The time is the 1950's. The place is a British colony near the equator. As in most colonies near the equator, making cement is an important enterprise. Buildings built with cement last. There termites do not eat cement.

Remember: near the equator, you have two seasons. One is wet season when it rains almost constantly for a few months. The other is dry season when there is no rain for a few months.

At a major cement plant in this British colony, every dry season the British administrator formed a work detail to sweep the cement dust off the roof at the end of the day. It was hot, filthy, hated work. Every week he told the work detail, "Your job is the most important job we have."

No one liked that job. No one wanted to do that job. And no one thought that job was important.

Now the time is the 1960's. That British colony is now an independent nation. The cement plant is still a very important enterprise. The first dry season begins, and no one wants the job of sweeping the roof. So that job is eliminated. Everyone is certain that it is not important. And through the dry months cement dust builds up on the roof to a depth of several inches.

Rainy season begins. With the first rains the dust turns to stone, and the roof collapses. Sweeping the dust off the roof during dry season was important.

  1. Israel had been delivered from Egyptian slavery.
    1. While they were in the wilderness, God gave them laws through Moses.
      1. In that law God said in Leviticus 19:18
        Leviticus 19:18 You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the sons of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself; I am the Lord.
      2. In that law, God also said in Deuteronomy 6:4,5
        Deuteronomy 6:4,5 Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.
      3. These are two of the over 600 laws in the law of Moses.
      4. But they are God's two basic laws.
        1. If you examine the ten commandments that God gave Israel (Exodus 20:1-17), something is very obvious.
        2. The first four focus on loving God.
        3. The last six focus on loving your neighbor.
    2. Approximately 1500 years later God sent His son to live as the man Jesus.
      1. In Luke 10:25-29 an expert in the Jewish law tested Jesus.
        1. The expert asked Jesus, "Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?"
        2. Jesus answered, "From your knowledge of the law, tell me what it says."
        3. The expert answered, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, strength, and might; and love your neighbor as yourself."
        4. Jesus said, "That is correct. Do that and you will live."
        5. Remember that the question was, "What shall I do to inherit eternal life?"
        6. Remember the correct answer was, "Love God with all your being and love your neighbor as yourself."
      2. Mark 12 discusses some events in Jesus' last week of life.
        1. In that week he was tested by every kind of religious leader in Jerusalem.
          1. These leaders despised the fact that Jesus was so popular with the people.
          2. They tried in every way possible to publicly disgrace Jesus as a teacher and a leader.
        2. A scribe, who also was an expert in the scriptures, listened to all the other experts argue with Jesus and heard Jesus give correct, biblical answers.
          1. So the scribe asked Jesus what was God's most important commandment.
          2. Jesus quoted Deuteronomy 6:4,5 and Leviticus 19:18, Love God and love your neighbor.
          3. Jesus said no other commandment was greater than these.
          4. The scribe said, "You are right; those two commands are more important than all offerings or sacrifices."
          5. Jesus said, "You are not far from the kingdom of God."
    3. After Jesus was executed and resurrected from the dead, after Jesus was made Lord and Christ, after Christianity and the church began, these continued to be God's most important commands.
      1. Paul wrote these instructions to the Christians in Rome:
        Romans 12:9,10 Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor...
        Romans 13:8 Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law.
        Romans 13:10 Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.
      2. Paul's letter to non-Jewish Christians in the Roman province of Galatia declared,
        Galatians 5:14 For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself."
      3. Paul told the Christians at Corinth,
        1 Corinthians 13:13 But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love.

  2. I fully believe that the judgment day will occur; I do not know exactly how God will carry out the judgment day.
    1. Let's assume that a common view accurately pictures what happens.
      1. The great separation occurs, and we are standing on the left side.
        1. We are standing with people that the Lord does not know.
        2. Being naturally intelligent and very observant, we realize that we are on the left side.
        3. With a great sense of urgency, we want the Lord to know that there has been a horrible mistake.
        5. We succeed in getting the Lord's attention, and with great reverence and profound respect we call His attention to the horrible mistake.
        6. That begins our conversation with God.
      2. God explains, "What you must understand is that everyone on the right side loves me and loved their neighbor as themselves."
        1. We protest, "But, Lord, WE obeyed Your commandments."
        2. God: "So did they; in fact, their obedience began by obeying My two greatest commandments."
        3. "But, Lord, consider all the commands we obeyed."
          1. "We believed that You sent Jesus--in fact when the preacher asked us if we believed that Jesus was the Christ [before we were baptized], we said yes just like we were supposed to."
          2. "And we were baptized just like we were supposed to be."
          3. "And we attended church--almost every week."
          4. "And we observed the Lord's supper every Sunday morning."
          5. "And we sang in worship without musical instruments."
          6. "And we used the name Christians."
          7. "And we called the church the Church of Christ."
          8. And we give a long list of those things we call commands that we were very careful to obey.
        4. And God said, "But you didn't love me, and you did not love anyone who did not love you."
          1. Now we are really beginning to feel a sense of panic.
          2. "But, Lord, we obeyed your commandments!"
          3. And the Lord says, "You did not even attempt to obey my number one command and my number two command."
          4. "But we were baptized!"
          5. "That is not number one or number two."
          6. "But we took communion!"
          7. "That is not number one or number two."
          8. "But we gave!"
          9. "That is not number one and number two."
        5. In real desperation, we cry out, "But, Lord, Jesus said, 'If you love me, you will keep my commandments' (John 14:21)."
          1. And then God did not have to say a word, because suddenly we understood.
          2. People that love Jesus obey God.
          3. But people can obey Jesus and never love God.
    2. Feeling really desperate, we cry out, "Lord, we did not realize the importance of loving you and loving people."
      1. And God replies, "I made it very plain from the beginning of Israel that God's people love God and love people."
        1. "I made it very plain in the prophets that God's people love God and love people."
        2. "I made it very plain in Jesus' teachings that God's people love God and love people."
        3. "I made it very plain in the first century church that the most important quality in the lives of Christians is love."
      2. And we reply, "You mean that You meant that? When Moses, the prophets, and Jesus all said the most important commands were to love God and love people, You meant it?"
        1. "You mean those really are the number one and number two commandments?"
        2. "Lord, we just did not understand that is what you meant."
      3. And God answered, "How could I say it any clearer? Why didn't you understand? If My own son said the number one command was loving Me and the number two command was loving people, how could I make it any plainer?"

  3. So you say, "Wait a minute, David. I don't understand what that means."
    1. Let Peter tell us what it means to love God with all our being.
      1 Peter 1:13-16 Therefore, prepare your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, "You shall be holy, for I am holy."
      1. Get serious about being godly.
      2. Place your hope in God's grace.
      3. Obey God by making your behavior holy.
      4. Because there is no evil in God, be committed to resisting evil in your life.
    2. Let Jesus tell us what it means to love our neighbors as ourselves.
      Matthew 7:12 In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets.
      1. Treat your friends like you want to be treated.
      2. Treat the people you are with like you want to be treated.
      3. Treat the person you marry like you want to be treated.
      4. Treat your children like you want to be treated.
      5. Treat people you do not like as you want to be treated.
      6. Treat people you despise like you want to be treated.
      7. Why? Because people are the creation of the God you love.

[Prayer: Teach us how to love You and love people. Help us understand the importance of love.]

"David, do you believe it is important to obey God's commands?" Absolutely! I also believe God meant what He said. Obedience begins by obeying God's two greatest commandments: loving God, and loving people.

If Christian obedience is not based on loving God and expressed in loving people, the roof falls in.

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Morning Sermon, 30 April 2000

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