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Words In Red

The Greatest Commandment in The Bible

Pastor Gary Buchman
Emmitsburg Community Bible Church

"And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart,
with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength."

(4/27) During the week before Easter, The History Channel ran the whole series called the Bible, from which the Son of God movie came. The UP Channel ran a marathon all week of the greatest movies about the Bible. I watched several of them. The image I want to begin todayís message with is that of Jesus with His disciples as He is about to ascend up into heaven. He has accomplished His mission. He died and rose again for us. He had discipled men and women and then He commits a mission to them and to us. Look at Matthew 28:18-20, And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." Amen

This has been the basis of much of teaching time these last 2 years. We were doing a series called Words in Red and we looked at a lot that our Lord taught and commanded us to do in the Gospel of Matthew. We stepped away for Christmas and then two short series. We have at least 6 more sermons from Matthewís gospel. These may well be the most important things that Jesus, our Lord wants us to do. Iím not saying these will be the greatest sermons I have ever given, but I will say these are among the most important things that He wants us to know and learn. Are you ready? Here we go!

I. The Greatest Commandment

Look at Matthew 22:34-38, "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, "Ďyou shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.í 38 This is the first and great commandment.

Now, someone has counted and told us that there are 613 different commands in the Bible. The Pharisees were trying to get Jesus caught in His own words by possibly entrapping Him with His own theology. Iím not sure exactly what they had in mind, I only know that with His response, He established the heart of the entire Bible for all of us. Two commands on which absolutely everything we are to do is based on. We will consider the most important commandment in the Bible.

If we had no written book called a Bible, the primary thing to embrace about being a God follower is this sentence from Deut. 6:5. "Love God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind," and Mark adds, with all your strength. This is the command of all commands.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning is the one who penned these words that you will see every Valentineís Day,

"How do I love thee? Let me count the ways. I love thee to the depth and breadth and height My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight For the ends of Being and ideal Grace. I love thee to the level of every day's Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light. I love thee freely, as men strive for Right; I love thee purely, as they turn from Praise. I love thee with a passion put to use In my old griefs, and with my childhood's faith. I love thee with a love I seemed to lose With my lost saints, --- I love thee with the breath, Smiles, tears, of all my life! --- and, if God choose, I shall but love thee better after death."

I thought of that when I thought of Todayís sermon

The word Love here, is from the Greek agapao and the Hebrew aheb. The meanings are similar. They mean, to make a conscious decision to seek the welfare, or the highest good and the honor of another. It is a commitment. It is also a command that I am convinced so few really know much about. How, though, can you command someone to love? Isnít love just something that happens? Maybe something you fall into? Can love be something that you will to do? Especially if it involves emotions? I believe that love is something that you can will to do, especially when you consider the one who wants our love.

II. The Basis for the Greatest Command.

When John wrote his first letter (not the gospel) he said this, "We love Him because He first loved us." (1 John 4:19). Some versions omit the word, Him. It was God who pursued us to have a relationship with us. I donít know about you, but in your relationship with your spouse, one of you took the lead to ask the other out. I mean, you could have just looked at each other and instantly you both knew, but odds are, one of you took the lead. With a little persistence, dinner, dates, gifts, talk, a little smooching, feelings began to kick in and you wanted to love the person you married.

Letís look at Deuteronomy 7:6-8, "For you are a holy people to the Lord your God; the Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for Himself, a special treasure above all the peoples on the face of the earth. 7 The Lord did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any other people, for you were the least of all peoples; 8 but because the Lord loves you, and because He would keep the oath which He swore to your fathers, the Lord has brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you from the house of bondage, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt" You discover here that it wasnít anything in Israel that evoked Godís love for them, it was His desire to pursue them. He chose them out of all the people in the world to reveal Himself to. He chose to love them because He wanted to. He was determined to keep His word to Abraham so He set His affection on Israel.

Paul relates that to us in Ephesians 1:4-7, " just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, 5 having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, 6 to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved 7 In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins,

and 2:1-5, And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, 2 in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, 3 among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others.4 But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved) God chose to love us, not just in words. We sing the childrenís song, "Jesus loves me this I know for the Bible tells me so," But the truth is, what the Bible tells us, is that God demonstrated His love, He proved His love when He sent Jesus. Thatís what John 3:16 means. It is not a love of quantity, it is a love of action, of demonstration, cp. 1 John 3:16, "By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us" and 4:9 "In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him." God sought you and bought you with his redeeming blood and then He adopted you, He forgave you because of His great love, and has given you an inheritance and He says that what He wants from you above everything else in this world is for you to reciprocate and love Him. John said, 1 John 3:1, "Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God!

In His great love He has given you and me a book to show us how to avoid the pitfalls of life and live life as it was meant to be. For those of us who have failed and fallen, He shows us how to get up and dust off and get back in the game. He has pledged His love and faithfulness to you for the rest of your life and for eternity. Thatís what the New Covenant is all about. Listen to Paulís words to the Romans 8:35-39, "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36 As it is written: "For Your sake we are killed all day long; We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter." 37 Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. 38 For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, 39 nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

God isnít looking for ritual worship. He isnít looking for you to just show up and put money in the offering and stand staring while George is playing. In Matt. 15:8-9 our Lord quotes from Isaiah 29, ĎThese people draw near to Me with their mouth, And honor Me with their lips, But their heart is far from Me .9 And in vain they worship Me, Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men." There are places in the Old Testament where God says, "Stop it, Stop your empty worship, I am sick of it. Like Isa 1:10-14, Amos 5:21-27

He doesnít want you to just say, "Hi," once on a while or to use Him to get what you want. So many prayers are not about talking to our Father, they are about asking for stuff. Our Father wants first place in every area of your life. He isnít looking for a one hour a week sacrifice of your time when it is convenient and for many it isnít convenient. It is taking sleep time, golf time, fishing time, lawn time, football time, hunting time, shopping time, clean the house time and God gets a, catch you when I can, nod. How sad, when He gave His Son to die and rise again to give us life, forgiveness, adoption, and eternity! Jesus once told a Pharisee who had invited Him to dinner, that those who realize how much they have been forgiven of are the ones who show Him great love. Those who donít give much thought to their forgiveness donít show Him very much love (Luke 7:47).

III. The Means of the Commandment

God wants your love, He wants you to seek His honor and Love Him as much as He loves you. How would you say you are doing here? With all your heart, soul, mind, and strength means with all of you, every part of your being. But since these 4 words are used specifically we should take a moment and consider them even though that some of these will overlap.

1. Your Heart Ė Your heart is considered the core of your being. Proverbs 4:23, Keep (or guard) your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life. This is the real you, not the outer shell with its wrinkles and age spots. This is the person who is growing and becoming like Christ. This is what God makes new. While we look at each otherís appearance, the heart is what God looks at (1 Sam. 16:7). This the part that wants to repent of sin and embrace what is holy. With my heart I want to Honor God and I want to be honorable for God. I want Him to be proud of me. With My heart, I want to avoid any infidelity. With my heart I will be careful that my life isnít about a routine. Many marriages and homes have become routine and many Christians and churches have become routine. We go through the motions of a relationship, but our hearts are really focused on our job, our homes, our money, our sports, our hobbies, our families, our TV, our technology, etc. Remember, James 4:1-5, "Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members? 2 You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask. 3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures. 4 Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. 5 Or do you think that the Scripture says in vain, "The Spirit who dwells in us yearns jealously"? When stuff and pleasure become our most sought after desires, it is like committing adultery against God. Our Lord Jesus once said that where your treasure is that is where your heart will be. Where is your heart? Loving God with all our heart says like the Marines, Semper Fi, "Always Faithful!" It will ask the question on a regular basis, "Is anything becoming more important than my relationship with God?" Jesus our Lord once said, that if any other relationship including parents, children, or spouse becomes more important than Him, we are not worthy of Him (Matt. 10:37). He warned the church at Ephesus that unless they stopped their routine church and return to their first love, He would remove their light in Revelation 2.

2. Your Soul Ė In scripture, this may be the eternal part of you, but it appears to also be the part that is related to our emotions. This is the part that feels, laughs, grieves, gets angry, etc. This is the part which expresses worship when we sing and when we pray. This is where we say the words, "I Love You, I am grateful for you, I worship and adore you." This is the part of our lives with which we trust and obey God. With our soul we love what God loves and we hate what God hates. Ps. 97:10 says, "You who love the Lord, hate evil!" This is why we turn the channel, or look away from pornography. This is why we choose our language and words carefully. This is the part of us that may love lost people but hate what they are doing and never approve of sin. Psalm 7:11 says, the Lord is angry with the wicked every day. Thatís why Jesus though loving the lost always called them to repentance and to stop sinning.

From our soul we obey God because we love Him. We remember the words of Jesus, "If you love me keep my commandments." (John 14:15) And the words of the Old Testament, "To obey is better than sacrifice." Disobedience, Samuel told Saul, is just like rebellion and witchcraft in 1 Samuel 15:22-23. I will go as far to say that God doesnít want your worship if your heart isnít bent on obeying Him.

This is also the part of us that longs to be with Him and so we look for His return and even view our own impending deaths with hope and expectation. Paul said, "Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing. (2 Tim. 4:8)

3. Your Mind Ė Is the intellectual part of you. This is the part of you that thinks, learns, & knows God. With our minds we spend the time learning about God and getting to know God personally. We often say that being a Christ Ė follower is having a personal relationship with God. Our Lord told us in Jeremiah 9:24, that what He wants is for us to know Him. Thus says the Lord: "Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, Let not the mighty man glory in his might, Nor let the rich man glory in his riches; 24 But let him who glories glory in this, That he understands and knows Me, That I am the Lord, exercising loving kindness, judgment, and righteousness in the earth. For in these I delight," says the Lord.

This is personal and intimate knowledge. It may include knowing about Him but it means to know Him, to know what He is like, what He wants, what He loves, what He hates, what grieves His heart, What makes Him angry, What makes Him smile, What He desires, etc. With our minds we want to read and meditate on His words.

With our minds we conceive of ways to honor Him, of making Him known, of doing things better than they have been done. Loving God with our minds means we are going to think of new ways to keep our worship fresh, new ways of discipling people, new ways of reaching the lost with the truth of the Gospel. And when we do, we will think of honoring God and not just think of what we want because of our child hood memories. With our minds we constantly ask, What ifÖ... or How could weÖ..?

4. Your Strength Ė Is the energy and action part of you. This is the part that is connected to your body and serves God with energy. This is the part of you that says to God, "I give you my life, my body, my service. From this day forth I belong to you". I watched the (1953) movie, The Robe again this last week and I love the part where Tribune Marcellus (Richard Burton) says, "From this day forth I am enlisted in His service, I offer Him, my sword, my fortune, and my very life, and this I pledge on my honor as a Roman."

With my strength, I serve God by serving those God whom loves. This is the full meaning of Romans 12:1, I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. How are you serving God? Who are you serving for God? More on this in two weeks

With my strength, I give to God and to the things God wants to accomplish. I see my stuff as really being Godís and I am the steward of it. I donít say, "How much can I keep and not make God angry, but how much can I give to accomplish His goals?

God isnít interested in half - hearted worship, mindless attendance, routine activity. He gave His all to pursue us and then to shower us with grace, and in return He wants our total devotion and Paul says it is a reasonable response.

Let me ask you, "Is the Greatest Commandment, your greatest concern? Do you love God? Do really Love God? Do you love Him with all your heart? Do you love him with all your soul? Do you love Him with all your mind? Do you love him with all your strength?" This love may involve your feelings and emotions but it is a determined action. I will pledge myself to the one who pledged Himself and gave His all for me and then showered me with mercy and grace.

Who will commit their life and love to God the father and His Son our Lord Jesus Christ?

Want to know more, give me a call at 301-447-6565 or email me at Better yet, stop by and see us on Sunday at 10:00 at the Emmitsburg Elementary School, 300 South Seton Ave. Emmitsburg, Md. 21727

Read other thoughtful writings by Pastor Gary Buchman