In this Little Lesson series, we continue to look at what Jesus said were the two greatest commandments, considering five irrefutable facts about these commandments. Ultimately, the purpose of these lessons is to help us examine ourselves to see how well we’re doing at keeping these two most important commandments. Learn more!
The purpose in this Little Lesson and the next, is to examine ourselves, to see how well we’re doing at keeping the two greatest commandments. And it can’t hurt right, to have a little self-examination here and ask ourselves the question, am I in line with God’s will in keeping the two greatest commandments? Alright? So we’re going to kind of look at them and break them down a little bit. I’m hoping to present to you five irrefutable facts regarding those two great commandments.
But first of all, let’s talk about those two great commandments. There was a time when a man came up to Jesus and asked him which was the great or greatest commandment of the law, and Jesus didn’t hesitate, he didn’t give any kind of a vague answer. It was cut and clear. He said, this is Matthew 22 and verse number 37, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and foremost commandment.”
And so that was true of course both in old and new covenants. It’s true for us. The great commandment for you and the great commandment for me, the foremost one the one that we ought to be focused on more than any other one is loving God with all of our heart, mind, soul and strength.
And Jesus didn’t stop there because there was more that needed to be said. And I hope that we’ll see momentarily why Jesus didn’t stop there. He said then, “The second is like it.” So that means there’s a similar commandment that’s like it. And it’s second only to that first commandment. So, we know what our first priority should be, now we’re going to learn what our second priority should be. And it’s like the first and foremost commandment.
Jesus said, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Okay? Now, hold that thought. Jesus finished that little dialogue by saying, “On these two commandments, depend the whole law and the prophets.” Certainly, nobody can debate that if you keep those two commandments, you’re doing well. You’re likely to be keeping all the commandments that are found within the law and the prophets.
And so if you want to simplify your spiritual life and your devotion to the Lord, it’d be good to think about these things. And this is of course why James says, a New Testament author, a new testament apostle, ‘whoever keeps the royal law,’ the royal law, ‘in the statement you shall love your neighbor as yourself, he does well.’ Okay?
So James echoes the sentiments that we find, from the lips of Jesus that it’s really important to love your neighbor as yourself. If you do that, you’re doing well. Now, let’s jump back up to the foremost commandment. Loving God heart, mind and soul and strength.
I think sometimes when we read that commandment, we think to ourselves, well that’s right I need to be thinking more loving thoughts about God because to love Him of course, that’s going to be in my heart and my mind. And so I … oh I just need to love Him more with all my heart, with all my mind, with all my soul and my strength. And so let me just think more often, loving thoughts and think about how much I love God.
And there’s no doubt that thinking about God and loving Him within our hearts and minds and our meditation, is a part of an expression of loving Him with all of our heart, mind, soul and strength. Don’t get me wrong. But it’s just a part of an expression for loving God. Why? Because it’s very clear from scripture that we express our love for God primarily by keeping His commandments.
Loving God is more than just a thought or a feeling in one’s heart, it’s expressed by obedience to God’s commandments. Because if you love someone, you want to please them right? And this is God, so to please Him, we’re obviously going to obey Him. And so many times in the Old Testament, scores and scores of times the connection is made, love God and keep his commandments. And that is also found of course in the New Testament.
Jesus said in John 14, if you love me, you will keep my commandments. And similarly He said, “He who has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me.” And John wrote in his first epistle, “For this is love of God that we keep his commandments.” Okay. So if you want to obey, express obedience to loving God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength, you express that by keeping his commandments.
Now let’s just go to the next logical step here. What’s the second greatest commandment after loving Him with all your heart, mind, soul and strength, which is expressed by keeping His commandments? It’s the commandment to love your neighbor as yourself. And so, with those premises in mind, we can make the conclusion that the foremost way that we can express our love for God, is by loving our neighbor as ourselves because love for God is expressed by obedience to His commandments and his foremost commandment after the great commandment is to love our neighbor as ourselves.
So the foremost way that you can express your love for God is by loving your neighbor. And this fits right into a common theme here at Little Lessons. When Jesus foretold of the future judgment of the sheep and the goats, doesn’t it? I was hungry and you gave me something to eat. I was thirsty, you gave me a drink. The sheep express their love for Jesus, by loving their neighbor as themselves. Okay?
So, it behooves us to ask ourselves the question, how well am I doing at loving my neighbor as I love myself? Because that’s a good indication of how much I love God. Right? I think that that is irrefutable. And if we look at it from a little different angle, what’s the foremost way that I could love my neighbor in light of all of that truth? Well the foremost way I could love my neighbor is by helping my neighbor, encouraging my neighbor, admonishing my neighbor, doing whatever I can to help my neighbor love God with all of his or her heart, mind, soul and strength.
And if I’m going to help my neighbor to love God with all of his or her heart, mind, soul and strength, that would include encouraging helping my neighbor to love their neighbors as themselves. See how this all fits in there? That’s why Jesus said a second commandment is like it. These are so congruous, interrelated, intertwined. They just can’t be separated. And there’s one last question I want to ask, where we’re going to start our next Little Lesson.
If I’m not really concerned about my neighbor and my neighbor’s spiritual health and my neighbor’s love for God and love for neighbor, if I’m not concerned about my neighbor’s eternal destiny, like neighbors who are not on the road that leads to light, if I’m not concerned about that to the point of doing something, how could I possibly make a claim to loving my neighbor as myself? And if I can’t make a claim honestly to loving my neighbor as myself, how can I be making a claim to loving God with all my heart, mind, soul and strength? Well you see, I can’t.
Okay? So, something to ponder until the next time we get together on Little Lessons.
This is going to be a continuation of our previous Little Lesson. We’re looking at the two greatest commandments and five irrefutable, unassailable, facts about those two great commandments. First, by way of review, although I don’t know if it really needs reviewed, you probably know what the two greatest commandments are. Jesus said, loving God with all your heart, mind, and soul and strength. And number two, loving your neighbor as yourself. So these are the first two of the five facts that I’m trying to communicate. The foremost commandment is loving God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength. The second irrefutable fact is that the second greatest commandment is to love our neighbor as ourself.
So here’s then the third irrefutable fact. Love for God is expressed by keeping His commandments. And that’s irrefutable because that’s what the Bible says. If you search in the Old Testament, for example, for phrases that include loving God and keeping those commandments, you’ll find all kinds of sentences and phrases that have those two things together. It’s very clear from the old testament people who love God keep those commandments. People who keep those commandments love him. That’s the motivation. And Jesus of course said this a couple times as recorded by the apostle John. If you love me you will keep my commandments. He who has my commandments and keeps them, He it is who loves me. And John said this all over his first epistle. In one place he said ‘and this is the love of God that we keep his commandments.’ So you can’t separate those.
So those are the first three irrefutable facts. First commandment love God. Second commandment love neighbor. Third irrefutable fact love for God is expressed by keeping His commandments. And so now we come to what we can derive from those three irrefutable facts and that is number one, that my love for God, if my love for God is expressed by keeping His commandments and if His second greatest commandment is to love my neighbor as myself, then obviously love for God is expressed by loving my neighbor as myself. In fact, the foremost way that I express my love for God is by loving my neighbor as myself. Right? Right.
Okay and then a fifth conclusion could be drawn from all of these irrefutable facts. And that is this. The greatest way that I can love my neighbor as myself is by helping my neighbor to love God with all of his or her heart, mind, soul, and strength. Right? Because there’s nothing more important than that. And of course if my neighbor does love God with all of his heart, mind, soul, and strength he’ll express that by loving his neighbor as himself. Right? Okay. So the greatest way that I can love God is by loving my neighbor. If I love my neighbor, the greatest way I can love my neighbor is to help encourage and be a catalyst to help my neighbor love God with all of his or her heart, expressed by loving neighbor as oneself.
And that’s one reason why we’re not ashamed at Heaven’s Family and always encouraging our friends and associates and partners and our spiritual family to get involved with us in showing our love for God by loving our neighbor as ourself. And that’s why our key, foundational passage of scripture is Jesus’ foretelling of the future judgment of the sheep and the goats. Because in the case of the sheep, their love for God was proven by their love for the “least of these”. They were loving their neighbor as themselves. That was the proof that they loved Jesus. Jesus said well you did it for the “least of these”. You did it unto me. And that was what exposed the goats as being goats because they really didn’t love Jesus. Why? Because they didn’t love their neighbor. Because the foremost way to love God is to love your neighbor. You got it? You can see why this is so important.
Now, on our last lesson I closed with this question which is what I want to elaborate on in the time that I’ve got left in today’s Little Lesson and that is this. If I’m unconcerned about my neighbor, particular my neighbor’s love for God, and my neighbor’s love for his neighbor, which are the two most important things. If I’m not concerned about that, then how can I make a claim to loving my neighbor as myself, and if I can’t make a claim to loving my neighbor as myself, how could I make a claim to loving God with all my heart, mind, soul, and strength? Or just loving God at all for that matter. Well I really can’t and so you can see why the foremost attribute of the true follower of Jesus is love for the brethren and love for the “least of these” which both express a genuine and sincere love for God.
So who is my neighbor? Well that’s a question they asked Jesus one time. I think His answer was pretty clear. Your neighbor isn’t just your next door neighbor. Your neighbor can be people within ethnic groups that maybe your group is not even friends with. But you happen to bump into them on the road to Jericho. You know the story of the good Samaritan. And so our neighbors are people that we would interface with. On any level. Obviously the ones that we interface with face to face would certainly be foremost in that category but any way that we interface with people we should treat others like we want to be treated. That’s loving our neighbor as ourself. That’s loving God. By loving those that are created in His image.
So who is my neighbor? My neighbors consist of believers and unbelievers. So let me ask the previous question more specifically. Speaking of believers, if I’m unconcerned about my fellow believers and their love for God as expressed by their love for their neighbor, how can I be claiming to love my neighbor if I don’t care about the spiritual state of my Christian brothers and sisters. I have to be concerned. This is why the New Testament is full of admonitions to love each other and express it by admonishing one another and teaching one another, encouraging one another. We’re all concerned about each other’s spiritual health and relationship with God. If you’re not concerned about your brothers and sisters, their relationship with God, you can’t make a claim to loving them and then you can’t really make a claim to loving God.
And speaking of our neighbors who are unsaved, if we’re not concerned about their spiritual state that they’re on the road to destruction, and they’re going to miss out on eternal life and we don’t care and therefore we don’t do anything. We don’t make any effort to see that change, to share with them, to pray for them, to let our light shine before them, to give them a chance to hear the gospel, how can we be claiming to love them as ourselves? And if we can’t be claiming to love them as ourselves how can we be claiming to love God?
So you’re seeing that the true follower of Christ here is the lover, the lover of neighbor and therefore the lover of God. Okay? I have more to say about this on our next little lesson because it all fits together into a much bigger, very important picture. Thank you so much for joining me. God bless you.