Stop reading this for a moment, and try to say the Ten Commandments from memory. Do you know them? Many people may have heard about them on the news, but they have never read them.
Exodus 20:7 lists the first commandment: “You shall have no other gods before me.”
A world of good flows from this confession, as we say: There is one God, and I am not Him!
Salvation, love and who God is are all tied together in what Jesus taught as being most important. From Mark 12:28-34 and Exodus 20:7, we see elements that help us understand and apply the first commandment.
1. Who is God?
This God is the only God, and He is one. A.W. Tozer said:
“What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.”
The Shema from Deuteronomy 6:4 declares: “Hear O Israel, the Lord is God, the Lord is one.” Have you considered the importance of this truth? Paul wrote to the Corinthians: “Is Christ divided?” Paul recognized that the unity of the church reflected the unity of God.
God isn’t only one; He is the only one. The entire religious world goes along just fine until Christians show up and declare that there is only one God and one Savior: Jesus Christ. We see this idea throughout the Old Testament. Only God can make himself really God to us. There is one God, one mediator, one sacrifice and one way. The true God is unique (Isa. 45:5).
Jesus said in Mark 12:29: “Hear, O Israel, ‘The Lord our God, the Lord is one.’”
What threatens the exclusive place of God in your life? Comfort, job, getting ahead, reputation with family? What vies with God for your chief reason for existence?
No one other than this God is to be worshiped. Since He is the only one, we give ourselves only to Him. Every day should be lived for Him, and every step should lead us closer to him.
2. What does God most want us to do?
God wants us to love Him exclusively, uniquely and totally. Jesus teaches that all of our passion, our wit, our intelligence and our enthusiasm is owed to God. There’s no part we can leave to the side—He wants it all.
Have you had some lesser notion of Christian discipleship? Jesus teaches that the greatest command is to love this God with all that we have. Jesus defines Christianity as a religion of love. And He exemplified that in His own life and death. If we claim to follow Him, then this is how we are to live. All of us belongs to Him—we are totally His.
Many people say “only God can judge me” – and they live like He won’t. Yet, there’s two betrayals: to worship a false god, or to worship the true God falsely (Deut. 12). Our idols promise life but always lead to death. It’s the difference between the true God and a false god.
Our heart’s inclination is to be to God, not evil. All of our soul means we’re to love Him even at the cost of our life. All our strength means even at cost of all we own.
3. What must accompany love for God?
This love that we claim to have for God must be accompanied by love for others made in His image. Did you realize that loving your neighbor was so important?
In 1 John 4, we understand if anyone claims to love God while hating his brother, he is a liar. If a love for God isn’t matched with love for others, it isn’t true love for God.
Jesus quotes from Leviticus 19:18 here. Moses teaches that as God is loving, we are to be loving.
Jesus, in Mark 12:28-34, summarizes the law and His teaching, which He is about to exemplify in His death. It is important that both these commands are given here together. We cannot claim to truly love man without love for God, and vice versa. Jesus was only asked for one command, but gives two. He knew that to omit the second would risk misunderstanding the first.
This is a warning against any privatized idea of Christianity. There are no “lone-ranger” Christians before this one God. Love for God necessarily involves you in love for others and not just your friends. Love those who you may find inconvenient to love.
We can’t know how to love one another apart from having love for this one true God. Is your relationship with your fellow church members and Christian friends—or the person who irritates you at work—described by 1 Corinthians 13?
If we claim to love God, that love must be linked with love for one another. What does it mean to have all kinds of knowledge about God and have it not affect your life in love for others?
4. What does it mean to be in God’s Kingdom?
This exchange is so different from the earlier verbal duels in which Jesus engaged. This lawyer notices that Jesus answers well. He then asks about the most important commandment. Notice Jesus’ compassion. Even with one who came to test Him, Jesus answers with grace. The lawyer seemed to understand what Jesus had been saying. Jesus, upon hearing him, responded wisely: “You are not far from the kingdom of God.”
Jesus let us know how to get into the Kingdom of God. Can we enter the kingdom of God by loving perfectly? No! He gave us this command to exhaust us, and to show us that we cannot come close. He gives us this law to lead us to Himself, who perfectly fulfilled this law. He loved God perfectly. He has loved others as Himself.
He also gives us this law to instruct us. Some may think that because God saved us by grace, any command we find in Scripture is only to show that we cannot do it, that we must rely on His grace. Of course, we can’t do it, as we must rely on grace. But we must also learn from these commands. We are to love God fully and to love others as ourselves.
One can only be in the kingdom of God if one confesses his lack of love for God and others. We have known God’s rich blessings. He calls on us to love with our hearts, souls, and minds and strength. Love this God and so be under his reign.
Is your life being spent for that which is truly important? Love this one and only God with all your heart, soul and mind. Love your neighbor as yourself. These are more important than all else.