“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 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 22:36–40 ESV)
How can you command love—especially in our culture where the word “love” is misapplied to describe everything from how you feel about your cat to your allegiance to your country? We love our dishware and we love our children. The same word is used. Love is often viewed as a feeling or an emotional wave that comes over us. So we describe love as something that can happen at first sight. Love is applied to sexual relations between a man and a woman. Then we come to a text like this and we could think it’s a command to feel about God like I feel about my cat or my wife. The argument goes that if love is a feeling then it can’t be commanded; it must flow mysteriously and organically from within us. How can God command a feeling?
I’d like deconstruct that entire approach and do so with one word. “Oblitunity.” If you are not familiar with this word it’s because I made it up. Pastor Steve, you can’t make up words. Every word was made up by somebody, so this is my contribution to the English language: “oblitunity.”
What does it mean? It is a mashup of two words. “Obligation” and “opportunity.” Loving God is your greatest obligation because this is the greatest commandment. You miss this one and you’ve missed all of them. Loving God is also the greatest opportunity in your whole life. There is no greater love to receive than the love of God and there is no greater privilege than to love God.
Loving God is our greatest opportunity
Regeneration is what frees all of God’s commands from being simply duty. They remain duty but there is a huge difference between doing something because you have to and doing something because you want to. The want-to is the joy. The want-to is the delight. The want-to is the sincerity and authenticity.
Christ has freed us from approaching God and serving God and loving God as merely duty and has gloriously freed us to want to do what God requires us to do. And that is oblitunity. When what you have to do is also what you want to do. God is not honored by duty love alone. He didn’t send Jesus to create robots; he sent Jesus to create spiritual children. Disciples. People who love him genuinely from the heart.
Loving is a duty and is no less than a duty. It is a command. But by faith in Christ it becomes a delight to us so great that if we allow it, it can encompass the entirety of our lives; one massive everything-all-for-him expression of love. This is the joy of real Christianity. Religions try to create outward conformity. Christianity changes your life by changing your heart.
Four and a half years ago was my wedding day. We got to the moment in the ceremony where I was told, you may kiss your bride. Did I have to kiss her? Yeah. I guess. It’s socially expected. It would be very frowned upon if I chose not to. It might have even been a scandal. I kind of had to do it. Ok! If I have to! But love creates another kind of have-to. I had to do it but everything in me wanted to do it. I laid a good one on her.
Then we left on our honeymoon. Did we have to do a honeymoon? Well, it’s somewhat an expectation these days. Did I have to? Yes. Did I want to? Totally.
This should be the aim of our lives. Christian, you have this heart. It is a gift from God. It’s like marriage is a gift but what you do with potential desire is up to you. You are responsible. If your spiritual heart is cold and you don’t find desires for God there, that’s not God’s fault. You have allowed another love or idol or self to chill love for God within you. If your Christianity is stuck on the duty side, look out. Something’s wrong.
The real thing is oblitunity. The real thing is duty and delight. That is who we want to be here. Please don’t come to our church to merely fulfill a spiritual duty. Don’t be a part of our church thinking simply being a part of our church is all we’re about. That’s not Christianity. Christianity is a matter of the heart and all our emphasis and teachings and ministries must move past the have-tos and take us to the want-tos.
If you aren’t there today, that is sin and it needs to be repented of. Don’t just nod and think, I’ll work on that. Not loving God first and foremost is sin and you need to confess it and repent of it. Ask God to stir affections in you for him. Begin to take seriously the need to love God first and foremost.
It’s like marriage where the duty to love is there but the delight can come and go. It takes effort to stir delighting love and a marriage that remains on duty love for long is in serious trouble.
Our love for God is like that. A thriving Christian is one who works at their love for God. They intentionally engage in spiritual activities that stir the delight like corporate worship and teaching. Prayer. Serving others. Disciplines that at first feel like duty, but over time become delightful. Don’t forget you have the Holy Spirit in you. He is jealous for your love (James 4:5) to be passionate for God.
Can you say today, “I love the Lord”? Jesus asks us every day, do you love me? Susan, do you love me? John, do you love me? Not that he needs our love but it is his love to want our greatest joy and happiness, which for a human being is loving God and enjoying him forever.
The Christianity we are promoting here is not just the “obli” but also the “tunity!” Not just the duty but the delight, the love, the passion, the joy and gladness in God our Savior.
So that when the Bible says, “God loves a cheerful giver,” (2 Corinthians 9:7) we get that our giving is duty and delight. When the Bible says, “Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart,” (Psalm 37:4) we get it because we see how God is changing our desires so we want what he wants.
When the Bible says, “rejoice in the Lord” (Philippians 4:4) or “serve the Lord with gladness” (Psalm 100:2) we get it because we are doing life with delight in God—not perfectly—but it’s real and we want more of it.
Listen, I can speak with tongue of men and angels but if I don’t have love for God, I gain nothing. I can prophesy and have all knowledge but if I don’t have love, I gain nothing. I can have faith enough to move mountains but if my whole approach to all my religion is void of a true and genuine love for God, I gain nothing. (1 Corinthians 13:1-3)
But with love for God, all my days and all my service and all my duties and the entirety of my life is not only pleasing to God but is the great privilege and joy of my whole life. Better than love for parents or love for spouse or love for friend or love for child. To know God and to love him is the greatest oblitunity of all.
Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.
© 2017 by Steve DeWitt. You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that: (1) you credit the author, (2) any modifications are clearly marked, (3) you do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, (4) you include Bethel’s website address (www.bethelweb.org) on the copied resource.
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