“And he said to him, ”You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”(Matthew 22:37-40)
I was speaking to a group of collegians and seminarians on “Living Godly in a Post-modern World.” Actually, it was a series, called by some, “The Victorious Christian Life.” But my purpose was to reformat the original biblical truth about life in the Spirit into the thought forms and vocabulary of the post-modern. I told again the story of a God who transcends the generations, the unchanging reality, who is out to re-write your story:
- From a loser, striving vainly to fill up on self, without much hope of finding any significance in your life-story, to a winner, every day more like Jesus in attitudes and actions.
- From a purposeless story of flitting shadows to empowered participation in the mega-story of the ages. You can make a difference!
Is that all? Is that the whole story? Are godliness of life and power in ministry the goal of life? What would you say is the ultimate purpose of your existence?
If you memorized the Westminster Catechism as a child, as I did, perhaps you completed that “. . . to glorify God and enjoy him forever.” If, on the other hand, you’re not so much rooted in past theologies as in contemporary experiences, perhaps you completed the sentence, “. . .to worship God.” But think about it. It’s quite possible to glorify someone you despise, as any press agent can tell you; and it’s quite possible to worship someone you fear and loathe as multitudes do. But put it the other way around, if I love someone supremely I won’t be able to honor them, praise them, glorify them too much. And if that “someone” is God, worship will be the natural overflow of a heart full of love. No, our chief end is to love God and be loved of him forever.
How do I get the temerity to re-write the great theologians of old? By going back a little farther, looking a little higher. Jesus Christ himself spelled out our goal and I’ve just followed his lead. In Matthew 22:37-40, Jesus dips into the Old Testament and quotes the Shema, affirming it to be the foundation of his own teaching, not just of “Moses.” The first and greatest of all the stated will of God, said Jesus, is to love God with all our being. In fact, if the second-ranked command to love your neighbor is added to the first, all the revealed will of God hangs suspended on these two commands.
And loving intimacy with God is the ultimate love relationship. “Knowing God” isn’t merely an academic pursuit, for the concept of knowing God traces back to the Hebrew concept used of sexual union. When a man “knew” a woman or a woman “knew” a man, God considered them married, the most intimate of all human relationships. No wonder Israel is the wife of Jehovah; no wonder the church is the bride of Christ.
So the ultimate goal of transformation and empowerment is to re-write your story from an isolated, alienated loner—to a tight connection with the ultimate lover. That’s what God is after, always has been, always will be. Does this sound familiar? Actually it’s the concept that the purpose of creation and redemption, creating us God-compatible and restoring that compatibility, is for the purpose of making possible loving oneness with God. No wonder we can call this, “Beyond victory!”