Summary: The driving motivation behind all great art, all great music, all great architecture, or writing is a single force: Passion. Nothing great in life was ever accomplished without passion.
This is the second part of a message I started earlier this month entitled three levels of love. With Christmas behind us, we can take a deep breath from all the hustle and bustle of shopping and crowds. I heard a story about a guy who was driving around in a crowded mall parking lot during the holidays looking for a parking place. The parking lot was packed. He finally resorted to prayer. He said, “Dear Lord, please find me a parking place. God, if you’ll find me a parking place, I promise I’ll never miss another Sunday at church, and I’ll start tithing every week.” At that very moment a miracle happened. A car backed out of a prime-parking place. The man said, “Never mind, Lord. I found one on my own!”
That’s how some people treat God, He’s like a 911 emergency number. And when God answers their prayer, they forget to acknowledge Him or thank Him. Other people think of God as some kind of cruel tyrant who has laid down an endless list of rules that are impossible to keep. There are all kinds of laws in this world. In the Old Testament there are ceremonial laws, civil laws, and moral laws. In our world we have federal laws, state laws, local laws, in-laws and outlaws. There are a lot of laws and rules. But in this passage of scripture Jesus tells us to relax, because there are only two rules you really need to know to please God. Love God with all your being and love your neighbor as yourself.
Before we read this passage, let’s recall the context. Jesus is in Jerusalem knowing in a few hours He will face arrest, torture, and a horrific crucifixion, to be followed by a glorious resurrection. The religious leaders had been asking Jesus a series of incriminating questions to trap Him, but He had easily slipped out of all their verbal traps.
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: [He quotes from Deuteronomy 6] ‘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: [and He quotes from Leviticus 19] ‘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.
The Ten Commandments can be summarized by the two principles of loving God and loving your neighbor. The first four commandments deal with loving God, and the last six deal with loving your neighbor. Mark Twain once wrote that he knew of a wealthy, but ruthless businessman in Boston. After Mark Twain visited the Holy Land and wrote about it, this businessman read the account. He told Mark Twain his greatest goal in life is to travel to the Holy Land, climb Mt. Sinai and read the Ten Commandments aloud. Mark Twain said, “I have a better idea. Why don’t you stay in Boston and KEEP the Ten Commandments?” Loving God and loving others fulfills the Ten Commandments.
Jesus was speaking of three levels of love. In the previous message we talked about the first two levels and in this message we’ll explore what it means to live in the third level of love.
Let’s review: The first level of love is to love yourself correctly. Jesus said to love your neighbor as yourself. You can’t love your neighbor or God until you love yourself. The only way you can love yourself is to see yourself correctly, as God sees you. The Bible says, “To all who received him, those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.” (John 1:12) Have you received Jesus as your Lord and Savior? If your answer is “yes” then you are a child of God. And God love His children so much that He says through the prophet Isaiah that He has engraved you on the palms of His hands. We can love ourselves because God first loved us. One of my mentors, Adrian Rogers, used to say, “God doesn’t love you because you are valuable; you are valuable because God loves you!”