Do we love God? (The Greatest Commandment)

Preface:I am by no means a devout follower of all the things I know I should be. I wrote this as a means to convict myself. In doing so I hope you are able to take something out of it. It doesn’t matter what my opinion of love is. God said how to love him. He actually laid it all out. This is meant to pierce the heart. The one thing God desires most.

Matthew 22:36-40

36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

 37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

Christians have a habit of knowing the right things to say. We pride over having the answers to questions. There is a reason one of the first responses people give, without even a seconds thought, when asked what they think about Christians is the word “hypocrites.” That is our label to outsiders. Or judgmental. Constantly out pointing fingers while we go and do the same things. We have all this talk but not much action. And we all know it. It’s not some new problem. Yet we brush it off like it’s not worth really investing in the self discipline it would take to control it. We know the right answer we just don’t act on it.

What good is answering “C” on a test when you know the answer to the question is “A”.

We tend to make Christianity sound much easier by saying well all you have to do is Love God and love others. But the honesty is there is often not much thought put into how to do that.

I was in a conversation once where I was trying to uphold Christian morals and the response I was given was “The only thing that matters is to love God and love our neighbors.” To which everyone said YEAH! The response was a way to divert from the teachings that Jesus gave to say, well as long as we love God and love others we are doing okay. “Christianity is not about rules.”

So the question that few people bother to ask.

How do you love God?

There needs to be a distinction set between believing in God and actually loving him. Just as there is a distinction between believing in Christ and following Christ.

So before getting into this, Do you love God?

Part One: The First and Greatest Commandment.

The following passage was one of the most convicting things I have ever read in the Bible. I really challenge you to analyze the statement after reading it and really search for where your heart is if you claim to be a Christian.

John 14:15 “If you love me, keep my commands. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever— 17 the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. 18 I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. 19 Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. 20 On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. 21 Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them.”
22 Then Judas (not Judas Iscariot) said, “But, Lord, why do you intend to show yourself to us and not to the world?”
23 Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. 24 Anyone who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me.”

And this next verse is the one that knocked the wind out of me. Be prepared for conviction.

“Whoever says, “I know him,” but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in that person. 5 But if anyone obeys his word, love for God is truly made complete in them. This is how we know we are in him: 6 Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did.”-1 John 2:4-6

Now I want to pause you right here. Because a question of your salvation may be on your mind. As it was on mine.

Things to remember: Salvation is based on grace through faith-not by works (Ephesians 2:8) Salvation is “not about rules.” This is not you need to do this to be saved. This is because of what Christ has done for you, respond to it. If you love him, act on it.

Remember: “This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” 1 John 4:10

Or to summarize:

“We love because he first loved us.” 1 John 4:19

The man gave his life for you. I’d say that deserves everything you’ve got.

I’ve used this before but it is an appropriate analogy for this.

I want you to think of your best friend.

Someone who is always there for you. Someone you have been through a lot with.

Now I want you to imagine them taking a bullet for you. They gave up their life so that you could live.

Not ONE DAY of your life would go by where you didn’t remember that. You would spend EVERY DAY of your life making the most of it. Because you wouldn’t dare waste the sacrifice that your friend made for you.

He died so that you wouldn’t have to.

He gave you life.

You know you would live that to the fullest of your capability.

We love him because he first loved us.

“If you love me you will keep my commands.”

It says when you love God and keep his commands he will send his Spirit as and advocate to help you. The Spirit will help guide you and protect you through your temptations.

1 Corinthians 10:13 “And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will provide a way out so that you can endure it.”

“The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. 11 For who knows a person’s thoughts except their own spirit within them? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. 12 What we have received is not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may understand what God has freely given us. 13 This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words. 14 The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit. 15 The person with the Spirit makes judgments about all things, but such a person is not subject to merely human judgments, 16 for,

“Who has known the mind of the Lord
so as to instruct him?”

But we have the mind of Christ.”-1 Corinthians 2:11-16

God sends us his mind. And if you are anything like me, that mind was just blown. The Spirit will guide you through the commandments, through the word, and will help you make sense of them. In a way this says that without the Spirit you can’t make sense of it. Which explains outsiders in an interesting way.

Romans 12:2 puts even more light on this topic by commanding “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

The Spirit will not only guide you to truth, but it will help you keep Christ’s commandments. Why on earth would you fight something like that by conforming to the world.

Paul gives some very shattering words in Romans 8 on what it means to not have this Spirit. It’s a long passage but you will benefit greatly from reading it. Paul is discussing whether gentiles need to live according to the Jewish law and discusses that Christians have died to the law and now live according to the Spirit of Christ.

1 Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, 2 because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.( Jewish law) 3 For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh (the word flesh refers to our sinful ways) God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in the flesh, 4 in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

5 Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. 6 The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. 7 The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. 8 Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God. (Ghandi?)

9 You, however, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ10 But if Christ is in you, then even though your body is subject to death because of sin, the Spirit gives life because of righteousness. 11 And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you.

12 Therefore, brothers and sisters, we have an obligation—but it is not to the flesh, to live according to it. 13 For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live.

14 For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. (read John 1:1-13) 15 The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” 16 The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. 17 Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.

18 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. 19For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. 20 For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.

22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.23 Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? 25 But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.

26 In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. 27 And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.”

Maybe a thought to take out of this, you need God to help you love God more. A prayer I often pray is for God to help me love him more. Because oddly enough I need his help. Weird isn’t it.

Now don’t just go out there doing all the “right things” without love for God and others. It’s not about doing the right things but having the right heart to do the right things. You need God’s help in this. Only God can help you with it. (Hopefully this hasn’t been annoyingly confusing.)

Paul says in 1 Corinthians 13 (often referred to as the love chapter) ” 1 If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.”

“Good deeds” without love mean nothing. Constantly check your heart and pray for God’s renewing of your heart. The heart is a weak and easily persuaded thing. The Spirit will help.

Paul makes another point in 2 Corinthians that I will use to wrap up this first part.

“Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you—unless, of course, you fail the test?”-2 Corinthians 13:5

If you have the Spirit you will have good deeds. Faith and deeds work together. Faith without deed is dead. Deeds without love mean nothing.

“God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus.”-1 John 4:16-17

Part Two: And The Second is Like It.

7 Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.

-1 John 4:7-12

By loving others his love is made complete in us. I often think what it would be like to literally love my neighbor as myself.

Like what if I went to Walmart and instead of buying me a movie. I bought my neighbor who I have maybe waved to once some movies and snacks. I love myself a ton. I reward myself often with books and DVD’s and Taco Bell and what not, and I have maybe waved at my neighbor once. Good going Devon. It’s easy to love only our friends. I do plenty for the people I love. I offer my time and on occasion advice and gifts.

“If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that? Even corrupt tax collectors do that much. If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else? Even pagans do that.” -Matthew 5:47-48

Even the pagans do that….

Jesus is looking me right in the face and saying “Dude, step it up.”

When Jesus was asked “Well who is my neighbor?” he gives the famous story of The Good Samaratin (Luke 11:29-37). Jesus says in a radical way you must love your enemy.

Now not too many people come to mind as my enemies. There are the people that I more often than not butt heads with. And there are a few people I can think of that I haven’t talked to in some time due to rocky pasts. And those are the people I am called to love. They also happen to be the people I feel most compelled to love. Funny. They also of course are the hardest people to love. The sheer awkwardness of that is something that always keeps you from actually doing this one. I want to talk to you, but I haven’t in a year so how does one break this very solid ice? Excuses are easy to find and excuses mean “I’m going to avoid this one.”

Some of us may have absolutely no desire to talk to the person who has wronged us. Or the person that we struggle with. We may have even built up hatred for that person.

“Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.” -1 John 4:20-21

We must love our enemies. Or we are liars.

Hows that for easy? You do not love God if you hate your enemies. That is brutal.

I’ll write it again. You do not love God if you hate your enemies. Not my words. His words.

This is one of those “BUT WHY!?” verses. One of the clean the dishes type of commands where we fight it cause we just really don’t want to do it. But it has to be done.

By hating your brother or sister…you are hating God.

Because God. LIVES. IN. THEM.

That is the fact that we forget.

At one of my favorite pastors last sermons at his church that he was the lead pastor for for over ten years he made a comment. The church reaches about 10,000 people every week. His church received a lot of heat due to a book that he wrote on theology. These people said many hateful things against the congregation and he made a point that really has stuck with me and I have had to apply it when getting upset with other pastors that I tend to often disagree with.

He asked his church if they would agree that the Holy Spirit was at work in their church. They didn’t just say “yeah” they cheered immediately with a triumphant “YES!” And I would vouch for that “YES!” So many people have been introduced to Christ and encouraged to live a life of love by way of this church. Healing and miracles are accounted for at this church. It’s incredible.

He kept going: “When people say hateful things against the Holy Spirit you know what that’s called? It’s called blasphemy.”

That has really stuck with me when I say mean things about people or pastors or churches that I just don’t agree with. By hating your brother you are hating God because God is IN THEM.

“There is one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all.“-Ephesians 4:6

Which is why the passage about the least of these makes so much sense in Matthew 25.

“For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’

44 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’

These people are confused because they have never seen Jesus in any of these situations. They don’t understand what he is talking about. When did we see you hungry or thirsty? We’ve been following you and haven’t seen you in these situations?

45 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’

Verse 40 “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”

Loving God is DIFFICULT. Being a Christian is hard. It means surrendering. And these are the things that I am still convicted by. The Homeless man on the side of the road with the “God Bless” sign has Christ living in him. If you do not help him. You do not help Christ. Maybe you think I’m being to extreme about that. THOSE ARE CHRIST’S OWN WORDS. “What you do for them you have done for me.” Because GOD IS THERE. Just as he lives in us he lives in them.

“Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” -Galatians 6:2

That means that their problems are your problems.

This is the only Religion that Jesus ever claimed to approve of:

“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”-James 1:27

There is so much emphasis on helping others. The least of these. And most Christians write that off by handing over their leftovers. Their pocket change. I am beyond guilty of it. But worse:

I am guilty of giving Christ my leftovers. My pocket change. I could be hanging out with Christ.

We often run to the thought that why should I give them what I have worked for? They don’t deserve it. They are just going to spend it on drugs or booze.

The last time I thought this I had this thought burn over me in a very “HOW DARE YOU.” sort of way.

God suffered and died for you. You didn’t deserve it. He gave you grace. You didn’t deserve it. And how do you spend God’s grace?

You spend it by hating others. By lusting. By cursing. By getting wasted. By judging.

You waste it.

If he could do it so can we.

“Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it.”-Hebrews 13:2

Give them your time. Ask for their name. Give them your prayers. Ask them their needs. And thank them for giving you an opportunity to serve them. Thank them for blessing you.

“Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to act.”-Proverbs 3:27

“Do not say to your neighbor, “Come back tomorrow and I’ll give it to you”-when you already have it with you.”- Proverbs 3:38

“One person gives freely, yet gains even more; another withholds unduly, but comes to poverty.”-Proverbs 11:24

“A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed.”-Proverbs 11:25

“The generous will themselves be blessed, for they share their food with the poor.”-Proverbs 22:9

“All day they crave for more, but the righteous give without sparing.”- Proverbs 21:26

Are you willing to give without sparing?

If I was being honest I’d say I’m not sure that I am comfortable with that.

How selfish of a person I am. I’m in need more than they are.

I need to carry my just terrible burdens while you sleep on the street and starve.

What you have done for THEM you have done for HIM.

For God so loved the world that he gave….

God gives.

And one of the ways God gives is by forgiving. Grace.

If your sins have been forgiven, should you not forgive those who have sinned against you.

We are called to love as Jesus loved.

“For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” Matthew 6:14-15

There is something at stake there. Are you willing to humble yourself?

“Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it.” Mark 8:34-35

Love is a verb.

God wants your heart. The rest will come. Store up your treasure in heaven. That matters. Love means giving up control. Lose yourself.

“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

Matthew 22:36-40

Do you love God?

“No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful! Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.”- Hebrews 12:11

Are you open to it?

To sidetrack before we wrap this up:

I cannot change you. A pastor cannot change you. A church cannot change you. It is not our job to change anyone and more Christians need this thought to sink in. God changes you. It is mine and the church’s job to love and accept as our reflection of Christ and to point others to him.

I do warn however the common misconception of loving others is that it means I have to approve of everything you do. We know that isn’t true yet when we argue over what is and isn’t “judgement” it usually is traced to “well you just don’t approve of what I’m doing.”

Remember that:
“Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.” 1 Corinthians 13:6

Love rejoices with truth. These truths. We must hold to that. It is not our job to go around and condemn people for their sins. As God says “It is mine to avenge, I will repay.” Do not judge others. But DO rejoice in truth. Love without honesty is not love. If I care about you, I will be honest. Do not delight in evil. Approval is not always the loving thing to do. Love will win. Jesus seemed harsh at times but it was because he cared about your life. He had a deep desire for you to tap into the truth. He is the truth. He is the life.

God’s love is not exclusive it is inclusive. That means you. There was a cross and your sins were on it.

Sin will never be okay. I used this verse earlier but I believe the most relevant command for our time is clearly “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

In Acts Peter and the apostles put it very clearly, We must obey God not man.

That’s a seed that we really need to let grow.

Truth wins. Love wins.

God wins.

We love because he first loved us.

God gave his life. Can you give him yours?

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2 thoughts on “Do we love God? (The Greatest Commandment)

  1. I love how you say that Truth wins. Love wins. God wins. Then we all win! We we really see what God’s heart in the matter is, and how loving Him is doing His word, it takes so much of the confusion out!! Thanks so much!

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