YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD
A SERMON ORIGINALLY DELIVERED AT
THE FEDERATED CHURCH OF ATHENS
8 JUNE 1997
Frank L. Hoffman, Pastor
1 Corinthians 11:27-31
1 John 4:18
The greatest of all commandments in the Bible is from Deuteronomy 6:5:
5. "And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.
"You shall love the Lord your God!"
How can God command us to love Him?
Even when we want to love someone, and make a commitment to them, as in a marriage, over 50% of us fail to do so.
Then how can God command us to love Him, and expect us to do so?
It would be a whole lot easier to understand if God said, "I want you to love Me."
But God didn't say that.
His commandment through Moses was, "you shall love the Lord your God!''
You can command a child to be quiet in church, but if he or she doesn't want to do so, they make even more noise, don't they?
So, if we cannot even command our own children to do something, and absolutely know that they will always do so, then how can God expect us to obey the commandment to love Him?
And yet God does expect us to do just that.
He knows that most of us won't, but He still commands us to do so.
Then how can this be?
What God is talking about is not so much of a commandment, though it is a commandment, as He is talking about a state of being.
For us to truly love God with all our heart, and with all our soul, and with all our might, we must first want to be one with God.
This means that we would rather live for someone else, than for ourselves.
This means that we would rather lay down our life for someone else, than save our own life.
This is the way our marriages should be, too. We should be totally committed.
And this lack of commitment is why so many marriages fail, and why so few people will end up in heaven.
This is why Jesus tells us (Matthew 7:13-14),
13. "Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide, and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and many are those who enter by it.
14. "For the gate is small, and the way is narrow that leads to life, and few are those who find it.
And yet we are still commanded to love the Lord our God.
And everyone who does obey this commandment will enter by the narrow way, through the small gate.
The tragic thing is that no one else will be able to enter in.
There is an unconditionality to love, and unfortunately very few people are willing to allow God to show this to them, and perfect it within them.
We may say we want to have this kind of love.
We may say that we love God.
But in the end, very few people are really willing to expose their inner feeling, their inner being, to the extent necessary to allow God to mold this love into them, to the point that it becomes their very nature.
It is only here that we can fully obey the commandment to love the Lord our God with all our heart, and with all our soul, and with all our might.
It is only here that we can begin to feel as God feels, for the Holy Spirit speaks to our spirit in ways we cannot fully express in words.
It is only here that we can appreciate and cherish all that God created, and love each and every thing as God loved them in the making.
It is only here that we can come to understand the special kind of love expressed in God's giving us His only begotten Son, that we might be redeemed and made whole again.
I have heard several of you express to me that you're not sure that you could give up your son, as God did.
Yet the kind of love God commands us to have, is exactly this type of unconditional love.
And it is only here that we can come to fully understand what it means to completely love the Lord our God with every part of our being.
This is why, when Paul was speaking to the Corinthians about their participation in the Lord's Supper, he commanded the people to participate, but to first examine themselves, and so let them eat and drink.
For as we eat and drink, so do we pass either judgement or blessing upon ourselves (1 Corinthians 11:27-31).
This is no different from what we do in our fulfillment of the commandment to love the Lord our God.
Our failure to examine ourselves and correct our ways before God in our every day existence is a failure of our love for Him.
For every breath we take should be a reminder of the Lord our God, who gave us life, and first breathed the breath of life into us.
And our failure to so examine ourselves is no different than our unworthy participation in the Lord's Supper.
Yet we consider the Lord's Supper more important, because it's a visible thing.
And because the air we breathe is invisible, we usually fail to see the same kind of participation.
But once we begin to fully focus ourselves upon God in this manner, the closer we come to understanding what it means to really love the Lord our God.
When we acknowledge the beauty of nature, and say, "Thank You Lord!", we are in essence saying, "I love You, Lord!''
With some people this is automatic; with others, it's just there, and God is not seen as having anything to do with it.
Or, more accurately, God is not acknowledged as having anything to do with the creation of what we see.
But as the Bible tells us, this is no excuse, for we really know the truth (Romans 1:20).
The staying away from church, the staying away from Bible study, our failure to read and study our own Bibles, is really an acknowledgement of our fear.
We are afraid to commit ourselves fully to God, because we are afraid that He will change the lifestyle we are presently leading.
And we don't want anything or anyone to cramp our style.
But this doesn't change the truth, does it?
God is still God, even if we fail to acknowledge Him openly.
And most people will go to hell, even if they fail to acknowledge its existence.
It really hurts me deep down inside, when I see people heading in this direction.
And if I hurt in this way, I can't help but think of how much more God must hurt, for He made us all.
I hope you feel this way, too.
I hate the evil people do, their cruelty, their indifference; but I can never wish them evil, but only that they would come to have life through the saving grace of Jesus Christ, and turn from their evil ways.
This is fulfilling the commandment to love the Lord our God.
For if God so loved the world, with all its sinners, to send His Son to save these people (John 3:16-17), then is not part of our love for Him, the way we love what He loves?
Thus, in reality, the commandment to love the Lord our God, is really a commandment to fully open our hearts and minds to acknowledge the truth, the whole truth, for in so doing, we acknowledge God's part in everything.
And the more and more we learn to leave ourselves open, the more we begin to see God's presence, and His intervention.
And the more we do this, the more we come to realize what it means to love the Lord our God with all our heart, and with all our soul, and with all our might.
Then the perfect love of God will cast out all our fears, and we will want to be closer to God, and even closer, and still closer, until we are perfected in His love, and feel His ever presence within us.
It is here, that we can truly say, "I love You, Lord!"
Your Comments are welcome
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