Written by Chris Rhodenhizer
Lead Pastor, Image Church.
Someone once told me that when Pastors and churches say “Love God and Love Others” that it is too basic. Now, if that’s just a phrase that we throw around and never explain it or go live it out, I get it. BUT, it is the basic thing we are ultimately called to do. Jesus would constantly proclaim this in Word and deed throughout His earthly ministry.
Maturing disciples start and grow in their love of God and others.
But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test 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 first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” Matthew 22:34-40 [ESV]
We see in verses 34-36 that the religious crowd had been trying to stump Jesus, to make Him look ignorant and blasphemous – they had failed. So, this expert in the law poses a question about the law in order to get Jesus to rank which laws are more important. This was an ongoing debate among religious leaders. Jesus is going to shoot straight and give them the basics of truly knowing God and following God. Jesus is going to get to the heart of the matter. He uses Scripture, TRUTH, and quotes Deuteronomy 6:5. Jesus is ultimately going to show and explain to them what a mature disciple looks like.
Maturing Three Descriptions of a Mature Disciple
1st: Desires the Presence of God
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.
The religious leaders were always trying to categorize which laws were more “weighty” than others. They most likely did this in order to excuse some laws away and focus on obeying certain laws they thought made them good. Jesus is going to speak to the fact that God wants them to completely desire Himself and therefore there would be a desire to obey Him. Jesus, here, is speaking to our whole being: heart, soul, mind… physical, spiritual, mental. Jesus was leading them to be completely devoted to God. This was and is a heart issue. If there is not a basic devotion to God Himself, then nothing else matters, including obeying the law. If we don’t desire the presence of God in our lives, then nothing else really matters.
Jesus transforms us by being with us!
2nd: Desires to Obey God
This is the great and first commandment. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”
We should want to be like Jesus. When we obey God we are growing to be like Jesus. If we are devoted to Him, then He will enable us to obey other commands and give us Grace when we fail. If we have been transformed, then the part of the fruit in our lives will be a maturing in obedience to Him and His ways. Jesus said, “If you love me you, will keep my commands.”
3rd: Desires to Use Them in Other People’s Lives
And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
This begins with the basics of loving people the way Jesus loved us. Jesus made a way for us to follow Him, and wants us to help others follow Him. The greatest way we can love others is to give them the Gospel and make disciples. Now, we can’t elevate this above the first part. It all starts with the true presence of God in our lives, which comes because of Jesus.
Jesus is driving a point home with speaking to “Neighbors.” Who is our neighbor? Jesus wanted them to know He meant Jew and Gentile… the Nations… those where we work, live, play, study, and shop!
Neither the religious crowd nor can we love God without Jesus. Jesus is God. When we surrender, we are saying we desire to worship Him alone, obey Him, and make disciples. That’s a mature follower of Jesus. At the church I pastor, we define a disciple this way:
Disciple: A surrendered follower of Jesus, being transformed by the Holy Spirit, learning and doing the revealed will of the Father.
A disciple is one who is surrendered to Jesus, desires to be with Jesus, and helps others follow
Imagine if His desires became our desires.