Please turn your Bibles to Luke 10:25-37.
Last week, we talked about 3 resolutions based on the Greatest Commandment and the Great Commission that I believe apply to all Christians. The 3 resolutions are:
1) Love God
2) Love Neighbor
3) Make Disciple
We focused on loving God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength and the big idea from last time was that you cannot obey this commandment on your own effort. Like all resolutions, you commit to a few and then a week later, most of us have already broken our resolutions. Can anyone vouch for me? Have you broken your resolutions? Probably. We are flaky, unreliable and undependable. Given this is who we are, how on earth are we going to obey the greatest commandment to love God with ALL our heart, ALL our soul, ALL our mind and ALL our strength. It can’t be done. And that’s the point. There is no way on EARTH that we can obey it. Which is why we need a little help from heaven. Actually a lot of help.
The greatest commandment presupposes a radical inner transformation. Only if you are truly born again, born of the Spirit and the love of God comes flooding your heart, only then do you have the ability to love God and love neighbor. Loving God and loving others as yourself is possible only in response to God’s love for us. Religious people can’t obey the Greatest Commandment or the second great commandment. Religious people can pray before meals and smile at church. But only people supernaturally transformed from within by God’s Spirit can obey these commandments.
Let’s read Luke 10:25-37.
How are the greatest commandment–love God with your heart, soul, mind and strength–and the second greatest commandment–love neighbor as yourself– related?
Let’s turn to 1 John 4:7.
1 John 4
7 Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.
Love validates that you have been born of God. Our response of love presupposes that love has first come into our hearts and we have been saved.
1 John 4
8 Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.
If there is no love in you, if there is no love coming out of you, then you’re in trouble because you might not know who God is. You might know ABOUT God. Like a recruiter who receives a resume. The recruiter can see on the paper where the prospective candidate went to school, his experience, his skill set, he knows facts about him, but the recruiter never met the guy. You might know some facts about God. He is all-powerful, omniscient, he hates sin, but he loves sinners. But do you know God personally? Have you met him? Does he know you?
1 John 4
11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.
[jumping down to v19]
19 We love because he first loved us. 20 If anyone says, “I love God,” yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. 21 And he has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother.
Do you see the connection? We think that loving God is selling everything and moving to the mountains and reading the Bible 12 hours a day and praying the other half of the day. I don’t want to knock this lifestyle because some, very few, but some are called by God to live like this. The rest of us have to live in the world and pay our bills and make a living. Somehow, though, I think this picture of pious monks living in monasteries detached from society has distorted our view of spirituality. We think we are pious because we go to church or we open the Bible during our lunch break and we don’t curse. We think this is what it means to love God.
The problem is, all of that is internal. It’s invisible. You can’t quantify your love for God. Wouldn’t it be nice if there was a device you could plug into that measures how much you love God on any given moment. Like a spiritual heart meter. Today, I read 5 chapters of Leviticus and prayed for 30 minutes. Man, my meter must be through the roof. Yesterday, I only read 3 chapters and prayed for 15 minutes so my meter must have dipped a bit. You can’t think like this. Our love for God is subjective. You can FEEL like you love God, but are you really loving him? Are you connecting? It’s hard to know based on emotion.
Actually, God does give us a tangible measurement system to evaluate our relationship with God. What if you were driving in a car and there was no odometer and no fuel tank meter? You’d never know if your tank was full, or half-full or close to empty because you can’t physically see the inside of the tank. You’d always be guessing–I think I filled up a few days ago, therefore, I must be half-empty so I’m good driving around for a few more days. The reason there is a fuel meter is so that you can get a reading on the amount of gas left in your tank. You can’t see the tank, but you can see the meter, which is connected to sensors telling you how much fuel you have left in the tank. You don’t have to guess. And when that yellow light comes on, you know for sure, it’s time to pull into a gas station.
In this passage, God gives us a way of measuring how much love we have for God in our tanks, in our hearts.
1 John 4
20 If anyone says, “I love God,” yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has SEEN, cannot love God, whom he has NOT SEEN.
You can’t see God so it’s tough to measure how much you love him. But you can see your brother or your sister next to you. And how you treat him or her is like looking at the fuel meter in your car. If you love your neighbor, chances are, you love God. And if you don’t love your neighbor, you probably don’t love God.
When I am alone in the morning and I have my coffee in my left hand and my Bible in my right, I feel like a saint. I feel close to God. I feel like there is so much love in my heart. But then when I get in my car and I hit traffic and then I am surrounded by a crowd of people, suddenly, I don’t feel very saintly. When I encounter a person who is rude or a person who is arrogant, I quickly realize that I am not as loving as I think. By myself, saint. Around others, not so saintly. How you interact with others is like looking at the fuel tank meter.
Loving neighbor is not a guarantee that you love God. You can love your neighbors for all kinds of reasons other than love for God. You can love neighbors because it makes you feel good about yourself. You can love neighbors because you want to appear spiritual. So you are not loving neighbors out of your love for God, you are loving neighbors for your own reputation. You can love neighbors because you are trying to attract a spouse because in a church setting, especially, someone who is loving is going to be noticed over someone who keeps to himself or herself. There are many reasons you can love neighbors other than God.
Loving neighbor is not a guarantee that you love God. However, NOT loving your neighbor is a GUARANTEE that you don’t love God. Love for neighbor is an indicator of your love for God. It’s the fuel tank meter.