Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The greatest responsibility you have: the greatest privilege you could have

There are many questions in the world. The greatest of all questions that could be addressed to you is that which the Lord Jesus Christ addressed to Peter. "Lovest thou me?" This is not just a question asked by the greatest person about himself. It is the greatest question it is possible to ask about the greatest person. It is the greatest commandment. 'Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment' (Mark 12:30). All our moral responsibility, the whole law hangs upon it.

This great commandment is in the gospel: 'Kiss the Son lest he be angry and ye perish from the way when his wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all they that put their trust in him' (Psalm 2:12). It is the test of all our religious duty - without love to Christ, all is lost and nothing. "Though I speak with the tongues of men and angels, Though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and knowledge, Though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor; and Though I give my body to be burnt, and have not love, it profiteth me nothing." (1 Cor 13:1ff). It profiteth me nothing. As with a sum of money the zeros are important but without the whole number they are of no value no matter how many there may be. So with the love of Christ this is what gives value to anything that we do. This is a great question to ask of faith - is it working through love to Christ? Love and faith are joined together because they centre upon the same object, the Lord Jesus Christ. 'Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory' (1 Pet 1:8). The Pharisees had not the love of God in them (Jn 5:42) - this was the great charge against them - they would not come to Christ which was the great evidence of not having love toward God. This will be the great question on the day of judgement. "Lovest thou me more than these?" Our thoughts, words, actions will be sifted for love to Christ. This is laid upon us as vital to our eternal destiny, 'if any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be Anathema, Maranatha' (1 Cor 16:22). Anathema means accursed, Maranatha means the Lord comes. At the Lord's coming he shall judge and shall pronounce either the curse or blessing. How solemn to be pronounced accursed at the coming of the Lord. He shall say 'Depart from me, I never knew you'. You never loved me and I never knew you in that way. This is the great distinguishing mark of regeneration, circumcision of heart must produce love to Christ (Deut 30:6). It is the test of whether or not we are in right relationship with God. Those that love Christ in sincerity have a primary mark of grace. They are the truly regenerate (Deuteronomy 30:6).

It is also the highest privilege that there is. To love Christ. He is the greatest object for our affections. No-one higher may be loved in heaven or upon earth (Ps 73:25). The psalmist's question, 'Whom have I in the heavens high, but thee O Lord alone?' is not just a personal question but a question that is unversally true. 'And in the earth whom I desire, besides thee, there is none'. All the things that we may desire are not to be compared to him. One of the old writers says that an individual's worth is to be measured according to the object of their affections and satisfaction. Christ is an infinite person and therefore those that make him the object of their affections and satisfaction have an infinite worth attaching to them. He is the only object of true and ultimate affection and satisfaction and to seek this elsewhere is idolatry. If we are placing our chief affections elsewhere, this is upon comparatively worthless objects which makes us in turn worthless. The more we love Christ the more we become like him. Christ is not only infinite but eternal. This love is therefore everlasting - it is the queen of all graces because it outshines them and outlasts them. It brings all other graces in its train. 'Charity edifieth'. It brings joy unspeakable and quickens obedience. It is a heavenly affection that puts heaven in us before we are in heaven. Heaven is a world of love. Love to Christ is also the highest of privileges that brings all other privileges in its train. Those that love God are remembered by him in a special way and looked upon in a special way. They are preserved. That God should love us is beyond our grasp. That God should condescend to accept our love is something more - an even more mysterious thing. It is a condescension shining with glorious, matchless grace. There can be no greater privilege. 'My beloved is mine and I am his' is the very heights of redemptive privilege. Is it not a wonderful thing To be able to be able to lay claims of love upon Christ?

The poet George Herbert brought the greatest responsibility and the greatest privilege together in his poem "The Affliction". He writes:

Ah my dear God! though I am clean forgot,
Let me not love thee, if I love thee not.

It is of course a paradox, saying I do not deserve to love God unless I love him sincerely. God forbid that I would be allowed the greatest privilege and mercy of loving thee if I do not fulfil the greatest commandment.