If life is a journey, sooner or later we all lose our way. That, my friend, is an inevitable side benefit of being human. Every journey begins with a single step in the right direction, but as life goes on, when we don’t have our eyes fixed on the outcome, it’s all too easy to veer off track. You’ve probably heard it said that when our focus is off by even just one degree over a long enough time, that leads us to places we’d never planned on going. And unfortunately, we’ve all been there.
Some of you saw the title of this article and said, “I want to find my groove again. I’ve lost my way a little. I want to get back on track following Jesus.”
I am excited for you. Know why? Because Jesus wants you back on track too. How do I know? Because he told us so. Sometimes the way back is so simple that it almost feels complicated.
As a pastor and author, I meet people all the time who know the right answers, but for whatever reason, can’t seem to recall them, or live them in the most essential moments of their life.
As a follower of Jesus, I always want to keep the most important things front and center in my life. And there is no greater teaching of Jesus than the Greatest Commandment.
Think about it: if Jesus, the greatest person who ever lived (not to mention our Lord and Savior), told us what the greatest commandment - the most important truth in life - is, then we want to make sure we don’t miss that!
So to get our groove back, I want to look at three simple steps that Jesus gave us, right there in the Greatest Commandment:
1. Go Upward, Love God
We only get one shot at today, at life, how should we best live? Who should we be?
God wants to show us the art of living. The art of living is the art of loving.
It probably won’t surprise you to hear that the Old Testament contains a ton of commandments—a whopping 613 of them!
But in the New Testament, Jesus sums all of them up in a single commandment: "Start by loving God with your entire being, and follow that up with loving others the way you’d like to be loved."
We see this in God’s Word in a section usually called “The Greatest Commandment.”
Every relationship begins, and is ultimately sustained, by saying “yes.” We need to say yes to Jesus again and again.
We need to respond to Him. God loves you - always has and always will. Even though you may be off track right now, God’s love for you has not diminished.
In order to see transformation happen in your own life, you need to respond to God’s love by returning that love. So the first step to getting your walk with Jesus back-on-track is to cultivate "upward living" by loving God with the totality of who you are.
2. Go Inward, Love Yourself
Not only is it imperative to love God, but through God’s love, we learn how to love ourselves properly.
Our culture tells us, “You need to learn to love yourself!” God tells us, “You need to learn to love yourself!” Wait ... what?
Here’s the deal: those identical statements mean nearly opposite things. Our culture wants us to love ourselves by putting ourselves first. This is incredibly destructive. It’s the reason relationships rip apart, because you have two people putting themselves first, instead of the other person. It’s why Paul told Timothy, “There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves.” It’s the reason our public discourse is poisonous, and the reason Americans spend more than a billion dollars each year on teeth whiteners.
Good thing Jesus was sent on a rescue mission. See, what God means by loving ourselves is incredibly powerful. We love and value ourselves based on the finished work of the cross of Jesus. At the cross, our identity is displayed in God’s grace and love.
Don’t miss this: The only way to love ourselves in the way that God desires is to see ourselves through the lens of the cross of Jesus. Jesus spirituality is all about Jesus. And everyone knows that the cross and the empty tomb is what Jesus is all about. But when was the last time you thought, Loving myself has everything to do with cross and empty tomb of Jesus?
The death and resurrection of Jesus, and our trust in him, places us in the family of God. In order to properly love ourselves, we need a clear vision of who we are. God’s perfect plan was for us to view ourselves through the lens of the cross. God wants us to view ourselves as he views us, in and through Jesus.
We just don’t think about it that way. But we need to. We were re-created in Christ to think about ourselves this way. And when we understand our truest identity, the one given to us by God in Christ, then truly biblical self-love ensues.
The last part of the greatest commandment—“love your neighbor as yourself”—is impossible unless we love ourselves. That’s what as means—“in the same way.” We need to love our neighbors in the same way that we love ourselves.
Which is to say, we’re commanded to love ourselves, but we’ve got to do it God’s way.
And the good news for us is that as we live upward by loving God, the Lord will reorient our self-love so we become increasingly emotionally-healthy people.
3. Go Outward, Love Others
The final step to getting back on track is to live outward by loving others.
As you live upward by responding to God’s love with love for Him, and then you begin to love yourself based on God’s love, the Spirit of God invites you to push outward to love others with this amazing love.
God doesn’t want his love to stop with us. But let’s be honest, loving others is incredibly hard.
Why? Because people are messy. And when we lose our way, we don’t want to love messy people.
But living upward continually reminds us that God loves us, even in the midst of our messes. And living inward teaches us to love ourselves, even though we are messy. Then living outward directs us to love others, especially when they are messy.
And just like that, in three simple steps, you find yourself, day in and day out, locked into the groove of following Jesus.
It’s that simple: Upward. Inward. Outward.
Daniel Fusco's new book Upward, Inward, Outward: Love God, Love Self, Love Others (Tyndale) is available now, and shares more about the Greatest Commandment - a God-breathed system for living. Pick it up here.
Daniel Fusco is the Lead Pastor of Crossroads Community Church with campuses in Vancouver, Washington and Portland, Oregon. He shares regular, popular "2-minute messages" on his facebook page, and his weekly sermons air globally on The Hillsong Channel. His is the author of multiple books, including "Upward, Inward, Outward." He and his wife Lynn have three children. More at danielfusco.com.