“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?’ Jesus said to him, ‘You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”

In Matthew 22:36-40, Jesus summed up the Ten Commandments and gave us two simple to understand yet difficult commands to live by. So what was Jesus saying? The great 17th Century Bible commentator Matthew Henry said this of Jesus’ Greatest Commandment:

The love of God is the first and great commandment, and the sum of all the commands of the first table. Our love of God must be sincere, not in word and tongue only. All our love is too little to bestow upon Him, therefore all the powers of the soul must be engaged for Him, and carried out toward Him. To love our neighbor as ourselves, is the second great commandment. There is a self-love which is corrupt, and the root of the greatest sins, and it must be put off and mortified; but there is a self-love which is the rule of the greatest duty: we must have a due concern for the welfare of our own souls and bodies. And we must love our neighbor as truly and sincerely as we love ourselves; in many cases we must deny ourselves for the good of others. By these two commandments let our hearts be formed as by a mold.

I’m a practical man and I like practical application and the first and greatest commandment simply put is this. Do love your wife, children, job, car, hobby, etc more than the Lord Jesus Christ? How do you know? Who comes first? If Jesus Christ is not first in your life, then you are failing the first commandment.

The way we love others is also an indicator of what our spiritual life is like. Josh McDowell gives a great definition of love: “When the happiness and well-being of others is as important to you as is your own.” That’s a pretty easy barometer to use.

So what are some steps we can take to adopt a biblical lifestyle and make our service to the Lord Jesus Christ be great in 2008? Glad you asked!

First, are you a child of God? I know the world and many feel-good preachers like to say we are all God’s children, but biblically that is just not true. John 3:16 is a very famous verse (you’ve seen it at sporting events) and it rightfully get’s a lot of attention.

However, verse 18 is a very important verse also: “He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.”

Because of our sinful nature we are at enmity with God.

I understand that the world will tell you that all roads or religions lead to God but the Bible does not support that theory. The last two verses of John 3 clearly states otherwise: “The Father loves the Son, and has given all things into His hand. He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.”

Additionally, John 14:6 is what I consider the most radical verse in the Bible and absolutely lays to rest the myth that Jesus is just one of the ways to heaven (are you reading this Bill O’Reilly?): “Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”

Now that is what we theologians (or some aspiring ones…me) describe as an exclusivist verse. C.S. Lewis put it best in his book Mere Christianity:

I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: “I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God.” That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic—on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg—or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God; or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.

So the question is this: is Jesus Lord, a liar, or a lunatic? Only those three options are available for someone to claim not only to be God in the flesh, but also the only way to God. What are you going to do with Jesus? You have two options: accept or reject.

Secondly, when we do give our lives to Jesus Christ He changes our hearts. No longer is the focus on us if we let the Lord have His way in our lives. You’ve all seen on my signature block Ps. 37:4; how many of you have looked up that verse? It says, “Delight yourself also in the LORD, and He shall give you the desires of your heart.”

When we live for Jesus His desires become our desires and so He gladly gives us our desires. It’s a matter of where we put our focus. If your focus is on you, then you will find yourself doing very selfish things. If your focus in on Christ, then you will be busy about His work.

I’ve had many people share this verse with me after Eddie’s death: “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends” (John 15:13).

Eddie would have been honored to know that people compared his life to this verse because Eddie truly had a servant’s heart. As his father I can tell you he wasn’t born that way. Although my son always had a sweet spirit about him, it wasn’t until he gave his life to Jesus Christ that he understood what it meant to serve.

Joshua was Moses’ lieutenant and after Moses died, God put Joshua in charge of Israel. Joshua assembled all the tribes of Israel together at Shechem and reminded the nation of God’s deliverance and His providence in their lives. And then Joshua renewed his covenant with God and invited the nation to join him. He said:

“And if it seems evil to you to serve the LORD, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD” (Joshua 24:15).

On this first day of 2008 it is my humble prayer that you will choose Jesus Christ to be your Lord and Savior. If you are a Christian, will you please join me in renewing your covenant in making our service to the Lord great in 2008?