Not a Fan
There is an old joke, that the only person who wants change is a baby, and they want it usually at 2:30 in the morning. I understand that we are not real big on change, especially in the church. But through the years, some things have changed and it was either so subtle we didn’t notice or we thought that it was so insignificant that we didn’t balk.
One of the unnoticed changes that we made was when we stopped calling Christians disciples and started calling them believers. It was such a small change but it carries huge implications. When you call someone a disciple you are saying that they follow and imitate Jesus. A disciple loses their life in order to find it. They are immersed in the language and culture of Christ until His Word reshapes our world view, redefines our outlook, and changes us from the inside out. It affects the way we think, our dreams, and our life.
When we claim to be a believer we are not making the same claim. A believer, simply holds certain beliefs, but how deep these beliefs go depends on our mood. A believer can get defensive about their beliefs, but in those honest moments we are left to wonder if they have made any difference at all.
I really believe that we, and all churches, need to have this discussion we are having because you can’t be a disciple without being a believer. But, you can be a believer and not a disciple. You can say all the right things, do all the right things, and still not follow and imitate Jesus.
Now before you get to defensive, let me ask you a question to see if I’m close to being on target. In our community, what impact does Park Central have? I’m not talking about a political impact, or a moral impact, I’m talking about being a light in our neighborhoods, and salt in our communities. We were called to be a kingdom full of disciples, we are called to go out and win the world for Christ, but my fear is our churches have become filled with believers that have been seduced by the world.
We are called to be followers of Christ, to be fully invested in His work. For that to happen we must be fully invested in our Lord. This morning I want us to take everything we have talked about so far this year and put it on a real-life, practical level. So look with me at Mark 12:28-30 (Read Text)
This is such a powerful piece of Scripture that I think is easy to just kind of gloss over. Have you ever taken the time to really think about what Jesus is saying here. He is saying that the most important thing we can do with our lives is to love God with everything we have. This morning I want us to finish our series by looking at some ways that we can be more passionate in our relationship with God.
Followers Love God with all their heart
It’s interesting that when Jesus lays out the most important commandment He starts with loving the Lord with all of your heart. I imagine that’s because He knew that our affections determine our longings. God created us to be passionate people. Your heart contains powerful emotions that steer your life. Think about the things we invest our time and energy into. What are your hobbies, interests, and relationships? If we want to see where our affections lie, we have to figure out what occupies our time, what motivates our actions, what things do we seek out to find fulfillment.
When I talk with couples who are about to get married, I always talk with them about what love means. And one of the questions I raise is this: “Is love something you feel, or is it something you do?” And ultimately love is something you do; it’s a commitment that will hang in there regardless of what happens. Love will lead you to get up in the middle of the night and take care of a sick family member even when you don’t feel like it. Love will lead you to make sacrifices for the benefit of others even when you have trouble feeling excited about doing it. Love is the foundational characteristic in our marriage relationship. It’s also the foundational characteristic in our relationship with God. There are times that our love will express itself to God even when we just don’t have the feeling.
But does that mean that love has no feeling? Imagine a husband who loves his wife. He will do anything he can for her. He will make any sacrifice necessary. But he doesn’t have any feelings for her. He doesn’t get excited when she walks into the room. He doesn’t laugh with her and he doesn’t cry with her. There’s no feeling, no emotion, just a commitment. Would you really call that love? I think all of us would agree that there’s something missing.
And yet, many times, that describes our relationship with God. We have a love for God but we don’t love Him with all of our hearts. We’ll do anything for Him that He wants us to do, but there’s not much feeling, not much emotion. We don’t get excited in our worship, we don’t get too sad at the thought of the cross. We have love, but there’s something missing in that love.
Love not only acts, but there is a reason behind the actions. Love acts and obeys because there is value in the one being served. Because we value God His commands are not a burden, but a joy. When we love God with all of our hearts, we understand what Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
I love that Jesus says we will treasure what we love. And that applies to our relationship with God. If we want to love God with all of our hearts; we must understand that He is a treasure. We must acknowledge with our lives that there is value and a richness from knowing God, and we long to spend time with Him, because of His worth in our lives.
Our affections are the outcome of what we treasure, what we long for. It’s not until we truly long for God that we will be able to love Him with all of our hearts. When we are called to love the Lord with all of our hearts we are being called to pursue Him and realize that He delights in us.
Followers are called to Love the Lord with all of our souls.
We can only do this by living a life of faithfulness. While loving the Lord with all our heart has to do with affection, loving the Lord with all our soul has to do with devotion. To love the Lord with all your soul means to love Him in the way we live, in the choices we make and in the behavior and lifestyle we adopt. The soul literally is the part of us that defines who we are. The soul describes our life, personality, and our identity. It’s where we make our decisions and choices that ultimately decide our lifestyle and behavior.
We read in John 14:23, If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. I can’t count the times that I have heard people say it’s okay if you believe in Jesus, you don’t have to obey Him. There are people who go to church, read their Bibles, and then they choose a lifestyle that they know is contrary to what Jesus wants for them.
The problem is that Jesus says that’s wrong; He says, if you love Me with your soul then you’ll obey Me. If you choose to disobey Me then you don’t really love Me. Love is not an emotion, it’s an action, and that’s especially true when it comes to loving God.
When we love God with our souls we make Godly choices. Our lives are the sum of the choices we make. Plain and simple. Our choices show what we are committed to and they reflect our core values, defining us and displaying our lifestyle before the world.
We do what we value. If we treasure our relationship with the Lord our choices will simply mirror the treasure. We spend our time doing what we treasure. We spend our money doing what we treasure. The way we are entertained and who our friends are all demonstrate if we love God with all our soul.
Another practical way to see if we love God with our souls is by doing good works in His name, for anybody you can, when you can. Maybe it’s mowing someone’s lawn or baking a pie or cake for someone simply because you think they’d like it. Maybe you will visit some of our shut-ins from the church or go to the Nursing Home. Maybe you will spend some time praying with and for the Church family. The possibilities that exist for doing acts of kindness for God are endless.
Ralph Parlette, in his book The University of Hard Knocks, says that the church needs to quit praying for opportunities and start praying for optometrists. He says that God has given us so many opportunities out there, but we refuse to open our eyes to see them. We just have to be willing to open our eyes, and look for the opportunities that He has provided. When we love God with our soul our choices become God centered and a lifestyle of humility and holiness is born.
Thirdly we are called to Love God With Your Mind
Have you ever done something so many times that you can now do them without much thought? There have been times that I have left the building to go home, and once I’m home I can’t remember stopping at the red light or turning into the subdivision. The drive home is so familiar that I kind of turn on the autopilot. I have become so familiar with the drive that I coast right through it because I have it all figured out.
There are times that I believe we approach God and the church with the same mentality. Worship services become an autopilot activities. People go through the motions of the service without much thought. They sing the words off the screen, take a little cup of grape juice, and sit through the message without being really engaged in what is happening. Church becomes something they do instead of something they experience. Jesus understood that we would wrestle with an autopilot religion and that’s why he said, Love the Lord with all your mind.
To love God with our mind focuses on loving God with our intellect. We reflect and ponder God’s word and wisdom. God created you with a brain. It's a wonderful gift that plays a vital role in loving Jesus. In Romans 12:2 Paul states that a major part of being transformed into the image and likeness of Jesus must require our minds being renewed.
There’s no doubt that our minds need to be renewed. We have been slowly and surely slipping into a pattern of mental passivity. Our minds have been placed on autopilot when it comes to spiritual thinking. And it seems that we are losing more brain activity every year.
Think about it this way, the language of the mind is images. That is why our mind is like an ongoing movie screen that provides pictures and words that are endless. So much of our life is lived in our minds because we can never turn our minds off. We find ourselves constantly seeing images being played for us or holding a conversation in our mind. Sometimes all at the same time.
I believe that we were created this way so that we could have continued communion with Him. It is the continual reality and stream of our life. When our body sleeps our mind stays active through the night.
A. W. Tozer once said, What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us. Love includes a deep knowledge, not a blind faith. Knowing truth and loving God are deeply connected. Jesus is the Truth. As our mind grows in the knowledge of Jesus we are liberated to love Him more.
Finally we are called to love God With All our strength
We read in 1 John 3:18 Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth. To love the Lord with all our strength means to love Him with reckless abandon out of simple devotion. We are called to love Him with our resources, our abilities and our time. We are called to serve Him by giving a cup of cold water to those in need, feeding the poor, visiting the sick, spreading His joy and peace. We need to understand that it is a privilege to love the Lord with all our might, with a reckless abandon expressed in a sold out life.
God has blessed each and everyone of us with tools, that we can use to love Him by loving the people that He loves. Loving God with our strength is wrapped up in service, and helping other people become His people. By being available to be used by God. This is a practical love that is expressed in acts of service.
This is where the rubber meets the road, sideline service is not an option for the Christian. Christ expects all of His followers to be involved in serving his Kingdom. There is no place in Scripture that lends itself to the idea that it’s okay to just be a Christian and sit on the sidelines while others do the work of the Kingdom.
Living a life of service is truly imitating Christ. He served, He fed hungry people, He visited sick and injured people, He taught anyone who would listen, and even washed stinky feet. Jesus was the only person worthy of worship and service and He gave us an example for us to follow. We serve because God has things for us to do, and because it reflects the heart of Christ. So the natural implication of all this is that you should be serving.
This morning seek out opportunities to serve. Look around see if there is something you can do to help us reach people for Jesus and help them live for Him. Look at how you’re gifted and think of ways to help us do that. Step off the sidelines and get into the game. Sideline service is not an option. And you know why it’s not an option? Because sideline service isn’t service. It’s spectatorship. And Christianity is not a spectator sport. It’s an active deal.
I believe we’re making progress. And with the help of God, we’ll get better as we continue to seek God’s face. I want people to see you as a person who is totally committed to Jesus. A person who loves God with everything they are and everything they’ve got, holding nothing back. I want them to see that because of your love for God, you are able to love them like God wants you to. Unconditionally, and with a heart for their eternal salvation.
Questions For You To Consider
Read Mark 12:28-34
If you were to ask your co-workers or neighbors to define love, what kinds of characteristics or actions would they describe?
What does it mean to you to love God?
How is that expressed in your everyday life?
In our text this morning Jesus said “with all” four times. He is saying if we really want to follow Him we must love God completely.
What would it look like to love God with all your heart (actions, words, deeds, etc.)?
What would it look like to love God with all your soul (emotions, passions, feelings, etc.)?
What would it look like to love God with all your mind (thoughts, attitude etc.)?
What would it look like to love God with all your strength (focus, energy, etc.)?
What other things do people add to their relationship with God instead of loving Him completely?
What are some parts of our lives we like to keep separate from our relationship with God?
The irony is that loving God is not based on emotion. It is a deliberate choice we make. What do you struggle with the most in loving God with All your heart, soul, mind, and strength?
What is one practical way you can love God with ALL your heart, soul, mind and strength this week?