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James Merritt - Love Me

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    James Merritt - Love Me

We're in a series that we're calling What in the World, and we're answering what I believe is one of the greatest questions anyone could ever be asked which is, "What in the world does God want from me"? Because 99% of the time when we go to God, let's be honest, it's because we want something from Him, and I believe that God has told us clearly four things He wants from every one of us.

Now, if you missed last week. Last week, last week we said that the very first thing that God tells us, He wants from us is faith. That's the very first thing, He wants faith. He says, "You cannot please Me". "You can't even get to first base with Me if you don't put your faith in Me. You cannot know Me, you cannot love Me, you cannot please Me, until you put your faith in Me". Today we're going to learn the second thing that God wants, and after faith, God wants our love. He wants us to love Him. First, He says, "Believe Me". Then the second thing He says is, "Love Me".

Now obviously, you're not going to love God until you believe in God, but I want to just kind of throw something out. Do you understand that this world is filled with people who believe in God but don't love God? Every survey I've ever seen says that 96% of all Americans say they believe in God. Do you really believe that 96% of Americans love God? The single most important thing that God wants from us after our faith is love. That you may say, "Where did you come up with that idea? How do you know that"? I know it because of something that the Son of God Jesus Himself tells us. So, if you bought a copy of God's Word or you want to use an iPad or a smart phone, whatever it is you want to use, I want you to turn to the Gospel of Matthew. Easy to find. It's the very first book in the New Testament. There are 4 gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. I want you to turn to Matthew Chapter 22.

Now, before I kind of get into this, let me just kind of, kind of give you a little quick review. Some of you may or may not know much about the Bible or the Gospels or Jesus. But in case you don't, Jesus had a group of people that didn't like Him. Now, hard to believe that you wouldn't like Jesus, but there were people that absolutely hated Jesus. They were His antagonists. They were His enemies. They could not stand Him. These three groups were the Pharisees, and the Sadducees, and the Herodians. Now, they just absolutely hated Jesus, and they were always asking what we call "got you" questions. They were always trying to trap Jesus. You know questions like you know, "When did you quit beating your wife"?

You know those kind of questions, right. So, they're always trying to trap Him, but yet they were always frustrated, because even though they were testing Him, He was besting them. They never got the better of Him. They never were able to trap Him, because every time they asked Jesus a question, He didn't just give the right answer, He gave a perfect answer. And so, they were so frustrated because He would always shut down all debate. Well here's what's been happening. The Sadducees have been pestering Jesus with these "got you" questions. Like for example they said,"Do you really believe we ought to pay taxes to a pagan government that doesn't believe in God"? Thought they had Him trapped. He gives a great answer. Then they said, "Hey, will there be marriage in heaven? You know if a woman marries a man and he dies, she marries his brother, and he dies, she marries his brother, and he dies".

First of all, anybody do that, is kind of nuts. But anyway, he said, "You know if she marries seven brothers how many husbands will she have"? Right? So they thought they had Jesus. Well, Jesus gives a brilliant answer. Well, this is kind of like a WWE wrestling match, and it's a Tag Team. So the Sadducees just had their shot, they didn't get anywhere. So, the Pharisees said hey, "Let us give Jesus a shot. Let us see if we can't trap Him". So we pick up the story in Matthew 22. "Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, shut them down, the Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested Him with this question".

Now, before I share with you what the question is, it appears on the surface as if it's a sincere, honest question. But we know it's really not because we're already told they were trying to get information. They were just trying to test Jesus. They were really trying to get Jesus in the cross hairs. Now, what He's about to be asked is a fantastic question. It is a great question. Here's what He's asked. "Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the law"? Now, on the surface that looks like a great question because in effect what this attorney was asking Jesus is the question I'm asking you. What in the world does God want from me? And what this attorney was saying was, "Look, we all obey the commandments, right, yeah. Well, we want to make sure if we don't obey any of the rest of them, we want to obey the greatest one. So, what is the greatest commandment"?

He not only is going to tell them the number one commandment and the greatest commandment of all, which we're going to find out as is love, He's also going to say, "And by the way, since I'm in the neighborhood, let Me tell you what not only what you should be doing above everything else, let Me tell you how you ought to do it". I will show you, you won't believe how brilliant this answer is, right. Jesus says, "Number one, we should love God personally. We should love God personally".

Now, listen to what Jesus, and I guarantee you the Pharisees and the Sadducees and this whole crowd, they were absolutely stunned when Jesus immediately answered the question. Because, if you had been there 2000 years ago, here's what you would have thought. "Okay, teacher, what is the greatest commandment of all"? And everybody would be looking to each other like, "Man, what's He going to say"? And so, they really expected Jesus to go, "Wow, boy, that's a, well that's a toughie. I got to think this thing through". Instead, just like that He says, "Oh man, that's, is that all you've got"? "Man, this is, that's easy". Immediately the answer comes. Jesus replied just like that. "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind".

Now, let me tell you something that may surprise you. When you read the New Testament you'll find reference after reference after reference of how much God loves us. You'll read it, your read it in the Gospels, you'll read it in Acts, you'll read it in the Epistles, you read it in the letters of Paul and Peter and James. You read it in the Book of Revelation. You read all these references about how God loves us. You know what's hard to find, our love for God. It's just not talked about much in the New Testament.

You say, "Well why is that"? Well, if you think about it, it's only natural, because the only reason we love God is because God first loved us. He looks at me and He says, "James I want to be your God". Even though you got that Georgia Tech shirt, He says that to you, I want to be, in fact he needs to be your God, I can tell you that right now. He wants to be your God, and He wants you. Just, just picking on you, okay, you can help it, now listen. He wants you to love Him. He wants you to love Him as the only God there is, because you know, what God loves you as if you are the only one there is. God says, "The way I love you, is the way I want you to love me".

See, here's what people don't understand. Christianity is not an impersonal religion with an impersonal God. Christianity is a personal relationship with a personal God who wants to be personally involved in your life. Now let me tell you, there's all the difference in the world in saying, "I believe in God and saying I believe in my God, my God". He says, "I want to be your God". We are to love God personally. Then Jesus says this, "We should love God passionately", passionately. Because the only god that won't, can I tell you the only way God wants you to love him, you ready? The only love God wants is an all or nothing love. So, He says this. Jesus replied, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind".

Unlike that popular song, "God does not want the best of your life, He wants all of your love". He wants every ounce of your love, and then He goes on to say, "Oh, by the way, let's just get real specific". "You're to love this God, your God with all of your heart and with all of your soul and with all of your mind". Now, that's just a simple way of saying with everything you are and everything you have, with every fiber of your being, with every corpuscle, with every vein, with every drop of blood, I want you to love this God. So, He starts off by saying, "Alright, let's start off. First of all, love the Lord your God with all your heart".

Now why does He start off with the heart? Because the heart of the matter of loving God is loving God with all of your heart. Let me tell you why. I've learned this, and I want you to learn something. Whatever captures the heart will capture the soul and capture the mind, because the heart is in the driver seat of who we are. Because you think about it. What the heart loves out, the mind reasons out, the emotions feel out and the will acts out. That's the way it always works. That's why whether you realize it or not, you know what my number one goal is every time I get up here to preach to you? I'm preaching to your heart, not your mind. I want your mind, but not you mind, not your soul. I'm preaching to your heart, because the love of your heart will determine what you think and how you live.

Let me tell you something. What you love in your heart will determine your behavior far more than what you believe in your head. As a matter of fact, I'll put it this way. No matter what you tell me you believe in, not matter what you tell me you believe in, you show me what you love with all your heart, I'll show you what you really believe in. I got a PhD, not so people would call me Dr. Merritt. That is not what I got one, I'm telling you the truth. I just got under the conviction, God you've given me a mind, and Lord I believe one of the ways I can love you with my mind is to get the highest degree I can possibly can to be the most qualified I can be, the be the best pastor and the best preacher that I believe You want me to be. I'm doing what I do today because I want to love God with all of mind.

So, we love God personally. We love God passionately. Then He says we should love God preeminently, preeminently, listen to what He says. Listen to the next words he says. He says, "Okay, guys, this is the first and greatest commandment". Now, I want to stop right there. Listen to what Jesus just said. He said, "This is the Mount Everest of all the commandments. This is the highest peak in all of the mountains of the Bible". As a matter of fact, Jesus said, "It doesn't matter if you obey every other command in the Bible if you don't obey this command". As a matter of fact, I'm going to challenge you on something. Until you obey this commandment, you'll never really obey any of the other commandments. Until you obey this one, "I got to love the Lord my God with all my heart, soul, mind", you will never obey the other commandments.

Jesus said, "Put all of these commandments in a race, this commandments going to win the race every time, it will come in first every single time". It trumps every other commandment that there is. It is the source and fountain of every other commandment. The reason why it is the first commandment Jesus said is because it is the greatest commandment. Never in the history of the world has any commandment been given that is greater than this one. You love this Lord, you love your God with all of your heart and all of your soul and all of your mind. So here's my question. My question is not, "Do you love God"? I think most everybody in this room say you love God. No, no, no. Do you love God preeminently? Preeminently. Is He above all your first love? Is your love for Him truly first before anything or anyone else? And then here's the last thing. We should love God practically.

Now what's this? This is so interesting. Jesus answers the question, right? The guy says, "Okay what is the greatest commandment"? Singular. Well Jesus can stop right here, I mean He answers the question, but you know what, He's not finished, He goes on, "And the second is like it; love your neighbor as yourself". Excuse me Lord, I think you misunderstood. He didn't ask what were the two greatest commandments. He just asked what's the greatest commandment. You've answered the question. Because keep in mind, Jesus did not have to say this. So that raises a question, "Well, if He didn't have to say it, why did He"? Here's why. Because loving God is not just vertical, loving God's is horizontal. It's not just vertical. It doesn't just go up; it goes out.

Now, can I be honest. I believe this is maybe not the greater of the two commandments. In fact, I know it's not because Jesus said it wasn't. I can tell you this, it's a lot harder than the other one. I mean you ever thought about it? Somebody put it this way. To love the whole world for me is no chore, my only real problem is my neighbor next door. You think about it. Isn't it pretty easy to love a God that loves you first. Isn't it pretty easy to love a God that loves you more. Isn't it pretty easy to love a God that sent His Son to die on the cross for you. But that neighbor that won't keep his stinking grass cut, that neighbor that plays his stereo on Saturday night too stinking loud. And that neighbor that every time you invite him to church looks at you like you've lost your mind and doesn't even grunt. Yes. Kind of hard to do that.

What I want to tell you is in a real sense both are impossible without the other. And I'm going to tell you why. You know when this was driven home to me, 9/11. That's when it was driven home, because let me tell you, listen, listen to what I have to tell you. If you say you love God, but you hate your neighbor, you get 9/11. If you say you love God, but you hate your neighbor, you get a 9/11. And that's what I want to say that when you try to love your neighbor without loving God at best your love's going to be incomplete and at best it's going to be flawed. Let me tell you why. You'll never love others the way they need to be loved until you love God the way He deserves to be loved. I'll say that again. You will never love others the way they need to be loved, until you love God the way He deserves to be loved.

Let me give you an example, because I want, I want you to know what I'm not saying. Can a parent who does not love God love their children? Absolutely. A parent that doesn't love God can love their children. I'm not saying anything different. However, can they love their children the way those children deserve to be loved and need to be loved not without introducing them to the God that loves them most? Absolutely impossible. Matter of fact, I'm going to be, I'm not trying to make anybody mad, I believe this. I think the most unloving thing that any parent can ever do for their children is to fail to teach their children to obey the greatest commandment of all. I don't care what else you teach your kids or give your kids. If you don't teach your kids, kids, I don't care what else you do with your life. If you don't get anything else right, you love this Lord your God with all of your heart and all of your soul and all of your mind, you have failed as a parent. That is the most important thing you can do. That is the greatest way you can love your children.

By the way, what Jesus said was not original. I mean you've, both these verses were taken right out of the Old Testament. People ought to love God, they ought to love others. But there was two things Jesus said that did make this, did make this completely different than anybody ever talked about before. He did something nobody else ever done. He actually fused these things together. He actually said, "You know what, you really can't do one without the other, they really do go together like love and marriage". Because listen, and then he goes on to say this, now this really raised the temperature of that, of that room. He said, "Love your neighbor as yourself".

Now you talk about garlic strong. Remember the Golden Rule? Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. You know what Jesus just did right there? He just took that to another level. He said you know what, I got a better idea. For those of you who don't know God and you don't love God and you don't have a relationship with God, how about keeping the golden rule, just treat others the way you want them to treat you. But then He says, hey for all the rest of us who say we love God with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength why don't you treat others the way you treat yourself.

You know Teresa and I have something in common. In fact, it's one of the reasons I married her. It's the number one thing we have in common. We had it since if I'm to guess about, in fact the time she accepted the ring. You know what we have in common? We both love me. Now you think about how strong every marriage would be today if every spouse loved their spouse the way they love themselves. Think about how strong your marriage would be, let's be honest now. Some of you men out there, how much would you really love your wife guys if you love her the way you loved yourself. And then Jesus does this, He ties all of this up with this beautiful bow and He says this, He says, "Oh by the way, all the law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments".

Now, this statement was a theological nuclear bomb, because here's what Jesus said. When He talked about the law and the prophets, that was kind of a way of talking about the entire Old Testament. What Jesus said was, "Hey guys, start in Genesis, go all the way to Malachi, you can pretty much put all of that and pack it into two commandments". Now you talk about simplifying the complicated. I've told you, that's what I love about Jesus. We complicate the simple. Do you know how big the tax code of our country is? And Jesus comes along and says, "You know what, let me tell you how simple this is". God takes 613 commandments and God says, "I think I can do it in ten".

Jesus comes along and says my Heavenly Father put them in ten, and now I, He thinks He's going to let me one different. Now, I'm going to put those ten into two, because now remember this lawyer is trying to trap Jesus. But instead of giving Him a loophole, they only had to obey one commandment and then they ignored the rest. He gave them two commandments that actually encompassed every other commandment. Because think about it, think about this, think about it this way. If you love God, you keep the first four commandments, and if you love others you'll keep the last six commandments. And then Jesus goes another step. He said, "You know what, my Heavenly Father took 613, put it into ten. I took ten, and put it into two, and in reality I'm going to take two commandments and put it into one word". What's that word? Love. He said, "That's it. Love and you're good to go".

So what does God want from us? First thing God says when you come to Him, God says," Stop right there, first of all believe Me". You can't please without believing. "First thing I want you to do is believe Me". Alright Lord I believe. Alright, second thing, love Me. Now, here's your assignment. I'm trying to work a next step into all my message. Now what's the next step? Okay, I hope you've heard, I hope you've learned, I hope you've been blessed, I hope you've been edified and all that jazz. But now what? Okay, what do I do? Okay, here's your assignment for this week. Don't blow this one off. Sometime this week, hopefully maybe this afternoon I want you to think about one specific way that you can start loving God the way God deserves.

Now I don't know what that means for you. But if you can't think of one way, let me suggest a way. I want to, I want to make a statement, I want to see if you agree with me. Who you love you talk to, and what you love you talk about. Everybody agree with that? Who you love you talk to, and what you love you talk about. Alright, if that's true, here's one thing you might want to think about. If you love God and you love your neighbor, you'll be talking to your neighbor about God. If you love God and you love your neighbor, you'll be talking to your neighbor about God. So my question is real simple. Do you love God with all of your heart and all of your soul and all of your mind?

Now, before you answer that let me just say one last thing and we're going to say amen and we're going to get ready to leave. Let me just warn whoever is watching, if you're politically correct you might want to turn the TV down a little bit. You're not going to like what I'm about to say. And if you're one of those people that say, "I just don't like people who are so narrow-minded," then you might want to just kind of hold on to your seat. Because Jesus on another occasion said one other thing to the Pharisees about what it means to love God, and before you get upset at anything I'm about to tell you, I'm just telling you what he said. You go take it up with Him. I'll go and tell you they learned the hard way, you're not going to win, but you take it up with Him.

Jesus said, "I know that you don't have the love of God in your hearts". He said, "I know. I know, you think you guys, you think you guys got it all together. Well, I'm a Pharisee, I'm a Sadducee, I'm a PhD, I'm a biblical scholar. Yeah, but you don't love God with all your heart, soul and mind". How do you know that? He said because I have come in my Father's name and you do not accept me. Translation: You cannot love God until you love Jesus. And that's to every other religion in the world.

You cannot love God until you love Jesus. And it's only when you truly love Jesus that you will love God. But here's the great news. When I love Jesus the way I ought to love Jesus, and I love God the way I ought to love God, when I love God the way I ought to love God, I love you the way I ought to love you, and when I love Jesus the way I ought to love Him, and I love God the way I ought to love Him, and I love you the way I ought to love you, then I have obeyed the first and the greatest commandment.
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