At a recent family gathering we were speaking about multiple choice questions as one of our sons prepares himself for a major exam. Is there a pattern for answering? Are some questions more important than others? How do you complete 200 questions in 6 hours?
As Jesus concluded his interaction with the Sadducees, another teacher of the law, overhearing the conversation, pressed the Master with one final question. Under the Old Covenant there are 613 commandments and in the first century, rabbis debated the ranking of these divine standards.
“Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”
Without hesitation, Jesus summarized 613 exhortations into just 2. Citing Deuteronomy 6:4,5 and following up with Leviciticus 19:18 he extracted the heart of the Law into the present tense reminding his hearers, and those of us who read this passage, that God wants us to cultivate two LOVE relationships. Even with just 2 commandments, we don’t see multiple choice!
#1 Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. May we pause here? Is this possible? Does this not ‘take our breath’ away and ‘pull the rug’ out from underneath our professed relationships with God. Have you, have I, has anyone, save Christ alone, ever loved the LORD with 100% involvement of one’s heart, soul, mind and strength. Isn’t this the point — to eliminate self-assurance and self-confidence and to confess our great need for God’s help to follow God’s standard?
Praise God, He has not left us without a plan. We have His word. We have His Spirit. We have access to His grace. We may well join the hymnwriter in singing, “I need Thee, O I need Thee. Ev’ry hour I need Thee. O bless me now my Saviour, I come to Thee!” Such a command compels us to come and commands us to love. Shall we ignore His call? We love Him BECAUSE HE FIRST LOVED US.
#2 Love your neighbour as yourself. Having oriented one’s life around the first commandment, to the degree God demands, any further commandment may appear ‘easy.’ But again, do we not need God’s help to obey this commandment as well? Aren’t we prone to be selfish, indulging the desires of our flesh, craving the desires of our eyes and boasting about what we have and do? We will need Divine surgery. We will need a Divine reordering of our daily priorities that there may be real J-O-Y in our obedience. J-O-Y? I borrow a Sunday School chorus to conclude this post. ‘JESUS and OTHERS and you, What a wonderful way to spell ‘joy!’ …. J is for JESUS for HE has first place. O is for OTHERS you meet face to face. Y is for YOU and whatever you doe, put yourself LAST and spell ‘joy,’ J-O-Y!
The essence of spiritual leadership is following God’s plan.
This Day in Chrisitan History reminds us that on July 6, 1905 –
Birth of Harold J. Ockenga, American Congreational minister and evangelical leader. He served as the first president of the National Association of Evangelicals and was cofounder of Fuller Theological Seminary in California.
(As a side note – Ockenga left a large impact on my in-laws, Walter and Frances Cosman who heard him preach in New Brunswick on several occasions as Pastor Ockenga visited Central Baptist Church in Saint John.)