|Rev. Brian Wilkie|
By Rev. Brian Wilkie
Pastor of St. Andrew's Christian Community
Loving God is the fulfilment of all his commands, for in Mt 22:34–40, this is what happened:
“Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
Likewise the apostle John wrote to the church :
“God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like him. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.
That’s from John’s first letter, in chapter 4, verses 16-21.
It is clear throughout Scripture that loving God is the greatest command; and the command to love one another is directly derived from it, as the love of God compels us to love all those whom God loves!
Now would you listen with me to this traditional hymn, which is a declaration of the disciple’s love for God : My Jesus I love Thee. It’s sung by the Grace Presbyterian Chancel Choir, of Houston Texas.
Segment 2: (introduction of Message)
Love is such a frequently used word in our culture. Back in the 1950’s, C.S.Lewis wrote a book called ‘The Four Loves’ and he used that book to expound upon the four different words for love that we find in the text of the New Testament, and in classical literature.
There were four words for love representing different aspects of love. Now, one could wonder if that would be a little confusing, like having hundreds of different words for snow, or something like that. But we’ve got a more confusing situation than that in the modern day, when we have one word that covers so many different ideas and experiences.
Think about the word ‘love.’ You’ve probably used it already today. “I love that television show,” “I just love cake!” “Isn’t this a lovely day?” You may even have said to someone close by, “I love you.” Are we talking about the same thing every time we use the word love? Let’s think about it.
When someone says they love ice cream, what do they really mean? Do they mean that they would like to marry ice cream? (Don’t kids make jokes about that misunderstanding?) No, what they mean is that ice cream tastes good, and they like to eat it. When we say we love some things, we simply mean that we want to consume them for our own pleasure. Is that what we mean when we say we love a person? That we want to use them up and toss them away? Unfortunately that is what some people do mean by love.
But with ice cream it is perfectly good to eat it as a result of your love for it. With chocolate and cookies, and so many other things that we say we love, we love them because of how they make us feel, or the experience they give us. We consume them and that is the mark of our love for them. Ice cream exists to be consumed, and those who love ice cream eat it.
There are other things we love, which we don’t consume, yet we still have a different kind of love than we would have for a person. You might love a beautiful sunrise. You mean you enjoy it and it makes you feel good. You would be happy to get up on another morning and see another sunrise like that and enjoy it. It is a love that is a good feeling, that is enjoyable, and isn’t exclusive. You can love more than one sunrise, you can go and enjoy every sunrise that comes along. But the love you feel, like the love of ice cream is really a self love. You love this thing because it does something for you, you love the beautiful day because it makes you feel good. Even when we love people the word ‘love’ can still describe a very selfish, self-centred approach. Very often when we are adolescents even in later years, sometimes our love for a girlfriend or boyfriend can be extraordinarily selfish. Don’t we sometimes look at young people falling in love, and wonder when they are going to find the real thing? And don’t we sometimes find ourselves being selfish in our own relationships, and wondering what happened to the love? Because we can’t honestly call it love of another person when the love is mostly about using them; and getting something out of it for ourselves.
What do we mean by this higher love, when we truly, truly love another person? Doesn’t it mean to want to be a blessing to them? Doesn’t it mean to pour something into their lives that makes them a better person? Isn’t love of another person not about how they make you feel, but about how you want to make them feel?
That’s where we get closer to the meaning of love in the gospels. The love of God is a love that comes to us despite the fact that we’ve rebelled against him, despite the fact that doom hangs over us because of our selfishness. God comes to us in love and wants to bless us and deliver us from evil. Don’t we do the same for those we truly love?
What does it look like when a parent loves their child? That love results in the parent caring, teaching providing for their child. The parent does get some joy out of it they enjoy their children. The parent also gets some frustration (just once in a while). The parent also makes some sacrifices; misses out on a lot of things that they might have been able to do, because they have expended their resources, their time and their energy on their child. Love in this sense is giving of ourselves.
Now a parent loves a child, but doesn’t always do what the child wants them to do. A parent in their relationship with that child in the proper kind of love takes some authority and some responsibility for that child. On the other hand, if we love a teach, we want to learn from them, we put ourselves under their authority. In the same way the child who loves the parents accepts authority from them when they exercise that authority in love. You see, the way that love is acted out depends on the relationship in which it exists. We love people and act according to their gifts, characteristics, and their particular place in our lives.
Let’s pause here as we think about love and listen to this band from an Acquire the Fire Youth Rally. This upbeat song they talk about God being “Better Than” anything else in the entire world.
Segment 3: (Conclusion of Message)
I don’t mean that you have a romantic feeling for your employer; you just think they are a great boss. Your love for them results in you wanting to do your job the best you possibly can. You want to do your job in a way that makes their life easier. You want to be a blessing, and the way you bless your employer is by doing the work that is assigned to you, and do it to the best of your ability. Isn’t it natural for someone who loves their job to put their best effort into it, to do it with care and the best quality. Isn’t that something like the way we love the Lord our God?
The word ‘Lord’ is a fancy word for someone who has authority over you. When you acknowledge someone as Lord, you are agreeing that they have the right to direct your path, to tell you how to live, to lead you in the way that you should go. The love of God the love that we have for God is not the love of a parent for a child. It is not as though we provide for God, nor do we protect him or teach him. Instead the tables are turned: we are provided for by God, we learn from God, and we follow and obey him. Some people say that if we love God, and he loves us, it should be totally free, and there should be no obligations on our part. But that is not how it works in love when someone is worthy of authority, obedience and all of our devotion. For the God that directs us is a loving God, he directs us along paths that are good. When I say that, I must add the caveat, the clause, that when God directs us along His way, it is not always for our immediate good. When God directs us, he leads us to be a blessing to our neighbours, and our world, we may suffer on account of obedience to God, but it is still the right thing to do. He is not Lord simply because He says so, nor because He is more powerful than us. He is Lord because He is right and good, and He loves us. He is Lord because he is our creator, He is our Saviour, He is our God.
When Jesus taught that the greatest command is to love the Lord our God with all our heart and all our mind, and all our soul, (and in one Gospel he adds, ‘all our strength’) he is telling us that the love of God surpasses every other love. He puts it more bluntly when he says that if we don’t despise all other loves, even our own life, compared to the love of God, we are not really getting it, we are not really following God. God’s love surpasses all other love. The love for God is the umbrella under which all other loves myust be gathered.
To love God with our whole mind is to desire to know Him and learn from Him. We allow all our thoughts, opinions and attitudes to be shaped by Him. It’s a delight to be a pastor and to be able to spend day after day studying God’s Word with his people. In my church in Rockland I’m able to study Paul’s letter to the Corinthians on Monday with a group of ladies from the church. I’m able to study the book of Acts in French with a group in the church. I’m exploring Judges and Samuel on Wednesday nights, and sometimes we celebrate the adaptation of the Gospel into songs and hymns with a Thursday morning group. I am to expand my understanding of God, and see his goodness in his Word and in all his good actions. As we study God in his Word, our love for him only increases as we see how in every way he is worthy of honour and praise and glory.
When we love God with our heart we are really not primarily emotions, but expressing a love that is at the centre of our life, the core of our being at the center of everything. When we love God with our strength we are using our time and our waking hours, we are using our muscles and our ability to bless others for His glory.
Jesus didn’t say we had to have a great mind to love God, Just love him with all your mind. You don’t have to have the biggest heart, just love him with all you’ve got. We don’t have to be body builders, marathon runners or ultra athletes, but just love him with the strength we have.
Now when we exercise our hearts and minds and bodies in his service, our mental capacity, our loving capacity, our physical abilities and talents will improve, just as any exercise has benefits. God merely asks that what you have you offer to him in love.
Now you cannot love anyone else with the love that God deserves. Nobody else is worth it. It would be wrong to love any human being or any created thing with such an all surpassing love. It is in fact the very first command in the Ten Commandments, that we should have no other Gods before him. There is only one who deserves our worship, and deserves all honour and praise. No one else deserves such complete submission, because no one else is as wise or as good and true as God. We dare not give our full obedience to any earthly master; instead we give our full devotion to God in Christ.
Yet even though God is Worthy, we cannot love God as we ought to. The command to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength drives us to prayer. The command reveals our need for redemption in Christ, because without Christ we cannot be weaned off our self love or our worship of lesser things- idols, unless Christ comes to us in the power of the Holy Spirit and delivers us. So we come to God in prayer seeking him to give us the love that we ought to have. Let’s do that now. Let’s come before God, in prayer:
Would you pray with me?
Loving God, thank you that in Jesus Christ you have revealed all your goodness, all your love, all your compassion, all your wisdom and all your power. And we see in Christ, you so truly revealed that we’ve discovered as you have shown us, that you are worthy of all our love and praise. O Lord set our hearts free from attachment to things that are not worthy, and set our hearts on you: our hearts, our minds, our strength, and our souls. In Jesus Name, Amen.
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Now we conclude our program with music from Michael Card :That’s what faith must be.