Monday, January 18, 2016 – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “No Less.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Matthew 22:34-40 (NASB). But when the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered themselves together. One of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 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 foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.” What is Love? The word “love” in the English language can mean so many things. A man (or a woman) may tell another that he loves her (or him) when he may really mean he lusts after her (or him). We use the word “love” to describe how much we like things like ice cream, chocolate, music, a play, art, a gift, food, a sunrise, the beauty of nature, or our possessions, etc. We may tell someone that we love him or her merely because that person has done something that pleases us, and because what they did makes us feel good inside. The word “love” can also be used in conversation with another person as a manipulation of that other person’s emotions in order to get them to do something we want them to do. Love is a word, as well, that is used to describe our feelings of affection and fondness for a friend, a family member, or a child, etc. It is an expression of warmth, appreciation, closeness and intimacy. In addition, “love” is a word that describes how we treat others, and it is not conditional on the one we are loving, but on our choice to love, whether or not we are loved in return. This last type of “love” is the type of love Jesus was talking about. The Greek word is “agape,” and it is a God-like love. The Bible says that God so loved the world that he gave his one and only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in him should not perish but should have eternal life (John 3:16). Jesus Christ, God the Son, gave his life willingly for us on a cross so that we might be delivered from the punishment of and our slavery to sin, so we might be given new lives in Christ Jesus to be lived in the power of God to righteousness, and that we might live with him and for him from now throughout eternity. We did nothing to earn or to deserve his love. It was while we were yet sinners that Christ died for us. No amount of goodness on our part will ever warrant us attaining eternal life. It is by God’s grace that we are saved, through faith, and this not of ourselves (of our own works), lest any of us should boast (See: Eph. 2:8-10). God loved us while we were still his enemies. Loving God So, how do we love God with this kind of love? Jesus said, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father's who sent me” (Jn. 14:23-24). John said this: “This is love for God: to obey his commands. And his commands are not burdensome…” (1 John 5:3). “And this is love: that we walk in obedience to his commands. As you have heard from the beginning, his command is that you walk in love” (2 John 1:6). So, to love God means to obey his teachings, so which teachings? We are not under the Old Covenant relationship with God which God had with the Jews, but we are under the New Covenant. My belief is that we are to obey all that Jesus commanded his followers and that the NT apostles reiterated, unless the instructions were very specific to a particular group of people for a specific time. Basically, to love God means that we desire what he desires, and we want to do his will, not because we have to, and not as a means of earning grace, but because our hearts have been transformed of the Holy Spirit of God in regeneration, and we have died with Christ to sin, and have been resurrected with Christ to new lives in Christ Jesus, our Lord. We should now want to please our Lord in all that we do. Our hearts should be intertwined with his. We should now prefer what he prefers. Our lives should be ones which walk according to the Spirit and not according to our sinful flesh. We should be surrendered to God and submitted to his will for our lives, and we should see our lives as no longer our own for we were bought with a price – the blood of Jesus Christ shed on a cross for our sins. We love God by giving him our lives in submission to his will and purposes for our lives. We do what pleases him even when we may not feel like it; even when he doesn’t do what we think he should do for us. We love him because he first loved us and gave his life up for us so we’d be free. Loving Others So, how do we love others with this agape love? Jesus taught, first of all, that we should love our enemies, “do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you” (Lu. 6:27-28). This seems rather foreign to what our culture is teaching today, even within the church. We need to also forgive others their sins against us, not hold grudges, not desire to get even, and not wish them ill. Even when people speak evil against us, falsely accuse us, mistreat and misjudge us, betray us, lie to us, cheat on us, steal from us, bring destruction to our homes and lands, and take away our freedoms, we are still supposed to love them with God’s love, which is in action, and which has nothing to do with how we are treated in return. We love when men revile us, and rejoice that we are being persecuted for righteousness’ sake, and that we share in the fellowship of Christ’s sufferings because we stand on the word of God and we teach the full gospel of salvation. We are also supposed to love others as we love ourselves. So, what does this mean? How do we treat ourselves? Most of us, at least here in America, feed and dress ourselves, make sure we have a place to live, a car to drive, and money to pay our bills. We buy ourselves furniture to sit on, computers for business or pleasure, telephones so we can communicate with friends and family, and probably the majority of American homes have a TV for the purpose to educate, inform and to entertain. We make sure we have the essentials of life and then some for our own comfort, enjoyment, and for necessity, as well. In addition, we may surround ourselves with friends for companionship, and a church family for fellowship, for group worship, for the study of God’s word, and for prayer. Basically, when we love ourselves, in a proper sense, we take care to make sure all our needs are met, as much as is within our ability to do so with what resources we have at our disposal. We are kind to ourselves, thoughtful, considerate, forgiving, compassionate, merciful and care about what we care about, i.e. we are interested in what interests us, and we give that time and attention. So, if we love others as we love ourselves, we care about the needs of others and what is in their best interest. We are concerned for their well-being physically, emotionally and spiritually. If they have a legitimate need, and we are able to help, we try to help them. We practice hospitality. We are sensitive to the things that concern them, and we take their burdens to the Lord in prayer, and pray for their salvation, their walks of faith, their encouragement, and for their comfort and strengthening in the Lord, if they are fellow believers in Christ. We take time to listen to them and to hear what they are saying. We don’t entertain sin - immorality, gossip, slander, sensuality, lying, filthy speech, mockery of those different from us, and the like, just to show interest in what others are saying, though. We still need to maintain our own walks of faith with the Lord, and encourage other believers to walk in the Spirit and not according to the flesh. Everyone’s greatest need of all is the Lord, so we should be concerned for the spiritual welfare of all people, sharing the gospel of salvation with them, showing them the love and kindness of our Lord, ministering to their needs, and demonstrating compassion and mercy as Jesus Christ exemplified for us many times. We need to treat others with the same kindness with which Jesus treated us. He is our example for how we should love God and for how we should love others. We are to be servants of the Lord and ministers of his grace and his gospel to the world around us. We should willingly give of our lives, our time and our resources to demonstrate God’s love to the world. And, we should accept that people will hate and will persecute us, but we should not retaliate but we should continue to treat them with the kindness of our Lord. And, we should do this even when our flesh resists us, and when we feel like people don’t deserve our love. Remember, we don’t deserve God’s love, either. We were all born into sin. Not one of us is righteous in our own merit. Not one of us is worthy of his grace and forgiveness. Love is a choice, though, and it is action. You don’t have to feel love to give love. Just keep loving people, though, pray for them, do good to them, and bless them. No Less / An Original Work / March 19, 2012 I can do no less than praise You, Lord, for all You’ve done for me. You died for my sins to save me, So I would be set free. I adore You! Lord, I praise You! Jesus, Savior, King of kings! You provided my redemption. Your grace has pardoned me. I can do no less than serve You. Lord, Your witness I would be, Telling others of Your love, And why You died on that tree. Tell of how You gave of Your life, So from sin we’d be set free, So we could worship You forever, And live eternally. I can do no less than love You, Lord, for You have first loved me. You gave of Your life so willing, Because You cared for me. Turn from my sin! Obey freely! Live for You each passing day. Read Your word, and follow Your lead, Lord, as I humbly pray.