Sunday, February 4, 2018
Winter/Spring Sermon Series: Experiencing God at Such a Time as This
Pursuing a Love Relationship with God
Matt. 22: 34-40
Intro: When Charles Schwab was 70 years old, he made the following statement. These words were spoken for the record in a court of law after he’d just won a nuisance suit. He said, “I’d like to say here in a court of law, and speaking as an old man, that 9/10ths of my troubles are traceable to my being kind to others.
-Look, young people, if you want to steer away from trouble, be hard-boiled. Be quick w/a good loud “no” to anyone and everyone. If you follow this rule, you will seldom be bothered as you tread life’s pathway. Except you’ll have no friends, you’ll be lonely, and you won’t have any fun!”
Those of us who’ve lived any time on this earth understand exactly what he’s saying. The fact of the matter is it’s far easier to be a loner, it’s far easier to only deal w/ourselves than it is to mix it up in life w/a bunch of other people. B/c when you start mixing it up w/other people, when you get involved in other people’s lives, trouble’s right around the corner; life becomes much more difficult.
Yet if we only stay to ourselves we miss out on making a difference in other people’s lives. We miss out on personal growth and experiencing love.
ILL: In 1952, FBCR held her first worship service. It was an exciting day. It was truly a great day. But let me tell you something. It would’ve been a whole lot easier not to start this church. It would’ve been easier for the folks to stay in the church they left. They had to build this church from the ground up. I’m not just talking about the physical building. Hard work!!!
It would’ve been easier for those who helped start the church to stay where they were as well. I think that’s why I’m asked the question all the time, “Why is this church here?” My 1st response is b/c I believe God wanted it here, and I believe God brought many together over the years for this endeavor. But recently, that question has a little more teeth to it. It did got me asking the question “What is the purpose for this church?”
That’s why I’m going to be going thru a series of messages very simply entitled “Experiencing God For Such a Time as This.” And it’s my hope that you’ll have a better understanding of what the purpose of FBCR is and what this church is going to accomplish in this community. And today you’re going to see the driving force in why FBCR is here is love.
Today in our passage of Scripture we’re going to see Jesus sharing the greatest purpose we have as individuals and as a church. And it’s in the verses of Scripture we’re going to read that we’ll see the purpose of why FBCR is here in Blythewood.
TEXT: MATTHEW 22: 34-40
At this time Jesus was becoming a very popular teacher in Israel. He was performing miracles, His teaching ability mesmerized crowds, and He had the ability to get people to follow Him. While He was able to do all these great things though, there was a segment of society that didn’t like Him at all.
Interestingly enough one of the groups that couldn’t stand Jesus was the religious crowd. They were afraid He was going to take away their followers so they wanted to do what they could to get rid of Jesus. In our Scripture today we’ll see they tried to ask Jesus a question they thought would get Him into trouble w/the people. They had one of their people ask Jesus what the greatest commandment in the Bible was.
And to their surprise, Jesus answered the question w/great wisdom. And it’s in the midst of Jesus’ answer that we learn the purpose of FBCR. Our purpose is to be a church that loves. Loves who? 1st of all we’re to:
1: LOVE GOD (vv. 35-38)
One of the major struggles of religion at this time was legalism. The problem w/legalism is its focus is on following laws instead of following God. And there was no doubt the religious leaders of the day were into following laws. They had taken the 10 commandments and the first 5 books of the Bible and came up w/over 600 rules and regulations that they determined had to be followed in order to please God and be a good person. But the thing that made it even more confusing, other than having over 600 laws to follow, was the religious teachers couldn’t even determine which of the laws were the most important to follow.
And what ended up happening was the very rules and regulations they wanted to follow to be considered good people and be considered right in the eyes of God actually ended up doing the opposite.
People ended up feeling like they were enslaved spiritually b/c there were so many rules and regulations for them to follow and they just couldn’t do it. When you’ve got over 600 rules and regulations to fulfill you’re going to end up messing up a few of them. And it caused people to feel defeated.
Amazingly, we have fallen into the same trap today. There are far too many people who look at the church and look at religion and look at God as being solely concerned w/keeping the rules; solely concerned with following certain regulations. And what happens is the rules and regulations become the focal point of our faith.
And instead of seeing a relationship w/Christ as providing freedom, meaning and purpose in life, people see a relationship w/Christ as meaning slavery, as meaning the end of enjoyment in life.
The result is the church can often times seem to a lot of people like a police force that’s more interested in how people look and behave in society more than anything else. We become known for what we are against rather than what we are for.
Now I want you to understand me here. I’m not saying behavior is not important. It is tremendously important. Jesus said in Matt. 7:18-20-“A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.”
But fruit is a by-product of something else. When is a tree able to bear fruit? When is a plant able to give off blossoms? When it’s been properly watered and cared for. When it’s received proper nourishment. A tree doesn’t automatically start bearing fruit. It has to have a relationship, so to speak, w/water first.
And the same thing is true spiritually. That is why Jesus said the greatest commandment of all is to love the Lord your God! He didn’t say the greatest commandment is to help other people; to read the Bible; to give $ to the church.
You know why? B/c if we don’t love God first, we won’t be able to sustain those other things for long. We’ll talk more @ that in a minute. FBCR is not here to police your actions. FBCR is here to help people come into a love relationship w/Jesus Christ. And the best way we do that is by telling people how to connect w/Jesus and then show them that we’ve connected w/Jesus by LOVING them.
So, what’s the purpose of FBCR? First and foremost, it’s to help people to love God w/all their heart, soul and mind. What does that mean? Well, to the ancient Hebrews, the heart referred to the core of one’s personal being. In other words, our affections are to be fixed on Jesus more than anyone or anything else. Those things that we truly love are the things we spend the most time with!
When Jesus said we’re to love God w/our soul, He was saying that we must love God so much that we’d be willing to give up our very lives in service to Him.
This verse is referring to us being willing to use any part of our lives for the service of God. If you’re a businessman, it’s our hope FBCR can teach you how to use your business and your influence and relationships to demonstrate to people that you’re a follower of Christ who loves them.
To love God w/your soul means you’re willing to devote all of your being to service to God. Jesus then says we’re to love Him w/all our minds. We can demonstrate our love to God and teach others to love God by submitting our intellect to God.
This means you’re willing to follow what God’s Word says even when it might not make sense to you. You might think, “What would that prove?” It would prove you trust God’s ways more than your own. It would show your willingness to admit God’s bigger than you are and that He’s most important in your life.
Folks, when it all comes down to it, there is no one greater to love and follow than God Himself. And God desires for us to love Him and to teach others to love Him, and as we do so He’ll bless us. Jesus said in Matt. 6:33-“Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you.” Yet many times what we want to do is to love other things first and then love God on the side. And folks, when we do that we will not see the blessings of God in our lives.
ILL: Imagine a man proposing to his sweetheart by saying, “Honey, I love you and want to marry you. I’ll take good care of you and provide for you. I’ll be a good father to our children. All I ask is that you allow me one day a year for another woman.” Ladies, would you accept that type of offer? I seriously doubt it! Well in a similar sense it’s ridiculous for us to think God would be willing to accept part-time love and devotion from us.
What is the purpose of FBCR? FBCR’s purpose is to be a church that loves. And we’re to first love God. What is the purpose of FBCR? Who else is FBCR supposed to love? We’re also to:
2: LOVE PEOPLE (vv. 39-40)
It’s interesting to see that the religious leaders of the day saw over 600 rules and regulations that needed to be followed to be right in the eyes of God. Yet Jesus was able to take those 600+ rules and regulations and narrow them down to 2. He first said, “Love God.” Then He said, “Love people.”
You know what? We can make it really complicated in following God. We can try to do so many things to look good in God’s sight and yet God only asks 2 things from us. He says, “Love me and then love others.”
You know why? B/c if we do those 2 things then we eliminate the need for the rest of the law. We don’t have to worry about breaking the law of committing adultery if we truly love our neighbor! We don’t have to worry about honoring our mother and father if we truly love them in the first place.
We don’t have to worry about falling prey to other religions if we’re worshiping the one true God, Jesus Christ. If you want to know what FBCR is trying to do, this is it. We first of all want to love God. But then we want to love people. Well how can we know if we love other people? Use the measure of love you have for yourself to determine if you love other people.
According to Jesus’ words in v. 39 how much are we to love others? We’re to love others as much as we love ourselves. Love isn’t merely sentimental and emotional. It’s purposeful, intentional, and active. When a person is hungry, what does he do for himself?
He feeds himself! When he’s thirsty he gets himself something to drink. When he’s sick, he’ll take medicine or go see a doctor. Why do we do those things? B/c we’re all consumed, whether we realize it or not, w/taking care of ourselves. We do whatever it takes to provide for ourselves.
Well, that’s the type of love we’re to have for other people: To care for their needs; to show genuine interest in who they are as people. What good is it going to do someone if we see they need to get a tire iron out of their eye and yet we just tell them, “Good luck on getting that thing out!” and then we walk off?
James summarized it better when he wrote in James 2:15-17- “Suppose a brother or sister is w/o clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, ‘Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action is dead.”
If we’re really going to be a place that loves other people, what’s that going to mean for FBCR? It means we’re going to have to be about action; about meeting needs. What kind of needs are going to have to be met?
Physical needs. Some of you right now know people who have a physical need. They might need some food b/c they’re poor or they might need something in their house or car fixed but they can’t fix it b/c they don’t have any $. You reach out to them and help them w/that need.
Don’t try to unload the responsibility on someone else. YOU meet that need as a representative of FBCR and as a follower of Christ. There are emotional needs that need to be met. We are living in a world where people are hungry for attention.
ILL: Pollster George Barna did a study that concluded that while America is the wealthiest nation in the world her population is the loneliest in the world.
Emotional needs. You can minister to people emotionally by reaching out and connecting w/them. There might be someone you know who’s been down lately. Call them this week and tell them that you’ve missed seeing them and you’d like to invite them to dinner. After you do that, invite them to church with you or to one of our LAN Groups.
Write an encouraging letter to someone. People love to receive something that’s not junk mail. Of course, the ultimate need people have is spiritual. And our church and the members of this church must be people who are willing to reach out to help people have their spiritual needs met.
Spiritual needs. There are a lot of needs FBCR should strive to meet. But ultimately the need we must meet is spiritual. B/c if that need is not met there will be many people who will spend an eternity in hell separated from Jesus Christ.
That’s why it’s vital you invite people to come worship w/you on Sunday, so they can hear the Word of God preached. That’s why it’s vital you bring people to our Bible study groups so they can hear Jesus taught in a non-threatening environment that will give them the opportunity to discover Jesus and begin to mature spiritually.
Now here’s my question for you. Are you demonstrating to people that you love them? I know it can be inconvenient to love people and meet their needs, but it’s something our Lord has called us to do b/c it is something He has done for us. Godly love transforms lives. A lack of love destroys.
ILL: Years ago, Father John Powell told the story about a young girl named Norma Jean Mortenson. She was a young girl who spent much of her childhood in foster homes. In one of those foster homes, when she was 8 years old, she was abused physically and given a nickel and told to tell no one.
When Norma Jean tried to tell her foster mother, her mother spanked her and told her not to say anything about it again b/c the man she accused of abusing her was a man who faithfully paid his rent.
As time went on Norma Jean turned into a very pretty girl and people began to take notice. Boys would whistle at her and she liked it, but she wished they’d also know she was a person too, not just a body.
After a period of time, Norma Jean went to Hollywood where she changed her name to Marilyn Monroe. Publicity people told her they were going to turn her into an American sex symbol. It worked. She became an overnight success. But she still longed to be recognized as a person. She longed to be loved.
-After she became famous, everyone began to hate Marilyn Monroe. She would show up on the set 2 hours late causing people to say she was a prima donna. What they didn’t know was she was in her dressing room vomiting b/c she was so nervous. She kept asking, “Will someone please notice I’m a person!”
-She went thru 3 marriages pleading for someone to notice her as a person and not just an object. At the age of 35, on a Saturday night, Marilyn Monroe killed herself. Her maid found her the next morning on her bed w/the telephone dangling off the receiver.
-Investigators later learned that she’d called another actor and told him she’d taken enough sleeping pills to kill herself. He told her he didn’t care. They were the last words she was to hear.
Clare Buce wrote she thought the dangling telephone was a symbol of Monroe’s life. She died b/c she never got thru to anyone who understood.
There are scores of people around us who have never made the connection w/Jesus Christ. And it’s our job to connect them to Him. That is the purpose of FBCR.
Conclusion: What is FBCR’s purpose? Why is this church here? Well, FBCR’s purpose is to be a church that loves. FBCR is here to love God and to love people. Pretty simple stuff.
Some of you are looking to connect w/God. Maybe you’ve tried to connect w/$, relationships, material things, but none of those things have brought you the joy you hoped to have. I want you to know today you can connect w/Jesus Christ.
How can you do this? Cry out to God—Tell Him you know you’re a sinner. To please forgive you of your sins. Ask Him to help you find peace in Him. Acknowledge that He died for you and rose from the grave and you want put your hope in Him.