God’s Covenant Order and His Love

Once again God makes it very obvious in His Word that there is a priority when it comes to love and relationships.  And it begins with Him!  He even uses the words “first” and “greatest,” and that should compel us to respond with the same priority and urgency when it comes to love for Him and others. 

Reiterating Dr. Tony Evans’s words, “Our God is a Covenant-making and Covenant-keeping God and every Covenant has an order.”  So based on God’s Word, what is the order of His Covenant?  What are God’s, and therefore our, priorities when it comes to relationships?

Priority of Relationships

The following precepts are what God has shared, commanded, and encouraged in His Word with regard to living in relationship with Him and with our fellow man (Scriptures are for your reference and study):

  1. God is Love and we love because He first loved us – we cannot know love apart from God (1 John 4:8, 19).  Love must originate and be found in Him.

In our love for Him and others we are actually given four commands summed up in the two greatest commands found initially in Deuteronomy 6:4-5 and then repeated in Mark 12:29-31 and Matthew 22:37-39.  Notice the use in these Scriptures of the words “first,” “greatest,” and “second,” as well as “all.” He is literally giving us order and priority, which should carry over into all our relationships.

  1. The First Command, Part 1 – Honor and worship The Lord as The One and Only God (Deuteronomy 6:4; Mark 12:29)
  2. The First and Greatest command, Part 2 – Love the Lord with all you are  (Matthew 22:37-38; Mark 12:30)
  3. Living the First Command – Seek The Lord and His Kingdom and righteousness first, above everything else in your life and with all your heart (Jeremiah 29:11-13; Matthew 6:33)
  4. The Second Command, Part 1 – Love yourself—the self that God created you to be and recreated you to be in Christ (Matthew 22:39; Mark 12:31; Ephesians 2:10)—so you can die to yourself and complete the second command.
  5. Second command, Part 2 – Love your neighbor as you love yourself (Matthew 22:39; Mark 12:31)

Loving my neighbor (all others), continuing with priority and order:

  1. Marriage – Only covenant/highest human relationship; as one in Christ this new “disciple” takes priority over either spouse (Matthew 19:4-6)
  2. Spouse – Reflects Christ and His Bride (Ephesians 5:21-27; 32-33)
  3. Children – God builds His family with Godly offspring (Malachi 2:13-16; Ephesians 6:4)
  4. Family members (I Timothy 3:5; 5:4, 8)
  5. Friends/Family of God (Galatians 6:10; 1 Peter 2:17); also remembering Christ’s words regarding family (Luke 8:20-22)
  6. Others/Worldly Acquaintances (Romans 12:18, 21; Galatians 6:10)
  7. Enemies (Matthew 5:11, 44; Luke 10:30-37; Romans 12:14)

Here’s the power of what God has given us in His Covenant Order and prioritizing how we are to love.  Priorities, as previously stated, reveal who is Lord/lord in our life.  Priorities also order our decision-making and our relationships.  Our time and schedules should reflect this.  As we walk with Christ as Lord and in line with His Word, we can order our thoughts, lives, and decisions to show the love we are given and called to share as His disciples in a way that it brings us His Shalom or wholeness and peace.

We will have to sacrifice; that is what love does, as evident in Christ’s life and teaching and in God’s Word and commands for us to love as He loved us.  This is love and this is how we are to build the relationships together as His disciples to grow His Church and His Kingdom.

One final note in tying together discipleship and relationship…I’ve never seen this happen in practice, although I’ve heard it talked about.  If discipleship is lived out in relationship and relationships are formed and matured through loving discipleship, then we should follow God’s Covenant Order when it comes to discipling believers in Christ.

Leaders, how often do we place, implicitly or explicitly (and I’ve seen and heard countless examples of both), the needs of the local fellowship and community above that of personal maturity in Christ and marriages and families within the church?  How often have we encouraged, cajoled, and even lovingly manipulated members to sign up and serve to show others in the church and community how much God loves them by how much we love them, having spent little or no time discipling them in the greatest commands…worship and love God first, know and love who we are in Christ, then we are equipped and maturing as we love others?

Church members and attendees, have you ever felt pushed to serve, overlooked, or cajoled or manipulated into service for others while you were or are very young in Christ?  Did you have any idea what it meant or means to know and love Him with all you are and love who you are in Him in order to truly love others?

When have we discipled, in a deep and ongoing way, new and young believers in what it means to know, worship, and love God with all they are?  When have we discipled them in this process to understand that they are deeply loved and as they come to know, worship, and love God with their whole being, He will show them who they are in Christ so they can love themselves? 

Only then can we, by following God’s priorities and order for relationships, begin to see disciples that can love their neighbors (all others…from marriage, spouse and children, to enemies) as they love themselves.  Then finally we can love as Christ did by giving ourselves away for others. 

The world will see the difference in our relationships not just in our service.  Then we can build the loving relationships that are His Church and can impact this culture and world for His Kingdom! 

The Rest of the Story

As promised I’m going to take you back to an earlier story regarding my speaking at a large men’s group and asking them about attending a Promise Keepers (PK) conference (see article here to remind you are catch you up…

Following through on the prompting of the Holy Spirit, I asked,  “One more question, and please don’t raise your hand on this one.  How many of you are going to the PK Conference just so you don’t have to spend time with your spouse and family?”

You could hear a pin drop and many heads did as well. 

I finished the session and closed with prayer. 

After we were dismissed several men (every one that speaks up represents ten that are afraid to) came up to me and said words to this effect: “You nailed me. It sounds really good to attend a Christian men’s conference and claim to be a Christ follower, but I’m not doing it where it really counts, with my wife and children.” 

We love events and conferences and men’s breakfasts, etc., in order to claim that we are, or are becoming, Godly men.  But when it comes to stepping up and fulfilling the actual role of being Godly husbands, fathers, and disciples as His Word tells us, we tend to fall short of the mark.

This is not a condemnation on PK or other excellent groups calling men to this standard.  I believe they would agree with my line of questioning and peeling back the layers to expose the real issues that God is calling us to as men, husbands and fathers—as disciples of Christ and His sons!  And the same holds true for the women of God as well.

To be faithful in every circumstance means that we have only one loyalty, and that is to our Lord… We will be loyal to work, to service, to anything, but do not ask us to be loyal to Jesus Christ… The idea is not that we do work for God, but that we are so loyal to Him that He can do His work through us — “I reckon on you for extreme service, with no complaining on your part and no explanation on Mine.” God wants to use us as He used His own Son.  Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest 

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Make it a great day and God bless in Christ!

Love and Lordship…Food for Thought – “Our God is a covenant-making and covenant-keeping God and every covenant has an order.” Dr. Tony Evans

Are you keeping God’s Covenant order when it comes to building and maintaining loving relationships with Him and those He’s placed in your life?  

Love and Lordship…Action Item(s) – 1) Spend time with God in His Word, prayer and quiet time every day; 2) Ask God during these times to show you Who He Is and How much He loves you; 3) Ask Him to show you how to love Him with all you are; 4) Find a way each day to actively love those who God has placed in your life… spouse, children, family, co-workers, and even enemies; 5) If you’re single, honor and love God by being pure in your relationships.