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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Mike Novotny » Mike Novotny - What's My First Love?

Mike Novotny - What's My First Love?

Mike Novotny - What's My First Love?
TOPICS: What Is Love?

Back around middle school, a bunch of my friends and I, toilet papered one of neighbor's houses, and in the process, we bought from a local hunting store, a small bottle of deer urine, which we splattered all over his front porch. But before you all start judging me, here's the rest of the story because he started it. Here's what happened. When I was in middle school, my friends and I got really, really, really into roller hockey. And if you every played roller hockey before, you know that there's one thing that is better than all the other things and that is when the city freshly paves a beautiful, new street. Which is exactly what happened in our neighborhood. The city trucks came through, perfect for our roller blades, for passing, for shooting, and we loved it, but the guy who did not love it was the neighbor with the perfect yard.

You know, he had that thick, lush, manicured grass, you know, the kind that has really crisped edges on the corners. And so, whenever our roller hockey ball would jump the curb into his yard we, you know, felt we had no other choice than to take our big, growing adolescent bodies and stamp across his grass in our roller blades and resume the game. And this guy hated it. He hated it so badly, he would watch and glower at us from the window. Sometimes he would open the door, stand on his front porch, stare at us, sometimes he'd yell at us to get off of his yard. Which is why we kind of hated him. And when the next homecoming came, we made sure to stock up on extra toilet paper and leave him a very special gift from some local middle school students. All organic, right.

Now, if I'm reading the room right, you're still not on my side. Well, neither were my daughters, when I told them that horrific story. The reason I wanted to share that story with you today is because when I look back at what my friends and I did, I realized that what happened way back in the mid 90's was deeply theological. Like, the reason that guy did not like us, and the reason that we kind of hated him back was actually a deeply spiritual and theological thing. That may seem like an odd thing to say, but that's not what St. Augustine would say. You know that name? St. Augustine was one of the most famous Christians of the early church. He lived in the 300's A.D. and he became famous in part for one of his teachings called "Disordered Loves". According to this Christian that so much of life and love, and conflict, and sin can be explained by the order of the things you love.

The thing you love most, the thing you love second most, the thing that's third on your list. And when I think back at all the conflict, it wasn't because we hated our neighbor, or our neighbor hated kids having fun, I think what happened is that we ended up in the same space, but with a different order for our loves, right? I mean, we are all for loving our neighbors, but we kinda love playing roller hockey and having fun more than that. And maybe he would've agreed that he agreed to be nice to people, but he kinda loved his perfectly manicured yard more than he loved the kids from his neighborhood. And once two people who have different orders for their loves ends up in the same room, very, very interesting things can happen.

So, I want to ask you today, have you ever thought about the order of you loves? Like the thing in you life and your schedule, in your budget, when you can't do all the things at like this level, what comes first in your heart, and then what's next, what's third? And the people that you do life with, your parents, your roommates, your classmates, your pastor, what's the order of their loves, and what does that mean as you try to do life together? Let me visualize it this way. Some of you have seen one of my favorite toys, my jumbo Lego blocks. You know, a lot of you would say that you know, you care about your health, this yellow block on top, or your family, immediate, or extended.

Some of you are going to school and pursuing your education. Some of you have jobs, many of us have friends and lots of us, we appreciate and love our church as well. But the question isn't whether you have these things in your life, the question is what order do you put them in? Alright, when you can't do both, which one do you pick? You know, for example, you're sitting at the dinner table with your parents, your family, and they would love your full attention to catch up on some good conversation. It's been busy with work, and with school, but then you hear your phone buzzing from your bedroom because your friends want a little bit of your attention and some good conversations.

So, what do you pick? And how does everyone feel when you ignore the text, or take it in the middle of dinner? The order of loves. Or you get an amazing job opportunity, I mean, good work, something you'd be passionate about, they're paying maybe up to six figures, but you know that if you choose this, you're not going to have quite as much time for your relationships, or for going to the gym, or being involved in church. When you can't do all the things, which things do you do? Some of you younger people are facing this with school right now. The more I've read about younger generations, the more I realize what an intensely competitive, educational system we have created. Yeah, sometimes to get into the top tier schools, you cannot just be a hardworking student, you have to be a student who sacrifices almost everything. And you have to do this, and you have to learn that, and you have to volunteer here and there.

And so, if you want some of the best education and maybe one the best jobs in years to come, you have to sacrifice sleep, health, peace of mind, close friendships, quality time with family, being involved every Sunday at church, right? As limited human beings, we always have to pick, and St. Augustine's brilliant teaching reminded us that you can't pick everything. So, how about you? If I gave you a second to think about that little colored tower, could you pick the order of your greatest passions? I want you to think about that today because this is so important when it comes to love. To know your priorities, to know their priorities, to know God's priorities, you and I will never love each other or have close connection to the God of love unless we get this. And I know that from experience.

Some of you are aware, I did not have the most successful dating track record as a teenager. In middle school I graduated with zero dates. Freshman year, I kept my streak going, and then sophomore, and then junior, and then I graduated high school itself without ever having held a girl's hand. But then, then, just a few months later, weeks into college, I met that beautiful woman over there. And after 19 years of never having gone on a date, she was my priority. But have I ever told you the story that we almost broke up? The Sunday after we started... Well, the summer I should say after we started dating, I was so excited. It was my first summer ever with a girlfriend and I wanted to be with Kim, 24/7. She on the other hand, did not. She liked me, we were growing in our love for each other, but she had friendships, she was back from college, friends at home she hadn't seen in a long time, and it honestly caused tension in our relationship.

We didn't order our lives in the same way, and it was really difficult. And it was like this really emotional reminder to me that St. Augustine wasn't teaching us some dry theology, he was teaching us about the things that matter most in life. And that's why today, I want to open this book, the Bible, and talk about the order of your loves. I'm not going to tell you what school to try to get into, what job to take, how many hours to spend working on your health and fitness. But I do want to show to you what should be on the top of this tower. What makes the biggest difference, not just in the first position, but in all the positions.

So, today we're going to take a quick spirit through the words of Moses, the beautiful lyrics of the Psalms, and then the very teaching of Jesus and figure out the best order for the loves of our heart. So, first Moses, and then the Psalms, and then Jesus. Let's talk about Disordered Loves. So, let's begin with Moses. Moses, some of you know, was the guy who originally got the ten commandments. Quick survey, how many of you have heard of the ten commandments before? Yeah, most of you, all of you. How many of you, right now in your head could recite the first commandment without opening a Bible. About a third of you? Okay, let's practice together. On the count of three we're all going to say the first commandment out loud. Don't be shy, I'm going to get you started. Ready? one, two, three. "You shall have no... other gods before me".

Oh, interesting. I Actually wanted to test you right, because we all started the same way. "You shall have no other gods," and then a bunch of you added a couple words at the end, "Before me". And that's actually what the scripture says. Open up to the original ten commandments in Exodus 20, and you would see these words, "You shall have no other gods," period? Nuh-huh. "You shall have no other gods before me". It's almost like God was speaking to his people and he was pulling out this big God block, and he said, "I don't just want to be your God, I want to be the God who is before, and above, and more important, and a priority always".

The very first commandment on the whole list is that we should have nothing that comes before God. Which actually reminds me a lot of this book. I grew up as a middle schooler, when I wasn't terrorizing my neighbors, studying the words of Martin Luther's "Small Catechism". You might be familiar with this book, it might be totally new to you. About 500 years ago this German Christian named Martin Luther wrote the Small Catechism because he did not want kids to grow up in the Christian church just going through the motions. Alright, you don't want a single young believer just to rattle off the ten commandments or the Apostle's creed and not get what it meant.

And so, in the very first pages of Luther's Catechism, he starts to explain the ten commandments, and on page one in this book he talks about the first commandment. And then he asked the key classic Lutheran question, "What does this mean"? And have you heard his brilliant answer? He said, "We should fear, love, and trust in God above all things". And if Martin Luther was your pastor, he might ask you the question, not what you love, but what you love the most. And I bet in the quietness of his heart, he would wish, and beg, and plead that God would be at the top of your list. Because when you do this, your heart and your life is insanely blessed, and that's what the Psalms say.

Did you know the book of Psalms, the 150 songs in the Old Testament is the most loving place in the entire Bible? The book of John, I think I mentioned this last week, uses the word love 39 times, it's the number one book in the New Testament. The book of Psalms uses the word love 161 times. Like, you think John is full of love, Psalms has quadruple the love. And if you'd read all those passages where the love comes up, you would find that there's a word that almost always shows up right before love. And in my opinion, it's the reason why God is worthy of being your number one. Let me show you just four of the 161 passages from the Psalms.

Psalm 48 says, "Within your temple, O God, we meditate on your unfailing love". King David use the same phrase in Psalm 13, he says, "But I trust in your unfailing love". Moses wrote Psalm 90, he wasn't just a prophet, but a poet. He said, "Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love". And then King David said again, in Psalm 36, "How priceless is your unfailing love". If you ask God, "God, why would I do this? Why would I seek you first? Why would I give you the best of my time, my first thoughts, why would you be my greatest passion"? His logical answer would be, "Because I'm the only person in the whole universe whose love will never fail".

Friends, this is immensely practical. Man, I wish an extra 10 minutes that I could talk more about this. When anything else is above God, you are so close to heartbreak. Right, if your family, your girlfriend, your husband, your son is like the source of your life, they will fail you. Which means your life will fall to pieces. If you find your very identity in being an amazing student, who's kept her 4.0 through all these years, or being the person at work who always gets the job, the promotion, the applause, like you are one slip, one moment, one pandemic, one something away from having your heart broken. But if God is right here, If you love these other thing but you love God the most, if you treasure your wife but you love God even more than your wife, if you appreciate getting good grades but God means so much more to you than the GPA little number on the report card, you will have so much peace, and so much joy, because you will have the one thing in your heart that can never fail.

"Satisfy us in the morning," Moses said. A prayer I pray almost every morning. "With your unfailing love". And Jesus knew that too. When his friends were worried about life and what they were going to eat, and what they were going to wear, and how they were going to live, Jesus spoke these words in Matthew 6. He said, "Do not worry, but seek first God's kingdom and God's righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well". Anything comes on your to-do list, seek first the kingdom and the righteousness of God. You might get six figures and you might end up with a six pack, but none of those can give you the kind of peace that comes from putting God first. So, put this teaching all together, you shall no other gods before me. How priceless is your unfailing love. Seek first the kingdom, and you come up with the big idea for today's message.

If you're taking notes, write this down. God is our first love. God deserves to come first because his love is the only love that never fails. So, where do we go from here? Before we say, "Amen," I send you out these doors, if you're watching at home, before you log off online, or change the channel on your TV, I want to give you three quick takeaways for this message. If you're taking notes at home or here in church, I'd love for you to write these down. Here's the first takeaway, that you and I need to figure out our order. Or to put it in a command form, figure out your order. Right. You can't all steal my Legos this week. But if you had to draw a little tower in your program, or on a notepad at home, just be honest with yourself. At this stage in your life, what matters more than this, and what matters more than that, and where does God fit into that whole picture?

My tip for you would be to think about the things you're excited to do, and the things you're not. Maybe the things that end up in your schedule and the things that don't, the to-dos that get done, and the ones that kind of linger from week to week. Or open your banking app and just see in the last month what you found money for, and what you didn't. And I think you're going to have a couple of light bulb moments. For some of you, those light bulb moments will be kind of heavy and convicting. Maybe you're going to realize that you found 40, 45, 50, 60 hours for work, and it's costing you some of the things that kind of matter more in the eyes of God. Figuring out the order of our loves makes so much sense when it comes to the order of our life.

So, my first application for you is, figure out your order. Here's number two. Number two, figure out their order. This might take a little bit of detective work, but maybe think of the closest people that you do life with. Your parents, your brother or sister, your boss, your closest friends. Can you figure out what their tower would look like? I want you to consider that because I think it would help us love people better. When people have a different order than we do it's not because they hate us or we hate them, it's just different.

Like, I wish I would've known more about St. Augustine before I went to the hunting store and got that little bottle to pour on my neighbor's front door. He wasn't a bad person, he just loved his yard, he worked hard on it. The beauty of looking out his front, he probably didn't hate kids, he just appreciated the hard work and didn't want it to be ruined. That makes so much sense to me. And if you would've talked to the local kids who are used to playing on, you know, gravelly parking lots, where the little pebbles get stuck in your wheels, and the ball always jumps and you can't shoot, and explained it to him, I wonder if he would have been more patient with the kids outside, you know. Figure out people's order, and maybe, just maybe, the hate will decrease and the love will be greater.

And finally, number three, and most importantly, thank God for his order. About 2,000 years ago, God came into our world in flesh and blood. His name was Jesus. And because Jesus was God, he had the right to be first. But if you know the gospel story, do you know what Jesus did? He humbled himself. He had the right to take care of his own health to protect his own family, but instead Jesus did what almost no one does, he didn't put himself first. And it kinda struck me that if I take this block of Jesus and I don't put it first, it kinda ends up looking like.

In the biggest act of love in human history, Jesus rearranged the natural order. God humbled himself so that people like us could be exalted. He didn't put himself first so that you and I could be first into the kingdom of heaven. He was willing to give up his right so that you and I would have the right to be called the children of God himself, so we could be forgiven, so we could be cleansed, so we could be loved, so that the doors of heaven would be open to us, so that we would not have to be afraid of the future, but know that God adores us as his dear son and daughters. Because Jesus did that. So, why would you do this and put God first in your everything? Well, my answer would be because he started it. Or as one of Jesus' closest friends once wrote, "We love because he loved us first". Let's pray:

Dear Jesus, thank you so much for your sacrifice, and especially for your humility. We humans are wired to think of number one, number one. And yet, you're so different Lord. You humbled yourself and became obedient to death, even death on a cross. And therefore, you are exalted to the highest place, you are worthy of our first love, you deserve it God, and we want to give it God. I thank you today for your unfailing love. I thank you that you're a savior that doesn't just demand to be worshipped, you deserve it. You don't just command us to do it, you compel us, by loving us, serving us, and forgiving us of all of our sins. I'm asking you today Holy Spirit, for some deep conversations.

As we talk with our father in prayer this weekend, as we talk to one another after this message, help us to think deeply about what we love the most, and what the implications of that order actually are. And at the end of the day God, help us to see you first, knowing that even though a thousand things might fail in the days to come, you never will. For that we praise you, for that we worship you, and for that we long to put you first. We pray this all Jesus in you beautiful name, and God's people say, amen.

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