One of the challenges to travel full-time for me was going to be the loss of our regular church attendance and participation not only in our church, but in the community. But God, He’s always at work and has kept us close to Him and His work.
We’ve now been in the Fredericksburg, Virginia area for just over a month, a benefit of our longer term stays is being able to attend the same church. I’ve mentioned it in previous posts, one here and another one here, as we have traveled, we have heard a consistent message about the Greatest Commandment. As a background, Jesus was being asked this question by a lawyer after the Pharisees and Sadducees got together to “trip” Jesus up:
“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” Matthew 22:36-40 ESV
We’ve loved the new pastor here in Bowling Green, Virginia. He started a few weeks before we arrived. Each week, the message has been very good, clear and relevant. He’s been going back to the basics – to get everyone on the same page of “music” so to speak. But yet, his messages have been challenging, not basic! This most recent sermon was one of the best I’ve heard, maybe culminating what the Lord has been trying to teach me these few years. It was really succinct and so true. I wonder why I haven’t heard it before? It’s really the basic Gospel message but in a more powerful way…..so let me try to take you through it.
The text is from Ephesians 1:9, although he has been on the first Chapter of Ephesians for the past six weeks. Each week he focuses on a verse or two. I like this one in various versions:
“God told us the secret of what He wanted to do. It is this: In loving thought He planned long ago to send Christ into the world.” New Life Version
“…he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ…” (NIV)
“…making known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he purposed in him…” ASV
And he included a quote I love:
“God made us for Himself and we will never rest until we rest in Him.” St. Augustine
Next we had to endure a test. No fair, not in church! But yes, it’s a great learning tool. Write down your answers and no cheating!
Why did God make you? _________________________________________________
Why did Christ save you? ________________________________________________
What is your primary goal in life? __________________________________________
How much time to you spend in prayer each week? _____________________________
How much time do you spend in prayer and Bible Study each week? ________________
The answers come at the end…..
So let’s see what God says:
“Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.’ “So God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” Genesis 1:26-27 (ESV)
In other words, God made us like HIM! We were created in the image of God! Woohoo!
Now let’s look in the New Testament at what God says:
“Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” 1 Thessalonians 5:23 (ESV)
Next, let’s look at a diagram of how we are made, spirit, soul and body, using a circle divided in three parts:
This is the signature of the Divine! We are three parts as are the three parts of God: Holy Spirit, God and Jesus. He didn’t really elaborate but as I type this, one could ask, is he comparing our being to the trinity? He never said that. Just that it’s another “three” part as God is. Interesting to contemplate!
He further elaborated that our soul is also in three parts: thoughts, emotions and instinct. Just remember we are created in HIS image. Isn’t it fascinating to know He is the same as we and we are the same as He is – but for our sinful nature. And that is the beauty of Jesus dying on the cross for us. God no longer sees our sin nature. We are covered by the blood of Jesus. This didn’t just happen by accident or any big bang, right?
Let’s look further at what God says:
“…and behold, a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.’” Matthew 3:17 (ESV)
“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.’” Mark 12:28-30 (ESV)
Are you thinking about the answers to your questions yet? Oh, I’m sitting there, my own self righteousness, thinking I KNOW the answers!!! Wrong…..
Back to what God says:
“So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please Him.” 2 Corinthians 5:9 (ESV)
If God made us for X, He also made us for X. So X + X = X
Now he’s getting into high math and I didn’t write any other notes, except he said the answers to # 1, 2 and 3 are the same! Ooops, mine aren’t….and I doubt if anyone else had the RIGHT answers. Here they are:
Why did God make you? To Love Him.
Why did Christ save you? To Love Him.
What is your primary goal in life? To Love Him
Wow, how novel….all my years of Bible study and here is really all we need to know and apply to our lives! If we do this, as the Greatest Commandment says, what a peaceful, joyful and refreshing life we all would live!
So what were my “holy” and self-righteous answers? I’m trying to be transparent but I am no more than what the Bible says, a sinner saved by grace! The below questions and answers come from my years of various sermons, Bible Studies, Christian books and discussions with other believers:
Why did God make you, Debbie? For His pleasure
Why did Christ save you, Debbie? For His eternal purpose (to be with Him eternally)
What is your primary goal in life? To Glorify Him (not that I do, but that’s what I think I am doing….or trying….and failing a lot! It’s easier now to just LOVE HIM!!!!
So now how are your answers for 4 and 5? Here are mine:
I believe (or self-deceive myself) that I pray without ceasing…constantly talking to God in my self talk cycle….It’s so easy for me to see a need for example and just talk/pray to God. I want to be in constant communion with the Lord. Not just pray or talk to Him when I have a need or someone I love does – Bill and I pray together each morning for our loved ones. I try to praise Him as I see His beauty everywhere, to thank Him, especially when I am holding one of my grandsons, to be aware of His presence. And that is why I love listening to praise and worship music, helps me keep that focus….
As an aside, this reminds of James 3:9-12. If I am in constant communication with the Lord, perhaps it helps me watch what comes out of my mouth:
With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? My brothers and sisters, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.”
I usually read my Bible every morning, first thing. To hold myself accountable, I post it on my Facebook page and my Twitter feed….I want to start my day in communion with God. Every once in a while, we have to get up early and I am a bit late with my reading, but I try to do it as soon as soon I have some quiet time. I enjoy a reading plan to go through the entire Bible in a year. My favorite plan has been to read it chronologically as that is how my mind best works….But this year I am reading the Old Testament in the traditional Jewish order and then the New Testament in an easy pace, with each reading followed by closing with a Psalm of prayer. I love how it is flowing.
So all told, I like to think I spend a minimum of at least an hour every day or seven hours a week in communion with the Lord….but do I really?
The sermon with this:
“‘I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance, and how you cannot bear with those who are evil, but have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false. I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name’s sake, and you have not grown weary. But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first.” Revelation 2:2-4
OUCH, where am I in all this???? Do you remember how much you loved the Lord when you first met Him? Oh, just like when we first fell in love with our husbands….and then what? As so many marriages, it goes downhill….so now to rekindle that LOVE with our Lord!