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Mark 12:28-34

In the late 1800’s, a band of bank robbers began to roam the West. They moved from town to town for years without ever being caught, finally simply fading away into history. To this day, no one knows for sure who they were. In fact, no one is certain exactly how many of them there were. About all that we know is that there were always three men inside the bank during a robbery. One was very tall and skinny. The other two were average in height and build. You would think there would a better description than this after the gang had been in dozens of banks, but that was the most ingenious part of their plan.

Each of the men who entered the bank had a distinguishing feature about him. The tall thief always covered his face with bandana covered in pink polka dots. Another man always had a massive Sombrero with large gold ornaments, while the third man wore a large belt buckle made of gold with very intricate design. As the men would rush into the bank with guns drawn, the victim’s eyes were always attracted to these oddities. The well planned robbery was always over so quickly that no one ever noticed any other features of the men. Not the color of eyes or hair, not even how many men were outside holding the horses. Every job was the same. People noticed the superficial details, but missed the things of significance.

As I read that story I thought back to how many times I approached God the same way. We attend church or study our Bibles so that we can meet with God, but instead of being in awe of His presence we are attracted to some superficial element of worship. We want to walk away from the encounter with a good feeling or a Facebook quote and when the encounter ends we can only remember the  insignificant things. Just like the people in the bank, we missed the things that really matter.

Jesus says that a true follower, or disciple, is 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. Just because someone claims to believe in Jesus does not mean they are claiming to follow where He leads. A believer, simply holds certain beliefs. They can get defensive about their beliefs, but in those honest moments they wonder if their belief system has made any difference at all.

The truth is that 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 the Greenbrier Church 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 share the beautiful story of the love of God, the hopeful news of the resurrection. Are we as a congregation, are you and as Child of God, living up to our calling of being a place of love and acceptance or have we bought into the lie that merely believing is enough. If we are going to be followers of Christ we must be fully invested in our Lord.

Turn back to the text that Heath read for us this morning in Mark 12:28-30. I am going to read it one more time, but this time from the Passion Bible.

Now a certain religious scholar overheard them debating. When he saw how beautifully Jesus answered all their questions, he posed one of his own, and asked him, “Teacher, which commandment is the greatest of all?” Jesus answered him, “The most important of all the commandments is this: ‘The Lord Yahweh, our God, is one!’ You are to love the Lord Yahweh, your God, with every passion of your heart, with all the energy of your being, with every thought that is within you, and with all your strength. This is the great and supreme commandment.

This morning I want us to camp out in this text and consider what Jesus is saying here. His is pretty clear and plain when He says the most important thing we can do with our lives is to love God with everything we have. This is His call to 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 appreciate that the Passion Bible translates this phrase as every passion of your heart. Jesus starts here because He knew that our affections determine our longings. God created us to be passionate people and our passions steer our lives. 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 we have a discussion about love and one of the questions I ask is: Is love something you feel, or is it something you do? Those of us who have been in love for a long time understand that 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 it. Love is the foundational characteristic in a 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 or cry with her. There’s no feeling, no emotion, just a commitment. Would you really call that love or is 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 every passion of our heart. We’ll do anything for Him that He wants us to do, but there’s no feeling or emotion. We don’t get excited in our worship, we don’t get too sad at the thought of the cross. We have boiled our love for God down into a series of actions. We have forgotten that love obeys because we are passionate about the one being served. Because we value God His commands are not a burden, but a joy.

Remember what Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. I totally get why Jesus says we will treasure what we love. So it’s reasonable to say that if we want to love God with all of our hearts; we must understand that He is a treasure. We must acknowledge there is value and a richness from knowing God by how we live our lives.

Followers are called to Love the Lord with all of our souls.

We can only love God with all the energy of your being 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 being 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, Loving me empowers you to obey my word. I can’t count the times that I have heard people say they love Jesus, but have no desire to obey Him. There are people who go to church, read their Bibles, and then they choose a lifestyle that resembles the world, because God wants them to have fun. Two problems there: First God wants you to be faithful, and Secondly Jesus says if you love Me with your being then you’ll obey Me. If you choose to disobey Me then you don’t really love Me.

Jerrie Barber used to tell me, Love is not a feeling you get when you get a feeling that you never felt before. Love is an action. When we love God with all of the energy of our being we make Godly choices. You understand that your lives are the sum of the choices you make. We are not five year olds who try to explain our bad behavior by what someone else made us do, or made us feel. Mature and well adjusted people understand the truth that 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 most. I can want a healthy body and I can want a Big Mac, but you will see what I value most when you see where I eat lunch. If we value our relationship with the Lord that will be seen in the choices we make. We spend our time doing what we treasure. We spend our money doing what we treasure. The way we are entertained and how we spend our time and money all tell the truth about whether we love God with all the energy of our being.

Thirdly we are called to Love God With Your Mind

Jesus says we are to love God with every thought that is within you. And while that sounds great, the truth is that there are a lot of things I can do without much thought. I have only lived in my house for 5 months and there has already been times when I have left the building to go home, and once I’m home I can’t remember passing the High School or turning into the subdivision. The drive home is become 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.

It’s not just driving home, there are times we have approached God and the church with the same mentality. We gather together to worship and unless Phillip or I do something out of character we just participate in autopilot. We go through the motions; we 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 we do instead of something we experience.

Jesus understood that we would wrestle with an autopilot religion and that’s why he said, Love the Lord with every thought that is within you. I was raised by Bible teachers and preachers who would often say: In the Church we have this one down, we don’t get wrapped up in that warm and fuzzy,  feely type of theology. We have a bible, and we study it so we can show ourselves approved of God. 

Now please understand I am not saying that we don’t need to study, and immerse ourselves in the word of God. What I am saying is that we need to love God with more than just facts about God. Loving God with every thought means that we know how to reflect and ponder on the power of God and His love. 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 requires our minds being renewed. He writes: Stop imitating the ideals and opinions of the culture around you, but be inwardly transformed by the Holy Spirit through a total reformation of how you think. This will empower you to discern God’s will as you live a beautiful life, satisfying and perfect in his eyes.

My dad used to tell me Garbage in Garbage out. He was trying to impress on me that the things I focus on, read, see, all the things I come across in my life, my mind processes and eventually those things spill out. It’s like when someone looses their cool and goes to 11, I mean just lets someone else have it. When their tirade is over they say, I don’t know where that came from. I know exactly where it came from. It came from what you had been focusing on, what you had been processing. Because you were allowing other thoughts to find a home in your mind you were imitating those ideas and opinions. 

Love God with every though 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. Loving the Lord with all our strength is 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 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 dirty feet. When we love God with all of our strength we are reflecting the heart of Christ.

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. It’s time that you stepped off the sidelines and got into the game. Christianity is not a spectator sport.


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?

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