We love God with all our heart through worship and obedience.
Introduction: how are we supposed to live this life?
In the Science Fiction farce “Life the Universe and Everything” author Douglas Adams imagines that planet earth is part of a grand experiment, started light years from earth and millions of years in the past. His humorous novel relates the story of a race of hyper-intelligent pan-dimensional beings who built a computer named Deep Thought to calculate the Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything. After millions of years of calculations the computer reported back that the answer is 42. When the answer was revealed, Deep Thought explained that the answer was incomprehensible because the beings didn’t know what they were asking. It went on to predict that another computer, more powerful than itself would be made and designed by it to calculate the question for the answer. Planet Earth was that computer
Douglas Adams was an avowed atheist so it was hard for him to know even what the question was. But for those who believe in God’s existence the question is a bit more narrowly focused: “if God exists then how are we to relate to him?” Or more personally, “If God exists, what does that mean for my life?” It is not a new question. In Jesus’ day it was a question as well. The Greco-Roman Gentile might ask what the good life was. But among the Jews the question would be “of all the commands what is the most important?”
We are going to look at a passage in Mark where Jesus answers that question and it will lead us to understand how to live and what’s important. In short he will tell us the meaning of life the universe and everything. And that will take more than one sermon.
The Lord our God the Lord is One – make sure you are focused on the real God of the Bible and to love him you have to know him
Read – Mark 12
The answer to the question starts not with a command but with a truth. The Lord our God is One. Then it goes on to say how we should respond to him which is to love him. But before we get to what that means, let’s ask “why do we start with this truth?”
First, Jesus is quoting from the book of Deuteronomy, Deuteronomy 6. In that passage the truth about God is linked to this command. It functions almost as a confession of faith, as a prayer that would be recited every day. These words of Jesus are more than just the answer to a question, they are a creed that can be the center of our lives. It is one reason why we are spending several weeks breaking it down. We will see as the series unfolds how central this new Jesus Creed is to our lives.
But the other reason is this: if you are going to make sense of life and of responding to God you have to know that its God you are aiming to love. The call is to love God, not just any god but the God who is One and the God who is “the One.” This was the most central and basic affirmation of faith for the Jews, our God is one. That meant that they did not worship many gods as other nations did, but the One God who created all things, who reigned over all the earth.
As Christians we know that God is One. We know that he has revealed himself in nature, in his Word, in his people, but mostly through his Son Jesus Christ. Jesus is God the son. God the Father and God the Son are One, two personalities , one essence. We believe that the Holy Spirit who God gave to us is One with the Father and the Son, that these three are God and there is no other God.
Sometimes if a group of people are talking and God comes up someone will say “I am very spiritual.” I think what that person means is that they care about more than what can be seen in the physical world. They long for meaning and even to experience something beyond the tangible reality that they see. They believe something this out there, and are even searching for it. But that is different than loving God. Jesus said our central command is to love God – the one God revealed in the Bible, not just to be spiritual or not just to make God in our image. Jesus said the key to life, the most important thing in life is “love God…”
To love God you have to know God. And the more you know God the deeper your love for him will be. How do we know God? Well, how would you know anyone?
Imagine that you are in charge of a department and you get a new person. You want to manage this young man well to help him develop. You know that the best way to manage people well is to care about them as people, help him to see that doing his job well will benefit him and be important to the company. So you interview him, yes but you also go to lunch, find out his story, what are his dreams. You know people by spending time with them and hearing their stories. How do we do that with God.
Spend time in his word. God has revealed himself in his word, in the church, in nature and through his Spirit. But spending time in his word is a great place to start because it naturally encourages the other things. Remember as you read that the greatest revelation of God is through Jesus Christ and that we understand the Bible in light of who Jesus is.
We also want to remember as we read that we are not just seeking mental understanding and we are not just doing research. We are reading and thinking. We are meditating on God’s word – that leads to loving God with your heart
Thinking about God, about what the Bible says about him will change your heart. It will affect you. Think of what we learned last week. God is an awesome God, the scary God of Sinai who revealed himself with smoke and thunder and the ten commandments. He is the God who cannot be approached. And we know that he is the God of DNA and constellation light years away.
But that same God, the awesome Creator, also died for us on the cross because he loves us. He welcomes us to receive the forgiveness he offers and have a relationship with him.
But Jesus says our command, our call, our central focus is on “loving God.” The reason he tells us that God is one is to remind us that loving God grows out of knowing who God is. Notice that in the passage that the man who asked Jesus the question agrees with Jesus’ answer. He understands the truth, but he is still only “close” to the Kingdom, not in it. That is because our call in not to know about God but to love him.
Love the Lord with all your heart – we are not just to know about God but to love him
This passage says to love God with all that we are, heart, soul, mind and strength. I do not think that the passage was meant to be split up into its component parts as much as it is meant to convey “love God with everything.” But we are going to divide it up anyway. We want to ponder these truths and the call to love God in these ways. What does it mean? What does it mean to love God with you heart?
When you think deeply on who God is it will have an emotional affect on you. one way you love God with your heart is to cooperate with these emotions and allow them to grow in you. When you read, when you worship, when you pray, you should feel certain emotions like wonder, gratitude and devotion
If these things do not grow in you, then the Holy Spirit is not in you and you need to think about surrendering your life to Christ
Notice how the man is “not far” from the Kingdom of God but he is not there – this is important. Our behavior, our love is a response to who God is. But it is not just “knowing about God” or even understanding the importance of loving God. It’s actually loving him. So what does that look like?
Love the Lord with your heart means to Worship and obey
Worship is emotional – but it is also personal. The response to the feelings of wonder and appreciation is worship. Worship is one of the ways that we love God. As you grow in Christ you want to be comfortable saying worship to God, telling him who he is. We worship in song because it is music tht goes past our cognitive self and touches us inside. Singing is also something we can do together and simultaneously. I can worship God in prayer individually, and we can worship him in prayer is groups. But for larger gatherings singing is a great way to express worship.
And there is something special about singing.
I saw a You Tube clip of Adele singing at the Royal Albert Hall. She sang, “Set Fire to the Rain.” It reminded me that it is not that our worship is too much like a rock concert but that concerts are too much like worship. For many in the audience these immersions in sound are nearly transcendent, deeply emotional experiences. The problem is that there is no lasting truth – no truth from God attached to the experience. It feels emotional and lasting but it does not affect change the way worshipping God does.
So worship is emotional, but it is also personal and your emotions will funnel through your own personality. I have seen guys walk their daughters up the isle to be married and they work hard to keep their emotions in. They consider it a good thing if they can keep an even keel. If that is how you are then chances are you are not going to fall apart in gathered worship. On the other end of the spectrum are people who cry at the final seen of “The Biggest Loser.” We are all individuals, but if you have no emotional connection to God, then you might want to look at that. Remember what Jesus said: those who have been forgiven little love little.
Consider what God has saved you from, what he has forgiven, how he has guided and blessed you beyond what you deserve and your love will grow.
But love is not all emotion it is also evidenced in behavior
We balance worship with obedience.
Obedience grows out of desire not to disappoint someone you love.
How many students have worked at their instrument or kids put in extra time at practice because of their admiration for their teacher. They do not want to let them down. How many soldiers remain brave because care about the guys in their platoon?
God is a fit object of our love. He is the only one we can praise whole-heartedly and followed completely. He is the only one who knows us completely, loves us completely and has demonstrated that love through God the Son. We respond to the great goodness of God with love, love that flows from our heart and fills our whole being. It is not limited to our emotions and our obedience, but it is not less than our emotions and our obedience. So as we close, sing from your heart and ask God how your love for him is to affect your obedience right now.