Summary: This sermon examines some of the characteristics and basics of Christian living.

Introduction: Early in the season football teams sometimes gets so caught up in the preseason hype and trying to learn the offence and defense that they forget the basics of blocking and tackling. Unfortunately when that happens they usually end up losing a game or two, which for teams like Tennessee could keep them from being able to play for a National Championship.

The same thing happens to churches. Sometimes we get so caught up in all of the different ministries and programs that we have going that we forget about the basics of Christianity. When that happens it can be just as devastating. So this morning I want to share a few verses of Scripture that explain these basics better than perhaps any other passage of scripture in the Bible. Follow along as I read Mark 12:28-34.

“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?"

"The most important one," answered Jesus, "is this: ’Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: ’Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these."

"Well said, teacher," the man replied. "You are right in saying that God is one and there is no other but him. 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."

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.

In essence what Jesus was saying was that our relationship to God is more important than anything else, including the ministries and programs that we are involved in at church. In his Book, “Experiencing God,” Henry Blackaby says, “God is much more interested in having an intimate personal love relationship with you than He is in what you can do for him.”

I’m sure God would prefer it if I spent more time reading His Word and praying than I do preparing sermons, visiting people who are sick, and attending the various meetings that I attend. Unfortunately that isn’t always the case, and I’m sure you are just as guilty of neglecting your relationship to the Lord as I am. So perhaps the first thing we all need to do this morning is evaluate our relationship to the Lord, and see if perhaps we need to cut back on our religious activities a little so that we can focus more on our relationship with God.

The Second most important Commandment according to Jesus is to “Love our neighbors as we love ourselves.”

Even the Jewish lawyer that came to test Jesus understood that the relationships that we have with one another are much more important than the religious duties or activities that tend to occupy so much of our time. Yet too often we put more time and energy into our religious activities and ministries while neglecting the relationships we have with one another. When that happens, problems will almost certainly develop.

So this morning I want to share a couple of things with you that I believe will help all of us re-focus our attention on the importance of loving our neighbors.

I. First of all, Treat other people the way you want to be treated.

This is what we sometimes refer to as the (Golden rule.) Jesus shared this simple, yet profound truth during his Sermon on the Mount. In Matthew 7:12, He said, “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.”

This is one of the first things most of us as parents teach our children. It is one of the most basic philosophies of life. Yet it has a tremendous impact on our lives and the lives of those we come into contact with.

illustration: The parable of the Good Samaritan, found in the 10th chapter of Luke introduces us to three philosophies of life. The robber’s philosophy was "What you have is mine, and I will take it." The priest and Levite had the philosophy that "What is mine is mine, and I will keep it. " The Samaritaan’s philosophy was "What is mine is yours, and I will share it." Jesus endorsed the Samaritan’s philosophy and said, "go, and do likewise." Luke 10:37

A. If we want someone to be our friend, we must first be a friend to them.

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