Jesus gave us the greatest commandment(s) in all three of the synoptic gospels. It was important to Jesus so it should be substantial for us as well. He alone is worthy of all of our praises. We have to understand this concept that He alone is worthy. His worthiness means that we relinquish control, that we trust Him completely. The Bible tells us that God is jealous. We (the believer) know that God does not want anything to be before Him. Our lives must be clear of clutter. I am talking about the things that we accumulate while living our lives that has the tendency to take our eyes off Jesus.
He created us, and we are His. We as the Bible says, are the sheep of His pasture. We are to love Him. We can love because He first loved us. As a ministry team, we have decided to simplify our mission here at the Point. I want us to understand that our ministry is like a tripod. A tripod has three legs. Each of the legs is important because they each provide stability to the body. The first leg that I want to talk about this morning is the “Love God” leg.
We are to Love God. This power packed statement is what Jesus referred to as the greatest commandment. This statement alone requires our attention because Jesus said it is the greatest. Throughout the four Gospels, our Lord dealt with this; He encouraged us to love. In Matthew’s gospel, the religious elite (Sadducee’s and Pharisee’s) were on a rampage. This privileged group was looking for opportunities to deal with this Jesus character discreetly. He had upset the apple cart. The entire Holy City was in turmoil. Uncertainty had replaced the status quo. Something was going to take place; something had to, give.
The Religious Elite was not enjoying the large crowds that were regularly following this Nazarene. So they set about to find ways to do away with Jesus. They did not want to do it themselves; they wanted to find a way to make the problem go away so the normalcy would return as well as the life they were accustomed to living.
There was a huge problem though, Jesus’ popularity continued to grow. He astonished the crowds with signs and miracles and stories. The ego’s of the Sadducees and Pharisees could not handle all of this turbulence. They would try and corner Jesus by asking sensitive questions hoping to trip Him up and have Him arrested, jailed and killed. They wanted Him dead! His answers in Matthew 22 proved His authority and silenced this group that prided themselves on having all of the answers.
We can see and understand what was taking place in Matthew 22 when Jesus after He had silenced the Sadducees (Matthew 22:23-32) influence continued to increase. This event seemed to bolster our Lord’s popularity with the people because in verse 33 we read “When the multitudes heard this, they were astonished at His teaching.” You see, this very thing is what the Elite had worried about and why they wanted Him gone. These groups knew that if Jesus’ status kept growing in the community, their influence would continue to diminish.
So as the Sadducee’s exit stage left with their hats in hand and ego’s bruised, enter the Pharisees. They gather and a young lawyer, eager to make a name for himself. This counselor was an expert in Mosaic law, so he crafts a question hoping to trap our Lord. He asks “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?” Jesus, because He is God, saw through this feeble attempt at snaring Him. And answers the question with a profound statement that has been a comfort to seekers for years. He says “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.”
In Mark’s Gospel (Mark 12:28-34), we can see that Jesus’ answer must have struck a chord with this young lawyer. He echoes our Lord’s answer and makes a comparison between loving God and giving an offering. Jesus understood his comparison and told him “you are not far from the kingdom of God.”
Does our Lord’s answer to the Pharisee’s strike a chord with you? I want you to notice that Jesus did not respond to the lawyer with any of the ten commandments from the Mosaic law. He gives two new and fresh commandments right here in the middle of the new testament. Not only are they new, but they are also the greatest of commandments. We are going to concentrate on the first one this morning.
Jesus says we are to Love God. This kind of love is agape love; this is the highest form of love. We are to love him with all of our heart. Loving God with all of our heart means our innermost being. The heart was considered the center of all spiritual and physical life. So loving God with all of our heart means that we make Him the true object of our affection, it means that He is everything. Our heart is a pump that carries life-giving blood to the vital areas of our body. If we love God with all of our heart, it means that he means more to us than life itself. Loving Him with all of your heart means that you have chosen to follow Him. It implies that you have acknowledged Him and made Him Boss. Understanding this passage is important for the believer. As a follower of Christ, your life has a purpose; you are different. It means that you love Him more than anything else!
We are to love God with all of our soul. This word soul that Jesus is talking about is our breath of life. Our soul is the vital force that drives us; the soul is the seat of our feelings, our desires, our affections. The soul that Jesus is talking about lives on after the physical body is no longer operating. Physical death does not dissolve the soul. So we are to Love God with all of our heart and all of our soul.
We also are to love Jesus with all of our minds. The mind is the faculty of understanding. It is the center of our intellect. We use our minds to reason and think. To love God with our mind means that we make Him the center of our thought. God is to be foremost in the spirit of the believer; we are always to be thinking about Him. God is to be our top priority. I have learned over the years that when I make God top priority in my life, all other relationships seem to work. My full attention should be on God. When our focus is on God, communication with Him is easier. God wants us clean and close.
We are (as Jesus says) to “…Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with your mind.” Jesus said, “This is the great and foremost commandment.” This sentence alone should cause us to stop and ponder. If this is the greatest, we need to give it credence; we have to accept it is gospel truth! This statement should change us by causing us to totally and completely love God.
Why can we not seem to achieve this? We appear to chase these elusive dreams that keep us from realizing perfect peace. I am learning; perfect peace comes from following Him. It sometimes means laying down the stuff that takes our focus off of Him. I wonder why it is so easy to throw in the towel and succumb to the flesh. Connecting with God routinely brings us closer. God wants us close; He wants us clean and close to Him.
To love God requires change. The Bible teaches, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away, and look, new things have come.” The new things that Paul is talking about are symbolizing change. There has to be a change in the person’s life. If you only change a little, your flesh will win out every time. God has to be the top priority, so you have to move Him to the top of your agenda. He has to be your agenda.
Loving God means that your want to’s change. Your desire easily and gladly takes the back seat to what He wants from and for you. Everyone that I have ever met that got just a little Jesus seems to struggle at letting go of the things of the flesh. So many believers struggle, they try and keep one foot in the word and one foot in the world. This practice is a recipe for disaster. He is either Lord of all! Or He is not Lord at all.
So, how can we as the body of Christ (the Church) love God with all our heart, our minds, and soul? It can start today! I love you, each of you and I also realize that there are many types of people in different stages of life here this morning. To love God means more than life itself. A call to repentance is the way to make God the top priority in your life. Repentance is a deep self-reflection, it is identifying things in your life that are not right. It is asking the God of the universe to forgive you of these wrongs. It is a searching of the heart and making changes that put God in His rightful place. Repentance requires a high and holy view of God.
The action of repenting means sincere regret or remorse. I believe that each person who turns to God in genuine repentance and faith will be saved from sin and self and or forgiven. Change takes place when we turn from sin and self and trust our Savior, Jesus. Repentance means we relinquish the pride that keeps us from getting right with God and just get right. It means that we no longer care about what people may think of us, it means that we lay our burdens down before the Lord and not pick them back up.
If we want true freedom in Christ, we have to let go of our past. We have to trust Him for our future. We have to let our personal opinions about the things of the world replaced with what He wants and expects of us. We are to love God!
We are to give thanks with a grateful heart. Our heart can truly be thankful when we remove self from the equation. For us to be successful as a church, we have to humble ourselves and make it about Him. Some may have a hard time with this preaching, and I am ok with this. Because what I am preaching is the solid biblical truth. So I am calling on you this morning, to repent! Let’s make June the 4th the day that we put Jesus in His rightful place in our church and lives.
I love you all!