The Two Greatest Commandments

Young or old, we have all grown up with rules and commands. In society, we have speed limits, alcohol age requirements, curfew times, or the “don’t touch that, don’t go there,” from our caregivers. We’ve always been given commands. Now, while some may choose to not follow these, there are those who submit to the commands given by authority and they often find that obedience brings great reward. Although it may seem that disobedience provides short term fun, the return on the investment is rather negative.

In Matthew 22, Jesus gives His disciples the two greatest commandments that were for them in their day, and for us in our day. Taking it one step further than that, Jesus' command to love God, and love thy neighbor are commands that have no end, and bring much reward. Loving God and loving others is both radical, and eternal. But what does it mean to actually love God and love others?

Last month we discussed the calling, commission, and cost of being a disciple. Now, we’re going to talk about the “fuel that powers our motor” to walk in discipleship. I’m not talking about Sunoco Green E15 race fuel, but love. The fuel that drives our desire to be a disciple is a love for God and a love for others. See, loving God and loving others is not meant to be passive, or stagnant, but radical. “Radical” means extreme and fundamentally different. It means to be powerfully devoted, distinctly different, and is the opposite of being tolerant.  When Jesus called you to follow Him, He didn’t call you to simply attend services, or sing along to lyrics. He didn’t call you so you could call yourself a “Christian” or wear a cross necklace: He called you to a love that transcends typical affection. A sure sign of a “casual love” kind of heart is seeing God and people as a means to your own ends. You want people to listen to you, give you affirmation when you want it, stay out of your way when you don’t, etc. Other times, Jesus is seen as a get out of hell free card, a 30 day free trial, and if you aren’t satisfied, you can cancel your subscription. Sometimes, He’s a reason to get a girlfriend or spouse back, or a reason to try and be moral. This kind of heart is completely contrary to the heart Jesus speaks of in Luke 14. Essentially, He says, if you love anyone, even yourself, above Him you cannot be His disciple. Is that difficult? Yes, but is it worth it? Absolutely! In 1 Corinthians 8, the apostle Paul says, “If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know. But if anyone loves God, he is known by God.” Also, in 1 John 3:14,  “We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death.” Two promises are made here. First, as you love God, you will be totally known by God. This is the kind of knowing that is safe and secure: the kind you can be confident in and be empowered by! Second, if you love others, John says, this is a sign that you know that you have passed from death to life and you are alive in Christ!

Furthermore, Jesus’s call to make disciples includes teaching people, but ultimately, it’s all about being faithful to God’s call to love the people around you. It’s about loving those people enough to help them see their need to love and obey God. If Jesus really is the king of the universe who is beautiful, and holy, and separate from everything else, it is our job to love Him radically in order to lead others to do the same. So how do we grow in our love for Him and others?

First, think about some of the people you love most.  Is it a spouse? A child? A parent or grandparent? A sibling? You didn’t just magically love this person when you first met or the instant you were born. No, time and experience led to you loving these people. The same goes for loving Jesus. In order to love Him more and experience His love for you, you must have spent time and have experiences with Him! This is what it means to have a devotional life: Time spent alone, sitting at Jesus’ feet reading about Him, praying to Him, and worshiping Him. You loved someone by what they said, did, and showed you. The Bible says a lot about what Jesus has said, done, and continues to do for those who follow Him. Start in the Word of God. Pick a gospel: Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John. You can read it chronologically, a chapter a day, two chapters a day, or however you’d like. Do this and begin to see what Jesus actually has to say. Pray over the text. Write down the who, the what, the when, and the why. Be a Bible investigator! If necessary, use some resources to help you understand the context and the meaning, and ultimately ask the Holy Spirit to be your teacher!

Second, get connected in the church. It’s really easy to walk in a couple minutes before service, leave when it’s over, go eat lunch and not think about anyone or anything that happened Sunday morning. However, in order to grow in your love for people, you must be around them. You need to spend time with them, even serving them. As you get connected, you’ll start to hear their stories, meet their families, worship God with them, pray over them, and serve them in a multitude of ways.

Not only is this practical, but biblical. Hebrews 10 tells us that we are not to forsake assembling together, so that we may encourage one another. Some say, "I don't need to go to church to be a Christian”, or “It doesn’t say in the New Testament that I have to go to the building, aren’t I the church?” Sure. You don’t have to go to church to be a Christian. Likewise, you also don’t have to go home to be a spouse, parent, or child. However, if you stay away long enough, your relationships will be hindered. Moreover, if you love Jesus, you’ll love what He loves, and He loves His bride. You see, a soldier is strongest when connected to his unit. He’s not very strong fighting the enemy by himself. A quarterback needs his offensive line, and a Christian needs His brothers and sisters. Don’t just “go” to church, but get plugged in. Join a small group, go to the prayer meeting, go to the women's event, say yes to that invitation, join an outreach team! Get connected, and watch your love grow for your brothers and sisters.

Third, find an older man or woman who displays godly fruit and ask them to walk alongside you. I’ve found that there are Christians who, when their presence, make me want to be a better follower of Jesus. I’ve asked them to meet with me and help me grow. Often, it can be intimidating and even awkward to ask someone to meet with you, to pray with you, or to discuss spiritual matters with. But I have personally had a handful of individuals display a love to me like never before and ignite me to do the same for someone else.

These are just a few ways to help you, but ultimately, the most important step you can take is yielding to the Holy Spirit, asking Him to grow your heart, your mind, and your actions in loving Jesus.

Now, onto love being eternal. Have you wondered just how long eternity actually is? Me too. It’s a long time, like something we can’t even comprehend because we are finite people, but I want you to imagine eternity with me and see the significance that love plays in our discipleship journey. If you have a bible or a search engine, open to 1 Corinthians 13 and read the chapter. Now, this is often a passage quoted at weddings, but Paul never meant for this to be about that. In fact, it’s written in the context of spiritual gifts! The Corinthian church had all kinds of issues that needed to be addressed, and one of them was the use of spiritual gifts. Some people were prophesying incorrectly, others were speaking in tongues disorderly. Others still were abusing their level of faith, and Paul needed to remind them that if you speak in tongues but treat people like the devil, it’s useless. If you prophesy but don’t love your neighbor it’s meaningless. Paul even goes as far to say that one day, those gifts are going to cease, but what is going to last forever is love! We spend so much time focusing on the temporary that we miss the wonder of the eternal. That’s not always a bad thing, as spiritual gifts and other aspects of our faith are vitally important today. But all the spiritual gifts that we know today will be of no value when we are face to face with Jesus. However, what will always last forever is love for God and love for others! Think today about how you can better love Christ and love His people, because you’re going to need it, and need it for a long time!

Friend, if you are following Jesus with any other motivation other than loving Him, cherishing Him, and loving His bride, then your motives are wrong. Walking the Christian life is about taking up your cross for Christ and washing the feet of the people around you. It’s against our sinful nature at times to love what God loves and love those around us. We are selfish people, and it’s impossible to begin doing it by yourself or in your own strength. It is the Holy Spirit alone who empowers you to love. How? 1 John 4:19, “We love Him, because He first loved us.”

Today, be reminded that you didn’t first love Christ nor pursued Him. He loved you before the world began, sought you out, and sent the Holy Spirit to save your soul! That is a reason to love!

Ben Bausback

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