Sunday, April 21, 2013

The Greatest Commandment

I check my Facebook newsfeed pretty frequently, I will admit.  Probably much more than I should actually.  I want to know what is going on and I want to see what "bible" teaching is being passed around the net at that moment.  What I am seeing a lot of lately is all we need to do is love people.  We can't earn God's love through works.  We can't work our way into Heaven.  Just love, love, love, love.

Okay..I certainly agree.  We are to love as God loves because that is what Jesus commanded.  What Jesus actually said was this:

Matthew 22: 37-40

37 - Jesus said to him, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, wih all your soul, and with all your mind.
38 - This is the first and great commandment.
39 - "And the second is like it: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'
40 - "On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets."

Before we do anything else we are to love our God with everything we have, holding nothing back from Him.  Once we love Him with everything then we can love others as we love ourselves.  What I find interesting is the "like" to describe the second great commandment.  It is "like" the first one.  I looked at the word in the Strong's concordance to determine what it meant in the original Greek.  "Like" means: similar in appearance or character, and to have 'like manner'.

If something is "like"something else, it is not an identical representation or reproduction of the original.  God's love for us is perfect.  God's love for us is unconditional and the depth of His love for us is something that most of us find extremely hard to wrap our minds around.  Part of what we do as we grow and mature in Christ is we begin to develop a softness and compassion in us for our fellow man.  (See Ezekiel 11:19-20).  Remember, we are a new creation after salvation.  God removes our hard sin filled heart that has become as a stone, and replaces it with a soft heart made of flesh that can fell hurt, pain and most importantly compassion and love.  A stone doesn't feel anything.  A stone just exists and can only move when forced to through natural elements or when physically picked up and relocated to another place. 

A heart of flesh is alive and no longer dead!  A heart of flesh can live and a heart of flesh can love. A heart of flesh can grow and gain capacity for so much more than our stony heart ever had.  A heart of flesh is able to love someone and something other than ourselves. 

Many teach about God's grace, love, and mercy but they often do not close the circle when talking about the love we should have for each other. 

Galations 5: 14,15

14 - For all the Law is fulfilled in one word, even in this, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself."
15 - But if you bite and devour one another, take heed that you are not consumed by one another.

We cannot continue gossiping and hating each other.  Gossip is disguised in many ways.  As Christians, we disguise our gossip in prayer requests and believe that is okay.  "We need to pray for Sister Sue because..."  All we really need to do is to lift Sister Sue up in prayer and say to the Lord that He knows the situation and we ask that He work that situaton out to His will and to His glory in Sister Sue's life while giving Sister Sue the wisdom, knowledge, and peace that she need to walk through this situation.  But we don't [generally] do that.  We tell the entire prayer chain what problem our sister is facing.  We don't know what harm that can do to our sister or brother or whoever we are submitting that prayer request for.  We cannot gossip and then turn around and say we have love for our neighbor. 

Galations 5:22-24

22 - But the fruit of the Spirit is: love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faith,
23 - meekness, self-control; against such things there is no law.
24But those belonging to Christ have crucified the flesh with its passions and lusts. 

When we choose to walk in the Spirit and put away our own fleshly desires, then the Holy Spirit will begin to grow fruit in us that allows the world to know we belong to Christ.  This same fruit we should be bearing in our lives, is also the characteristics of a citizen of the Kingdom of God.  (See 2 Peter 1:1-8.)

We have no excuses.  Once we acknowledge Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior; once we have been grafted into the vine; once we have been named sons of God and joint heirs with Christ, we are dead to our old man and alive in Christ. We cannot continue in sin just because God loves us and bestows His grace and mercy on us.

Romans 6:1,2

1 - What shall we say then?  Shall we continue in sin so that grace may abound?
2 - Let it not be!  How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?

It is time to put away our childish things.  It is time to grow up in mature in Him.  It is time to know "the tree by the fruit it produces."  It is time to stop biting each other and to operate in the love that God gives us.  

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