Jesus tells us the greatest commandment is to love God with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength. In this 5-week series, Pastor Tito will explore what it means to follow through on being a follower of Jesus Christ, looking at how our relationship with God should affect each of these aspects of our life. When it comes to being a Christian, believing is just the beginning. There is more to it than just praying a prayer and attending a weekly service.
Read the Sermon Summary below
Following Through On Following Jesus
As kids, many of us remember playing games like Simon Says or Follow The Leader. It’s interesting to see that we still tend to play those games without even realizing it the older we get. Our adult versions are following what’s trending or mimicking individuals that we admire, look up to, or aspire to be like. None of those things are wrong, unless we are being lead by someone or something that is a bad influence and leads us away from God. But I can’t help to notice that it seems like people were meant to follow someone, and I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Jesus says us “Pick up our own crosses and follow Him as your leader”.
It’s important for all Jesus followers to learn what it means to follow through on that commitment. God is very clear in His Word that believing is just the beginning. There is so much more to our new life in Christ that just saying a prayer or attending a weekly meeting. Understanding just what that is can not only help you to enjoy our life with God now but it will also save you from wasting a lot of time and effort in pointless activity.
DL Moody once said something that makes the little hairs on the back of my neck stand on end overtime I read it. He said, “Our greatest fear should not be of failure, but of succeeding at something that doesn’t really matter.” So many people have bought the lie that good deeds is all of the activity that is required of them. First off, faith is all that is necessary for salvation, but there are certain activities and areas of our lives that should reflect a growing relationship with God.
For example, a marriage doesn’t end when the wedding service finishes. It’s just getting started. Even if the couple had shared some amazing vows, that doesn’t mean that their relationship is complete. Marriage is a process, a life-long commitment of growing and learning together as one. Our relationship with God is the same. Nothing else we do matters if we end up missing out on a lifetime of blessing because our activity and service to God was not rooted in genuinely loving relationship.
And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, asked him, “Which commandment is the most important of all?” Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” And the scribe said to him, “You are right, Teacher. You have truly said that he is one, and there is no other besides him. And to love him with all the heart and with all the understanding and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself, is much more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” And when Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” And after that no one dared to ask him any more questions. Mark 12:28-34
The scribe in the story was interested in hearing Jesus’ view on what is the most important thing we should do for God. The response Jesus gave him was a quote from Moses, found in Deuteronomy 6:1-25. God Himself declared those words to the people of Israel during their “marriage” ceremony on Mt. Sinai. There God made His vows to love His people and even restore any who turned from Him but would later repent. The fact that Jesus is restating the same words spoken to Moses, probably 1,500 years before this moment in scripture shows us that God has not changed over the years. He still wants the same thing from us. That we choose to love Him.
What makes true love to powerful is because it is more of a conviction than it is an emotion. One thing that love is not is an obligation. This is why the scribe liked Jesus’ answer so much. In his response to Jesus, he too quoted words that God had spoken through different prophets, like Hosea who said in chapter 6 verse six of his book, “For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings”. Even though God did order sacrifices, it was meant to be means that people could express their love and appreciation to Him. To God, having His people grow in a relationship with Him mattered more than doing things for Him, regardless if they were really good at it.
Earlier in the book of Mark chapter 7 verse 6, Jesus too quotes the Old Testament prophet Isaiah And he said to them, “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written, “This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; (Is 29:13)”. Here again we see that God doesn’t just want heartless activity or fancy lip service. He desires sincere love. Wouldn’t you? Would a wife want her husband to take her out on a romantic date because he has to or wants to? Would a child want their parent to go see their sports game because they had to or wanted to? God wants the same from us. We have to change our perception of relationships and realize that it is not a 50-50 commitment. It’s all or nothing.
Not only was the scribe happy with Jesus’ response but Jesus too was impressed with the scribe’s understanding of what God desires. This is what prompted the statement, “You are not far from the kingdom of God”. Even though he was close, he hadn’t arrived yet because there was something missing. As a child that grew up playing with GI JOE’S, I always remember how they always ended each show with the phrase, “Knowing is half the battle”. It’s not enough to know something if you aren’t going to take action on it. Loving God is not enough. We must learn to love the Lord your God.
Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Mark 12:29
I know that sounds like I just repeated myself but there is a difference that Jesus wanted the scribe to understand. Many people skip Jesus’ opening statement and run straight to the “love God, love others” part. But don’t over look the title, “The Lord”. It is not enough to believe in God. You must receive Him also as your Lord. The Lord means the master, or the one who calls the shots in your life. To some, that doesn’t sound appealing. Why would anyone want to be subjected to another. But just like love, making Jesus Lord is not an obligation. It should be a conviction that comes from a willing and loving heart.
If you’ve been around Christian circles enough you would’ve come across the call to “Invite Jesus into your heart”. This is a statement that encourages people to begin to believe in Jesus. It also connects with God’s desire for your heart and devotion. The problem is that some people think that they can invite Jesus into their hearts while still choosing to live how ever they want. If I sold my house to someone, could I later claim a closet or reserve a room for later use? No. It’s all or nothing. That doesn’t work in the real world so it shouldn’t work in the spiritual world neither. We can’t expect to truly receive eternal life yet live our lives as if God doesn’t exist, calling the shots to our own lives. That’s like asking Jesus to rent a room in our lives, while still claiming the rest of the house for ourselves.
You can’t say that Jesus is Lord of your life if you only give Him one hour of your life on the weekend. Everything is on the table. Your hobbies, financial security, political preferences, ambitions, “me” time, down time, and free time. Would you leave behind any of these for Christ?
Making Jesus Lord is something you don’t HAVE to do. You GET to do it, and it’s actually possible because the Lord loves you! He gave up way more for you than you ever could for Him. He sacrificed way more than you ever would. And He did it all for love. It’s that love that should help you not to be afraid of making Jesus Lord of your life. Jesus Himself even said in Matthew 16:25 “For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” If you don’t choose to make Jesus Lord and Master of your life, something/someone else will be your master and lord over you instead. The more you follow the leader of your passions and desires, you will end up wasting your time and losing your life. But if you follow the Lord as your leader, through love, you will make the most of your time and you will find true life!
After all, Simon (Peter) did say “For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps (1 Peter 2:21). If you are not walking purposely towards God, you will find yourself drifting farther away from Him. But what great news we have that we have a God who is relentless in His pursuit of us, calling us to follow Him in and through the power of His life giving love! So remember, believing is just the beginning. Don’t just invite Jesus into your heart if you are not willing to hand it over completely. When you surrender to Him, you don’t lose. You win! You end up getting back way more than what you gave away. God is that good!