Summary: The first factor in church health is motivation - why we do what we do,



MATTHEW 22:36-40


In this new year of 2011, I’ve decided to make some changes in my life. One of the changes I’m going to make is to get healthy – physically healthy. I’m overweight, have Type-2 diabetes, and high blood pressure. To combat those physical ailments, I’ve changed my diet. I’ve already lost a couple of pounds in just the two weeks in which I’ve changed the way I eat. I’ve also noticed a change for the better in my blood sugar readings. Starting tomorrow, I start an exercise plan. If I don’t change what I’m doing, I’ll suffer harm to myself and to my family.

We, as a church, also need to do some things that will make us healthier. Let’s face it – we’re not doing real well in the church health category. We’ve got diminished attendance, diminished involvement, and diminished commitment on lots of levels. So, no, we’re not getting healthier as a body. And that’s what the church is – a

body; the body of Christ. And we’re losing our health.

Over the next few weeks, I want us to look together at some factors which will help increase our church health. I’m calling this series: Healthy Church! The first health factor I want us to consider is “The Motivation Factor.”

I want us to look at a passage this morning in which Jesus is asked a very important question. I doubt the person who asked the question actually understood how important his question was. But Jesus understood and gave an answer that was simple yet profound.

Matt. 22:36-40 – “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?’

Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.’”

The Pharisees had long debated the most important of the commandments. In rabbinical writings following the time of Jesus, we find that the teachers of the law had determined that there were 613 commandments in the Old Testament Law. They classified 248 of them as positive commands (“do this…” or the “thou shalts..”). The remaining 365 of them were classified as negative commands (“don’t do this…” or the “thou shalt nots…).

And these teachers of the law further classified these commands as being “lighter” or “heavier” in importance.

Jesus understood that the question he was asked had nothing to do with which commands could be ignored and which commands should be obeyed. Jesus taught that not even the least significant parts of the law, such as accent marks and vowel points, would be done away with. He said that He had come to fulfill the Law – the whole Law. Jesus understood that the question really had to do with which command was the fundamental premise on which the whole rest of the law could be understood and practiced.

Jesus first chooses a command which comes from a section of the Old Testament called the Shema. It’s found in Deut. 6 and is part of a passage recited by faithful Jews at the start of every day and at the beginning of synagogue services. It’s the first scripture that a Jew memorizes. He calls this command to love God with all your heart, soul, and mind the first and greatest of all the commandments.

In biblical usage, the word translated “commandment” is like a military order – it cannot be refused. It refers to an order from someone in charge. Disobedience means severe discipline. Jesus is emphasizing that this teaching is not something that can be ignored. In fact, the word for “greatest” in the original language means something “really big; high; mighty.” Jesus is letting us know that what he is saying is HUGE in relation to other things. It goes in front of everything. It’s in first place.

The word for “love” in the original language is what Paul describes in 1 Cor. 13. It’s agape love. It’s a sacrificial love. It’s a love that seeks to look out for the other person. It’s not a feeling but a decision. It says, “I will make your desires important.”

I think that’s why so many people “fall out of love.” They’re in a relationship for what they can get. And when they decide, “I’m not getting what I need,” they sever the relationship. But the love Jesus talks about here doesn’t focus on getting what I need. It’s based on what I give and not on what I get. That’s the love we’re called to have for God.

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