The following is a transcript of the above video.
Some of you may not know, but Ray is actually of Jewish descent and I am of Arab descent. Together, we are the answer to the Mid-East crisis. We’re going to travel around with a yarmulke and a turban preaching peace wherever we go. As a Christian, there are times where I find myself in the midst of some sort of Christian event. The Lord gives me somewhat of a flashback where I remember who I was and where I was. It’s a surreal moment of reality where I step back and I say, “What in the world am I doing here?”
Maybe some of you are saying that to yourselves. “What am I doing here?” We do that constantly on a daily basis almost at Living Waters, when we step back and we consider the fact that the Lord gives us a privilege to serve as a part of a ministry that is equipping people to fulfill the Great Commission. There are times where we step back and say, “Lord, how did this happen?” I’m sure all of you have a story about how you ended up where you’re at in life and about how you connected with Living Waters. I’d like to share mine with you briefly.
The Strange Little Kiwi
About 17 years ago, a friend of mine came up to me and said, out of the blue, “Have you ever heard of this guy named Ray Comfort? He is crazy.” Then, he thrust a book into my hand called Springboards for Powerful Preaching. He said, “Man, you’ve got to read this book.” Now, all of us, I’m sure have that pile of books at home that we’ve labeled “The Pile of Books That I Will Never, Ever Read” and so, I put Ray Comfort’s book on the pile, thinking, “I will never pick this thing up.” One day, as divine providence would have it, I found myself picking the book up and opening it. After reading the first page, I went to the second, and the third, and the fourth, and I could not put the thing down. I remember just thinking, “Who in the world is this little Kiwi guy that I’m reading about?”
“The way to fulfill the greatest commandment is to love God through glad obedience and to love people through sacrificial service.”
I was blown away. Reading about this guy who is doing these unbelievable things. I’m reading about him taking groups of people out on the streets and dressing guys up in ties and dark sunglasses, and having a guy lie on the ground throwing a white sheet over him, and holding a mock funeral in public. I’m reading about him getting heckled by the cast of Jesus Christ superstars. He’s preaching the gospel on the streets. Reading about him going up to perfect strangers and talking to them about the gospel of everlasting life. I thought, “Who in the world is this guy?”
Well, shortly after that, because I was inspired, I decided to start an evangelism outreach to the church where I was an associate pastor. On the first evening that we met to go out, someone brought with them a VHS tape called “Open Air New York.” How many of you have seen that? Open Air New York? For those of you that don’t know what a VHS tape is, email me sometime. We pop that thing in and started watching it. I remember just sitting there with my jaw almost literally hitting the ground. It’s one thing to read about the things that Ray Comfort has done…it’s an entirely different thing to actually see it in action.
I mean, here’s this little guy standing up on the soapbox surrounded by hundreds of people…I’m like, “What is this?” We went out that night and I remember, I was so inspired by what I saw and when I witnessed, I open-air preached for the very first time in my life that evening. It was outside of a coffee shop. It’s rather lengthy but I think it’s so significant that it’s worth for me actually recounting what I said. I remember I stood up, I looked at the crowd. I said, “Repent!” Something like that. I remember shortly after that, after familiarizing myself some more with the ministry and being impacted in a huge way, I remember I called to order some gospel tracts. I heard a very familiar voice on the other end.
Meeting the Little Kiwi Himself
“Living Waters.” I thought, “No. It cannot be.” Sure enough, it was the little Kiwi himself answering the phone. I thought, “This is unreal!” We got to talking and near the end of the conversation, he said, “I love to do local ministry. If you’d ever like me to come out and speak at your church, I would love to do that. Just let me know.” We’re talking and I said, “Well, let me give it some prayer. Amen. Yes! Tomorrow.” Ray came out and spoke at the church. He came again on a Sunday morning. I remember we were in between services and he and I were standing on the second level where our church sanctuary was. We’re looking down in an open courtyard when all of a sudden, the most beautiful woman on the face of the earth came strolling in. I looked at her. Ray looked at me and said, “That’s my daughter.”
I thought, “Wow! She doesn’t even have a mustache; how can that be?” I remember as soon as Rachel got to the top of the stairs and I looked at her, there was just this sense that the Lord had something. The second that she looked upon me, she ran in horror. Like they say, love is blind. Rachel and I were married April 6th of ‘96 and the Lord has blessed us with five beautiful children. Each of them were born with a mustache. I look back at what the Lord has done as I survey His faithfulness. I never even thought for a second that I would ever serve with Living Waters. I was a pastor. I had my own itinerate ministry but I stepped back and I look at what the Lord has done and how one day, He began to stir my heart. He began to stir Ray’s heart and it’s been about nine years now since I came on with Living Waters. I serve as the Executive Vice President and what an honor and what a joy it has been.
You can imagine how surreal it was for me and how I stood there and said, “What is happening and where am I?” when Ray came up to me one day and put in my hand a copy of that very first book that I read of his, a reprint of it, with a chapter in it that was full of poetry that I had written. You can imagine how I felt when Ray and I were on our way to Israel one year, and we stopped in at New York, and to Washington Square Park, the same park I saw on that video. I was standing there side-by-side with him preaching the gospel in the open air. You can imagine as I stand here before you all now how I can say, “Oh, Lord, what am I doing here and how grateful I am to You for this. How awesome it is that this room is full of people who are here of their own volition saying, ‘Lord, we desire to know how it is that we could be used by You for Your glory.’”
Evangelism Should Be Normal
Evangelism is something that horrifies the average Christian. The thought of coming up to a perfect stranger and communicating to them, first of all about anything, but then about a topic that is extremely uncomfortable, and divisive, and controversial. As a believer, when I first came to Christ, evangelism was something that just happened naturally, which is how it should be. Oftentimes, people will come up to Ray and they’ll say, “Oh, I met this guy who is so on fire and he was out preaching the gospel. Just an amazing, wonderful Christian.” He looks at them and he says, “You mean like a normal, biblical Christian?”
Really in essence, all of us should be like the leper in Mark chapter 1, who after Christ healed him and said to him, “Don’t say anything to anyone,” went about and it says began to proclaim it so much so that they began to come to Jesus from every direction. He could no longer openly walk in the cities. He popularized Jesus. We’ve been healed of a far worse disease and we’ve been given the command to speak. How much more so should we? When I first came to Christ, people would duck and cover when they saw me coming.
If you came across my path, you were going to hear about the One who reached down into time and space, and redeemed my wicked and wretched soul. God gave me the privilege after that to become involved in leadership and evangelism. As I said, I was a pastor and began to lead teams, and we’d go on the streets. We eventually ended up going door-to-door throughout our community. After I got connected with Ray, he and I began to preach the gospel together at various beach spots around Southern California, and ended up eventually going to Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica for about three and a half years and preaching there on a weekly basis.
The Power of the Gospel
Then, the Lord opened up the doors for us at a courthouse that was directly across from our ministry. He and I went every morning, Monday through Friday and preached the gospel to the people that would be gathered for two and a half years. We went all throughout Europe, preached the gospel in 13 countries. My family and I have gone all throughout our community and preached the gospel to our neighbors. The thing that I am so honored to say is that I have seen extraordinary things in connection with evangelism. I have seen believers who are bound for years and years by fear suddenly break the sound barrier; for the first time in their lives, experience the joy of communicating the gospel of everlasting life to a nonbeliever.
I’ve had the privilege of seeing pastors who lost their zest, and zeal, and passion, and ended up becoming dry and dead, being awakened to the calling of the church and begin to do what God has called them to do as leaders in the body of Christ. I’ve seen churches that were dead and decaying suddenly come to life and begin to reach out to the loss. I’ve seen unbelievers come under the sound of the Law and the gospel, go from proud to humble as God broke them through His truth and cry out in repentance in faith calling upon the Savior. I have seen some amazing things in connection with evangelism.
The Tragic Flip Side
“Why is it that we as Christians are to engage in what Spurgeon called the ‘irksome task of winning souls’?”
Unfortunately, on the flip side of that, I would be remiss if I were not to tell you that I’ve also seen some tragedies. I’ve seen believers who were at one time full of proper understanding about what evangelism was about, having the proper heart and the proper motive, and the proper passion, suddenly do an about face and completely change. I’ve seen Christians take evangelism and turn it into a competitive sport. I’ve seen them take evangelism and turn into a platform whereby they can bolster their spiritual reputation. I’ve seen believers turn human beings, precious souls, into notches that they can put on their belts.
I’ve seen Christians argue, and debate, and boast, and brag, and demonstrate their debating prowess and show off with their verbal jiu-jitsu to demonstrate how great they are and turn evangelism, the greatest honor that God has given His people, into an absolute tragedy. In the midst of that, I’ve had to step back and say, “Lord, how in the world did this happen? How did someone go from having the right focus, the right attitude, the right understanding, to becoming someone that looks almost nothing like a Christian engaged in something that is so holy and so sacred?” I came to realize it’s because there came a time when they completely lost sight of why it is that we’re to do evangelism in the first place.
Why Do We Evangelize?
What is the answer to that question my brothers and sisters? Why is it that we as Christians are to engage in what Spurgeon called the “irksome task of winning souls”? Why is it that we as Christians are, for that matter, to do anything that we do in life? I want you to mark this well. I want to urge you this morning to engrave this on your heart and mind. I want you to splash it across the inside of your eyelids so that you never, ever lose sight of why it is that God has called you as His child to do anything that you do in life including proclaiming the gospel. There is one answer and one answer only. That answer is so that you and I may glorify God. That we may glorify God.
1 Corinthians 10:31, “Therefore whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” A few years ago, I sat my family down in our living room and I unveiled for them a family vision statement that I have crafted for the Zwayne household. It reads like this: “To gladly and passionately glorify God in every thought, affection, word, and deed, while constantly enjoying Him as our greatest pleasure and most precious treasure.” Let me say that again. The Zwayne’s family vision statement is “To gladly and passionately glorify God in every thought, affection, word, and deed, while constantly enjoying Him as our greatest pleasure and most precious treasure.”
I’ve memorized that. My wife has memorized that. Our children who are of age have memorized that. We’ve posted it in our home. It’s become the central theme for our family devotions. The popular topic of discussion in our home. If there’s anything that I want my children to understand, if there’s anything I want my children to pass on to their children and their children, to their children, it’s the understanding of why it is that they were made. That their aim in life, their mission in life, their goal in life, is to live with everything there is within them unto the glory of God.
What Glorifying God Means
What does that mean? That God may be lifted up, that He might be prime in and through their life, that He might be exalted, lifted on high, that they might draw praise and worship, and honor toward Him. That in everything they say and think and do and every emotion that they allow to run through their body, the ambition in their hearts is so that God Almighty might be lifted up and glorified. I think J. C. Ryle got this right. He said, “A zealous man in Christianity is preeminently a man of one thing. It is not enough to say that he is earnest, hearty, uncompromising, thorough-going, whole-hearted, fervent in spirit. He only sees one thing. He cares for one thing. He lives for one thing. He is swallowed up in one thing. That one thing is to please God. Whether he lives or whether he dies, whether he has health or whether he as sickness, whether he is rich or whether he is poor, whether he pleases man or whether he gives offense. For all this, the zealous man cares nothing at all. He burns for one thing, and that one thing is to please God, and advance His glory.”
The Greatest Commandment
My brothers and sisters, if you don’t get it here, you’re going to miss the mark in every area of your life as a believer. We’re going to deal specifically with glorifying God through evangelism, but before we do that, I want us to take a look at the overarching facet of living for God’s glory by obeying His greatest commandment because I believe that this is one of the greatest ways we can glorify the God who gave us life. For that, we turn to Mark chapter 12 beginning in verse 28. “Then one of the scribes came, and having heard them reasoning together, perceiving that He had answered them well, asked Him, ‘Which is the first commandment of all?’ Jesus answered him, ‘The first of all the commandments is: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment. And the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.’
“So the scribe said to Him, ‘Well said, Teacher. You have spoken the truth, for there is one God, and there is no other but He. And to love Him with all the heart, with all the understanding, with all the soul, and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself, is more than all the whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.’ Now when Jesus saw that he answered wisely, He said to him, ‘You are not far from the kingdom of God.’ But after that no one dared question Him.”
I have no doubt that all of you are familiar with this very popular passage of Scripture. I’ve come to realize, as I’m sure you have as well, but oftentimes, it’s the things that we are most familiar with that we end up neglecting the most. I think we would be wise for our purposes to re-acquaint ourselves with the words of Jesus here, so that we can regain our perspective and learn how to truly live for the glory of God. The context of this passage really begins in Mark chapter 11:15 where we find the unforgettable account of Jesus cleansing the temple.
Jesus in the Temple
Now, I don’t know about you, but I have seen my fair share of Jesus movies in my day. Just about every one that I’ve seen tries to re-enact the scene here that we just read in Mark 12. An interesting thing about Jesus movies is you can almost immediately tell which decade the movie was produced in by the hairstyle they give the Jesus character. You’ve got the hippie Jesus from the ‘60s with the part down the middle and the straight hair. You’ve got the ‘70s Jesus with the feathered Bee Gees look. Of course, the ‘80s mullet Jesus going on. My favorite is the ‘90s Jesus. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen this one but they’ve got not only the lingo but they’ve got the look going on in a real good way. I call it the “California Surfer Jesus.” He’s got that short, tousled hairdo going on.
Most of the gospel movies that you see, they always typically use an English accent for the Jesus character. There’s something reverent about it. You’re waiting for this guy to say “dude” any second. Anyhow, each one of these that I’ve seen tries to re-enact this scene of Jesus cleansing the temple. Let me tell you, none of them have ever come close to doing justice to what it would’ve been like. Oh, how I would have loved to have been present for this scene. To watch the holy, living Son of God as He went through that temple. As John tells us, He made for Himself a whip of cords, began to overturn the tables and the chairs, and to drive out the money changers as they were looking to make a buck out of the backs of worshipers.
The eye of the righteous indignation of the holy Son of God. I can assure you that Jesus did not have, when He did that, a little lamb draped around His shoulders. There might’ve been one flying through the air but I assure you, it was not dangling around His shoulders. It tells us in Mark 11:18, “After the scribes and chief priests heard about what He did in the temple, then they sought how they might destroy Him.” No wonder, because He was threatening their very means of wicked and godless livelihood. Then here in Mark 12:13, “They sent Him Pharisees and Herodians to catch Him in His words.”
Trying to Trap
After that in verse 18, we see that some Sadducees, who were the rivals of the Pharisees, joined in as well. We find ourselves here now in our text in verse 28 and we see that this scribe who it says perceived that He had answered well, decided to ask Jesus a specific question. Now, you might step back and wonder why the scribe was on the scene. You have to remember that it was the scribes and the chief priests who sent the Pharisees and the Herodians to try to trap Jesus in what He might say.
There was this interesting tension between the religious leaders of that time and the people. In one sense, they desired to dominate and to rule over them but in another sense, they always attempted to appease them. That was so that they could continue to keep them under control. It’s evident that they sent to Him a delegation who would attempt to trap Him in something He might say so that they could, in the eyes of the people, give a legitimate reason for why they would put Him to death. That He blasphemed God.
This is conjecture, but I can imagine that the scribe perhaps came on the scene so that he might supervise what His proteges were doing. Maybe he himself came where they set up questions of his own that he had sitting in his pocket just in case they weren’t doing the job that they should’ve been doing that he could pin Jesus with. I can imagine as he stood there, as one question after the other came toward Christ, he suddenly realized that he was listening to a man that was no mere man. He was hearing Jesus speak the Scriptures, it tells us, unlike any man had ever spoken. Suddenly, he cast aside the silly question he brought with him. Suddenly, the question that he had brewing in his own heart his whole life came to the surface and he could not help but ask it of the Son of God.
Their Zeal for the Law
You have to remember that the scribes lived, they ate, they breathed the law of God. They studied it. They explained it, interpreted it, copied it. I can envision this scribe and his proteges sitting around on many a evening debating back and forth different points of the law. You see, one of the things that the scribes did is that they would take the law and they would try to make it more effective from their perspective by expanding it, by adding to it, so that it could be more effective in the lives of God’s people.
Another thing that the scribes would try to do is that they would try to take the law and they would try to sum it up, or summarize it, or encapsulate it in a phrase or in sentence or in a passage from the law itself. In connection with the question that he asks, it appears that this was something that may have been brewing in his own heart and mind. No question that was ever answered by his proteges, no questions that had ever been answered by his contemporaries. No question that his own thinking or his own reasoning would never suffice. Here before him stood the living Son of God, who was speaking words of truth and words of life. The scribe looks at Jesus and he asked Him his question.
To sum it up, he basically says to Him, “Jesus, what is the most important thing that a person can do by way of glorifying God through keeping His commandments?” I’ve often thought of all the different answers that Jesus could’ve given. Jesus looks at this scribe and He begins by answering him with a verse out of the law that would’ve been extremely familiar to him. Deuteronomy chapter 6 beginning in verse 4, “Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your strength.” Now, the first part of Jesus’ answer would in no way have surprised that scribe or any of the Pharisees or the Sadducees or anyone that was gathered in that crowd.
The Flame to the Fuse
The first part of this answer is perhaps the most popular passage of Scripture in Judaism, both then and now. It was called the “Shema,” or “to hear” or “to listen.” This was very familiar to the Jews of that time. It was something that they would recite regularly at the opening of the synagogue gatherings. It was put in those phylacteries, a leather box that they would wrap around their arms and on their foreheads. It was put in the mezuzahs at the entrances and the exits of their homes. It was a deeply cherished verse from the Word of God. The understanding and the knowledge of the nature and the character of God, and how one should respond to Him in love.
You see, it’s what Jesus did next that brought about the revolution. That brought the flame to the fuse, that lit the spark that resulted in an explosion that has since that time transformed the world. It’s when Jesus combined Deuteronomy 6:4-5 with Leviticus 19:18. “You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.” You see, it’s quite convenient especially for religious leaders who had specific motivations that were self-serving to trumpet the fact that they were lovers of God.
When that love is translated to a love for man, there’s a bit of discomfort there because that takes a demonstration that has to be birthed out of genuineness, and that brings about discomfort. The religious leaders of that time were constantly looking for loopholes in the law. That’s why Jesus had said to them in Mark 7, how they abrogated God’s law because they would say, “Yeah, one is to honor his father and mother,” but if someone said, “What I have is now Corban, it’s will to the temple when I die,” they no longer had to honor their parents with their possessions while they were living. Also in Luke 10, Jesus was having a similar exchange with the lawyer and He gave him the story about the good Samaritan. He said he began to try to justify himself by asking, “Who is my neighbor?”
Jesus here takes an answer to the scribe’s question, Deuteronomy 6:4-5, and he combines it with Leviticus 19:18 to form one revolutionary compound commandment. In Matthew 22:40, he said, “On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” To sum it up and to paraphrase Jesus, He looks at the scribe who launches at Him what appears as a sincere question, “What is the most important commandment of God? What’s the most important thing a person can do by way of glorifying God through obedience?” He simply looks at him and He says, “The most important thing that you can do is love God and love people.” Love God and love people.
“The indispensable element that must be present in order for true biblical agape love is true genuine care toward the supposed object of your love.”
Our Pride is Deceitful
I think oftentimes, as Christians we are very easily insulted because of our foolish hidden sense of pride that we need something a little more involved, a little more intricate, a little more sophisticated to answer the deep questions in our hearts, to give us remedies to the issues in life. My brothers and sisters, these are the words of our Savior. Jesus here is saying that the most important thing that a person can do in life in connection with the commandments of God is to love God and to love people. Now, let me tell you, this can be a very tricky thing. If you ask anyone on the street today, you ask any Christian in any church, “Do you love God and do you love people?” how often do you think someone’s going to look at you and say, “No, actually I hate God and people”? You don’t see that tattooed across people’s foreheads, do you? “I hate God and people.”
Every individual is going to readily claim they love God and people, but the question is…the question for you and me today is, is that true? Do we really? We’ll look at this a little more closely in a bit, but in 1 Corinthians 13, we’re given an indication of how deceptive this can be. Paul the apostle talks about the individual who would appear to have genuine love for God from a spiritual perspective. He talks about the man who has all knowledge and wisdom, who understands all mysteries, who can speak with the tongues of man and of angels, who can move mountains with his faith…and yet he gives us an indication that it’s possible for that person to not have love.
He talks about the individual who’s willing to give all of his possessions away in order to feed the poor. About the man who’s willing to give his own body to be burned for the sake of others and yet, in reality, that person does not actually have genuine love. That’s a bit mind-boggling. How can that be? Because I believe there is one indispensable element that must be present in order for love to truly be love. You see, I can go out and I can do great spiritual things. I can go out and demonstrate my love for God by praying in public, by memorizing scripture, by doing wonderful activities in my church. The question is, what is the motive behind that?
I can go out and I could give everything that I have to feed the poor. I can give my own body to be burned, but what is the motivation behind it? If the motivation is one of self-exaltation, if the motivation is for self glory, if the motivation is for the praise of men, then that’s not love. The indispensable element that must be present in order for true biblical agape love is true genuine care toward the supposed object of your love, true genuine care.
The Fruit of Genuine Love
Jesus tells us here that the most important thing that we can do is to love God and to love people. When you think about it, you see the divine wisdom of the Son of God in connection with this. When you love God and love people genuinely, when there is true genuine care in your heart toward people and toward the Lord, you think that you need to be micromanaged by the law of Moses. What is your motive then? If I care for God, if I care for His glory, if I care for His honor, do I need to be micromanaged in my life? Or is my passion going to be, “Lord, how can I bring You honor?” Am I going to see how close I can get to the boundary line of compromise without crossing it? Or is my heart going to say, “Oh, Lord, how far away can I get from sin so that I can honor You?”
Am I going to be looking for loopholes so that I can continue to indulge in my secret sins? Or am I going to say, “Lord, search me and try me, and examine my life that I could live purely for You”? If I genuinely care about people, do I need to be micromanaged by the law of Moses or am I going to be walking in such a way that says, “Oh, Lord, I want to see this brother in courage uplifted, blessed. I want to see them furthered”? I’m not going to be manipulating. I’m not going to be looking for ways that I could abuse or use God’s people for my own ungodly gain. If I love God and I love people with genuine care, the law is fulfilled and God is glorified through my life. Brothers and sisters, I want you think about this.
We Cannot Miss This
If Jesus is telling us that this is the most important of God’s commandments, if Jesus is telling us that this is the most important thing that we as God’s people can ever do, then how passionate should we be about it? I have a better question for you. How passionate are we about it? You see Jesus never ever uttered opinions. He never gave suggestions, but He always spoke from the very depth of deity as the second person of the trinity, as God the Son, as God incarnate. Recently, I had to step back, look in the mirror, and say to myself, “What is this all about?” I had to lift my voice in prayer to God and say, “Lord, how can I, as Your child, truly live this out?” As you serve God in ministry, as you’ve walked with the Lord for a certain amount of years, you get to a place where you get worn out and burned out by all the politics, and all of the posturing, and all of the junk that sometimes circulates in the church.
“Oftentimes, we forget the calling that Jesus placed on His people: that He has called us to be His own special people that we might be zealous for good works.”
I was at a point of exasperation. I stepped back. I said, “Lord, what is this all about? If Jesus said this is the most important thing that Your people could ever do, then God, I want to know what this looks like. I want feet to be put to it. I want to understand it fully and completely because I know if I miss the mark here, I miss it everywhere.” I wasn’t looking for some nicely, neatly-packaged formula. I wasn’t looking for some nice, cute illustrations or some preacher’s sleek alliteration. “Let us lavish lots of love on little lads and ladies.” I wasn’t looking for that. I wanted to know the heart of God in relation to what it means to fulfill what Jesus said is the most important thing that we can do as God’s people.
How to Love God
These are the questions before us this morning. First of all, how do we as Christians and obedience to the greatest commandment, how do we properly love God? Jesus gave the commandment. Love God. Then, He gave the details. With all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. Jesus did not miss any words in His description of how we as God’s people ought to love our God. It’s to be an all-inclusive love. It’s to be an all-consuming love requiring every part of our being. John 14:15, Jesus said, “If you love Me, keep My commandments.” He further elaborates, John 14:23-24, “Jesus answered and said to him, ‘If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him. He who does not love Me does not keep My words; and the word which you hear is not Mine but the Father’s who sent Me.’”
All throughout Scripture, we see this interwoven theme in connection with loving God. That theme always reflects a life of total complete surrender and obedience to the truth of God. A Christian cannot be a Christian if their life isn’t surrendered to the Lord. I think oftentimes, as Christians, we sit back and we’re confused in relation to this issue because we understand, of course, that we are saved by grace through faith. That our works have no part in our regeneration or in our conversion. Oftentimes, we forget the calling that Jesus placed on His people: that He has called us to be His own special people that we might be zealous for good works. That our hearts would beat with a passion that say, “Lord, what have You called us to so that we can obey it?”
Let me say this. It doesn’t take much to get someone to obey if you use the right methodology. I can hold a gun to anyone’s head and make them do just about anything I want them to do. The real question before us today is what is the spirit with which we as God’s people ought to obey the Lord in connection with the greatest commandment? 1 John 5:3, “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome.” I love that verse because it speaks to what the heart of a Christian should be in connection to God. Not only do we keep His commandments, but the attitude and the spirit is such that “Oh, Lord, I delight to do all Your will. That there is no hesitation, there is no side-stepping, there is no recoiling when I hear You call because I know who You are. I understand Your nature. I understand Your character. I understand Your heart for me as Your child, Your heart for the world. Oh, Lord, how I long to do all Your will. How I long to obey Your wonderful and beautiful commandments.”
It is a living, burning, passionate, fire-filled love that is 3D color that the whole world can look at and see because it’s in connection with the reality of God. Oftentimes, we as Christians live like practical atheists because we have no vibrant love for the Lord that is evident and demonstrable because we’re not living in the reality of His divine presence with us always. That His reality is really prime reality in this world.
Defining Our Love for God
I love the love that Augustine demonstrated toward the Lord. He says, “But what do I love when I love my God? Not the sweet melody of harmony and song. Not the fragrance of flowers, perfumes, and spices. Not manna or honey, not limbs such as the body delights to embrace. It is not these that I love when I love my God. Yet, when I love Him, it is true that I love a light of a certain kind, a voice, a perfume, a food, an embrace. They are the kind that I love in my inner self when my soul is bathed in light that is not bound by space. When it listens to sound that never dies away, when it breathes fragrance that is not born away on the wind. When it tastes food that is never consumed by the eating, when it clings to an embrace from which it is not severed by fulfillment of desire. This is what I love when I love my God.”
Then, he goes on to describe this God that he so loves. He says, “You are ever active, yet always at rest. You gather all things to Yourself, though You suffer no need. You grieve no wrong but suffer no pain. You can be angry and yet serene. Your works are varied but Your purpose is one and the same. You welcome those who come to You, though You never lost them. You are never in need, yet are glad to gain. Never covetous, yet You exact a return for Your gifts. You release us from Your debts but You lose nothing thereby. You are my God, my life, my holy delight, but is this enough to say of You? Can any man say enough when he speaks of You, yet will be tied with those who are silent about You.”
I’ve read this countless times and yet every time I read it, my heart is stirred afresh again. These are the expressions of a man who understood what it means to love the living God. Brothers and sisters, my question to you today is are there any shortage of reasons for which we should be loving our God? I remember years ago reading 1 Peter 1:8, for one of the first times, “Whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory.” I remember reading that and relating to it so clearly, I’m thinking, “Lord, why is this? I so identify with this divine passage of Scripture. I’ve never seen You, yet I love You. I don’t see You now presently before me with the naked eye, yet I rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory. How is that Lord?”
“We have to look at the crucifixion and the physical pain that Christ endured, but we never give thought to the pain that He endured as He heard the blasphemies coming forth from the vocal cords, and the tongues, and the lips that He had created.”
The Divine Sense of Touch
Suddenly, I was reminded of an earthly example. A person who I’m sure every one of you in here is well familiar with. She’s been hailed as one of the most inspirational figures that’s ever lived. She has impacted the world. Her name is Helen Keller. Helen Keller, from the time she was about two years of age, was deaf and mute and blind. Her parents spent countless loads of money to try to help her to rehabilitate because as you can imagine, being trapped in a world of darkness, she was an unruly and wild child, unable to speak, unable to hear, unable to see. One tutor after the other would come into her life through the front door and they’d go out through the back. Her parents almost gave up until one day, finally, they found a woman by the name of Anne Sullivan.
Anne Sullivan entered Helen Keller’s life and began to relate to her with such an indescribable degree of patience, and love, and care. Until one day, finally in her lesson, she broke through to Helen Keller and the whole world of communication opened up and from that moment on, Helen Keller’s life was transformed. She went on to become a college graduate, an author, a lecturer who traveled the world that as I said was one of the most inspirational figures that has ever lived. You know the amazing thing is, is that Helen Keller never once saw the face of Anne Sullivan. Helen Keller never once heard Anne Sullivan’s voice. I can assume that there was no one on the face of the earth that Helen Keller loved more than Anne Sullivan. She experienced her primarily through one sense and that was the sense of touch. There was no one in the world that touched her life more significantly and her love for her burned. Though she never saw her, though she never heard her voice, she loved her and her joy over her was beyond anything that she had ever known toward any other person.
My brothers and sisters, how much more significant is the touch of God in our lives? How much more have we been transformed by the living Savior? Is there a shortage of things to list for the reason why we should love Him, that God Almighty would descend to this earth in the form of a man willingly? We have to look at the crucifixion and the physical pain that Christ endured, but we never give thought to the pain that He endured as He heard the blasphemies coming forth from the vocal cords, and the tongues, and the lips that He had created. That He gave His hands and His feet willingly to be impaled by the very ingredients that He fashioned and formed in the earth.
Yet, this same Savior hung upon that cross and looked out on that crowd and said, “Father, forgive them. They know not what they do.” Even though we were wicked and we were rebellious and we deserve nothing but the flames of Hell, He came down and heroically gave His life in order to redeem us. Is there no reason for which to passionately love Jesus? I pray that we would awaken to that and truly begin to love Him with all that there is within us, with uncompromising and joyful obedience. That’s the love of God. How do we properly love people?
Loving Others as Self
Jesus gave the commandment, “Love your neighbor.” Then, He gave the details, “as yourself.” I’ve always found this interesting and I think I know why He did it in terms of how succinct He was in His description of how we’re to love people. We as people don’t need much explanation on how to love ourselves. We’re experts at that, aren’t we? When they wake up in the morning, it’s not my neighbor’s teeth that I go and brush, is it? It’s not my neighbor that I make a pot of coffee for. It’s not my neighbor’s children that I save up to send to college. We know how to care for ourselves. We know how to nurture ourselves. This isn’t a negative thing. It’s a part of self-preservation.
Jesus didn’t have to elaborate much on it. “Love your neighbor as yourself.” As I said earlier, Scripture gives us the definition of love, the only true definition of love. Any other description of love that anyone ever shares that contradicts this one has nothing to do with love. That is what Scripture tells us in 1 Corinthians chapter 13. It’s important to note this because we live in a day and age during which all of our terms have been redefined. Friends, I know that this is going to be shocking to you, but I’m not looking to Oprah Winfrey and Dr. Phil to give a definition of love. My concern is what the Word of God has to say and here is what it says.
1 Corinthians 13 verses 4-8, “Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.” Love never fails. This, my brothers and sisters, is the divine definition of agape love. A true genuine concern that is demonstrated through all of these attributes that we’ve seen here toward any individual that we come across. Notice that it’s action, it’s something that can be measured by our lives, by what we do, by how we respond, by how we react. We live in a time where “I love you” has become a common greeting.
Love with Actions
There was a time in our nation’s history where the words “I love you” were rarely spoken but boy, were they demonstrated by people, by family members, by friends, by neighbors. Now, we live in a time where they’re a common greeting and yet we never see anything about them. It’s “Hi, I love you. Bye, I love you. Hamburger, shake, and fries, I love you.” Yet, there are no actions behind those words. That’s why 1 John 3:18 says, “Little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth.” Let your love not just be merely spoken. Let it be shown through the actions of your life. How often do we see that?
People saying “I love you” to one another and yet none of the attributes of 1 Corinthians 13 are ever demonstrated. When I say “I love you” to you, what that means is that I am patient toward you. I am kind toward you. I don’t seek my own and my relationship with you. I don’t take into account a wrong suffered and harbor unforgiveness toward you and so on and so forth. When I say I love you, I’m meaning that I have these actions toward you and yet we say that but the actions aren’t there. Years ago, I wrote a poem that speaks about it. Combines all the attributes of 1 Corinthians 13 with 1 John 3:18. “Let us not love in word or in tongue but in deed and in truth.” It goes like this.
Love me not with words. Speak of patience, show me haste. Speak of kindness, show me meanness. What a waste, what a waste. “I’m not jealous,” yet you envy. “I’m not boastful,” yet you gloat. “I’m not rude, I’m not selfish,” yet that’s not what you promote. Talk of calmness, talk of peace, walk in anger, walk in rage. Talk forgiveness, yet not cease holding grudges old with age. “I hate unrighteousness,” you say, yet applaud it every day. “I hate lies,” yet devise sneaky schemes and foul play. “I’ll stick it through with you, believe in you and hope the best.” Yet in the time of trouble, this was not at all expressed. Love me not with words for words shall not prevail. Love me in deed and truth for true love shall not fail. Love me in deed and truth for true love shall not fail.
If we truly and genuinely love other people, then we’re going to demonstrate it by our unfailing actions that are listed in the attributes found here in 1 Corinthians chapter 13. The way to fulfill the greatest commandment is to love God through glad obedience and to love people through sacrificial service. I am convinced that one of the greatest ways that we can do this is by fulfilling the Great Commission because that’s one of the greatest ways that we can truly love. Therefore, one of the greatest ways that we can, as we began our discussion, that is one of the greatest ways that we can glorify God.
Bearing Spiritual Fruits
If you think about it, what is the most prominent thing on the heart of God in connection with His glory? It’s the reconciliation of His fallen creation. When you think about what man’s greatest need is as we love people, it is their redemption and their deliverance from the wrath of God. My brothers and sisters, it all begins with the great love for our God and His glory. It comes down to our genuine understanding of God’s love for us as it is found in the cross. Ephesians 3:17-19: “That Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height—to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.”
You see, when we are filled with the understanding of the love of God centered in the cross, then we are going to be filled with it to overflowing and it’s going to impact our witness in every area of our lives. As you continue studying our resources, you will learn a lot about the practicalities of how to be an effective witness. That’s why I spent the bulk of my time dealing with the understanding of the greatest commandment. You’ll be taught how to apply it fully in evangelism but let me just say this: for those of us who are ambassadors of Jesus Christ, believers, we have a specific calling in connection with our witness.
A Christian should look and sound a certain way when it comes to the gospel. Colossians 4:5-6, spells this out for us: “Walk in wisdom toward those who are outside, redeeming the time. Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one.” God has called us to wisdom as His people in connection with the gospel that we would redeem the time that He has given us, that we should consider how we should respond to each individual, and then we’re given more specificity on this in 2 Timothy chapter 2 beginning in verse 24. “A servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance so that they may know the truth and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will.”
Why the Harshness?
Did you hear those hallmarks of a bond servant of Jesus, of an ambassador of Christ? That they not quarrel, that they be gentle, that they’re able to teach, that they’re patient, that they’re full of humility. Nothing has grieved me more than when I have seen people who have been impacted by our ministry set aside these indispensable attributes in our witness. As a ministry, we’ve been given a calling by the Lord to bring a balance back to help to re-institute biblical evangelism. A part of that is our encouragement to people that understand the importance of the use of the Law. I think sometimes people take that to an extreme and completely misunderstand what we’re saying.
Their approach toward unbelievers is so harsh and so lacking, and all those attributes that we just read. Brothers and sisters, people need to see the humility and the gentleness and the patience, and the love of the Lord shining through us. I mean, there have been times where I can guarantee you, people would have loved to see Living Waters come out with stone Ten Commandments tablets that they could use out on the witnessing field, as they witness to people. “Have you ever told a lie?!” Smash people and beat them to death. Listen. Let the Law do its work as you speak it in gentleness and in love, and in humility, and in patience. People must see that are bond servants of the Lord.
I remember years ago, outside of our church, there were a group of musicians who would often come to frequent the coffee shop and play. One time, there were these punk rockers, they were standing outside. Few of our people before the service were sharing with them. I was listening in off to the side and I was grieved to hear the way that our people were reciprocating the harshness that was coming from these guys. There was a coldness about their interaction. There was a deadness that was there. When there was a break in the conversation, I remember, I interjected. I looked at one of the guys in particular. I’ll never forget him. His name was Seth.
I said, “Seth, I hope you realize our friends are trying to share with you the gospel of everlasting life.” I went on to share a few things with him, to relate with him. I looked at him. “Let me just tell you I honestly respect you because I can tell you’ve looked into some of these things that you’re talking about. I can tell that you’ve given them some thought. Most people just shoot from the head and they don’t do that. I can’t tell you how much that means to me and how much I respect and admire that.” I went on from there to speak to him in love and gentleness, and humility. At the end of the conversation, I looked at him and I said, “Seth, I just want you to know I shared these things with you today because I love you, because I care about you.”
Then, he looked at me with a look that I will never forget and said something to me that I will treasure in my heart forever. He looked at me and he said, “I can tell.” I remember walking away from that encounter and saying, “Oh, Lord. I never want any witnessing encounter that I have to ever end any other way, than for a person to walk away recognizing that they weren’t a notch on my belt, that they weren’t a brick in my spiritual platform to show that I’m a great wonderful Christian but that they know I genuinely care for their soul as a fellow human being, who was on my way to Hell at one time. You redeemed me and saved me. Oh, God, let it shine forth.”
This Is Not a Game
Now listen, there are going to be times of contention. There are going to be times when we passionately contend for the gospel. You’ll see on the streets with Ray and myself, and others here, that there’s times where we’ll spar and have a spirited discussion, but you’ll often see us get down and shake the person’s hand, and convey to them or care for them. Ray will sometimes take a person out to eat or give him a gift or whatever because we want people to see that we are true ambassadors and representatives of Jesus Christ.
My brothers and sisters, I pray that today you have been encouraged to understand as we begin to build on this platform that was laid. That we are called to fulfill the greatest commandment. We want you to understand that we haven’t brought you here to give you a script that you’re to go out and to follow word for word. We’re not here to turn you into little Ray Comforts. There’s not going to be a little Ray Comfort stick-on mustache that we send to your home. There’s no New Zealand accent, Rosetta Stone course you can download. Listen, we are involved in the most important task that human beings have ever been given: reaching out to the lost with the gospel of life.
“Let your aim always be this: I do not desire for myself anything great except the greatest thing of all, that I may glorify God.”
This is not a game. This is not American Evangelist Idol. This is not American Evangelist Got Talent. This is being involved in something that is precious and holy with which we cannot tamper. This is not something that we can play games with. We have to understand the honor and the privilege that we have been given, us wicked, sinful, wretched human beings who deserve nothing but the wrath and condemnation of God. We have been given the privilege to represent Him. If that doesn’t hit you, if that doesn’t strike you, if that doesn’t shake you to the core of your being in terms of the responsibility and the honor, then I don’t know that you know Jesus Christ as your Savior. I pray that we’ll leave here stirred to live for His glory.
Summarizing Our Calling
In summary, we, as ambassadors of Christ, are to be zealous for the glory of God in that we are to live to glorify God in one of the greatest ways by fulfilling that great compound commandment. One of the greatest ways we can do that is by fulfilling the Great Commission, which is one of the greatest things on the heart of God and man’s greatest need. We do it all by understanding the love of God has its center in the cross. Then, we’ll be able to effectively love God and others, and truly live for the glory of God, and fulfill finally what this is all about, the ultimate act of worship, because that’s what evangelism is. It’s worship. It is our offering of praise and thanksgiving to God and obedience for what He did for us on the cross.
As we do it, I pray we do it with humility as I close with these words from Spurgeon. “Walk humbly with God in all your aims. When you are seeking after anything, mind what your motive is. Even if it be the best thing, seek it only for God. If any man, or any woman either, tries to work in the Sunday-school, or if anyone preaches in the open air, or in the house of God, with a view of being somebody, with the idea of being thought to be a very admirable, zealous brother or sister, then let this word come into your ear, “Walk humbly with thy God.” There is a word which Jeremiah spoke to Baruch which we need to have said to ourselves sometimes: “Do you seek great things for yourself? Seek them not.” Let your aim always be this: I do not desire for myself anything great except the greatest thing of all, that I may glorify God.