Have you ever wondered what it means to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.”? (Matt 22:37) It sounds great, it’s very thematic, it makes for great sermon titles, intros, and summaries. But… What does that really mean? It’s a legitimate question that deserves considering.
Some obvious answers pop out – if you love God, you’ll try not to sin, you’ll turn from wickedness and unrighteousness. Loving God might mean to some going to Church every Sunday, or even more often than that. To others, it may be singing in the worship team, or playing a musical instrument for church. And yet to others, it may be giving offerings and financing the work of the Body of Christ. And those are good definitions…but what else? It always feels like there is a what else…
I’ve heard people say loving God is keeping His Commandments. But which ones? As Evangelical and New Testament Christians, we know we are no longer under the Law of Moses, but under the law of Grace. We don’t hold to Saturday Sabbath’s or abstaining from unclean foods. We don’t sacrifice animals nor follow the ritual cleanings or ritual righteous known as Mitzvah.
Jesus gave us many, many clues and direct statements and examples, such as;
If you [really] love Me, you will keep and obey My commandments. ~ John 14:15, AMP
Jesus declared that really loving him compels us to keep His Commandments. But what are his Commandments? Are they, and if so, how, do they differ from the Old Testament Law?
Paul taught us in Galatians that if we try to keep the Old Testament Law, we fall from Grace! (Gal 5:4) We know that the commandments are NOT the Old Testament Law of Moses. That was the Old Covenant (Testament) and we are now in the New Covenant (Testament), but what Covenant?
Now as they were eating Jesus took bread, and after blessing it, He broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is My body.” And when He had taken a cup and given thanks, He gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you; for this is My blood of the [new and better] covenant, which [ratifies the agreement and] is being poured out for many [as a substitutionary atonement] for the forgiveness of sins… ~ Matthew 26:26-28, AMP
Jesus, at the Last Supper, declared that his blood was the new, and superior covenant. Jesus also asked Peter three times, “Peter, do you love me?” (John 21:15-17) and his response was, “If you love me, then feed my sheep!” This was Peter’s affirmation to Apostolic Ministry, but it speaks highly of what Loving The Lord your God means! Peter was called to a ministry of service in which the sheep of Jesus’ flock, the Body of Christ, the Church, was his primary charge.
We also find Jesus, in the Gospel of Saint John chapter 13 giving His people a new commandment, (covenant) a new method of pleasing God, and in essence, Loving the Lord Your God –
I am giving you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, so you too are to love one another. By this everyone will know that you are My disciples, if you have love and unselfish concern for one another. ~ John 13:34,35 AMP
A New Commandment of Sacrificial Love
One of the most amazing parts of this Scripture to me is the declaration “By this everyone will know you are My Disciples.” From my past experience in the Oneness Pentecostal system, we NEVER highlighted this. As a matter of fact, they made a huge claim that their dress standard was how they showed the world who God was. Standing out like a sore thumb and dressing in the past made them believe that people would know they are God’s true children.
Yet, John records the words of Jesus saying a very different narrative – it was Love for one another, unselfish concern or your neighbor, that really mattered. Loving God was wrapped up in loving other people more than yourself! In fact, Paul later taught that Love was of so much important, it outweighed all of the Gifts of the Spirit, including tongues, prophecy and more. Paul said that if you have all the gifts, the supernatural powers of God, but lack love, you lack everything. (1 Cor 13)
This is so important, that Jesus declared in Matthew 22, that ALL of the Law and the Prophets depend literally on this concept, and that the greatest Commandment of all, is to Love God, and to Love God is to Love your Neighbor;
Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” And Jesus replied to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself [that is, unselfishly seek the best or higher good for others].’ The whole Law and the [writings of the] Prophets depend on these two commandments.” ~ Matthew 22:36-40, AMP
And how do you know when you are loving God with ALL of your heart, and ALL of your soul, and ALL of your mind? When everything you do is based on that commandment and you do everything with all that you have within you.
I have to admit, that as I write this, I think of the coming Sunday morning service where I will sing, lead communion, offer myself as a servant to the body. And I ask myself, am I really doing everything I could do? Really? Am I holding anything back? Money? Time? Prayer? Support? Anything?
One of my biggest regrets (and now passion!) in my past Christian life in the Oneness Pentecostal circle was to spend ALL of my time and effort focused on conforming instead of serving. I spent my time dressing right, talking right, obeying enough, paying enough, praying enough, showing up enough. Everything we did was to play the part of the system instead of serving Christ.
We had people who monitored our church attendance, our giving, heck – even our prayer times were monitored. Everything was under a microscope to ensure we were doing what we were told. But what we were told was orchestrated by the pastor’s law, and not the Law of Christ.
That is now my PASSION, because instead of pleasing Man, I’m not putting all effort into pleasing God. (Gal 1:10) In fact, when I read, re-read and meditated on the Word of God I found this to be true – that our Love of God, was wrapped up in our service to other men. Jesus Christ literally said, “I am giving you a NEW commandment, that you love one another…”
And what does love of one another look like? It can take many forms but the spirit of it was penned in the book of James;
Pure and unblemished religion [as it is expressed in outward acts] in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit and look after the fatherless and the widows in their distress, and to keep oneself uncontaminated by the [secular] world. ~ James 1:27, AMP
Putting the needs before your own was the exact example of God and Jesus. The one who was sinless came to offer his body and blood as the atoning sacrifice for our weaknesses and deficiencies! That tells me that sometimes, loving your neighbor takes sacrifice! Loving God has always in times past required sacrifices, but today it is no longer the lamb and blood, but our time, our effort, our self, and our heart!
Loving God is giving in sacrifice your Heart, Soul and Mind, to the needs, causes and benefit of your neighbors, those around you that need the light of Christ and the grace of God and sharing the truth of God, the Grace of His Blood and the name of his Son, Jesus, with absolutely no requirement for something in return! That is pure religion!