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Firsts

Jesus said the first and great commandment is to love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength (Mark 12:30). In the start of a new year, many think of firsts. The first of all things was God, and He is worthy of being first in your life. C.E.W. Dorris said: “Love to God must fill the whole heart…the whole soul.” In summary, we’re to love God with all our being.

This love will take care of obedience. Jesus said if we love God, then we’ll love Him, and if we love Him, then we’ll keep His commandments. Which ones? All of them! To the very best of our ability, we’ll keep His commandments (John 14:15). A lesser attitude of obedience is presumption, and that is sin (Psa. 19:13). The commands of God are not grievous if we love Him as we should (I John 5:3). Squeamish little girls become bold mothers because of love for their children. Weak individuals become bold Christians through their love for God. That’s the difference—love. Ours should be a labor of love in the Kingdom (Rev. 2:4b).

Fill in the blank: If we love one another, then? (John 13:35). Friends, neighbors, family—all will know we are disciples of Christ by our love for one another. But this love starts with love for God, caring for one another as family (Matt. 12:46-50). Loving our brothers and sisters in Christ “fervently” is our charge (I Pet. 1:22). This is a first because it is the predicate of our love and devotion for God. We love His/our Christian family. How do you treat your brethren? How do you regard your brethren? Do you love them “warts and all?” We should, because we all have some warts, and we want to be loved (Matt. 7:12)! This reveals love or lack thereof for God.

The apostle Paul set a love example for us (II Cor. 11:28). He loved God supremely—he cared for the church of Christ (II Cor. 11:28). Can you read anywhere in the epistles of Paul where he desired to hurt the Lord’s church? An example of him speaking evil of another can not be found. Sadly, some approach the church as though is it is their showplace. They seem to think it exists for their own personal, selfish advancement. God forbid that anyone should stoop so low. Consider the church problems you’ve known, and see if most if not all come out of selfish ambition with self righteousness. A student of H. Leo Boles told me brother Bole’s students that he had seen many church problems, and divisions, but few were truly over doctrinal issues. Rather brother Boles said, most if not all came from personality problems. Love God, love the brotherhood (I Pet. 2:17), and you’ll care for the church.

If we love the Lord as we should, then we’ll work and sacrifice for Him (I Cor. 15:58), we’ll behave properly in the doctrine of Christ (I Tim. 3:15), our words and deeds will be directed by the authority of Jesus (Col. 6:4) and a love for the word of God (II Tim. 1:5) along with those who give of themselves to preach and teach it (I Sam.1; II Tim. 1:5). May we dedicate ourselves to that which is first. When the first is right, all the rest will fall into place.

David Hill, Northeast Church of Christ, January 14, 2024

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