Jesus summarized the Decalogue simply: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. And…You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matt. 22:37-39). It is a brilliant, comprehensive yet succinct understanding of God’s Moral Law. It is also clear in its inclusion: God, my neighbor, and me. Of course, only the fool questions who God is (Ps. 14:1), and I know who I am, but who is my neighbor? Is my neighbor my friend but not my enemy? Is my neighbor my social or political tribe but not yours? Is my neighbor those I like but not those I dislike or those who dislike me? Who is my neighbor?
Christian hope reorients our focus. We focus not on who we were but who we are in Christ. We focus not on trying to merit God’s favor but rest in his grace, desiring to please him in love. We focus not on temporal circumstances or our momentary afflictions but on God’s glory revealed through us as we are conformed more and more to the image of his Son. We focus not on what the world loves but on God’s love poured into our hearts. And so, we do not fear tomorrow but have hope for today.
But the faith that God gave Abraham did not falter, as it never will, but grew: “[Abraham] did not waver in unbelief about the promise of God but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God. He was fully convinced that what God promised he was also able to do” (Rom. 4:20-21 NET). Therefore, “In hope [Abraham] believed against hope.” Though his circumstances shouted hopelessness, Abraham had hope, not because he looked to himself and his faithfulness but because he looked to the One who promised.
Like Abraham, there is nothing in us or anything that we have done that would persuade God to bestow his saving grace upon us, but he has. It is only by his grace through faith in Christ that “we should be called children of God; and so we are” (1 John 3:1). And as God’s children, the life we live in the here and now we live by faith in the Son of God, who loved us and gave himself for us (Gal. 2:20). As sojourners and exiles we are faithful to preach this good news to ourselves and share it with others near and far, not living as those who have no hope, knowing like Abraham that by faith “our citizenship is in heaven” (Phil. 3:20). Though “here we have no lasting city,” by faith “we seek the city that is to come” (Heb. 13:14).
Love lived out in the Christian life is a beautiful thing, revealing not a boastful arrogance but a sacrificial love, not a life of works to find God’s favor but a display of God’s unmerited favor through loving others as Christ loved us. For it was for love that God the Father sent his Son; it was for love that God the Son atoned for sin; it is for love that God the Spirit conforms us to God’s perfect law. This our one God has done and is doing, not by a law of works but by the law of faith. And so, brothers and sisters-in-Christ, by faith and in love, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord” (1 Cor. 1:31).
Where does this put us, those made in God’s image but fallen from grace, those saved not by works but by grace through God’s gift of faith? It puts us in a position not of self-exalting glory but of God-glorifying praise. As the Shorter Catechism beautifully states, “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever” (Q. 1). Yes, for this we were created in God’s image, and for this reason we were redeemed, to glorify him. So, let us rejoice in this: Though we all fall short of God’s glory, we are saved by his grace to glorify him forever!
We need it for salvation. We need it for forgiveness. We need it to live out this faith we have been given. We need it every day. Our flesh will point us back to law, remind us our failures, relish in our disobedience, shackle us to our efforts. The gospel of God’s grace points us to Christ, reminds us of his sufferings, shows us his perfect obedience, and empowers us to live for him. Our flesh may lie that we are condemned by the law, but the gospel truth is: “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:1).
Despite their subjection to Roman rule, Israel was given religious autonomy, leading to the restoration of temple worship, the liturgical calendar, and pervasive influence upon the family and synagogue. Yet, in their religious and cultural revival there were inherit dangers, notably legalism and hypocrisy. There were also Pharisaical perspectives that made Jesus and his gospel not only unwelcomed but repugnant. It is the religious irony of ironies: The religious right went wrong because their reformation didn’t need a Savior or his gospel, revealing a jaded perspective of their privilege, a blinding pretense, and a misguided presumption. They were a people of whom the prophet wrote, “The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.”
Come Judgment Day, he who will be revealed to the world as the Judge, we know as our Savior, leading us not to fear that day but to long for it. For, he will judge the world with righteousness and judge the peoples with equity (Ps. 9:8), and “there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). So, we who are saved by God’s grace through faith, standing only in the perfect righteousness of Christ, say, “Come, Lord Jesus! (Rev. 22:20). Come!
Jesus taught, “Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce, you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you” (Matt. 7:1-2). Neither you nor I are the judge before God but merely hypocrites when we play it. God is the Judge. He is the righteous standard. His law is the Law. Before God, we do not pronounce the guilty verdict but rather must plea, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!”