We are in a time of trying to realign our church with what God calls us to be and do. The goal is that the things that are prominent for Christians and churches in the Bible are what are prominent in our lives and in our church. So when Jesus says something is the greatest we want to make sure we get that one in there. Today we are looking at what Jesus says are the two greatest commands. You gotta get these in there right.
Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. 35 One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: 36 "Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?" 37 Jesus replied: " 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments." (Matthew 22:34-40)
Jesus says that these are not just two important commands, but they are the things that everything else hangs on. If you miss these you have miss everything. Lets look at each in more detail.
How would you describe your relationship to God. If you had to pick one word what would you pick? You might think of a word like serve, devoted, Obey. But would you pick Love. Love is a word that conveys devotion, and service, but it also conveys a delight. For many other religions loving God is totally absent. Even many Christians fail to see it.
Loving God is a phrase that could feel utterly incomprehensible. How can you love God, why would you love God. Lets not get carried away with this religious stuff! But it is so important. It’s what God wants from his people. It’s so important that every command hangs on it. After Jesus rose from the dead, he appeared to Peter, and then three times he asked, Do you love me? Do you really love me? (John 21).
Love is the most binding word of relationships. Love is the most intense emotion. In the Old Testament the word used over and over for the love that God demonstrates to people and that he wants from his people is his chesed, his covenant love, steadfast love. It means he has made a promise to love and stay with and nothing will keep him from faithfully loving, caring for and being faithful.
Love is so important to any relationship, especially our relationship with God. This truth is most apparent when love is lacking. Sometimes actions can be present but the heart is not, and this ruins relationships. There have been times in my life where I am preoccupied with things going on in life or at work. I come home and I am present with my wife and kids but my mind is somewhere else. You can be present. You are there for dinner. You said hello. But there is no love in your voice. I am doing all the duties of a husband: working, being there, taking out the trash, oil change, etc. But where are you? Its problematic for relationships with people and its problematic with God too.
The problem of having actions without love highlighted in what is going on with the people in this passage. Jesus is being tested here 22:35. Religious leaders have gathered around him asking him questions but their heart is far from him. They are not interested in learning but in trapping Jesus.
Throughout the surrounding chapters people hear the wisdom of Jesus, they stand speechless at his insight, they marvel at him, are astonished by his answers, but they have no love for him (22:22, 33). The people have been looking for a way to arrest him 21:45. They have the outward actions but not the inner reality.
The lawyer asks what is the greatest commandment to test him. The pharisees had reduced the law to 365 negative and 248 positive commandments. Because it was difficult to know them all, a priority list was needed. The Pharisees’ question related to the debates common among them over which commandments were heavy” (most important) and which ones were light” (less important). What commandment was at the top of Jesus list? He quoted Deut 6:5 and Lev 19:18 in answer to their question. Rather than choose commandments that excluded others, he chose the commandments that included all the others. He gives the commands that all the others hang on. If you want all the commands to fall, you cut this one. You cut love for God and you lose “thou shall not make for yourself an idol, you lose “honor your father and mother,” you lose “go and make disciples of all nations.” If you don’t have these all others are in vain. If you dont love God what kind of disciples are you going to make?
We are to love God. We should be motivated to do great things for him. Sometimes we look for how to do the least and get by. You might ask, “How often can i not read my Bible and be Ok? How often can I skip church and be fine. How much can I drink and still be OK? How far can I go with my boyfriend and still be OK.” We want to know how much we can get away with. The question should be flipped to to what can I do to most show my love for God. How can I most show my love for God in my Bible reading, how can I most show my love for God in my relationships. We put this at the center of what we do. Sometimes we treat God more like a hall monitor than the sovereign creator of all the world.
Jesus says our love for God should be all consuming. Jesus also qualifies the manner in which we love, or perhaps it is the extent. We love him with all our heart, soul, strength and mind. The expression means generally that God is to be loved with all our powers and faculties that nothing is to be preferred to him. Dean McBride said, of the greatest commandment.
Heart soul and strength rather than signifying different spheres of Biblical psychology seem to be semantically concentric. They were chosen to reinforce the absolute singularity of personal devotion to God. Heart denotes the intention of the whole man, soul means the whole self, a unity of flesh, will and vitality, and strength accents the superlative degree of total commitment to Yahweh.
God wants our love for him to consume us.
Our love of God must be a sincere love, and not in word and tongue only, as those who say they love him, but their hearts are not with him. It must be a strong love, we must love him in the most intense degree; as we must praise him, so we must love him, with all that is within us. It must be a singular love and superlative love, we must love him more than anything else; this way the stream of our affections must entirely run. The heart must be united to love God, in opposition to a divided heart. All our love is too little to bestow upon him, and therefore all the powers of the soul must be engaged for him, and carried toward him.
Lets love God, passionately. I think the word passionately gets at the greatest commandment. Wholeheartedly love and devotion to him. Holding nothing back! To be passionate about something indicates a heightened intensity. We don’t just love God we love him supremely. We love him with all our heart. And express this how you think it should be expressed. Some of you hear this and you say yes, Amen! You want to get up and shout, and you just might do that. Praise God. Others of you, hear this and excitement wells up in your heart, you can hardly contain your enthusiasm, so you lean over to your neighbor and whisper, “Thats a good point.” Praise God! Your love to God may be different because God has made you different. But praise him with all that you have.
This is how we should love God, and let me just mention that love for God is warranted. You should love God with all your being. Here are places to see God’s love.
Creation. Why did God create the world? Why did he create you? It's not because he needed you. It’s not because he was obligated. No one coerced him or required him to do it. He was not dependent on any of this for his sustenance. He was not deprived of happiness. He was content and full before bringing any of this into being. The best explanation for why he created is because it is the overflow of his love, mercy, and goodness. His mercy is over all that he has created (Psalm 145:9, ). Its part of his nature. Of who he is. We see his love in all that is good in the world.
Redemption. People rejected God and turned from him but in love he continued with his creation. He told Adam and Eve if they sinned they would die, and death came into the world after their sin, but it was not immediate. In love God delayed judgment, so that they might experience grace. Its his love that you and I are still here. Why did God do this, John 3:16 (Eph 2:4) says it was because of his love. God chooses to redeem the world and send his Son into the world to save it. All the heart breaking problems in the world remind that God is redeeming it. The things that make you cry. Remember when Jesus entered Jerusalem before his crucifixion he wept over the brokenness of the city (Luke 19:41). He had compassion on it.
We should love God; we all need to grow in it. If this is the greatest commandment, then what is the greatest sin. An argument could be mad that the greatest sin is to not love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, strength and mind. Do you love him? Do you love him? If you want to grow in this, then you should:
I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge--that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. (Ephesians 3:16-19)
Another thing to do is to read the Bible. Spend time with him. Read, study. Know him and his love. DL Moody said,
I used to close my eyes and pray for faith. But faith did not seem to come. One day I read in the tenth chapter of Romans, “Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.” I had up to this time closed my Bible and prayed for faith. I now opened my Bible and began to study, and faith has been growing ever since.”
If you want to grow in faith read God’s word. If you want to grow in God’s love read his Word. That is where you most clearly see who God is. There you see over and over why John says, “God is love” (1 John 4:16).
Trans: When we know God’s love it has an effect on us. It alters the way we relate to God, and it also changes the way we related to other people. Perhaps the most surprising thing that Jesus does in this passage is to connect loving God to loving others. He shows there is a clear correlation between these two commands, between our horizontal relationship to people and our vertical relationship to God. Lets look at Loving your neighbor.
We love God ultimately, and most completely. We love others as we love ourself. God has the supreme devotion. And yet when we love him, when we know his love, we want to love as he has loved.
This command shows loving others is not an optional part of Christianity. It’s not as though you have the first part with God and you tag this on later. It not like the special occasion when you want to add guacamole to your burrito. It’s a key way we live out our faith. Homia autn “like unto” in nature and extent. Is of equal and most basic importance.
The Bible teaches that people are reflective beings. We emulate others. Life is set right when we emulate God. We are created in his image and we are to look to him. If we do not look to him then we reflect whatever we look at. If all you are looking at is your job, yourself, or your possession then that is what you are going to reflect. If you want to love others or learn to love others, then you must start by looking to God.
God is love. You are loved by God because he is merciful. 1 John 4:19 We love because he first loved us. (1Jo 4:19 NIV). You were dead in your sins when God’s love came into your life. In love he has continued patiently with you. In love he draws back your wandering heart. When we know this love we can’t help but love other people. He teaches us how to love (Luke 10:25):
A right love to our brother, whom we have seen, is evidence of our love to god, whom we have not seen. The love of God flows downhill. Experiencing it leads to sharing it. We
I remember when Amanda and I were newly married and we had a significant disagreement. I don’t know what it was about, but it was extremely important (grin). We were arguing and I told her i had to go outside. So I went out and my prayer went something like: God, I help me patiently wait here as long as it takes for her to come and apologize. God I pray you convict her of her sin. Open her eyes that she can see how wrong she is. After being there a bit, Eph 5:25 came to mind, “husbands love your wives just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” I was reminded Christ didn’t love me when I had it all together. He came to me when I was dead in my sins (Eph 2). I needed to go reconcile with my wife. I needed to show her mercy and love, that she was more important than whatever I wasn’t getting.
God’s love teaches us how to love our kids. Do you want to grow in being a better dad or mother? Are you lost on how to be a good dad? The goodnews is that the best example of being a parent isn’t in your parents but it is in our heavenly Father. Regardless of your upbringing you have a good good Father.
Love your siblings. Sometimes it is hard to love your siblings. They take your stuff and break it. They are always there annoying you. They chew their food funny. Make noise at the wrong time. Have inappropriate bodily functions. You just want to get away from them. Remember, when we sinned against God, he didn’t just go lock himself in his room. He didn’t hide in the basement. He came to us. We should do the same. You can learn to love. It’s not easy. It’s hard. You have to learn to love sometimes. You have to cultivate it. Love who God has made them to be. Remember they are learning how to love too so they are going to make mistakes. And you will notice grown ups struggle with the same thing. They use bigger words to describe what is going on but it’s basically the same things kids deal with.
Love your neighbors. Neighbors are those you live with, those who are next doord, those you work with, those you come across in the store. We are to love them. Even those who don’t seem so lovely. Reaching the nations begins with reaching the guys next door. Care for them. Go love people that are hard to love.
I recently read an article about one of the greatest baseball players who never made it. The guy was a stud at the plate but a trainwreck every where else. In one game he hit two doubles, and each time he got picked off second base because he wasn’t paying attention. Amazing athletic skill; baffling mental lapses. It left people in utter confusion. Turned out when he was little he had a rocket arm and was playing and threw an umbrella through the air and it hit his uncle in the heart and killed him. Years later his mother was taking the trash out, tripped, hit her head on the metal rim of the trash can and died. You just never know what people have been through. You don’t know what’s behind their behavior. Love seeks it out. Love gets to know others.
I think we are going to see more people struggling in life. There is a move away from the Christian faith and a Christian worldview, a move away from the one who created and designed everything. People are uncertain about the most fundamental parts of life. They are confused and doing strange and bizarre things. We need to move towards them in love.
We need to talk to people. Ask them questions. Understand why they do what they do. Ask them about their faith. If someone says, “I m not a Christian and don’t believe in such a hypocritical religion,” then get to know why. Say, “I’m sadden to hear you encountered people like that. Can I ask what happened? I m a Christian and I don’t want to be that way.” If someone doesn’t go to church any more pursue them. Ask them how they are doing? Ask them to share what’s going on. You might need to tell them you won’t get mad. You just want to listen. Don’t feel like you have to fix everything. Loving sometimes means we are there to listen, to cry, to be patient with them. Sometimes love is learning to overlook the wrongs that others have done.
Jesus came from heaven to earth, he went from life to death, surely we can cross the street. Surely we can go to the neighbor next door. Surely we can bear some awkward conversation. Let’s move toward others.
Many people need a change in tactics. A lot of churches defined themselves by being inward and separatistic. I think that mindset may possibly have been more warranted in the past. When you are in a “Christian nation” that is also the leader violent and graphic movies and magazines, and other lewd behavior you want to distance yourself from that type of “Christianity.” You want to say, whoa, I am a Christian and that is not what my faith is about. I am going to go over here and pray, and read the Bible, and not talk with you who are doing those things. There has been a big cultural shift and most people who are not following Christ just say, “No, I m not a Christian.” I think it easier to go toward them.
Most people in society know what we are against. Do they know a love that trumps over all else? God love has triumphed over all our wrongs. Shouldn’t we let love triumph over the wrongs of others.
The principle disposition we are to have to our neighbor is that of love. As we come across others are we sharing that with them. Are they aware that we want something from them or expect them to do a certain things, or that we love them. We are to love all those who come across us. We want to be a blessing to others regardless of what they have done to us. Lets actively go and seek ways to love our neighbors.
Jesus said all of the law and prophets hang on these two commands. We are used to hanging clothes on hangers. On those hangers you may have your everyday shirts that are easy to get to and are kind of thrown on there. You have your section of more dressy clothes. They you have your section of suits. Maybe you have your ties on another part. If you are real particular you might also have each section arranged by colors or patterns. You might even take great pains and effort to get things in the right place and so all your clothes are well arranged and protected. Now imagine that the rod everything hangs on comes out of the wall and falls on the floor. Think how foolish it would be to try and put things in the right order and place on a rod sitting on the floor. Your whole wardrobe system is useless because it is fallen on the ground. In the same way it is pointless for us as a church to strategize and get everything else right if we do not love God and neighbors.
There is a stern warning here. But there is also encouragement. I think that if we have this all the others will come. If we love God and love others we are going to find a way to reach people. We are going to find a way to bring others in. We are going to do whatever it takes and however long it takes to bring people into the faith.
I think there is a lot of love for God in this place, but I don’t think any of us would boast of where we are or be content where we are. We want more. Lets pray for more. Let’s seek after more, run after more. God’s love tells us we can find it and that he is eager to meet us in our pursuit.
I want to take a moment to pan out and talk about where we are as a church. We want to realing our church with these commands, but we also want to realign our own lives with it. Last week we talked about everyone taking one step in their walk with God. We are not deciding this now, but I want you to consider where you can grow in your walk with God. Here are a few ways: