Friday, 11 December 2015



Jesus was asked, "Teacher, what is the greatest commandment in the Law?" (Matthew 22.36)  There's many things He could have said, feed the hungry, clothe the naked, shelter the homeless, defend the rights of the oppressed, and while all of these are commandments in the Law of Christ, none of them are the greatest

'And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ Mark 12:30
What I find fascinating about the New Testament documents is that for all the difficulties that the apostles of Christ faced toward the end of the first century, doctrinal heresies, declining church attendance, sexual misconduct within the churches, increasing moral decadence outside the church, increased persecution from the State, and a rise in evangelistic apathy among believers, all of them appealed to this greatest commandment in their closing letters. 


Love comes in a variety of forms and even though in English we really only have the one word which can apply for all forms, there is quite a distinction between them. We love a good cup of tea. We love it when our team wins. We love our mothers. We love our brothers and sisters. We love our children. We love our sweetheart to whom we are married. We love God. I have deliberately attempted to progress up the scale of love with these examples of how in English we use the one word ("love") to describe these various delights. Corresponding to this upward scale is another upward scale going from "Virtually involuntary" to "I chose to, because I benefit" all the way up to "A voluntary choice even when I do not benefit and it actually costs me". 

This correspondence highlights that the deeper and higher the form of love, the greater and more costly the commitment required. It also shows that the greatest love is not based on whimsical involuntary things such as how I feel at the time, after all, who doesn't love a good cup of tea or coffee? My love for a nice cup of coffee requires very little effort or commitment from me. Unlike the greatest form of love, this kind of almost involuntary love requires very little from me whereas the highest form of love is not determined or maintained merely by how I feel. This is why: 

Decisions create Actions and Actions create Feelings.

If you want to feel love for someone, then you must first decide to, then secondly, do loving acts for that person. 

The who has been redeemed by God has received a complete change of heart and mind. Their will has been healed from the ravages of sin's evil lurings. They now chose to love the One who has redeemed them.

"Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.” Luke 7:47

When it comes to the highest love, loving God, it requires the most important decision, the highest commitment, and the most devoted action. It was the Apostle John who outlived all the other apostles. He witnessed the persecution of Christians across the empire. He saw many believers forsake Christ for the love of the world. He wrote one of his last letters on behalf of Christ to the church at Ephesus with supreme pastoral tenderness and reminded them of the essence of what it means to call oneself a "Christian" -
"But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first."
 Revelation 2:4
John had previously written to the Ephesian believers and told them plainly how to love God. What he said sounded uncannily like the second part of Christ's answer to His questioner. 
And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”
 Mark 12:30-31
John put legs on this command of Christ by explaining how believers were to show their love for God - 
By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother.
¶ For this is the message that you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another.

 First John 3:10-11
John used the word brother to speak of the believers brothers and sisters in Christ. While the believer is called to love all people, we are called to especially love our fellow brothers and sisters.
So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.
 Galatians 6:10
 And this is why followers of Christ are told how to love God by the anonymous author to the Hebrews, especially as the pressure from the world increased - 
And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.  Hebrews 10:24-25
Understanding that the deepest, highest form of love is a totally voluntary, completely devoted to, and selfless serving act, it is then possible to see how God can command it. For the believer, God's commands are not a burden (1John 5:3), rather, they are a means of grace. That is, there is power within the Word of God for the believer to obey the Word of God. The love of God which Christ calls His followers to is a commanding love. Thus, Christ is commanding love. In this sense, it is a verb (something He is doing). But it also describes the kind of love that God calls for. In this sense it is an adjective (a description, and a quality).

To help His followers to keep this great two-part command, Christ said, "I will build My Church!" (Matthew 16:18) This is why attending the House of God each weekend is not merely about being religious, or even traditional - no - and a thousand times "No!" It is about loving Jesus! When we all gather on the Lord's Day to worship God together, to share in Communion together, to receive instruction from God's Word together, and to pray for one another together - we are loving Jesus! When Saul the Pharisee was waging persecution against the Church he was struck from his horse on the Road to Damascus and questioned by Christ, "Saul, Saul, why do you persecute Me?" (Acts 9:4) To love Christ is to love His Church and especially the local church of fellow brothers and sisters where He has placed you in His body. This is why it is for the love of Christ that I go to church this Sunday, and I invite you to fall in love with Jesus afresh this weekend in His church, your church, as well.

Pastor Andrew.

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