Monday, May 20, 2013

What Does it Mean to Love the Lord Our God?

Preached at Community Christian Church, Durant, Oklahoma
David P. Kautt
Sunday, May 19, 2013

Matthew 22:34-40, “But when the Pharisees heard that He had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. Then one of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, and saying, “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?”  Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”

            How many of you have a ‘life verse’?  Maybe you’ve never heard the term ‘life verse’ before, so let me briefly explain.  Likely, a lot of us have a favorite Bible verse or passage; John 3:16, the twenty-third psalm, something like that.  But that’s not what I have in mind when I ask, “How many of you have a ‘life verse’?”  What I mean by a ‘life verse’ is a verse that, when you run across it, when you read and study it, delve into what it means by what it says and how all of that relates to your life, you say to yourself, ‘Hey!  That’s what I want my life to be all about!’  ‘Hey!  That’s how I want God to work in my life, how I want to see Him work in me and through me. 

So, now that I have explained what I meant by my initials question, allow me to ask it one more time, “How many of you have a ‘life verse’?”  And, if I may be so bold, what is your ‘life verse’?  Anybody? 

I noticed two or three things in today’s worship bulletin that I wanted to connect with for just a minute, while you’re pondering my ‘life verse’ question.  First of all, the insert sheet that gives you a glimpse into who I am and what kind of family the David Kautt family is.  Some of our life verses are Proverbs 3:5-6, “Trust in the Lord, with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding.  Acknowledge the Lord in all your ways, and He will make your paths straight…”  Out in the margin beside those verses in several of my Bibles I have written my name, David Kautt, why?  Because those verses encapsulate at least a part of what I pray God is making of my life, of my family member’s lives.  The same holds truth with 2 Timothy 2:20-26.  Look those verses up, read them, and, if you’d like, ask me, ask us, how they connect with who we are, how they relate to what we pray God is doing in and through our lives. 

Yes, I noticed the info published about my family and me, and I appreciate the ‘red font’ and ‘green sheet’ welcome you have extended to us so far!  But, what I also made notice of is that today, May 19, 2013, you are honoring all the mothers and all the graduates!  Nathan H., your Youth Minister, and Garrett L., who is graduating from Durant High School, are the graduates.  And, you ladies, you know who you are, the dear women who have been God’s instruments in giving birth to us, you are the other honorees today.  Congratulations to all of you, praise God for all of you! 

But, listen, now that I have hopefully connected with virtually all of you – mothers, graduates, prospective minister and others – let me ask you another rather important question: what is your life’s PURPOSE?  I mean, mothers, you give birth to those precious little babies, knit together so skillfully, so wondrously by the hands of Almighty God, in your womb, God uses you, as His vessel to bring these little ones into this world.  Now what?  Do you see it, ladies?  And fellows, those of us who are their husbands, and the fathers of those dear children, do we see it?!  And are we, as the ones God has called, commissioned, and yes, empowered by His Holy Spirit to assist our dear wives in seeing it and acting upon it, are we leading them to carry it out?  Ladies, mothers, what IS your life’s PURPOSE?  Matthew 22:37-39 – you’re more than just a ‘baby-making machine’!   You are more, God intends for you to be MORE than just a ‘homeroom mother’, or a ‘soccer mom!’  Several years ago, the Christian recording artist Steve Green sang a song that included the following line in it: “To love the Lord our God is the heartbeat of our mission…”  Mothers, ladies, you want to zero in on a powerful, course-altering ‘life verse’ or ‘theme’?  There it is: Matthew 22:37.  All that you do, all that you are, all that God wants to do THROUGH you and make OF you, can be summed up in that verse, and in the two or three verses that follow it! 

As you learn what it means to love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength; and as your PURSUE loving God that way, realizing - as 1 John 4 puts it - that you love God because He first loved you.  You know what?  I’m certain that God will, then, help you recognize how He wants to use you, how He’ll give you what it takes for Him to use you, to instill that all-encompassing love for God in your children!  Ladies, mothers, let’s say it again, shall we?  Repeat it after me, “To love the Lord our God is the heartbeat of our mission.” 

Then, Garrett and Nathan, where are you, my young friends?  Garrett, how old are you?  You will be graduating from Durant High School any day now, right?  Garrett, 34 years ago this week I graduated from High School, and what a huge step, what a wonderful milestone that is in your life.  Congratulations! 

And, Nathan, I understand that you walked across the stage at SEOSU, a week ago yesterday.  It took a lot of blood, sweat and tears to get that sheepskin, didn’t it?  30 years ago this month, I was blessed by God to be able to do the same.  Congratulations to you, too! 

But, Garret and Nathan, now what?  What is your life’s purpose?  Being a student, either in a desk in a classroom, or at a keyboard and in front of a screen at home, being a student is fine and dandy.  I spent 22 years of my life in school, counting kindergarten, elementary, junior high, high school, college and graduate school. 

But, listen, fellows, even as a Christian student, to be perpetually pursuing another diploma or another degree, if Jesus’ words in Matthew 22 have any truth and meaning to them, sitting in a classroom or in front of a key board and screen is not your life’s purpose.  What is?  Hey, fellows.  Pop quiz time.  How does the theme phrase go, the one I had the mother’s recite?  Ladies, let’s say it with them, okay?  “To love the Lord our God is the HEARTBEAT of our mission!”  Garret, there’s your life’s PURPOSE: loving God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength.  Nathan, there’s your ‘life verse’, Matthew 22:37, and the verses that go with it. 

But, what does all of this mean?  Can you explain it a little more for me, please?  Well, with what time we have left, let’s do that, shall we?  “To love the Lord our God,” this life’s mission and purpose ‘heartbeat’, “to love Him with all that we are – heart, soul, mind and strength – what we’re talking about, first of all, is relationship, not religiosity.  Love, what is that word?  Well, the English teachers among us will tell us that, depending on context and usage, it may either be a noun – person, place or thing – or, it may be a verb – an action word.  But, if I may, I’d like to suggest to you that the word love, at is core, it is a very powerful and meaningful RELATIONSHIP word!  When Jesus told the Pharisees, and their lawyer spokesman, that the greatest, most important commandment in the law was to love God, He wasn’t suggesting that those Pharisees offer up more sacrifices and bring to the altar more whole burnt offerings.   Jesus wasn’t urging them in the direction of more religiosity!  No!  He rebuked empty religiosity: “These people honor me with their LIPS, but their HEARTS are far from Me!”  (Matthew 15:8ff; Isa. 29:13)  Rather, He was challenging them to go the direction one of their own, a man named Saul of Tarsus, later went.  Yes, Jesus was calling them to “count all things LOSS for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord…”  (Phil. 3:7ff)  To love God, to love Him with ALL that we are, that mission, that life purpose, it’s all about relationship.  The surpassing greatness of knowing Jesus Christ as your Lord, it’s all about relationship, not religiosity. 

Secondly, to love God, to have that PURSUIT as the HEARTBEAT of your life’s mission, it’s about RESPONSIBILITY.  Responsibility, not selfish passivity.  To love God with all one’s heart, soul, mind and strength, it’s kind of like hugging your pillow, squeezing and caressing your favorite pillow cushion, right?  Aw, come on, right?  No, listen, my friends, hugging your pillow has about as much to do with loving God as holding a remote control while you make like a spud on your couch at home does, with standing in the batter’s box commissioned to hit a home run off Yu Darvish!  One is selfish passivity, the other is active, courageous, and yes, even obedient carrying out of one’s responsibility.  Remember how Jesus put it?  John 14:15 – He said, “If you love Me” – there’s that relationship word again.  Now, listen to the second half of the verse again, here’s where the responsibility comes in: “If you love Me, then KEEP My commandments!” 

Jesus, the originator of this first and foremost command, how does He define love?  Whether it’s being used as a noun or verb, the definition is the same: active RESPONSIBILITY – keep my commandments – not selfish passivity! 

Number three, what does it mean to LOVE God?  I mean, if this is to be the HEARTBEAT of who we are as Christians, then we’d better understand it, right?  To love God, to love and serve Jesus Christ, with all that we are, what does that look like? 

Allow me to suggest to you at least two key passages to study for answers to that question.  Matthew 6:1-18, and Matthew 23:25-28.  Find the Matthew 6 passage with me for just a moment.  Scan down through there and note with me that Jesus is teaching about three main subjects: prayer, fasting and alms, or doing what we might call ‘charity work’.  Keep looking down through there and what do you see in verses 1-4, 5-6 and lastly, verses 16-18?  To love God, to loves and serve Jesus Christ, what does it look like?  Well, first off, what it DOESN’T look like is an empty SHOW, a hollow SHADOW:  trying to gain the praise of men, all the while neglecting the evaluation of the Unseen One, the only one Whose approval or disapproval really matters!  To love God, what does it look like?  Well, whatever it looks like, as far as the Father in heaven is concerned, it looks REAL, it IS real, not just for show!

To love the Lord our God, what is it, Christians?  It is the HEARTBEAT of our mission!  And, what does that mean?  Explain it, one more time, will you, please? 

Got your seat belts fastened, yet?  Now’s a good time to do so.  Here’s why: because to love God, with ALL your heart, ALL your mind, ALL your soul, and ALL your strength, you know what it is, don’t you?  You see what it is, don’t you?  It is exceedingly RIGOUROUS.  “If any man would come after Me,” Jesus said, “let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me…”  To love God, to love and serve and obey Christ this way, listen, my friends, it is RIGOUROUS.  As Dietrich Bonhoeffer put it, discipleship is COSTLY.  It is!  But, listen, it also is exceedingly rich and rewarding! 

You see, it is to those who love God in this way that God promises to work all things together for their Good (Romans 8:28).  And, it is to those who love God in this way God promises to know them, to be in loving relationship with them.  (1 Cor. 8:3)  And, to those who love Him, those who love God in this intensely rigorous way, God promises ultimately, to preserve them, deliver them and to set them on high.  (Psalm 145:20, Psalm 91:14)