And one of the scribes came, and having heard them reasoning together, and perceiving that he had answered them well, asked him, Which is
the first commandment of all?
And Jesus answered him, The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord:
And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment.
And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these.
And the scribe said unto him, Well, Master, thou hast said the truth: for there is one God; and there is none other but he:
And to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the soul, and with all the strength, and to love his neighbour as himself, is more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.
And when Jesus saw that he answered discreetly, he said unto him, Thou art not far from the kingdom of God. And no man after that durst ask him any question.
This is Valentines week. We will hear much this week about love and romance. I preached today in what Jesus called the first commandment. Three times in Scripture Jesus was asked by different men, what is the first commandment. His answer is out of Deuteronomy.
And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.
Why is this the first commandment?
Why does every other law and every other prophecy in Scripture hang on these two commandments as Christ said they do? The answer is actually simple. It is the difference between a religion and a relationship. It is the difference between service and servitude. The difference is one word. Motivation.
We Independent Baptists are a narrow-minded lot. We are black and white when it comes to right and wrong. Many times we are told that a lot of rules on children will drive them to rebellion. Often it seems that is the case. On the other hand I see parents with very strict rules whose children children grow up to be faithful dedicated Christians. What is the difference? I believe the difference is motivation.
A young Pastor once asked an older Pastor, "How do I raise good kids?" His answer; "teach them every day to love God more than anything else."
If my motivation for "following the rules is so I won't get in trouble then as soon as I get out from under the authority I will throw out the rules. But if my motivation is love then the rules are not a chore. They become an opportunity to express my love.
David expressed this so well in Psalm 119, the Psalm dedicated to law:
Ps 119:2 Blessed are they that keep his testimonies, and that seek him with the whole heart.
Ps 119:10* With my whole heart have I sought thee: O let me not wander from thy commandments.
Ps 119:34* Give me understanding, and I shall keep thy law; yea, I shall observe it with my whole heart.
Ps 119:165* Great peace have they which love thy law: and nothing shall offend them.
Ps 119:174 I have longed for thy salvation, O LORD; and thy law is my delight.
The law was not a chore to David; it was a delight.
The night Christ was being tried, Peter denied Him three times. After the resurrection Jesus confronted Peter. He asked him the same question three times. The question was not, "why did you deny me?" It was not, "do you still believe in me?" The question was, "Lovest thou Me?" Peter had to settle the love question. History tells us as an old man Peter was crucified upside down. That was at his request because he felt unworthy to die the same death as Christ. One cannot read the book of Act without seeing that Peter settled the love question.
If I love God then every other "rule" is a way to show it. The first and foremost command is to love The LORD with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. If we devote ourselves to that one command above all else, if we, as God's people treat prayer as a private meeting with our most Beloved, if we pour over the Scriptures like a love letter from our Bridegroom instead of a book of rules and stories, then, and only then will we understand devotion, dedication and discipleship.
Thou shalt love the Lord thy God! It all hangs on love.
Thank you for reading