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Love the Lord with Everything

Date: Jan. 5, 2014

Author: Bob Henkins

Mark 12:28-34

Key Verse: Mark 12:30

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.”

Here we are in the first week of 2014. I can’t even believe that I’m saying that. I still remember 1985 when the Bears won the Superbowl. I was only 20 years old and the year 2000 seemed so far away. In fact, turning 30 seemed ancient. And here it is 2014 and I wish I was 30 again because it seems young to me now. It amazes me how fast 2013 went by and as we begin the new year it’s time to think about our direction, our goals. It’s good to set goals for yourself and that’s kind of what our key verse does for us. It sets our goal and gives us direction. And our ministry’s key verse this year comes from Mark 12:30. It is my hope that we may kind of reset our life, re-calibrate our spirits and come back to God.

As the passage starts out Jesus had been debating with the Sadducees and one of the teachers of the law came over and liked how Jesus answered their questions. He had a question of his own to ask. “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?” I’m not sure if he was testing Jesus or if he was really sincere. I’m leaning toward sincere because this was a question that caused them some grief. There had been lively discussions between the Sadducees and Pharisees on which law was the most important and they competed by which teacher could summarize the entire body of law in one commandment the best. Not only did they compete with each other but they had problems. The rabbis had determined that there were 613 commands in the Pentateuch, one for each letter of the Ten Commandments. Of the 613 commandments, 248 of them were seen as positive and 365 as negative. And they divided those laws into heavy and light categories, with the heavy laws being more binding. But the problem was that they were unable to agree on which were heavy and which were light, which should they obey over others. What if two commandments conflicted? One command stated that they should circumcise their son on the eighth day and another command stated they should not do any work on the Sabbath. But what if the eighth day occurred on the Sabbath, which commandment should they follow? So I think this teacher of the law was trying to get a sincere answer to a real problem. Out of all the commandments, which is the greatest.

How did Jesus answer? Take a look in verses 29. “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.” I find it strange that as Jesus answers, he says the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Why would he say this? Actually, was summarizing the 10 Commandments and this is the first part. So it’s not very strange at all. Also this was part of a phrase that devout Jews would repeat at least two times every day. And what this basically meant was that there is only one Lord and he is Almighty. He is above all and they are to worship him only. It helps to understand their culture and why this would be important. They lived in a period where they were surrounded by people that believed that there were many gods not just one. And they were constantly attacked by those people. They would say, “What makes you think that your god is greater than our gods?” In many ways, our time is not too different than theirs. The world we live in is very relativistic and people say, “If it’s good for you, do it, but what’s good for you, is not good for me.” Just because people think like this doesn’t make it true. As the world has turned more relativistic, we’ve lost the concept of absolutes. There are such things as right ans wrong and there are no other gods except for the God of Israel, the Father of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Then Jesus goes on to verse 30. Let’s read it. “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” Time and time again, we find in the Bible that love should be the most important virtue of mankind. In Paul's famous love chapter he makes this concluding statement, “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” (1 Cor 13) In John’s gospel it says, “God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him.” (1 Jn 4:16) Jesus himself said, “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (Jn 13:35) It’s clear that love is so important, but we also have to realize that this passage is not promoting love in general, as it from us toward other things. Rather, Jesus is referring specifically to our love for God – this is the greatest commandment.

However one of the first things we must understand is that mankind, in our natural state, doesn’t love God. We might be tempted to think that there are some people who naturally love God and others who don’t. But the Bible declares that all human beings are at enmity with God. Instead of having love for him we have a natural aversion to him. “Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior.” (Col 1:21) Let me ask, who here decided to love God on your own? I expect not many. When I was young, I never thought about God. I went to church because my parents made me. It was something we just did. How many of us were invited to church or in some way introduced to Jesus? I think most of us, were introduced to God by someone else. Right? My point is that because of our evil heart, in our natural state we don’t love God. It is not something that we can bring out, it’s not within our control because we are sinful, and the darkness hates the light. Therefore, we need God’s help to love him. We need our heart transformed. Dt 30:6 tells us, “The Lord your God will circumcise your hearts and the hearts of your descendants, so that you may love him with all your heart and with all your soul, and live.” (Dt 30:6) What we need is to have our evil conscious cleansed by the blood of Jesus. The Bible tells us, “The goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.” (1 Ti 1:5) Just as side note, as Christians, we know that when someone says, “being cleansed by the blood of Jesus,” they mean that when we repent of our sins, Jesus forgives us and our dirty hearts are made clean. But if we are a new comer and they hear that you have to be washed by the blood of Christ, it might sound like a horror story. In order to love God, the way he desires, we need our hearts transformed because we’re not naturally like that.

Let’s think about this for a moment. Jesus says that out of all things, we are to love God most. If I were to ask you, how would someone describe you? What’s the first thing they would say about you? Would they say, “Well, first of all, they love God. That's the most obvious thing about him.” I once did a project in Pennsylvania, and I worked with these two electricians. And I have some funny stories about my time there but one of the first things that I noticed about one of the electricians was that he was a Christian. It wasn’t what he said, because he didn’t talk about it, but it was what he did, small things but clear signs that he loved God. We went out to lunch and when he gave thanks before the meal, it wasn’t a quick, close your eyes, one sentence prayer. He took his time, bowed his head, and clasped his hands. Although I didn’t know much about him, I could tell that he loved God. How would people describe you? In this passage Jesus is telling us that we are to make loving God, not just one of the aspects of our life, but the PRIMARY aspect of our life. Our love for God is enhanced by our desire to please him. There was a fad a few years ago when these rubber bracelets came out with the letters WWJD on them. And it was supposed to remind us, what would Jesus do if he were in our shoes. I think it was a good attempt to help us follow Jesus, to be like him, but I think that it was a little off the mark. Instead of wwjd, maybe it would be better to think, what would please God - wwpg. “And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may PLEASE him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God,” (Col 1:10) “Finally, brothers, we instructed you how to live in order to PLEASE God, as in fact you are living. Now we ask you and urge you in the Lord Jesus to do this more and more.” (1 Th 4:1)

If we are trying to please someone, we have to love them in a way they appreciate. We have to speak their love language. If we speak our personal love language it does no good for them. It’s good for us but not them. And in reading the Bible we find God’s love language and then we learn how to please him through that love language. One of his love languages is obedience, Jesus says, “If you love me, you will obey me.” Another of God’s love languages is single hearted, complete devotion. This kind of love is all consuming, passionate, fully engaged and connected, love for God. For those of us who are married, what if you came home to your spouse after being away for a while and you came home and you were greeted with a distracted, half hearted kiss on the check? How would you feel? On the other hand what if you came in and your spouse threw their arms around you, hugged you tight, locked eyes and passionately kissed you and attended you as if nothing else was going on in the world at all. All kidding aside, which spouse do you think felt more loved? Obviously the second one right because they expressed whole hearted passion for one another. This is the kind of relationship God wants to be in with us. Let read verse 30. “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” We can easily get caught up thinking about loving God, with our heart, soul, mind and strength but the point Jesus is making here is to love God with everything, with all we are, with all we have, with all our abilities, with everything. This takes whole hearted passion. Who wants to be in a relationship that is cold, half hearted, and passionless? Raise your hands. God is the same way the Bible tells us. St Paul said, “Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.” (Ro 12:11) “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men” (Col 3:23) And in fact, lukewarm enthusiasm is nauseating to Jesus. In Revelations he says, “I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm-neither hot nor cold-I am about to spit you out of my mouth.” (Rev 3:15-16) Just as half hearted, lukewarm love is unappealing to us, it’s the same with God. And yet somehow we excuse ourselves when we do it to God. I think this happens when we start to take the other person for granted and we’ve lost our thankfulness.

So the question is - how do we do it?

Here’s a principle: You learn to love what you give yourself to. The more a musician gives himself to music, the more he will love it. The more you give yourself to God, the more you will love him. This is the same in marriages. I heard a story from a divorce lawyer. One of his clients came to him and said, “I want to get divorced. My spouse treats me terrible and so I want to make it hurt as much as possible, I want to take everything they have.” So the lawyer responded, “Ok, I’ll tell you what. For the next 90 days, really love your spouse. Do everything for them. Go out of your way to show them all your love and then when you slap them with the divorce it will hurt all the more. In the meantime, I’ll do the paper work and after 90 days you come back to see me.” So when the client came back the lawyer says, “Are you ready to sign the papers?” “Heck no, everything’s changed and we’re going on our second honeymoon.” So what happened? The more they gave themselves to the relationship, the more they loved their spouse. And the more they loved their spouse, the more their spouse loved them. But it takes someone to start it first. And God did that for us. He made us, gave us life, made a wonderful world around us and even when we’ve ignored him, he showed his love for us by giving us his son, sacrificing him on the cross to save us from our sins. And when that wasn’t enough, he even sent someone else into our lives, for many of us our Bible teachers and others, so that we could all be here today.

If you remember I mentioned earlier that one of God’s love languages is obedience. However if you get in someone’s face and command them to obey, they’re probably going to do everything in their power NOT to obey - maybe openly, maybe secretly. But the funny thing is when we love, and I mean sincerely love, it becomes very natural to obey and we don’t have a problem with it because it then that we begin to realize that the commands that God gives us, are for our blessing BECAUSE he loves us. So our love for God will prompt us to obey him, not just have warm fuzzy feeling about him. The apostle John said, “This is love for God, to obey his commands.” (1 Jn 5:3) And we see a connection to the 10 Commandments, where it says that God will, “show his love to a thousand generations of those who love Him and keep His commandments.” (Ex 20:6) However we have to be careful here because we can get on what is described as the performance tread mill, this is when we start to obey commands because we think that by obeying them we will make God love us more. And what happens is that we fall into the trap of legalism and we start to become legalistic toward others. Obedience WITHOUT love is legalism. Love must come first and obedience is our response to that love. That’s very important. I would rather my kids obey me because they want to NOT because they feel that they have to. Because if you feel that you HAVE to, then resentment builds.

Another funny thing is even though the teacher of the law asked for the single greatest commandment, Jesus gave him two, which is telling, because it means that they are related and you can’t have one without the other. Take a look at verse 31. “The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” Not only are we to give ourselves to God, but we are to give ourselves to others. The reason Jesus said that the second is like the first, is because loving others is in fact loving God. Man was made in the image of God, so we are not to love people’s sin but to love the image of God in them. We are to love others, in the same way God loves us. But how difficult this is. Jesus’ brother James described how difficult and inconsistent we are in doing this. He said, “With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness.” (Ja 3:9) We are so sinful that this is so hard for us to do. Just looking around the world, we don’t see much love for our fellow man, even in the church, our relationships get strained and broken because it’s so hard to love others. But, “God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them.” (Heb 6:10) When we think of this it helps us to understand the parable Jesus told, “The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.” (Mt 25:40) We are to put the love we have for God on to other people. They are to be the outlet for all the pent up love we have for God. Loving others is to be the expression of our love for God. But how can we do this, because we are so sinful? Jesus says that to love God we must be born again. We need to ask God for his help and be born a new.

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