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Jan 20, 2013

Love God with All Your Heart, Soul, Mind...the basics

Passage: Matthew 22:34-40

Series: The Great Commandment

Category: Worship, Faith, Christian Walk

Keywords: worship, love, mind, soul, heart, esteem, love, god, jesus, great commandment, scribe, trap, pharisee


Jesus says that the greatest commandment is to love the Lord our God with all our heart, mind, and soul and love our neighbor as ourselves. Is that even possible? How can we do it? More importantly, why?


Matthew 22:34–40 (NASB95)

  34   But when the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered themselves together.

  35   One of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him,

  36   “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?”

  37   And He said to him, “ ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’

  38   “This is the great and foremost commandment.

  39   “The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’

  40   “On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.”

Let’s pray.

This passage is often referred to as the great commandment, not to be concerned with “The Great Commission” the great commission is the one at the end of Matthew is where Jesus tells his disciples to go to the end of the world and make disciples of the nations. This here is the great commandment which is actually two commandments. Quite a few churches will actually use a synthesis of this as their mission statement or guiding principle. I’m sure you’ve heard it, Life Center uses it. What is it? Right, Loving God, Loving People. This verse is where that comes from.

There are actually two commandments here, To Love God with all your heart, soul and mind and to love your neighbor as yourself.

This particular passage is in three of the gospels, Matthew, Mark and Luke. In each of the instances, it is an expert in the law of Moses that questions Jesus and the purpose is the same in each version, to trip Jesus up. It seems as if all three gospels are speaking of the same event, especially comparing Matthew and Mark. The experts in the law or scribes are not seeking his wisdom or insight in the matter, not really. They’re hoping that Jesus will say something that implies that He’s above the law.

It wasn’t that they didn’t know the answer. In fact, I think, anybody would know the answer. As matter of fact, the answer was right in front of Jesus face. These scribes and Pharisees wore the law on them at all times. It was in a little box on their forehead.

Back in the Old Testament when God was warning Israel to be careful to be obedient to His Word Deuteronomy 11:18–21Deuteronomy 11:18–21 (NASB95)

  18   “You shall therefore impress these words of mine on your heart and on your soul; and you shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontals on your forehead.

  19   “You shall teach them to your sons, talking of them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road and when you lie down and when you rise up.

  20   “You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates,

  21   so that your days and the days of your sons may be multiplied on the land which the Lord swore to your fathers to give them, as long as the heavens remain above the earth.

So that’s what they did, these Pharisees and scribes would wear these leather boxes strapped to their foreheads. I think seems fair to dismiss the idea that it is like they were even quizzing him so much as daring him. The answer is as plain as the box on the scribe’s forehead. If this were a sitcom, I’d like to see the late Andy Griffith play Jesus and maybe Don Knotts as the scribe. “What do you think the greatest commandment is?” And Jesus says, “We’ll don’t know Barn, maybe it’s this rahht here on yer forehead. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind and the second ‘un just lahk t’other. Love on your neighbor y’self. Whaddya say, Barn?” They weren’t just four random verses, they were specific verses from Exodus and Deuteronomy that had to do with sanctification of the first born, redemption of the firstborn and the remembrance of the deliverance from Egypt, the reminder to remember God’s Word by binding to your forehead, and can you guess what the last one is? Deuteronomy 6:4–9 (NASB95)

    4   “Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one!

    5   “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.

    6   “These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart.

    7   “You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up.

    8   “You shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontals on your forehead.

    9   “You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

You can easily see what all the verse have in common—Love God, meditate on His Word, proclaim His Word. Mark that because it’s a big part of this first part of the commandment.

But what is happening here is a dare. I dare you to knock this Tefillin off my head. They, once again are looking for a reason to kill him. Keep in mind, this is after Jesus came in on a donkey and proclaimed by the great unwashed as the heir to David’s throne. And so they really want one of two things—him to admit that He thinks he is God or above God, OR they want Him to submit to their understanding and order. But Jesus, who really must know their hearts, throws something else out there that they didn’t anticipate. He agrees with them, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and mind” but then he adds something, another scripture Leviticus 19:18 (NASB95)

  18   ‘You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the sons of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself; I am the Lord.

If I were a Pharisee, I’d be pretty ticked at this point. I’d be like, “I didn’t ask you for the second greatest commandment. I just asked you for the first one. Why you gotta be like that, huh?”

A number of years ago, on a cold day in Japan, Kayla, my youngest was getting ready for going out to school or something. She was putting her ‘dubs’ which was Kaylanese for mittens or ‘gloves’. They were Bob the Builder mittens if I remember correctly and she said, “daddy, are these boy dubs or girl dubs.” And maybe I just wanted to avoid the controversy, I says, “actually they’re not dubs they’re mittens.” “Whyyyy?” She was four years old. “Well, gloves have individual fingers and mittens don’t. Those are mittens.” “Oh,” says she. It takes Kayla a long time to do anything and I want to get moving, “C’mon Kayla let’s go, get your dubs on.” “They’re not dubs daddy, they’re mittens.” Doh!

That’s what is happening here. Jesus is shooting them with their own gun. They want to feel justified by the law and Jesus points out that they missed a spot. They are looking for a way to kill him, and he says, “that’s great that you’re zealous for God and all, what about loving your neighbor as yourself? That one didn’t make the top four did it?”

In Luke’s telling of this instance, the Pharisees counter with “Who is my neighbor?” Jesus could have just raised His hand and said, “me.” But instead he points out another area of their lack, their bigotry toward the Samaritans. Then he tells the story of The Good Samaritan.

In sense, what Jesus is saying here is, aside from frustrating their attempts to trap him, he’s teaching that to love God with all your heart, soul, and mind, means to value what God values. One major part of that is thst  God loves people. Like butter. He thinks we’re simply to die for. Really. So, in order to truly love God with all your heart, soul, and mind, you need to place importance on what God places importance and the does mean loving your neighbor as yourself.

I want to focus today on the first part of “The Greatest Commandment” which is to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind. A big part of that as I mentioned is loving your neighbor as yourself, but that’s not all of it. Because to love your neighbor as yourself, implies that at the very least you shouldn’t hate yourself. If you love your neighbor as yourself but you hate yourself, that’s not gonna work too well is it? So, maybe you say, I will choose to love myself, I will have high self-esteem and climb Maslow’s pyramid of self-actualization. That’s nonsense. See, on the face of it, makes so much sense, treat others the way you want treated. That would solve most of the world’s problems, not gun control. Jesus says a lot of things that make so much sense but what you find is they seem utterly impossible in practice. Another example of this is at the end of the sermon on the mount in Matthew 5 where Jesus says, “Be perfect as your Father in Heaven is perfect.” And in Franco Zefirelli’s “Jesus of Nazareth” the actor, Robert Powell says it with such a joyful smile, he makes you think you can do it. You even want to do it. And that isn’t the question, whether you can or not, want to don’t want to. No, the question is, whether you will or not. When you make it a question of ability and say that you can’t because you’re only human, you’re condemning God and basically saying, God made me this way. God made me to fail. That’s not exactly true either. But it seems impossible. This is like it, Love your neighbor as yourself? You have to love yourself first, but You’re not qualified to love yourself. Why? Because, brace yourself, you have no intrinsic value…hold on, I’m going to explain this. There’s probably bunch of people shut me off in the name of the god “self-esteem.” You have value but it’s just because you breathe, eat, poop, and procreate. Who are you to love yourself? You who are so changeable, and inconsistent. You can’t even live up to your own standards let alone any that a holy God comes up with. It’s like trying to buy a Big Mac with monopoly money. It doesn’t matter if you love yourself because it can’t really even matter to you. It matters ‘cause I said so. Who are you to say so? What authority do YOU have to place value on you? To love means to value. Who here hasn’t willfully done something physically, spiritually, or emotionally harmful to themselves? This would we anytime you stayed in an abusive relationship, over ate, used illicit drugs, engaged in non-necessary risky behaviors, especially sexual ones —thrill seeking…that stuff is not loving yourself, it’s loving a feeling and maybe seeking that type of love that you can’t give yourself in the first place. You have thoroughly demonstrated that you don’t really love yourself, how can you love others? That sustaining love must first come from outside yourself. You can’t love others until you first have a sense of value about yourself and THAT has to be given to you by another. You can’t manufacture it, you can’t reproduce what you don’t have in the first place. Love is energy is, love is power. Energy and power do not come from a void. There is only one who can create something from nothing. He is uncaused causer. God is love.

How many love songs on the radio are about being lovesick over one’s self? Right, none. Nobody in their right might is really seeking themselves for love. They are seeking outside themselves. There is truth to that. Being valued by one who we value greater than ourselves makes us feel valuable and loved.

So for us to love anyone, we have to first have a sense of being loved by someone we value greater than ourselves. It has to be greater.

So it is even loving God with all our heart, mind, and soul. We cannot manufacture that kind of love for Him until we have a base of value to launch that love, that energy, that power from. If we don’t it’s like shooting a basketball toward the hoop when the court floor is made of water. You can’t even walk on water let alone shoot a basketball while doing so. I know someone who can though. Can you tell me his name?

You can’t love God with all your heart, soul, and mind unless you have it to give. Since you can’t manufacture that from nothing, where can you get it to give? From God. You can’t love God until you really understand you are loved by Him. You have no value to bestow on God unless He has first bestowed it on you. And He has, we just have to recognize it. The more we recognize it, the more we really recognize his goodness, the more we can truly love Him with all our heart, mind and soul.

That’s probably why those verses in the little boxes that the Pharisees and scribes wore on their foreheads were verses about meditating on God’s Word, remembering the value that he placed on them by redeeming them out of Egypt.

God has place value on you that exceeds any value you can place on yourself. Keep in mind that people who seek honor for themselves, who pamper themselves with riches or extravagance aren’t doing so because they love themselves. They do that because they sense the lack of value in their life and they seek to fill that void. Someone who truly values themselves does not need that, instead the person who truly loves themselves has a true sense of worth cannot help but lavish it on others. Such a person needs to give it away. Can you tell me his name?

You have nothing. Even what you think you have to offer presently is because everything you have to give that is worth giving, originated from God in the first place, from wheat that you harvest to the child that you birth to, it all originates from God. You’ve heard the joke about the scientists who find a way to make a man out dirt and so they challenge God to see who can make the better man and God says, “first you’ve got to figure out how to make dirt from nothing, then get back to me about your little make making contest.” Apart from God, you are doomed.

Many in here have shown over and over again how much they don’t value themselves in the past through harmful behaviors to themselves and others—sin, we call that in—substance abuse, debaucher, excess, self-punishment, lying, gossip, and humiliation in deeds that bring shame and emptiness. You know what you’ve done. You know how you, personally have fallen short. And so do I.

Last year A nearly two-year investigation into suspected brothels, dubbed Operation Red Light, came to a head six months ago when local and federal agencies - led by Airway Heights Police - raided eight spas and arrested eight of the spas owners for promoting prostitution and money laundering.

Arguably, the most explosive document recovered from this investigation is the "Johns list", a list of alleged clients who paid for services at the spas. The list has close to 1,200 names including clients who appear to be well-known educators, business professionals, and doctors, among others. Records show men made several trips to the "erotic spas" where they spent hundreds of dollars for services.

KHQ obtained the documents following the filing of a public records request.

And then, KHQ posted that document online. Can you imagine the horror, the nail biting, the sweating of bullets that these clients were dealing while this list was put out into the public?

What must that feel like to be that exposed, that vulnerable? What if you worked for like a church or CPS or a medical professional and your name shows up on that list. You’re career’s done, your marriage might be done as well.

KHQ took document offline shortly after they put it up. But I know man who was indicted for a great many crimes. Not on this johns list, on a different John’s list. But I can’t go into detail of a lot of the things he was found guilty of. And soliciting prostitutes was the least of it, Murder, abuse, pederasty, armed robbery, multiple rapes, defrauding of widows, “dipping” a form of child abuse that involves dipping child’s feet into boiling water, lots of horrendous things, this man was charged with.etc. This list is quite extensive. This was a while back and they didn’t have Internet in his day but the exposure was very public, the punishment was very public, you’ll recognize the name as soon as I say it, well known public event and the trial itself, although appropriate for such crimes, was actually technically illegal. This man was thankfully, beaten to the point of mutilation, stripped naked and tortured in public forum. When he had to relieve himself during this punishment, he would not be given even that privacy. He was expected to defecate and urinate on himself the fluids mixing with his own blood, naked in front of the people which included his very own mother who wept for this pathetic criminal in front of everybody. He died very broken and he said these words, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.” Can you tell me his name?

Right, Jesus. Jesus didn’t actually commit any of those crimes, but God punished him, indicted him if you will, as if he did. Jesus bore the weight of our sins on himself, though he himself did no wrong.

OK, are you somewhat comfortable here. It’s somewhat warm in here. The seats have cushions, you’re not sitting on a cactus are you. Now touch the center of your palm with your finger. Now imagine a thick long nail piercing that very sensitive area. Now imagine a nail piercing both your feet right about at the point where the ankle meets the foot.  And imagine that a great deal of your body weight is pulling into those nails in your palms and into your feet. The splinters are poking into your naked, raw back. Now, would you readily give up the current comfort of your chair for the physical position I just described? What if someone you loved was about to be put into that position, would you trade the comfort of your chair for their life on a cross? Is there someone in your life you would do that for? Are there maybe a few people you would do that for? Your husband, your wife, your child? In an instant you would probably. In an instant, you might even be able to broaden the scope of Who would you do that for? Who do you value enough to go through that for? How would you expect such a person to feel about your sacrifice? Grateful. What if they didn’t? What if they said about your sacrifice, “well, I didn’t ask them to that for me?”

Christ did that for you. He places that value on your life. How then shall you live? By loving God with all your heart, your soul and your mind because you were loved with such great sacrifice and pain. If you can’t appreciate that then, I could be really crass and use the pun, “to hell with you then.” It’d be like a theological play on words, you know, but I don’t think it’s God heart.  God will give you the rest of your life to figure out how to appreciate the cross. At that could be what anywhere from 20 to 50 years from now or 20 to 50 minutes from now. Someone driving along 2nd Avenue, go into epileptic seizure and plow into the side of this building just as you walk out the door. More likely they’d be texting though, in Spokane.

You know think that’s it. Application-wise, loving God with all your heart, soul and mind is simply loving him with all you’ve got.

I thought I was going to talk a lot about more practical matters regarding this commandment but I ended up seeing the need to express the motivation for it. But let leave you with a bit of perspective.

As many of you know, I feel a burden in particular for the people and nation of Japan. We kind of already live though. My wife, Brenda, works for a Japanese company, we have some Japanese neighbors, some of Brenda’s co-workers and bosses are Japanese, not merely of Japanese descent but Japanese. So, occasionally we get a glimpse that the differences between cultures. We’ve seen this recently. A new vice-president for the campus here started this last fall. He, his wife and his 21-year-old son, moved in. His wife, is not an employee of the school but it someone decided that she would run the cultural center. Well someone else already had that position and was contracted to fill that position until June. Ando-san, one of our other neighbors had that position, he is now back in Japan. He wasn’t fired, the decision for him to stop running the cultural center doesn’t appear to be because of his incompetence. It appears that someone else decided they wanted his job and someone made that happen. Now, granted we don’t know everything involved but to an observer from the outside, it seems a bit unfair. In America that probably wouldn’t go without an attempted recourse, lawsuit, formal complaint appeal. And even what little I know of Japanese culture, it would seem that his superiors, the new vice-president and his wife, caused Ando-san to lose face and that is not like the Japanese, to want to cause someone to lose face, to be shamed or treated unfairly in such an obvious way. That’s not like the Japanese in normative conditions non-wartime conditions.* There is another culture phenomenon taking place here, tateshakai, the vertical society. This means top down governance. What the shogun says, goes without question, even if it is unfair or doesn’t make sense. Ando-san didn’t lose face, he was merely submitting to the wishes of his superiors. If he had complained or called unfair because of a silly piece of paper Americans call a contract, that would have caused embarrassment for his superiors and that would have been causing someone to lose face truly. He wasn’t losing face because he was just submitting to the whim of his superior.

In the States that doesn’t really makes sense. Our country was birthed with the cry, “unfair!” Culturally, we emphasize the worth of the individual in our constitution. That sometimes can lend itself to a certain amount of entitlement, claiming for ourselves rights beyond that which are inalienable. So, in our faith I think we sometimes risking adding on to the phrase, “Love the Lord your God with all my heart, soul, and strength…

1.On Sundays (I can raise my hands with the best of them)

2.When I understand Him

3.When it’s fair

4.When it doesn’t cost me my comfort

5.When I don’t have to give up my other “gods”

6.When I can be recognized for doing so

7.When its not degrading or embarrassing to do so

8.When its not too expensive

What if your boss at your job said file these papers, pick up my cleaning and my lunch at Applespice Junction, pour my coffee for me. Don’t talk to me while I’m eating. When I’m done eating, why don’t you take your lunch out there.

So, you do all that and you’re maybe expecting a raise, a bonus a thank you. This is what Jesus says,

Luke 17:7–10 (NIV84)

7 “Suppose one of you had a servant plowing or looking after the sheep. Would he say to the servant when he comes in from the field, ‘Come along now and sit down to eat’? 8 Would he not rather say, ‘Prepare my supper, get yourself ready and wait on me while I eat and drink; after that you may eat and drink’? 9 Would he thank the servant because he did what he was told to do? 10 So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.’ ”

This seems so culturally irrelevant to our train of thought but that’s closer to what our perspective should be when thinking about Jesus as our Lord. He is good but there are times when he asks us to give up something, change directions, do something that just doesn’t appeal to us.

My daughter Kayla likes Yahtzee! Maybe it’s the clattering of the dice. She was playing with our neighbor the other day and she comes to me and says, “dad, I keep on adding this up and it comes up different.” So I add up the top set of numbers and I get 62. “That doesn’t make sense. I keep getting 64.” Gimme the calculator. It’s 62. “But I used the calculator and it’s 64.” It’s not 64, lemme show you, 62. She does not let it go, keeps on talking about the way she is going about her math. For those of you know Yahtzee!, you know the deal, if the top set of numbers is over 63, you get a bonus. Kayla wanted that bonus so bad, she couldn’t do her math right even with a calculator. I finally just had to take the game away, she was really getting upset over it. To this day she will not acknowledge that she was wrong. It was 64.

I think that is how it can become with God. We get an idea about Him or our life that just isn’t right and we hold on it in the face of Him asking to give it up and we hold onto that idol like an activist.

I did that too. When I was younger, like 17 years ago, I met a young lady that I was convinced God wanted me to marry when was touring full time with Covenant Players. God didn’t tell her though. I confronted her about this. She did the equivalent of putting out a restraining order on me. I was asked by leadership to stay away from her. It was very humiliating. She married someone else, but I knew that someday things would turn around someday. I knew I would get a second chance. God pointed this out to me as idolatry, to covet another man’s wife could not possibly be His will, I was serving, in my heart, a different god. Three months after I let go of that idol, I met Brenda. We’ve been married for 9 ½ years now. I had to let go of my idol to receive God’s best for me.

What do you need to give up? What is holding you back from giving your heart, soul and mind to Jesus Christ? What might He be asking you to give up?