I remember an old Nike commercial. The leading re-bounder for the NBA was alone on a court running back and forth from net to net, tossing the ball up against the backboard to practice snatching the rebound. The camera would shift from a full shot of his hard workout, down to his shoes, and then back. At the end, it would zoom in on his face at mid court as he stopped with sweat dripping off him, and looking dead into the camera he would say, “You’ve got to get the ball before you can shoot the ball.”

That’s true with so many things in life, not the least of which is love. The Apostle John explains one of the chief characteristics of God in 1 John 4:18. He writes, “God is love.” Then in 1 John 4:19, he tells us something very important about Love. “We love because God first loved us.” You have to get the ball before you can shoot the ball.

This is extremely important because when Jesus was asked what the most important commandment was, He replied in Matthew 22:36-40, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.  All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” The ultimate fulfillment of the law is found in loving God and loving others. But no one can keep the law! In Romans 3:20 Paul explains the purpose for the law. He writes, “For by works of the law no human being will be justified in His sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.” The religious leaders of Jesus’ day and many religious leaders today think they “have the ball.” They didn’t and they don’t, and neither do we. Jesus does!

John tells us in John 15:13, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” Just before that in John 10:11, Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.” Only Jesus loved God with all His heart and His neighbor as himself. We do not and we cannot! Repentance is confessing that truth. Comprehension of our failure under the law leads to recognition of our need for another way by which we can be made right with God. God provides that way for us. Paul explains it in Romans 10:4, “For Christ has already accomplished the purpose for which the law was given. As a result, all who believe in Him are made right with God.” Believing that Christ made all things right between us and God through His sacrifice on the cross gives us the ball. Do you have it?