Loving God and Loving Others
(1) What does it mean to love your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength?
July 10th 2016
28One of the scribes came near and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, he asked him, “Which commandment is the first of all?” 29Jesus answered, “The first is, ‘Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; 30you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ 31The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” 32Then the scribe said to him, “You are right, Teacher; you have truly said that ‘he is one, and besides him there is no other’; 33and ‘to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the strength,’ and ‘to love one’s neighbor as oneself,’ —this is much more important than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” 34When Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” After that no one dared to ask him any question.
Last Sunday, which was the first Sunday in Zion to me, I asked you to shred and throw out your religious resume that may contain what you have done as a religious group in this town and in this world for many years so that we can open the new chapter of our communal ministry for the transformation of ourselves, this town and the world.
All things that you have done as a faith community have been absolutely done in the name of Jesus Christ and it’s your pleasure and boast that you could present proudly to others, but as Paul says in his letter to the people of Philippi (Philippians 3:1-11), it could be considered as a rubbish if we lose Jesus and His meaning in our life while we have been shackled to those things that we have accomplished or that we want to tightly hold it in our small palms as a prize.
And I said, I want to know you not through what you have done before me, but through what I will experience with my own eyes, ears, hands, feet and heart. I believe that we will find together the new way to spread the Word of God to the world by knowing each other and building the new relationship, and through the ministry that we will do together we all also will grow together in Jesus Christ.
As we begin the new week, I would like to share the new three weeks sermon series called, “Loving God and Loving neighbors: The Great Commandments” based on Deuteronomy 6:4-5, Mark 12:28-34 and Luke 10:25-37 which is telling us what Jesus thinks the most important in the relationship between God and us, the meaning of the parable of the Good Samaritan, and what we have to know as we expect God working continually and powerfully among, in and through us.
Pleas join me to pray and then we continue to share today’s message.
Gracious God, please be with me and pour out your Holy
Spirit upon me and allow me the wisdom of the heavens, so I can share your will
and love humbly with your people through this time. Open our hearts and ears to listen to your voice and let us live as you speak to us. In your name, Jesus Christ our Redeemer.
In our Gospel reading today, a scribe comes to Jesus and asks him a ‘back to basics’ question: “Which commandment is the first of all?” and Jesus replies, in words that are so familiar to us that they just roll off our tongue,
“The first is, ‘Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”
Before this discussion between the scribe and Jesus, the commandments appeared prior in Deuteronomy 6:5 and Hebrew calls it “Shema” which means “to hear,” and “to obey.”
Actually, the Shema, for Jews, only means the first commandment of these two great commandments of our Lord Jesus Christ. “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength” (Deuteronomy 6:5) Modern Jews consider the recital of the Shema both evening and morning to be one of their most sacred duties.
II. Hear and deed together
I think we should first know from today’s passage that Hebrew word Shema doesn’t merely mean “hear or listen,” but it means “obey” too.
Listening, in our culture, is a mental activity, and hearing just means that our ears pick up sounds. But in Hebrew, the word shema describes hearing and also its effects - taking heed, being obedient, doing what is asked. Any parent who yells at their children, "Were you listening?" when they ignore a command to pick up their rooms understands that listening should result in action. In fact, almost every place we see the word "obey" in the Bible, it is translated from the word "shema."
By reciting shema, a Jew would remind to love God, to dedicate them to following God and doing God’s will. They teach their children the Shema as soon as they learn to talk.
This gives us a clue of why Jesus says, "He who has ears to hear, let him hear!" He is calling us to put his words into action, not just listen. He wants us to be doers of the word, and not hearers only. (James 1:22) We as modernized people put all our stress on what is in our minds, and tend to consider action as "dead works." But Ancient Hebrews understood that we have not truly put what we have heard into our hearts until it transforms our lives as well.
That’s why I pray before the message every Sunday that “Help us to live as you speak to us.” The Shema—Loving God— demands us to follow what we hear from the Word of God.
Then, from this understanding of Shema, meaning hearing, listening and obeying, today, let’s more focus on the first commandment of these two great commandments of our Lord—Loving God. And then we will talk about the second commandment—loving neighbor next week.
III. What does it mean?
As we try to understand what it means to love your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, I want to know what these four elements of this commandment: With all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength.
Most commentaries briefly explain that the Shema means that God wants us to love God with our whole being. (With all our heart, with all our soul, with all our mind, and with all our strength) simply means with our whole being.
Love your God with everything that you have!
Is there any other interpretation for the Shema? Do we have anyone who can explain differently to what it means to love your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength?
Yes, it means love your God with whole your being (whole your life). This is a strong yet mysterious commandment.
And I believe that most of you would face this question as we talk about the Shema.
“How do we love God with our whole heart, whole soul, whole mind, and whole strength? Do we even have this ability?”
In the natural state of man, it is impossible. No human being with a fallen nature can possibly love God with whole being 24 hours a day. It’s humanly impossible. We know us. God knows us as well.
Whole being? Can we? Did Jesus really believe that we could follow this commandment from our ability? Loving God with our whole being!
VI. Turning to God means to love God with our whole being
God created us with a heart so that we would love God wholly and absolutely. Honestly, today, however, our hearts love many things besides God.
We would find it difficult to pray with the psalmist, “Whom do I have in heaven but You? And besides You there is nothing I desire on earth” (Psa. 73:25). Really?
We must admit that though we may love God to some extent, He is not our only, nor our first love sometimes. The things of the world tug at our heart. So how can we obey the Lord’s command to “love the Lord your God from your whole being”?
Your new pastor, standing here at the pulpit, is also sinful and selfish. I really want to stay awake and pray that I may not come into the time of trial, and my spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.
This is reality that we should accept first and then we think about the Word comes from John 4:19 saying, “We love because He first loved us.”
The comment on this verse in the New Testament Recovery Version says, “God first loved us in that He infused us with His love and generated within us the love with which we love Him and the brothers and sisters(vv. 20-21).”
God commanded us to love God absolutely, but God never intended us to work up this love for God out of our own effort. In fact, He is well aware that we, in ourselves, aren’t even capable of such love. We need to realize that when God makes a demand, God’s intention is that God Himself would come to meet that demand for us. Our love for God actually originates from God Himself. It comes from God’s love within us, which is higher than anything we can generate.
God is love, and God became a man named Jesus Christ. When we receive the Lord Jesus, we receive all that God is into our spirit. The good news for us Christians is that we can turn our hearts to God where God is in our spirit, which means giving up what we can do and offering our whole being to God for all decisions in our life.
In every single moment when we need to make decision, we must ask God first. It means that we love our God with our whole being. We give up our finite ability and turn to our Lord so that the Lord can lead our whole life. Giving God the initial authority means we love our God with our whole being.
Second Corinthians 3:16 say, “Whenever their heart turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away.” Then verse 18 says, “But we all with unveiled face, beholding and reflecting like a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, even as from the Lord Spirit.”
These verses liken human beings to mirrors that reflect what they behold. When our heart is turned away from the Lord by things such as sins, preoccupations, and love for worldly things, our heart is covered by a veil, and we can’t see or reflect the Lord. There is no chance to love God with our whole being.
But when we turn our heart to the Lord within us, the veil is removed, and we can see the glorious Christ. We see His beauty, His virtues, and how wonderful He is, and He imparts what He is, including love, into us. Then our love for Him grows.
When we turn to Him, we can love Him with our whole being. We can turn our heart to Him at any time. He will revive us and bring us back to Himself as our first love.
Once I heard a preacher named Mike telling his conversion to Christ. He said his family was known throughout the community as the worst examples of humanity. The parents were irresponsible. The kids were troublemakers. They lived like animals, even eating food out of trashcans. Everyone who saw them thought, "That’s just who they are. That’s all they’ll ever be. They’ll never change."
But Mike did.
There came a point at which he heard the powerful message of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection, and he decided to follow Jesus as his Savior and Lord. He believed in Jesus, repented of his sins, and was buried in the waters of baptism for the forgiveness of his sins. He eventually became a preacher and part of his ministry reached into his family – of whom he baptized.
Then one day, Mike was at the funeral of his brother-in-law. One of the women who was there (and who had not seen him since his conversion) spoke with him and she said that she was amazed at the change that had taken place in his life. She was surprised at what he had made of himself.
Mike responded: "Oh I really appreciate your compliment, but I really didn’t change myself. It was Christ in me that brought about the changes in my life."
It was Christ in him – the hope of the broken heart. As Romans 6:11 taught us, “…dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.”
It means he’s still sinful, selfish and weak, but Jesus in him changes him day by day.
I believe that this is the meaning of loving your God with your whole being. I mean, although we are too broken and too sinful to love God boldly and wholly, God’s initiating love enable us to turn to Jesus Christ and find hope in Him so that we can love God with our whole being. Because of Jesus Christ, we can love our god with whole our being. This love helps us to love our God.
Therefore, inviting Jesus Christ as our Lord into our life, and giving the authority of decision-making to the Lord for our life events means that we love our God with our whole being—with all our heart, with all our soul, with all our mind, and with all our strength. We hear this commandment of our Lord and we want to obey it through our life.
As I confessed earlier in today’ preaching, although I want to stay awake and pray that I want to follow my Lord faithfully, I am still sinful and selfish. I believe that you are not much different from me.
We need our Lord every single moment and ask Lord, let me walk with you o Lord. Then we could see ourselves loving our God with whole our being: Loving God with whole our heart, with whole our soul, with whole our mind, and with whole our strength.
Lord, our Savior, allow us to walk with you every day so that we could love you and follow your path faithfully. As we meet today at this place to worship you, pray to you and listen to your message, help us to live your Word in our life.
In your precious name, Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen.