Small Group Lesson
Share: Take a few minutes to honestly share what it has been like as you have tried to obey what you learned from God’s Word last time when we talked about discipleship.
The simplest way to summarize the life of a Christian is this: love. Because God loved the world so much, he sent his Son to save it (John 3:16). In the Old Testament, God reveals himself again and again saying he is a God abounding in steadfast love (Exodus 34:6). And in the New Testament it says that God himself is love (1 John 4:8).
This is how Jesus summarized all the commandments God gave to his people:
Mark 12:28-31: And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, asked him, “Which commandment is the most important of all?” Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”
Love God; love people. These two commands summarize the Christian life and are the foundation for every other aspect of the Christian life. For example, we worship God, read the Bible, repent of sin, and give offering out of our love for God. We forgive, encourage, help, and share the gospel with others because we love God and others. As Christians, we try to live everyday with these two goals in mind. These two commands are the foundation of doing God’s Mission and obeying God’s Word, and they shape the structure of each lesson in Next Steps.
LOVE GOD: How should we love God? Jesus gave us the answer in the passage above: with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. Let’s look at each of these.
With Our Heart: Love God with your heart by desiring him more than anything else (Psalm 73:25) and seeking him first (Matthew 6:33). Make God the greatest treasure in your heart (Matthew 6:20-21 & Matthew 13:44). Make your relationship with him the most intimate and most important relationship in your life. A practical way we can do this is to spend quality time with God by regularly praying, reading the Bible, and worshipping God (see Next Steps 2, 3, & 4). Like a lot of quality time with a person will foster a deep and intimate relationship, so quality time spent with God will both increase and express our love for him.
With Our Soul: Love God with all your whole being by abdicating your will and plans to God (Matthew 26:39). Surrender your life to God and live and exist for him daily (Luke 9:23, Galatians 2:20, 1 Corinthians 8:6).
With Our Mind: God made each of us with a mind and intellect. You should use the intellect God has given you to know Him, his Word, and his will. Study, learn, and memorize the Bible. Think about God throughout the day—as you ride a train packed full of people made in his image, as you walk through a park full of God’s creation, and as you reflect on the city and culture around you in regard to God’s Truth. Creating, writing, producing, designing, speaking, thinking—all facets of our mind are transformed and can be used to love God and point others to him.
With Our Strength: We can use our strength, energy, time, and abilities to serve God. We do this by joining God’s mission (see below and Next Steps 5); serving God (see Next Steps 9); and working for God in our jobs, schools, and homes (see Step 10). Jesus taught us that if we love him we will obey what he commands.
John 14:15: “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.“
Christians should strive to love with everything we have, from the inside out.
Consider: Is it most natural for you to love God with your heart and soul, your mind, or your strength? Which are you most likely to avoid or forget?
The Bible teaches us that God is the ultimate source and reason for love. If we tried to love others for others’ sake or for our own, we would eventually run out of love to give. Instead, our love for others flows out of our love for God, which comes from his love for us. As Christians, we love because he first loved us. When we love others, our love for others is not conditionally based upon their actions or worth, but is unconditional like God’s perfect love for us.
LOVE PEOPLE: Jesus told us to love our neighbors as ourselves (Mark 12:31).
Whom should we love?
1. Our Neighbors: As Jesus said in Mark 12, we should love our neighbors. You might ask, “Who is my neighbor?” That is exactly what someone once asked Jesus (read the story later: Luke 10:29-37). Jesus’ answer to this question shows that the word “neighbor” does not restrict whom we are to love to those literally next door to us or those similar to us. Rather we must become a neighbor by loving them.
We should love everyone. Jesus also commands us, as his disciples, to love even our enemies (Luke 6:27-36)! Sacrificial love towards our enemies mirrors the same love that God has shown us through Jesus Christ (Romans 5:6-10).
2. One Another: The Bible teaches us to take special concern to love Christians. Jesus said:
John 13:34: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.”
“One another” refers to fellow Christians. It would be odd for someone to love strangers but not love members of his or her own family. The church is a family, and there should be a special family-love among Christians.
The reality is that no one is without sin. Spend enough time with anyone and they will do or say something that can cause tension and may even be hurtful. When a relationship has problems, those outside the church typically part ways. However, the Christian community is radically different. Paul encouraged the church in Rome to love one another in this way, even when they wronged one another:
Romans 12:9-21: Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
Consider: What phrase in Romans 12:9-21 stuck out to you the most?
How should we love?
1. Love your neighbor as yourself
What did Jesus mean by “love your neighbor as yourself? He explained it very simply:
Matthew 7:12: “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.”
Loving others as yourself requires thoughtfulness and selfless consideration.
Consider: Choose someone that you will see in the next few days. If you were them, what would you wish others would do for you? Will you love them in this way?
2. Love as Jesus loved
John 15:9, 12-13: “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. … This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.”
There are no greater examples of love than the love God and Jesus have given us. Think about how much God loves his Son, Jesus. Think about how much Jesus loved us—he died for us. That is the same amount of love we must have for others! Does this seem impossible? It is impossible—by our own power. However, the Holy Spirit empowers us to love as Jesus did. Though we may not need to physically lay down our life for someone in the coming week, we will have many opportunities to die to our preferences and desires in order to put others above ourselves.
Consider: Choose someone else that you will see in the next week. How can you love them by putting them above yourself?
3. Love with actions
1 John 3:16-18: By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.
Jesus did not merely talk about dying for us, he loved us with actions. Love is not based on an emotion or feeling; love involves actions.
Love God, Love People: Summary
Our love for God and others is imperfect, but God’s love is always perfect. God unconditionally accepts us and forgives us in Christ, even when we fail to love. Jesus is the only man to have ever perfectly loved God and people. By faith, Jesus’ perfect record of obedience is given to us. Furthermore, the Holy Spirit empowers believers to grow in their love for God and others. When you fail to love, confess your sins to God and one another, repent, trust in his perfect love, and trust him to help you grow.
Take the Step!
Take a moment individually to reflect and pray about how you will obey what you have learned in this lesson. Share with one another about these things.
Acts 26:16-18: “But rise and stand upon your feet, for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you as a servant and witness to the things in which you have seen me and to those in which I will appear to you, 17 delivering you from your people and from the Gentiles—to whom I am sending you 18 to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.” (Paul recounting the commission Jesus gave him.)
What is our motivation for sharing the gospel of God’s love? Love for God and others.
Love God: We share the the gospel primarily because we love God. If we love God we obey him (John 14:15). We have been commanded to share the gospel with those who do not know Jesus’ love yet, and so we love God by obeying this command. Consider it this way—when we love something we talk about it and even commend its value to others. Maybe it’s a good song, or a new restaurant. In this way, our love for God should overflow from our hearts leading us to tell others the gospel of God’s glorious grace, which has far more value than anything else we might share with someone!
Love People: We share the gospel secondarily because we love people. Jesus taught us to do for others as we wish they would do for us. Before we were Christians, we were unaware of our separation from God, and we did not know about the coming judgment or about the free gift of salvation available in Jesus. Someone told us. Out of love, we tell others the same good news. We want everyone to be reconciled to God. We want everyone to enjoy eternal life and happiness with God. The greatest act of love we can show toward any human is to share the love of God in Jesus Christ to meet their deepest need: reconciliation with God.
Encourage One Another:
What opportunities has God provided to lead others closer toward knowing Christ?
How have you seen God working in the lives of those you want to lead to Christ?
Pray for One Another:
Share at least one name of someone you want to win to Christ. If you know, share your next action step in leading them closer to knowing Christ (for example: invite them to church, take them out to dinner and share your testimony, study First Steps together, give them a Bible or Christian resources, etc.).
Commit to praying for one another everyday: (1) For boldness and wisdom, (2) for opportunities, (3) for other’s open hearts.
Other Prayer Requests:
How can we pray for you?
Pray together about God’s Mission and other requests and thanksgivings.