It was bound to happen sooner or later as one probes the depths of divinity. Studying the Scriptures to prepare a spiritual meal for others is not the best time to have this kind of revelation. I had grown up in church for the most part and heard these verses more than I can remember. I have heard them preached and I had read various commentaries concerning this. I have parsed the verb and analyzed the words. I had intellectualized the summation of all the commandments wrapped in one. And there I sat; staring at the wall. How am I going to say this? The answer does not seem to inspire or encourage.
In the crisis of discovering how and what to preach; a wonderful thing happened: honesty, freedom unearthed, or whatever you want to call it – “I am not in love with you like you expect of me.” What are people going to think now? This is the most unorthodox response for a conservative Baptist preacher. Not only unconventional but maybe even pastoral suicide. Pack up the books and prepare the failure farewell speech.
Here it is – the summation of all the law and prophets. The whole duty of man, the whole moral-spiritual law can be synthesized in one verse. “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” We won’t even talk about whether I love my neighbor in relation to this. The entire law is fulfilled here and all obedience grows out of this. “I don’t love you like that, Lord.” My Father knows that I cannot as long as I live in the limitations of this sinful heart, soul, and mind (this body). If I could keep this command, then I could keep all the other commands. And if I can keep all the commands, then I don’t need a Savior. In fact, I would be on par with Jesus if I loved the Lord God with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength.
Truth is, I am not free or able to love God as the command demands. There is something wrong with my heart, my soul, my mind, and my strength. I don’t have the will to nor can I make myself love the Lord like this. When I compare myself to the command, I fall short. The command does not reflect my goodness or ability. The command slays me and brings me to nothing. I am dead; still born. It does not matter how romantic I feel singing a Christian songs. Jesus is not my boyfriend. I know that I have a divided heart and mind. As Paul notes in Romans 7:21, “when I want to do good, evil is right there with me.”
I love so many things of this world. If I were completely free I would willingly not love so many things of this world and would fully love my Lord with all my being with joy. Sin has so messed up my life both by shame (what’s been done to me) and guilt (what I have done) and what I naturally inherited from Adam. Self improvement would be to improve at being sinful. That is not the answer. Jesus did not die for me to be a better me. Jesus did not come to improve me and give good self-esteem. Jesus did not come to give me my best life now. That is a scam.
Jesus came to work out a perfect righteousness to give to sinners who will believe (imputation) for without this perfection (holiness) no one will see or stand before the Lord. No one will inherit the Kingdom of Heaven without being made perfect. Jesus has done what I cannot do. The command points to the greatness and perfection of Jesus. Now, when I read the commands, I am amazed at Jesus for He kept every single one of them. This leads and informs me in the worship of Christ, my Lord. Those who have Christ (the Holy Spirit) have this righteousness (by faith) that is required and Jesus keeps the command for them. He has credited my account with the greatest commandment and by faith in Christ alone is this righteousness mine.
“You, Lord Jesus, are my righteousness, but I am your sin. You have taken upon yourself what is mine and have given to me what is yours. You have taken upon yourself what you were not and have given to me what I was not.” – Martin Luther