Community Group Study Notes
- What does it mean that love comes from God? How does that inform our understanding of what love truly looks like?
- How does your life display love for God? Be specific. What difference does that make in sharing the Gospel with other people?
- What is one action step you can take with what you heard in Sunday’s message?
"We love because he first loved us." (1 John 4:19)
Anyone that would be honest enough or unashamed enough to admit that you were listening to music in the 1990s, depending on your age? If you were listening to music in the 1990s, you couldn't get away from one artist, Celine Dion. There was no escaping. She was everywhere. She owned charts for the entirety of the 1990s and if I were to ask you what Celine Dion's greatest song or most notable song ever was, I'm sure that most of you would say, "It's that song from the Titanic," right? That's the song, right? I mean, whatever that one was called. My Heart Will Go On, right. I knew it eventually but I didn't want to admit it. Nonetheless, if you're young, the only way that you know that song ... That's the only song from Celine Dion that you know. It's the only one, because you've been on YouTube, and on YouTube you see the greatest sports moments set the to the theme of the Titanic.
If you haven't, I'm not suggesting everything on YouTube is good to watch. It's not. This, however, nectar, sweet, sweet nectar, if you watch Super Bowl winning touchdowns set to the theme of My Heart Will Go On. I just laugh the whole time. It's hilarious. I don't know if it's meant to inspire. It does. It inspires laughter every time I watch it. It's hilarious, so if you want to do that, just happy Mother's Day. It's your gift from me, tea bags and this reference. But you know what? That's actually not her greatest hit. According to the Billboard Top 100, the longest standing, number 1 hit from Celine Dion is the song, Because You Loved Me.
Now, this isn't trivia day with Jerry. I'm not here to, like, entertain you. I'm telling you that because the lyrics of the chorus of that song, that you may remember or may recognize, actually set an idea in place that I want to uncover. It's not exactly how she sang it, but there's an idea behind it that I want us to pay attention to. You might remember the chorus, right? I'm not going to sing it. "You were my strength." What? I just couldn't help it. I can't help myself. It's Celine Dion. I'm not doing it. "When I was weak. You were my voice when I couldn't speak. You were my eyes when I couldn't see." This isn't actually a comedy deal. It's a serious song. "You saw the best there was in me. Lifted me up when I couldn't reach. You gave me faith cause you believed. I'm everything I am because you loved me."
There's an idea behind this song. Now, not withstanding that the song that she's singing is aimed at a love interest and it probably crosses the line of being something that could be said of another human being, and is actually walking into maybe the space of some areas that should only be designated for God, but nonetheless, there's an idea behind the song. In fact, there's a song that's out right now by a guy named Dierks Bentley, who's a country artist. Some of you who acknowledge that or you listen to country, you might know the song. It's called Woman Amen.
Now, here's what the course of that song says. It says, "She gives me faith. She gives me grace. She gives me hope. She gives me strength. She gives me love, love without end. Thank God for this woman, Amen." Now, in both of those songs, there's an idea that's brewing underneath them, that, again, notwithstanding that Dierks Bentley or whoever wrote the song is maybe ascribing to a woman something close to deification, something that only maybe should be ascribed to God, like love without end, right, which can't really be done. Nonetheless, so what's the idea behind the kind of these songs? The idea is that there is a love that's outside of us, that makes us who we are. There's a love outside of us that makes us who we are.
Now, if I could take it out of the realm of maybe, you know, kind of pop music, and maybe let me pull it into the realm of Disney. I know that was a weird transition, but nonetheless, let me do it. There was a particular Disney character that virtually everyone in the world is familiar with, Cinderella. Cinderella said something when she finally turned into Cinderella, you know, kind of this beautiful princess. She said something to the prince, that I think is rich with theological significance. Here was her question. "Do you love me because I'm beautiful or am I beautiful because you love me?"
You see, the same idea is running through all of these things. It's this grand idea that there is a love outside of us that actually makes us who we are. The reason that I bring these things up as illustrations is because what I wanted to do at the very beginning of this message is I wanted to plant inside of your mind that idea. I wanted to start you down a track with that idea, because it's going to be important when we come to our text today, what we're studying, that we started studying last week. Last week we began to study what the greatest commandment was. You remember the setup right? There was some teachers of the law, particularly on in particular, that was saying to Jesus, "Hey, what's the greatest commandment?"
Now, this was a bit of a trap question in some degree, because they had basically boiled the law down and said there's 613 commandments, and they're broken out into light commandments, and heavy commandments, and it's like a mess. They're asking Jesus, like, even though they're debating one another which one's the greatest or which ones are the most important. They say, "Jesus, which one is the greatest commandment?" Then Jesus answers the question. I'm going to show it to you in our text today. Last week we were in Matthew's gospel, but I want to show you that story in Mark's gospel today, because I want to add to this, and I want us to think a little bit more richly about it.
Here was Jesus' response to the question. "The most important one, answered Jesus, is this. Hear Oh Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength." This was how Jesus answered the question. But what I want us to keep in mind is that while Jesus was quoting from the Old Testament, Deuteronomy chapter 6, called the Shema, I talked about that last week, that word Shema in Hebrew means hear, because it's referencing, "Hear Oh Israel, the Lord Our God, the Lord is one," or the Lord is God all by himself. Love the Lord your God with everything that you are, right? That was the answer that he had. But before we start talking about and unpacking the idea of what it means for us to have love for God, we need to understand some things that precede that. In other words, before we want to talk about love for God, we need to first talk about love from God.
You see, that's why I put this idea of what I was saying at the very beginning of my talk today. I wanted to put it in your mind, because it's really important for us to grab hold of as a first priority. Before we start talking about love for God, we need to talk about love from God. Part of the reason for that is, because the apostle of love, who was John ... Wouldn't you like that to be like your nickname? Hi, I'm Jerry, the apostle of love. I mean, it was John, right? He was called the apostle of love because he wrote so significantly on the idea of love. When John, in his later years, is actually writing about this idea of love, listen to what he says in 1 John, chapter 4, verse 19. He says, "We love because God first loved us."
You see, one of the things that we have to understand, ladies and gentlemen, is that we are not the first ones to the love party, that God is the initiator of love. God is the first one to love and the reason that we love is, because God has first loved us. Now, what happens when we begin to understand this in our minds, is it's really helpful for us, because we start to understand kind of different questions that we ask about God living us first. For instance, here's the first question I would ask. When did God love us first? When did he do that?
Well, listen to how Paul describes that in Ephesians chapter 1, "Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For He chose us in Him before the creation of the world, to be holy and blameless in His sight. In love, He predestined us for adoption to son-ship through Jesus Christ in accordance with His pleasure and will, to the praise of His glorious grace, which He has freely given us in the one He loves."
When did God, listen to this, when did God start loving His people? He started loving His people before the creation of the world, that God has been doing this since eternity past, since before we were ever in existence, God was already loving us, and in love, before we existed, he predestined that we would be conformed into the image of His Son and adopted into the family of God. You see, before we get the idea of what it means to have love for God, we need to start understanding the idea of love from God. When did He love us, before everything, before everything.
Let me ask as second question. How did He love us first? Well, listen to how Paul answers that in Romans chapter 5, "But God demonstrates His own love for us in this. While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." When did He start loving us, before creation, before the creation of the world. In eternity past, God was loving us. How did he show that to us? He showed that to us that even while we were yet sinners, His love was being aimed in our direction. Well, there's another question that comes. Where did God love us first? Well, listen to how John says it in 1 John 4, "This is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins."
In other words, the where is the cross, and the Bible teaches us that Jesus is the lamb of God, slain before the foundation of the world. In other words, God had in His mind, in His love for His people before the creation of the world, that He was going to love his people with an everlasting love and this was before we even existed. How is He going to demonstrate that, that even while we rejected, even while we were still in our sin, even while we were yet sinners, Christ still came and died for us, the lamb who was slain before the foundation of the world. When we look at the cross, we see exactly where God has always loved us.
But there's a last question I'd ask too. Why? Why would He love us first? Well, John answers that in 1 John 4, "And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love, lives in God and God in them." Why would God love us first? Here's why. He can't help it. It's who He is. By his very nature, by his very character, this is fundamental to the nature of God. There is no definition, ladies and gentlemen. There is no definition of love outside of God, at least any definition that's true, because God is the definition. He is love. It doesn't just say God has love, God shows love. No, God is love.
You see, for us to be able to grab onto this is really important, because before we talk about love for God, we need to talk about love from God, because when we begin to get this understanding in our mind, that this all came from God, that we have been loved first and therefore we can love, when we get that in our mind, you know what it does? It starts to guard us against our legalistic tendency. Do you know what our legalistic tendency is? To try, and earn the love of God, to try, and work for the love of God. Listen. As if! We can't do that, but that's what we endeavor to do, right? We're told by the world that we live in that every love is with a condition. That if you do, blank, you will get love. If you do, blank, you will get acceptance, except that's not what the Gospel teaches us.
For those of us that are His own, it is so extraordinary that God has loved us first. Even while we were yet sinners, Christ still died for us and He sent His Son to be an atoning sacrifice for our sins. When we begin to see all of this, that God has loved us first, before we did anything, it guards our hearts against the legalistic tendency to try, and think that we can earn a love that was actually already initiated before we did anything. We can't work for it. We can't earn it. We need to learn how to receive it. The love God has for His children, we need to learn how to receive it.
You see, sometimes ... You know what else this also does? When we get this understanding in place, it not only kind of guards us against the idea of our legalistic tendencies, but you know what it also does? It keeps us humble. Do you know why? We walk in humility because even, listen to this, the love that we have for God and the love that we have for other people didn't even come from us. It came from Him. He's the initiator. He's the manufacturer. We are just distributors.
You see, so we can't get all, you know, kind of spiritually self righteous and bloated and say, "Man, look how I love God, and look how I love everyone else." Whatever love you have came from Him, so this should guard us against our legalistic tendencies to try, and earn God's love. It should also keep us in a posture of humility to recognize that even the love we have for God and the love that we have for others didn't even initiate with us. It actually came from Him, because God is the one who initiates love. We can't manufacture it. Only God can. But we can be distributors, because of His life in us. This should keep us in a posture of humility.
I read a story that was attributed, at least told by an author, a Christian author named Ken [Geyer 00:17:34], and whether it's a true story or not a true story I don't know, but he relayed a story about a young girl who was on a camping trip with her family, and mom, dad, maybe brothers and sisters. They camped out, obviously kind of in a place nearby the woods. One day, getting closer to night, she wandered away and she got lost in the woods. I mean, we're talking about thousands and thousands and thousands of acres worth of wooded area. She was so lost she didn't know what to do with herself. She's calling out, and she can't find anybody, and now it's getting dark and she's panicking. She doesn't know what to do. She, eventually just becomes exhausted, and she kind of passes out, you know, sleeps on a rock out in middle of woods, and she doesn't know where she's out. She's lost. She's alone. She's helpless, and now she's just laying there.
Well, Mom and Dad realize that she was gone, and so they started putting together a search party, right? They're finding authorities, and they're finding other campers, and they're saying, "Hey, here's our daughter. Here's what she looks like. Go help us find her." They're trying to cover all the area that they can cover, and they're walking out with their flashlights, doing everything that they can to find her. Dad's walking through thorn bushes and he doesn't care what's going on. He's not concerned about wild animals at this point. He's just coming to try, and find his daughter. Eventually he shines a light over at the rock area and sees that there's a form on the rock. He rushes over there, sees that his daughter is just laying there sleeping, and he gently begins to nudge her. He starts calling her name. She wakes up and she throws herself in his arms and here's what she says over and over, "Daddy, I found you. Daddy, I found you."
I thought, that's a really beautiful story, but you know what happens in our lives is sometimes when we look at that story, we put ourselves into that story, but in the wrong character. We put ourselves into that story as if we are the dad and the mom, who have been searching for God all of our lives, and we finally found him. When we fail to realize what we are, is every single one of us is that little girl. We are laying on a rock. We are lost. We are alone. We are helpless and we are hopeless. Our Father has come and moved everything to come and find us. Yet somehow, somehow we still say, "Daddy, I found you." No you didn't. No you didn't. You were found by Him.
You see, this is imperative for all of us, ladies and gentlemen, when we understand what the scripture is teaching us about love, because before we come to unpack a scripture like we're talking about, this great commandment, we have to understand what's laying behind it, because before we talk about love for God, we need to understand love from God, because He initiated it. But you know what also we need to understand? Before we understand love for God, we need to understand love of God. In fact, I'll turn your attention back to our text in Mark chapter 12. After Jesus answers the question that the teacher is asking him, Jesus says, "Here's the most important commandment, love the Lord your God with all your heart, and soul, and your mind, and your strength."
Then notice what the response of this teacher of the law is, in verse number 32. He says, "Well said, Teacher. Well said, Jesus, the man replied. You're right in saying that God is one, and there is no other but Him. To love Him with all your heart, with all your understanding, and will all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself, is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices." When Jesus saw that he had answered wisely, he said to him, 'You are not far from the kingdom of God,' and from then on, no one dared ask him anymore questions." I love the ending to that, right?
You know, I found it interesting that this statement that Jesus made to this kind of expert in the law, right? He asked Jesus, "What's the most important commandment?" The answer to that question, Jesus says, "Is love the Lord Your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength; love your neighbor as yourself. There's nothing more important than this." Then the teacher of the law, the expert in the law says, "You've said that well. Yeah, loving God with everything that we are and loving our neighbor as ourself, that's actually more important than burnt offerings and sacrifices." Jesus says to him, "You're not far from the kingdom of God."
Now, you know what I think is interesting about that? This teacher of the law, this expert in the law, got the question exactly right. The information was correct. He said, "Yes, I agree. You're exactly right, Jesus. Love God with all your heart and love your neighbor as yourself." You would think Jesus' response would have been, "You're in," but he didn't. What he said was, "You're not far from the kingdom of God." Why did Jesus say that? Well, certainly the man answered wisely, right? He was on the right track, but he wasn't all the way there, clearly, because Jesus says, "You're not far from the kingdom of God."
Why is that? Here's what I think. I think the reason that Jesus told him that you're not far from the kingdom of God is because the king of the kingdom was standing right in front of him. Jesus is saying to him, "You're not far from the kingdom of God," because it's not enough, listen, it's not enough to accept the teaching. You must receive the teacher. That's what Jesus was helping him to understand. It's not just enough to mentally assent to the teaching in saying, "Yes, that's right," but you need to actually step forward and receive the teacher, because he is the one sent from God to lead us into all truth.
In fact, Jesus said as much in his ministry. When you look at John's writings in the gospel of John, there was a scenario where Jesus was having a conversation with the Jews, and he was basically saying to them, "You guys are of your father, the devil," and they're like, "What? What? Are you kidding me? We're Abraham's kids." In fact, notice what is said in John, chapter 8, "Abraham is our father, they answered. 'If you were Abraham's children,' said Jesus, 'Then you would do what Abraham did. As it is, you're looking for a way to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. Abraham did not do such things that you are doing, the works of your own father."
Here's what they said. They protested. They said, "We are not illegitimate children. The only Father we have is God himself, and Jesus said to them, 'If God were your Father, you would love me, for I have come here from God. I have not come on my own. God sent me." You see, Jesus was making a connection here and the connection was, if you love God, you will love me. In fact, if you actually look back into John chapter 5, notice what Jesus said to the kind of the Jewish leaders of that time.
He said, "You study the scriptures diligently, because you think that in them you have eternal life, but these are the very scriptures that testify about me. Yet you refuse to come to me to have life. I don't accept glory from human beings." Listen to this, "But I know you. I know that you do not have the love of God." Did you see it? "You do not have the love of God in your hearts." Why? "Because I've come in my Father's name and you do not accept me. But if someone else comes in his own name, you will accept him."
You see, Jesus is making a connection here. He's basically saying this, "That you can't have the love of God in you. This is the love of God. You can't have it in you if you don't accept me." Why, because we must truly love what the Father loves and what we know the Father loves is Jesus. If you want to test whether, or not you love God, here's how you test it. How much do you love Jesus? You see, to love the Father is to love Jesus. To love Jesus is to love the Father. To love God is to love Jesus. To love Jesus is to love God. You simply can't have the love of God in you if you don't love and accept Jesus.
You see, this is why I believe Jesus was saying to this expert in the law, "You are not far from the kingdom of God. I'm right here. It's not just about what you know. What you know is right, but you need to step over the line and understand that it's me that you want." We have to, before we get to love for God, which is what our text is teaching us today, we have to understand love from God, and we have to understand the love of God, the nature of the love of God. But when we do that, then we can talk about love for God, which is what our text is teaching us.
Now, let's take this just in bits. Let me show you the very beginning of this text that Jesus says when he answers the question, "What's the greatest commandment." He says, "Love the Lord your God with all your," what?
Heart. Now, I've hesitated to even break this passage apart in the way that I'm breaking it apart, because in truth, Jews didn't think necessarily in segments like this. They thought more holistically, and so what's being said here is actually a holistic thought, not just broken into pieces. But I'm breaking it into pieces, because I want you to know what the, everything, what the all actually looks like. I'm doing that for our purposes, even though I'm not really sure that, that's what the intent was of the text. Now, for us to understand when Jesus says, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart," he's quoting from Deuteronomy, but to understand what's being said there, it's not enough for us to just understand what the Greek word for heart is, because Jesus is actually quoting from the Hebrew scriptures. We have to understand what's being said in the Hebrew language along with what's being said in the Greek language to get a fuller understanding of what's being said overall.
This word for heart in the Greek language is the word, kardia. It's where we get our word cardiac or cardio, right? That's the Greek word for heart. But the Hebrew word is levav, and that word is a word that we need to actually pay a little bit of attention to, because with both of these words, when you hear them, both in the Greek and in the Hebrew language, whether it's kardia or whether it's levav, both of them translated heart are, actually meaning something a bit more than we actually think, because what we do is we break up the idea of what this word actually means when it's not meant to be broken up.
Let me explain. The word for heart in both the Old Testament and the New Testament actually refers to the place inside of us where our emotions, our affections, our will, and our intellect all are operating, right? Kind of all of the stuff inside of us is what's being described when we use the term heart, emotions, affections, will, all of those things and intellect. All of that's being described. But you see, we like to divide all of that up. In other words we would say it this way in kind of our modern day parlance. We would say, "You know that guy? Yeah, good dude, but he doesn't think with his mind, he thinks with his heart. She doesn't think with her mind. She thinks with her heart." We break it all apart, right? We start segmenting everything out. But when this term is used, "Love the Lord your God with all of your heart," it's actually referring to everything inside of you. Your intellect, your emotions, your affections, your will, all of that intangible stuff inside of you, it's what's being referenced. We're told to love God with everything that's on the inside.
But then the scripture goes on to say this, "The command is love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul." Now, we have to understand that word, soul, as well, and forgive kind of the grammar lesson here, but it's imperative that we understand it, both in the Greek language and in the Hebrew language. In the Greek language it's the word psuche, and in the Hebrew language, when we look at the word soul, we're looking at the word nephesh in the Hebrew language. Why is that important? Here's why, because if we look at how nephesh is used in the Hebrew language ... If you're taking notes, you don't have to worry about spelling. Just write it out like, however you want. It doesn't matter. But why does the meaning matter?
Here's why, because when it's used in Leviticus 24, when it's used in 1 Kings chapter 17, when it's used in Psalm 63 it's actually referring to things external, not internal. In fact, in those passages, nephesh is referring, listen to this, to flesh, blood and breath, things about our physical nature; the physical aspects of who we are. Unfortunately for us, in English soul can be a difficult translation. It's a proper translation but it can be a difficult one, partly because in the Greek language the word psuche, when you translate the idea of soul, sometimes it means the intangible part of who we are but actually in many cases in the New Testament it means our body. That's what it means, our body. You can actually see this used, sometimes, 1 Corinthians chapter 15 will be an example. You see this used, sometimes where you see psuche referencing our physical existence. Sometimes the Greek word sarx is used for our flesh, but psuche is sometimes used to describe our body.
Why do I say all of that, because here's what I'm saying. Our heart is representative of everything internal and our soul, in this passage, properly understood is referencing everything that the internal now makes external. God is saying, Jesus is saying, "Love God with everything internal and everything external," right? In other words, for those of you in a different generation, a younger generation, maybe I could say it to you this way. The idea of heart and soul is like software and hardware. Maybe that's a way for you to be able to understand it. It's like software and hardware. Here's the command, "Love God with all of it, our inner life and our external existence."
But there's a last piece of this. He says, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength." Now, I'm not going to spend too much time on the idea of mind, and there's a few reasons for that, because the idea of mind, loving the Lord your God with all of your mind, is not actually in Deuteronomy chapter 6. It doesn't use that term. It doesn't mean it's wrong to use it. This is just highlighting something holistic, because when we talk about loving God with our mind, that is actually encapsulated in loving God with all of our heart, because it's talking about the inner workings of who we are. But listen carefully. You need to learn to love God with your mind, which means, if you don't give yourself and your mind to attention to the knowledge of God as he's revealed it through His word, you will not learn to love God with your mind.
Now, lest you think that this is just an academic exercise, let me make sure you're clear about something. It is not really loving God to simply know right information about Him, because in our text, the man, who asked the question, knew right information and Jesus still said, "You're not far from the kingdom of God." Until the knowledge of God through His word comes from our mind into our heart's affections, we have not truly loved God with our mind yet. It must make it's way. I know people who know lots about God, but know very little about His love, because they are information junkies and they fill their minds with the knowledge of God, except for they don't allow the knowledge of God to transform their affections and who they are.
I've said this before. Some of the meanest people I've ever known knew a lot about the Bible. But I also want to make sure that you're clear about something else. The greatest people I've ever known have known a lot about the Bible. You see, just because you know a lot about the Bible doesn't make you loving, but it should, because the Bible is not an end in itself. It is actually brokering in our relationship with the knowledge of God, a real God, who really affects our affections and our desires and our will and our emotions. Until that happens, we've not really loved God with our mind until it moves from just our heads into our actual affections. But let me not stay there for very long, because I want to make sure that we understand the idea of strength. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, right?
Now, in the Greek language, this refers to the word, power, right, strength? It's kind of a ... It's a great translation. But when we look at it in the Hebrew language and we look at it even beyond that in the Aramaic language, we start to understand something interesting. Meod, which is the Hebrew term ... Stay with me for just a second. I know you're going, "Man, all of this, it's killing me." Just stay with me. Meod in the Hebrew language is actually used as an adverb, like close to 300 times in the Old Testament. When it's used all of those times, here's the translation, very. You're going, "Okay. What does that mean?" That we need to love the Lord our God with all of our very-ness. Did that help? Okay, how about this. Love the Lord your God with all of your muchness. Did that help. Love the Lord your God with all of your abundance.
When you look at this word in the Aramaic, do you know how the Aramaic actually translates this, strength? Translates it as wealth. That's the actual Aramaic term. Aramaic was a language that Jesus spoke, by the way. Somewhat akin to Hebrew, but not the same. Why do I tell you all of that, because I'm in agreement with Dr. Jason DeRouchie who is a Hebrew and Old Testament professor. He actually said this. He said, "Strength isn't just who we are, it's what we have at our disposal." Strength isn't just about who we are. Argh! It's about what we have at our disposal. In other words, what's the command to love the Lord your God with all your strength? It means all of your energy and resources, that we should love God with all of that.
Now, given that I've just parsed that out, it's really holistic. "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength." He's saying, "Love God with all of it." Maybe I could say it simply this way. If you want to know kind of what are we saying when we say what does it mean to love God, to love God is to use everything we are and everything we have to display an affectionate obedience to Jesus. That's a simple way of saying it. To love God is to use everything we are and everything we have to display an affectionate obedience to Jesus.
Now, here's why I'm telling you this kind of definition, because what we've already learned is that God is the one who has loved us first, and then He's shown us the nature of that love in Jesus, right? To love Jesus is to love God. To love God is to love Jesus. This love that God has poured out on us, that He's given to us, we give back to Him. Are you listening to this? The love that God has given to us, we now give back to Him by using all that we are, heart, soul, mind and all that we have, strength, to be able to display an affectionate obedience to Jesus.
Now, why do I use the term affectionate obedience to Jesus? "Jerry, can't you just say, 'Look, to love Jesus means obey him?'" Well, yeah, sort of. I mean, in fact, didn't Jesus say this in John chapter 14, "If you love me, keep my commands?" He said it point, blank, right? "If you love me, keep my commands." "Yeah, that's my point, Jerry. If you love him, obey him, period." I've qualified it. I'm calling it an affectionate obedience. Here's why, because Jesus doesn't just say, "Obey me." He says, "If you love me. If you love me." In other words, when we begin to understand the love of God, we can't help but love God back, because He first loved us.
When we begin to understand the love of God and we begin to receive the love of God, do you know what we do, kind of by default, is, we obey Him, because we love Him, because we ... Listen, this isn't a cold relationship with a boss and an employee. This is love between intimates. This is a different thing altogether. "If you love me, you will obey me." This is about displaying an affectionate obedience to Jesus.
Now, here's what that means. Every hidden space of our lives, everything in our minds, everything in what we call our hearts, our emotions, our affections, our will, our intellect, every single part of it, everything that we've closeted off, every secret that we've held needs to be brought out and allowed for the love of God to rain on it, everything. You see, part of the reason that people struggle to love is, because they don't know how to be loved. We see that in human relationships all the time. I still remember a friend of ours who was, she herself was struggling with the love of God. "How can God love me. I always feel condemned. You know I can't believe that God would ever love me." Then she had this relationship with a friend of hers that was going through a really bad time, not a believer, but she was going through a really bad time.
This particular friend of mine would be calling this friend of hers, and she would be saying, "You know, I am leaving you voicemails. Hey, I want to talk to you. I want to help you," and the friend would just not, she just wouldn't have anything to do with her. She'd send her an email. She wouldn't respond. She'd send her a card. She wouldn't respond. She'd knock on her door, she wouldn't open the door. My friend sends me an email and says, "Why won't she let me love her?" "Hmm, interesting that you brought that up, because that's exactly your issue spiritually. You have never learned to let God love you."
I think this is one of the greatest pieces of Biblical counseling that we could ever give to anybody ever, because people, when they are struggling with things that are going on in their life, they're struggling with things that they've put away, they're struggling with hurts that they've had, maybe that they didn't even cause. What they need to do is learn to be loved, because when they learn to be loved, they can then love others. When they learn to be loved, they can then understand what trust looks like. This is really at the root of who we are. We need to learn how to be loved.
That means taking everything inside of us, everything, and laying it out so the love of God can wash over it, because you'll be shocked when you learn to be loved, what that does to every part of you, because you can't help but love God back, because He's first loved you. As you receive it, you return it. That was a good one. I just thought of that. As you receive it, you return it. Thanks to the Holy Spirit. Sometimes he gives you a way to say something. As you receive it, you return it, and that, my friends, is imperative for how we love God with all of our heart. We also have to love Him with everything that we are, every place that our foot goes, everything that our bodies do. We have to love Him with all of our strength, our resources, our stuff, our energy.
You see, maybe I could sum it up this way. An easy way to sum this up would be to ask a simple questions, but a question that has a blank in it. You can deal with filling in the blank. It's simply this question. How does my blank display love for God? You say, "Well, Jerry, I don't really know what to put in the blank." Anything. You see, the all of this passage, loving the Lord your God with everything that's inside of you, everything external, and everything that you have at your disposal. That's everything, everything. You can fill this in with anything at all. How does my ... Here you go. How does my thought life display love for God? In other words, it doesn't mean that every thought of every second of every day will be fixed on trying to think about the nature of the Trinitarian presence of God. I realize that's not realistic. It doesn't happen to me either.
When I'm watching a baseball game, I'm thinking, "How many balls and strikes are there right now? How do we need to pitch this guy to get him out?" That's what I'm thinking about at that moment. But what does, listen, what does the habitual fixation of your thoughts and your mind center on? Is it rightly centered on God's revelation of Himself through His word? Are you allowing that to permeate your mind? Or are you creating all kinds of vacuums where you begin to use your mind to fantasize and to lust and to whatever, right, because this is what happens. You see, we've got to meditate on the word of God. Some of you are going, "Yeah, that word meditation is weird." No, it's not. It's Bible. The reason it's weird is, because this is your idea of meditation, "Ommmmmm," right? That's your idea. Some of you are going, "Hey, wait a minute. I do that. I'm offended by that." Let me just go ahead and tell you, I don't care. From the depths of my soul, doesn't matter to me.
Let me tell you why. Let me tell you why I don't care, because it's the wrong idea of meditation. You see, Eastern meditation teaches you this, to empty your mind of everything. That is the exact opposite of what the Bible teaches. Meditation, according to the scripture, is to fill your mind with the word of God, and to chew on it, and to ... Alright, I'm going to say something. It seems kind of gross, but it's actually from the Bible, okay, so stay with me. The picture behind meditation is like a cow chewing cud. If you know what a cow does, they chew on it for a while, they swallow it, and then it comes back up and they chew on it some more. This is the idea behind Biblical meditation, that we are turning over and chewing on the word of God. Then at other times, we are now calling it back up, so that we can chew on it some more. Why, because it is what it means to love God with everything inside of us.
How does my thought life display love for God? You could start just filling in whatever you want to, right? How does my entertainment choices display love for God? How does my physical well being display love for God, right? How does my relationships with others display love for God? I mean, you can just keep filling them in. How does my work display love for God? How does my rest display love for God? How does my money, and stuff, and possessions display love for God? Fill in anything you want to, because at the end of the day what we have to remember is that to love God is to use everything we are, heart, soul and mind, and everything we have, strength, to display an affectionate obedience to Jesus.
Why don't you, today, this afternoon, fill in some of those places and then let the love of God pour over you? Empty everything, every space, every closet and let God's love have access to all of you, because when you do, the love you receive is now the love you can distribute and return back to God and to others.
Let's bow our heads together. We're dismissed in just a second. If you don't have to move, I'd ask you not to, kindly, unless it's an emergency. People around you may have thoughts and decisions to make that are more important than you getting out of the parking lot. You may be here and you may have never begun a relationship with Jesus. You've maybe never received the love that he gave to you. I want to remind you of what I said earlier, that the scripture tells us that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us, that you were extended a love even when you didn't deserve it.
You know what that means? It means that what Cinderella said is really true, is that God didn't love us because we were beautiful. It's by His love that we are made beautiful. If you've never turned from sin and put your faith and trust in Jesus, then maybe when we leave in just a moment, you'll come by the Fireside room. There are some pastors in there, some other friends in there. We'd love to talk to you about what that means. You will have no bigger decision to make than that.
Some of you may have come as a friend. You may be a mom that's come with a family member for the first time. You may be a mom that brought some friends or family members for the first time, because it's a unique day. We're so glad you're here, but I pray that the biggest thing that you'll remember today is this, that there is no definition of love outside of what God has done in Jesus Christ. For us to receive the love of God means that we have to receive the one that God sent to be the Savior for us from our sins. The Bible says it this way, "To as many as received Jesus, to them he gave the right to become children of God to those who believed on His name." If you've never come to a place of receiving Jesus, then when we dismiss in a moment, please come by the Fireside room. We'd love to just talk to you for a few moments. We won't hold you up forever. We know you probably have places to be and stuff to do. But there's nothing more important.
Father, I pray that you would help all of us who have been following you for some time to remember that our hearts are really, really grateful and humbled when we realize even the love that we have for You and that we have for others didn't even come from us. It came from You. That is a humbling thought, God. But we're so grateful for it, because it keeps us from trying to earn or work for a love that we could never earn or work for. It is by your grace that you have demonstrated this kind of love to us, and that we are everything we are because you loved us first. Thank you for that truth.
I pray you'd help us to learn what it means to live in light of your love, that we would begin to understand what it means, as your children, to be loved by you and we would allow that love to permeate every place in our lives, even the secret places, that we would bring them into the light and we would let the love of God wash over them, because when we do, as we learn to receive love from You, we will learn to return love to You and to others. We pray you'd help us to do this now. In Jesus name, Amen.