Saturday, September 15, 2012

Love the Lord Your God With All You've Got

What is the greatest commandment?

Deuteronomy 6:5 tells us, You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.  This is part of the Hebrew shema... Hear O Israel!

The gospels add yet another word:  mind.  (See Mark 12:30).  The Greek word is dianoia, which means understanding. 

Both of these covenants are telling us to love our God with everything we've got.  I find it interesting that the new covenant adds the idea of understanding.  Knowing that salvation would be offered to the Gentiles, and that many movements and denominations within the faith would arise, God has given us provision to love Him to the best of our ability within the realm that He has placed us. 

But that does not mean, stop studying.  He gave us His word so that we can gain greater understanding as we learn more and more about Him, thereby enabling us to love Him more and more as our understanding increases!

Mark 12:31 continues and says the second commandment is to love our neighbor as ourselves.  I just love what the scribe says to Yeshua after that in verses 32 and 33:  So the scribe said to Him, “Well said, Teacher. You have spoken the truth, for there is one God, and there is no other but He.  And to love Him with all the heart, with all the understanding, with all the soul, and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself, is more than all the whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.”

I have been studying the letter to the congregation at Ephesus in Revelation 2.  The congregation was commended for its commitment to truth, and for doing good works.  It also hated the deeds of the Nicolaitans (nico means ruler and laitans means people - they didn't allow their leadership to be controlling of the people).  The rebuke they received was that they had lost their first love and were told to return to the first works.

What does this mean?  In today's terms, Ephesus had great church programs, and were busy, busy, busy.  Awesome Youth Group.  Divorce Recovery Group.  Senior Citizens Fellowship.  Women's Ministry.  Men's Ministry.  Awana.  Amazing Music and Drama Teams.  But the time they spent worshipping at the feet of Yeshua was, um, lackluster.  Too busy for that!  They had flip-flopped the greatest two commandments, serving the needs of the people first and giving God whatever was left (if there even were any leftovers).

Now, there is nothing wrong with all those programs.  People have needs, and it's great that there are ministries that can help.  BUT, unless it is done in the proper order as set forth in the Word, it will fail.  What happened at Ephesus?  The Romans came and cut down all their trees.  Erosion caused Ephesus to turn into a desolate place - their lampstand was removed.  A congregation can learn a lot from this:  Put God first, and all the loving-your-neighbor business will follow naturally.

Don't we pray this way too sometimes?  We approach God with our laundry list of things we or others need, instead of simply lavishing Him with praise and adoration. 

Matthew 6:9 gives us our model:  Our Father in heaven,  hallowed (Holy, set apart) be Your name!  Your kingdom come, Your will be done...

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