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I want to start this morning with a little name game, a game of association. What do you think about when you hear these names? In a word or a phrase.
Susan G. Komen.
My point is that when you think of certain people, you think of certain passions, right? In fact, some people are so tied to their passion you can't separate the two. Their passion drives them, motivates them, gets them out of bed in the morning and keeps them up late at night. And sometimes, if they're not careful, their passion can consume them and destroy the relationships around them. Their passion can become an idol and even a tyrant. And that's not good.
At Valley View we want a passion that is good. A passion that enhances our relationships, not destroys them. We want a passion that drives us every single day of our lives. We want a passion that's worthy of our worship and will make us better people. We want our passion to be JESUS.
When you think of Valley View, think of Jesus. Valley View is all about Jesus. And that's nothing new. We've been all about Jesus since we started under an oak tree at Valley Forge National Park over 23 years ago.
But now, more than ever, we want Jesus to be our main thing because he IS the main thing, not only at Valley View, but Jesus is the main thing in the entire cosmos whether people know it or not right now. But one day they will. Jesus is number one.
I love the amazing passage Matt read in his first teaching when he quoted the Apostle Paul in Colossians 1:15-18, The Son, Jesus, is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation (firstborn doesn't mean Jesus was created, he's eternal, instead it means he has supremacy, like a firstborn child had in a Jewish family). 16For in Jesus all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities, all things have been created through Jesus and for Jesus. 17Jesus is before all things, and in Jesus all things hold together. 18And Jesus is the head of the body, the church. Jesus is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything Jesus might have the supremacy.
It's hard to argue that Jesus shouldn't be the main thing. He is number one. He's number one over Valley View. He's number one over the church worldwide. He's number one over all creation.
So when you invite people to Valley View and they ask you what's Valley View about you just need to say, "Jesus. Valley View is all about Jesus. Getting to know him and making him known." It's that simple. He's the one we worship. He's the one we serve. He's the one we love.
Matt's gotten us off to a great start on this series on Mission/Vision. And he's told us, this is more than a teaching series. This is the direction we believe God is leading our church. This is the road map we'll be following in the days ahead. This is the GPS for the great adventure God has in store for us to proclaim Jesus to the whole world.
But what is Jesus about? That's the question I want to answer today. What gets Jesus excited? What Matters Most to Jesus?
And to help us answer that question we need to turn to Matthew's gospel, specifically Matthew 22:34-40,
Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. 35One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: 36"Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?" 37Jesus replied: "‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' 38This is the first and greatest commandment. 39And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.' 40All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments."
The Jewish Law found in the first five books of the Bible, called the Torah, contained 613 commandments, ten of which we call the Ten Commandments, but there were 603 others. And with all the competing interpretations of the rabbis in Jesus' day the law had become almost as complicated as our tax code in the United States.
So one day Jesus was cornered and pressured to tell a legal expert what was the most important command of the 613 listed in the Law of Moses. And without hesitation, Jesus shot back, "Love God and love others. Period. End of story. Next question."
What matters most, Jesus? That was the question behind the question the lawyer asked. Is it sacrifices? Is it Temple worship? Is it tithing? Is it keeping kosher? Is it prayer and fasting? Is it observing the feasts? Is it keeping the Sabbath? What's most important?
What matters most, Jesus said, is to love God and to love people who are all made in the image of God. And so we read in verse 46, No one could say a word in reply, and from that day on no one dared to ask him any more questions. They got it. And they knew they weren't doing it.
What matters most to Jesus? Love God and love others. That's what matters most. That's the target on the wall for Valley View. If Valley View is all about Jesus and Jesus says this is what's most important to him then this needs to be what's most important to us. This is the greatest commandment.
Now, loving God is not new truth that Jesus is giving us. That command goes all the way back to Deuteronomy 6:4-5, Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 5Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.
Loving God was nothing new. And loving neighbor wasn't new either. It has its roots in Leviticus 19:18, Love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord.
But Israel had gotten off track. Just like Valley View or any other church can get off track and forget what's most important. We can get so busy with life and all its demands and responsibilities we forget the main thing. If the main thing is Jesus, then what matters most to Jesus should matter most to us and that is loving God and loving others.
This is the prayer I pray most often for myself and my family as well as for Valley View. On my prayer walk through the woods this week I took a picture of the creek. It was still and quiet. The sun was coming through the trees. And I sent it to Jen and the kids with this text, "Praying for all us this morning to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, and our neighbor too. Lots of love, Dad."
Church, that's the cry of my heart. And yet I know I fall way short of loving God and others which is why I thank God for this Table and what it represents. Jesus died on the cross for all the ways we fail to love him and others as we should. Thank God for the cross and for grace and for forgiveness.
So how do we love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength? Is it by keeping all kinds of rules? By going to church, by serving and volunteering, by reading the Bible, by praying, by giving, by sharing our faith? Those are all good things, wonderful things. And I encourage you to do them all and keep doing them for a lifetime. They're called spiritual disciplines and Jesus practiced them all.
It's great to worship God on Sundays as a community, to serve anyway we can, to read Scripture and to pray, to be connected to others during the week in a Life Group or a Transformation Group, to give of our resources, our money, and our time to kingdom work, to tell others about Jesus.
But please keep in mind these disciplines are not ends in themselves. They're not meant to become a check list of performance that feeds our pride. That was the problem with the Pharisees. They were doing all the right things, but not loving people. The spiritual disciplines are not ends in themselves. Instead, they're meant to destroy the idol of self, and fuel our love for others.
Loving God and loving others are really not two separate commands. At least not according to the Apostle John. He welds them together in 1 John 4:19-21, We love because he first loved us. Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or a sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother or sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.
The great commandment is really not two commandments. It's not love God and love others. It's really one commandment, love God by loving others. Loving others is how we show our love for God according to John.
We can do all kinds of "Christian" things, but still harbor anger and bitterness and resentment and judgment towards one another. And John says when we do that we're not loving God at all. And again, that's why we need this Table as a constant reminder of the forgiveness that God has given us and that we need to extend to one another.
One of the books Jen and I read together early in our relationship was called The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman. It's since become a best seller with over three million copies sold worldwide. We recommend the book to every couple we marry and urge them to read it together.
The premise of the book is that there are primarily five ways that we communicate love to one another: Quality Time, Words of Affirmation, Gifts, Acts of Service, and Physical Touch.
And the love language that might speak volumes to you may be meaningless to your partner. And so the challenge is to discover the language that connects with the ones you love and makes them feel loved.
Jesus shares one of his love languages with us in Matthew 25. It's one of the ways he feels our love. And it's all about the way we love others, especially "the least of these." Matthew 25:34-36, 40, Come you who are blessed by my Father. Take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me … 40Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.
We love Jesus when we love others. Valley View is all about Jesus. And what matters most to Jesus? Loving God by loving others. And the hostile culture we live in needs that now more than ever.
A few months ago I read an insightful book called Good Faith: Being A Christian When Society Thinks You're Irrelevant and Extreme. It's the latest book by best-selling authors David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons, the two guys who wrote UnChristian a few years ago.
And after doing tons of research and conducting endless interviews, their take is that Christians in America are living in exile very much like the Jews who lived in Babylon after the destruction of Jerusalem. They were strangers there and we are strangers here. By in large the culture sees us as irrelevant and extreme. So what do we do? How do we act in a culture that's becoming more and more hostile to Christ followers?
Their conclusion is that above all else we love others well. We don't hide our faith. We don't go underground. Instead, we express our faith, but we do it respectfully demonstrating our love people and for the God who created them.
They conclude the book this way, "We have a lot of work to do. At times, you may feel irrelevant and be labeled extreme. But you are in good company. Through the ages, the Christian community has faced pressure -' even persecution -' and endured. We are called not to determine the outcome, but to be faithful. Led by love, grounded in biblical belief, and ready to live as a counterculture for the common good, we trust that our good faith will be used by God to renew the world."
What matters most to Jesus? Loving God by loving others. And to do that well we need to be reminded often how much God loves us which is why we come to this Table. This is the application of the teaching today. This is the Table of remembrance. Come to the Table and respond to God's love for you. And let his love for you fuel your love for others.
That Colossians passage I started with concludes this way. Colossians 1:19-20, For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in Jesus, 20and through Jesus to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through Jesus' blood, shed on the cross.