First and above all

This year’s 8th grade graduates at Rock Valley Christian School graciously invited me to speak at their graduation. They asked me to offer a few reflections on their grad text, Deuteronomy 6:5: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.”

It occurred to me that you actually hear this invitation, this call to love all over the Bible: Joshua, David, the prophets, the apostlesGreatest Commandment graphic found with Googlethey all call God’s people to ditch false gods and love the Lord their God with all they are. Jesus himself says it’s tied at first place as the most important command of all – right up there with loving the people around you. From the secrets deep within you to the very tips of your fingers, from the core of your identity to your every action, the Bible calls people to love God first and above all.

Loving God, as I told the graduates, is all about honoring him, deeply respecting him, and obeying his good will for us as described in the Bible. We can choose to love God similarly to how we can choose how we treat our parents or siblings, or how a certain pair of jeans or a video game becomes our favorite because we choose to wear it or play it over and over. Our choices are connected with what we love.

So I encouraged the graduates to make the choice to love God before and above anything or anyone else.

I was quick to add, though, that their ability to choose to love God is possible only because he first chooses to love them. If it weren’t for his creative power in making us, his redeeming power in saving us, and his ongoing power in equipping us, we’d never choose to love God. If God waited for us to sign up to honor, respect, and obey him, he’d be waiting for eternity.

Can we respond perfectly to God’s call to love him first and foremost? No. And God knows we can’t. Only one Person in history could keep all God’s commands perfectly. Many years after Moses preached Deuteronomy 6 to the people, God sent him – the Father sent Jesus “to stand in our place and be perfect for us,” to quote The Jesus Storybook Bible. Keeping commandments and rules won’t save us. Only God in Christ saves us because he love us.

I concluded with reminding the graduates that the Holy Spirit is working in each one of them, empowering them to reflect God’s great love back at him and the people he puts in their lives. Through their grad text, that’s what God was inviting them to do that very day, this summer, as they begin high school, and for the rest of their lives. I believe it’s good news and good advice for everyone regardless of when they will finish school or how long it’s been since they’ve graduated.

This is the column I wrote for today’s Rock Valley Bee
based on my grad address at RVCS.

Broken laws, broken people

Searching for Home by M Craig BarnesWhen we confess our sins to God, we might say something like, “I’m sorry, Lord, for breaking your commands.”  A few sentences from M. Craig Barnes’s book Searching for Home suggests how that’s not the most accurate way of stating the problem:

We don’t actually break God’s laws.  They are still standing whether we obey them or not.  To try to break God’s law would be like trying to break the law of gravity.  If you try it, you’ll discover the law always wins.

But when we violate God’s law, it breaks us. (p. 90)

Our disobedience doesn’t do anything to God’s commands, per se.  Because God’s commands are in place for His glory as well as for our own wellbeing, we’re the ones who get broken and hurt through our sinful disobedience.

Thank God for how He invites us to confess our sin and find restoration from our brokenness in Him!