02-16-2014 message by Pastor Rich Doebler
Over the last three weeks, we’ve looked at several places where we can show love—to our “neighbors” (others around us); to “enemies” (our competitors); to our spouses…
So I have a confession. After Jeff’s excellent reminder about how we’re to love our spouses, I determined I wasn’t going to wait till the last minute to buy my wife a Valentine’s Day card and gift. I meant to get it right away—like on Monday, but I still felt like I was really doing well when I got to the store by Wednesday. And unlike previous years, the card selection was still pretty good—unlike when I wait till the last minute.
So I found a card I really liked—you know, one of those cards that the commercials describe: “When you care enough to send the very best…” I turned the card over and found that “the very best” means more than I want to spend for a card. The price on the back said $5.95. Just for a card!
So here was my moment of truth: Did I really care enough to send the best? I mean just down the next aisle were potted Valentine Day plants that were more economical (cheaper) than that card! And I thought to myself: What’s my wife going to do with a $6 card? She’s not going to frame it or put it in a memory box. It’s very possible she’d say, “Just give me the $6 so I can use it for something I really want.”
As I stood there facing the dilemma, torn in two directions, I got a flash of inspiration—so I took out my phone and took a picture of the card, right there in the store. And two days later when I took my wife out for a Valentine Dinner date, I sat across the table from her at the restaurant…and showed her a picture of the card I didn’t buy.
But when I read the last line,I suddenly realized the words weren’t really true. So I read the last line to her: “I love you with all my heart, all my soul, with everything I have to give…everything, that is, except the $5.95 needed to buy this card.” I hadn’t loved her with everything I had to give. Dave Ramsey would have been proud of me.
To be fair, I should tell you the rest of the story. I actually gave her a real Valentine’s Day card (not just a picture)…which I got from Family Dollar. It cost me $1. And after dinner we went out and I bought her a last-minute Valentine’s Day gift. It cost me $60.
Love can be complicated, can’t it? There are lots of factors that compete for our attention, pulling us in different directions. Love is complicated whether you’re talking about enemies or neighbors or spouses.
Jeff reminded us last week of the “new” commandment Jesus gave us—that we “love one another.” Jesus said people will know we are following him when they see the love we have for each other. They don’t care how much Bible we know or how often we’re in church—but they notice when we love others.
It’s impossible to be truly loving, of course, unless we have our first love in place! The Bible says we love because God—who is love—loved us first. In other words, without God’s love at work within us, we would be unable to truly love. Human beings just don’t have the capacity.
So as we wrap up this series of messages, I want to look again at this foundation of love. The basis for true, genuine love is found in the love of God. So how can we measure our love for God? What does it take to have real love for God?
If someone claims to love you but never actually shows you love, you know the difference. Words alone don’t equal love. In the classic musical, “My Fair Lady,” Freddy expresses his love for Eliza, & she interrupts him:
Words, words, words! / I’m so sick of words. I get words all day through / First from him, now from you / Is that all you blighters can do? / Don’t talk of stars, burning above / If you’re in love, show me! / Tell me no dreams, filled with desire / If you’re on fire, show me! / …Don’t talk of love lasting through time / Make me no undying vow / Show me now! / Sing me no song, read me no rhyme / Don’t waste my time, show me! Don’t talk of June, don’t talk of fall / Don’t talk at all! Show me! / Never do I ever want to hear another word / There isn’t one, I haven’t heard / Here we are together in what ought to be a dream / Say one more word and I’ll scream… [Song writers: Alan Jay Lerner; Frederick Loewe]
We’ve seen this ourselves. If a person says the right thing but repeatedly does the opposite, you know that love is bogus. Words, promises, good intentions do not prove genuine love. And if love talk is overshadowed by neglect or disrepect or even hurt and abuse, then all those good words mean nothing. “Your actions speak louder than your words.”
God feels the same way.
Isa 29:13. The Lord says, “These people come near me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is made up only of rules taught by men.”
What you say…or the songs you sing…or how high you lift your hands in worship—these things are not the same thing as love for God! These things are not nearly as important as where your heart is! The question is: Is your heart far from God? Or near?
If we say we love God, then God looks for actions that match our words. He looks for hearts that are drawing near to him. He wants lives that demonstrate sincere, deep love and desire for him.
Out of all the religious things you can do—including all the rules and rituals and traditions and various ways of worship—God is looking for hearts fully devoted to him, lives fully committed to him.
Mark 12:28-30. 28 One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?” 29 “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. 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.’” [compare Luke 10:25-27; Matt 22:35-37; Deut 6:5]
Of all the things you can do in this world… of all the things you can do in an entire lifetime… of all your accomplishments and successes, of all the choices you make and all the good deeds you perform, there is one question that stands out above everything else: DID YOU LOVE THE LORD?
The “Great Commandment” says you are to love the Lord with…ALL of you, with EVERY part of you—with all of your heart, all of your soul, all of your mind, and all of your strength—holding nothing back. God wants the total package! The whole enchilada!
If you love your spouse with only half your heart, you’re going to have problems. Suppose you say, “I love you,” a dozen times a day—in the morning, on the phone, when you come home, before bed—but she always has to compete for your attention with the newspaper at the breakfast table or the TV show in the evening or your hobbies like tinkering in the garage or sports or fishing…
Brad Paisley sings a country western song: Well, I love her / But I love to fish… today she met me at the door / Said, I would have to choose / If I hit that fishin’ hole today / She’d be packin’ all her things and she’d be gone by noon —Well, I’m gonna miss her / When I get home / But right now I’m on this lakeshore / And I’m sittin’ in the sun / I’m sure it’ll hit me / When I walk through that door tonight / Yeah, I’m gonna miss her / Oh, lookie there, I’ve got a bite
Genuine love means the total package, not just half a package or nice-sounding words.
Can you imagine a man who says, “I don’t understand my wife! I love her 364 days every year. Why should she be so upset if just one day out of an entire year I love somebody else?”
It’s no coincidence that in the OT God frequently uses “adultery” to describe the way his people were unfaithful to him and chased after other gods. They claimed to love him, but they had wandering eyes. They weren’t 100% faithful and committed.
Deep, genuine love involves our entire beng, every part—all our heart and all our soul and all our mind and all our strength. Love for God means we commit our entire being to him—all we are, all we have.
In the Psalms, David said: “Bless the Lord, O my soul…and ALL that is within me… (Ps 103:1)
|“All that is within me”: with all that I am (CEV); every part of me (ERV); all my being (TEV); everything inside me (CEB); all my inmost being (NIV); deep down inside me (NIRV); from head to toe (MSG); all my inward parts (YLT).|
We know that human beings are complex creatures with multiple layers. They are made up of many different parts. Sometimes some of those parts are in conflict with other parts.
You might hear someone say, “He came, but his heart wasn’t in it”; or “She was just mouthing the words”; or “His mind was a thousand miles away.” This shows the various components to our personalities—who we are. It shows how our different parts can go in different directions.
You’ve said it yourself at times: “I feel torn”; “I’m conflicted”; “Part of me wants to, but part doesn’t.” It shows how we can be inwardly divided.
Like when the OT prophet Elijah challenged the people. They served God—“sort of” on the one hand, but they kept Baal around as “plan B”—a back-up in case things didn’t work out: “How long will you waver between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, follow him.” (1 Kings 18:21).
Like the double-minded man you read about later in the NT. Or like the man who told Jesus, “I believe; help me with my unbelief.” Have you ever felt like that?
Jesus said “The spirit is willing, but the body [flesh] is weak” (Matt 26:41).
Paul, the apostle, said: “15 I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do…22 in my inner being I delight in God’s law; 23 but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind…” (Romans 7:15,22-23).
In Galations we read “…the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want.” (Gal 5:17)
This is the battle we must fight! Each day—as part of our discipline and spiritual growth—we must fight against the pull of the world and our sinful nature to rededicate ourselves to the Lord.
Human beings have various components, various inner motivations. Some of those parts are more obvious and visible while others are more subtle—maybe even hidden deep inside.
So the Great Commandment calls for us to love God with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength—
- Heart: Your emotions feelings, desire, longing, passion, attitude. Is your heart divided?
- Soul Your identity, self-awareness, personality, personal will, reflexes (how you’re wired), making decisions; but also our Spirit the inner, eternal part of your being; your conscience and moral compass. Is your identity wrapped up in Jesus? Do people see you as a follower of Christ?
- Mind Your rational thought, logic, reason, knowledge, wisdom. Is your thinking—your thought process—shaped by God’s values and truth?
- Strength Physical/body; flesh and blood part, “natural” functions (eating, drinking, sleeping). It could involve how you serve—the work you do for God. Does your physical commitment show that your body belongs to the Lord?
You may have certain strengths and weaknesses—perhaps you find it easy to be passionate about God and you give him your heart…but you find it difficult to give him your mind, your thought-life. Others may be excellent at discipleship, giving your soul to be a Christ-follower but not so good at following through with daily, roll-up-your-sleeves work and action.
1 Thess 5:23. …May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
How many people want God in their lives—they really do—but they’re just not sure how much they want God to be in charge. They’re nervous about what might happen if they surrender completely. If they hold nothing back. So they “test the water”; they dip their toes in; they give God part of themselves. But if things get dicey or other stuff distracts them, then they take the part back. Maybe they’ll give God another part of their lives…for a time. They’re playing the religious Hokey Pokey—they put their right foot in…out…shake it all about… They do the Hokey Pokey and they turn themselves around. (That’s what it’s all about!)