Matthew 22:37-40 NKJV
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.”
You shall the Lord your God with all…, with all…, with all!
I have the privilege to work part time as a university instructor teaching a course for student teachers. One of the things I ask them is their criteria for “passing.” Every teacher, every school administrator must determine what the criteria is for passing a student onto new material, onto the next grade. Most of the time the class comes up with sixty or seventy percent as passing. Then I ask, “You memorize 70% of your phone number. How’s that working for you? Or you go to McDonald’s and they get 70% of your order correct. How’s that working for you? Or the contractor who built your house builds 70% of it correct…” Well, you get the idea. The fact is that “passing” with 70 or any percent other than 100 only works in school; it doesn’t work in real life. In real life, employees are expected to do their jobs 100% correctly or it’s simply not satisfactory to their supervisors.
Sadly, we don’t use this same kind of mentality as Christians. Instead, we want to surrender to the Lord, to love the Lord, to serve the Lord with less than 100% and rely upon His mercy to simply accept that. A. W. Tozer wrote:
“Always and always God must be first” (Born after Midnight).
I love how he writes “always and always.” It’s not simply enough to “always put God first” because we sometimes and somehow miss that message. He wrote “always and always” I think to emphasize the importance of this. Always God must be first . . . always!
The Lord Jesus taught, “You shall love the Lord your God will all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.” It’s not enough to love with part; we are commanded to love with all.
Do we? Do I?
This is the first commandment. Not simply first sequentially, but first in importance, first in application, first in understanding. Without putting this commandment into place in our lives it may be simply impossible to carry out any of the others. And if we carry it out incompletely, how complete will be our obedience of any of the others?
Think about a child who learns only 70% of what she should learn in kindergarten. How much can she learn in first grade? Not 100% because she doesn’t have the skills necessary. If she continues at the same percentage of learning, she will learn only 70% of the 70% she is capable of learning. Assuming that no one ever tutors her or tries to remediate her lack of skills, by sixth grade she will be significantly behind and only able to learn about 11% of what is presented. By twelfth grade (if she doesn’t drop out), she will be able to learn only 1.3%. Now, this obviously is an exaggeration. Usually along the way perceptive teachers seek the lack of skills and provide tutoring and remedial instruction to make up the lack. But the point for theological purposes is this: If we only obey a percentage of the first commandment, how able will we be to obey the third, the sixth, or the tenth? Most Christians have never committed murder, but the Lord Jesus Himself tied anger at a brother without cause to murder. How many times have I been angry without a just and biblical cause? Or justified my anger when I should have instead forgiven? How much is my ability to honor the Lord through my behavior, my decisions, and my words tied to the fact that I have yet to love Him with all of my heart, soul, and mind?
“Always and always God must be first!”
When the Lord is first, always and always, then sin will be second and more easily conquered, I think.