Things are not what they should be in the hearts and minds of Christians. There seems to be weighty evidence that in all the hoopla of today’s crazy trends and scandals, we neglect the two things Jesus told us were the two most important commandments.
“Jesus answered, ‘The most important is, “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” The second is this: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” There is no other commandment greater than these’” (Mark 12:29-31 ESV).
It appears that we still demote God to a lesser priority than that of our “first love”, and when that is out of whack, we of course cannot get the second one right either: a disconnect with God is a disconnect from the His supernatural filling of our hearts with His perfect love. It’s a shame, too, since we are intended by God to be living examples (albeit, imperfect ones) of Who He is in His holiness and grace. It doesn’t have to be that way.
Aside from the fact that He has full right to lead us, command us, and do whatever work in us He chooses as His Spirit convicts us of sin and of how to respond to the amazing love He has demonstrated to us, there is opened up for us a means to live life that is contrary to the patterns and habits of the world and is contrary also to our own flesh’s compulsive need to promote our own selfish agendas.
In Philippians 2:1-3, God’s Word teaches us that “if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy”, then we are to be “of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.” Furthermore, it compels us to “do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility to count others more significant than ourselves.”
The Bible essentially tells us that because of Who God is and what He has done for us through Jesus, we cease being the center of our universes. We learn to orbit around Him and His will for our lives. “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others (Philippians 2:4 ESV).
The example that God gives us is one He personally demonstrates for us in Christ: “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, Who, though He was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:5-8 ESV).
Wow! To what extent should I love God? The extent to which I trust Him in complete surrender and total obedience. Where do I demonstrate the fact of my love for Him? By putting God’s glory first in the meeting of others’ needs in practical ways. That is exactly what Jesus did as He died on the cross for your sin and mine.
Where does this ultimately lead? Am I to spend all of myself for God only to be cast aside by Him and forgotten? No. The path to our greatest blessings in God are found in trusting Him enough to endure suffering for Him and rejection by others even as we love others with Jesus’ love. Because Jesus loved the Father to the point of enduring a terrible, ignoble death, “God has highly exalted Him and bestowed on Him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:9-11 ESV).
Basically, when we love God enough to dare loving others as Jesus did and does, our Heavenly Father takes that obedience, uses it to help others come to faith in Christ, and also works out an eternal blessing for those who endure for the sake of their love for Him.
When we begin, with His help, to get this right, then things begin to be what they should be in the minds and hearts of Christians today.
(Thom Mollohan and his family have ministered in southern Ohio the past 24 ½ years, is the author of Led by Grace, The Fairy Tale Parables, Crimson Harvest, and A Heart at Home with God. He blogs at “unfurledsails.wordpress.com.” Pastor Thom leads Pathway Community Church and may be reached for comments or questions by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Viewpoints expressed are the work of the author.)