Read at beginning of service:
Matthew 6:19-24 (NIV)
19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. 22 “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light. 23 But if your eyes are bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness! 24 “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.
It is a tremendous honor each and every Sunday that I stand before you with the opportunity to preach the word of God to you. What is the greater honor for me however is the awesome privilege I enjoy of being able to browse through His scriptures. I truly value the truths and lessons, and messages God speaks to me through the Bible and by His Holy Spirit. I?m wondering do you count it a privilege in your life? If not, I really encourage you to begin thinking with that attitude. This is more than a book (hold up the Bible), this is God?s letter to you!!
Each and every week I spend time in prayer asking God to show me what He would have me speak to you folks on Sunday morning and Sunday evening. In my prayers these past two weeks I have been reminded of what has been percolating in my heart off and on my entire life as a Christian ? the need for authenticity as a Christian. I don?t know about you who are Christians this morning but in my own life there have been times when I?ve struggled with my walk with God. There have been times where I?ve walked through the valley of doubts. And there have been times when I?ve been confronted with the banner of hypocrisy ? when I?ve asked myself, “Am I living a lie?” Come on, let?s be honest here folks ? I think all of us have passed through those periods at different times in their life ? haven?t you? I believe if we are to be truly authentic Christians we must begin by being honest with ourselves. I also know that the end of the day ? in passing through those questions on my faith I find myself becoming more sure and certain of who I am and my salvation in Jesus Christ.
I think being authentic (and the process to getting there) is one of most important basic characteristics of a Christian ? to actually live what we say we believe! The world needs authentic Christians! Especially our culture. The culture we are living in today is spiritually hungry and desperately looking for people who are authentic in their relationship with Jesus Christ.
- Peter Jennings, Searching for Jesus ? a documentary which aired in June 2000 on ABC
- Oprah Winfrey ? remembering her spirit (a regular feature of her shows)
- And a whole host of other celebrities and stars are proclaiming that being “spiritual” is in!
Yet in this time of spiritual hunger the church is declining!
- Not because the church won?t accommodate the culture
- Many denominations, out of a fear of being labeled intolerant, have compromised the truth of God?s word for what is more culturally acceptable.
- Despite their attempt to please everyone, these churches have empty pews and little impact on people?s lives.
If people are hungry for spirituality, why aren?t they looking to the church? There may be several answers to this question, but I think it all boils down to the fact that
- The church? and individual Christians? are not authentic
- The world looks at the church and sees
- People who cheat in their businesses, cheat on their spouses, and cheat on their taxes
- They see people who gossip, and worry, and complain as much as they do.
- In a word, they see hypocrites. People who say they have been changed and yet behave just like the rest of the world day in and day out.
Our culture longs to see real Christians, not perfect Christians, but real Christians? Authentic Christians.
For the next few weeks I?m going to be delivering a series of messages about being Authentic Christians. In approaching this issue we?re going to be looking at the Great Commandment.
Turn with me to Matthew 22:34-40.
Matthew 22:34-40 (NIV)
34 Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. 35 One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: 36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” 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.”
In this passage, the Pharisees send an expert in their religious law to test Jesus by asking Him a highly debated question of the day.
- The Pharisees, the religious leaders, observed 613 different commands
- They often disagreed as to which one was the greatest.
- They thought Jesus?s teaching was so radical they wanted to test Him in front of the people.
- They expected Him to deny the law, but instead He quoted a part of Scripture that the Jews repeated everyday.
He says, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. And don?t forget? Love your neighbor as yourself.”
JESUS GIVES US THE CALL TO AUTHENTIC CHRISTIANITY.
- He tells us we must love God with ALL that we are
- ? hearted love is not acceptable!
- God demands an all consuming love
For the next few weeks we are going to explore this commandment ? Loving God with all of our heart, all of our soul, and all of our mind. We?re going to look at what I believe Jesus is saying is essential to authentic Christianity.
What does it mean to “love God with all our heart?”
Jesus is talking about an internal motivation that should drive us. We are to be driven by a love for God? we are to have a passion for God.
In Matt 6:21, Jesus says, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
WHAT WE TREASURE REFLECTS OUR PASSION AND WE HAVE A PASSION FOR WHAT WE CONSIDER TO BE OUR TREASURE. Our problem is that we don?t treasure God. Oh? He?s our savior and our friend? we?ll visit Him every once in a while, but He?s not our treasure.
A.W. Tozer said it like this ? “We may WANT God, but we want something else more. And we get what we want most.”
We need a PASSION FOR GOD. What do I mean by passion?
Let me tell you what I don?t mean first:
- I?m not talking about just an emotion or a feeling
- I?m not talking about something sensual or romantic
The Passion I?m talking about is touched on by Webster?s definition: A STRONG, EXTRAVAGANT FONDNESS, ENTHUSIASM, OR DESIRE FOR SOMETHING.
I?m talking about the need for us to have a strong, extravagant fondness, enthusiasm, and desire for God.
Is this passion I?m talking about Biblical? ? Let?s look?
In the passage before us this morning we are told to have an all-consuming love for God? to love Him with All our heart.
2 Chronicles 15:15 (NIV)
15 All Judah rejoiced about the oath because they had sworn it wholeheartedly. They sought God eagerly, and he was found by them. So the LORD gave them rest on every side.
Most of us know Psalm 42:1, which says, “As the deer pants for water so my soul pants for You” but listen to how The Message paraphrases this verse:
“(As) A white-tailed deer drinks from the creek; I want to drink God, deep drafts of God. I am thirsty for God alive!”
Does that sound like passion for God? ? It is the cry of authentic Christianity
When Jesus commands us to love God with all our heart, He is telling us to have the same strong, extravagant fondness, enthusiasm, and desire as expressed in these Scriptures.
Some of us are fired up right now because we can say that we have this all-consuming passion for God? but most of us don?t have this passion and we fit into one of two categories:
1. Those who need a heart transplant.
2. Those who have a new heart, but poor circulation.
Some of us can?t have a passion for God because we need a heart transplant.
Listen to what the Bible says about our hearts and our passions apart from God.
Gen 8:21 ? The intent of man?s heart is evil from his youth.
? We are born into sin? and sin keeps us from having a passion for God.
2 Chr 12:14 ? He did evil because he did not set his heart to seek the Lord.
Jer 7:24 ? But they did not listen or pay attention; instead they followed the stubborn inclinations of their evil hearts.
Jer 17:9 ? The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure.
If you?ve never given your life to Christ your heart is beyond cure? there?s nothing you can do? it?s impossible for you to have a passion for God because you need a new heart.
- You can have an interest in God
- You can have a desire for spiritual things
- But you can?t have a true passion for God until God has given you a new heart.
God describes our heart transplant that occurs at salvation in
Ezekiel 36:26-27 (NIV)
26 I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.
We need a new heart because we are sick with sin. … Our hearts have condemned us to death and eternal separation from God. Our only hope is to have our heart replaced and our sins forgiven.
And, because of Jesus Christ there is hope.
If you need a heart transplant this morning, God wants to give you a new heart and He promises in?
Hebrews 10:16-17 (NIV)
16 ?I will put my laws in their hearts, and I will write them on their minds.” 17 Then he adds: “Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more.”
When we give our lives to Christ in response to God?s pull at our heart, we not only get a new heart, but we get a new heart that knows and wants to obey God. God gives us the desire and passion to be authentic Christians.
But why do some of us who have a new heart, not have a passion for God?
Our problem is that we have poor circulation.
- We have allowed sin to clog our arteries and our love? our passion for God has grown cold.
- We know deep down that we don?t love God with ALL our heart. We love Him, and we want to follow Him, but not as much as other things. And remember? WE GET WHAT WE WANT THE MOST.
Rev 2:4 says, “I have this against you, that you have left your first love.” (Jesus speaking to the church in Ephesus)
Perhaps this is true of you? You know that your passion for God has been choked out by other things. Well?
Rev 2:5 is for you. It says, “Do you have any idea how far you have fallen? Turn back! Recover your dear early love.”
If you have left your first love? if you have lost your passion for God, He urges you to turn back! You CAN recover the early love you had for God.
But maybe you?re here this morning and you look like you have it all together? no one would question your love for God, but you know it?s all on the outside? inside you know you?ve lost your passion and its just getting too hard to pretend anymore.
Rev 3:1 says, “I know your deeds, you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead.” (Jesus speaking to the church in Sardis)
God knows your heart and He is not fooled.
In his classic Paradise Lost, John Milton wrote, “Neither men nor angels can discern hypocrisy, (it is) the only evil that walks invisible ? except to God.”
If this is your condition? if you?re tired of acting passionate or playing church listen to this?
Rev 3:3 ? “Your condition is desperate. Think of the gift you once had in your hands, the Message you heard with your ears ? grasp it again and turn back to God.
It?s not too late to “recover your dear early love” or correct your “desperate condition”.
James 4:8 says, “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.”
Don?t allow sin to keep you from acquiring the strong, extravagant fondness, enthusiasm, and desire that Jesus commands that we have when He tells us to “Love God with all our heart.”
IN ORDER TO BE AUTHENTIC WE MUST BE MOTIVATED IN ALL WE DO BY A PASSION FOR GOD.
So what can you do if you?ve lost your passion for God?
You can renew your passion by:
1. Worshiping and serving God out of love, not obligation.
- When was the last time you truly sang out of your heart in worship?
- Or when you did something simply because you love God?
- The church needs people who earnestly desire to worship God in spirit and in truth? people who come and pour out all their heart in the worship of God?
- When we sing after this message? pour your love out upon God.
2. Making time to pursue God in Bible study and prayer.
- James 4:8 says that when we draw near to God, He?ll draw near to us.
- If you want to renew your passion? draw near to God.
3. Having a time of sharing, praying, and talking about God with your family or friends.
- 2 Timothy 2:22 says, “Now flee from youthful lusts and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace WITH THOSE WHO CALL ON THE LORD FROM A PURE HEART.
- Pursue God with your family? or if your single? with your friends
- Pursue God in the context of community (Koinonia groups, fellowship!)
4. Responding to God right now in prayer.
- Perhaps God is dealing with you right now and you need to come forward to the altar and pour out your heart to God? as soon as we start to sing you come.
- Or maybe you want that new heart and passion for God this morning? you come as we sing