Revive Our Hearts Podcast

The Most Important Commandment

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Listen to "How's Your Love Life?"

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Leslie Basham: Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth asks a simple question. Do you love God?

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: Listen, you can read your Bible, memorize it, listen to Revive Our Hearts every day (which I hope you do), all of those things. You can go to church. You can tithe. You can double tithe. You can have all the externals of biblical womanhood, but if those things don’t flow out of a heart of love for God, you've missed the point

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss, author of Adorned, for Tuesday, June 12, 2018.

In several series this year, Nancy's been showing us the importance of the True Woman Manifesto. She's walked us through the biblical foundations of the document. She's shown us the affirmations of the document, and yesterday she began a series on the declarations portion of the Manifesto. What can you declare with certainty? Let's listen.

Nancy: I'm glad you're joining us for this ongoing study of the True Woman Manifesto. We started several months ago, and we're doing it in pieces throughout the course of this year. If you haven't heard the previous sections, I want to encourage you to go to ReviveOurHearts.com and go to the archives and pick up the earlier sessions on the Manifesto. If you don't have a copy of the True Woman Manifesto, you can print that out on our website in a pdf. You can order a copy of the brochure. You can order a bunch of copies of the brochure so that you can hand them out to others.

But we're coming to the last section of the Manifesto in this series. Let me just reset with a statement we talked about in the last program. We said "believing the above,” which is a reference to all the affirmations in the Manifesto that we've talked about over the past months,

We declare our desire and intent to be "true women" of God. We consecrate ourselves to fulfill His calling and purposes for our lives. By His grace and in humble dependence on His power, we will . . .

Then there follow fifteen statements of intent and purpose. These are the ways that we will live out what we believe to be true.

We're going to take one day over the next weeks on each of these fifteen statements to just unpack them and see what it is we're committing ourselves to, looking at God's Word and asking Him to give us greater understanding in these commitment statements, these “we will” statements.

So we come to the first one today that says,

We will seek to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength.

Now that's a pretty big statement, as are many of these. Let me just remind you what I know you know is true, and that is that no one has arrived. No one in this room starting with me on the platform here, no one is living this message the way we ought to, the way we want to, the way we will one day by God's grace. But we're saying this is what we aspire to. This is what we desire to be true. We will seek to love the Lord our God with all our heart. This is the bent, the inclination of our hearts.

Now this is an important statement because it reminds us that the essence of true womanhood is not fulfilling certain roles or acting or looking a certain way. Rather it's being a woman whose life is directed and driven by a genuine love for Christ. That's the heart of true womanhood.

  • It's not the way you dress.
  • It's not the way you talk.
  • It's not what job you have or don't have.
  • It's not how many children you have or don't have.
  • It's not your marital status.

Being a true woman of God at its heart is being a woman who loves God with all your heart.

And this “we will” statement, “We will seek to love the Lord our God,” is foundational for all the other statements that follow. For after all this is the greatest commandment of all. You remember that passage in Mark chapter 12 when one of the scribes, one of the religious leaders, said to Jesus, “Which commandment is the most important of all?” (v. 28). Now we think commandments and we think, The ten commandments—which is He going to pick? But practicing Jews in those days knew that there were 613 commands in the Old Testament law.

So he's saying, “Which of those 613 is the most important?” How can you possibly keep up with 613 of them? By the way, 365 of those commands were negative, one for each day of the year, and 248 were positive. And some of those commands were considered heavy commands, that is they were absolutely binding. Others were considered light commands, not so binding, maybe not so critical.

The rabbis would spend hours debating which ones were weighty and which ones were light. So they came in that spirit asking Jesus for His opinion. What do you think? What is the heaviest command of them all? Jesus responded there in Mark 12 by quoting the Hebrew shema. That comes from the first Hebrew word of this quote from Deuteronomy. The word means “hear.”

Every Jew who would have been listening to Jesus in that day was very familiar with this statement of faith. Every Jew would have quoted this statement every morning and every evening. It's found in Deuteronomy 6:4, 5. And that's what Jesus quoted in response to the question, “What is the most important commandment of all?”

Jesus answered in Mark 12, “The most important is,” and now He quotes that Hebrew shema,

Hear [shema], O Israel: The Lord thy God, the Lord is one. And 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 (vv. 29–30). 

As you put the whole of Scripture together, you realize that this commandment embodies all the others. This is the sum and the substance of the entire law, especially when you put it with the second one, which Jesus said is to love your neighbor as yourself.

Romans 13 tells us that "love is the fulfilling of the law" (v. 10). If you love God, you will love others. And if you love God and others, you have fulfilled the entire law. Our first and foremost duty Jesus was saying is to love God, to love Him with all our being, to love Him wholeheartedly. Jesus says you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart. He's talking here about having intense affection for God being seized with the power, that affection, that motivates and drives everything else we do.

We shall love God with our heart and with all our soul Jesus said. The soul is all of the life. It means to love Him more than we love our own life, to be willing to give up anything and everything including, if necessary, life itself for God. That's to love God with all our soul.

We are to love God with all our mind. There's a wonderful commentary written in the early 1800s by a man named Adam Clarke. And he has a terrific passage in his commentary on this passage in Mark chapter 12. He says that the one who loves God with all his mind is,

He who sees God in all things—thinks of Him at all times—having his mind continually fixed upon God, acknowledging Him in all his ways— who begins, continues, and ends all his thoughts, words, and works, to the glory of His name. 1

It's all encompassing—loving God with all our mind.

Then Adam Clarke talks about what it means to love God with all our strength. And he says,

This is the one who exerts all the powers of his body and soul in the service of God:—who, for the glory of his Maker, spares neither labour nor cost—who sacrifices his time, body, health, ease for the honour of God his Divine Master. By this love [this love for God], the soul eagerly cleaves to, affectionately admires, and constantly rests in God, supremely pleased and satisfied with Him as his portion.1

Did you catch that? That's a summary of what it means to love God with all our hearts. "By this love the soul eagerly cleaves to, affectionately admires, and constantly rests in God, supremely pleased and satisfied with Him as his portion." The one who loves God says, "If I have You, God, I have everything I need. I have enough. You are my portion. You are the one I will cleave to, admire, and rest in. I will be supremely pleased and satisfied with You."

Now, of course, we know from God's Word that we are to also love our families. We are to love others. We are to love those in the community of faith. We are to love those who are not believers as God does. But we are to love Him supremely above all other loves. And you know that to love anything or anyone more than we love God is what the Scripture calls idolatry. It's a breaking of the first commandment.

Our love for Him is not to be half-hearted. It's not to be hypocritical. We profess one thing, but we actually live another. We're not just talking about respect and reverence for God though certainly that is included. We're talking about an intimate, personal, affectionate, loving relationship with the God of the universe—not just studying about Him, but actually knowing Him and loving the one we have come to know.

We're talking about something that is far more than just going through certain religious motions or rituals or duty. Listen, you can read your Bible, memorize it, listen to Revive Our Hearts every day (which I hope you do), all of those things. You can go to church. You can tithe. You can double tithe. You can have all the externals of biblical womanhood. But if those things don't flow out of a heart love for God, you've missed the point. You've missed the point. You're a moralist, but you don’t have a relationship with God.

I love the song Steve Green used to sing:

To love the Lord our God is the heartbeat of our mission,
The spring from which our service overflows.

You see, without love for God, all the stuff we do for God—all the mothering, being a good wife, the serving Him in your church, the going to Bible studies, teaching Bible studies, all of that stuff will become hard, cold, empty, and duty bound. You won’t have the joy. You won't have the freedom. You won't have the fullness if it's not driven and motivated by love for God.

The apostle Paul says in 1 Timothy 1,

The goal of our instruction is love, [love that comes springing] out of a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith (v. 5 NASB).

The goal is love. That’s the goal of our teaching on Revive Our Hearts is that you would know God and that knowing Him you would love Him.

Paul says in Philippians chapter 1:

It is my prayer that your love would abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment (v. 9).

So however much love you have for God today, that's great, but Paul says, "I want you to have more. I want you to abound in love, to have more and more."

You say, "I really love God."

"That's great." But Paul says, "I want you to abound in love! More and more! In ever-increasing measure of love."

Ephesians 6 at the end of his letter to the Ephesians Paul says, “Grace be with all who love our Lord Jesus with love incorruptible" (v. 24). Not a human fleshly love but an incorruptible, undying, unending love. Those who love Christ will experience a fresh measure of His grace.

Now as we all know and as Jesus reminded the church in Ephesus (Paul had written about that love when Jesus came to give His letter to the church in Ephesus in Revelation chapter 2) he said, “You have abandoned the love that you had at first” (v. 4). 

At one point they had this great love for Christ, but then within a matter of time, they had slipped away from that love. Don't you know it's true in your own life? At one point you can love God so much, but then you find that other things creep in, other attractions, other affections, other loves, distractions, the cares of this world, riches, pleasures, other things, stuff. It all just creeps in, and what happens? Our love for Christ can wane. It can grow cold. Sometimes it happens so subtly.

I find in my own life it's not usually a blowout. It's usually a slow leak. Then you stop and you take stock and you realize, “I'm not close to Christ as I was at one point. I don't love Him like I did at one point.” Maybe you didn't even realize it happened and that's when we cry out, and we say, “Lord, please rekindle the love. Restore that love in my heart.”

Now, how can we measure our love for God? I've been asking myself that question as I've been working on this particular program. How do I know if I love God? We tend in our Western world to think of love as a feeling, an emotion. But I think we all know that loving God like loving others involves a whole lot more than having good feelings about Him. Loving God is a lifestyle that involves our desires, our affections, our will, our choices, our priorities. And it's evidenced in a lot of different ways.

  • It's evidenced in the fact that we want to be with Him. We want to spend time with Him. We're willing to give up things in order to spend time with Him.
  • It's evidenced by the fact that we want to know Him better.
  • We obey Him.
  • We trust Him.
  • We enjoy talking to Him.

I was talking with an engaged young man recently and he and his fiancée were separated geographically for a period of several months. They were both working, both very busy people. But he says, “We talked an hour or so every night.”

And I'm thinking, How do you have time to do that? Well, you know how they had time? Because they were in love. It's not a chore to them to talk to one another. My other thought was, What do you talk about? I didn't ask but sometimes you watch these young kids in love and you think (it's not just an hour; it's four or five or six) and you think, What do you talk about?

Then you see these couples who have been married a while and you see them sometimes in restaurants and it seems like they don't have anything to talk about. Well, a sign of being in love, of loving someone, is that you enjoy talking to them.

  • Another sign of loving God is that we enjoy what He enjoys; we love what He loves, and we hate what He hates. Our affections are aligned with His.
  • Another sign of loving God is that we want to talk to others about Him.

That engaged couple when they were engaged (they're now married), you didn't have to probe or pry to get them to talk about the one they were engaged to. They were happy to do that.

  • You want to please the one that you love. If you love God you want to please Him.
  • An evidence that you love Him is you will put Him first in your day, in your priorities. Other priorities will take second or third or fourth or distant place if you love God supremely.
  • In 1 John 5 we read that a sign of loving God is that we love others (see v. 1). How can you say you love God if you don't love others?
  • Another sign in 1 John 3 is that we give to others who are in need (see v. 17). That's an evidence that we love God and that we're willing to sacrifice anything for Him.

A few weeks ago I got an email from a woman who is in a dating relationship with a godly man according to her description, and she and this man are praying about whether they should get married But she is not sure that she is biblically free to pursue marriage due to a past divorce.

Now without going into the background or all the biblical perspectives on this, what I loved about her statement was she said, “I love this man very much, but I love Jesus more and I want to be a true woman.” Here's a woman who says, “I really love this man and I really want to marry him, but what I've got to find out is does Jesus want me to marry him? Am I biblically free to marry this man? Because I love Jesus even more than I love this man.” That’s a sign of true love for Christ.

What evidence is there that you love God?

  • Do you talk about Him?
  • Do you desire Him?
  • Do you want to be with Him?
  • Do you want to know Him better?
  • Do you want to please Him?
  • What do you have a heart for?
  • What do you gravitate toward?
  • What are your affections set on?
  • What do you talk about?
  • What do you prize?
  • What do you care about deeply?

Can we claim to love God if we are perpetually too busy to spend time with Him, if we basically ignore Him for hours or days at a time, don't think about Him, neglect Him? If we enjoy other people and activities more than we enjoy Him? If we refuse to do what we know He wants us to do, can we claim to love God?

Well, most of us are saying, “I don't really love God the way I need to. I want to love Him more. I need to love Him more. So how can I cultivate greater desire and love for God? And that's a question I've been asking myself in recent weeks as I've been working on this series. One thing for sure and that is that we can't manufacture love for God. You can't muster it up. "Okay, I'm going to love God more!" Just like you can't manufacture love for your husband or your kids. It's something that God puts in our hearts because love comes from God for God is love.

So let me just say this that intention is half the battle. Ask yourself the question first, “Do I really want to love God more?” And I think most of us would say, "Yes, I really do want to love Him more. So what can I do?"

First of all be, honest about your lack of love. Don't try and pretend you really love God if the evidence is to the contrary. Say, “God, I do love You some and I love You more than I did at one point, but I love You a lot less than I did at other times in the past and a lot less than I know You deserve. I want to love You more.” Ask God to give you love for Him. "Lord I love You, but I want to love You more."

I love that old hymn written in 1856 by Elizabeth Prentiss: 

More love to Thee, O Christ, more love to Thee.
Hear Thou the prayer I make, on bended knee.
This is my earnest plea; more love, O Christ, to Thee.
More love to Thee; more love to Thee.

Maybe over these next days, just get on your knees once a day and bow before the Lord on bended knee and say, "Lord, I love You, but I want to love You more. Give me more love for You."

And then just a practical suggestion. Hang around people who do love God. There's something infectious about affection. It wears off. It influences us when we see people who love deeply. When I'm around people who really love God, it increases my own love for God.

By the way, if you spend most of your time hanging around people who don't love God and who love the things of this world more than God, chances are that will rub off on you, too. Of course, we want to be around people who need God. But make sure you're also fellowshipping with people who love God deeply.

Then, I think if you want to cultivate love for God, it's important to set apart some times to be alone with Him. There's nothing to kill intimacy like a crowd, busyness, clutter. Periodically, we need to just get away from the noise, the technology. Turn off your cell phone. Turn off your email. Turn off your television. Get away and just seek the Lord. Make an appointment if you need to, and keep it. Take a Sabbath for your soul.

Sometimes you may be in a season of life where those Sabbaths are mostly short—minutes here and there. Some of you have little children. You probably can't go away for three days to seek the Lord. But maybe you can go away for thirty minutes or three minutes. I really believe if you'll take the time you have that God will multiply that and give you more. He'll make the time you do have, He'll multiply its value. Sometimes, maybe, you can take more extended times.

We're not talking about living a cloistered life. We can love God as we're doing life. But we need times when we're just alone with Him, when we meditate on His love for us. We love Him because He first loved us. Open His Word. Let Him show you His love. Get to the cross. Let Him show you how much He loves you and then respond to Him.

Review spiritual markers in that time alone with the Lord where God has met you in the past, where you've encountered Him. Rehearse special memories.

I see Sue here. She and her husband have been married nearly forty years. Last week they were in Wisconsin where they got married. They took time to go back to the restaurant where they had their first meal as a married couple. They went back to places where they did "first things." When they came back, that's what they were talking about. God uses those remembering times to rekindle first love. 

If you want to love God more, you need to identify what are the things that are competing for His place in your life, things that are stealing your passion—love of this world, love of pleasure, love of self. Ask God to help you wean yourself from those affections and to transfer that focus to Him.

Let me just remind us that it's impossible to love God as we ought with all our being. We cannot do that. We’ve all broken the first and the greatest commandment. The fact is, we love ourselves more than we love God. And because we have broken the greatest commandment, we all deserve God's judgment.

And so this statement in the Manifesto, “We will seek to love the Lord our God with all our hearts.” It reminds us of our need for a Savior, our need for His grace. Only Jesus kept this law. He is our substitute. He died in our place. Through our faith in Him, His love for God is reckoned or imputed to our account. So we can love God with all our hearts because we are clothed in the righteousness of Christ who loves God supremely.

Some time ago I read a hymn written in 1779 by John Newton. You knkow John Newton for being the author of that very famous hymn, "Amazing Grace." This is a hymn that is not well known, but it is a beautiful one, a powerful one. It speaks to this whole issue of how we love the Lord. It's called, "Lovest Thou Me."

’Tis a point I long to know,
Oft it causes anxious thought;
Do I love the Lord, or no?
Am I his, or am I not?

If I love, why am I thus?
Why this dull and lifeless frame?
Hardly, sure, can they be worse,
Who have never heard his name!

Could my heart so hard remain,
Prayer a task and burden prove;
Every trifle give me pain,
If I knew a Saviour’s love?   

If I pray, or hear, or read,
Sin is mixed with all I do;
You that love the Lord indeed, T
ell me, Is it thus with you?

[You say, "Am I the only one who feels this way? Do you relate to some of these questions?]

Yet I mourn my stubborn will,
Find my sin, a grief, and thrall;
Should I grieve for what I feel,
If I did not love at all?

Could I joy his saints to meet,
Choose the ways I once abhorred,
Find, at times, the promise sweet,
If I did not love the Lord?

Lord decide the doubtful case!
Thou who art thy people’s sun;
Shine upon thy work of grace,
If it be indeed begun.

Let me love thee more and more,
If I love at all, I pray;
If I have not loved before,
Help me to begin today.

Lord, I pray that You would work in our hearts and help us to love You. Help us to love You more. Help us to grow in our love for You. Help us to love You about all other loves. Clothe us with Christ who loves You completely and fully and who died to pay the price for our sin of not loving You. Thank You for grace. Increase in us that deep heartfelt affection and love for You, every day of our lives. I pray in Jesus' name, amen.

Leslie: That message from Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth is simple. Love God. Yet that message is all important and profound. That talk is part of a series called "The True Woman Manifesto: Declarations, Part 1." Nancy packed a lot of helpful information into about twenty minutes or so, but if you're ready to spend more time on the important subject of agape love, I hope you'll follow up and listen to one of Nancy's classic series. It's called "How's Your Love Life?" Read the transcripts or download the audio at ReviveOurHearts.com.

Over fifteen years of archives are ready for you at that site, and you'll find helpful material that you need for whatever issue you're facing. Again the site is ReviveOurHearts.com. All those archived series and today’s teaching comes to you through the support of our listeners.

Would you donate to Revive Our Hearts today so other women can be changed by this message? When you make a donation of any size, we'll send you a companion to this series. It’s a booklet called A 30-Day Journey Through the True Woman Manifesto. This would be a perfect study for your quiet time, especially if you’ve gotten a lot out of our teaching series on the Manifesto. Each day we’ll give you a portion of the Manifesto to ponder. You’ll explore Scripture passages that relate to that topic. You’ll answer a question to help you make it a bigger part of your day-to-day life, and you’ll have room to write your thoughts.

When you make a donation of any amount we’ll send you A 30-Day Journey Through the True Woman Manifesto. Call with your gift of any size to 1–800–569–5959 and ask for the booklet, or donate and request the booklet at ReviveOurHearts.com. We’ll send one copy per household for your donation while this series is on the air.

Plenty of people claim to be Christians without giving God control of their lives. Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth will challenge that kind of thinking showing you why surrender is so important. That’s tomorrow. Please be back for Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth wants to help your love for God to grow. This program is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted.

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