Bible lessons Spiritual growth

Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.

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Emmanuel Phaeton on

“One of the teachers of the law came and . . . asked [Jesus], ‘Of all the commandments, which is most important?’”

“’The most important one,’ answered Jesus, is this: ‘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 you mind and with all your strength’” (Mark 12:28-30). Matthew adds Jesus saying, “This is the first and greatest commandment” (Matt. 22:38).

Jesus was quoting the commandment of Deuteronomy 6:4-5. These verses are known to Jewish people as the “Shema,” and are core to the Law. No Jewish elder or religious person would’ve questioned Jesus’ answer. The Shema verses were some of the most recognized and memorized passages of Scripture for the Jewish people of that time—and still are today.

The Shema verses were included in prayers spoken daily in ancient Israelite culture. And, they were written on a parchment called a “klaf” that was contained inside a decorative case known as a “mezuzah” which was fastened by the entryways on Jewish houses.

The early Jewish people understood the seriousness of keeping the Shema commandment to love the Lord. They also understood the spiritually-deadly condemnation if they failed to love God.

For any Jewish person, breaking the Shema by failing to love God was a grave violation. It attacked at a person’s core devotion to the Lord God. That person could be considered cut off from God and from the Israelite people .

Clearly, for a first century Jew, it would’ve been poignant condemnation to be told that he didn’t love God.

Still, Jesus bluntly told some of the Jews, including prominent Pharisees, that they were neglecting their love for God or, more pointedly, that they didn’t have a love for God in their heart. For example, Jesus told some of the Pharisees, that while they were faithful in giving tithes of their material wealth, they neglected “justice and the love of God” (Luke 11:42). Jesus’ words cut deep. He charged these Pharisees, who prided themselves for their high status in their religion, as having little or no status in the eyes of God.

Later, Jesus harshly criticized a group of Jews saying, “But I know you. I know that you do not have the love of God in your hearts” (John 5:42). Jesus didn’t beat around the bush. That was direct charge that these people were, at heart, enemies of God.

What Jesus said to these Jews could easily be overlooked in a casual reading of Scripture. But, it wouldn’t have been missed by those who were there. Jesus’ charge against them was damning. It was a literally a life-defining charge. Jesus was telling them that they were clearly not God’s people because they didn’t love God.

The late R. A. Torrey observed, “If loving God with all our heart and soul and might is the greatest commandment, then it follows that not loving Him that way is the greatest sin.” That sounds simplistic, but it is extremely profound. It strikes to the very core of our relationship with God. It infers that not loving God is demonstrated proof that a man is lost in his sin, without any relationship to God.

It’s easy, though, for a person to say he loves God. But, it’s what God says about our love for Him that counts.

So, what does it mean to love God? God is the One who gave His command for us to love Him. So, God must be the One who defines what it means to love Him. And God has given us observable indicators that show demonstrated evidence of our love for Him – or lack of love for Him.

Foremost, there is absolutely no one who loves God who does not have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. “No one who denies the Son has the Father” (1 John 2:23). Jesus said, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and now am here” (John 8:42).

Do you have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ? If you’re not sure, Read this link:

Jesus further clarifies that a love for God is evidenced through accepting and abiding by His commandments in the Word of God. “If you love me, you will obey what I command” (John 14:15). And, “whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him” (John 14:21).

The apostle John wrote, “If anyone obeys his word, God’s love is truly made complete in him” (1 John 2:6). “This is love for God: to obey his commands” (1 John 5:3).

Jesus was pointedly clear that if we fail to keep His commandments given us in the Bible, it is evidence that we do not love God.

Don’t misunderstand this to mean that as we intermittently succumb to our carnal impulses and tendencies to sin, we are outside of Christ. We will all fall into sin on occasions because we are still trapped inside a body of flesh that is prone to sin.

Jesus wasn’t talking about intermittent sin. Rather, He is talking about intentional, ongoing disobedience to God’s commandments by ignoring or compromising Scripture. This involves conforming to the ways of the world with its wicked desires, carnal lust, and ungodliness.

The apostle John said that a man could love the things of the world or love God, but no one can do both. “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him” (1 John 2:15).

So, if the teachings of modern culture are contrary to Scripture, or man’s practices are contrary to what the Bible teaches, a man who loves God will stand with the Word of God and not succumb to the fallacies of men.

Another statement made by R. A. Torrey is, “The truly wise man is he who believes the Bible against the opinions of any man. If the Bible says one thing, and any body of men says another, the wise man will decide, ‘This book is the Word of Him who can not lie.”

Compromising Scripture to conform to ungodly worldviews or continual, intentional disobedience and forsaking Scripture is a compelling demonstration of a person’s lack of love for God.

Therefore, if you are associated with any group that is twisting Scripture to conform to worldviews, rather than holding Scripture as the form for its views, you would do well to flee. “You, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness” (1 Tim. 6:11).  

Another aspect that shows our love for God can we found through our state of contentment. Our degree of covetousness for possessions, power, or position are an indicator of our love of God. “Jesus said, ‘No servant can serve two masters. Either, he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money’” (Luke 16:13).

Ask yourself, “What is it I am devoted to, or give highest value to?” “Where does God fit in my personal pursuits?”  

This leads us to a third indicator of love. Is our love for people greater than our lust for possessions?

If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him” (1 John 3:17).  “If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. And he has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother” (1 John 4:21). Real love for God will result in a changed heart. God’s heart is for people, so our love for God will have a residual effect of loving people.

According to Jesus, the greatest commandment is to know the one and only God, and to love Him, wholly committing ourselves to Him. So, “let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth” (1 John 3:13).

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