Summary: Living a successful Christian life isn't complicated nor does living a life that pleases God does not have to be complex. Christ simplified or summarized what it takes into two steps which if we follow will lead us to living a successful Christian life.
Two Steps to a Successful Christian Life
Living a successful Christian life isn't complicated. I am not saying that it is easy but it doesn't have to be convoluted with a long list of do's and don'ts. In ancient Israel, the Pharisees had taken the Old Testament law and codified the law into 613 regulations made up of 248 positive commandments and 365 prohibitions on how they were to live, which they imposed on their followers. There are numerous books that you can read which tell you how to live the Christian life, many providing helpful suggestions and guidelines. But living a life that pleases God does not have to be complex. Christ simplified or summarized what it takes into two steps which if we follow will lead us to living a successful Christian life.
I. Love God
A. Mark 12:28-30 "Then one of the scribes came, and having heard them reasoning together, perceiving that He had answered them well, asked Him, “Which is the first commandment of all?” Jesus answered him, “The first of all the commandments is: ‘Hear, O Israel, the LORD our God, the LORD is one. And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment."
B. Shema - Hear and Obey! Loving the Supreme Lord, the one true God, Creator of the universe, creator of you is not optional! It is the primary duty of every Christian and is foundational to a victorious living.
C. But what does it mean to love God?
D. “Love” as seen in this command in Greek is the verb agapao. Agape is a love of intelligence and purpose, of sacrifice and hard decisions. In contrast to Phileo, an emotional, sentimental, affectionate love, agape is a “willful love, a determined love that generously chooses for the interests of another.”
E. In her blog Inspiration for Intentional Christian Parenting, Natasha Crain wrote, "To 'agapao' something has nothing to do with warm fuzzies, or even intense feelings. It’s about what you’re committed to. It’s about what comes first in your life. It’s about a choice. This isn’t splitting literary hairs. It makes a monumental difference in how we understand our calling to love God. The Bible makes it explicitly clear that we can agapao things other than God and that in doing so we are working against His desires for us. - Natasha Crain
F. To Agapao is clearly a choice:
1. John 3:19: “…the light has come into the world, and men loved (agapao) darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.”
2. John 12:43: “they loved (agapao) the praise of men more than the praise of God.
3. Luke 11:43: “Woe to you, Pharisees, because you love (agapao) the best seats in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces.”
4. Matthew 6:24 "No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love (agapao) the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth."
5. 1 John 2:15: “Do not love (agapao) the world or he things in the world.”
G. Our love for God must be an across-the-board commitment to put God and His will above all. There must be absolutely no holding back or incompleteness in our devotion and commitment to God.
H. Verse 30 - "...love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength."
I. We are to love (agapao) and obey God with "everything we've got".
J. Anything but a love for God that encompasses all of one’s being and every area of one’s life falls short of God’s will and our need if we are to be all that we were designed to be.
K. The goal of agapao love is that through a full commitment to know, honor, respect and willfully follow Christ in everything we will be led to a phileo love or an intimate and personal love for God and for the Lord Jesus Christ that will be manifest in transformed lives that radiate the joy of Christ.
L. Loving God with the strength of the mind, the strength of the emotion, and the strength of the will makes a truly Christian, a truly balanced, and a the truly strong character. - Adapted, Stanley Jones
II. Love Others
A. Mark 12:31 " And the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself."
B. Loving others is not optional for the child of God - It is a command.
C. Absolute obedience to this second great commandment is impossible without fully obeying the first.
D. If our love for and walk with God is real, it will overflow into a love for others.