Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Loving God With All Our Strength

This is number eleven (11) in the "Back to Basics Series": this link leads to an index post that will direct you to the rest of the series. The first six mainly had to do with the ministry of the Holy Spirit, in our lives and the ways the Spirit enables us to live out the Great Commandment. The seventh examined why love is the Great Command. Now, Carl examines the Great Commandment itself in detail.

Once again, the "Jesus Creed":

Mark 12:30 " '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’ "[Deuteronomy 6:5] 31 "The second is this, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself' [Leviticus 19:18]. There is no other commandment greater than these."
Now, we will look at:

How to Love God With All Your Strength
Carl Palmer, Pastor-Teacher; Mark 12:30; December 4, 2005

This is perhaps the easiest one to understand. Heart, soul, and mind have to do with interior things: what is on the inside of us. Strength has to do with the exterior: what is on the outside of us.

Strength is about what we can do - it is about our abilities, capacities, capabilities, and powers. It is about skills, resources, money, desires, etc. It is about our S.H.A.P.E.:
  • Spiritual gifts
  • Heart passion
  • Aptitudes and skills
  • Personality
  • Experiences
So strength is about the outward expression of our heart, soul and mind; and our capacity in wherever we go and whatever we do to love Jesus. Jesus is again starting on the inside of us and working His way out. Religion tends to work the other way: if we can get someone to conform to a particular behavior - usually a "don't" list - then we can move the heart, soul and mind eventually.

Most of us realized at an early age that that doesn't work. Conforming our behavior on the outside to look religious doesn't change the heart, my soul, or my mind. In fact, there is an argument going on in our mind about whether this is the religion is even real; and it sets us up for hypocrisy. Many of us do become little hypocrites: running around doing stuff on the outside when there is no change in the heart, soul and/or mind. So God says to love Him first in the heart - the center of your being; then with a whole-life whole soul love; and then get on fire for God in your mind. Then, your strength will truly be devoted to loving God. Inward first - moving out.

When you put all this together you realize that God is to be loved with our whole being and life. There is no part of us is not covered by heart, soul, mind and strength. Our God is jealous - He wants us all. The question is: does He deserve it all? That is where we are. The next question for us will be: will we give it all? God is saying to us that all that we are; all that we have; all that we capable of; everything we can do; everything that is important to us; and everything God gives to us must be used in love of God. It is an amazing command. We can not think deeply about loving God with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength and walk away thinking we can just give God part of us. It is time in our life to end partial, half-hearted Christianity. We need to finally have some success at loving God with our all. How is that expressed?

How Do We Love God With All Our Strength

First, by seeing every ability we have as a means to express love for God. Loving with "all our strength" becomes devoting our capacity to God instead of being devoted to our personal wishes. That doesn't mean we do not do stuff for ourselves - and in fact the next part of the command is to love our neighbor as our self. What it means is that we devote what we do for ourselves to God.

We must make sure that we have no other Gods (not loves) in our life. This of course takes us back to loving God with all of our heart - everything else is secondary to Him. Our whole heart is given to God in love; and He then gives us the ability to love others. Now we go to our jobs in love for God; school in love for God; we are at home in love for God - every part of our life is lived in love for God. Simple tasks, and complicated tasks, are all to be an expression of our love for God. If you are asking "how can I go to work in love for God" then that is the question you need to be asking God about: "Lord, show me how to work as an expression of my ove for You."
Ephesians 6:5 Slaves, be obedient to those who are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in the sincerity of your heart, as to Christ; 6 not by way of eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart. 7 With good will render service, as to the Lord, and not to men, 8 knowing that whatever good thing each one does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether slave or free.
God has not said that there are parts of our life that are off-limits: parts that are secular and parts that are spiritual. What God wants is every part of us. Again, every ability we have is a means of expressing our love for God. When we finally make this a conviction, a choice, an understanding, and a lifestyle - then everything about life changes. We drive our car, do our jobs, play sports, and interact with our families - all in love for God.

Second, we love God with all our strength by choosing to live daily life as a dependent and grateful “receiver” of God’s grace - and as a cheerful and consistent "giver" of what He gives to us. If we do not get this we are in significant trouble as a follower of Jesus Christ. If we do get it, this concept will change our whole life - it will just liberate us. Carl is deeply indebted to a man named Graham Cooke for teaching him this truth; and helping Carl to see this in this way.

The Bible says that everything we have we get from God. The Bible then goes on to say that God wants us to give. Now this is the key: Everything that God requires of us to give God will give to us. God has not required, ever, that we give anything that He has not given to us. God never will. Again:
  • We are receivers: everything we have we received from God
  • We are to be givers: everything God requires of us God will give to us
Another way to look at it: God is always the initiator and we are the responders. God will always speak first. Now, some of you are thinking "Does the Bible really teach this?":
Romans 5:8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

Isaiah 55:8 "For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways," declares the LORD. 9 "For {as} the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways And My thoughts than your thoughts. 10 For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, And do not return there without watering the earth And making it bear and sprout, And furnishing seed to the sower and bread to the eater; 11 So will My word be which goes forth from My mouth; It will not return to Me empty, Without accomplishing what I desire, And without succeeding {in the matter} for which I sent it."

We are to love God with all our heart, soul and mind - and Carl asks us here to engage our mind. God uses an illustration from nature here: His rain does not come down to earth without accomplishing what God wants it to accomplish: watering the earth and making it produce food. It goes back to God through evaporation. God now shifts to His word: it too comes down from heaven (like the rain); it also accomplishes God's purposes; and when it returns to God it will not return empty. It returns through praise, worship and adoration. So, with rain as well as God's word, earth gives back to heaven what heaven gave to earth. This is a principle of God's creation.

Some of us have, or have had, very small children. At Christmas (or birthdays, etc) they want to give their parents a gift. Parents then give money to their children (or help them make something) - and then help them wrap it - so that they may give us a gift. We bless them so that they may experience the joy of giving. Again, just like God and us, we give our children the means to give us what we want from them. God is no different: whatever He demands of us He will give us.

The neat thing is that God gets all the glory in this system. Once we have realized that this is going on, we know that nothing God demands of us is ever impossible. We may, or someone else may, put demands on us that are impossible - but God will not. This principle is throughout the word of God:
1 John 4:19 We love, because He first loved us.

James 1:17 Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow. 18 In the exercise of His will He brought us forth by the word of truth, so that we would be a kind of first fruits among His creatures.

"First fruits" is Old Testament language. Jews gave the first, and best, part of their harvest back to God in appreciation and in recognition that all they had came from God. God is saying that His word has brought forth His people (us) and blessed us so that we can be the first part of His harvest: the first fruits. Again, we do not give anything to God that He did not first give to us.
Romans 11:33 Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways! 34 For WHO HAS KNOWN THE MIND OF THE LORD, OR WHO BECAME HIS COUNSELOR? [Isaiah 40:13f] 35 Or WHO HAS FIRST GIVEN TO HIM THAT IT MIGHT BE PAID BACK TO HIM AGAIN? [Who is God in debt to?; Job 40:11] 36 For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen.
You might know that the first 11 chapters of Romans are an incredible teaching about salvation: what it is and how it works. Chapters 9, 10, and 11 are really deep water about the sovereignty, wisdom, and power of God. Carl suggests that if you just want some good brain cramps (Carl said headaches) trying to unravel some mind-boggling stuff - read chapters 9-11 of Romans. Paul transitions at the beginning of chapter 12 to application: how do you live then based on what was taught in the first 11 chapters. The verses above were called a doxology - a song of praise - before Paul told us in chapter 12 to offer our bodies as a living sacrifice.
Philippians 4:13 I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.
When we begin to understand that our Christian life is through Him - everything changes. Carl says that for so many years of his Christian life he thought it was through Carl: that he somehow had to receive all these commands and then do it himself. This is what Jesus talked about in John 15 when He talked about the vine and the branches - everything was from God and through Christ. Again, everything God desires of us He has given to us. The question then becomes for us: "What has God given to me and what is my strength - what do I hold in my hand?" Next: "What is God giving me now?" Then: "What will God give me in the future?"

If we can begin to see ourselves as receivers of what God wants us to have, and give - then life will change. Receive and give should be a way of life. We are all uniquely gifted by God so that we can all be givers of different things for His glory. Each of us then has to figure out, uniquely, what God has given us and what God wants us to give from that blessing.

Jesus modeled this for us:
Mark 10: 45 "For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many."

John 5:19 Therefore Jesus answered and was saying to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, unless it is something He sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, these things the Son also does in like manner." [Read the rest of this chapter]

Carl has meddled in our personal lives, and now he is going to meddle one more way. He was trying to think of one last illustration at the close of this sermon that everyone would get. What one thing did Jesus talk about more than anything else? Money.

Carl knows you love it when preachers talk about money (not!); but here it comes anyway. Money is part of your strength. It is certainly not all of your strength, and probably not even the main part. If you do not like preachers talking about money, then Carl gives you permission to substitute time (or service, kindness, skill, talent, or whatever). Carl, though, is thinking about money.

What is the will of God for us regarding money? When you search the scripture you find in the Old Testament that Israel was supposed to give the "first fruits" and they were supposed to give 10%. The purpose of that was to demonstrate to God that they loved Him; and it was a discipline to teach them that everything belonged to God. They received from God, held on to it, and then quickly gave the first part to God.

Moving to the New Testament, Carl believes it teaches that Christians cannot do less. If we have reached a place where we think that living under grace rather than the Judaic system means we can give less - Carl thinks we have made a mistake. He thinks 10% is the minimum - a very good place to start.

So, does what we give of our money illustrate our true love for God? Does our giving of our time illustrate our true love of God? Does our giving of our talents, gifts, and strengths illustrate our true love for God? That is for us to answer, each and every one, individually. We all have a ways to go until all of our hearts, souls, minds and strengths are directed toward loving God. This is what we must strive to perfect.

As we near the end of this teaching on the Great Commandment, and prepare to move into how
we are going to put this Commandment into action, Carl wants to point out one more thing:
We will experience the most joyful and Christ-centered life by continuing to grow in loving God with all we have and all we are.
This is the "good life".

No comments:

Post a Comment

How to debate charitably (rules are links to more description of rule):
1. The Golden Rule
2. You cannot read minds
3. People are not evil
4. Debates are not for winning
5. You make mistakes
6. Not everyone cares as much as you
7. Engaging is hard work
8. Differences can be subtle
9. Give up quietly