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The Necessary Mark of All True Christians
The Great Commandment from the gospel of Mark 12:28 to 34
I love a good question–the right question can expose hidden motives and enable us to face truth we’d not admitted even to ourselves. Here are some of my favorites.
•If you were to die this evening with no opportunity to communicate with anyone, what would you most regret not having told someone? Then why haven’t you told them yet?
•If you could use a voodoo doll to hurt anyone you chose, would you?
•Your house, containing everything you own, catches fire. After saving your loved ones and pets, you have time to safely make a final dash and save any one item. What would it be?
God loves to ask questions even more than I do. God asked Cain, “Why are you angry?” The angels asked Abram, “Why did Sarah laugh?” Job asked God, “Why did I not die at birth?” The “why” question seemed to be Jesus’ favorite. Jesus asked, “Why do you worry?” And, “why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, and not at the log in your own eye?” “Why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord’ and don’t do what I say?” “Why do you not believe Me?”
It’s crucial to ask the why question when it comes to the Church! Why is the Church here? Why are we set up the way we are? Why are the most important truths often ignored by Christians? This morning we’re going to begin to answer this question, why? Why are we here? What is really important to Christ?
One of the main answers to this question is found in Mark 12. Let’s continue in our verse by verse study, and take your outline and open your Bible to Mark 12:28 to 34. Stand and read aloud verses 28 to 34.
“One of the scribes came and heard them arguing, and recognizing that He had answered them well, asked Him, ‘What commandment is the foremost of all?’ 29 Jesus answered, ‘The foremost is, “Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is one Lord; 30 and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.” 31 The second is this, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” There is no other commandment greater than these.’ 32 The scribe said to Him, ‘Right, Teacher; You have truly stated that He is One, and there is no one else besides Him; 33 and to love Him with all the heart and with all the understanding and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as himself, is much more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.’ 34 When Jesus saw that he had answered intelligently, He said to him, ‘You are not far from the kingdom of God.’ After that, no one would venture to ask Him any more questions.”
Today we will affirm what is most important for you and for this church, and every true church–and that is to love God and love others . . . to fulfill the great commandment.
#1 The Involving Inquiry
Verse 28, “One of the scribes came and heard them arguing, and recognizing that He had answered them well, asked Him, ‘What commandment is the foremost of all?’” When the Pharisees heard Christ had put the Sadducees to silence, they gathered themselves together. And one of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him.
Remember this is Passion Week, the last week of Christ’s public ministry prior to the cross. Monday He’d come to Jerusalem in a triumphal entry. Tuesday Jesus cleaned out the Temple. And now it’s Wednesday and our Lord is having all kinds of interaction with the religious leaders in the Temple–debate day. The Sanhedrin wants to kill Him. He is a threat to their power, so they’re trying to discredit Him in front of the people.
In verses 13 to 17, the Pharisees and Herodians try to show Jesus as a political threat to Rome to have him arrested. That attempt failed–strike one. In verses 18 to 27, the Sadducees try to get Jesus to slam the Old Testament law and they fail–strike two. And now in verses 28 to 34, the Pharisees have their time at bat and it is–strike three. But in the process, we’re left with a key truth for each of you and for our church–all of us.
Look at this involved inquiry. Verse 28, “One of the scribes came and heard them arguing, and recognizing that He had answered them well.” There’s a lot more going on here than you can see on a surface read. Look—“one of the scribes.” This verse tells us this scribe did three things, described by three participles–do you see them? He came, he heard, and he recognized a great answer.
The gospel of Matthew calls this scribe a “lawyer”. Now a scribe was not a legal representative who sat in a plush high-rise in downtown Jerusalem. No, he wasn’t that kind of lawyer. No, this lawyer was an expert in the Law, schooled in the Old Testament and the Rabbinic traditions. A scribe is an expert in the Law of Moses. A scribe is really half-attorney and half-theologian. They were teachers of the Law–a sharp guy, and an authority in his field.
So this scribe, verse 28 says, “Heard them arguing.” Who is the “them”? Jesus and the Sadducees, in verses 18 to 27–Mark doesn’t tell us how the previous exchange ended, but Matthew does. He says the Lord “put the Sadducees to silence.” We studied verses 18 to 27 last week, and we learned the Sadducees didn’t believe in a physical resurrection, but amazingly Jesus just proved to them that there is one. And Jesus proved the resurrection using the only Scriptures the Sadducees considered authoritative–the first five books, the books of Moses, the Pentateuch.
Well, this wows the crowd, silences the Sadducees, and impresses the Pharisees. Can you imagine the superior, elite, Sadducees silenced? “Silence” means He gagged them, like putting a muzzle on a dog–no more bark, no more bite. They didn’t want to be silenced–they simply had no choice. Like a kidnapper, Jesus gagged them. What Jesus said was impressive, and how it muzzled those religious leaders was also extraordinary.
It was so remarkable. Verse 28 tells us, the scribe’s approach to Jesus was different than the other religious leaders–do you see it? “One of the scribes came.” As Jesus finishes the Herodians and Pharisees, this scribe is listening and he is impressed. Read verse 28, “Recognizing that He [Jesus] had answered well.” Answered well means answered the right way, commendably, excellently–we’d say, “Impressive!”
This scribe is definitely attracted to the wisdom of Jesus, so he came with that heart–really different than the others. Notice how different he came from verse 13—notice they sent some of the Pharisees and Herodians to Him in order to trap Him in a statement. They came to trick and trap Christ. And even though this scribe is also sent to test Christ from the start, there is a definite interest and esteem on his part toward Christ.
As he comes, this scribe finds himself applauding our Lord. This scribe was most likely a part of the group of scribes Luke 20:39 described as applauding Jesus with these words, “Teacher, you have spoken well.” So it is not a stretch to say that this scribe is anticipating how Christ might answer his question. And remember this scribe is not asking an ignorant question, or asking a flippant question concerning the Word of God. No, this man knew his subject and was asking a reasonable question. He really wanted to know what Jesus thought–about what?
Verse 28, “He asked Him, ‘What commandment is the foremost of all?’” What commandment stood above the rest? What sort of commandment is first on the list? Which is the one that we should be most concerned about? What is to be ranked the highest? Which is most important? Do you understand what forced this question? Do you understand the scribal world? Step into his shoes.
The scribes of Jesus day declared there were 613 commandments in the Law–the same number of Hebrew letters that are in the written form of the Ten Commandments. They believed out of that 613 commands, there were 248 positive commands, (the same number they said as there were parts of the human body, they thought) and there were 365 negative commands (the same number as there were days of the year)–one negative command per day. Start every day with don’t do this!
They further subdivided 613 laws into light laws and heavy laws. Light laws were not as binding as the heavier laws. They did this because all serious Jews knew they couldn’t possibly keep all 613 laws. No one could then, and no one can now. This was an unbelievable burden to bear. They kept trying to divide up the laws into more important ones and less important ones because of the heavy guilt and agonizing effort it was to try to live them all.
Remember our Lord said in Matthew 23:4, “They tie up heavy burdens and lay them on men’s shoulders.” So there were endless debates about which laws were more important and which were less important–which were heavy, and which were light. Which laws can you break, what laws can you never violate? So this scribe comes to Jesus with real interest, wondering how Christ will answer. With all these laws, with all this burden to keep trying to obey all these commands, which one is the most important?
The test was to get Jesus to say something they could use against Him–to say something which would allow them to label Jesus a heretic, a blasphemer, or better, an insurrectionist . . . anything to get Jesus in trouble. But with this scribe, there is also a desire to hear what Christ will say. “Tell me, Jesus, what is the greatest priority out of all the 613 laws–the foremost of all?” Foremost is the Greek protos–first, best, most important of all. Can we simplify the 613 laws? Is there one main law? Jesus cuts through all their hair-splitting debates with . . .
#2 The Informing Instruction–parts one and two
The Lord’s response is beautiful, awesome, pointed and simple. You can summarize all 613 laws into two commands–one main command and one supportive command, parts one and two.
FIRST–part one, verse 29, “Jesus answered, ‘The foremost is, “Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is one Lord; 30 and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.”’”
Jesus quotes Deuteronomy 6:4 to 5 (it is called the Shema, meaning to hear or listen or heed). They want Christ to say something contradictory or new, to get Him in trouble. But what He gives them is not a contradiction of the Mosaic Law, nor an addition to the Mosaic law, but Jesus gives them a clear quote from the Mosaic Law. He gives them solid Old Testament truth. They want to trick Him into saying something contrary to the Law, and Jesus quotes the most treasured and understood portion of the Old Testament–the shema. Shema, shema–sounds like an old 50’s song, shema, shema, da da da da da dax2. This was, and is, the great confession of faith of Judaism.
What is the foremost, first, or most important command? The shema–every orthodox Jew at this time, who was faithful to his religion, would recite the shema audibly twice a day, once in the morning and once in the evening. Verse 29, “Jesus answered, ‘The foremost is, “‘Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is one Lord; 30 and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.”’”
It was this portion of Scripture that was copied and put in a small box and attached to the doorpost of an orthodox Jewish home, called a mezuzah (which is still used today). And it was this portion of Scripture that was placed in phylacteries that were worn on the foreheads and left arms of Jewish men during prayer. They wanted to trick Jesus into disagreeing with the Old Testament, but their attempt failed.
Jesus is clearly declaring, “I’m no apostate. I’m no heretic. I’m not coming up with something new.” The Lord affirms His solidarity with Moses, and recites their most cherished and familiar passage found in the Old Testament and New Testament, constantly repeated. Deuteronomy 6:5 says, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul and with all your might.” Deuteronomy 10:12 says, “What does the Lord your God require from you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all His ways and love Him.” Deuteronomy 11:13 says, “I am commanding you today to love the Lord your God and to serve Him with all your heart and all your soul.”
This is not a shocker to any Christian here. The Word of God is not going to contradict God’s Word. The living Word is in harmony with the written Word. The author of the Bible is not going to disagree with Himself. Look how Jesus answered, “The foremost is, ‘Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is one Lord.” The main command begins with, “Heed this, my nation, the Lord our God is one Lord.”
Only the gospel of Mark includes this theological affirmation of monotheism–one God. Why? Remember–Mark is written to Romans who had many gods, so Mark reaffirms there is only one true God. Who is He? He is the Lord, Yahweh, referring to “Jehovah,” the unchanging, promise keeping Master–the supreme authority over all, our Master! The Lord our God stresses Israel’s distinct relationship to God–He’s our God. Israel has a personal and intimate relationship to God.
The Lord our God is one Lord–God is one Master, not many masters. The Lord is one, stressing His unity and reminding the Jews and us that our God gives you one main command that must not be missed, overlooked or under-prioritized. This is not many gods expecting you to obey many commands, but one God, who in perfect love, expects you Israel, and you FBC, to obey one main command. The one true God has given you one main command to follow.
First–part one verse 30, “’And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’” The Great Command is to love. What’s that? In Deuteronomy 6:5, the verb “love” is the love shown by the will, mind and actions, rather than love shown by emotion. It’s the highest kind of love that motivates you to do what is right and best for others. It is akin to the agape love in Greek, which is the love of intelligence, as opposed to phileo, which is the love of emotion, or even eros, which is the love of physical attraction.
This is not the love we hear expressed all the time–I love that dress, or I love that car, I love Chipotle, I love Dr. Pepper, I love that song, I love that beach, or I love that picture. No, this is the love of service, of sacrifice–the love of giving, the love that forgets self and is consumed with another. It is the love that acts on the benefit of someone else. This agape is never used without referring to action of life. It is not agape love without sacrificial action or selfless service.
John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that He gave [what?] His only begotten Son”–sacrifice & action. Ephesians 5:25, “Christ loved the Church and gave himself up for her.” John 15:13, “Greater love has no one than this, that He lay down His life for His friends.” This love is always seen. It’s more than felt, more than talked about–this love is demonstrated in action, and always seen in lifestyle. And the love Jesus speaks of in the great commandment is expressed in action toward God.
Do you love in action your Ruler, Master, Lord, Sovereign, King? Do you love in service your Creator, sustainer, all powerful I Am? Do you love your God, your Abba, your Savior, your Friend? When it comes to your obedience, is He the one you want to please first, honor above all, and serve beyond what’s expected? When it comes to your affections, is He your great love, your whole heart, and your first love?
You see, the religious leaders’ faulty concept of love was ritual, not relationship–information, not intimacy–liturgy, not lifestyle. What God desires from us is the same love that’s enjoyed by the Trinity–Father, Son and Spirit. Just as Jesus prays in John 17:26,”And I have made Your name known to them, and will make it known, so that the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them.”
You and I are to love God, verse 30, “and you shall love the Lord your God.” It is so important, 1 Corinthians 16:22, “If anyone does not love the Lord, he is to be accursed.” And our love for God in service and sacrifice is to be so deep, so thorough, so complete, Moses and Jesus say, verse 30, “’You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’”
This verse is as powerful as it is pointed. Look carefully at verse 30, “You shall love the Lord with”—“with” is literally “out of” . . . out of your heart, from within, from inside, you love internally, not merely with external actions, but with internal attitude. Out of every part of our being, we are commanded to love God–not merely with our outside schedule, but our internal soul.
Do you see how obedience to this command is impossible? That from within you, you love God with your entire being. That’s not a decision that you make–that’s not effort on your part. The use of the word with, or out of, assumes you’ve been transformed internally, changed, with a heart that wants to love God.
To make that more clear, Jesus says the great command is to “love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.” What does it mean to love the Lord your God with all your heart? The Hebrew concept of heart is the core of your identity, the source of all your thoughts, words and actions. Your heart is the core of your personality. That’s why Proverbs 4:23 says, “Keep your heart with all diligence for out of it are the issues of life.” It’s the core of your being. Love God with the deepest, truest part of you.
Soul has to do with your emotions. It was Jesus who said in Matthew 26:38, “My soul is exceedingly sorrowful,” He was speaking of His soul as the seat of emotion. Your soul is your emotional life–love the Lord with your emotions. Mind is best seen as the will, the best intention, the power of purpose. We sometimes say, “I made up my what?–my mind to do this.” Your mind is the reasoning that wills a decision. Love the Lord with your decisions, your purpose and your reason. Then Jesus adds strength–the reference to physical energy. Love the Lord with all your activity, actions, behavior and life.
So the intellectual, emotional, volitional and physical elements of your entire personhood all combine to love the one true God. It is an intelligent love, it is an emotional love, it is a willing love, and it is an active love. Love for God is to be an all-consuming love. In fact, it is so all-consuming, did you notice how Jesus states it? Verse 30, “’You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’” Jesus is calling for an all-encompassing love. Everything about you, every aspect of your person, is to reflect love for Him.
This is crucial, since selective love or loving God partially, produces an unbalanced, immature and warped Christian. You see, the one who loves with the emotions only is a sentimentalist, with the intellect only is a rationalist, with the will only is a legalist, with the physical action only is an activist. God wants all of, every aspect of, your life . . . everything.
The hymn writer Issac Watts said it this way when he wrote, “Love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all.” Christian, God’s wholehearted love toward us must never be returned with a halfhearted love on our part. Do you love the Lord your God with all–above a boyfriend or girlfriend, more than athletics, your business or any desire? This is the first command–love God. And the first action in any decision, in any crisis, any circumstance, any battle, any trial is to go to this commandment first–to think this first.
When a marriage is struggling, when a child is rebelling, when a relationship is strained–the first step is not to focus on them, but on God . . . to check your heart before the Lord. Friends, the reason you are in trial is to grow your relationship with Christ first. It’s not first about the person or the circumstance, but your relationship and love for Christ. The first step is the first command—love the Lord. Ask–are you loving Him first, obeying Him first, and adoring Him first? Then and only then do you take the second step.
SECOND–part two, verse 31, “The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” The gospel of Matthew says this second commandment is like the first, meaning this second commandment calls for the believer to love, and is important like the first. It originates from Leviticus 19:18b, “But you shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
The Greek word for love for others is the same love as for God–sacrificial action to benefit another. Anyone who doesn’t show love to others cannot claim to love God. If you hate, are bitter, bear grudges or seek vengeance on others you cannot claim to love God. In fact, look at Leviticus 19:18a, “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.”
Those who struggle with loving will ask, “Who is my neighbor?” Leviticus 19:18 tells us, “against the sons of your people,” meaning your neighbor here is a fellow Israelite. Jesus broadens the meaning of neighbor in Luke 10 to include the hated Samaritans–the worst person on your list, clearly declaring your neighbor is now anyone who has a need.
There is something different about the second command–the measure of love. Jesus adds in verse 31, to “love your neighbor” the measure “as yourself”. This is not arguing for self-love. This is not saying you have to love yourself before you can love others–no! To love others as yourself means we’re to love our neighbor in the manner we already take care of and provide for our own needs.
How many of you slept last night? Did you already feed and water yourself this morning? Did you wash yourself, comb your hair, apply deodorant, put clean clothes on, use the restroom, checked yourself in the mirror? Okay, I’m not talking to single college men–but the rest of you did some or most of that this morning. You already have loved yourself today in a myriad of details.
In the same way, be that concerned about others. In the same way you promote your own good, promote the good of others. Love others in the same way you already love yourself. And get this–the command to love your neighbor arises out of the command to love God, telling us the love of God is of no value unless you love your neighbor.
The Godward and manward aspects of love are inseparable. First John 4:20 and 21, “If someone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen. 21 And this commandment we have from Him, that the one who loves God should love his brother also.”
Matthew 5:43 and 44, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” Do not say you love God if you don’t love people–even difficult people, people with edges, immature people, and E.G.R. people (Extra Grace Required people).
Don’t pursue ministry, don’t become a preacher, don’t disciple, don’t seek to impact this world for Christ if you don’t love people—because if you don’t love people, you don’t love God. And do you know why we die for this at FBC? Why do we strive to love God and love each other here? Do you understand why love God and love others is one of our big four priorities–the why of our church?
Look at the end of verse 31, “There is no other commandment greater than these.” Because Jesus says there is nothing greater than this. We don’t live this perfectly–no one does. But we want this desperately–why? Because Jesus says love is our priority.
Matthew says it this way in Matthew 22:40, “On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.” What a statement–the entire Old Testament is summarized by these two commands. The word “depend” is like the hinges of a door. They make the door work–without hinges, a door is merely a big board in the way. Jesus is saying without love for God and love for others, the rest of the Bible will not make sense. You will miss the point.
Remember this is the love defined by truth, not emotion. Each one of the Ten Commandments expresses either a love for God or a love for man. If you miss that truth, then they’re merely ten big, impossible legalistic rules. Those without Christ miss the purpose of the Bible, because they do not understand Christ’s love. And when they miss Christ’s love, the entire Bible looks like a book of rules.
And these commands that summarize the Old Testament are linked practically, without love from and love to our Creator. No other relationship, no other love, will ever be what it is supposed to be. Wow, what teaching–the scribe and those listening were blown away. How do we know?
#3 The Interesting Investigation
Verse 32 and 33, “The scribe said to Him, ‘Right, Teacher; You have truly stated that He is One, and there is no one else besides Him; 33 and to love Him with all the heart and with all the understanding and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as himself, is much more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.’”
His own crew, the hateful religious leaders who want Jesus dead, are listening close by. But in spite of that, this scribe doesn’t say, “Right, Teacher,” but even stronger, “’Beautifully said, Teacher,’” or literally, “what a beautiful answer!” And he continues—“’You are true, to say God is one,’” then adds, “’there is no god like our God, He is unique, alone, the one true God.’”
Taken from Deuteronomy 4:35, “To you it was shown that you might know that the Lord, He is God; there is no other besides Him.” The scribe affirms this is our unique, majestic, awesome, and Holy God; and our love for Him and for one another, these two great commands, are–look again at verse 33, “’These two commands to love are much more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.’” The scribe is picturing the sacrifices where the flesh wasn’t eaten, but the whole sacrifice was completely consumed.
In like manner, true believers are to be totally dedicated, completely consumed, sold out, and in love with our God. Our love for God and our love for our neighbor is much more important, FBC, than our religious observances. First Samuel 15:22 Samuel said, “’Has the Lord as much 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.’”
This scribe is honest. He did not allow his allegiance to his friends, the hateful Pharisees, to keep him from speaking the truth. This scribe was also courageous, since he was willing to stand differently and stand apart from his pressuring friends. The scribe was also unique, in that this is the only time in all the gospel that one of the religious leaders actually agreed with Jesus. What you see here is . . .
#4 The Increasing Interest
Look at verse 34, “When Jesus saw that he had answered intelligently, He said to him, ‘You are not far from the kingdom of God.’” Wow, this scribe had come to pass judgment on Jesus, but it is actually Jesus who passes judgment on the scribe. The scribe had answered with understanding and wisdom–he thought deeply when all his friends were as deep as a birdbath. He was interested, honest, courageous and unique–so Jesus says, “You are not far from the kingdom of God” . . . a compliment and an appeal.
This scribe was a super scholar–a PhD of his day. He was the type of man who would typically be caught up in his own world, his own thoughts, and be his own man–a self-made man. And yet, in his heart, there was a hunger and openness for truth. But be warned, this is scary. It is possible to be a hair-breadth from Heaven, yet still go to Hell. The scribe is not “in” the kingdom–yet he’s not far from it.
This is the greatest danger each of us face–to be near but not in the Kingdom, to be a tare and not wheat, to be lukewarm and not hot, to spring up but produce no fruit, to think we’ve done much for Christ yet have Christ say to us at the judgment, “Depart from Me, I never knew you.” This verse implies there’re some who are far from the Kingdom, and others who are right at the threshold. This scribe was very near, but he was not in yet.
Again, he was super-educated, knew his Bible, knew theology, dialogued with Christ personally, attended synagogue every week, had moral convictions, was somewhat humble, but not saved. Are you like this scribe this morning? The next step, by God’s grace, is to believe in Christ as Savior and Lord. To give your life to Him completely, believe He took the punishment for your sins, surrender your life in repentance, and depend on Him by faith for forgiveness now and eternal life forever. If He saves you, you will go from an outsider, to an insider in a heartbeat. You’ll look the same, but you’ll not be the same. You will be saved when you bow in submission to Christ as God. So you ask, when does Jesus tell us He is God? Next Sunday. What is the result of all this?
#5 The Impeding Interaction
Verse 34, “After that, no one would venture to ask Him any more questions.” The attempt by the religious leaders to entrap Jesus with their shrewd and cunning questions was abandoned. Jesus had foiled all their malicious efforts to discredit Him. They finally realized all such questions only recoil to make them look foolish and prove just how great Jesus is.
First Loving God is what it means to be a Christian
My family, what does it mean to be a Christian? One accurate answer is this–to be loving God. All true Christians love Christ. First John 4:19, “We love, because He first loved us.” Romans 5:5, “The love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” You love Him because He first loved you, and when He saved you, His love was poured out in our hearts, reaffirming that all true Christians love God–not perfectly, but they do love Christ.
But, you can’t love Christ in your own strength. You must be born again, given a new heart that is saturated with God’s love. Then as a Christian, you must be filled with His Spirit and walk according to His Word to love Him the way He commands. It is also biblical to say that all true believers love Christ most, and love Christ first, and repent often of anyone or anything that competes with your love for Christ. You can’t serve two masters. Maybe today you need to repent of that which is competing with your love for Christ. Also, don’t be fooled . . .
Second Loving God is shown through obedience
Jesus said in the Upper Room, in John 14:15, “’If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.’” A true believer loves God, loves His Word, loves His people, rejects the world, and longs to be with Christ. And a believer lives a love that obeys. You want to obey His Word. And when you see your life disobeying God’s Word, you do something about it–you confess, you repent, you get help, you seek out brothers and sisters to help you deal with sin issues. You walk in obedience because you love Christ and you never want God’s wholehearted love toward you returned with a halfhearted love on your part.
But be warned–this scribe was obedient externally. He knew His Bible, he was faithful to attend synagogue–but He was not genuinely saved yet, even though he was close. You must be born again. You must cry out for mercy. You must want Christ more than your sport, your friends, your job, your spouse, your kids, your fun, your pleasures, your leisure, your schedule and even your own life. You must turn in repentance from sin and dependently follow Christ by faith. Christ must completely transform your heart. But when He does, you will want to obey Him from that new heart. Is that you? Do you want to obey Him and does that show?
Third Loving God is a Christian’s great joy
“We love Him because He first loved us.” But if loving Christ has lost its joy for you today, just take a moment and remember His great unfathomable love for you and for me. Friends, Jesus elected you before time, then called you in this life. You were a filthy, rebellious, defiant, hateful, hardhearted sinner. Your sin is so awful, you justly deserve eternal punishment in Hell. But what you received from Christ was mercy, grace and God’s love.
If you don’t regularly recall how much you’ve been forgiven, you will love little. Luke 7:47, “He who is forgiven little, loves little.” Christ shed His love abroad in your heart. You don’t need to pray for more love, you merely need to depend on His Spirit, follow His Word and show the love you already have. So today, this week, let’s grow in our love for God and for each other, for His glory. Let’s pray!