How To Love God, Love Others And Love Yourself More
by Eric Elder
Thirty inspiring devotionals based on the greatest “lover” of all time, Jesus Christ.
INTRODUCTION: THE GREATEST COMMANDMENT
Scripture Reading: Matthew 22:37-39
I’ve been wrestling with something I recently heard and I’d like to share it with you. I wonder if it affects you like it affects me:
“If you’re not close to people who are far from God, you’re probably not as close to God as you think you are.”
I don’t know about you, but that makes me squirm a little bit. I’ve been a Christian for over twenty years. I run an Internet ministry that reaches thousands of people a month. I’ve been the president of our local ministers’ association for several years. But if I were to judge my relationship with God by how close I am to people who are far from Him, I don’t know that I’d score very high.
I want to win people to Christ. I want to make a difference in the world. But I can’t say that I always want to do what it takes to love people the way Christ loved them.
I was reading a letter recently from a man who actually had Jesus over to his house for dinner. It was written by a man named Matthew. He was a tax collector who lived at the same time as Jesus.
It must have been as much of a surprise to Matthew as it was to everyone else in town when Jesus walked up to Matthew and said, “Follow me.” Matthew ended up hosting a banquet at his house for Jesus.
The religious leaders were outraged. They questioned some of Jesus’ followers:
“Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and ‘sinners’?”
On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners” (Matthew 9:9-13).
I love Jesus’ response. But it nails me as much as it nailed the religious leaders of that day. I don’t want to be a Pharisee, a Saducee, or any other kind of “-see.” I want to be like Jesus.
I want to learn how to love God more. I want to learn how to love people more. And I want to learn how to love myself more.
These are, according to Jesus, the greatest of commandments:
“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’” (Matthew 22:37-39).
Jesus gave us the best example for how to live out these commandments. That’s why I’m going to be reading Matthew’s letter again and again in the days ahead. Matthew covers the life of Jesus in 28 chapters, from the foretelling of His birth to His death and resurrection. Not only did Matthew have Jesus over for dinner, but he went on to spend the next three years of his life with Jesus, day and night.
Matthew watched how Jesus loved people, healed people, forgave people, taught people. Matthew watched as Jesus prayed to God, pleaded with God, submitted to God. Matthew watched as Jesus responded to His critics, walked away from His critics, and was eventually killed by His critics. And Matthew watched as people loved Jesus, adored Jesus, and gave up their lives for Jesus.
I love Matthew’s letter for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that I put my faith in Christ twenty years ago while reading about Him in Matthew’s letter. I’m so thankful that Jesus went out of His way to love people who didn’t yet believe in Him, who didn’t yet trust in Him, who didn’t yet live their lives for Him.
I’m so thankful because I’m one of those people. And I want to be just like Him.
I hope you’ll join me in the days ahead as I take a closer look, page by page through Matthew’s letter, at how we can all be more like Jesus, starting next time with Chapter 1.
I also want to encourage you to read each day’s Scripture Reading in your own Bible in addition to my devotional for that day. I’ve limited myself to touching upon just one thought in each chapter of Matthew, but there’s so much God may speak to you about other subjects in your life. When you’re done reading all the daily Scripture Readings, you’ll have read through the entire book of Matthew.
And finally, I’ve included a prayer at the end of each devotional to help you focus your own prayers by praying them along with me. Here’s today’s prayer.
Prayer: Father, help me to be more like Jesus so that I can love You, love others and love myself more. In Jesus’ name, Amen.