Our Goal Is Love
Do you ever wonder what we are doing here?
For many of us, church has just always been a part of what we do, and we come because that’s what our parents did.
We have never really questioned why we are here or what our purpose is.
Perhaps there is no greater time for us to stop and evaluate that than today.
After service this morning, we are hosting a ministry fair, where we are giving you the opportunity to talk to some of our team leaders about opportunities to serve here.
But why? Because you are bored? Because we are trying to earn brownie points with God?
Why do we have service every week? Why do we have events and activities and meet together to pray and look at God’s Word? Why do we invite our friends and our neighbors into a relationship with Christ?
We could give a variety of answers this morning to that question, and each might highlight some aspect of what we are trying to accomplish.
However, at our core, we as a church have expressed our purpose with one simple phrase: our goal is love.
We base that off of 1 Timothy 1:5:
Now the goal of our instruction is love that comes from a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith.
For years, we have said that this is our goal as a church, and this morning, we are going to look at it a little more fully.
We aren’t breaking away from our study in Mark, because Jesus addresses this very issue in Mark 12:28-34. You can go ahead and start turning over there.
Let’s briefly recap what we have seen recently in Mark.
Two weeks ago, we were called to avoid empty activity and stay close to God through faith-filled prayer.
Last week, we were challenged to keep Christ at the core.
This week, we are building on those ideas to explain a little more clearly what it looks like when Christ is the cornerstone.
Jesus has been debating again with the religious leaders, and they have been trying to trick him up.
However, one comes to him with what may have been an honest question.
Jesus’ response to him is simple, life-changing, and incredibly difficult.
Let’s look at the question in Mark 12:28...
Out of all the commands in the Bible, which ones were the most important?
You see, the scribes had identified 613 separate commandments in God’s Law.
There had been a debate about which ones were the most important, which highlights the fact that we have always been about just getting by--“What’s the least amount of effort I can put in to pass?”
Jesus responds with the top two: love God with everything you are, and love others like you love yourself.
Simple, isn’t it? If you just love God and love others, you’ll be good to go.
It may be simple, but it is far from easy.
Let’s look at these two commands, and from them, draw a clearer picture of what we mean when we say “Our goal is love.”
1) Love God with everything you are.
1) Love God with everything you are.
Jesus starts with the most important relationship we all have: our relationship to God.
Here, he is quoting from Deuteronomy 6, a passage that devout Jews would quote twice a day.
They would have been familiar with these words, but they still weren’t living them out.
Jesus starts with the reminder that God is one god. We do not worship multiple gods, each responsible for different aspects of life. Instead, we worship the one true God.
Why would he bring that up here? Here’s how one commentator explained it:
the obligation to love God is based on his oneness. Because he is one, love for him must be undivided.
God is undivided, so our love must be undivided.
Isn’t that the point of the command Jesus gives?
He says that we are to love God with everything we are and everything we have.
This fits with what we have been learning, doesn’t it? If Jesus is the cornerstone, the core of who we are, then our love for him should involve every single aspect of who we are.
By the way, Jesus isn’t giving us a clear division of the nature of man here as he says we love him with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. Instead, he is just reminding us that we are called to love God with every single part of who we are.
Why? Why should I love God?
We could give thousands of reasons, including the fact that you are alive and breathing right now.
However, one of the reasons that is most powerful and helpful for our study this morning is found over in 1 John:
God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his one and only Son into the world so that we might live through him. Love consists in this: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins.
This is the central picture of God’s love for us, and we go back to it every week because it never loses its power.
You and I were made by God to live in a relationship with him, yet we chose to do our own thing and turn our back on him.
That alienated us from God and brought death into our world. We died spiritually and had no hope, so God showed us love by sending Jesus to die in our place. After he had been dead for three days, he rose from the grave and now offers us life.
The God of the universe, who calls the stars by name, who shaped you and formed you before you were born, knew your heart was turned away from him, so he gave his only Son to win you back.
When I understand the depths of what God has done, every aspect of my being should overflow with love back to him in response.
This clears up any confusion for us about what “love” means, doesn’t it?
So often, we think of love as a soft, tender feeling we have towards someone else.
Although there is tenderness in love, it isn’t about feeling!
It wasn’t that God felt love for us, so we feel love for him; it is that he acted lovingly towards us, so we act loving in response.
The love God showed us was sacrificial, hard, painful, unending love that called him to die on our behalf.
Is that how you would describe your love for God? Does your love for God drive you to sacrifice everything you are for him? Does your love for God reflect that same love he showed us?
I am afraid that we sometimes focus so much on God’s love for us that we forget our side of the equation.
Yes, God is infinitely merciful and gracious and loving, and he really did die in our place, but we can easily be tempted to take advantage of that.
Yes, God served us and continues to as he extends grace and helps us grow and live and be who we are, but that doesn’t make Jesus your personal slave.
It’s the other way around. The love God has shown you should give you such a deep sense of indebtedness that you are overjoyed to sacrifice everything you are and hope to be for him.
You exist to honor and glorify the God who made you; he doesn’t exist for you.
What does this look like practically?
Let’s think about it using the terms Jesus used here.
Although they aren’t clearly defined or divided, they can help us think about what it would look like for us to love God this way.
First, we love him with our heart, which speaks to the core of who we are. Loving him with our heart can leads us to desire him more than anything else and develop a greater dependence on him.
We are called to love him with our soul, which speaks to our spiritual strength. Loving him with our soul leads us to stay closely connected to him in prayer, recognizing that he can enable us to live the life he wants as he guides and equips us.
We are called to love him with our minds, which speaks to our thought processes. Loving him with our minds leads us to study his word and get to know him better. As we do, he transforms the way we think to allow us to make decisions and evaluate life from his perspective, giving us wisdom we could never have on our own.
Jesus also says we are to love him with our strength, which speaks to our abilities. Loving him with all our strength means we give up control of every talent, gift, ability, and resource we have to give him glory.
See? Simple, isn’t it? Just take everything you have, everything you are, and give it back to God out of a heart that recognizes the incredible work he has done on your behalf.
That’s the first and greatest commandment.
Jesus wasn’t done, though, as he explained the second most important command:
2) Love everyone like you love yourself.
2) Love everyone like you love yourself.
Jesus went a step beyond what the scribe asked and told him the follow-up.
This command is a natural extension of our love for God, isn’t it?
If God loves every person on the planet, and we love him, doesn’t it make sense that we are to love every other person?
But wait, Jesus just said we have to love our neighbor, right? So doesn’t that just mean the people close to us?
Wrong. We don’t have time to look at it fully, but in Luke 10, Jesus tells a story that clearly indicates that every human being on the face of the planet is your neighbor.
That means your neighbor is your family, your friends, your brothers and sisters at church, the people who live next door, the people who work at Wal-mart, the people you would rather not associate with, and the people in the most difficult places in the world.
That means you are called to love people of every race, struggling with every sin, in every part of the world.
Remember, that love doesn’t mean we dismiss sin and ignore it because we don’t want to offend someone.
Our love is to be like Jesus’, who confronted and challenged people who were wrong and in sin.
That’s the most loving thing we can do!
A love like Jesus’ is the love that actively seeks the good of another person.
That requires time, energy, money, and more.
So, what is the limit Jesus gives on loving others?
Well, you are called to love others like you love yourself.
I have a tendency to analyze things to death, so this has been a hard one for me.
How do you find that balance between taking care of your needs while still loving others like you love yourself?
Here’s how one author puts it:
“...take the energy you have for meeting your own needs and use that as a measure of the energy you use in seeking the good of others. Desire and seek the good of others with the same passion, creativity, and perseverance as you seek your own.” (Matt Perman, What’s Best Next)
Let’s put it this way: how many of you have had a health issue that you couldn’t get a diagnosis for? You went to doctor after doctor, researched, made all kinds of calls, and kept going until you figured out what was wrong.
Ever had something happen to your finances? You called the bank, you met with whoever you had to, and you kept pushing until they fixed the issue, didn’t you?
What God is calling you to do is apply that same passion, creativity, and energy to helping someone else.
That’s loving others like you love yourself.
That’s what the Bible teaches us to do, isn’t it?
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility consider others as more important than yourselves. Everyone should look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.
Doesn’t this fly in the face of our current cultural thinking?
“Make sure you take care of yourself first. Nobody else is going to look out for you.”
Did Jesus do that? No! His love for us took him to the cross, so why would we think he wouldn’t call us to put others ahead of ourselves?
Here’s the interesting thing: There is somebody looking out for you—the God of the universe who raised Jesus from the dead and lives inside you if you are a Christian.
We are called, then to live lives of radical generosity towards everyone we can.
Around here, we have taken this command and broken it into four different parts.
We say that we are called first to love our families. That means we act in loving ways towards our wives, kids, parents, grandparents, cousins, and beyond.
We next focus on our church family. If we aren’t loving our church family, the group of people who are saved by the same loving God we have been saved and who have been called to the same purpose we have been called to, then how in the world can we love people who hate Jesus and his message?
With those areas in line, we then move out to loving our community and our world.
This is an area where I feel like we fail the most, and this is perhaps the most critical for us.
Here’s a question: how many people do you have a genuine relationship with that don’t know Jesus? When is the last time you opened your home to someone you don’t know to be saved?
What are you doing to help the world around you? We live in a time where we can no longer claim ignorance of what is taking place in the greater world outside these walls.
People are hurting, they are sick, they are impoverished, and so often, we are too scared and too self-absorbed to get involved.
Think about the last person you saw who seemed to be struggling with a sin issue you hate. How did you respond to them? Ignore them, shun them, get creeped out?
Is that how Jesus reacted to any of us? Didn’t he eat with tax collectors and sinners? Didn’t he stop and have a lengthy conversation with a woman who hopped from marriage to marriage?
By the way, didn’t Jesus also sit with the religious people who thought they had it all together? His harshest words were for them, and they had the least room for him.
As you look at all these areas, what is God saying to you?
In a few minutes, we will be back in the Fellowship Hall, eating and having a great time.
Many of you have filled out your questionnaires and are ready to jump in and serve, and we are excited about that.
However, let’s make sure that before we do any of that, we stop and evaluate our hearts.
Let this service that we are about to offer be from a heart of love for God, serving him with everything we are and have.
Let it be out of love for others, reflecting the same passion, creativity, energy, and perseverance we expend on ourselves.