Friday, April 4, 2008

Heart, Soul, Mind and Strength

This is the day that the Lord has made, I will rejoice and be glad in it! My prayer is that you are doing the same. The last couple of days I have been talking about enjoying TODAY and not being so concerned about TOMORROW. I hope you have meditated on that thought and are savoring the blessings and moments of TODAY.

In Matthew 12 one of the religious scholars went up to Jesus and asked Him which commandment was the most important. Jesus gave him an answer that we all need to notice:

Mark 12:28-31 Then one of the scribes came up and listened to them disputing with one another, and, noticing that Jesus answered them fitly and admirably, he asked Him, Which commandment is first and most important of all [in its nature]? (29) Jesus answered, The first and principal one of all commands is: Hear, O Israel, The Lord our God is one Lord; (30) And you shall love the Lord your God out of and with your whole heart and out of and with all your soul (your life) and out of and with all your mind (with your faculty of thought and your moral understanding) and out of and with all your strength. This is the first and principal commandment. [Deut. 6:4, 5.] (31) The second is like it and is this, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these. [Lev. 19:18.]

This exhortation to love God is found ten times in Deuteronomy and nowhere else in the Pentateuch. It is the Shema, the basic and essential creed of Judaism. It is used to open every Jewish service and it is the first Scripture that every Jewish child commits to memory. Jesus said Deuteronomy 6:5 is the first and greatest commandment (Matthew 22:38).

So, if Jesus said that it is the most important commandment, then it would serve us well to dissect what He is saying. Jesus tells us HOW to love God...with ALL of our HEART, SOUL, MIND and STRENGTH.

#1 Love the Lord with all of your HEART. The heart is the faculty and seat of INTELLIGENCE. It is also the seat of thoughts, passions, desires, appetites, affections, purposes and ENDEAVORS. It also means to love the Lord with our WILL and CHARACTER. The heart is the seat of our PERSONAL LIFE and REACTIONS.

Proverbs 4:23 Keep vigilant watch over your heart; that's where life starts.

So, if we are going to love the Lord with all of our heart, then we honor and love God in our passions, desires and appetites. We keep a close watch over our hearts. We love Him by having good, solid CHARACTER and making godly choices in our PERSONAL life and REACTING in ways that enhances our Christian testimony and reputation. Lack of integrity and character is evidence of not LOVING God the way that Jesus tells us to. When Jesus told the scribe to love the Lord your God with all of your HEART, He is instructing us to take a second look at our personal life. In your passions, do you honor God? In your desires does your family, co-workers, friends see Christ likeness in you? Does your character cause others to want more of Jesus in their lives? At home, in your PERSONAL LIFE, is Christianity effective? As my kids watch me at home, do they want to follow Jesus because of the impact He has made in my life? When those who know me best see my REACTIONS to frustration do they marvel at the difference that Jesus has made in my life?

Jesus speaks directly to our INTEGRITY, CHARACTER, and PERSONAL LIFE when He tells us to love the Lord God with all of our HEARTS.

#2 Love the Lord with all your SOUL. The soul is the seat of our feelings and aversions. It is the lower aspect of man's nature. Also, it reflects the POSSESSIONS of life.

So, if we are going to love the Lord with all of our soul, then we honor and love God in our feelings, our aversions and our possessions. We love God with all of our soul when we honor Him with our possessions through our giving to missionaries, outreach projects, and our support of the local church through tithes and offerings. Aversion means: a feeling of revulsion and repugnance towards something usually coupled with an intense desire to avoid or turn from it. So another aspect of loving God with ALL OF OUR SOUL is when we have an intense desire to turn from or avoid the things that offends God. Let me give you an example of this:

Genesis 39:7-10 As time went on, his master's wife became infatuated with Joseph and one day said, "Sleep with me." (8) He wouldn't do it. He said to his master's wife, "Look, with me here, my master doesn't give a second thought to anything that goes on here--he's put me in charge of everything he owns. (9) He treats me as an equal. The only thing he hasn't turned over to me is you. You're his wife, after all! How could I violate his trust and sin against God?" (10) She pestered him day after day after day, but he stood his ground. He refused to go to bed with her.

Joseph is a great example of loving God with all of your soul. He refused to allow something into His life that offended God. Notice what happened some time later:

Genesis 39:11-12 On one of these days he came to the house to do his work and none of the household servants happened to be there. (12) She grabbed him by his cloak, saying, "Sleep with me!" He left his coat in her hand and ran out of the house.

When I love God with all of my soul, I express it by running away from the things that are going to hurt my reputation and testimony. I avoid and turn from the desires of my flesh by denying my flesh. In other words, when I crucify my flesh daily, I am expressing to God that I love Him with all of my soul!

Galatians 2:20 Christ's life showed me how, and enabled me to do it. I identified myself completely with him. Indeed, I have been crucified with Christ. My ego is no longer central. It is no longer important that I appear righteous before you or have your good opinion, and I am no longer driven to impress God. Christ lives in me. The life you see me living is not "mine," but it is lived by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

When we crucify the flesh, we aren't trying to impress God or man, we are expressing our love to God…loving Him with all of my soul.

Maybe you are reading this today and are battling something that is pestering you day after day. It is coming from the lower aspect of your nature…YOU MUST die to your ungodly desires. Also, you show God that you love Him with all your soul by giving CHEERFULLY to Him of your: time, talent, and treasure.

#3 Love the Lord with all of your MIND. The mind is your deep thoughts, imagination, way of thinking, opinions, judgments, determinations and purposes.

So, if we are going to love the Lord with all of our minds, then we honor and love God in our deep thoughts (meditations), imagination, opinions. We love God with our mind when we replace worry and doubt with faith and speaking God's Word. The enemy will do everything that he can to cause our meditations to be full of fear, worry, doubt, anger, frustrations, etc. We must make the choice every day to fill our minds with God's Word and walk within the boundaries of God's absolute Word:

Philippians 4:8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

God gives us EIGHT ways to test what we allow into our minds: Is it true? Is it Noble? Is it right? Is it pure? Is it lovely? Is it admirable? Is it excellent? Is it praiseworthy? If the thing that is attempting to enter your mind passes this eight point litmus test, then think on it. If it doesn't, then immediately remove it from your mind! When you do this, you are loving God with all of your mind!

2 Corinthians 10:4-5 (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds;) (5) Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;

Some reading today may be struggling with strongholds and imaginations that have taken over your mind. It may be fear, anger, lust, etc. The bottom line is, fill your mind with thoughts of God's goodness, mercy and His Word. When you do this, you are obeying God's standards of loving Him with your MIND.

#4 Love the Lord with all your STRENGTH. Your strength here is your ability, might, force, self-control, authority, greatness, and outward manifestation of power.

So, if we are going to love the Lord with all of our strength, then we honor and love God in our ability, might, self-control, and manifestation of power. God has gifted each of us with talents and abilities, and when we use them for His glory, and then we love God with all of our strength.

Matthew 25:24-29 "Then the man who had received the one talent came. 'Master,' he said, 'I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. (25) So I was afraid and went out and hid your talent in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.' (26) "His master replied, 'You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed? (27) Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest. (28) "'Take the talent from him and give it to the one who has the ten talents. (29) For everyone who has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him.

In this parable, Jesus tells a story of a Master who gave each of His servants something: to one he gave 5 talents, to another 2 talents, and to another 1 talent. Notice that everyone received something. When we say that we aren't talented, we are not showing God that we love Him with all of our STRENGTH. The person with five talents had his talents doubled to ten. The one with two, was doubled to four. However, the one with one talent, hid his talent and refused to invest it, because of the FEAR OF FAILURE. He was severely chastised for his lack of concern for his master in not using what he was given.

I love God with ALL OF MY MIND when I have the self-control to refuse to allow the enemy to keep me on the sidelines and not working in God's Kingdom. I refuse to allow the enemy to tell me that I am not talented enough for God to use me. There is a place for me to be used of God. I am talented and gifted. When I realize this and use my ability to serve God, then I love Him with all of my STRENGTH.

Just yesterday I read the following:

The sign said honk if you love Jesus; so I honked, and a policeman arrested me for disturbing the peace in a quiet hospital zone.
The sign said smile if you love Jesus; so I smiled all day long, And people thought I was a staff worker for Jimmy Carter.
The sign said wave if you love Jesus; so I waved with both hands, And lost control of my car, And crashed into the back of a Baptist bus.
Oh God—If I cannot honk, or smile, or wave, How will Jesus know that I love him?

Deuteronomy 6:5, and Mark 12:30 gives us the answer. Blessings!

Pastor Rusty

This weekend's "Through the Bible in a year" reading:

Friday, April 4, 2008: 2 Chronicles 25:1 – 2 Chronicles 28:27 Saturday April 5, 2008: 2 Chronicles 29:1 - 2 Chronicles 32:33 Sunday April 6, 2008: 2 Chronicles 33:1 - 2 Chronicles 36:1

This week's memory verse to "Hide in our hearts": 2 Chronicles 20:22

v. 22 And when they began to sing and to praise, the Lord set ambushments against the men of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir who had come against Judah, and they were [self-] slaughtered;