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Galatians 5:16-23 teaches that at any moment we are either walking by the Holy Spirit or according to the sin nature. Walking by the Spirit, enjoying fellowship with God, walking in the light are virtually synonymous. During these times, the Holy Spirit is working in us to illuminate our minds to the truth of Scripture and to challenge us to apply what we learn. But when we sin, we begin to live based on the sin nature. Our works do not count for eternity. The only way to recover is to confess (admit, acknowledge) our sin to God the Father and we are instantly forgiven, cleansed, and recover our spiritual walk (1 John 1:9). Please make sure you are walking by the Spirit before you begin your Bible study, so it will be spiritually profitable.

James 2:5 by Robert Dean
Duration:59 mins 47 secs

The Priority of Personal Love for God the Father
James 2:5

The mandate in verse 8 seems to be the key issue in this entire chapter. NASB "If, however, you are fulfilling the royal law according to the Scripture, "YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF," you are doing well." If we want to understand what James is talking about from 2:1 down through 2:12 we have to understand verse 8. What is the royal law? It is a quote from Leviticus 19:18, "…you shall love your neighbor as yourself…" That is the key principle here, loving your neighbour as yourself and unpacking what that means. The issue involves the matter of partiality and prejudice with relationship to the rich oppressor who comes into the church being seated in a place of honor because of who he is and his possessions, prestige and position, where the poor man is ignored because of what is on the outside.

We have arrived at verse 5 and have stopped because it involves some important concepts. It begins with a mandate to pay attention or to concentrate. It reminds us that the theme of this whole section is to hear the Word and to be not merely a hearer but a doer. In both the Old Testament Hebrew and the New Testament Greek the concept of hearing is a concept that listens with a positive response. It not just listening for the sake of having your ears tickled or accumulating interesting information and facts, but it always results in application. In this verse we see that inheritance is related to "those who love God." It may be a surprise to some but not every believer loves God. In fact, probably very few believers truly love God. What does it mean to love God?

The doctrine of personal love for God

1)  There is a very close relationship between personal love for God the Father, impersonal love for all mankind, and occupation with Christ. Once we pass that then we understands what the Bible says about inner happiness. Jesus said that he would share His joy with us, and this is the apex of the spiritual life. There is another way to look at this and that is that the ten stress-busters comprise the sum total of the spiritual life. If we master these spiritual skills we have advanced to spiritual adulthood and we are glorifying God to the maximum in our life. Lets see how this breaks down. The most fundamental issue in the spiritual life is confession, 1 John 1:9. It is critical to any spiritual growth or advance in the spiritual life.

2)  Then we enter into spiritual infancy and childhood. What characterises this is that you are mastering three of these stress-busters—the faith-rest drill, which is mixing the promises of God with faith and learning to think in terms of doctrinal principles; then grace orientation, which involves humility because we recognize who we are in the plan of God, authority orientation, and teachability. Ultimately this will lead to the mastery of the details of life, because we realize that all that we have comes from God, nothing that we have is due to our own efforts; then third, doctrinal orientation. Orientation means to align yourself with something, and doctrine is like a road map. The map represents reality. Your conception of how things are or where things ought to be represent self-deception and delusion and so now you have to get back in touch with reality so that you can arrive at your destination. The Bible is that road map. So we have to be willing to use the humility and teachability from grace orientation with doctrinal orientation and we have to begin to learn the entire counsel of God so that we can grow and advance to spiritual maturity. This characterizes the believer in spiritual infancy and childhood, trying to master these problem-solving devices.

3)  Then we get to the third stage, spiritual adolescence. This is where most believers fail and bail out in the spiritual life. This is where things start getting a little bit tough and we start getting some testing that is a little more rugged because now we have learned a little more, and to whom much is given much is expected. The key stress-buster that is developed in spiritual adolescence is the personal sense of our eternal destiny. That is, we begin to realize that we are not living just for today or just for this life on earth. All of a sudden we wake up and we realize that we are destined for heaven and that we truly have an eternal life that never ever ends, and that what we take with us when we are absent from the body and face to face with the Lord is the doctrine that we have stored in our own souls, and that is going to be the result of the decisions we make. So we say that we are becoming now what you will be in eternity. Every decision you make now has an eternal ramification. It will determine your position in terms of being an heir, and rewards for all eternity.

4)  The next stage is spiritual adulthood. In spiritual adulthood there are three problem-solving devices that accrue to us—the love triplex: personal love for God, impersonal love for all mankind, occupation with Christ.

5)  Finally, we reach spiritual maturity where we truly reach fullness of joy that God has for us, sharing the happiness of God, and we have that joy in the midst of life's most horrible circumstances. So we move from spiritual infancy to spiritual maturity and it is all on the power of God the Holy Spirit and the application of His Word.

6)  The love triplex develops simultaneously, and the three types of love—personal love for God the Father, impersonal love for all mankind and occupation with Christ—are deeply entwined and interconnected. As we advance in one we will advance in the other and it will have an impact in the others spheres.

7)  Jesus summarized the entire law, the Old Testament—in other words, God's expectation for mankind—He did it in terms of love. Why? Because this is when maturity is hit. This is when life begins. Life begins when you get mature. You begin to have a capacity for life and a capacity for happiness and all the things that we have when you reach maturity. We don't want to spend too much time in spiritual infancy, and the way to get past that is to pass the tests, learn doctrine and advance. When we hit maturity that is when the spiritual life really starts having an impact. Jesus summarizes this in terms of love. Matthew 22:35 NASB "One of them, a lawyer, asked Him {a question,} testing Him, [36] 'Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?' [37] And He said to him, 'YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND. [38] This is the great and foremost commandment. [39] The second is like it, 'YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.'" He summarizes the entire law, all of the Mosaic law, all the codes, everything, into two: Love the Lord your God with everything you've got (to paraphrase it), and love your neighbour as yourself. That is powerful, it connects both personal love for God and impersonal love for all mankind into one unit. They are deeply connected in the mind of God; you can't have one without the other. Our personal love for God is through learning doctrine, you can't love someone you don't know. That is why it is preceded by grace orientation and doctrinal orientation. You have to have some humility before you really come to understand who God is and what He has done for you, and all of that which we learn in childhood—faith-rest drill, grace orientation and doctrinal orientation—merely provides the foundation so we can love God. So we are to love the Lord our God, and notice that it is thinking, not emotion. What Jesus is saying is that if you want to love God you have to think. You have to start putting some things together, use a little logic, and study the Word of God. Secondly, it is "with your entire soul, and with all of your understanding." So the thrust of all this is to thinking, to understanding God, to taking time to study God's Word, to learn about God, and the way we learn about God is by learning His self-revelation which is the Scriptures.

Deuteronomy 6:5 NASB "You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might [strength]." The Hebrew word for strength is meod, which is intensity, and it has to do with your volition. So what do we learn from that? If we are going to love God it involves thinking and it involves volition and it involves the entirety of our person. In other words, this is supposed to be the most important thing in your life. It is more important than your job, your marriage, your family, your hobbies, your sport, relaxation. It is not that any of those things are wrong in themselves, but the priority is God. That means that you arrange your schedule so that you are always in Bible class when it is time to be in Bible class. Ultimately the only thing you are going to take with you when you die is what is in your soul.

8)  How do we love the Lord? Let's see how loving the Lord is used in the book of Deuteronomy. It is illuminating to see how God says we can know whether or not we love Him. Deuteronomy 11:1 NASB "You shall therefore love the LORD your God, and always keep His charge, His statutes, His ordinances, and His commandments." What is that talking about? That relates obedience to loving God. So how do you know if you love God according to this verse? Obedience to the mandates of Scripture. [13] "t shall come about, if you listen obediently [as in James: hearing and doing] to my commandments which I am commanding you today, to love the LORD your God and to serve Him with all your heart and all your soul." Listening to God's commandments is related t loving God. [22] "For if you are careful to keep all this commandment which I am commanding you to do [application, obedience], to love the LORD your God, to walk in all His ways and hold fast to Him." So there are very visible ways of determining whether or not you are fulfilling the mandates of God. Deuteronomy 13:3 NASB "you shall not listen to the words of that [false] prophet or that dreamer of dreams; for the LORD your God is testing you to find out if you love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul." So loving the Lord your God means that you have developed enough understanding of the truth to have discernment and to listen to false teaching and heresy. So you have discernment. Deuteronomy 19:9 NASB "if you carefully observe all this commandment which I command you today, to love the LORD your God, and to walk in His ways always…" What is the connection? Loving the Lord is seen in the life by obedience to the mandates of God. Deuteronomy 30:6 NASB "Moreover the LORD your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your descendants, to love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, so that you may live." The whole context up to that point is obedience. [16] "in that I command you today to love the LORD your God, to walk in His ways and to keep His commandments and His statutes and His judgments, that you may live and multiply, and that the LORD your God may bless you in the land where you are entering to possess it." What is the bottom line? You can't miss it. Eight times the phrase "love the Lord" is used, and every time it is connected to obeying His mandates. Joshua 23:11 NASB "So take diligent heed to yourselves [pay attention] to love the LORD your God." Psalm 31 23 NASB "O love the LORD, all you His godly ones! The LORD preserves the faithful" –the faithful are the ones who have advanced to spiritual maturity, who love the Lord through obedience. Contrast: "And [He] fully recompenses the proud doer." This is a warning of divine discipline to the arrogant believer. Remember, arrogance is the opposite of humility. If you are arrogant you cannot love God. In arrogance you are self-absorbed, you are not occupied with God; you are not concerned with His will but your will, and so you are opposed to God and God is opposed to you. 1 Peter 5:5; James 4:6, "GOD IS OPPOSED (makes war against) TO THE PROUD, BUT GIVES GRACE TO THE HUMBLE."

There are six things that arrogant people want. a) They want wealth without honor; b) success without integrity; c) promotion without ability; d) recognition without humility; e) love without virtue; f) sex without morality. This is why grace orientation comes first. You have to learn humility, authority orientation to God, and teachability before you ever are going to get to a point where you can appreciate God for who He is and what he has done for you, and begin to love Him. Without humility we cannot learn, advance or have any kind of close intimacy with God.

Jesus reiterates these same principles when  it comes to loving Him in the New Testament. John 14:15 NASB "If you love Me, you will keep My commandments." What is the clear visual aid for giving you the barometer of your spiritual life and your love for God? Obedience. [21] "He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me; and he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and will disclose Myself to him." What is the opposite? If you don't keep His commandments you don't love Him. You haven't advanced far enough in your spiritual life. The more we advance in the spiritual life and understand things and apply what we have learned, the more God will help us understand more and more. It is a cumulative process. As we grow we will get greater insights, God the Holy Spirit will reveal more and more to us of the truth of God's Word and we will advance. But of we are hostile to the Lord, if we are disobedient, then God is not going to reveal to us any more. We have to be growing and advancing. [23] "Jesus answered and said to him, 'If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him. [24] He who does not love Me does not keep My words; and the word which you hear is not Mine, but the Father's who sent Me.'" The conclusion from Deuteronomy and John is that we know we love God by our level of obedience. It is not indicated by how we feel.

9)  Jesus is saying in Matthew 22 in His summation of the law that our highest priority, the highest priority for the believer, is personal love for God which derives first from learning doctrine and is at its very core an activity of the mind that works itself out in terms of obedience to divine mandates. This takes us back to the process which is the grace learning spiral. The pastor-teacher communicates doctrine, the Holy Spirit who indwells us is our teacher and he takes that spiritual truth (pneumatikoj doctrine) and makes it understandable to us, but He doesn't understand it for us. We have to think about it meditate on it (positive volition) and when we understand it, it becomes GNOSIS. Then we exercise positive volition again and believe it, and the Holy Spirit transfers it into the innermost thinking of our souls, the KARDIA or the heart. That just makes it usable, it doesn't mean we are automatically going to use it and apply it. That means volition again. We get in a situation and we have to make a choice. Am I going to apply what is in my soul or not? So the issue in the spiritual life has to do with God's provision of this grace learning spiral. Learning doctrine is not dependent on your academic background, upon your IQ, it is dependent upon God the Holy Spirit. The filling of the Holy Spirit overcomes all deficits that we have in terms of our background. The grace learning spiral culminates in application.

10)  Relationship with God affects our relationship with man. That is why Jesus said that first it is love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your understanding, and secondly, love your neighbour as yourself. Relationship with God comes first. We do not adjust our relationship with people first, just because we have a good relationship with people doesn't mean we have a good relationship with God. Social interaction, even with other mature Christians, is not the issue. The issue is our relationship with God, and once we get that straight then other relationships will begin to fall in line.

11)  Thus Jesus, following the Old Testament, connects love for God as the priority which is outworking to all mankind. You have to understand personal love for God before you are going to be able to understand impersonal love or unconditional love for all mankind.

All of that helps us to understand the concept of personal love for God. We are rewarded for that and there is special promise of inheritance for those who love God at the end of our passage in James 2:5. That precedes verse 6 which is the royal law. The royal law is the second commandment Jesus mentioned in Matthew 22:39, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." This is one of the most often-quoted Old Testament passages. It is originally cites in Leviticus 19:18, but then it is quoted in Matthew 19:19; 22:39; Mark 12:31; Luke 10:27; Romans 13:9; Galatians 5:14; James 2:8. Anything that God has taken the time to repeat that often we need to take some time to study and analyse. This verse has been tremendously mistranslated and misapplied as a result of the psycho-heresy of the last ten or twenty years. The psycho-heretic says you have to have a good self-image, you have to first love yourself before you can love others. So we have to go out and learn how to accept ourselves and have to love ourselves. And once we learn how to love ourselves then we can love others. That leads to arrogance. It is just the opposite of what this passage means.