The Commandments - 1. Love

Posted on 03/16/2014 by Rev. Benjamin R. Faust D.D.

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Lord willing, for the next few weeks we're going to take a trip together through the Ten Commandments, but with a New Covenant perspective. And by "New Covenant perspective," I do NOT mean a perspective which thinks obedience isn't important.

What DO I mean? Well, let's take a look at one of the things Jesus said about the commandments in Matthew chapter 22.

Matthew 22:34-40 (NKJV)

34 But when the Pharisees heard that He had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together.
35 Then one of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, and saying,
36 "Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?"

37 Jesus said to him, "'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.'
38 This is the first and great commandment.
39 And the second is like it: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'
40 On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets."

So Jesus was summing up the Law and the Prophets in one word: Love. But what does that mean? Well, it was the Law of God that commanded adulterers and homosexuals to be put to death, wasn't it?

Now, you might be getting tired of hearing me explain love, but we are drowining in a vast ocean of false ideas about love today, so it bears repeating over and over and over and over.

True love is not some esoteric thing that comes and goes as it pleases, and which you cannot truly know for sure if it's real until your heart tells you it will never change. Which of course you can't know for sure until you're dead.

Of course everyone pleads with us to just "follow your heart." It's in most of the Disney movies I've seen, and in countless others made by everyone from the big producers to the lowest budget hopeful. Most children know it, and many adults have accepted it must be true: to find lasting happiness and true love, you must follow your heart.

But what does the Bible say about the matter?

Jeremiah 17:9 (NKJV) says this:

9 "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?"

Maybe THAT'S why people fall head over heels in love one day, and they fall totally OUT of love the next. Their heart tells them THIS is the person for them... for a few months or years... and then their heart changes its mind and proclaims that THAT person is their True Love.

Now there's a place for the Born Again heart in guidance, in which God's peace is an umpire of sorts, but that's not what we're talking about here. For while God's peace is reliably solid and sure, your heart is not. It is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked. And you can't really know what it's up to.

But that's not the "love" about which we're talking today. After all, the hearts of mankind would both hate the sinner and demand he or she be brutally put to death, and also would insist that their actions are not really sin after all, and they should be supported in what they choose to do.

That's why we follow the Word of God, not our own hearts; for our own hearts, being exceedingly deceitful and wicked, don't know what love really is. GOD is love, and left to ourselves, we can't know God, but we will invent OUR OWN God instead.

So Jesus said all the Commandments, in fact the whole of the Law and the Prophets, are summed up in Love. That's quite a contrast to the sceptic of today who points to the Law and the Prophets as proof that God is hateful and wicked. But that's no surprise; after all, they're just following their own deceitfully wicked hearts.

Now, the Ten Commandments seem to be a list of Thou Shalt Nots. You can't do this, you'd BETTER not do that, and don't even THINK about doing such-and-such. But let's take a journey back through these marvelous words of Love.

And the title of today's message is "The Commandments - 1. Love."

Let's take another look at Matthew 22, starting with verse 36.

36 "Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?"
37 Jesus said to him, "'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.'
38 This is the first and great commandment.
39 And the second is like it: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'
40 On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets."

So we begin with Love. And while this is not the first of the Ten Commandments, this is, according to Jesus, the first, the second, the third, and all the way through to the tenth. Therefore, we will begin with Love and continue with Love all the way through, and we'll number them like this:

1. Love
2. No Other Gods
3. His Holy Name
4. Rest
5. Honor
6. Life
7. Purity
8. Integrity
9. Truth
10. Contentment

Love. The greatest of these is Love. "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind."

What does it mean to love God with ALL your heart, with ALL your soul, and with ALL your mind? Well, since this is what all of God's commands are all about, it's worth spending some time getting this one right, wouldn't you agree?

With All Your Heart

Have you ever known God wanted you to do something, either because His Spirit was speaking directly to your spirit, or because you read something in His Word, but you really didn't want to do it?

Most of us have. Maybe even all of us. Even Jesus experienced this in the Garden of Gethsemane, when He beseached His Father God, "If it is possible, let this cup pass from me!" Jesus did not want to do what the Father was asking. Of course not! Who wants to go through the most agonizing, tormenting execution known on Earth? And who wants to go through that to pay for all the horrible, wicked, vile things that the twisted sinners of the world have done?

Those people who tried to kill you outside the temple? Yep, you're being beaten for them. Those evil men who defile and murder children in the dark of night? Yep, your back is being torn to shreds for them. That angry mob who is demanding that a murderer go free and that you be tortured to death in his place? Yep, your beard is being pulled out in bloody chunks for them.

Those people who have spit on you by choosing to lie, steal, cheat, covet, lust, practice sexual sin, and follow their own hearts instead of your Law of Love? Yep, spikes are being driven through your hands and feet, and you're being hung up naked for everyone to watch you slowly and agonizingly have the blood drain from your suffocating flesh; you're doing all that for THEM.

Of course Jesus wanted there to be some other way to save vile and filthy sinners like you and like me. But He realized something we have forgotten today. He knew that He did not serve His heart, but that His heart must be made to serve God. And this was the ultimate service of love. Yes, Jesus loved The Lord His God with all His heart.

And when His heart said, "No, there must be some other way! I don't want to do this!" He replied, "Not my will, Father God, but YOURS be done!"

Do we defy our own hearts like this? Even when doing so could result in what appears to be our own destruction? Or do we instead put what God has said on the back burner somewhere, waiting until a more convenient time to look it over a little carefully, hopefully after we've come up with how we can explain it away?

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart.

With All Your Soul

David writes in Psalm 103 verse 1: Bless the Lord, O my soul; And all that is within me, bless His holy name!

In the Old Testament, the word translated "soul" is the life that animates both man and beast. So you could look at soul like this:

It is your life, your breath, every beating of your heart, the flowing of blood through your veins, the taking of food and drink and the using of that nourishment to keep you alive. You rise up in the morning with your soul. You move and interact throughout your day with your soul. When your voice is speaking in your head as you chatter about this and that, it is your soul, your life's energy flowing through your brain's synapses, interpreting what you see, hear, and feel, and pulling up and storing memories. And then you lie down at night to let your soul rest from its physical life, as it slips, usually without your conscious knowledge, into the realm of sleep.

Is all of that, every single breath, every single beat of your heart, every bite you eat and every sip you drink, every through that goes through your head and every feeling and impression you entertain, is your rising up and your lieing down and everything in between, is it all an act of Love for God?

Think about that for a minute.

With All Your Mind

Your mind can be thought of as part of your soul, but Jesus listed it all on its own. Have you ever heard the saying, "It's okay to look as long as you don't touch?" Well it's not if you're obeying the first and most important commandment.

"Well I'm pretty good, I don't murder." But that's not the first and most important commandment.

"But I obey most of the commandments most of the time!" Well, how often do you break the first and the most imporant one? Or it might be easier to ask, how often do you actually OBEY it? When you break this one, you break them all.

Someone pulls out in front of you and you have to slam on your brakes. Are you loving God with your mind?

Someone is in front of you at the checkout counting out a big jar of pennies to pay for their order, followed by a fist full of coupons that have to be checked by a manager because they are in such bad shape they can't be scanned, and all this while you're late for where you need to go, you're hungry, you have a headache, and you REALLY need to visit the rest room before someone has to call for a cleanup on isle nine. Are you loving God with your mind?

You're at home, all alone, in front of your computer, T.V., or a magazine or book. Your mind is almost the only thing that's active. You're in another place, another time, maybe even as another person. And it's just your imagination, right? Surely it's no one's business, and God doesn't care, what you imagine you or someone else is doing there. Are you loving God with your mind?

"You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind."

That's enough for an altar call. I'd be one of the first ones on my knees. That's tough; but that's the center of everything God's ever told us. Loving Him.

And, loving our neighbor as ourself. But, Lord willing, we're going to get to that one next week. I think this is more than enough for us to ponder today. I think this is a big enough challenge, and it's the most important one we will ever face: Are we loving God will ALL our heart? With ALL our soul? And with ALL our mind?

Love is an action.
Love is an attitude.
Love is a choice.

Loving God with everything means there's not even one tiny little bit of your thoughts, your actions, your words, your food and drink, your attitudes, your choices, not one tiny little bit that is not a demonstration of Love for God.

Love is an action.
Love is an attitude.
Love is a choice.

Let's close today's service with a time at the altar. Is God speaking to your heart today? Do you make the choice to actively love God with your whole heart, soul, and mind at all times and in all ways?

You're invited to get out of your seat right now and make your way to the front, and let's spend some time reflecting on what God wants to say to us today through His Word; and let's dedicate ourselves to, by the power of His Holy Spirit, choose every day in every present moment to love God at that time and in that way too.

Whenever you need to leave, you're free to go, and if you can stay until after this time at the altar, you're invited to make your way to the room up the steps to your left, and we're going to meet there in a few minutes for some fellowship.

Come, and let's seek the face of God as we submit ourselves to His commandment of Love.