Summary: Fourth of the series examining the Great Commandment.
The Outward Expression: Love
Today we conclude our series on the basics of Authentic Christianity.
We have been looking at the Great Commandment and have discovered that Authentic Christianity means that we love God with all that we are¡K
„« All our heart ¡V meaning that we have a passion for God¡K that above all else we want Him¡K that we are thirsty for God alive.
„« All our soul and all our strength ¡V meaning that we are authentic¡K our attitudes and motivations are seen through our actions
„« All our mind ¡V not merely a knowledge of God but a pursuit of understanding God¡K who He is¡K how He works¡K what His desire is for our lives.
Today we look at the Outward Expression of Authentic Christianity: Love.
Let¡¦s look again at Matthew 22:35-40:
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."
(Matthew 22:35-40 NIV)
Notice that Jesus makes a distinction between these two commandments¡K
„« The first is to love God with all you are
„« The second is to love your neighbor as yourself
„« Loving God comes first¡K then love for your neighbor will follow.
What is love?
„« Our culture often mistake love for a feeling that varies in its intensity and comes and goes.
„« We think we fall in love and that we fall out of love¡K. Love has become more a self-serving notion
„« I love you has become more an expression of ¡§I like what you do for me¡¨ rather than ¡§I am devoted to you¡¨
„« Love is expressed as devotion ¡K In our day it¡¦s merely devotion to self. We¡¦ll love someone as long as they give us what we want¡K as long as they make us feel good¡K but as soon as they stop¡K our love does too.
„« Sure love involves emotions and feelings¡K but those are rewards and reflections of love¡K not love itself.
So what does it mean to love your neighbor as yourself? ¡K Jesus isn¡¦t talking about having feelings and emotions for others.
Authentic Christianity is expressed in its devotion. ¡K Keep this in mind as we finish our series on the Basics of Authentic Christianity today.
What does it mean for us to love our neighbor as ourselves?
First, let¡¦s look at what Jesus is not saying:
Jesus is NOT telling us to love ourselves.
„« The primary focus of this command is to love our neighbor¡K Jesus assumes we already care for ourselves
„« Ephesians 5:29 ¡V No one abuses his own body, does he? No, he feeds and pampers it. (MSG)
„« To say this verse means that we ought to love ourselves is to totally miss the emphasis on ¡§love your neighbor¡¨ ¡K
„« This love¡K love your neighbor as yourself¡K is a love of action¡K outward focused¡K not a love of reflection back upon us.
Jesus is NOT saying that loving your neighbor will get you into heaven
„« You don¡¦t get to heaven by being a good person who is nice to others
„« All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away. (Isaiah 64:6 NIV)
„« In fact, we can only love because God loved us first.
„« 1 John 4:19 ¡V ¡§We love because he first loved us.¡¨
Until we realize that we can¡¦t possibly be good enough to get into heaven¡K the message of the cross is misunderstood as something that makes us better¡K and not something that changes us completely.
Actually, loving our neighbor is a direct result of loving God¡K you can¡¦t love God and not love others.
1 John 4:20-21 ¡V If anyone boasts, ¡§I love God,¡¨ and then goes right on hating his brother or sister, thinking nothing of it, he is a liar. ¡K The command we have from Christ is blunt: Loving God includes loving people. You¡¦ve got to love both. (MSG)
And¡K loving our neighbor reflects our love for God
This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples¡Xwhen they see the love you have for each other. (John 13:35 MSG)
The second command isn¡¦t about the need for us to love ourselves¡K and it isn¡¦t about earning our way into heaven¡K. It¡¦s about pouring out the love of God through us. ¡K sharing the love of God with another person.