- Sermon Notes
Living the Greatest Commandments
August 13-14, 2022
Love. It is such a universal word that everyone uses. It is the theme of millions of songs, thousands of books, and podcasts and movies. Still, to define love seems very difficult. What does it look like? What is real love? Popular culture focuses on love as a feeling. People fall in and out of love, start loving each other and then just as quickly stop loving each other.
In Matthew 22, we see that the Pharisees asked Jesus which is the greatest command in the law. From our perspective that may not seem like such a difficult question, but there was a raging debate in that day that caused great division. So, if Jesus chose one side or the other, at least He would lose half the crowd and then He would be surrounded by those who wished to debate with Him.
Here was the argument; the Ten Commandments contained 613 Hebrew letters. By using each of the 613 letters they organized the commands of the Law. They were then categorized by 365 prohibitive laws, things that they should not do and 248 positive laws, things they were to do. These were then further organized by giving them relative weight.
In other words, some laws were weightier than others. The point was that if it became impossible to keep two laws at the same time, then they could break a lighter commandment in order to keep a heavier commandment. So, the raging debate had to do with which of the commandments was the greater such that any of the other laws could be broken in order to keep that greatest or heaviest of all laws.
Jesus amazed and confounded them with His answer. Once again, He answered the question so that we might consider our relationship to God. Jesus would bring them back to the heart of God.
Today, as Christians and followers of Jesus, we can also be caught up in the complexities of Christianity. There are so many different commentaries and opinions on every subject that polarizes people. What is sin, and what is not? Where is the line? What is the basis we hold on to? How do we stay the course? What is the most important command and how do we live it out daily?
Jesus brings us back to the foundation of love. Love is every person on earth’s deepest need. It drives most of our decisions and actions. Deep down everyone wants to be loved and accepted.
God wants us to live a life grounded in love, understanding, experiencing, and trusting in His love. From this, we can live a life loving people as it flows from what God has done for us. We will see that if we live out of love, we are able to live a life that even surpasses the law as it flows from the heart.
I. Love the Lord Your God
As Christians it is important for us to have a biblical view and understanding of love. Many times, the world miss the mark with their definition of what love is. It becomes crooked and perverse. To understand love, one has to find the source of love and let the source of love define it.
We know that the Bible says that God is love. So, if we want to know what love is, we need to look at who God is, how He showed love, and what He says about love. His love becomes the measure we measure love against.
A. We love because He first loved us
- This is the foundational truth of our faith.
- First of all, some people are bothered because loving God is given as a commandment. How can you command love?
Illus. Imagine a man loving a woman with all his heart and asking her to love him back. She says no. He is relentless, doing everything in his power to show her that he loves her, but still, she says no. Everything is fine up to this point. But imagine him going to her and telling her that he is going to force her to love him and take her to marry him against her will. Everyone will agree that this is very wrong.
- This is not the heart of our God, and we know that because he has given man free will. We have a choice if we want to follow God and love God.
Let’s use the same analogy from a different perspective. The man can say that he loves this woman dearly and with all his heart, but for her to marry him the condition would be that she felt the same. He would not force her into a relationship with him but would love to be in a relationship with her. So, he wins her heart by showing his immeasurable love, which captures her heart, and she then loves Him in return.
- I believe that this command from God speaks of relationship. God is looking for those who will love Him with all their heart soul and mind. So, in other words, God is telling us that if I am going to be your God, I want you to love me with all your heart, soul, and mind.
- It speaks of relationship. God is not looking for servants and robots, he is looking for loving relationships.
- But there are several things for us to understand. God is not asking us for a love that He is not worthy of.
- We love God because He first loved us. In other words, we are responding to His love.
1 John 4:19, We love, because He first loved us…
John 3:16, For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have everlasting life.
- When we feel worthless, He sees worth in us and call us His children.
1 John 3:1, See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God; and such we are.
- He bestows unfathomable spiritual riches on us.
Ephesians 1:3, Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ,
- He loved us and died for us even when we didn’t deserve it.
Romans 5:6-8,10, For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will hardly die for a righteous man, though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.
- The whole Bible is a love letter from God, showing His compassion and care for us. The more we see everything that God has done for us out of His love for us, even though we didn’t deserve any of it, the more we respond to His love.
- By the way, we should always read the Bible with the mindset that God loves us. If we have the wrong perspective, God, it will distort what we are reading
Illus. It can be compared to receiving a text message from someone asking, “Are you almost here?…”
B. Love with your heart, soul, mind…and strength
- God loves us with every fiber of his being. Because of this He is asking us to do the same.
Illus. A common experience when you are young, is that sometimes you like another person, but their feeling towards you isn’t necessarily the same. The young man might be head over heels in love, can’t eat, can’t sleep, can’t focus on anything else. But then he hears the heart wrenching words. “Let’s just be friends.”
Now imagine this young man having a lot of money, and this girl reluctantly agrees to marry him, but not for the right reason. This is a tragedy. The young man will long for her to love him for who he is with her whole being.
- God is most worthy of our love. Not only because of what He has done for us, but He is the creator and our source of life.
- Yet, He doesn’t force us to love Him because, as we have said earlier, forced love is not real love.
- He does, however, show us the definition of the love He deserves and is looking for.
- Firstly, we should love God with all our hearts.
Proverbs 4: 23, watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the spring of life.
- Our physical heartbeat is a sign of life. If the heart stops beating, a person is declared dead. The heart pumps oxygen-rich life-giving blood through the body, sustaining life.
- So, if Jesus tells us to love the Lord your God with all your heart, it speaks of loving Him with your whole life. He’s calling us to love God with every heartbeat, that our whole lives will be focused on Him.
- Just as one can think of another person, but your heart isn’t necessarily with them, one can also be thinking of God, but your heart is not with Him.
- In other words, is He the essence of your life that you cannot and do not want to live without?
- He wants to be the foremost treasure in your life with no other treasure standing in the way.
Luke 12:34, For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
- All else will fade away, even every human relationship will eventually end when we die, but God will never fail or fade away.
- Secondly, we are to love God with our soul. The soul could be described as our will, thoughts, and emotions.
- Here it is important to understand that love is not a mystical airy-fairy emotion. Love is a verb. It is a doing-word. It is a choice of the will.
Romans 5:8, But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
- Love leads to action. Because Christ loved us, He went into action and died for us.
- Once I’ve given my heart to God and He is the first and foremost priority in my life, I also surrender my will, thoughts, and emotions to Him, and love Him with my will, thoughts, and emotions. This becomes a choice and flows into the actions I choose.
Illus. A mother doesn’t always feel like making dinner for the whole family, but because she loves them, she chooses to do it driven in by her love. Many times, the things parents do for their children isn’t because they feel like it, but because they sacrifice out of love.
- God chooses to be good to us because of His love, and we reciprocate this by choosing to love Him and let our actions show it.
- Jesus lay down His life for us, now He tells us that those who love Him would choose to do the same. He is not forcing us to do it.
- In other words, we don’t do works to impress God or be saved, but we do good works because of our love for Him, surrendering our will thoughts and emotions in love.
- Thirdly, we love him with all our mind. What you think is what you become. What you put into your mind is what will come out. What do we fill our minds with?
Ps 119:97, O how I love Your law! It is my meditation all the day.
- Meditating on the Scripture doesn’t mean we are just thinking on the Bible every second and every minute of every day. The mind is busy with working out problems, doing homework, tasks at work, listening to conversations, and endless other things.
- This has to do with what is the foundation of the mind. What is your meditation on? What defines your worldview and your paradigm through which you see and filter everything else?
- Everything in our mind should be filtered through our love for God. It should influence our reason for doing things, and what we allow into our minds.
- And then lastly, Mark adds ‘… With your strength’.
- this implies loving God with all your mental strength but also all your physical strength.
Romans 12:1, Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.
- The reason that we give our bodies as a living and holy sacrifice is not because we grudgingly have to, but because it is driven by our deep-seated love for God. He gave me this body and this body belongs to Him. He doesn’t take it back by force to use it but out of his love He asks me if I would surrender it so He could use it.
- Lastly, God, in His great love, knows the way in which we should live our lives and He directs our way.
John 14:15, “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.”
Illus. if I were to go away for a week and my son stays at home alone, I might give him some directions or commands concerning the house, for example don’t have a house party while I’m gone. Now he might not understand all the repercussions that might come from him having a house party, but I do.
- God is giving us commands because He wants to stifle our lives, but because He knows better and loves us. We are also called not to just live for ourselves, but for the One who died for us.
- This is a surrender of our will because of our love for Him. We believe and trust that Jesus knows better.
II. Love Your Neighbor as Yourself
- We see that these commandments are to protect us, but also to reflect the love and character of God to those around us.
- Seeing that love is a verb, it means that it will be seen. Our faith will be evident by our actions.
James 2:17, Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself.
- Works and how we treat others flow from our love.
A. Love others even as you care for yourself
- First, we should understand what Jesus is not saying. He is not suggesting as some do today that we need to spend more time loving ourselves. We see it in our culture where many live for numero uno. I am number one. The selfish life of ‘my will be done’.
- In fact, self-focus and me-first thinking only creates many troubles.
- No, Jesus said that we need to learn to deny ourselves…
Luke 9:23, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one will find it.”
- It is natural in any situation people are confronted with, to instinctively think how it would affect themselves first. We should, however, be mindful of considering others.
- Paul makes a similar point when it comes to husbands and wives which makes the principle evident.
Ephesians 5:28, So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself; for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church.
B. Love others because of God’s love in you
- One of our great problems in relationships is that we’re all imperfect, flawed people and we get locked into a very bad practice of responding in kind to each other’s failures.
- In other words, if someone is nice, then we’re nice, if someone is rude, then we respond with rudeness.
- This was part of the law. (Leviticus 24) An eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth, and so on.
- In the Old Testament, God was teaching them that their actions had repercussions. One cannot go around doing whatever you want because your actions would hurt people. God was trying to teach them compassion; to live un-selfishly.
- I Believe the heart of God behind it could be described as this. “Imagine how much it would hurt if you would knock someone’s tooth out. So don’t do it, if you do do it, the consequence will be that your tooth be knocked out so you can experience the hurt it brings and never do it again. So, My heart is that you won’t do it to anyone else. Do unto others as you would want done to yourself.”
- Unfortunately, Paul tells us that sin drew its power from the law. Where God initially gave the law so people would be able to see and discern compassion, the sinful nature used this to try and find loopholes while still being able to live self-centered and hurtful towards people.
- Sometimes, something is not illegal, but it is immoral.
- Therefore, the law cannot change people. Christ died so that He could bring new rebirth in us, writing the law on our hearts, and changing our nature.
- Jesus went on to show the heart behind the law.
Matthew 5:43-48 Even love those who don’t love you.
John 13:34-35, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”
- Having a revelation of the love of God changes us. We respond to His love with a deep-seated gratitude and love because of who He is and what He has done. He is the lifter of my head.
34 But when the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered themselves together. 35 One of them, [a]a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, 36 “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 [b]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.”