Watchman Reflections

3 Considerations when Responding to “The Greatest Commandments”

Matthew 22:35 tells us that a Pharisee wanted to test Jesus, and so asked Him which commandment under the Law was the greatest. We all know the answer, but do we know what to do with the answer?

And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”
– Matthew 22:37-40 ESV

Before diving in, I think it’s important to understand that though these commandments are considered under the Law, yet they are still ours to live by under the New Covenant. Jesus came to fulfill the Law, not erase it. Therefore, from this place of fulfillment in Christ, we must consider what it means for Jesus to designate these two commandments the Greatest.

There are three key points worthy of our consideration; three general observations that direct our steps toward responding to this most important call of God. For those with ears to hear, it is vital that we understand and walk them out.

1. What is love?

This may seem a silly place to start. Certainly we’ve been inundated with love both in churches and in the world. But, spend a moment and simplify the word. What is love?

Is it an emotion? Is it an ideal? Is it an empty word filling Hallmark cards? Or maybe, a physical expression of lust?

Love is a verb. (For all you DC Talk fans, feel free to sing along before continuing—I know I did…)

Love is active; lived from an awareness of truth and with intentionality. Biblically, love is sacrificial.
For God so loved the world that He gave

Love directs our hearts to God by faith, and requires an active, truth-filled response.

Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.
-1 John 3:18

2. How is love expressed through our hearts, minds, and souls?

For those in Christ, it’s important to note that we’ve moved from slaves of sin to slaves of righteousness (Romans 6:17-18). A life that has been freed from the dominion of sin now demands devotion to the pursuit of righteousness, flowing from the application of loving God with all our hearts, minds, and souls.

There’s no room for self-directed lordship, despite humanity’s effort to rule and reign as gods. The Lord our God is One. Singular. We are either slaves to sin or slaves to righteousness until our eternal inheritance in glory is received (1 Peter 1:3-4).

If that sounds yucky, if it feels harsh, return to the first point and reflect on what love is, and what God’s love accomplished. The promises of faith are exponentially more freeing, hope-filled, and joyous than any expression of love that’s set apart from God in truth.

So, how do we love God with all our hearts, minds, and souls under the this new covenant of grace?

The Heart:

Our hearts are deceptive (Jeremiah 17:9). They are prone to sin while still warring against our flesh. In loving God with all our heart, we must desire holiness according to God’s word. Jesus prayed for His Bride-to-be to be sanctified by truth, and reiterated that God’s word is truth (John 17:17).

He told us that we are already made clean by the gospel we’ve received by faith, and now the call is to remain. Abide there (John 15:3-4). God searches hearts, and yet human tendency is to hide. But to love God with all our hearts is to humbly offer them up for inspection, desiring the refining that brings purity, because the promise remains: The pure in heart will see God.

Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting!

– Psalm 139:23-24 ESV

The Mind:

Our minds are breeding grounds for knowledge; they are designed to sift experience and apply understanding. But we are reminded in Proverbs that The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge.

Apart from a reverence for God, we are fools despite all efforts to obtain knowledge. To love God with all our minds, we must begin with awe at His majesty and the fullness of His character, which we know by His word. From there, we direct our minds to the pursuit of godly wisdom. That means despising all else.

Through your precepts I get understanding; therefore I hate every false way.
– Psalm 119:104 ESV

The Soul:

Our souls were made to know God and be known by Him. It’s in the active longing that we express love for God with all our souls. As the deer pants for streams of water, so we pant for streams of Living Water by faith in Christ. This is our most holy call, our most vital love offering unto the Lord.

Jesus said, whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life (John 4:14).

Again, loving comes in the doing; it’s in the sacrifice of praise that acknowledges Jesus Christ as Lord of our lives and the Provider of every good and perfect gift God has given us by grace.

My soul keeps your testimonies; I love them exceedingly.
– Psalm 119:167 ESV

3. How do we love our neighbor?

Loving our neighbor as ourselves requires equal investment as in ourselves. Time. Energy. Finances. Our God-given resources beget God-given expenditure.

If we’ve already committed to loving God as per the first greatest commandment, then selfish motives—which impede our ability to love others—have already been deactivated. De. Activated. As in, acted in opposition to. Therefore, this second commandment flows naturally from the first.

But we have a problem: how often is the first commandment overlooked to assign attention to irreverent ideologies demanding love for our neighbor apart from truth?

Let me explain.

In a world that’s growing darker and darker with sin abounding, the demand for love looks increasingly like conformity and acceptance of that which God hates. To love what God abhors is to deny the power of the gospel of grace which brings redemption. Real love doesn’t want death for ourselves or our neighbors, but in forsaking truth and ultimately the first commandment, we’ve failed in fulfilling the second as well.

In Conclusion

The application of loving God with all our hearts, minds, and souls comes through sacrificial offerings of humility, reverence, and devotion. We were bought at a high price, yet Jesus considered it joy to carry the weight of the world’s sin unto death for our freedom and access into God’s Kingdom.

Jesus’s defeat of sin allows for the fulfillment of these commands which we are helpless to heed on our own. We cannot love God without Christ, and yet, by abiding in Christ—through sanctified expressions of righteousness by faith—we can and do answer the call; and therein find the blessings promised.

Be blessed as you walk it out!

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