This morning, we dive right back into our series, Experience the Difference, a series designed to help us obtain clear vision as we begin the 2022 year.
To be clear, the kind of vision we are talking about is not physical in nature, but is spiritual. This kind of clear vision helps us to accomplish two very important things:
One, it helps us to see God and His attributes clearly. It is guided by His truth and founded on His Word. It dismisses the deceptions of this world and of the enemy and places our focus on Jesus. In order to experience the difference in 2022, a person must realize that Jesus IS the difference!
Two, it helps us to see clearly where God desires for us to go. God does NOT desire for His church to be passive or indifferent or without direction. Our God is missional and He created His church to carry out said mission. His redemptive plan is in motion. Not only is God doing a redemptive work within believers today, He has commissioned believers to proclaim His redemptive message to a lost and dying world!
How we view God and how we view His plan will greatly impact the direction we will go in life. If our view or focus of God is distorted or our understanding of His plan is polluted, you can bet that a person will have a hard time of knowing where God is trying to lead that person to go.
Last week we talked about the importance of having a Christ-Centered Focus. Jesus is the difference this world has been looking for! He is the One who made a difference in me, and I know He is the One who made the difference in the hearts of believers listening to me today!
Jesus is central in the redemptive plan of God. He was sent to this earth to make the payment for our sins. It is by His blood that we are forgiven, set free, and redeemed of ALL sin. His blood has covered ALL SIN!
He is the answer the world has been looking for! Last week, we talked about how people missed this truth because they didn’t have the right focus. The answer sat right before them… yet they couldn’t see the Savior for their self. In their testing of Jesus they asked a question, “Which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
These “experts” thought they could trap Jesus with their knowledge of the Scriptures. What they failed to realize was… The Word had become flesh, according to John 1:14, and Jesus was that Word!
And in this moment, Jesus doesn’t scold these guys for their selfish tendencies. In this moment, Jesus doesn’t shrug them off and tell them to get lost. In this moment, Jesus gives them clear direction on how to get their vision back into proper focus. Look at His answer with me in Matthew 22:37-40
37 Jesus replied: “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
Look carefully at Jesus’ answer. We know this text as the Great Commandments… and look carefully at who or what is at the center of both commandments - God. Love is the action in both and Scripture identifies God as… love. We’ll talk more about that in an upcoming message.
What I want you to see is what Jesus was trying to help the Pharisees to see that day. They might have been “experts” in the law but they had completely missed the love behind the law. They had a distorted view of God and of God’s plan.
Jesus had just instructed these guys to realign their focus and that realignment would impact their entire being. Some things would have to change in order for that realignment to happen.
This morning, we are going to look at what it means to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart.” This morning, we are going to talk about why it is so important that our heart be centered on Christ. We are going to talk about what our heart is and what kind of an impact it can have on us physically and spiritually.
We often speak of our hearts in two different forms.
One, we know that our heart is a hollow muscular organ that pumps the blood through the circulatory system by rhythmic contraction and dilation. If all of us could place our hand on our chest, you can feel your heart at work right now. If not, please let us know and we will get you medical help immediately!
It’s a powerful muscle that keeps our body in motion!
Two, we often speak of our heart as the center of a person's thoughts and emotions, especially love, compassion, or loyalty.
When we say, “Wow! that person has a lot of heart” it is not said of the size or strength of the muscle that is pumping within his or her chest, but rather it is spoken regarding that person’s character.
Jesus is speaking of the latter definition. The command is given to love God with all of our emotional self. And we are going to look at why that is so important today.
More Than Just a Muscle
More Than Just a Muscle
Hearts can be full of joy. Hearts can be full of sorrow. Hearts can be hardened or softened. Hearts can be be made whole… and can be broken. And while these sensations might be hard to explain with words… everyone in this room and watching online know what these conditions of the heart feel like.
What I bet we don’t realize is… how much impact our heart has on the rest of our lives.
In my studies this week, I came across some interesting research that was presented in the book, “The God-Shaped Brain” by author and Christian psychologist Timothy Jennings. First, I want you to see how he defines the “heart.”
“Now, what is the heart? Neurologically speaking the “heart” is the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), the part of the brain right between your eyes and slightly back from your forehead. It is in this brain region where we experience empathy, compassion and love, and where we choose the right from the wrong.”
So when Jesus gave the instruction to Love God with all your heart, He was describing a very important part of our being that has a lot of influence in our decision making.
How many decisions do we make that are based on empathy? How many decisions do we make that are based on compassion… or the lack thereof? How many decisions do we make that are based on love? And how many times do we find ourselves having to choose right from wrong?
With all that in mind… how important do you think it is for JESUS to be central in all of that decision making??? We make Christ central in these decisions when we choose to love Him with all our heart!
Let’s take a quick look at what it looks like to love God in this way. To love God with all your heart is to:
Make God the source and object of your greatest desires and passions.
There are a lot of things a person can be passionate about! There are a lot of things a person might desire in life. The world has a way of trying to play to our desires to get what it wants from us.
God must become your greatest passion. God must become your most heart-felt desire. Everything else MUST come second to Him. And as He becomes your greatest passion, the rest of your desires will follow.
Your desire for a good household moves to a desire for a godly household.
Your desire for a good marriage moves to a desire for a godly marriage.
Your desire for a good attitude moves to a desire for a godly attitude and so forth.
Your passions become centered on God.
Secondly, to love God with all your heart is to make sure the core of your affections are centered on Him.
You become attracted to that which is attractive to God. Your heart comes into alignment with the heart of God.
You love what God loves… and hate what God hates (see Proverbs 6).
You become passionate about what God is passionate about.
You begin to love what God so loved…
How do we know what God loves and what He is passionate about? By reading and knowing this book that tells the whole story!
Third, to love God with all your heart means that you are completely faithful and devoted to God and that His purposes direct every area of your life.
As your heart and your passions come into alignment with God and His plan, such becomes the direction and purpose in everything you are and in everything that you do.
You don’t hold back, and you are willing to give whatever God would direct you to give.
Self is left in the past as the Savior comes into clear focus.
Loving God in this way requires a willingness to do ANYTHING for Him.
Loving God with all our heart is a life-directing love. And we need to understand something very important… Our love for God must be inspired by His love for us - a love that caused Him to give His Son for us.
God Loved us… First
God Loved us… First
This point is CRITICAL to our understanding of what Jesus was trying to tell the Pharisees that day. Before we loved God with our entire being, God loved us, first.
Church, How we view or see God will have a HUGE impact on our level of love for Him. Our view of God will either inspire us to love Him more… or will lead us to love Him less.
Consider this: There are many people out there that have a distorted view of who God is. In fact, I would argue that the Pharisees had a distorted view of who God was as they tested Jesus.
They knew the law and they “lived” out the law in public view. They pushed the law and tried to test Jesus using the law but… they had completely missed the HEART of the law. They had forgotten His love.
God’s motive in giving the law was love. He desired for His people to stay as far away from sin as possible. God knows just how destructive sin is. Sin separates us from God, therefore, God gave us a law hoping it would separate us from sin.
Many people today see God as the bad guy. Many people see Him as an authoritative menace or an uncaring presence. Viewpoints like this come from the pollutants of the world and from a lack of truly knowing God and His love. So where do these pollutants come from?
Hear me clearly, church: Satan is the one who is behind these misguided viewpoints.
Go back to the Garden of Eden. As the enemy worked to entice Eve to do what God said not to do… he worked to turn Eve’s love for God… to fear. Look at Genesis 3:5
5 “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
The enemy convinced Eve that God was withholding something good from her. She became afraid or fearful of missing out on something… good. And it was in that fear that she impulsively took what God said was forbidden. She lost sight of God’s love behind God’s command.
Where the love of God is missed… the fear of man persists. And we see the same thing playing out with many who claim to have a walk with God today.
Christianity is NOT a process of going through the right motions to please a demanding God who will otherwise send you to hell if you do not do what He says. Christianity IS a relationship with Christ who gave His life on the cross that we might be forgiven of sin so our fellowship with God could be restored! And His motive behind His actions was love!
How we view God will impact our ability or desire to love God. His plan is one of love and I want you to see how our viewpoint of such can effect our “hearts” as we live out each day.
I want to show you something else out of Dr. Jenning’s book regarding the importance of how we view God. Remember, the ACC or the neurological “heart” is the center of our emotions and passions. Look at how our view of God impacts that center.
“God’s methods of love and truth strengthen (makes stronger) the ACC (neurological heart) and calm the fear circuits. This means that the more clearly we embrace love-based God-concepts and act altruistically, the healthier our brains become; and on the other hand, the more fear-inducing our God- concept is, the more selfish our actions and the more damage occurs.”
I mean… Who would of thought that God’s loving ways calm our fears AND make our brains more healthy! Such ways help us to live unselfishly and less impulsively!
On the other hand, viewing God in a fearful or negative way does the exact opposite. A person does damage to their ACC (their neurological heart) as fear and other emotions take control.
“This is the problem with fear-based decision making; the emotion circuits dominate, and selfishness is chosen instead of love.”
Fear was in the driver seat as Eve took what God said not to touch. Fear was in the driver seat as the Pharisees continually tested Jesus again, and again, and again. Fear caused them to lose focus of God and His love.
And fear can do the same thing to us if we are not careful. The same enemy that was working on the hearts of Eve and the Pharisees… is the same enemy who is roaming about looking for someone to devour. Satan wants nothing more than to kill you, to steal from you, and to destroy you. The enemy is going to try to convince you that God does not love you… and he is going to go straight for your heart!
When hard times come, people often ask, “where is God?” (fear and emotions)
When trials persist and things seem out of control, people often ask, “doesn’t God care?” (fear and emotions)
When sickness hits and the body fails, people often ask, “why will God not heal me?” (fear and emotions)
And then… the deception is laid down. “If God really loved me, then this wouldn’t be happening to me.” It’s a destructive play of the enemy against our heart.
The enemy is STILL working on hearts. The enemy is STILL trying to convince people to place their trust in self instead of the Savior! Then enemy does not want you to know that God loves you!
Because of His love for us... God did something for the whole world to see. God did something this world will never forget! God did something to help give us a clear vision of who He is. Where the enemy is looking to rob you of life… God sent His Son to the earth that we might have life more abundantly.
We know this next Scripture well but I pray it has not lost its significance because of our familiarity of the text. This passage speaks directly of the love of God in motion. John 3:16
16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
Two thousand years ago, Jesus came to do what only he could do. He entered this world to carry out the business of His Father. Jesus came… to seek and to save the lost. Jesus came… to give His life as a ransom for many. What Jesus did… was a demonstration of God’s love for us… Romans 5:8
8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
If this preacher can convince you of anything in this message today… I want it to be this: God loves you. His love for you is unmatched and undeniable. His love for you is proven and unshaken. There is nothing you can ever do to cause Him to love you less. NOTHING can separate you from His love.
Jesus’ death on the cross and resurrection from the grave is living proof of His love. God’s redemptive plan is a plan of love that could only come from our God who is identified as love in 1 John 4:8.
God did all of this so that we might know His love and live in His grace. To the questions I mentioned a moment ago… I want to give these answers:
When hard times come, people often ask, “where is God?” God is with us. He has never left us nor will He ever abandon us. Even when we turned our backs on Him, He never turned His back on us.
When trials persist and things seem out of control, people often ask, “doesn’t God care?” God cares more than you know. In fact, Jesus, our Great High Priest, knows the trials, the hurts, and the pains that come with living in this world. He is interceding for us to the Father. He has overcome this world.
When sickness hits and the body fails, people often ask, “why will God not heal me?” Jesus’ body was broken so that we could be made spiritually and physically whole again. Be it through restoration or resurrection, the Word promises that by His stripes, we ARE healed. We will rise again!
When we fully realize all that God has done for us through His Son, we realize that God was not acting on impulse, God was not acting out of obligation, God was not acting selflessly, God was not simply going with the flow. God was not trying to please a certain crowd. God WAS loving on His creation in a way only He could.
God LOVES you! God has given all for you! The question we must ask ourselves is this: Are we willing to give all to God? Are we willing to give Him our heart?
I Give You my Heart.
I Give You my Heart.
Church, instead of giving into self, we need to give our heart to the Savior. The command given by Jesus needs to be more than something we do… it needs to be our way of life - Jesus at the center of our heart.
With a Christ-Centered heart, all of your decisions are now guided by His love and His ways.
Empathy, compassion, even your sense of right and wrong now all come under His power and authority. Your emotions are still your emotions, but if you are like me, I could use help from time to time navigating through what I feel and what I desire to do.
When we choose to love God with all our heart, it takes the guessing and the fear out of what we will do next.
Such a choice is a reflection of how we view God. Such a choice declares that we trust Him and that we view Him as loving and good.
This choice removes doubt. This choice silences the voice of the one who would otherwise try to lead you to be governed by your fears and raw emotions.
God has the VERY BEST in store for you. God has the VERY BEST in store for this church. but we have to be willing to give Him… our heart. And we do so by hearing, obeying, and living the command given to us by Jesus.
This morning, I want to as you where is your heart today?
Perhaps you can identify with the example statements I gave a moment ago… statements that place our fears in the front of our faith.
This is NOT a place of judgement or condemnation. Many of us have been there… we have wrestled with these in these moments. Today, you have a choice to make.
Will you silence those feelings by fully accepting that God loves you and by giving Him your heart...
Or will you continue to entertain those feelings while risking being led down the wrong path… a path that leads further from the Lord?
If you find yourself in this struggle asking God why… where… and if you love me. Raise your hand for a quick moment.
Today our prayer is simple. “Lord, I give you my heart.” And what I want us to do is declare that statement to God on our own.
If you are struggling, be real with God regarding that need. He sees that need and He desires to help you through it. Are you willing to give it to Him?
If you are ready to give God your heart, to love Him with ALL your heart, then take the next minute to vocalize this desire, and stand to your feet.
let’s worship Him today, and thank Him for His love! Lord, we love you with all that we are!