Text: 1 John 4:7-11
The beloved apostle John penned the beautiful words of our scripture reading this morning in which one of the great attributes of God is set forth – God is love. Yet, as we begin reading the OT, we find no reference to God loving anyone until we get to Deuteronomy 4:37 – And because He loved your fathers, therefore He chose their descendants after them; and He brought you out of Egypt with His Presence, with His mighty power. Perhaps that will add significance to Paul’s quotation from Malachi in Romans 9:13 – As it is written, “Jacob I have loved, but Esau I have hated.” From these passages, we know God loved the patriarchs. I doubt if there is anyone present who does not appreciate the love God has for all mankind – especially as manifested through His Son Jesus Christ. And, our lesson title “Loving God” could refer to our Creator’s love for us. However, I want to use this title with reference to our attitude toward God. I hope you’ll get your Bibles out as we study for the next few minutes our responsibility for “Loving God”. As always at Walter Hill, we hope you’ll be like the Bereans in Acts 17:11 and search the scriptures daily to see if we are telling the truth.
Let’s begin by reading an incident that occurred just days before our Savior’s death. Turn with me to Matthew 22:34-40 and let’s read together. But when the Pharisees heard that He had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. Then one of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, and saying, “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?” Jesus said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.” This morning I want us to focus on the first and great commandment – ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ If you have footnotes or references in your Bible, this is taken from Deuteronomy 6:5 – part of the shema (Hebrew word for “hear”) which includes verse four. Interestingly, the parallel gospel account in Mark 12:29-30 has Jesus including Deuteronomy 6:4 in His response to the scribe – 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.” While Matthew’s account demands that we love the Lord our God with three things – heart, soul and mind, Mark’s account also includes strength or power. Interestingly, on another occasion, Jesus was tested by a lawyer with the question of what he should do to inherit eternal life. When Jesus asked him what was written in the law, the lawyer answered and said in Luke 10:27 – “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind,’ and ‘your neighbor as yourself.’” This lawyer has the same four things with which we must love God as Jesus stated in Mark’s account except that mind and strength are reversed. Finally, let’s go to the source of the first command in Deuteronomy 6:4-5 known to the Jewish people even today as the shema – “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.” While mind is arguably different from strength, the overall sense of all these passages is to love God with all of our being. In fact, I’d like for you to turn with me to Deuteronomy 10:12-13 which provides a good commentary on how to love God with all of our beings: “And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all His ways and to love Him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the commandments of the Lord and His statutes which I command you today for your good?” With the exception of God’s plan of salvation through Christ, I believe God expects the same of us today. If we love God with all of our being, we will do all the things mentioned in these two verses. First, we will fear the Lord our God. There are two types of fear we must have toward God – one is a reverential fear or awe of His divinity and position as Creator. The other is the type of fear that causes us to exercise caution because of the consequences. This is the fear Jesus spoke of in Matthew 10:28 – “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.”
However, it is often hard to distinguish the meanings except in context. First of all, the command – 1 Peter 2:17 – Honor all people. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king. And, now, the applications: 2 Corinthians 7:1 – Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God. Next, Ephesians 5:17-21 – Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another in the fear of God. And, finally, Hebrews 12:28-29 – Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear. For our God is a consuming fire. From these last three passages, we can conclude that our motivation as well as our manner of perfecting holiness, submitting to one another and serving God is with godly fear. Not only will we fear God but we will also walk in all His ways. So how do we do that? The first answer is found in 2 Corinthians 5:7 – For we walk by faith, not by sight. Since faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God according to Romans 10:17, we must be diligent to pay attention to what God has said in order to walk in His ways. No wonder the psalmist could write in Psalm 119:105 – Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. Secondly, we must walk in good works. Read with me from Ephesians 2:10 – For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. Thirdly, the apostle Paul tells us to walk worthy of our calling. Listen to his words in Ephesians 4:1-3 as he also tells us the characteristics of that walk: I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. Paul expanded on these last two aspects of our walk in Colossians 1:10 in his prayer for the saints at Colosse – that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; Fourthly, we are to walk cautiously or carefully. Read Ephesians 5:15-16 with me: See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Fifthly, we are to walk according to His commandments – 2 John 6 – This is love, that we walk according to His commandments. Many of you have memorized John 14:15 where Jesus says, “If you love Me, keep My commandments.” Finally, we must walk in the truth. Let’s read 3 John 3-4 – For I rejoiced greatly when brethren came and testified of the truth that is in you, just as you walk in the truth. I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth. Jesus promised His disciples in John 8:32 – “And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” It is truth which sets us apart for service to God. Notice Jesus’ prayer in John 17:17 – “Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth.” We must walk in the light of His word as the old hymn goes. Not only must we fear the Lord and walk in His ways, we must also serve Him with all of our being – with all of our heart and soul. Jesus reiterated this in the Sermon on the Mount beginning in Matthew 6:24 – “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.” Jesus goes on to explain how we serve God in Matthew 6:33 – “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” When we put God first in our service, He will provide us with the necessities of life. Paul states in Romans 6 that we are either slaves of sin or slaves of righteousness. Now listen carefully as Paul sums it up in verse 22 of that chapter: But now having been set free from sin, and having become slaves of God, you have your fruit to holiness, and the end, everlasting life. Let’s read Hebrews 12:28 once again: Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear. We must not only serve God – we must serve Him in an acceptable manner – and the only way we can know what is acceptable is through His word. If we really want to be the leaven in 2011, we need to heed the words of Psalm 100:2-3 –
Serve the Lord with gladness;
Come before His presence with singing.
Know that the Lord, He is God;
It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves;
We are His people and the sheep of His pasture.
Serving God includes worshiping God. Remember Satan tempting Jesus in the wilderness as recorded in Matthew 4? In the thirdd temptation, the devil offered our Lord all the kingdoms of the world and their glory if Jesus would only fall down and worship him. And you know the answer: “Away with you, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God and Him only you shall serve.’ ” Not only must we fear God, walk in His ways and serve Him, but we must also keep His commandments. We’ve already heard Jesus’ words in John 14:15 – “If you love Me, keep My commandments.” Turn with me to 1 John 5:2-3 and let’s read these verses together: By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep His commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome.
This morning, I have taken Deuteronomy 10:12-13 as the model for how we love God with all of our being. To love God with all our heart, soul and mind, we must fear God, walk in all His ways, serve Him with all our being and keep His commandments. While I left out the command to love God, I believe our love for God is defined by doing these other things. If we had a mother state that she loved her baby but then she failed to feed the child when it was hungry or didn’t change it’s diapers nor bathe it or didn’t hug the child, we would certainly question that mother’s love for her baby. Love must be more than words – it requires action. Let me mention two of our passages once again. 1 John 5:3 – For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And, 2 John 6 – This is love, that we walk according to His commandments. Do you love God with all of your heart this morning?
(Walter Hill; Sunday A.M.; 3/13/2011)