As I watch and listen, now and across several years, I strongly conclude that the typical American has issues with authority. I mean authority in every area of life. I also conclude, with conviction, the average Christian also struggles with authority to include the Lordship of Jesus Christ. It appears to me through decades of experience, not in judgement but loving concern, that many Christians want Jesus to be their Savior but acknowledging the Lordship of Jesus is entirely a different matter. In other words, many want to be assured they are going to heaven but listening to and obeying Jesus as Lord is often rejected or, at the very least, ignored. Coincidingly, the research from Barna Group, Thom Rainer, Pew Research and Lifeway seem to prove my conclusions. In case your curious of what the research reveals, the following is a sample: The average Christian attends worship 1-2 times per month, gives less than 3% of their income in support of their local church, does not serve in their local church (only 10-20% actively do), does not witness about Jesus to others (78% have not shared in the last 6 months).
With this established, we must be reminded, without hesitation, Jesus is Lord. In fact, you cannot be saved, redeemed, born again unless you confess Jesus as Lord. Paul clears up the matter in his letter to the church in Rome.
RO 10:9 because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. 11 For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” 12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. 13 For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
Jesus gave us as many as 49 commands recorded in the New Testament but there is one that He deems great and first. MT 22:34 But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. 35 And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. 36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment.
I encourage you to read this command over several times. After reading the command several times, make a list of what you learn. My list of what we learn from the great commandment is as follows:
1) Authority – the one who gives commands must have the authority to do so. We know that Jesus has authority to command us because He is Lord. In fact, He has all authority in heaven and on earth. MT 28:18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.
2) Precedence – the command is established and binding. Jesus referred to the Shema, meaning to listen and obey, in the Old Testament in answering the question, “which is the great commandment in the Law?” DT 6:4 “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 5 You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.
3) Priority – the command is first in importance. Jesus is asked about the great commandment. So, in every thought and action, our foundation and motivation is loving the Lord with our entire being. MT 22:36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?”
4) Love – we learn to love the Lord through submission to His command to love. We may not consider the weight of this but disobedience, even delayed disobedience, is sin. Further to that, it is impossible to know what it means to love the Lord unless you pour your entire being (heart, mind, soul) out, onto and for Him. MT 22:37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment.
5) Obedience – when Jesus our Lord gives a command obedience is expected. In addition, the Lord wouldn’t command us to do something that is impossible. In any case, the evidence of our love for the Lord is actually doing what He tells us to do starting with the great commandment. JN 14:15 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.
6) Lifestyle – loving God with our entire being changes has an measurable impact. It changes how we live. When we love God first and foremost it changes our heart, mind, attitude, motive, words, countenance, habits, desires and practices. It takes us to a place intellectually, emotionally and spiritually where we make decisions and take action based on the answer to this one significant question, am I loving Jesus first and foremost with all of me right now? PS 119:1 Blessed are those whose way is blameless, who walk in the law of the Lord! 2 Blessed are those who keep his testimonies, who seek him with their whole heart, 3 who also do no wrong, but walk in his ways! 4 You have commanded your precepts to be kept diligently. 5 Oh that my ways may be steadfast in keeping your statutes!
What we learn from personal experience and research about Christians and the church is disheartening to say the least. However, please don’t walk away defeated and don’t think for one moment that you need to be trapped in disobedience. And, for that matter, your life doesn’t need to be described by a discouraging statistic. In that light, maybe the most important takeaway from what we learn about the “great commandment” is we can obey the Lord’s command to love the Lord with all of our being if we first believe He is truly our Lord. When we call on the name of the Lord we are saved and the Holy Spirit indwells us and gives us the help we need to obey. Now with that, I assume at the very least, even conclude, a person whose Lord is Jesus and who is guided by the Spirit would consider Jesus worthy of worship, serving, giving and witnessing. All in all, since Jesus says it’s the great commandment, it ought to be on the forefront of our minds, guiding our thoughts and motives and illuminating the path for our actions.
A Work in Progress,