The Greatest Commandment
August 25, 2019
“We don’t come together AT the church, we come together AS the church.” Pastor Christian
water cooler conversation:
Back in 2016, The Hollywood Reporter surveyed over 1,600 producers, directors, actors, agents, publicists, craft workers and writers who selected "Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn," spoken by Clark Gable as Rhett Butler in Gone with the Wind, as the greatest and most memorable American movie quotation of all time.
According to Pew Research, nearly one-in-five people regard America’s exploration of space as the United States' greatest feat.
According to the U.S. News & World Report’s Best Countries list, Switzerland tops the 2019 list. Factors considered include power, quality of life, adventure, cultural influence, and entrepreneurship with each category carrying various weight. Coming in second is Japan, followed by Canada, Germany, and the United Kingdom. The United States ranks eighth.
did you know…
The Sadducees and Pharisees were the ruling class of Jews in Israel.
There was no separation between church and state during Jesus’ time.
Both Sadducees and Pharisees honored Moses and the Law, and both had political power through the Sanhedrin, (translation: “sitting together),” the 70-member supreme court of ancient Israel. The Pharisees tended to be conservative while the Sadducees were more liberal in their beliefs and values.
Generally speaking, the Sadducees were wealthy and held more powerful positions than the Pharisees. For example, the high priest and chief priests were Sadducees and had the majority of seats in the Sanhedrin.
The Pharisees were more representative of the common people and this gave them the respect of the masses.
However, in one doctrinal area, the Sadducees were more conservative. They insisted on a literal interpretation of the text of Scripture while the Pharisees gave oral tradition equal authority to the written Word of God.
The one area where they had common ground was that neither group liked Jesus and His teachings. Throughout His ministry, Jesus had more conflict with the Pharisees than with the Sadducees, primarily because the Sadducees were usually more concerned with politics than religion.
The Sadducees eventually became fearful Jesus might draw unwanted attention from Rome and upset the status quo; this leads them to set aside their differences with the Pharisees and combine forces to see Jesus put to death.
“Shema” (literally, “hear”) is the Hebrew word that opens the most important prayer in Judaism and begins with a command to “hear.” Found in Deuteronomy 6:4-9, the Shema is spoken twice daily in the Jewish tradition.
unpack the message:
Loving God and loving people are married.
Biblical marriage is when a man and a woman are united in equality with their strengths and weaknesses as a complement to one another. Marriage then becomes a perfect metaphor for the way we are to love people. Loving God and loving people are inseparable - you cannot truly love God without loving people, and you cannot truly love people without loving God. Just as marriage is to be selfless, loving, and forgiving, our love for others should reflect this same compassion and respect.
In response to the Pharisees and Sadducees attempt to undermine Him with their question, “What is the greatest commandment,” Jesus uses a most familiar passage of Scripture, Deuteronomy 6:4-9 (the Shema), to thwart them. Why is this simple prayer so powerful?
Don’t overthink it.
We tend to overcomplicate spiritual things, yet following God is not complicated. What is the greatest commandment? Love God. It’s that simple.
There are three common reasons we overcomplicate spiritual matters: our need to be in control, our tendency to procrastinate when we see a challenge to leave our comfort zone, and our pride-based need for praise and recognition. Of which are you most often guilty? Is it fear of the unknown? Indifference? Spiritual laziness? Pride? What is hindering you from loving God with your whole self? How are you overcomplicating God’s plan for your life?
Love God with all of you.
We are to love God with our entire being – heart, soul, and mind. Jesus uses those three overlapping terms to make it clear we are to love Him with every part of us – nothing reserved for self. With this in mind, consider Pastor Christian’s statement, “Loving God is simple, but it’s not easy.” What’s the difference?
How does personal insecurity or fear play into the command to love God with your whole self?
Love everyone with the concern you give yourself.
Human nature is innately selfish. In any given situation, consciously or unconsciously, we filter our experience through a prism of “How will this affect me?” Our tendency, buoyed by everything secular society tells us, is to put our own needs and desires ahead of everyone else. Jesus flips the script by commanding us to first love God with all our hearts, souls, and minds, and to love others as we love ourselves. What changes would you need to make in order to live out the Shema? How does that play out in real life?
On the other hand, how can we love one another if we don’t love ourselves? Think about your inner monologue. How do you talk to yourself? Are you constantly berating yourself for not being good enough? Do you give others more grace than you give yourself? How would your life change if you changed your self-talk?
Pastor Christian concluded his message with the statement that we don’t come together at the church, we come together as the church. How do those two little letters fundamentally change the meaning of those phrases?
make a move:
Choose an action step based on what you’ve learned this week.
What part of yourself – heart, soul, or mind – are you holding back from fully surrendering to God? Make a conscious decision to let go of those areas you’re holding back.
How would the way you live change if you chose to see your value in Christ rather than the labels you’ve allowed the world to place on you? Too fat? Too thin? Too young? Too old? Too dumb? Too lazy? Too uptight? Too careless? The next time you start to doubt or feel “less-than,” remember who you are in Christ. Remind yourself that you are to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind, and to love others – that includes yourself – the same way.
When was the last time you shared God’s plan of salvation with someone? Be intentional in your efforts to share your faith by looking for opportunities to be a witness. Maybe it’s the co-worker you’ve been inviting to church, maybe it’s your child. Maybe it’s your spouse, or maybe it’s the guy behind you in line at Starbucks – whoever, wherever, however – share the Good News with someone this week.
Reach out to Pastor Lucas and ask about our eGroups that will soon kick off their Fall session. Do you feel led to host a group? Perhaps you don’t want to lead but are willing to facilitate by opening your home. Either way, there’s a place for you and a community of fellow believers and seekers waiting to connect with you.
Talk to Sarah and Nikko Custodio about ways you can continue to support the college students and staff we’ve connected with at George Mason.
Reach out to Travis Younger, our Director of Campus Operations, or the leader of the ministry in which you serve to find out ways you can help us put the finishing touches on our new Braddock Road property.
Be faithful in praying for the transition to our new property and the challenges and opportunities that lie before us.
Put others first this week. It can be as simple as allowing someone to go ahead of you in line, allowing them to cut in front of you in traffic, or even giving up your lunch break to spend time with someone who’s hurting.
Look for tangible ways to demonstrate that you love God by loving others – find a shelter where you can volunteer, buy a homeless person lunch or clean socks, or donate time or finances to a worthwhile charity or ministry.
This week, be intentional in your prayers and ask God to show you what areas of your life – heart, soul, mind – you are holding back and surrender them to His will.
Ask God to place someone in your path with whom you can share His plan of salvation.
Ask friends and family to share a prayer request and commit to praying for them regularly. Don’t just say you’ll pray for them, follow through. Let them know you’ve been praying for them and ask how they’re doing.
Pray for the move to our Braddock Road campus. Pray for the movers, the staff and volunteers as we unpack, and for Pastor Christian, who has the monumental task of leading us all.
Pray for your pastors by name: Christian Gaffney, Roy Dowdy, Lucas Johnson, Mike Zizolfo, and Austin Parkhurst. Ask God to fill them with His power and His vision as we move to our Braddock Road location this week.
If you haven’t decided to follow Christ, what’s holding you back? Salvation is as simple as acknowledging that you are a sinner in need of a Savior. Right now, you can pray this simple prayer, believing the words not only in your mind but in your heart, and be saved. “Dear God, I know that I am a sinner, and there is nothing that I can do to save myself. I recognize that I can never be good enough to work my way into heaven on my own. I believe that there’s only one way to heaven, and that is through faith in Jesus Christ who died to save me from my sins and give me a home in heaven with Him. Right now, at this moment, I repent of my sins and ask you to forgive me. My faith now is small, but I ask You to help it grow. Thank you that your promises are true, and especially for the assurance that I am now your child. I thank you that no matter what lies ahead, you will walk with me. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.”
If you prayed that prayer, share your decision with one of the pastors or staff who can help you with resources, and encourage your newfound faith.
Pray for the George Mason students who have been impacted by the efforts of our College and Career eGroup. Pray that God will continue to open doors for us to minister to them and that those efforts will translate into meeting their needs on both spiritual and practical levels. Pray that they’ll start attending our services now that we’ve moved to our Braddock Road campus.
Pray for Travis Younger, our Director of Campus Operations, as he oversees the move and transition to the new building over the coming weeks.
Pray for ministry leaders, staff, and volunteers who will be the hands and feet of Jesus to those walking through the doors of our new property seeking a church home and spiritual direction.
Pray about your role as we launch our ministry in the new building. Ask God to show you where you can serve, what eGroup you should connect with, and who in the congregation is looking for a friend or a mentor like you.
Ask for a list of missionaries we support and commit to praying for them regularly.
Begin to pray for them by name and for God to meet their spiritual and physical needs as they live out the Great Commission overseas.
Pray for 7SF and Exponential Church, our church plants in Port St. Lucie and San Francisco, that they will continue to live out the Great Commission in their communities.
Follow us on: