Summary: An intelligent teacher approached Jesus and asked Him what was the greatest of all the commandments that God had given to man. The greatest thing we can ever do is love God with everything we are.

The Greatest Thing

Mark 12:28-34 28 One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, "Of all the commandments, which is the most important?" 29 "The most important one," answered Jesus, "is this: 'Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.' 31 The second is this: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no commandment greater than these." 32 "Well said, teacher," the man replied. "You are right in saying that God is one and there is no other but him. 33 To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices." 34 When Jesus saw that he had answered wisely, he said to him, "You are not far from the kingdom of God." And from then on no one dared ask him any more questions.

Intro: What is the greatest thing a person can do in life? Save a life? Win a Nobel Prize? Invent a cure for cancer, AIDS, Alzheimer’s, diabetes or the common cold? What is the most important achievement someone might attain today? Bringing peace to the middle East? Discovering a new form of energy so we do not have to spend $3 a gallon on gasoline? We’d all like that. How about solving the world’s hunger and poverty problems? That would be pretty great! How about coming up with an effective solution for all of the crime and violence and waste of human life? Pretty noble aspirations, wouldn’t you say? Well, an intelligent teacher approached Jesus and asked Him what was the greatest of all the commandments that God had given to man. The answer Jesus gave him, in a nutshell, is the main truth I’d like to examine today – which is this:

Prop: The greatest thing we can ever do is love God with everything we are.

Interrogative: Now, you might be thinking, “Thanks, Pastor. I already knew that. Can we go home now?” Well, I hope you will stick around for awhile, because I think it will help us if we look at what it really means to love God with all that we are. How can we love God in this way?

TS: I would like to focus on four characteristics of the kind of love we should have for the Lord our God.

I. Love’s Appropriate Affection (Love the Lord with all your heart and soul)

-Vv. 29-30 are found in Deut. 6:4-5. These verses were recited by the Jews (and still are by many). The Jews call this the Shema, which is the Hebrew word for hear or listen, and is in fact the first Hebrew word of Dt. 6:4. Now, it probably would not serve us well to badmouth the Jews for following the ritual of reciting the Shema each day. We all have rituals we follow as well. Nevertheless, if the ritual has no connection with the heart, then it loses its power and significance. For example, weddings ceremonies are rituals that remind us how sacred marriage is. However, if we had a nice ceremony, but our heart was not really in the marriage, then the ritual of the wedding would have been a grand waste of time and money. Besides that, we would have been lying when we made vows to love, honor, and cherish one another till death do us part.

-So, we are to love the Lord our God with our heart and soul. By the way, when you see the word, LORD, in the OT, in most versions it stands for the special covenant name of God: Yahweh. The Jews viewed God’s name with such reverence and awe, they did not want to speak it or write it in any way that might be considered common or without the proper focus of worship. Eventually, most of them discontinued its use altogether, for fear of breaking the 3rd commandment- Do not take the Lord’s name in vain. Perhaps they erred on the side of caution, but sometimes I wonder if we do not also err on the side of over familiarity or disrespect. That is just something to think about.

-Now, what kind of love is the Lord our God worthy to receive? Well, at the very least, the Lord our God is worthy of the affection that comes from our heart and soul. The Hebrews regarded the heart as the seat of affections. We generally view the heart as the place where our emotions are. The heart is where we feel joy and sadness, anger and peace, fear and courage, love and hatred. We were created with the capacity to do at least 3 things: feeling, thinking, and doing. We should not live our lives based solely on our feelings, but they are part of who we are, and they are important. The Bible tells us what to do with our affections: Set them on things above, and love the Lord with them.

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