Monday, March 1, 2010

Rival Loves and Our Spiritual Health

Preached at Northwest Christian Church

David P. Kautt

Sunday Morning, February 28, 2010

1 John 2:15-17: Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world––the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life––is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.

How important is your health? Recently, that question and its answer has hit very close to home for many in this room, hasn't it, as many of us have faced, perhaps still are facing, challenges that pertain to our physical well-being. I know I can speak for my family, and maybe I can speak for yours also – to say that when it comes to our health, the vibrancy and strength of our bodies, there's almost nothing we wouldn't attempt, in order to be strong or regain strength...

But, listen, my loved ones, as important as physical health is – and, believe me, it is important – it's difficult, even very frustrating to want to be actively involved in serving the Lord, if we're regularly having to battle sickness. But, listen, as important as our physical well-being might be, I would suggest to you that there's something even more important for us to consider – something even more vital for us to pursue. What is it? You know what it is, I'm sure... it is our spiritual well-being! Our spiritual health, if you would...

Earlier this month – the month of February – the month we call the month of love, on Valentine's Day we learned again about the great love of God for us and toward us in Jesus Christ!

Romans 5:6-11, read it again with me, would you please? -

For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. And not only that, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.

The redeeming, justifying, reconciling, saving love of God – demonstrated toward us when He gave His only begotten Son to die in our place and for our benefit – what a huge part of our spiritual health that is, right? There would be no spiritual health – no spiritual life – without it, because otherwise, we are DEAD in our trespasses and sins.

But, listen – as we close out this month of love, as we call it – what I want you to see and realize with me is that there are other loves - what this Book describes as 'RIVAL loves' that are out there competing for our affection, and inviting and even enticing us to be loyal to them.

Now, here's the big question – please focus with me, right now, if you would, on God's love for us, and these other loves, that [like God's love] invite our loyalty and affection - If our spiritual health could be compared to a love relationship between two people, what do you think the effects would be on our spiritual health, if we were to allow ourselves to be enticed by these other loves – these 'rival loves'?

The flip side of the love of God for us, as demonstrated – as manifested in Jesus Christ – is these other loves – yes! But, what impact does joining ourselves to these other loves have on our spiritual well-being – any? A little? Or, maybe a lot more than we want to admit?

While you're contemplating all of that, allow me to take you to two or three other places in Scripture, to begin to unpack an answer to this probing question about the effects of other loves on our spiritual health...

First of all, underlying this entire discussion is one basic premise – one foundational principle – I'm not going to tell you what that premise or principle is right up front, but I trust you'll immediately recognize it, as soon as I read the following verses, so stay with me, if you would, please. What is the underlying principle or premise that is at the heart of this lesson about rival loves? Don try to answer, just hear what the word of God says:

Matthew 4:8-10: Again, the devil took Him up on an exceedingly high mountain, and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to Him, "All these things I will give You if You will fall down and worship me." Then Jesus said to him, "Away with you, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the LORD your God, and Him only you shall serve.’"

What is the underlying principle – what premise lies at the foundation of this lesson? Matthew chapter 6, Jesus' words we call the Sermon on the Mount. What does He say there to those would-be followers of His?

Matthew 6:24: No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.

And, while you are there, and thinking about it, notice also what He declares in verse 19 through 21:

Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matthew 6:19-21)

Don't lay up treasures on earth. DO store up, do invest yourself in heavenly treasures – why? Because where your treasure is, there will you heart be also!

One more passage pertaining to the foundational premise – the underlying principle - we are seeking to understand and build our lives upon. Think about it as we read, this time, from Mark chapter 12. Mark 12:28-34. We're only going to read verses 28-31, but I wanted you to notice the conclusion of that text also -

Mark 12:28-31: Then one of the scribes came, and having heard them reasoning together, perceiving that He had answered them well, asked Him, "Which is the first commandment of all?" Jesus answered him, "The first of all the commandments is: ‘Hear, O Israel, the LORD our God, the LORD is one. ‘And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment. "And the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these."

Okay. So, now we've read these 3 passages from Jesus' words in Matthew and in Mark. So, now – what is the underlying principle or premise related to the subject of other loves – rival loves? Two things – first of all, as Jesus indicated in Matthew 6, if you and I are to love – I mean really love the way He's talking about – there can be really, and truly, only ONE object of that love! You cannot - Jesus says, you cannot – it is impossible for you and me to truly love God AND anything, or anyone else! And, then – with that – what's the second aspect of the underlying principle or premise? Listen [to this – in God's way of thinking there is no such thing as love Him AND loving something or someone else – so, what then? Second aspect of the premise: He wants ALL of your love! In fact, my friends, as our Creator, as our Sustainer, as our Savior and King – He DESERVES all of our love! “The Lord your God you shall worship and Him only shall you serve!” Underlying this discussion – this lesson on 'rival loves' - is this foundational principle: you can't truly love more than one; and, God wants to be (in fact, MUST be) that One!

But, then what? Then you and I pick up this Book, and what do we discover? What hard truths do we come fact to face with as we open the Word of God and use it as a mirror? Beloved, we come face to face with the reality that you and I are SINNERS – that though God has said one thing about loving Him and serving Him ONLY – we're going to try to prove Him wrong! We're going to show Him that we can love Him AND something or someone else! And, where does all of that lead? Loving, serving, giving our loyalty to OTHER loves – what effects do such things have on our spiritual health? Do you remember our previous question? Walk along with me through this Book, as we look for some explanations – some illustrations, some answers – to this question.

1 Kings chapter 11 – what does loving a rival love do to one's spiritual well-being? And, is it really that important?

At the height of King Solomon's popularity, prosperity and power – after having looked to God for wisdom to govern – what does Solomon do? What course does he take, and how does it impact him spiritually?

1 Kings 11:1-13: But King Solomon loved many foreign women, as well as the daughter of Pharaoh: women of the Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Sidonians, and Hittites–– from the nations of whom the LORD had said to the children of Israel, "You shall not intermarry with them, nor they with you. Surely they will turn away your hearts after their gods." Solomon clung to these in love. And he had seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines; and his wives turned away his heart. For it was so, when Solomon was old, that his wives turned his heart after other gods; and his heart was not loyal to the LORD his God, as was the heart of his father David. For Solomon went after Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, and after Milcom the abomination of the Ammonites. Solomon did evil in the sight of the LORD, and did not fully follow the LORD, as did his father David. Then Solomon built a high place for Chemosh the abomination of Moab, on the hill that is east of Jerusalem, and for Molech the abomination of the people of Ammon. And he did likewise for all his foreign wives, who burned incense and sacrificed to their gods.

¶ So the LORD became angry with Solomon, because his heart had turned from the LORD God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice, and had commanded him concerning this thing, that he should not go after other gods; but he did not keep what the LORD had commanded. Therefore the LORD said to Solomon, "Because you have done this, and have not kept My covenant and My statutes, which I have commanded you, I will surely tear the kingdom away from you and give it to your servant. "Nevertheless I will not do it in your days, for the sake of your father David; I will tear it out of the hand of your son. "However I will not tear away the whole kingdom; I will give one tribe to your son for the sake of My servant David, and for the sake of Jerusalem which I have chosen."

Matthew 19:16-22 – refresh your memory on it just briefly with me:

Now behold, one came and said to Him, "Good Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life?" So He said to him, "Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God. But if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments." He said to Him, "Which ones?" Jesus said, "‘You shall not murder,’ ‘You shall not commit adultery,’ ‘You shall not steal,’ ‘You shall not bear false witness,’ ‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’" The young man said to Him, "All these things I have kept from my youth. What do I still lack?" Jesus said to him, "If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me." But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.

The Rich Young Ruler as he is called, when faced with a choice – that's really the key word, isn't it? When faced with a choice of love and loyalty, he chose his possessions – his stuff – rather than Jesus! And, the Scripture says, he went away sorrowful.

Luke 18:9-14: Also He spoke this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: "Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. "The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other men––extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. ‘I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.’ "And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’ "I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted."

Jesus' parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector, you remember it? Which one of these two men returned to his home justified – in a right relationship with God? The Pharisee – who clung to his pride, his supposed spiritual superiority, or this humble, repentant tax collector? Take a look at verses 13 and 14 and you'll have your answer!

2 Timothy 4:9-10 – What better, or maybe I should say, what more worse illustration can you think of than this one, to show the effects of deciding to love a rival love? 2 Timothy 4:9-10 – facing the end of his life, at the hands of the Roman executioner, in need of comfort and companionship in his final days – Paul urges Timothy to leave Ephesus, and come as quickly as possible to Rome, to be with him – why? Because Demas – a formerly loyal and helpful companion – like Judas Iscariot to Jesus, “Demas has forsaken me because he loves [notice the key word there] this present world”. One of those other loves this Book warns us about – what has he done? He has left Paul in the lurch, and headed off to Thessalonica!

I mentioned Judas Iscariot just a moment ago – this one who for perhaps 3 precious years of his life walked with Jesus, listen to Jesus, watched Jesus as He performed miracles and ministered to the needy – Judas Iscariot, this 'friend' who ate of the Unleavened Bread Jesus described as 'His body' and drunk of the fruit of the vine, His blood – what does the Scripture tell us Judas chose to do? This thief, this traitor, this son of perdition, chose to love himself, and what he could get out of the money bag, over loving and serving the only One Who could save him!

What are the effects – the implications - for one's spiritual health of deciding to love someone or something other than Jesus?

We read at the outset 1 John 2:15-17, let's go back there in just a minute.

The choice to love 'rival loves' is a alluring, enticing choice, for sure! No doubt about it – we look into this mirror at the Solomons and the Demases and the Judases, at the Adams and Eves – and what do we see? We see ourselves – we see or should see, how strong these attractions really are – but, listen – do we also see have fatal these other loves can prove to be to our spiritual health?

1 John 2:15-17: Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world––the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life––is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.

Love for this world – this evil, satanically-oriented system – and love for things of this world, what does it do, what impact does it have on our love for God? Verse 15 – just like Jesus' words, “You cannot serve two masters – you cannot serve God and mammon,” notice how this text puts it. John the Apostle informs us that love for the world and its stuff, AND love for God cannot truly and fully co-exist in our lives. It's either one or the other. And, then – look at what else he shows us, mindful, I'm sure, of the very thing that happened to Judas Iscariot – thinking, I'm certain – of the 1 Kings record of Solomon's infamous spiritual downfall – and, most of all, remembering what Jesus said, and the responses of folks like Thomas after he saw the mark of Jesus' love for him, “You are my Lord, and my God!”

What does the Apostle John teach us about loving God, versus loving any or all of these rivals?

Verse 17 – Like Judas, hanging from that tree of self destruction, John says, “The world and the lust of it, these things are passing away – but, he who does the will of God abides forever!” Forever!

How important is our spiritual health and well-being? Many of us go – or have gone to great lengths to insure or reclaim our physical health – we want to be strong physically, and perhaps for some very good reasons. But, listen – man shall not live by bread alone! Treasures laid up on earth, the moths eat them, rust corrupts them, thieves steal them – the world and its lusts of the eye, the flesh, and the mind – these things don't last! But, loving God, and even more – being loved BY God – such things are eternal! Anything and everything we can do to enhance our spiritual well-being, what can we say about it? It will reap everlasting results!

In that 2 Timothy 4 passage – the Apostle Paul declares that the crown of righteousness is laid up for all who love and long for the appearing of Jesus! Is that what you are loving and longing for? If not, is there anything you can do about it? The Spirit of Jesus speaking through the apostle John to the church at Ephesus has this to say in Revelation 2:4 – If you've left your first love, there is something you can do! Revelation 2:4 – “Remember therefore from where you have fallen!” “Repent – yes, repent – turn your heart and your hands and feet AWAY from that rival love, and return to do the works you did at first!”

Remember – repent and return to God – He's your first love. “Do it!” Jesus says, “or else I will come and remove your lamp-stand from its place!”

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