Love God 

“ ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment. And the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:30 

The world is fascinated with love. Innumerable songs, books, plays and poetry have been written on the subject. Love is the favorite theme of Hollywood movies, gossip rags and television shows. We even have Valentine’s Day, where we celebrate love with flowers, candy and romantic sentiments. 

I grew up hearing the words “all we need is love” heralded through the airwaves. Love was an important subject in the times of Christ as well. When Jesus was asked what was the most important of all the commandments He responded, “ ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment. And the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:30 

The scribes understood exactly what Jesus was saying and agreed with Him fully. They said “to love God and to love others is more than all the offerings and sacrifices.” We have taken the greatest commandment and put it through the word processor of modern times and reduced it to one word: love. Even those who do not follow Jesus (and a few who do not even believe in Him) will quote Him as saying the greatest commandment is love. They will go on to espouse, that if we want to live and die right, all we need to do is be loving toward one another. Since Jesus declares that this is the most important of all commandments, it is vital that we understand that the command not only states love is the greatest responsibility of man, but also declares who we are to love. 

Just to love our family, or be compassionate toward those less fortunate than us, or to be kind to our fellow man, does not satisfy this commandment. We are only fulfilling the great commandment when we are loving God first, and loving others as an expression of our love for God. Ask yourself this morning, do I love God first? If you do, He should have first place in your life, which means He will have first place in your living. If you love Him, you will spend time with Him, in His Word and in prayer. You will seek to please Him with your actions and express your love to Him in worship. Just to love, or to herald the importance of love, does not satisfy the greatest commandment. Instead, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. ’ This is the first commandment. And the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself. ’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”
Pastor Jim

  

The Exception 

Nahum 3:8
Are you better than No Amon that was situated by the River, that had the waters around her, whose rampart was the sea, whose wall was the sea?”

It is remarkable how we all think we are the exception to the rule. We believe wrong should be made right, injustice should be corrected, and sin should be punished, but we also believe that our wrongs are not that bad and should be overlooked. This is not a modern problem this is a human problem. Almost three thousand years ago, the inhabitants of Nineveh thought they could go on behaving however they wanted and would not face the judgment of God. They believed, others deserved it, but they themselves, were not as bad as their neighbors.

I few years ago, a man came into the church office bearing the marks of the abuse of alcohol and other substances. He was upset at how others were mistreating him. He went on a tirade against our town, at how unfair others were, and demanded that we give him some money. Without any regard for his own wrongs, he was quick to bring charges against us. When I began to address the issues in his life, he stormed out of the office, freely sharing how he now felt about me.

While this is perhaps an extreme example, it reminds us how easy it is to focus on the faults of others, while neglecting what is wrong with us. This is the type of behavior that keeps us from becoming the people God desires us to be, and destroys relationships. Jesus told us, that instead of focusing on the wrong in others, we should take the plank out of our own eye (Matthew 7:1-5). In other words, we need to deal with what is wrong with us first and foremost. It is right to be upset by the immorality that is rampantly displayed on TV and the big screen, but we cannot do so while neglecting to address the issues in our own lives.

Pastor Jim

 

Love 

1 John 4:10-11
“In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.”

Love seems to be the most common subject of music, art, poetry and film. We have all heard songs with lyrics heralding the importance of love, or movies showing couples falling in love. Love has been romanticized, even idolized, yet rarely realized. It is here that the Apostle John, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, gives us a description of true love.

“In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”

True love is both illustrated and defined by the action of God sending His Son. Paul reminds us, it was while we were still sinners, God sent His Son to the cross to pay the penalty for our sins (Romans 5:8). John uses the word propitiation, which speaks of a blood sacrifice; the innocent for the guilty. Love is measured at the cross where Jesus willingly laid down His life for you and me. But the love of God does not stop there. It is the desire of God that His love continue to be demonstrated to the world through the actions of His children.

“Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.”

Since we are the beloved, we are to act like it, by seeking to express this love to each other.

1 John 4:20 “If someone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen?”

One of the best ways to express love for God, is to love others. This should be done in the home, by going out of our way, today, to show our spouse, children, parents, and siblings that we love them. Perhaps, even looking for extravagant ways to show off our love. After all, God expressed His love by going all out for us. Then this love should be expressed beyond the home. We should be looking for ways to love those around us. Jesus explained that His followers were to be different from the world in that the world loves those who are loving them. The Christian is to love all.

Matthew 5:46 “For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?”

Make an effort today to share the love of Christ with those with whom you come in contact. The greatest expression of love is to tell someone the way to heaven.

Pastor Jim

 

The Rules 

1 John 3:23
“And this is His commandment: that we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ and love one another, as He gave us commandment.”

Jesus simplified all of the commandments into two: love God and love others. John, in like manner, states the requirements of God are both simple and straight forward. He writes, God is commanding us to believe on Christ and love each other.

Belief is commanded because it is the requirement for entrance into heaven. When individuals looks at the cross, they realizes they are sinners, Christ is the Savior, they put their trust in Him, and are saved. The sins that once kept us from God are washed away in the blood of God, and our names are written on Heaven’s scroll. All the religious activities, social work, or random acts of kindness, are incapable of doing what simple faith in Christ accomplishes. If you are yet to put your trust in Christ, do so now, and watch as He transforms your life.

Love for one another is the chief evidence that we have truly believed in Christ. It is not the only evidence, but it is the greatest. After years of walking with the Lord, encountering others who have put their faith in Him, and lived lives transformed by Him, John concludes that more than anything else, a person who has met Christ should love others. That is not too difficult to comprehend when we examine the life of Christ, and see it was marked by a continual, even growing, love for others. We read that having loved His own, He loved them to the end. (John 13:1)

One of the greatest ways to testify to the reality of Christ, is to go out of your way to express love to others. As you go about your day, keep your eyes open as to how you might express the love of Christ to others in a needy world.

Pastor Jim

 

Others 

Philippians 2:17-18
Yes, and if I am being poured out as a drink offering on the sacrifice and service of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all. For the same reason you also be glad and rejoice with me.”

Prior to the death and resurrection of Christ, the prescribed manner of worship of God included an elaborate system of sacrifices. Every morning, every evening, and on prescribed dates throughout the year, animals were offered as burnt offerings to provide atonement for the sins of the people. Each of the sacrifices pointed in one way or another to Christ. As the Son of God, His death provided more than all the offerings could ever do. Peter wrote,

“For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit, . . . ” 1 Peter 3:18

It is not difficult to see a portrait of Christ in the Passover lamb, the scapegoat, or the sin offerings, but what of this drink offering? Did you notice, Paul does not refer to Christ, but to himself as this offering? The drink offering, described in Numbers 15, was designed to accompany the various offerings. If a person brought a free will offering to the Lord, to express thanks to God for who He is, and all He has done, they were to include a jug of wine as a drink offering. This offering did not provide atonement, but accompanied the offering, making the aroma that much sweeter, as it was laid upon the altar. Paul saw his role in the life of others like that. He realized, each individual must present themselves as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to the Lord, but he would spend his life helping to make the sacrifice of others sweeter.

As we follow his story throughout the New Testament, we see he exemplifies what it means to love your neighbor as yourself. His whole life was about living for Christ, as an example to others. He spent his time, effort, and energies ensuring the Gospel was declared, and the Christian was well equipped to live for Christ. He risked his comforts and even his life, to bring the message of salvation to those who had never heard.

How do you suppose our impact upon the world would change if we saw ourselves as a drink offering, being poured out on the sacrifice of others? What kind of influence could we have for the kingdom of God, if we looked at ourselves as being in the lives of others, to help them come to Christ, and grow in Him? Writing to the Corinthians, Paul said, “I will very gladly spend and be spent for your souls.” 2 Corinthians 12:15

Let’s determine to live like that, impacting all around us for heaven’s sake.

Pastor Jim