Greatly Loving the Great God

Posted: June 24, 2014 in Mark

Mark 12:28-34, “Greatly Loving the Great God”

I hated pop quizzes as a kid.  To this day, just the term “pop quiz” gives me shivers!  Many people hate getting put on the spot because we’re never really sure how we’re going to respond.  Will we pass or fail? 

Obviously Jesus never had this problem.  It’s impossible to surprise the Omniscient Son of God with the unexpected – and how exactly would you ask Him something that He did not know?  That said, someone did pull a pop quiz on Jesus, and He passed with flying colors.  Jesus does not shy away from the question of the scribe, and answers it in such a way that the scribe himself is impressed – personally impacted by the implications of what Jesus taught.

What was asked was not an uncommon question: what’s most important in the Scriptures?  What is the greatest of the commandments?  Before arriving in Jerusalem, Jesus was asked a similar question by the infamous rich young ruler.  That man had been attempting to earn his way into heaven, and wanted to know what good deed he lacked that would give him ultimate assurance of eternity with God. (Mk 10:17)  In that case, Jesus exposed the man’s own sin of self-righteousness, and invited him to acknowledge his own spiritual poverty & come follow Christ is true faith.  Sadly, that particular man refused.  With the scribe of Mark 12, there is a similar question but perhaps a bit more hope.  This man doesn’t seem to be looking for his own self-assurance, but the truth of the word of God – and as a result, he finds himself not far from the kingdom of God.

What was it he wanted to know?  The greatest commandment.  What was most important to God?  What was it that God sees as most valuable, above everything else?  The answer: love.  It’s a simple answer, though it isn’t simplistic.  We are to greatly love the great God, and that has a great effect on all those around us.

Mark 12:28–34
28 Then one of the scribes came, and having heard them reasoning together, perceiving that He had answered them well, asked Him, “Which is the first commandment of all?”

  1. Remember the context…  The Jewish leadership had gathered their theological intellects against Jesus, and came up vastly short.  In the few days after Jesus had arrived in Jerusalem, He and the elders and other leaders and clashed every single day.  The first was when the crowds proclaimed Jesus to be the Messiah, much to the chagrin of the priests, Pharisees, and others.  Jesus inspected the temple that day, purposed His plan for the following day, and returned to throw out the corrupt money changers and others.  Jesus exposed the corruption of the practice, and in the process, He indirectly exposed the corruption of the priests.  The day after that, the priests & other leadership needed to reassert their authority (and try to undermine Jesus’), and tried to paint Jesus as an unapproved vigilante.  They failed, and demonstrated that they were unwilling to give credence to what was self-evident to all: Jesus had authority from God.  Finally on the next day, the Pharisees and Sadducees changed their tone, but not their tactics.  They were still trying to undermine Jesus’ authority, this time trying to trap Him in His own words.  They learned quickly that in a battle of wits against Jesus, they were virtually unarmed.  It’s impossible to outsmart the omniscient Son of God!  Jesus exposed the hypocrisy of the Pharisees, and the lack of faith of the Sadducees.  Neither had a proper trust in the Lord God, and it all came to light in their tests of Jesus.
  2. At this point, the Pharisees and Sadducees each had their tests defeated by Jesus, and they seemingly (and understandably) fell back a bit to regroup.  We can almost imagine them huddled together, trying to figure out their next moves.  That’s when "one of the scribes came."  Who were the scribes?  Obviously there were no copy machines or printing presses in the 1st century – people were needed to copy documents by hand if these documents were to be distributed.  Prior to the Babylonian exile, scribes recorded the works of the kings, and sometimes served as royal advisors.  Other scribes served in temple matters and recorded the works of the priests.  After the exile, the scribes became a group dedicated to studying and interpreting the Bible.  As a result of spending their whole day in the Scriptures, the scribes became the lawyers of Jewish theology.  They weren’t attorneys, as we would think of them today, but rabbinical experts in matter of Torah – the Mosaic law.  They were the teachers among Israel & held in high esteem.
  3. Who was THIS scribe?  Matthew shows him to be one of the Pharisees who came to test Jesus (Mt 22:35), and if that is all we knew about him, we might think of him coming in an adversarial role, much like the other Pharisees and Sadducees.  However, Mark shows him in a bit of a different light.  This is someone who didn’t come to ensnare Jesus, but to engage with Jesus.  He observed everything that had taken place earlier, and “perceiving that [Jesus] had answered them well,” went on to ask his own question.  Apparently, he came with the Pharisees, and had likely come out at first in opposition, but something had changed along the way.  Now he’s not looking for a battle; he’s actually interested in what Jesus had to say.  Jesus had demonstrated Himself to be an expert among experts in the Scripture, and this was Someone that this particular scribal expert was interested in hearing.
    1. Those who come to God with arrogant skepticism (like the Pharisees and Sadducees) will find themselves thwarted and turned away.  Those who come to God with honest questions will find themselves welcomed.  It’s normal for people to have questions, and it’s OK to bring those things to Jesus.  Sometimes people get the idea that it’s somehow blasphemous to question God on anything.  God is big enough to handle our questions; He isn’t going to be offended!  If we come honestly and humbly, we can be assured that He won’t turn us away.
  4. The question the scribe asked was a logical one, from his point-of-view.  "Which is the first commandment of all?"  Understand that the scribe is not asking about the 10 commandments, as if he is testing Jesus on basic Hebrew theology 101.  He’s asking Jesus about the most important commandment among the 613 commandments that were recorded in the OT.  Some scholars have noted that there was a debate at the time about certain groups of laws being seen as weightier than others, and perhaps the scribe was asking Jesus to take sides in the debate.  But even beyond the debate, the question is still a natural question for those who spent their days pouring over the intricacies of the Jewish law and tradition.  There was a lot for a person to pay attention to!  Out of everything that was written down, what was it that held primary importance?  What was it, that if you got that one thing wrong, you would get everything else wrong as well.

29 Jesus answered him, “The first of all the commandments is: ‘Hear, O Israel, the LORD our God, the LORD is one. 30 And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment.

  1. Jesus quotes the opening portion of the Shema.  This is what observant Jews (then and today) recite on a twice daily basis in their worship.  Deuteronomy 6:4–5, "(4) “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one! (5) You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength." []  Contextually, Moses had just completed the introductory section of Deuteronomy (which is a re-telling of the law), and had reviewed the 10 Commandments.  In light of all that God had already commanded them, Moses spoke of the importance of obeying the Lord, in order that God would bless them.  That’s when Moses gives this call for Israel to love God.  The blessing and relationship that God offered to His people was amazing beyond their imagination, and they could experience it all if they had given themselves wholeheartedly to the Lord.  Thus the call and command to love God.
  2. Although Matthew doesn’t quote it in his version, Mark shows Jesus reciting the introduction to the actual command: “Hear, O Israel, the LORD our God, the LORD is one.”  There is much in this alone! 
    1. Hear, O Israel”: the call.  The people are commanded to pay attention.  Every teacher and every parent can tell when their students and children stop listening, and every so often they need to do something to ensure that the people in front of them are fully engaged. That’s the idea here: “Hey you!  Listen up…you don’t want to miss this.”  These were God’s very words to His own special people, and they needed to pay attention.
      1. We are not Israel, but we are the people of God.  Listen up!  Pay attention!  God has something to say to you, and because it’s God, it’s not something you want to miss.
      2. Do you understand that God has something to say to you every time you open the Scriptures?  As a born-again Christian, you are indwelled by God the Holy Spirit, Who is our Teacher.  He will personally interact with you as you read the Bible, but you need to listen.  “Hear, O Christian!”  Don’t miss out on what God has to say to you!
    2. the LORD our God”: the relationship.  Although the nuance doesn’t come out in the Greek, the Hebrew Scripture Jesus referenced (which was well-known by the scribe) made it clear that the Lord spoken of was Yahweh – the ever-existent I AM – the covenant-keeping God.  THAT God IS God.  And beyond the fact that Yahweh is the only God is that Yahweh was Israel’s God.  This is the God Who had called their forefathers and promised them a land – this is the God who had freed them out of Egypt – this is the God who had appeared to them upon Mt. Sinai.  The God who created the heavens and the earth offered Himself in relationship to Israel to be THEIR God.  The privilege in relationship was beyond comprehension.
      1. Likewise, the ONLY God is OUR God.  This is the same God who offers Himself to us through Jesus Christ.  We do not worship the gods of imagination.  We don’t worship the gods invented out of our own good feelings.  We worship the REAL God, and the only way we do is because He invites us to worship Him through Jesus Christ.
    3. the LORD is one”: the declaration.  This speaks of the unity of God.  He is uniquely God among all else (something the scribe picks up on in vs. 32), but more to the point here, God is unified.  He is Himself, and He is self-sufficient.  He is of one mind and one purpose – He is first and foremost among the universe – He is the grand and great Almighty God.
      1. Although it’s not directly stated here, there is also a bit of a hint about God’s triune nature.  Hinted at in the OT, and more revealed in the NT, is the fact that God is Trinity.  We worship one God, but that God is revealed in three distinct Persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  All three Persons of the Godhead is seen throughout the Bible (even in the opening verses of Genesis), though the details are more mysterious in the OT than the NT.  But one of the things the Shema shows is the unity within the Godhead.  The Son is not at odds with the Father, nor does the Spirit disagree with the Son.  God is One, and thus God is at perfect unity within Himself.
    4. Why is the introduction important?  If the first and foremost commandment is to love the Lord God, then it’s important to know which God we are supposed to love.  He is the Great God.  He is the only God.  We can’t decide for ourselves that we want the god of our making to save us – if we’re to be saved, then we must be saved by the real God who actually reaches out to save us.  We must respond to God as He has revealed Himself to be; not who we imagine Him to be.
      1. That people try to pick and choose their own gods to worship is natural, but it’s illogical.
  3. Now that we know which God to which to respond, what was Israel (and we) to do?  Love Him.  “And you shall love the LORD your God…” Question: how can love be commanded?  We think of love as a feeling or emotion, perhaps a response to the love and affections of someone else.  We think of falling in love in passion, or love naturally pouring out of us as parents.  Yet Biblical love is something more.  The Bible does describe passionate romantic love (as in the relationship between Isaac and Rebekah, or in the Song of Solomon) – the Bible repeatedly shows natural family bonds and great unbreakable love of friends and brothers (David & Jonathan) – but the Bible goes on to show that love is also action.  The greatest love is the love that is demonstrated, such as when Jesus loved us and died for us while we were still sinning against Him (Rom 5:8).  Love is at its highest when it sacrificial – when it is a choice.  That is how God loves us, and that is how He calls us to love Him.
    1. The Hebrews were called to choose to love God.  They had to choose whom they would serve.  We are called to make exactly the same choice.  Virtually every American has heard that God loves them…it’s ingrained in our culture.  And God DOES love us as humans made in His image.  But there will be multitudes of people whom God loves that will be cast into hell on the day of the final judgment.  God does love you, but have you responded to that love by choosing to love Him in return?
    2. Beyond salvation, have you chosen to love God today?
  4. The actual command: greatly love the great God.  Love God with everything you are.  It’s interesting that the original Hebrew quotation does not include the phrase, “with all your mind.” The phrase was included in some of the OT translations at the time (though not the LXX), and had apparently made its way into the Jewish teaching and interpretation of the command.  Obviously the interpretation is accurate, as Jesus includes it in His own reference.  The “heart, soul, mind, & strength” have been parsed and picked apart by others, but it’s difficult to draw a clear distinction through much.  There’s a lot of overlap in all of the concepts.  No doubt it’s that way for a reason: there’s not one part of a person’s personality that is left out.  Whether it’s the seat of the emotions, the seat of the intellect, the seat of the physical being, or one’s own life itself, everything is to be dedicated to the Lord in sincere, sacrificial love.  Nothing is left out – nothing is optional.
  5. Why is the command so comprehensive?  Because otherwise we would hold back.  Think about it.  Some people claim they love God with their all their heart, and they’ll spend time in emotional worship with hands uplifted – but they hardly crack their Bibles at all & even claim that Bible study is “quenching the Spirit.”  Others delve deep into the Scriptures and love God with all their mind, but they barely spend any time in prayer, and hardly any time at all actually listening for the Lord to speak to them.  Can that truly be loving God with all their heart?  Of course not.  Still others would claim their life is completely dedicated to the Lord, but to spend actual time around God’s people is like pulling teeth.  To them, there’s always something else to do, and other places to be.  That’s not loving God with all their strength.  God calls us to something so much more – so much greater.  God calls us to complete dedication, with everything we are devoted to Him.  Our physical bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit, so we give our actions and behaviors to Him.  Our souls have been born anew by God, and every energy we have is to be dedicated to His glory.  Our intellect and emotion – our finances & families – our careers & commitments – everything…whatever it is that makes up YOU, that is what is to be dedicated to the Lord our God in love.
  6. Objection: “Wait a second!  If THAT’s the case, then I fail miserably!”  Yep – and so does everyone else.  This is a command, but we don’t have our salvation because we’re able to keep the commands of God.  We have our salvation because of the grace of Jesus Christ.
    1. That said, the grace of God is not an excuse to refuse to seek to obey God.  If we truly know God by the grace of Jesus, then how else can we respond but strive to know and love God more and more day by day?  The more grace we’ve experienced of God, the more we ought to love God.
  7. The scribe had asked Jesus about the first commandment – the greatest & weightiest commandment, and Jesus answered the question.  What the scribe did not likely expect was to hear Jesus give the second greatest.  Vs. 31…

31 And the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”

  1. The first commandment was quoted from the Shema – something that the Hebrews would have recited every day.  The second commandment is quoted from a place a bit more remote, though the theology behind it pervades nearly every aspect of the OT law regarding human relationships.  Leviticus 19:17–18, "(17) ‘You shall not hate your brother in your heart. You shall surely rebuke your neighbor, and not bear sin because of him. (18) You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD." [] Contextually, this statement came in the middle of a chapter that God used to summarize what He was telling the Israelite nation through the all of the law: they were to be holy, as their God was holy (Lev 19:2).  They were to rightly worship God, and to not cause harm to their neighbor.  They were to not steal, lie, deal falsely, do injustice, spread rumors, or do anything else that would be an act of hatred.  That was all of the negative way of stating it; what was the positive?  “Love your neighbor as yourself.”  How would you treat yourself?  That’s the way God expected His people to treat others. 
    1. Does this really pervade the OT law?  Yes!  Actually, if we look at the whole of the 10 commandments, we find that it divides rather evenly between loving God & loving others.  Commands 1-4, all about God.  Command 5, a transition & bridge between them.  Commands 6-10, all about loving others…
    2. It isn’t only the OT.  This is all throughout the NT as well.  Jesus referenced it in the Sermon on the Mount in that God’s people should not only love their neighbors, but also their enemies (Mt 5:43-44).  He referenced it again in the parable of the Good Samaritan, in defining who our neighbors actually are (Lk 10:29 – i.e., those whom we might even despise). Paul called it the summary & fulfillment of the law (Rom 13:9-10).  James called it the “royal law” (Jas 2:8).  It’s even intensified to a new level among one another as born-again believers, as Jesus gives what He calls the “new commandment.” (Jn 13:34)  It’s safe to say that true love for one another is a hallmark of Biblical Christianity.  In a fellowship that obviously loves each other, the love of God is apparent.  Yet a congregation that claims to love God that is cold in its relationships with others is an oxymoron.
  2. How is the “second” commandment “like” the first?  Because one is a natural outgrowth of the other.  Although the first deals with God, and the second deals with people, the two commandments cannot be easily separated in practice, though they may be separated in subject.  These two things go hand-in-hand.  If we truly love God, then we’re going to love the things that God loves and hate the things that God hates.  This means that if we love God, then we’re going to love the people whom God loves…which happens to be everybody.  God is angry with the wicked every day, but every single human is still a human created in the image of God, and Jesus died for the so-called “worst” of humanity just as much as He died for the so-called “best.”  Truth be told, we’re ALL the worst of humanity, and we are ALL in need of the same love, grace, and salvation of Jesus.  God loved the world enough to send Jesus to die for all the world, so it is all the people among the created universe that God loves.  If God loves them, so should we.
  3. This is more important than many people realize.  Some would say, “Well it’s easy to love God; it’s not so easy to love people.  God will just have to forgive me for that, just as He has to forgive me for everything else.”  Actually, God doesn’t leave us that excuse.  If we don’t love others, then we have no foundation from which to claim we actually love God.  According to the Bible, we can’t say we love God if we don’t try to love people.  1 John 4:7–8, "(7) Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. (8) He who does not love does not know God, for God is love." []  If we’ve been truly born of the Holy Spirit, then we have been given a brand-new nature.  Whereas before we may have been able to say, “It’s just not in me to love that person,” a born-again Christian no longer has that excuse.  It’s not natural for us to love the unlovable, but born-again Christians no longer have only the natural; we have the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit within us.  Those who have been born of God have been transformed by God, and one of the expected responses of His transforming work is a heart of love and compassion towards others.
    1. What does this mean practically?  Born-again Christians don’t hold grudges – born-again Christians don’t seek to tear other people down – they don’t spread rumors – they don’t act in any myriad of ways that would intentionally cause harm.  They don’t tear one another down; they build one another up.  The way they act towards others in according to the Biblical standard of love.  They rejoice in the truth, bear all things, believe all things, hope all things, and endure all things (1 Cor 13:6-7).  (And guess what?  This applies online, as well!)  True born-again Christians are to love: we have been commanded to do so by our Lord & King, and we’ve been given the ability to do so through the empowerment of the Holy Spirit.
  4. Objection: “Wait a second!  I fail as badly at the 2nd Commandment as I do at the 1st!”  Again, Jesus is not providing a legalistic method to salvation.  The scribe (the lawyer) had asked Jesus about the greatest commandment in the law, and Jesus provided the proper legal answer.  These are the very commands upon which all of the OT hang, but they do not save a single soul.  Remember, salvation comes only by the grace of Christ as we exercise faith in Him.  When we receive Him as our Lord, repenting from our sin, and surrendering our lives to Him – that’s how we are saved; not by the way we attempt to keep any commandment of the law (even the greatest commandments).  But that said, when we do come to true faith in Christ, then our lives are fundamentally transformed, and love is one of the results.  It will never be perfect, but it will be real and it will be consistent.  If it’s not, there is a problem.  When love is not present, or if our lives can be characterized more by our sin and hatred than our love and obedience, then that’s a moment we ought to get on our face before God and reexamine our hearts to see if we truly DO have faith in Christ.

32 So the scribe said to Him, “Well said, Teacher. You have spoken the truth, for there is one God, and there is no other but He. 33 And to love Him with all the heart, with all the understanding, with all the soul, and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself, is more than all the whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.”

  1. This is an interesting response from the scribe.  On the one hand, he had come to test Jesus (Mt 22:35), so it seems that the scribe is affirming that Jesus passed the test.  On the other hand, the scribe is speaking to the Son of God, the Messiah, the Son of David…his KING.  How exactly could this scribe pass judgment upon Jesus?  It seems rather backwards.  Interestingly, Jesus doesn’t upbraid the scribe for his response, or call him out as being arrogant.  We need to be careful about reading motive or intent into the text of Scripture where it’s not clearly stated.  We don’t know why the scribe responded to Jesus the way he did; all we truly know is that he agreed with what Jesus said & taught.  Seemingly, he was impressed with Jesus, and saw Jesus to be the “real deal” & not just someone skilled at the art of debate.  Jesus had a real grasp upon the law, far beyond what the most learned rabbis had.  Although Jesus answered far more than what the scribe had asked, the scribe could immediately see that what Jesus taught was perfectly correct, and thus the scribe could affirm exactly the same thing in response.
  2. Although the NKJV quotes the scribe as saying “for there is one God,” the actual text leaves it out – though “God” is no doubt the subject of the scribe’s sentence.  Because of the command to not take God’s name in vain, the Jews were careful not to utter God’s name more than absolutely necessary.  Jesus had just said it when quoting the commandment, and the scribe didn’t need to repeat it again.  Although the scribe used slightly different language, he basically restated the same truths that Jesus spoke. (1) God is one, “and there is no other.”  God is not only unified in His nature, but He is unique in the universe.  There are no gods, but the One God.  The great I AM/Yahweh is the only God in all time & space. (2) To love God is everything.  We love God with our everything, and it is everything in regards to the rest of the commandments.
  3. How much do the love of God & the love of others mean, in regards to the law?  It is better than any offering or sacrifice that could be brought.  The scribe seems to reference an event from the life of Saul.  The king had been commanded by God (via Samuel) to completely destroy the Amalekites and their livestock, in a just punishment for how the Amalekites had attacked Israel.  Saul won the battle that day, but kept their King Agag alive, as well as held back the animals – using some of them in unauthorized sacrifice.  The prophet Samuel came to the scene, and Saul tried to make excuses by showing all the sacrifices he was offering.  Yet none of that mattered.  1 Samuel 15:22, "(22) So Samuel said: “Has the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, As in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, And to heed than the fat of rams." []  God wasn’t going to be bought-off/bribed by a bunch of sacrifices He never asked for.  He had commanded obedience, and Saul deliberately ignored Him.  The scribe makes a similar point here about the love of God & others.  It didn’t matter how many of the other rituals and regulations a Jew kept if they missed the love of God & love of others.  Their worship of God would never be sincere & acceptable if it wasn’t borne out of true love.  And if they didn’t love their neighbor, then their rituals would be shown to be false anyway.  At that point, it didn’t matter how many sheep and oxen you brought to the temple; it was all meaningless.  God isn’t interested in superficial ritual; He wants our hearts.  Loving hearts are shown through obedient hearts.
    1. Lest we forget, to “love” God is to do more than have nice feelings about God; it is to obey God.  That’s not legalism; that’s just reality.  If as a child you told your parents you loved them, and then proceeded to go directly out and do something they hated, that could hardly be considered an act of love.  Why would we believe it is any different with God?  Those who love God seek to obey God. (Jn 14:21)
    2. That’s not to say that anyone perfectly obeys God – of course we do not.  But it’s a matter of the heart – it’s a matter of how we walk around in our lives.  Do we seek to glorify God with our actions?  Then that is a demonstration of our love for Him.  And as the scribe affirmed, that sincere love is worth more than any other insincere action or ritual that we could ever perform.

34 Now when Jesus saw that he answered wisely, He said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” But after that no one dared question Him.

  1. Whatever the internal motive of the scribe, Jesus liked his answer.  It was a wise/intelligent response. Although the scribe did not truly have the standing to judge the answer of the Messiah, the Messiah certainly had the standing & authority to judge that of the scribe.  And he passed the test!
  2. Yet notice that an intelligent answer was not sufficient for salvation. “You are not far from the kingdom of God.”  It was a good answer – it was a great answer.  But theology alone is not sufficient to grant someone entrance into the kingdom of God.  All sorts of people know the right answers to all kinds of Biblical questions, and they still aren’t saved.  For that matter, the devil & other demons know the Bible better than most born-again Christians, and THEY still aren’t saved.  What grants someone eternal life in heaven is not correct theology; it’s the grace of God given through Jesus Christ – which only comes through humility and faith.  The scribe had the right answer, and that was a good starting point – but it wasn’t the ending point.  That answer needed to take him to the feet of Jesus, where he could respond humbly in faith asking Jesus to save him.  As great as his answer was, the scribe had an even greater need: grace.
    1. Until you’ve received of the grace of Christ, you’ll always be outside the kingdom of God.  You can know all the right answers – you can give the right amount of money to the church – you can attend all the right worship services – do all the right things, etc., and none of that saves you.  At some point, you have to personally respond to Jesus.  You have to ask for, and receive the grace of God.  You may not be far from the kingdom of God, but if you’re still on the outside on the day of judgment, it doesn’t matter if you’re 1 foot outside or 100 miles away.  You still need to be saved.
  3. After that, the tests were done.  Jesus had passed them all with flying colors.  He had demonstrated the true wisdom of God (with the Pharisees) – He had demonstrated the knowledge of the true power of God as revealed in the Scriptures (with the Sadducees) – and finally He had demonstrated the true knowledge of the law of God, straight to the very heart and summary of it (with the scribe).  What more was left?  None could argue against Him!

The lawyer immersed in the Jewish Scriptures asked a simple question, but a deep one: what was the greatest commandment?  What did God desire of His people?  Love.  Greatly love the great God, and let that great love for Him overflow to others.

  1. We have to know Who this God is.  He is the ONE God and He is OUR God.
  2. We have to love this God with everything we are.  Hold nothing back.  We’re not told to love God with part of our lives, but all of it.
  3. We have to allow that love to permeate all our lives, and thus love others – seeing them as God sees them.
  4. We have to know all of this is based in grace.  Love is commanded, but it is an overflow of the grace God has showered upon us in Jesus.  We have no ability to do any of this ourselves, which is one reason why the scribe was still outside the kingdom of God.  We are first transformed by the grace of God, and then the rest will come.

This is fundamental to who we are as believers.  The Bible commands us to love God.  What better command could there be?  There is no more grand command in all the world!  The Bible does command us to fear God, but we do not fear Him as some sort of demonic terror looking to kill us.  The Bible does command us to obey God, but we are not to obey Him as some sort of oppressed burdened slave.  These are the things that are seen in other religions, but not Biblical Christianity.  Instead, we are called and commanded to love God.  We are called to choose to love the Lord God who loves us.  He first loved us, and He now invites us to do the same with Him.  And that changes everything.  The true love of God changes the way we see Him – changes the way we see His commands – changes the way we see other people.  The love of God is all-encompassing, and all-transforming.

This is fundamental to who we are as a local church congregation.  We’ve often said that Calvary Chapel Tyler is a place where we love God, love each other, and love the lost.  We love God with all our lives (worship, study, efforts, etc.) – we love others with all compassion (sincere love & fellowship for the believer and our neighbor) – we love the lost enough to share the gospel with them at all times.  It’s the Great Commandment, New Commandment, and Great Commission.  What Jesus has given to all the Church, He has given to THIS local church.  This is what we’re about.  If it’s not about loving God & loving one another, we don’t have any business doing it.


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