Loving God: The Primary Agenda of Life
This is my first message for Friday Night Light (FNL), the young singles ministry of Christ’s Commission Fellowship (CCF) Makati. I gave this last Friday, the second fellowship gathering of FNL (I praise God for His faithfulness and goodness to the FNL team). I preached on the topic of loving God (Mark 12:28-30). Anyway…
Wrong Notions on Loving God
Before we move to our text, allow me to dismantle some of the wrong notions on loving God. Let me give you three:
1. Church service or religious activities do not necessarily mean loving God. Jesus once warned that not everyone who says to Him, “Lord, Lord,” will enter the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 7:21). In fact, some people were even prophesying in His name, driving out demons in His name, and doing mighty works in His name (v.22). These were amazing things they were doing. Yet they didn’t really know Him, or love Him. And how can we say so? Because Jesus responded saying, “I never knew you!” Ouch!
Many of you don’t know this: I used to song-lead for my former church, just a small community church. I was a youth volunteer back then. Now, you have to understand the culture in smaller churches. Volunteers are usually scarce due to its size. So when the leadership saw that a member is available and can serve (and he has the guts to face a crowd if the ministry is at the frontlines), he will be asked to render his service. So there were no more auditions and, unfortunately, no more heart-checks.
So there I was, serving in my youth ministry and singing my lungs out. But I do it because I love the spotlight. I wasn’t really serving God; I was serving me. I sing not because of my love for God, but because of my love for me.
Indeed, serving in the church or doing religious stuff does not necessarily mean loving God.
2. Reading the Bible does not necessarily mean loving God. The religious leaders in the time of Jesus searched the Scriptures, believing that in them they have eternal life (John 5:39). Yet they refuse to come to Him that they may have life (v.40). Jesus told them, “you do not have the love of God within you” (v.42).
3. Loving others does not necessarily mean loving God. Many people love others without any reference to God, or to love for God. We call this philanthropy.
Let’s go to our text. Here’s a brief background. We know that Jesus wasn’t in good terms with the religious leaders. They tried to trap him in His words. The Pharisees asked Him about paying taxes to Caesar, but He answered them convincingly, silencing them (see Mark 12:13-17). The Sadducees, who don’t believe in resurrection, asked Him about resurrection. Again, He answered convincingly. Just like the Pharisees, the Sadducees they were quiet (see vv.18-27).
Loving God as the Primary Agenda of Life
So we go to verse 28:
28And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, asked him, “Which commandment is the most important of all?”
Now a scribe (teacher of the law [NIV1984]) is someone who is a professional interpreter of the law. If he is a professional on this matter, then he should know the answer to his question. He should know better, right? So something is fishy with this guy.
It seems that the scribe sounded innocent in asking. But as a Pharisee, he asked Jesus to also test Him (see Matthew 22:34-36). And the test? Jesus must answer the question “Which commandment is the most important of all?”
Why this question? Let me explain. We have to understand that the Jews had accumulated hundreds of laws. Some of their leaders tried to distinguish the major ones from the minor ones, while others taught that they were all equal and making distinctions was dangerous. So this could place Jesus into a dilemma, and his answer could spark controversy among different groups. (But we have such a wise God in Jesus. His answer summarizes all of the law, for on it “depend all the Law and the Prophets” [Matthew 22:40]).
29Jesus answered, “The most important is…
Let’s stop right here and put our attention on the words “most important,” or “foremost” (NASB). In Greek, it’s just one word. It’s translated as protos. It means first, or chief, or principal. We see this in other verses like Matthew 6:33:
33But seek first [protos] the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
This verse does not say that we do the seeking first, and then God will take care of the concerns of life. But it does say that we make it the chief, principal, or primary agenda of our life, while God takes care of the peripheral things of life.
We also see this in Revelation 2:4, where Jesus rebuked the Ephesian church:
4‘But I have this against you, that you have left your first [protos] love. (NASB)
The church in Ephesus did not left their first love, in the sense that it came before the second love, or the third love, and so on. It simply means that they have left their primary love. I hope you now have an idea of what protos means.
So let’s go back to the verse. What Jesus will say next is of primary importance. It’s protos. Here it is:
29Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30And 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.’
That’s it! Loving God is of primary importance. It is the protos of our lives! And how must we love God? We must love Him
• With all our heart. It represents our identity, the core of our being.
• With all our soul. It has something to do with emotions.
• With all our mind. It has something to do with our will.
• With all our strength. This refers to our physical energy.
Notice this. The verse does not just say “love the Lord your God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength.” Rather, it says “with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” This simply emphasizes that our love for God should be a whole-hearted love!
So what can we say from what we have discussed so far? Remember this: We must make loving God (whole-heartedly) the primary agenda of our lives.
I’m reminded of the first question in the Westminster Shorter Catechism, which asks:
What is the chief end of man?
And it answers:
Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.
That is man’s chief end, or man’s chief purpose. I sincerely believe it. But we can’t glorify God and enjoy Him forever unless we love Him. That’s why it makes perfect sense that we make loving God the primary agenda of our lives. So I ask you this: Is loving God the primary agenda of your life? The protos of your life? Or is loving yourself the primary agenda of your life?
Once again: We must make loving God the primary agenda of our lives.
Putting It in Practical Terms
You now say, “Okay, I understand that loving God should be the primary agenda for every Christian. But how do I practice it?”
A while ago, I dismantled some wrong notions about loving God. Sure, church service or religious activities do not necessarily mean loving God. And reading the Bible does not necessarily mean loving Him. And loving others does not necessarily mean loving Him.
But loving God necessarily means serving Him (e.g. Joshua 24:15, Matthew 4:10). And loving Him necessarily means reading the Bible, and let me add, obeying it (e.g. John 14:15,21,23). And loving Him necessarily means loving others (e.g. 1 John 4:7-12). These are good starting point to love God.
As we make loving God the primary agenda of our lives, let’s serve Him and His church, read and obey His Word, and love others.
1. What wrong notions about loving God do you have in mind?
2. What can you say is the primary agenda of your life?
3. What do you need to develop or improve in terms of your love for God (serving God, reading and obeying His Word, loving others, etc.)?