Love God with all Your Hear, Soul, Mind & Strength Mt. 22:34-40
Everton Community Church. October 14th 2007.
|Mark 12:28-31||Luke 10:25-27||Matthew 22:35-40|
Politics is a blood sport. Some go on principle and naively believe that others will see the logic and fairness of their position while other politicians spin their opponents position and prognosticate to vilify their opponent and scare the electorate that their opponent’s position will result in catastrophe. This week’s election was a prime example of politics over principle.
This of course is an ancient art. The political masters of Jesus’ time, the Pharisees, were masters like their Herodian cousins in law and politics. Their ability to use language to either confuse, veil a threat or trap was their gambit of choice. They saw Jesus as a threat to their power and wanted to use their skill to discredit him.
Many today fall victim to confusion and manipulation over terms of law. They come to Jesus in a false understanding of God’s character and expectations in regards to the law. Their either believe that God judges on a curve, His law is outdated, or misunderstand grace.
If you were to die tonight and God said why should I let you into my heaven, what would you say?
- Would you say that you are not that bad and tried to do more good than bad? Jesus, being a good judge, would say that you are still guilty of the crimes that you have committed against His holy law, find you guilty and sentence you to eternal death. You would have seriously misjudged His character.
- Or perhaps you would claim that you lived in New Testament times not under that Old Testament law time. Jesus would reply that not one of the smallest elements of that law has been abolished. You are guilty and likewise sentenced you to eternal death. You would have seriously misunderstood God’s standard.
- Lastly you may claim that you are not under law but under grace and free to Come to God on your own terms and in your own way. I pray you may not hear the chilling words of Jesus: Depart from me, worker of iniquity, I never knew you. Sentence: Eternal Death. You would have likewise seriously misunderstood God’s standard.
Those who are truly in Christ, love God with all their heart, soul, mind and strength. The stakes are too high to misunderstand for ourselves and those we love.
In understanding how to Love God with all our Heart, Soul, Mind and Strength we see: 1) The Approach of the Pharisees Matthew 22:34-35 2) The Question by the Lawyer Matthew 22:36 and 3) The Response of the Lord Matthew 22:37-38.
1) The Approach of the Pharisees Matthew 22:34-35
Matthew 22:34-35 But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. (ESV)
The first test of Jesus by the Pharisees, made through their disciples and the Herodians, was political, dealing with the payment of the despised poll-tax (v. 17). The second test, by the Sadducees, was theological, pertaining to the reality of the resurrection, which they denied (vv. 23, 28). Now the Pharisees were about to test Him again in the area of theology.
When Jesus answered the absurd question about the seven brothers by showing that even Moses taught the resurrection, He had silenced the Sadducees. The verb phimoō (silenced) literally means to muzzle, to forcefully restrict the opening of the mouth. The Sadducees were verbally incapacitated by the Lord, rendered utterly speechless.
- God’s truth silences those who look to excuse their actions by a misguided attempt to find a technicality or loophole in the Law of God.
When the Pharisees heard about Jesus silencing the Sadducees, they decided to have another try themselves at entrapping Him, this time directly by one of their own number rather than through their less capable disciples. The Pharisees doubtlessly had mixed feelings when they heard the news. They must have been pleased that the Sadducees had been proved wrong about Moses not teaching resurrection.
- The defining characteristic of the Sadducees was their denial of the resurrection.
- Milma recently reminded us of the play on words: That’s why they were sad you see.
Please turn to Acts 4
But for the Pharisees, that feeling of smugness was far outweighed by a sense of dismay and frustration at still another failure to discredit their common enemy, Jesus.
Consequently, the Pharisees again (see v. 15) gathered (themselves) together clandestinely somewhere in the Temple to plan their next strategy. In doing so, they unintentionally and unknowingly fulfilled prophecy by plotting together as it is described in:
Acts 4:26-28 The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers were gathered together, against the Lord and against his Anointed'--for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place. (ESV)
Out of that conclave came the third and final question to test Jesus.
The particular one of them that they chose to confront Jesus was a lawyer. The man was a scribe (Mark 12:28) but was called a lawyer by Matthew to indicate his unusual expertise in the Mosaic law and perhaps also his renown in adjudicating religious and social disputes. He was probably the most learned and astute expert on scriptural and rabbinical law in their ranks, and if anyone would be a match for Jesus, they thought, this man would be.
The law of God was and is subject to much debate among the most scholarly. True genus is accurately distilling the requirements in way that can be easy to understand.
Illustration: The Purpose of the Law
Evangelist Fred Brown used three images to describe the purpose of the law. First he likened it to a dentist’s little mirror, which he sticks into the patient’s mouth. With the mirror he can detect any cavities. But he doesn’t drill with it or use it to pull teeth. It can show him the decayed area or other abnormality, but it can’t provide the solution
The law is also like a flashlight. If suddenly at night the lights go out, you use it to guide you down the darkened basement stairs to the electrical box. If you had old wiring, when you point it toward the fuses, it helps you see the one that is burned out. But after you’ve removed the bad fuse, you don’t try to insert the flashlight in its place. You put in a new fuse to restore the electricity.
In his third image, Brown likened the law to a plumbline. When a builder wants to check his work, he uses a weighted string to see if it’s true to the vertical. But if he finds that he has made a mistake, he doesn’t use the plumbline to correct it. He gets out his hammer and saw. The law points out the problem of sin; it doesn’t provide a solution.
In understanding how to Love God with all our Heart, Soul, Mind and Strength we see: 1) The Approach of the Pharisees Matthew 22:34-35
2) The Question by the Lawyer Matthew 22:36
Matthew 22:36 "Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?" (ESV)
In his addressing Jesus as Teacher, the lawyer was probably not being scornful, as the previous questioners had been (see vv. 16, 24). He seems to have had at least some respect for Jesus and may have felt somewhat guilty at being used to ensnare Him.
Please turn to Matthew 5
In asking, “Which is the great commandment in the Law?” the lawyer was asking what was the greatest commandment of Moses.
Although the scribes and Pharisees considered the whole Old Testament to be authoritative, and not just the five books of Moses as did the Sadducees, the Scribes and Pharisees nevertheless considered Moses to be the supreme human figure in Scripture.
The scribes and Pharisees were said to sit in Moses’ seat (Matt. 23:2) because that represented the ultimate authority in Judaism.
From the beginning of His ministry, Jesus assured His hearers that:
Matthew 5:17-18 "Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota/jot/the smallest letter, not a dot/tittle, stroke of a pen, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. (ESV)
He made clear that, although He was the Messiah and God’s own Son, He was not preaching and teaching anything that obviated the law of Moses or any other part of Scripture.
But because Jesus’ teaching of Scripture was so utterly contrary to theirs, which for centuries had been encrusted by thousands of humanly-devised rabbinical interpretations, the Pharisees were convinced that Jesus must be teaching a message He considered to be greater than that of Moses.
Over the years, the rabbis had supposedly determined that, just as there were 613 separate letters in the Hebrew text of the Decalogue, or Ten Commandments, in the book of Numbers, there were also 613 separate laws in the Pentateuch, the five books of Moses. Such letterism, as it is sometimes called, was extremely popular and was considered to be a valuable exegetical tool for interpreting Scripture. The rabbis had divided those 613 laws into affirmative and negative groups, holding that there were 248 affirmative laws, one for every part of the human body, as they supposed, and 365 negative laws, one for each day of the year. The laws were also divided into heavy and light, the heavy ones being absolutely binding and the light ones less binding.
In the first Century, there had never been unanimity, however, as to which laws were heavy and which were light, and the rabbis and scribes spent countless hours proudly debating the merits of their particular divisions and the ranking of laws within the divisions.
It was a question disputed among the critics in the law. Some would have the law of circumcision to be the great commandment, others the law of the sabbath, others the law of sacrifices, according as they severally stood affected, and spent their zeal; now they would try what Christ said to this question, hoping to incense the people against him, if he should not answer according to the vulgar opinion; and if he should magnify one commandment, they would reflect on him as vilifying the rest.
It was evidence to that effect that they now hoped Jesus would disclose, because to contradict Moses was to contradict God and be guilty of heresy. Their purpose was to expose Him as an apostate and thereby turn the people against Him.
- Are we really that far from this in our own minds? How do you consider homosexuality compared to adultery? How do you consider theft compared to gossip?
- Ladies and Gentlemen, we are the modern day Scribes and Pharisees. We place some sins as being unforgivable and yet sweep others away as just being common.
- Jesus is here today to say that God’s law is binding today. To love Him with all your Heart, Soul, Mind and Strength means neither elevating it about forgiveness nor thinking it is just not that bad.
- That’s why we are looking at the Way of the Master to show how the law of God is both relevant today and exposing the common myth that everyone is basically good.
God’s holiness demands that the offence of sin be atoned for. The work of Jesus is the atonement of sin for those who desire that atonement.
The greatest sin is not loving God which is atoned for by the greatest provision of God’s love in sending His son.
Perhaps this story can put the concept in common understanding.
Illustration: Law, fulfilled in Christ
The Little Flower
A story is told about Fiorello LaGuardia, who, when he was mayor of New York City during the worst days of the Great Depression and all of WWII, was called by adoring New Yorkers ‘the Little Flower’ because he was only five foot four and always wore a carnation in his lapel. He was a colorful character who used to ride the New York City fire trucks, raid speakeasies with the police department, take entire orphanages to baseball games, and whenever the New York newspapers were on strike, he would go on the radio and read the Sunday funnies to the kids.
One bitterly cold night in January of 1935, the mayor turned up at a night court that served the poorest ward of the city. LaGuardia dismissed the judge for the evening and took over the bench himself. Within a few minutes, a tattered old woman was brought before him, charged with stealing a loaf of bread. She told LaGuardia that her daughter’s husband had deserted her, her daughter was sick, and her two grandchildren were starving. But the shopkeeper, from whom the bread was stolen, refused to drop the charges. “It’s a real bad neighborhood, your Honor,” the man told the mayor. “She’s got to be punished to teach other people around here a lesson.”
LaGuardia sighed. He turned to the woman and said “I’ve got to punish you. The law makes no exceptions—ten dollars or ten days in jail.” But even as he pronounced sentence, the mayor was already reaching into his pocket. He extracted a bill and tossed it into his famous sombrero saying: “Here is the ten dollar fine which I now remit; and furthermore I am going to fine everyone in this courtroom fifty cents for living in a town where a person has to steal bread so that her grandchildren can eat. ‘Mr. Baliff, collect the fines and give them to the defendant.’”
So the following day the New York City newspapers reported that $47.50 was turned over to a bewildered old lady who had stolen a loaf of bread to feed her starving grandchildren, fifty cents of that amount being contributed by the red-faced grocery store owner, while some seventy petty criminals, people with traffic violations, and New York City policemen, each of whom had just paid fifty cents for the privilege of doing so, gave the mayor a standing ovation.
We have seen the context and the problem of understanding how to Love God with all our Heart, Soul, Mind and Strength. We have seen: 1) The Approach of the Pharisees Matthew 22:34-35 2) The Question by the Lawyer Matthew 22:36 and now the answer:
3) The Response of the Lord Matthew 22:37-38
Matthew 22:37-38 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 (ESV)
Jesus responded without hesitation, and the answer He gave was in total accord not only with Mosaic law but also with an ancient Jewish custom based on that law. The command, You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, was part of the Shema (Hebrew for “Hear”), so named because it began with, “Hear, O Israel” The Shema comprised the texts of Deuteronomy 6:4-9; 11:13-21; and Numbers 15:37-41-by far the most familiar, most quoted, and most copied Scripture passages in Judaism. In Jesus’ day, every faithful Jew recited the Shema twice a day.
Deuteronomy 6:4-9 and 11:13-21 were two of the four Scripture texts (with Ex. 13:1-10 and 13:11-16) that were copied on small pieces of parchment and placed in phylacteries that were worn on the foreheads and left arms of Jewish men during prayer. The practice was based on the admonition in regards to the law of:
Deuteronomy 6:8 You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. (ESV) (cf. 11:18).
- Here is a prime lesson in Biblical interpretation. You can take a text of scripture so literally, that you miss the intended meaning. We have seen this in Mark, this week with Christianity Explored, in the call to pluck out an eye or cut off a hand if it offends you. We have seen this in our previous series Standing Firm in the True Grace of God, with the Holy Kiss, and footwashing.
- Jesus elsewhere commended the Pharisees that they were precise in their tithe to God but they neglected the weightier matters of the law.
It was for the ostentatious display of phylacteries that Jesus rebuked the scribes and Pharisees only a short while later, while He was still teaching in the Temple (Matt. 23:5). In a similar way, copies of Deuteronomy 6:4-9 and 11:13-21 were placed in mezuzahs, small boxes that Jews attached to their doorposts, following the instruction of Deuteronomy 6:9 and 11:20. Both phylacteries and mezuzahs are still used by many orthodox Jews today.
Jesus was therefore saying, “that the great and first commandment is the commandment of Moses that all of you recite every day and that many of you bind on your arms and foreheads every day.”
What did Jesus Mean?
Aheb, the Hebrew word for love used in Deuteronomy 6:5, refers primarily to an act of mind and will, the determined care for the welfare of something or someone. It might well include strong emotion, but its distinguishing characteristics were the dedication and commitment of choice, It is the love that recognizes and chooses to follow that which is righteous, noble, and true, regardless of what one’s feelings in a matter might be. It is the Hebrew equivalent of the Greek agapaō in the New Testament, the verb of intelligent, purposeful, and committed love that is an act of the will. This love is in contrast to the emotion and tender affection of phileō and the physical, sensual love of eros (which is not used in the New Testament).
- To Love God with all Your Heart then is an action. You should not wait till you feel all holy before you pray, read scripture or worship God. Often the action of doing these things is what God uses to show His love.
To love the Lord with all one’s heart, ... soul, and ... mind does not express separate and technical definitions of each element of human nature or a compartmentalizing of love into three or four categories, but rather connotes comprehensiveness. We are to love the Lord our God with every part of our being and all our feelings, thoughts and actions.
On the other hand, the areas are listed distinctly, each one preceded by its own “with all your”. It is therefore helpful to look at some distinctions in each of them in order to understand the fullness of what love for God should include.
To the ancient Hebrews, heart referred to the core of one’s personal being. The book of Proverbs counsels:
Proverbs 4:23 Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.
The term soul is closest to what we would call emotion and is the word Jesus used when He cried out in the Garden of Gethsemane the night He was arrested:
Matthew 26:38 Then he said to them, "My soul is very sorrowful, even to death;
remain here, and watch with me." (ESV)
Mind corresponds to what is usually translated “might”:
Deuteronomy 6:5 You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. (ESV)
The Hebrew term had a broad connotation and carried the general idea of moving ahead with energy and strength.
Mind is used here in the sense of intellectual, willful vigor and determination, carrying both the meaning of mental endeavor and of strength.
Mark 12:30 adds the degree of this love to say that it should also be done with all your strength.
This love is therefore of the heart which speaks of the emotional nature, the soul of the volitional nature/our will, the mind of the intellectual nature, and strength of the physical nature.
Putting it all together therefore, genuine love of the Lord is intelligent, feeling, willing, and serving. It involves thought, sensitivity, intent, and even action where that is possible and appropriate. God has never sought either empty words or empty ritual. His desire is for the person himself, not simply what the person possesses. If God truly has a person, He inevitably has all that the person possesses as well. And just as God loves us with His whole being, we are to return His love with our whole being. Godly love, whether as His love for man or man’s love for Him, is measured by what it gives, not by what it might gain. It does not love because love is beneficial but because love is right and good.
God requires more than bare belief, just an assent that the facts are true. James reminds us:
James 2:19 You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe--
and shudder! (ESV)
What does this say about what true faith is?
The distinguishing mark of saving belief in God is love of God. Faith in Jesus Christ that is not characterized by a consuming love for Him is not saving faith but simply an acknowledgement of His divinity such as even the demons make.
Genuine salvation produces a new will, desire, and attitude deep within the person that can best be described as love for God. John makes love for God the true mark of the believer (see John 14:23-24; 1 John 2:5; 3:17; 4:12-13, 16-21). Peter declares that God is precious to those who believe (1 Pet. 2:7), pointing to the same truth that love for God and Christ characterize a true Christian.
The Ten Commandments themselves make clear that love for and obedience to God are inseparable.
The Lord shows His “lovingkindness:
Exodus 20:6 (but) showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and
keep my commandments. (ESV) (cf. Deut. 7:9; Neh. 1:5).
John 14:15 "If you love me, you will keep my commandments. (ESV).
Please turn to 1 Jn. 2
Let’s apply this. What do we say to someone that says they love God but lead a life of habitual disobedience to God’s revealed standard? We say, based on what God has indicated in His word, based on your actions, you do not actually love God. God says that if you truly loved Him you would keep His commandments.
1 John 2:3-5 And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. Whoever says "I know him" but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: (ESV)
The most loving thing we can do by the standard of the word of God, as exemplified by the Ten Commandments, present to someone God’s standard of righteousness.
Quotation: The Ten Commandments in Verse
Above all else love God alone;
Bow down to neither wood nor stone.
God’s name refuse to take in vain;
The Sabbath rest with care maintain.
Respect your parents all your days;
Hold sacred human life always.
Be loyal to your chosen mate;
Steal nothing, neither small nor great.
Report, with truth, your neighbor’s deed;
And rid your mind of selfish greed.*
No one is perfect. We all fail to live up to God’s standards. Here’s the key: True love of God declares with Paul,
Romans 7:15 For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. (ESV)
- Do we desire to do the will of God?
In essence he Paul was saying that, even though he did not always do what was right, he always loved what was right and longed to do what was honoring to God. That was the opposite attitude of the scribes and Pharisees, whom Jesus repeatedly condemned for making great pretense of love for God on the outside while having no inward love for Him at all. They were interested only in the outward religious ceremonies and actions that fed their self-righteousness, self-satisfaction, and hypocrisy. Although they recited the Shema with meticulous regularity, that verbal declaration of love for God was hollow and meaningless.
Please conclude with me by turning to Col. 3
Idolatry is preferring something above God. God doesn’t just want to be added to your list of preferences and activities. He demands that He is your love, your greatest desire, the one who occupies your thoughts and the one you seek to please above all others. What can happen to a congregation that has this?
Colossians 3:14-17 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. (ESV).
* Elton Trueblood, Foundations for Reconstruction (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1946), 10.