The Crux Of Christianity – III

September 7, 2015

Mark 12:28-31

(All scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated.)

We are looking at the Great Commandment in Mark 12:28 through 31.  It is formed by Jesus combining two commands from the Pentateuch – Deuteronomy 6:4 & 5 and Leviticus 19:18.  And in Matthew 22:40 the Lord said, “On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”  Here is our Markan passage:

      …one of the scribes came, and…asked Him, “Which is the first command-
      ment of all?”  Jesus answered him, “The first of all the commandments
      is:  ‘Hear, O Israel, the LORD our God, the LORD is one.  And you shall
      love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all
      your mind, and with all your strength.’  This is the first commandment. 
      And the second like it, is this:  ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ 
      There is no other commandment greater than these.”

These two commandments consist of three components: …love the LORD your God…love your neighbor…[and love] yourself.”  We have covered the first two.  Now let’s take a look at “You shall…love yourself.” (Mark 12:31).

Why should we love ourselves?  Have you seen the poster that has been around for years now?  It is of a little boy who looks almost angry, and like he can take on the whole world!  His hands are together in front of him, fingers interlaced, and his head is down, face half-hidden behind his hands and arms.  The caption?  “I know I’m somebody ‘cause God don’t make no junk!”  And that is why we should love ourselves!

But let’s explore this idea a bit more biblically.  Here is what David wrote in Psalm 139:13 through 17 (Contemporary English Version):

      You are the one who put me together inside my mother’s body, and I praise
      you because of the wonderful way you created me.  Everything you do is
      marvelous!  Of this I have no doubt.  Nothing about me is hidden from you! 
      I was secretly woven together deep in the earth below, but with your own
      eyes you saw my body being formed.  Even before I was born, you had writ-
      ten in your book everything I would do.  Your thoughts are far beyond my
      understanding, much more than I could ever imagine.

And what was God’s end result from such a marvelous creation?  As it is written in Genesis 1:26:  “Let us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness….”  He could find no better pattern for man, His highest creation, so He made them to be like Himself!  And being like Him, we could then have eternal fellowship with God!  That was the norm (see Genesis 3:9 – which implies that God’s walking in the garden with His creation was an on-going practice) until sin separated man from God!  How pervasive was that separation?  In Isaiah 59:2 God plainly tells us, “But your iniquities have separated between you and your God; and your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He will not hear.” (See Psalm 34:16; I Peter 3:12).  Also sin’s consequences are eternal as well as temporal! (See Genesis 2:17; Jeremiah 5:25; Ezekiel 18:4, 20; Revelation 21:8).

But Jesus Christ – the last Adam (according to I Corinthians 15:45 through 47) came to restore what the first Adam lost through sin!  It cost Him greatly – the greatest price anyone could ever pay!  He left all the glories of heaven for us!  He became a poor, itinerant preacher for us!  He suffered increasing opposition from the Jewish authorities for us!  He suffered horrible mistreatment after His arrest for us!  He was crucified and died for us!  He was made sin and sinner before the holy God for us!  He fully paid the price of redemption for us!  What motivated Him to do it?  In Hebrews 12:2 it is written, “…Jesus…who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right of the throne of God.”  What joy could have possibly been great enough for Him to sacrifice so much?  The joy was US!!!  That’s how much He loves us! (See John 3:16; Romans 5:8; I John 4:9, 10).

If God so loves us, and thinks we are of such worth to be saved from sin and its penalty – death! – what right do we have not to love ourselves?

Now it has to be a healthy love of ourselves.  The two extremes are hating oneself and an narcisstic love that is totally selfish.  It has to be based on the fact that you are loved by the One who designed man in His image in the first place.  And He loved us enough to return us to that image so He could have eternal fellowship with us.

One more thing that involves all three components of the Great Commandment:  The three have to be in balance.  You cannot love God if you hate your neighbor.  You cannot love your neighbor if you hate yourself – forYou shall love your neighbor as [you love] yourself….  And you cannot properly love your neighbor or yourself if you do not love (obey and serve) God!  The three are all tied together!

If you understand The Crux Of Christianity, all the rest of it will come together.

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