Love The Lord Your God
Love the Lord Your God
This study is for those of us who find ourselves from time to time going through the grind of life here, happy with our lives in some ways, but also tired and worn by the constant trials around us, constantly being challenged, and constantly being brought to the base of seemingly insurmountable mountains.
The message here is not just for those of us who are constantly faced with the temptation to give up, it is for those of us who have gained a sense of satisfaction from our sacrifices and successes and are tempted to think of ourselves as successful Christians shown by our level of commitment and obedience.
This Message is about Loving God.
The text is found in Mark 12:28-34:
“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?” 29Jesus answered, “The foremost is, ‘HEAR, O ISRAEL! THE LORD OUR GOD IS ONE LORD; 30AND 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.” 32The scribe said to Him, “Right, Teacher; You have truly stated that HE IS ONE, AND THERE IS NO ONE ELSE BESIDES HIM; 33AND 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.” 34When 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.”
We see in the context here that Jesus is in Jerusalem. His enemies who are actively trying to catch him in something they would consider blasphemous, or illegal so that they could arrest him constantly surround him. A scribe asks a question about the most important commandment. This scribe liked Jesus’ response to the questions the Pharisees asked to trap Jesus. Jesus answers here with wisdom and simplicity, incorporating Deuteronomy into His answer.
Jesus summarizes the theology and law of Israel, and afterward, no one dared ask him any more questions. They realized that his answers were helping him and hurting their cause to arrest him.
What it Means to Love the Lord Your God
Don Williams sums this up beautifully: “Jesus doesn’t evade this man’s question. He answers with authority: “The most important one is…” There is no waffling, no small print. Here is the heart of the matter. Here is the commandment upon which all the law turns. Grasp this and you grasp all of it. Jesus is the truth, and he tells the truth. (John 14:6) Unlike many modern theologians, we will always get a straight answer from him when our relationship with God is at stake. And as Jesus answers, he goes directly to Deuteronomy 6:4-5, “Hear O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.” This is Israel’s basic faith, repeated in the synagogue liturgy. In it, God’s people are addressed. They are to hear and receive this word – “The Lord,” Yahweh, “our God,” is one. Against all the idols and gods of this world, he stands alone. He is the King of the universe. He is also “our” God, the unique, personal God of Israel.
So Israel must respond – she is to love her God. Notice that this is not simply a call to believe. It is a call to devotion, surrender, affection, and worship. If this is the true God, he deserves all we are and have. So the text continues that his people are to love him with everything: “all” your heart, soul, and strength. The “all” eliminates the other competitors for our love. There is to be nothing in our hearts for worship apart from him. In the Ten Commandments, we are ordered to have no other gods before God. If he is our only God, then all of the other commandments will be gladly followed. But if we have divided hearts and worship something or someone else, then all the rest of the law will be troublesome. We will try to weasel out. Remember, in the words of Tom Wright, “You become like what you worship.”
Jesus calls his followers to love the Lord your God in the same way, with no competitors, being all in.
I want to define here what it means to “Love the Lord Your God” and show how it relates to spiritual maturity. Spiritual maturity is not defined by Biblical knowledge or functioning in the most powerful of spiritual gifts, for we know that carnal people can possess both! Spiritual maturity is defined, even directly linked, by our Love for God.
Love the Lord Your God Means Growing in Obedience
Jesus said if you love me, you will obey my commands. (John 14:23) This is by far the most popular definition of what it means to love God. Many leaders are in ministry because of a sense of obedience to the great commission and the call of God! It is true that our obedience is the primary way that we demonstrate our love for God. But it doesn’t end there. Many teachings and religious structures end here and define love for God in terms of obedience only. Unhealthy and cultish leaders use this to misguide devotion to what they want their subjects to do. This is where it can get blurry because we can think we are obeying God and not actually love him. We must distinguish between putting into practice Biblical principles and following the leading of the Holy Spirit, not just relate what church and church culture expect of us to what it means to obey God. The motive for that kind of obedience is to fit in. Obey from the motive of loving the Lord your God.
I used to obey my teachers at school, until about the sixth grade, but I didn’t love them. The only teacher I loved was Ms. Lynn, my first-grade teacher. But that was more of an “in love” thing.
As a Ph.D., (A pizza hut driver) I obeyed my boss, but I didn’t love her, I loathed her, but did not love her. Just joking, I loathed it when she made me stay to close the restaurant late at night.
To love the Lord your God finds one of its most important expressions in obedience, but it is not the only expression. I think the kind of love Jesus was talking about here was more than that. It had to do with worship, affections, emotions, and attitude as well!
When your love for God is only demonstrated in strict terms of obedience it will leave you in a legalistic state far from the relationship God intends you to be in! Unless you are superhuman you can’t obey God every time all the time. If you think you do, just ask your spouse if that is true. The spiritually mature will be in an ever-increasing pattern of obeying God, but it is not because they are satisfied and impressed with their own level of commitment, it is because of what God has done in them through his great and marvelous love! The more we love Jesus the more obeying him through putting into practice what He taught becomes a joyous way of life.
The flip side of not obeying Jesus at all probably proves you don’t love the Lord your God.
Love the Lord Your God by Putting on the Mind of Christ.
When Jesus said here to love the Lord your God with all your mind, I believe this was his meaning. That our minds should be consumed with God has so many implications. First, it means not having a worldly attitude.
To be consumed with his word means to consume our minds with his thoughts. We love the things God loves and we hate the behaviors (not the people) that God hates. It is sharing the affections of God. God loves people. Jesus told us here to love our neighbors as ourselves.
Our love for God finds expression in our love for people.
If we don’t have a love for people, we probably don’t have a love for God.
The NT takes this further than just meaning love for fellow Israelites and establishes this love to be for everyone around us. Even our enemies. Jesus expressed this through the parable of the Good Samaritan.
Love for those in the body of Christ is also a natural proof of love for God. Paul expresses this through his temple analogy. We cannot forget this. The temple is both our individual body (1 Corinthians 6:19) and the corporate body of Christ (1 Cor 3:16); we cannot have one without the other in the Kingdom.
Let me give another word of caution here. Because Jesus summarized the greatest commandments as loving the one and only true God and loving those he made in his image, we cannot reduce the Gospel to love for people only. This is a humanistic and liberal tendency. The temptation here is to focus so much on loving other humans and meeting their physical needs that loving God gets put on the back burner. A theology of love has developed that has reduced the message of Jesus to simply love. This theology is rampant in China as well and the thought goes like this:
Salvation comes through love, and if you love others you are saved, those who gave their lives to liberate this country, acted in love and therefore are saved. You can see how dangerous this kind of thinking can get. This liberal theology tells those that don’t believe in Jesus that they are saved. It is unbiblical.
The truth of the matter is that Jesus died for us when we were still sinners. We can love God because Jesus made a way through the cross and resurrection. If all we need to do is love others then Jesus didn’t need to die. We’d need to love everybody and love perfectly for that to work. I’m sure that we can’t and haven’t loved everybody. All I need to do is remind you (and myself) that I don’t love anybody when I’m driving.
There are some who claim to love God but obviously did not love people. This was one of the Pharisees’ biggest flaws. We love God, and as we put on his mindset and love the things he loves, we put ourselves in a position to love people in an increasing fashion.
Love the Lord Your God: a passion for God.
When Jesus said to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength he brings every part of the human being into the context. When he says heart and soul, he is bringing it into the emotional realm as well.
“Heart” in Greek means the seat of desires, feelings, affections, passions, and impulses. The Hebrew from the verse Jesus quotes In Deuteronomy 6:5 carries the same meaning.
To love the lord with all your soul literally means to love the Lord with all your affections. The Hebrew carries the meaning of appetite and desire.
In some Christian traditions, this aspect has been completely denied. As a matter of fact, it is wrong to express emotion in these traditions. There has even been a bad word that has come out of it. Emotionalism. This thinking reduces our love for God to simply the realm of the mind. A rational love only. Some traditions put feelings and the word of God as mutual enemies.
Some see those who are passionate as immature Christians going through a phase. When we love God and get a revelation of His love we worship. This is what C.S. Lewis called an “appetite for God.” Is hungering and thirsting for God only defined in terms of objectivity and rationalism? Does the whole being of the person who hungers and thirsts for God not include the emotional realm?
In the NT when the presence of the Kingdom of God was manifest it was normally accompanied by reactions of awe, wonder, amazement, and joy. Luke particularly emphasizes how the breakthrough of the Kingdom impacted one’s emotions.
In Luke 5:18-26 a paralytic is healed. The conclusion to this Kingdom Event found in Luke 5:25,26 was, “Immediately he stood up in front of them, took what he had been lying on and went home praising God. Everyone was amazed and gave praise to God. They were filled with awe and said, ‘We have seen remarkable things today.’”
Acts 3:1-11 is the story of the lame beggar at the Gate Beautiful. The conclusion to this story has the lame man that was healed “walking, and jumping, and praising God.”
This miracle affected those who saw the lame man rejoicing on his feet, and they were filled with wonder and amazement, and they were astonished, and they came running to Solomon’s Colonnade. Sounds like the whole event was emotional.
I don’t understand how we can read about passionate lovers of God like David and Paul, and not desire to be passionate in our love for God. How can we leave that kind of passion in the Bible and not experience it ourselves? How are we to not experience the same feelings? I don’t want a Christian life without passion.
Passion moves the mind and will to act.
A passionate love for God will move you to conquer all kinds of sins in your life. It will move you to do great things for God.
I understand that feelings and emotions are not to be trusted. They must be weighed against the Word of God and proper discernment processes. But I believe they can be redeemed. If those emotions, affections, and feelings are expressed in love for God then they are redeemed, and useful in relating personally with God.
In other words, it is not good for our negative emotions to control us, but it is good for our positive emotions toward God to be cultivated and spur us on for good and for deeper passion for God.
Proverbs 16:32 “He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, He that rules his spirit, better than he who takes a city.”
In the Kingdom, we can get deliverance from our negative emotions, and we can cultivate proper emotions towards God.
Therefore, the Psalmist says to the Lord… “Search me and know my ways and see if there be any wicked way in me?”
Consider the emotions of desiring God’s presence found in the 42nd Psalm.
“As the deer pants for streams of water,
so my soul pants for you, my God.
2 My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
When can I go and meet with God?
3 My tears have been my food
day and night,
while people say to me all day long,
“Where is your God?”
4 These things I remember
as I pour out my soul:
how I used to go to the house of God
under the protection of the Mighty One[d]
with shouts of joy and praise
among the festive throng.”
Those who have been saved, delivered, and filled with the Holy Spirit cannot look at these life-changing experiences without feeling. Being whole emotionally means having no emotions. It means that the core of your being is consumed with Love for God that expresses itself passionately in worship and how you relate to God.
We need a passionate love for God; anything else is just passive love. Passive love will pass.
Jonathan Edwards saw this tendency to eliminate feelings and emotions as a work of the Devil. In his work “The Religious Affections” He says, “True religion must consist very much in the affections.” Edwards also says concerning this as a work of Satan, “This he knows is the way to bring all religion to a mere lifeless formality, and effectually shut out the power of godliness, and everything which is spiritual and to have all true Christianity turned out of doors.”
I believe that a passion for God is the only way we will survive in ministry.
I believe that a passion for God is the only way we will survive in times of failure and uncertainty in life. A passion for God should keep us grounded during times of success.
How do we develop a passion for God?
1. We recognize that Love for God is the key to unlocking the rule and reign of God in our lives. Jesus told this teacher of the Law, “You are not far from the Kingdom of God.”
2. Recognize that sometimes we are more impressed with ourselves in this journey than we are with the author and perfector of our faith. Stay impressed with Jesus.
3. Recognize our religious tendencies to formalize our Christian life and walk with God. Religiously going through life, doesn’t mean it is passionate.
4. Recognize Satan’s attempts to steal joy and passion.
5. Pray, Pray, Pray, Pray, Pray. Make time to pray, go away to pray, and don’t just pray for needs and for ministry, pray for God to touch you.
6. Be filled with the Holy Spirit.
A Prayer for More Passionate Love for God and People
Pray to love God with all your heart. Ask him to break open your emotions and liberate you to love him fervently and completely. Pray to love God with all your soul. Ask him to fill your brain and body with his love and help you to give this love back to him in real, concrete, and tangible ways. Pray to love God with all your mind. Repent of attitudes that deny his love for you and your love for him. Commit your intellectual life to him. Resolve to confess Jesus as Lord of your mind. Pray to love God with all your strength. Ask that every physical activity may be an expression of your love for him. Pray to love yourself and to receive his love for you and hear his words of love for you. Pray to love your neighbor. Think of the people who are hard to love and ask the Lord to pour his love for them into your heart.
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