I’m thankful that our society puts a fairly high price on loving other people. (Secular society often is selective in who they love, but an overall responsibility to love others is nonetheless there.) Sadly in the past, churches have not been places people run to for acceptance and love. Now, an emphasis on personal relationships has transformed the church to be much more intentional about welcoming all people. This has been a wonderful development. And a dangerous one.
The church is still adhering to the Great Commandment found in Mark 12:28-31 – however with a dangerous modification.
One of the scribes approached. When he heard them debating and saw that Jesus answered them well, he asked Him, “Which command is the most important of all?”
“This is the most important,” Jesus answered: “Listen, Israel! The Lord our God, the Lord is One. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.
The second is: Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other command greater than these.”
The Great Commandment is often summed up, “Love God and Love People.” This is a very simple and accurate description. When we remember to love God first and let His love flow to others, we live out this command. Unfortunately, we have inverted the Great Commandment – “Love People and Love God.” This causes us to place a higher value on the experiences we face than the God we serve.
In his instructions to Timothy, Paul warns his younger disciple to put more of an emphasis on the Gospel of Jesus Christ than the circumstances and experiences of life. 2 Timothy 4:1-5 says,
I solemnly charge you before God and Christ Jesus, who is going to judge the living and the dead, and because of His appearing and His kingdom: Proclaim the message; persist in it whether convenient or not; rebuke, correct, and encourage with great patience and teaching. For the time will come when they will not tolerate sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, will multiply teachers for themselves because they have an itch to hear something new. They will turn away from hearing the truth and will turn aside to myths. But as for you, be serious about everything, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.
Paul gives a stern warning to stay faithful to the message. This “message” in the Greek is the word “logos,” literally meaning “the Word.” Paul is literally telling Timothy, “preach the Word.” Have we strayed from the Word? Sadly yes. Let me share three reasons why it is essential that keep the Great Commandment in the proper order and trust the Word of God over the expereinces of man.
1. The Gospel is always applicable. Experience is based on convenience. Paul says, “Proclaim the message; persist in it whether convenient or not…” (2 Timothy 4:3). There are some parts of the Bible we just don’t like. Hell is one in particular I’m not fond of. I understand why there is a hell, but I don’t like it. It certainly is more convenient for me to leave hell out of the gospel for the sake of not offending anyone. But the doctrine of hell has important applications whether I find them convenient or not. Experience would tell me to leave out certain truths about God because they aren’t convenient. The gospel pushes me to proclaim the truth even when it hurts.
2. The Gospel seeks God’s will. Experience seeks man’s desire. As Paul writes to Timothy, he gets right to the point of false doctrine. 2 Timothy 4:3 says, “For the time will come when they will not tolerate sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, will multiply teachers because they have an itch to hear something new.” When we follow the gospel of experience, we are really following our own personal desires and preferences. This leads us to reject sound doctrine and multiply false teachers. Our god becomes our circumstances, not the God of the Bible.
3. The Gospel is constant. Experience is fleeting. We are constantly asking God for some consistency in life. We like our routine. The only constant we have is the rock of Salvation through Christ Jesus. And yet we compromise this foundation when the circumstances of life intervene. 2 Timothy 4:4 describes it this way: “They will turn away from hearing the truth and will turn aside to myths.” We want consistency in our faith but follow the roller coaster of life experiences as gospel. Our circumstances are not a constant truth. They are a fleeting myth.
Are you putting your faith in the God of the Bible or in the experiences of life? Do you follow the Word of God as applicable, God-centered, and constant? Or are you buying into the gospel of experiences which is only around when it is convenient, only focuses on human desires, and only last for a brief moment. Christians need to recognize the folly of inverting the Great Commandment and letting our view of people and their experience trump our view of a Great God.
If you have been trusting in your own circumstances, I have wonderful news. Your salvation is not dependent on a fickle, man-centered, fleeting life. There is a constant Rock, Jesus Christ, who gives salvation to all who confess Him as Savior of their sins and Lord of their life. Right now you can put your trust in the Gospel of Jesus Christ instead of the gospel of experience.