Summary: How we are to accomplish the first and great command to love God with all our heart, soul and mind.
Text: 1 John 4:7-11
The beloved apostle John penned the beautiful words of our scripture reading this morning in which one of the great attributes of God is set forth – God is love. Yet, as we begin reading the OT, we find no reference to God loving anyone until we get to Deuteronomy 4:37 – And because He loved your fathers, therefore He chose their descendants after them; and He brought you out of Egypt with His Presence, with His mighty power. Perhaps that will add significance to Paul’s quotation from Malachi in Romans 9:13 – As it is written, “Jacob I have loved, but Esau I have hated.” From these passages, we know God loved the patriarchs. I doubt if there is anyone present who does not appreciate the love God has for all mankind – especially as manifested through His Son Jesus Christ. And, our lesson title “Loving God” could refer to our Creator’s love for us. However, I want to use this title with reference to our attitude toward God. I hope you’ll get your Bibles out as we study for the next few minutes our responsibility for “Loving God”. As always at Walter Hill, we hope you’ll be like the Bereans in Acts 17:11 and search the scriptures daily to see if we are telling the truth.
Let’s begin by reading an incident that occurred just days before our Savior’s death. Turn with me to Matthew 22:34-40 and let’s read together. But when the Pharisees heard that He had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. Then one of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, and saying, “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?” Jesus said to him, ‘You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.” This morning I want us to focus on the first and great commandment – ‘You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ If you have footnotes or references in your Bible, this is taken from Deuteronomy 6:5 – part of the shema (Hebrew word for “hear”) which includes verse four. Interestingly, the parallel gospel account in Mark 12:29-30 has Jesus including Deuteronomy 6:4 in His response to the scribe – Jesus answered him, “The first of all the commandments is: ‘Hear, O Israel, the LORD our God, the LORD is one. 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.’ This is the first commandment.” While Matthew’s account demands that we love the Lord our God with three things – heart, soul and mind, Mark’s account also includes strength or power. Interestingly, on another occasion, Jesus was tested by a lawyer with the question of what he should do to inherit eternal life. When Jesus asked him what was written in the law, the lawyer answered and said in Luke 10:27 – “‘You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind,’ and ‘your neighbor as yourself.’” This lawyer has the same four things with which we must love God as Jesus stated in Mark’s account except that mind and strength are reversed. Finally, let’s go to the source of the first command in Deuteronomy 6:4-5 known to the Jewish people even today as the shema – “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one! You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.” While mind is arguably different from strength, the overall sense of all these passages is to love God with all of our being. In fact, I’d like for you to turn with me to Deuteronomy 10:12-13 which provides a good commentary on how to love God with all of our beings: “And now, Israel, what does the LORD your God require of you, but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all His ways and to love Him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the commandments of the LORD and His statutes which I command you today for your good?” With the exception of God’s plan of salvation through Christ, I believe God expects the same of us today. If we love God with all of our being, we will do all the things mentioned in these two verses. First, we will fear the Lord our God. There are two types of fear we must have toward God – one is a reverential fear or awe of His divinity and position as Creator. The other is the type of fear that causes us to exercise caution because of the consequences. This is the fear Jesus spoke of in Matthew 10:28 – “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.”