Inscription: Writing God’s Words on Our Hearts & Minds
Part 20: Love the LORD Your God
May 23, 2010
· Worship¸ rebellion, and Joy sermons
· Listen to “Back at One” and “Live like you were dying”
Scripture reading: Deut. 6:4-15
Q What would you do if your doctor told you that you had less than five weeks to live?
Would you go sky diving? Maybe Rocky Mountain climbing?
Imagine that you are the pastor of a very large church and that in 10 weeks your church was going to be starting some major new phase. What would you do to prepare them to succeed without you?
That’s the position Moses is in at the beginning of Deut. So what does he do? He starts preaching, a series of 3 sermons.
Perhaps you noticed the different tone of Deut: More passion, less ritual, a desperation to get this stuff across.
And at the center of it, one central theme pulling it together:
NIV Deuteronomy 6:4 ¶ Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. 5 Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.
In Judaism, this is called “The Great Shema,” because shema is the Hebrew word for “Hear.” They pray it twice each day. “Shema yisrael adonai eloheinu adonai echad.”
· This is the central creed of Judaism – it is their John 3:16.
Q Does this passage sound familiar from the NT?
Matthew 22:34-40 34 ¶ Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. 35 One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: 36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” 37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
Think about that for a moment: On these two things hang on the entire OT. 600,000 words can summed up in 25. We had better get these 25 words right – we cannot afford to get them wrong.
· How can that be? Because all sins are ultimately failure to love properly.
Even sins of love? Sleeping with your boyfriend? Yes, even these ultimately either love ourselves more than the other or the other less than they need (even if it is what they want).
Notice: These two commands cover two different spheres: Loving God (vertical) and loving others (horizontal). These two themes run throughout Deut.
· This week we will be looking and “loving God” and next at “loving your neighbor.”
what is love?
Q The most important question we can ask: Do you love God?
Before you can answer, we have to know what love is, because I am not so sure our culture really knows. What the world means by love and when God means by love are two very different things.
The popular idea of love is basically warm emotions. Here is a song I loved to hate:
1: You’re like a dream come true
2: Just wanna be with you
3: Girl it’s plain to see that you’re the only one for me
4: Repeat steps 1 through 3
5: Make you fall in love with me
If ever I believe my work is done
Then I start back at 1 (Back at One, Brain McKnight)
Work is done?!? You haven’t done any work! The work doesn’t even start until finish this list – and neither does love.
· Love starts when she’s no longer a dream come true and you don’t want to be with her.
Our emphasis on “the warm fuzzies” as love is incredibly destructive to deep, lasting relationship, because emotions can’t last. They are nice, but they come and go.
· Emotions are the fat of the “nutritional pyramid” – a little is great and makes eating fun, but too much will kill you.
Feelings are not love, in fact they are in some ways the opposite of love – the feelings are all about me and what I experience, love is about what we give to the other.
I recently watched “Magnolia” (rated R for language, sexual content, and Tom Cruise’ pony tail), and was really struck by William H. Macy’s saying “I have so much love to give,” but all we watch him do is take.
Q Is this what you mean by “I love God”? I love what he does for me? I love the warm feelings he gives me?
We are all guilty of this. For instance, when do you pray the most, when things are going well or when they suck?
· At my last church, I knew I guy who because a Christian in order to save his marriage.
Q Do you love God for what he can give you or because he is God?
A covenant between UNEQUALs
That’s not to say that our love for God shouldn’t be needy to some extent – we really need God and are lost without him. We come to God with our hat in hand, without anything to give.
There are two extremes: 1) Only wanting God as a magic genie, and 2) Imagining we are independent.
· I learned something very interesting about Deut: it was written like an ancient Hittite covenants. Fascinating, huh?
Q What is a covenant, and why does that matter?
A covenant is a mixture of a business contract and a relationship. It is a binding relationship with promises and requirements. The best example is a marriage.
· This isn’t simply interesting historical trivia (though it is, especially because it vouches for the antiquity of Deut.).
These covenants were between unequal parties (unlike a marriage), a king and a subject. We come to God as the pauper and he’s the king.
This means he sets the terms. He get to tell us how to love him and “The Great Shema” teach us we learn what it really means to love God, on his terms.
There are four components of loving God, and warm fuzzies are not even on the list. The first item:
1. A good theology
NIV Deuteronomy 6:4 ¶ Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.
· This is the first monotheistic creed.
Loving God is based on good theology – you have to know who he is before you can love him. A stalker may think he loves a Hollywood start, but is just in love with an image.
· True love requires true dogma.
Q If you and your wife are snuggling and getting frisky, how would it go over if you called her your ex-girlfriend’s name?
Likewise, God is surprisingly intolerant. He really doesn’t go for being confused with other gods. One song says “We’re all praying to the same god,” but Yahweh disagrees.
· He’s not Moloch, nor Allah, he is the one and only true God.
But frankly that’s preaching to the choir – there are not many polytheist in the room. I am more concerned with the fact that we are all idolaters.
· I know you don’t have any little statues, but we are still idolaters.
Deuteronomy 4:15-18 You saw no form of any kind the day the LORD spoke to you at Horeb out of the fire. Therefore watch yourselves very carefully, 16 so that you do not become corrupt and make for yourselves an idol, an image of any shape, whether formed like a man or a woman, 17 or like any animal on earth or any bird that flies in the air, 18 or like any creature that moves along the ground or any fish in the waters below.
Notice something – God is not talking about worship a false God, he is talking about making and idol of him.
· Grace and Sarah: “Let’s see how big Jesus is!”
Q What’s wrong with having a representation of God, wont’ that give us something to focus on, to help us understand him?
It reduces God something less than he is in his full majesty, it narrows our perspective. We still do this:
Our relationship with God is without comparison, the closest we can get (as the Bible does) is to use multiple analogies that get us close enough to the truth for the time being. God is to us as:
· Father to children
· King to subject
· Master to slave
· Husband to wife
· Friend to friend (though not until NT)
All of these are very true statements of what God is like. But when we focus on one aspect at the expense of the others, we distort God and make an idol.
In our culture, the most common way we do this is by focusing on him as a loving Father but ignoring him as our just, righteous, and holy king.
· That’s why folks will say “I believe in a God of love who would never punish anybody.”
The point: In order to love God, we must come to him as the One True God, not something we’ve made up. But that means we get a bigger, more wonderful God, not a lesser one.
Ä What’s the application? actions are based on beliefs. We need to think differently about God before we can love him.
2. Total obedience
The second component of love is total obedience to our sovereign king. “Hear” means more than listen, it means to heed, to obey.
· Love is demonstrated by obedience.
Sometimes I tell the girls to go to bed and they disobey by clinging to me, saying I love you too much. I lovingly tell them that they show their love by obeying.
John 14:15 If you love me, you will obey what I command.
We love God by obeying him consistently, wholeheartedly, and completely. I talked a lot about obeying God in the sermon on rebellion, but here is the key point:
· Loving and obeying God are inseparable; you can’t say you love God if you’re blatantly rebelling – that’s hypocrisy.
Ignorance is no excuse
But this passage makes another important point: We must study and know his Word so that we can obey him.
6 These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. 7 Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 8 Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. 9 Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.
· Ignorance is no excuse.
God commands that they saturate themselves in his commands so they know how to obey him, not just by reading it, but also using symbolic reminder: mezuzah and tefillin.
· I am thinking about starting a Gathering fashion line.
Notice the importance of passing it on to children (not just yours), by talking, teaching, and more importantly doing.
· Hypocrisy is the greatest cause of rebellion (in a perverse way they obey what you do, but not what you say).
3. Proper Priorities
5 Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.
While they mean something different by heart than we do – they saw the heart as the seat of intellect, like we say mind. But soul included emotions, the net effect is the same.
· The point is that we are to love God with all of our mental, emotional, and physical ability.
There are two ways we can view our priorities:
1. God gets the biggest piece of the pie.
2. God is the pie.
Q Which one do you think is the most Biblical?
Q What does “all your heart, soul, and might” leave?
· Nothing – all means all (Hebrew or English); the Bible doesn’t know anything about priorities – God is the only priority,
Obviously this doesn’t mean only love God or else we couldn’t “love our neighbor as ourselves.” Rather, he is our master over everything and he permeates every part of the pie – everything else flows from him.
· God says, “Love your family,” so you do. God says do all your work to his glory, so you do.
The problem with the “priorities” mindset is that once we have given God his allotted portion, we get the rest for ourselves.
We probably all agree with this in concept, but in reality you don’t believe it:
Q Have you ever justified giving God less than “all your heart, soul, and strength” because of good responsibilities?
This is a church filled with good, hard-working folks who love and provide for their family, but even this can become idolatry.
Q Have you ever skipped church to provide for your family?
Q Have you ever interrupted (or skipped) time with God to play with your kids?
You are probably justifying it in your mind right now. “The Bible says if you don’t provided for your family, you have denied the faith!” Yeah, but it says Jesus is Lord far louder.
· How about shortchange your personal time rather than God’s.
Q How much priority does the Bible give to “me time”? A lot less than I do!
I am not saying you can never skip church, this isn’t legalism. But how you spend your time shows who you really love.
· If you want to know where a person’s treasure is, check their bank account and calendar.
Furthermore, what are you teaching your kids about how to love and value God if you put him last all the time?
· church isn’t important and God isn’t able to provide for us.
· Time in prayer isn’t that important.
Sure, even this can become unbalanced, but that it usually driven by hypocrisy.
The most important thing we can teach our kids about God is that he is everything we really want, which brings us to the final component of loving God:
4. Undivided passion
Love is good theology, obedience and actions, and a proper priority, but it is also about passion, about desiring God more than anything else in the world.
A common analogy is God loves us as a husband loves his wife. Taken too far, this analogy can weird us out as guys, but we can get a godly jealous for our spouses.
13 Fear the LORD your God, serve him only and take your oaths in his name. 14 Do not follow other gods, the gods of the peoples around you; 15 for the LORD your God, who is among you, is a jealous God and his anger will burn against you, and he will destroy you from the face of the land.
Again, we get this. Even the idea of sharing our wife in some twisted “open marriage” is repulsive. And God is no more willing to what us with lesser things.
· He must be our highest love and joy.
God is quite intolerant on this point. But he has a choice between being intolerant or being unloving.
If God really perfectly good and all that is pleasing comes from him, then anything less than him is not good. Said another way “Accept no substitutes.”
· It’s like God want to give us nice crisp $100 bills, but we keep grabbing for the monopoly money.
There is only one way to cultivate this undivided passion for God: Time – time spent in prayer, in his Word (Psalms is great), and simply contemplating him, focusing on loving him with all our heart, soul, and strength.
I want to close on this thought: The good news is that our highest duty is not to ritual or endless rules, but to love. The bad news is we can’t even do this. We cannot love God as he deserves to be loved.
· But the Good News, the Gospel, is that we don’t have to.
The other thing about Deut. being a covenant is that it is about God’s grace in loving us, not our ability to obey and love him:
Deuteronomy 7:7-8 7 The LORD did not set his affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples. 8 But it was because the LORD loved you and kept the oath he swore to your forefathers that he brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the land of slavery, from the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt.
Duet. is about grace as much as Romans is. In the end, it is about God loving us:
The command to love isn’t a selfish demand of an egotistical deity, but God giving us the very best he has to offer: Himself.
· In response we turn and give ourselves fully to him.
Q & A
Examine your love for God:
1. Is it based on all of who he is, not just one part?
2. Are you demonstrating your love through obedience?
3. Is God your only priority, or do other things edge him out?
4. Do you desire God more than anything, or is your love out of obligation?
Main Point(s) of sermon:
· We love God through: Good doctrine
· Total obedience
· Desiring God above all else
· Proper priorities
Objectives of sermon:
· Call us to truly love God with all our heart soul and mind.