The Discipline of Love

1 John 4:19; Mark 12:29-31; Matthew 22:37-39

(Refer to last week’s post for the seven texts on Love –

Foundation: I can only love because God first loved and still/always loves me (1 John 4:19)

From the moment that Adam and Eve ate the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil sin entered the world and mankind has since been completely marred by it. This means that in and of ourselves, while there are remnants of our being created in God’s image that exist in us, we are incapable of real love, even loving our self. I know the world and all its messages through media, songs, social media, movies, etc., claims to know love and how to love but the reality is that in our flesh we don’t!  Sin has ruined our capacity to truly love.  But Love Himself (Christ) has restored it!

This is why it is so important to understand that with regard to love three things absolutely must happen…

1) I can only love because God, even in my sin, first loved us (1 John 4:19; John 3:16; 1 John 3:16);

2) Because of His great love for us, Christ has saved us by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8-9) and we’re recreated as a new person in Christ and now, in Him, we can learn to love as we’ve been loved, and;

3) As new creations in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17), we can now be taught what love is and by faith through grace grow and mature in His Love.

This is the essence of discipleship…that I have been given love (John 15:13) and the capacity to love (John 13:34) so as a new creation in Christ I can grow by discipline in love! I know, I know…not romantic but the only way!

Jesus spent two of His three years of public ministry (and likely a few years prior to that) in building the relationships with those He would call as His disciples, teaching them the discipline of Love in Truth before He sent them out to teach and disciple others. And they still often missed it…still had much growth and maturity to learn.  We should take heed to how we are being discipled and how we are discipling others in His Truth, Love and Grace so we can better know Jesus and make Him known in this way!

Based on the foundation (1 John 4:19; John 3:16; 1 John 3:16), our first and utmost priority response according to the first and greatest command is what?  What do we do with His Love for us, in us and through us?

1) Learn and mature in worship of God alone (Mark 12:29)

“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.” Early manuscripts of this would read, “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God in one Lord.” This priority, first and greatest command (which we so often ignore or dismiss in our discipleship of ourselves and others) is Jesus simply repeating the great truth given to the Israelites as the most important commands before entering in to claim The Promised Land of Canaan (Deuteronomy 6:4-9).

God told Moses to tell the Israelites that the following were of utmost importance…to worship Him alone and love Him with their whole being. He told them to teach and continually impress these truths more than anything else upon their children, grandchildren (and future generations) in every part of their lives! 

Every Jew would have known upon hearing this from Moses and Jesus that God is Lord, the Only Lord, and the Only One worthy of our worship and praise. Every Jew that took this to heart and every other Jew they would disciple…and every Gentile that was discipled and then discipled others would have been taught and known that they must start right here with the first and greatest of commands…or all others were unattainable.

How are we doing in discipling others to worship God and Him alone?  Only as we do so can we build on the second part of this first and greatest command out of our absolute and undivided worship of Him!

2) Learn and mature to love God with our whole being (Mark 12:30; Matthew 22:37-38)

First and foremost this part of the command must be seen from the perspective of Who God Is…being the Only One worthy of all our praise and worship, we are to strive, learn and grow in our love for Him with all our heart, mind, soul and strength.

There is no part of us that should neglect or be held back from committing our all to Him (loving Him)! Remember from previous posts, love is not an emotion or feeling (it has good & bad emotions attached to it but they do not define love)…Love is a sacrificial, selfless, submissive giving of our self in commitment to another. Jesus is our perfect Example in His commitment to (love for) The Father, and then for us, in His obedient death on the Cross…to save us.

We need to take the time in being discipled and in discipling others to make sure we are obedient to God’s first and greatest command…worship Him alone and Love Him with all that we are. Then and only then can we begin to move into, and be obedient to, the second greatest command!

These commands were given so that we could grow in the capacity to Love as we followed them in line with His priorities.  I cannot love myself or others until my heart is set on, and I am learning to, worship God alone and love him with all my being.  Until I do so, any “love” for others will flow from my flesh and cause trouble for many as I’ve missed the grace given (Hebrews 12:15) to love as He commanded.  As we take seriously God’s Word, in our worship of, and love for Him, we begin to see that He is not only pleased with our love for Him but in the process (discipleship) He is showing us who we are re-created to be in Christ, and in so doing, how to love who we are in Christ. Remember, discipleship is maturation in loving relationships, not paralysis in our lack of perfection. Now I can…

3) Learn and mature in Godly love for myself so I can love sacrificially as Christ did and does (Mark 12:31b; Matthew 22:39)

This is not the self-centered false love of the world and pop psychology. It is rooted completely in the self-giving, sacrificial Love of God for us and subsequently in our love for Him (Foundation and First/Greatest Command). NOW we can begin to do in love what Christ did for us…give our self away for the sake of others so they can know Him and His Love as well.

In line with God’s Word, I can only love others to the extent that I love God and myself (again the self re-created in Christ). This is not loving the false self of the old person before Christ but knowing and loving the new person and true identity found in receiving Him as Savior and walking with Him as Lord…discipleship in loving relationship(s). Be obedient to love who God has made you to be in Christ (Psalm 139:14; Ephesians 2:10).

Lack of self-love in God’s design and commands is one of the greatest detriments to loving relationships, especially in marriages and families, extending into our churches. I understand why the world doesn’t get it but we must be different!  We need to disciple others in His kind of Love for us and for our selves if we are going to show the world His Love.

In so many cases in our churches today we assume that receiving Christ as Savior immediately and automatically makes us mature believers in Him as Lord. So much of the New Testament gives evidence that this is not the case in teachings to help us mature as His disciples in His Truth, Love and Grace so we can point others to Him.

As we take God seriously in His Word and commands we can…

4) Learn and mature in loving others as we love ourselves and as Christ loves us (Mark 12:31a; John 13:34)

Far too often in today’s world and churches so many try to love and serve others without having spent much or any time growing and knowing the first and greatest command…what it means to love God and then to love who they are in Christ. This is not in line with God’s Word.

These commands were not haphazardly written and God just placed worship and love for Himself first. He never does anything haphazardly so we must recognize and honor this Truth…until I’ve given my heart to fulfilling His first and greatest command, I can’t fulfill the Second.

We need to disciple new and young believers in what it looks like to spend time in God’s Word, in prayer, quiet listening and meditation so we can know Him, worship Him and love Him. As we do so He is faithful to prune, shape, purge, cleanse, mold, bless and favor us for His purposes as He can trust us because we know who we are in Christ!

Love and Lordship…Food for Thought – Discipleship in loving relationships is not about perfection but about obedience (love) and maturation in faith. In so doing, we begin to show others the Love that He has shown us and we become confident and content in who we are because of Christ in us. Now we can love others as He has commanded and they will see a love that they desire…His Love in and through us!

Love and Lordship…Action Item(s)

  1. Read the Scriptures in this article and ask The Holy Spirit to teach you how to love according to His commands and priorities.
  2. Ask Him to show you how He first loved you and how He loves you right now.
  3. Ask Him what you need to do to worship Him alone and Love Him with all you are. This is about setting your heart on Him and then growing in His Love and in your Love for Him.
  4. Ask Him to show you who you are in Christ and how to love this new person/identity found only in Christ.
  5. Ask Him how you have been trying to love others as a priority over loving Him and how He can show you how to truly love them.