Sunday, November 22, 2009

This week's sermon: Love God with all your soul

I Samuel 17.
We have been looking closer at what Jesus said was the greatest command, summing up the Law and the Prophets. We talked two weeks ago about loving God with all of our hearts. Well, today we are looking at the next part of the greatest commandment, love the Lord your God with all of your soul.

What do we mean when we say soul? Well, the word used in the New Testament is psyche. It means literally the life, or the being. In essence, the soul is the deepest part of who we are. It is the foundation of our identity. This is what Jesus is telling us to love God with. He is saying love the Lord your God with all of who you are, with your very identity. Today I want to talk about identity, and how it affects our lives.

Identity is such an important contributor to our every day lives. Every decision we make will be influenced by who we are, or who we have come to believe we are. There is a difference between our identity and who we think we are. You could be the greatest king, but if you think you are a poor man you will never act the part of your true identity. The story we will read this morning is full of people confused about who they really are. Their identity, the very foundation of their lives is in question.

Our main text this morning is I Samuel 17, the story of David and Goliath. You will find that as we look at the Greatest Commandment, we will use passages that are familiar, Sunday school stories. I find that the reason these kinds of texts are used in Sunday school lessons is that they are full of fundamental principles of faith. The situation we find ourselves in is this, the Philistines are drawn up for battle on one hill, opposite them are the Israelites with Saul as their king. The valley between them is standing by to become a battlefield drenched in the blood of both armies.

I want you to picture yourself in that Israelite camp. You see this nine-foot-tall monster of a man wearing great heavy armor come out and issue you a personal challenge to come fight him one on one. That would be enough to have all of us running in fear. But one thing I want to draw your attention to is this, Goliath says to them, “Am I not a Philistine, and are you not servants of Saul?” Goliath challenges them as servants of Saul. This is the identity that the Israelites are functioning with. They had forgotten who they were—Not Saul’s servants, but the Children of God! They had forgotten that they were not fighting to defend "their land" rather God's Promised Land. They had identified themselves with an earthly king instead of an eternal God

The next verses tell us about David. He had brothers fighting and had been sent to check on them, and bring them supplies. He hears Goliath’s challenge and is outraged. Let’s read verse 26. “David asked the men standing near him, ‘What will be done for the man who kills this Philistine and removes this disgrace from Israel? Who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he should defy the armies of the living God?’" David knew that they were the children of God—who did Goliath think he was defying the armies of the Living God? David knew that as children of God, they were under his protection. David knew this because he had a relationship with God as his foundation—David had his identity stamped with God’s seal of ownership.

So, David goes out and asks around about how he can go fight this Goliath. Saul hears him and brings him into his tent for a little chat. Saul saw only an in inexperienced boy; David knew God had protected him before. Saul saw an insurmountable enemy; David knew God was bigger than any enemy. Saul saw only conventional ways of doing battle; David knew God could use him just as he was. David shrugged off the armor that did not fit who God had made him to be, and took what he was used to: rocks and a sling, and went to fight the nine-foot-tall Philistine.

God was there with David, his child. God had planned a victory for his people. God used David just as he was to gain that victory.

Our identity is so crucial to our decision making. It is like the foundation of a house. Do you remember the parable Jesus told of the wise and foolish builders? The difference between which house fell, and which stood was the foundation. Our reaction to everyday events is determined by this sense of who we are and where our foundation is. Every decision we make about life and risk taking is determined by this sense of who we are. If you need examples how about phrases like this, have you ever heard: “You can’t treat me this way, I’m an American Citizen!” “I can do what I want because my daddy is ____”

What about politicians who make all their decisions based on their identity in one party or another. Or people finding their identity in the roles they play: parents, children, employees, employers, blue-collar, white-collar, basketball star, cheerleader. It is not wrong to be any of these things, but at the end of the day all of what I have listed here is temporary. All of these identities can be lost. Ask a parent who has lost their children; a spouse who has lost their partner, people standing in the unemployment lines, or business owners forced to close up shop. Sports players age and get injured, all of it is so fragile. If we base our identities on these roles we play, we can find ourselves lost when the rug is pulled out from under our feet.

Where is your foundation today? Where does your sense of confidence and safety lie? Are you trusting in chariots, or are you trusting in the name of the Lord? When we find our identity in him first, then we can stand even if all the other hats we wear get swept away. If you don’t know where your foundation lies, ask yourself these questions. How do I react in stressful situations? Do I react with fear, or confidence? Am I devastated, or do I see hope? Where is your foundation? Ask the Lord to help you build your foundation, your identity on him.

We start by giving him our whole heart, and follow that by trusting him with our very soul, our entire self. We follow it up with reading and knowing what his word says about who we are. We are his creation. We are his children, co-heirs with Christ if we have accepted his salvation. We are the temple of the Holy Spirit. We are the body of Christ to minister to each other and those around us as long as we remain on this earth. We have to let our soul be shaped by who he says we are, or we will fall for the lies that surround us.

Those voices that tell us we are not enough, but the truth is that God is our sufficiency. The voices say we are too fat/thin/short/tall/quiet/outgoing to be loved and used by God, but the truth is that God says, “I have redeemed you, I have called you by name, child, you are mine.” The scriptures are full of God telling us over and over again the truth about who we are, and who he is. We need to step out in faith and trust that what he says is true. That is how we love him with all our soul. It is his desire for you and me, and he will give us the strength to carry it through.

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