One that I depended on was something called Cliff’s Notes. I don’t know who Cliff was, or if there even was a Cliff, but it was a great resource that summarized the meaning of books into a smaller easier to digest version. I definitely owe Cliff a large debt of gratitude for getting me through college.
When I became a Christian in college I began reading the Bible at a furious pace. It was long, complicated and hard to understand. I actually looked for a Cliff’s Notes version of the Bible. I was hoping that I could find something that would summarize all that God was trying to say in the scriptures. My journey seemed hopeless until I found this verse in Matthew’s gospel. It would become a verse that would begin to help me understand all of scripture. It was a verse that I would call the “Cliff’s Notes” version of scripture.
“Jesus replied: ‘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. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.’”
Was it possible that Jesus could summarize all of the scripture in just two verses? Was it possible that Jesus could look at His disciples and tell them everything that had been written in the law and everything that had been spoken by the prophets could be summarized in two commandments? Not only was it possible, it is possible. Jesus made this great statement in verse 40, “All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”Wow. Jesus made it simple for simple people like me, so simple that even a college wrestler could understand it – no offense to my wrestling brothers.
So, if you are having a hard time trying to understand all that Jesus wants us to understand when it comes to the Bible, let me help you with Jesus Cliff’s Notes version. First, we need to love God with all of our heart, soul and mind. Place God first in your life.
To do that we need to acknowledge that Jesus Christ is the Messiah, the son of God, and receive His free gift of salvation.
Second, we need to understand who we are in Christ. Jesus said we are to love our neighbor as our self. Jesus taught there is a reciprocal relationship between how we view ourselves and how we treat our neighbors. We will never love our neighbors the way Jesus intends for us to until we understand our identity and position in Christ.
Third, we are to love our neighbor. Loving our neighbor is a natural outpouring of the first two relationships. As we are loving God and God is pouring into us, all of that will overflow into how we treat others.
The beauty of the gospel is not found in its complexity but in its simplicity. Jesus came to seek and to save the lost. He is still seeking and still saving the lost, even a simple wrestler like me.
Jeff Pratt is gathering pastor at Immanuel Baptist Church in Lebanon. Preacher’s Corner features a new local preacher each month writing a column.