent Jesus to pay for our sin, to put his spirit in our hearts, and start the work of giving us a new heart – changing our affections and desires to incline toward him.
Because of Jesus we can know what it is to “delight in the Lord” not simply obey him out of duty.
Because of Jesus we can know the unspeakable joy that comes in serving the Lord free from guilt and shame.
Because of Jesus, while we are far from perfect, what can experience what it is like to love others self-sacrificially as Jesus loved us, and return to Him again again for forgiveness and strength when we fail.
What is impossible with man is possible with God. God can change us – and He does.
Praise God for sending his son Jesus to die for us. Thank Him for the new heart he places in those who trust Him. Pray that he might continue to change us so that we may love Him wholeheartedly.