Monday, December 7, 2009

This week's sermon: Love God with All Your Strength

Luke 12:22-34.

There once was a father who wanted some quiet time so that he could read the paper. His daughter Vanessa, however wanted her father’s attention because she was bored. Finally, he tore a sheet out of his magazine on which was printed a map of the world. Tearing into small pieces he gave it and some clear tape to Vanessa and said, “Go into the other room and see if you can put this together.” He thought surely he would now have time to finish his article in peace.

After only a few minutes, Vanessa returned and handed him the map correctly fitted together. The father was surprised knowing his daughter did not have great knowledge about geography, and asked how she had finished so quickly. “Oh,” she said, “on the other side of the paper is a picture of Jesus. When I got Jesus in His place, then the world came out all right on the other side.”

We have been talking about the greatest commandments: Loving God with all our hearts, souls, minds, and strength; and loving our neighbors as ourselves. This week we are focusing on Loving God with all our strength. To love God fully, all of our labor and energy must belong to him. Let’s turn to Luke 12 :22-34 and see what Jesus has to say about the matter.

Luke 12:22-31 [pp -- Mt 6:25-33] 22 Then Jesus said to his disciples: "Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. 23 Life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. 24 Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds! 25 Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life ? 26 Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest? 27 "Consider how the lilies grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 28 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith! 29 And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it. 30 For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them. 31 But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well. 32 "Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. 33 Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will not be exhausted, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. 34 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

You will see that as we study this command to love God with all that we are, that the areas of our lives that need to be surrendered to him overlap, they don’t stand alone. In this passage, Jesus talks about not worrying which is a product of the mind and heart working together. He talks about our value to God, our core identity—our souls—being placed in his hands. He talks about considering and pondering the world around us and how God is at work in caring for the simplest creatures—which requires our minds to be focused on Him. Jesus is giving instruction on surrendering all those parts to God right here in this one scripture passage.

He also shows us what it looks like for those areas of our lives to be out of alignment with God’s will—worry, and fear producing people who run around crazy trying to make sure they have enough food and shelter and clothing. All of these things, Jesus says, his Father will provide as we seek his kingdom.

Too often we see the world, which is pagan apart from God, running after food and drink. You can observe this in just a little tv-watching. Many commercials are geared toward this drive, whether they are for restaurants, junk food, soda, beer, or sports drinks. We see it in the epidemic of obesity our country is facing on one side, and equally disturbing eating disorders depriving the body of nourishment on the other. We can see it surfing tv channels or on the internet, whole channels devoted to displaying recipes we will never fix and internet sites with millions of tips on getting things just right. The world chases after food.

Now, Jesus is not saying that meal planning or grocery shopping is bad. He means, don’t let it consume your life. Don’t become a slave to gourmet food or junk food or healthy food or even dieting. Food is there to serve life, not the other way around. This is one of the reasons that God calls his people to fast, or abstain from food for a time. It is in the holy habit of fasting that we learn that God is our strength (Psalm 118:14). If we live our lives obsessed with food, we will miss out on all that God has planned for us.

Another area we see the world obsessing over is clothing and shelter. Just walk past the magazine rack and you will see countless articles on what is hot this season in fashion. Walking down the same isle, you will also see row upon row of decorating magazines. These magazines are not produced because the editors think it’s fun, they are produced to feed a desire in many people to wear the best or live in the best, most fashionable way.

Again, Jesus is not saying, don’t wear nice clothes or live in nice houses. He is telling us not be consumed by what we wear or where we live. If we have clothes and shelter, we need to be content. If we let fashion and trends control our lives and resources we will miss out on all that God has planned for us. Psalm 127 says this: 1 Unless the LORD builds the house, its builders labor in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the watchmen stand guard in vain. 2 In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat-- for he grants sleep to those he loves.

When we are busy chasing the things of the world, we live frantic, worry-filled lives. Jesus says, "Come to me you who are weary and heavy-laden and I will give you rest." Many times we are weary and carrying heavy burdens because we are chasing things that do not satisfy or will not last. Jesus says in our main text, "Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom." God does not want us to live deprived, he wants us to live an abundant and fulfilled life. We find this fulfillment in Him.

I don’t just want to tell you things not to do, and neither did Jesus. He said, instead of letting all these things consume your life, producing worry and fear, seek first the kingdom of God and trust that God will provide adequate food and shelter, clothing and all the things you need for living your life to build his kingdom. We are promised that as we are faithful to use what God has given us to build his kingdom, God will provide for us. Philippians 4:19 “And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.”

Loving God with all our strength is giving him all of our means of influence, whether that be our ability to work, our community influence, our money and resources—everything that we can use to make a change in the world around us. We can make a choice to do that today instead of letting our work, our influence, our money and resources be dominated by an obsession over food, drink, clothing and shelter. God wants to give us rest and peace in our lives, this comes from giving him our entire lives, all our resources offered up to him--not to be deprived, but to walk in peace. Just like that little girl putting together the picture of the world, if we can get Jesus in the right place, everything else will come together as well. Choose to give him your strength today and receive his rest in return.

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