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The Greatest Command: Part 1


“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.’ 40 On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 22:36-40)

Throughout history, the instinct of humanity is to serve oneself, fulfilling our goals, satisfying our desires, and elevating our image to vain self-pride. If we truly analyze our motives and examine our heart's intent we find that our love and acts of compassion are rooted in superficiality and self-glorification. Our sinful nature guides our motives and we yield to narcissism.

Man’s basic problem is a preoccupation with self. He is innately beset with narcissism, a condition named after the Greek mythological character Narcissus, who spent his life admiring his reflection in a pool of water. In the final analysis, every sin results from preoccupation with self. We sin because we are totally selfish, totally devoted to ourselves, rather than to God and others.[1]

In our minds, we perceive that we love God and are devoted to His will. Every human throughout history seeks a god to love. The “spiritual” person longs for oneness with nature and peace within them and around them. The “religious” person pursues a mystical union with a deity who will provide for every longing of their heart. They explore religions like food on a menu to pick and chose the god, sacraments, group of people, and environment that will create a space for them to feel self-worth. There sacrificial acts of self-denial and care for others are only to increase their worth and favor with their god. In other words, their good works are truly not sacrificial but one-dimensional. For the “atheist”, they say there is no God, and yet they transform the idealogy of atheism into religion and demand for everyone to accept their doctrines. Their god is self- autonomy, they know there is one true God, but they hate His sovereignty, but their hatred for the one they deny exposes their hypocrisy. For the “woke” person, they desire to produce an illusion of compassion. Their cause is their god and their movement is their religion. They are driven by anger and guilt and a desire to prove externally piety. They verbally state that specific lives are of value and involve themselves in a movement only to feel value about themselves. Then you have the professing Christian who claims to love God and are a follower of Jesus Christ. Their words are laced with honey, sweet to the ear, however, their heart is wicked deceived by the illusion of conversion. They deny the sufficiency and inerrancy of the Scriptures and twist the Word to condone the sin they love. Their god is liberalism liberating them from biblical doctrine, the law, holiness, while feeling good about themselves because of their pious tolerance. In these several examples, we see people appearing to love a god and others. On the surface, they appear pious and virtuous but at the heart, they are deceived by their pride and selfish ambitions.

Many think they love a god of their imagination or the one true God with limitations. To love an unbiblical god is to hate the true living God. They are in rebellion and enmity with Him and by nature a child of wrath. They live according to their passions of the flesh, doing whatever their bodies and minds crave instead of seeking God’s will and living in obedience (Eph. 2:3). Their hatred for God is disguised as love and is founded on the sinking sand of self-serving, egocentric words and deeds. They cling to their idols to find peace and identity, their words are like perfume covering the stench of spiritual death and their deeds are driven by the feeling they achieve about themselves and the glory obtained.

For the Christian who was in enmity with God but now resurrected from spiritual death and adopted as a child, there must complete devotion to their King. To love the Lord your God first says that God is not just your creator, He is not a magic genie to provide blessing, He is not your therapist, He is not that friend that tells you everything you want to hear, He is the Lord of your life. He is the King, the sovereign ruler and the Christian is the humble slave, δούλος (doúlos), who depends completely upon Him and lives in complete submission to His will. Our submission can not be in part, it must be complete with all your heart. Hebrew thought understood that the heart represents our whole self. We love God with all our soul and with all our mind, in other words, with every fiber of our being, with that which is eternal, all of our reasoning, thoughts, and understanding must be focused upon Him.

The Gospel of Mark adds that our love for God is with all of our strength. For the Christian, our strength is from Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit and we must yield to the Holy Spirit giving Him complete reign and control of our lives. But there is another aspect of loving God with all of our strength, our love is an action. We must demonstrate our love for God by being a doer of His Word and not simply a hearer (Jam. 1:23-25), we must make every effort to supplement our faith with the fruits of a believer (2 Pet. 1:5-8), we must put on the whole armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-18), we must set our minds on things that are above (Col. 3:2), a living faith moves us to care for others (Jam. 2:14-17), we must be holy in all of our conduct (1 Pet. 1:15) and we must go into all the world to make disciples out deep love for our Savior and lost souls (Matt. 28:18-20).

We understand that for the unbelieving world they can not fully love God. Their nature and their will are enslaved to sin affecting their desires, motives, words, and deeds. However, for the Christian, we must be transformed, we love Him based on a biblical knowledge of God (1 Jn. 4:8), the miracle of salvation opened our eyes to see, birthing in us a desire to love and obey “because He first loved us” (1 Jn. 4:19) and demonstrated His love for us that “while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8). But does the modern church truly love the way we are commanded to love? Has the church grown in love over the centuries? If our love is but a dim flame flickering in the darkness it shines just enough to know our existence but not enough to guide the lost on the path of righteousness. If the church loves God why don’t we obey the commandment given by Jesus to love one another? He does not give us an option to love, and our love is not based on how we feel at the moment. Jesus commands us to love as He loves us and that is how the world will know we are His disciples by the way we love like Christ (John 13:34-35). Let us examine the state of love in the modern church, exposing the triumphs and failures and in the end let the church be revived by the Spirit of God committing our lives to complete love for our savior, Jesus Christ, and those around us.

[1] MacArthur, John. Matthew 1-7, Moody, 1985, p. 447.

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