Monday, January 21, 2013

How to Love God with all your heart

Mark 12:28-30 One of the scribes came and heard them arguing, and recognizing that He had answered them well, asked Him, “What commandment is the foremost of all?” 29Jesus answered, “The foremost is, ‘HEAR, O ISRAEL! THE LORD OUR GOD IS ONE LORD; 30AND 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.’

Yesterday's blog introduced Jesus' teaching on the Great Commandments from Mark 12:28-34.  We did an overview of His teaching, and concluded that in general terms, Jesus was giving us two categories by which we can operate in living out our daily Christian lives.  Today I want to get more specific, tracing out specifically what it means to Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength.  Jesus quotes from Deuteronomy 6:4-5.  In order to truly understand the specific implications and significance of loving the Lord, we need to go back to Deuteronomy 5 and 6. 

How to reconcile the fact that I don't love the Lord God perfectly
John MacArthur notes that we begin our walk of faith by loving the Lord our God imperfectly and will culminate our faith walk in Heaven loving the Lord our God perfectly. Do I love the Lord God as perfectly as I should? No. However by the grace and righteousness of Jesus Christ, my imperfect expression of love is connected to the Lord's perfect love coursing through me, enabling my efforts to be deemed acceptable in His sight. 

How do you and I love the Lord our God as Jesus intends?
Jesus' response to the scribe's question is a great summary of the wider teaching of Deuteronomy 5 and 6. In those two chapters, Moses lays out a repeating of the Ten Commandments in Deuteronomy 5, with the purpose of the commandments spelled out in Deuteronomy 6. So how are we to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength as spelled out in Deuteronomy 5 & 6?

1. Love the Lord your God exclusively.  Deuteronomy 5:1-6
As Moses rehearses the history of God's dealing with His people from the Exodus out of Egypt to the delivery of the Law, He prefaces the Ten Commandments by identifying Himself as the God who saves.  Deuteronomy 5:6 states - ‘" am the LORD your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery." Clearly no other God could had done this, for God, Yahweh, is the only true and Living God.  Certainly the scribe's response to Jesus in Mark 12:32 confirms this interpretation - "scribe said to Him, “Right, Teacher; You have truly stated that HE IS ONE, AND THERE IS NO ONE ELSE BESIDES HIM".  Being that the Lord God is exclusively God in both identity and existence, the love we have for Him is going to be in a category all on its own. 

2. Love the Lord your God Emphatically.  Deuteronomy 5:7-6:6
With the Lord reminding the Israelites and us of His redemptive identity, He then reveals the ten commandments.  Martin Luther has said it quite well concerning the relationship between the Law and Gospel, that the law points me to the Gospel, and that the Gospel gives me the power to fulfill the law.  The first four commandments deal with that first table of the law - namely my vertical relationship with God. 

One of the ways we can begin to see how the first three commandments outline specific ways to emphatically love God is by stating them positively.  When we state something negatively, we are saying "don't do this" or  "you shall not do that".  To state something positively is to take that same command and communicate it affirmatively, as in "you do this" or "you shall do that".  In looking at the first three commandments, when I state them positively, I'm not changing the meaning, rather I am showing what they look like for a believer who is fulfilling their intent by grace.  Furthermore, as you look at these commandments in light of the Great Commandment of Deuteronomy 6:4-5 and Mark 12:28-30, you begin to see specific ways in which your love for God is being emphasized.  Thus consider the first three commandments from Deuteronomy 5:7-15:

First 3 Commandments stated Negatively                
#1 Deuteronomy 5:7‘You shall have no other gods before Me.'
#2 Deut 5:8a ‘You shall not make for yourself an idol....'
#3 Deut 5:11a ‘You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain'

First 3 Commandments restated Postively
#1 Deuteronomy 5:7‘You shall love only the Lord your God.'
#2 Deut 5:8a ‘You are to love your God who is in a unique class by Himself....'
#3 Deut 5:11a ‘You shall love the Lord by honoring His name"

Outside of grace and the love of God, the unbeliever is faced with the reality of not being able nor desiring to love the Lord their God.  However once a person has believed on the Lord Jesus Christ by grace through faith, the negatives of the law turn into the positives of grace.  Deuteronomy 6 exists to show the goal and intent of the ten commandments - namely to point us to Grace which gives me the power to fulfill the law in loving the Lord my God with all my heart, soul, mind and strength.  

3. Love the Lord your God Extensively Deuteronomy 6:7-25
As you read further into Deuteronomy 6 on this subject of loving the Lord your God, we discover that it is not meant to be only something we keep to ourselves.  Deuteronomy 6:7, 17 and 21 all teach that we are to pass the commands of God, and love for God, down to our children and grandchildren.  Furthermore, the scriptures extensively tell us repeatedly to love the lord our God.  Moses repeats it for example in Deuteronomy 11:1.  Joshua teaches the next generation of Israelites to do the same in Joshua 23:11 “So take diligent heed to yourselves to love the LORD your God."  Numerous other passages could be cited, but both Testaments signify this loving of God to be central to true Biblical Faith, as seen for example in the four Gospels . (Matthew 22:37-39; Mark 12:28-34; Lk 10:25-28; John 15:7)

Back to Jesus' teaching in Mark 12:30 on loving God
Having looked at the fact that we are to love God exclusively, emphatically and extensively, we can see why Jesus uses Deuteronomy 6:4-5 to indicate His teaching on the Greatest commandment.  Loving the Lord your God with all your heart deals with the emotions, the affections, the center from which I live my life.  Loving Him with all my soul has to do with the entirety of my mind, emotions and will.  The soul is the very essence of life itself, thus my life should revolve about loving the Lord my God.  Then Jesus says to love the Lord God with all my mind - the thinker of my soul.  The Older Christians used to speak about building Cathedrals for the mind.  As I love God with all my mind, I study, read, use my intellect in conjunction with seeing and understanding God's purposes and will. Then Jesus says to love the Lord with all my strength.  The Hebrew translates it  "muchness", and the Greek here in Mark speaks of a vitality flowing from the inside out.  Do I really love God at the deepest level? 

More tomorrow......

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