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Loving God | Focusing on God

A New Beginning / Greg Laurie
The Truth Network Radio
November 21, 2023 3:00 am

Loving God | Focusing on God

A New Beginning / Greg Laurie

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November 21, 2023 3:00 am

Sometimes it’s easiest to see our human idiosyncrasies in other people. Take a toddler, for instance. The little one may be despairing over the toy—or the cookie—he can’t have... until daddy walks through the door, home from work. Suddenly, his focus changes and his little world is all about dad. Today on A NEW BEGINNING, Pastor Greg Laurie points out, when our love and focus is on our Heavenly Father, we won’t despair for the things of this world.

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A New Beginning is the daily half-hour program hosted by Greg Laurie, pastor of Harvest Christian Fellowship in Southern California. For over 30 years, Pastor Greg and Harvest Ministries have endeavored to know God and make Him known through media and large-scale evangelism. This podcast is supported by the generosity of our Harvest Partners.

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We're glad you're joining us for A New Beginning with Greg Laurie, a podcast supported by Harvest Partners. Get more encouraging audio content when you subscribe to Pastor Greg's Daily Devos. Learn more and sign up at

And don't forget to subscribe to our YouTube channel. Sometimes it's easiest to see our human idiosyncrasies in other people. Take a toddler, for instance. The little one may be despairing over the toy or the cookie he can't have until Daddy walks through the door, home from work. Suddenly his focus changes and his little world is all about Dad. Well today on A New Beginning, Pastor Greg Laurie points out when our love and focus is on our Heavenly Father, we won't despair for the things of this world.

The heart. How often do we hear that expression? It is a phrase that is used constantly. For instance if you are sad you say, Oh man. I am heartbroken.

If you find that someone is insensitive to what you are talking about you might say something along the lines of, You know what? You are heartless. Or if someone is very emotional and quick to express the way that they feel we might say of them, Well you know they wear their heart on their sleeve. And then there is countless songs about the heart as well. The Eagles sang about a heartache tonight. Bruce Springsteen sang of his hungry heart. Neil Young sang about searching for a heart of gold. And then of course there is Billy Ray Cyrus who sang about his achy breaky heart. And maybe that is why Toni Braxton recorded a song called Unbreak My Heart because she got an achy breaky heart so she wanted it unbroken.

So what have we learned so far about the heart from some of these songs? Your heart gets broken. Then it gets unbroken.

That is a lot of trauma for the heart don't you think? No wonder Stevie Nicks sang Stop Dragging My Heart Around. Because your heart can be broken. It can be unbroken.

It can be drug around. And that is probably why the Bee Gees recorded a song How Can You Mend a Broken Heart. Or as they sang it, How can you mend a broken heart?

How can a loser ever win? How can you stop the sun from shining? What makes the world go round? Hey. Hey. Ok. I am done. That is not in the notes.

It is just. What do we mean when we say the heart? Usually we are referring to our emotional center. The way it is usually framed goes along the lines of well my mind tells me to do one thing but my heart tells me another. You know a lot of crazy things have been done in the name of I am doing this from my heart. Princess Diana once said, quote, only do what your heart tells you, end quote. I guess Woody Allen believed that when he left his live-in lover and took up with her adopted daughter. It was quite the scandal. When he was asked why he would do such a thing his explanation was, well the heart wants what it wants.

Yeah. What is all this talk of the heart? Doing what the heart wants.

Et cetera. Well this is a very important subject. Let me first say that you should not let your heart tell you what to do. Because your heart can mislead you. The Bible also speaks of the heart. And here is what it says in Jeremiah 17.9, the heart is deceitfully wicked above all things who can know it. And then Jesus went on to say in Matthew 15, out of the heart comes evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, lying, and slander.

Yeah. It is true. The heart wants what it wants. And a lot of times the heart wants the wrong things. So we should not focus on our heart as much as we ought to focus our heart on God. And that brings us to our text where Jesus tells us what to do with our hearts.

Instead of talking about it being broken or unbroken or dragging it around or wearing it on your sleeve He tells you to use your heart as well as your mind and your soul for what they were created for. The backdrop of this is Jesus had just dealt with the Sadducees as you recall. They were the religious leaders that did not believe that there was life beyond the grave.

So they came to Christ with a hypothetical situation. They talked about a woman who was married to a man who died. So she married his brother. He died. She married another of his brothers. He died. On this went the seven brothers.

They all died. And then they asked the question, Well whose wife will she be in the resurrection? Jesus' response was, You guys you know you don't know the Scripture or the power of God. So He put them in their place and answered their question. Now the Pharisees feel it is their turn and they come with this question. And we pick it up in Matthew 22 verse 34. When the Pharisees heard He had silenced the Sadducees they gathered together.

And one of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question testing Him. So understand this was designed to paint Christ into a corner if you will. Testing Him and saying, Teacher which is the greatest commandment on the law? Jesus said, You shall love the Lord your God with all of your heart, with all of your soul, and with all of your mind. This is the first and great commandment.

And the second is like it. You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang all of the law and the prophets. So here are the Pharisees trying to trap Jesus because they had endless debates about what commandments were greater or lesser. They basically had documented 613 commandments in the law. And they identified 248 of those commandments as being positive and 365 of them being negative. And so they knew that no one could keep all of the commandments.

Therefore they identified some commandments as heavy and other commandments as light. We have a modern equivalent of this and the idea of sin being described as both mortal and venial. The idea is a venial sin is bad but it is not as bad as a mortal sin. Some sins are worse than others.

Here is the problem with all of this thinking. It is not biblical. God doesn't make those distinctions and there is no such thing as a mortal or venial sin. Having said that it is worth noting that some sins are worse than others. Now one sin is enough to keep you out of heaven.

Right? Because the Bible says if you offend on one point of the law you are guilty of all of it. Yet some sins carry greater penalties than others.

You say, what do you mean by that? Well when Jesus was talking to Pontius Pilate He said, the one that delivered Me to you has committed the greater sin. Now what Pilate was about to do was pretty bad. Ok. Pilate was going to have Christ scourged and beaten beyond human recognition and ultimately murdered in cold blood and nailed to a cross. How could anyone commit a sin worse than what Pilate had done? Yet Jesus said, the one that sent Me to you has committed the greater sin. Well who sent Jesus to Pilate? Well we don't have the exact answer.

There are two options that I can see. One is Caiaphas. The other is Judas. He probably was referring to Caiaphas the high priest. Caiaphas studied the Word of God.

He knew what was true. Yet he intentionally, willfully sent Jesus to be crucified. Why was his sin greater than Pilate's? Because Pilate he was what we might describe as a garden variety nonbeliever. He was your classic Roman pagan. You know he worshiped multiple gods including the Caesars themselves. And he really had no sense of right and wrong as we would know it.

But Caiaphas raised studying the Scripture knowing the Torah and now here he is a spiritual leader. Yet he takes the Messiah of Israel and sends Him to be put to death by the Romans. Or Jesus may have been referring to Judas Iscariot who was one of the handpicked disciples of Christ. He spent some three years walking and talking with our Lord and yet he betrayed Him for 30 pieces of silver. And Judas knew he was innocent because he himself said, I have betrayed innocent blood. So why is this sin greater?

Because they knew better and yet they did this. So back to this debate. The greater commandments. The lesser commandments.

Jesus saying, guys let's get to the heart of the matter. You shall love the Lord your God with all of your heart, soul, and mind. This is known as the Shema. Something that every Jew would have memorized. They had it written down and placed in that little box that they would wear strapped to their head known as the phylactery.

This was something they were very familiar with. The Shema. Love the Lord your God with all of your heart, soul, and mind. So here is what Christ is saying. Instead of worrying about all these little commandments and which one is worse than the other get back to this. Love God with all of your being and I say all this stuff will be sorted out.

It makes complete sense doesn't it? Because really if I love the Lord my God with all of my heart, soul, and mind I'll naturally want to do what he wants me to do. Pastor Greg Laurie will have the second half of his message in just a moment. We love to hear stories of how lives have been changed through the teaching of God's word and through movies like Jesus Revolution. Hi Pastor Greg.

I just finished watching Jesus Revolution on Netflix and wow it was such an amazing and inspiring film. My story in committing my life to Christ goes back to 2017 when I started a new job with a 45 minute commute. I would see a billboard that had the Christian radio station on it and I thought, why not give it a try? And when I tuned in it was your voice I heard. Since that day I've grown closer to God. I read his word, attend a Bible based church and listen to you almost every day. Thank you so much for allowing God to use you the way he has. When we hear from you, it's not only a blessing it also confirms that Harvest Ministries is touching lives.

Would you share your story? If so, email Pastor Greg. Send it to Greg at Harvest dot org. Do it today, would you?

Again, that's Greg at Harvest dot org. Well Pastor Greg has pointed out so far that the question of which is the greatest commandment is a moot point. We need to love God with all our heart and if we do, we will do what the Lord wants us to. The Ten Commandments are divided into two sections. Four and six. And so it is not five and five. It is something.

It is four and six. The first four commandments have to do with our relationship with God. The final six deal with our relationship with others. If I really love the Lord my God with all of my heart, soul, and mind I will not want to have another God before him or worship a false idol or take his name in vain. And if I love my neighbor as I love myself I will not want to steal from him or kill her or covet something that belongs to them. So the idea is if I can get down to this basic truth of loving God everything else will find its proper place. It was Augustine that said, You are to love God and do what you please.

That sounds like a dangerous statement. But really if we love God as we ought to we will want to do the things that please God. But what does it mean when Jesus says, Love the Lord? He tells us we should love Him with our heart, with our soul, and with our mind. And Mark's version of this adds the word strength to it as well. It means that you are to love God with every part of your being.

But let's break this down for a moment and try to understand these terms. First of all love the Lord your God with all of your heart. For the Hebrew mind the heart spoke of the center or the core of one's being. Proverbs 4.23 says, Above all else guard your heart for it affects everything that you do. So it just speaks of your core.

Your heart. Their word soul probably more closely correlates to our use of the word heart. For the Hebrew the soul referred to their emotion. It is the word that Jesus used when He cried out in the Garden of Gethsemane, My soul is deeply grieved to the point of death.

So as I said in some ways the Hebrew word for soul was closer to our word heart. But then He says that we are to love God with our mind as well. So this is the idea of moving ahead with energy and strength.

So put it all together. Genuine love for the Lord is intelligent. It is feeling. It is willing.

And it is serving. Again it is an intelligent love. It is a feeling love. It is a willing love. And it is a serving love. Some people love God with all of their minds.

But there is no heart in it. They love to study. They love to be correct theologically. But there is no passion in their life. Some people love God with all of their heart and their passion and their emotion.

They haven't disciplined themselves to study God's Word and they are easily led astray. No. We need all of these things in play to love God as we ought to. This is why after Peter crashed and burned and met with Jesus by the Sea of Galilee our Lord posed this question to him. Simon son of Jonas do you love Me? He could have asked him, Simon son of Jonas, do you have faith in Me? Or he could have said, Simon are you theologically correct? Or Simon are you obedient to Me?

No. He didn't ask those questions. He asked him, do you love Me? And by the way he asked that three times. Maybe corresponding to the fact that Peter denied Him three times.

Why did he ask him, do you love Me? Because Jesus knew if He loved him as He should all these other areas would be taken care of. For instance I know people that are sticklers for correct doctrine yet many of them are miserable, mean, arrogant, and condemning. Oh they are right.

And they will take the truth and use it like a sledgehammer in the life of another person. I know people that are very active and busy for God. But the love for the Lord seems to be lacking.

Yes. If we can love the Lord as we ought to then our life will find its proper balance. But guess what. This love that we have for Christ can be walked away from. Sometimes we don't love Him as we once did.

We look back in our lives as Christians and we will say, there was a time in my walk with the Lord where my love was much stronger than it is today. I have effectively left my first love. This happens in marriage all the time. You know when two people are newly married maybe you see them out and about. They are so affectionate. You see this young couple holding hands gazing into each other's eyes kissing. You say, they must be newly married.

Why? Because people who have been married for a while don't do that anymore. Or when that newly married couple has their first conflict we say, ah the honeymoon is over.

Right? Well this happens in our faith too. Where that affection is gone. That passion is gone. The communication is broken down.

And in effect the honeymoon is over. This was the situation with the church in Ephesus that Jesus spoke to in the book of Revelation. They were an active, busy, engaged church but they were lacking in love.

So let's read about them now. Go over to Revelation 2 verse 1. "'To the angel of the church of Ephesus write, "'These things,' says he, "'that holds us seven stars in his right hand.'" This is speaking of Christ. "'Who walks in the midst of the seven golden lampstands.'" This is a picture of the church.

So here is Jesus walking through the church. "'I know your works, your labor, your patience. "'You cannot bear those who are evil. "'You have tested those who say they are apostles and are not.

"'And you have found them liars.'" Verse 3. "'And you have persevered and have patience "'and you have labored for My name's sake "'and you have not become weary. "'Nevertheless I have this against you.

"'You have left your first love. "'Remember, therefore, from where you have fallen, "'repent and do the first works, "'or else I will come to you quickly "'and remove your lampstand from its place "'unless you repent.'" Now let's understand that these words of Jesus were to a literal church that was in Ephesus. The apostle Paul and possibly the apostle John had both pastored it. When Revelation was written, given to John the apostle in the island of Patmos, this church was in its second generation. So many of these people had been raised in a Christian home.

They were born to believing parents and had been taught the Word of God from you. Here we find a really active church. Serving the Lord with great effort. Jesus even says in verse two, "'I know your labor and your patience.'" Or a better translation would be your perseverance. "'And I know that you work hard.'"

Verse three. "'You have labored for My name's sake.'" And that can be translated, "'You have labored to the point of exhaustion.'"

The original Greek would indicate an effort that produced work even at the cost of pain. These people were really hard working. They were discerning. They were hard working. They were faithful.

But they were guilty of a sin that the average person could not detect. They had left their first love. It doesn't say they lost it.

Sometimes people ask the question, Have you lost your first love? You don't lose it. You leave it.

That is the word Jesus uses. If you lose something you don't know where it is. Otherwise it would not be lost.

It would be found. But you can leave something. You can walk away from someone. That is what Jesus is talking about.

When He says you have left your first love He is effectively saying, You no longer love Me as you first did. You see these believers in Ephesus were so busy maintaining their separation they were neglecting their adoration. They were substituting perspiration for inspiration. Now is this really that big of a deal? Oh yeah. Big thing. They left their first love. Yeah.

Actually it is a real big deal. Because if you read the words of Jesus to the seven churches in Revelation you will find things get progressively worse. Starting with a breakdown of the first love to the church of Ephesus and culminating with the outright rejection of Christ in the church of Laodicea where we find Jesus is on the outside trying to get in.

Saying, Behold I stand at the door and knock and if you will hear my voice and open the door I will come in. That verse is often quoted as we tell nonbelievers about how they can accept Christ. But in its context it was to the church. The unbelieving church. And so this is how things can get worse.

So yes it is a big deal to leave your first love because it can lead to worse things down the road. Pastor Greg Laurie pointing out the danger of leaving our first love. And he will have more from this study called Loving God before today's edition of A New Beginning concludes.

So please stay tuned. But Pastor Greg can we talk to another group of people for a moment. Those that have never come to the Lord for the first time.

They may be thinking about it but they need some counsel. Well they just need to hear more. They need to hear what the essential gospel message is. And I've got a great resource for you. We've set up a webpage that's called K-N-O-W-G-O-D dot O-R-G To go there I have a video presentation of how you accept Christ, lead you in a prayer, and then it links to other spiritual resources that will help you grow spiritually. So just go to

Do it right now. Well Pastor Greg we're excited to make available a brand new Christmas devotional for our listeners. You've titled it Heaven's Light Breaking. Let me ask you, do you have a formula for making our Christmas celebration a little more enjoyable and a little less stressful? And if you would make it quick, I got Christmas presents to show you. Yes, yes.

That's it. Here's what I've discovered about Christmas. We get all psyched up for the big moment. Maybe it's Christmas morning opening the presents or maybe it's the Christmas meal or maybe it's the Christmas party.

And I have found that the in between moments are often the most enjoyable. Here's what I'd say. Slow down. Savor the moments that come your way. You have memories you're gonna make with your family, some of you are small children, that will never be repeated again.

Take lots of pictures. Maybe write things down, funny things your kids said, things that happened, Christmas memories that you'll reflect on later in life that will be a blessing to you. Don't be in such a rush for the big things that you miss the little things. You know the Bible says, despise not the days of small things.

And here's the deal. Christmas is about celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ. So let's not lose Christ at Christmas.

Let's not forget about the one that we're supposedly celebrating. And I have a way for you to do that in a brand new Christmas devotional that has just been released. And the title of it is Heaven's Light Breaking. 25 Christmas devotions. One for every day of the month of December that you can read individually or do a devotional with your family.

Talk about it afterwards. There's a little prayer at the end of each one so you can reflect on what you've read. And I think it's gonna help you really appreciate the essential message of Christmas. So let us send you a copy of this brand new Christmas devotional called Heaven's Light Breaking for your gift of any size. Be generous when you send that gift.

It is Christmas. And when you do that, we will use your gifts to reach more people with the gospel of Jesus Christ and the teaching of the word of God through this radio broadcast, A New Beginning. So in advance, let me thank you and get your copy of Heaven's Light Breaking.

Here's Dave to tell you more. Yeah, we're ready to send a copy your way. Just give us a phone call at 1-800-821-3300. We're happy to send it your way to thank you for partnering with us to help us keep reaching out in the new year. Again, the number 1-800-821-3300.

Call anytime or just go online to Well, next time, more insights from Pastor Greg's message on the importance of loving God. But before we leave today, Pastor Greg has one more thought about love in the marriage relationship. Now, I'm not saying that even after you've been married for years that you should have the emotions of a person that just met someone else. You know maybe when you first met your husband or wife-to-be or maybe it's your boyfriend or girlfriend right now.

It was a big thing. You saw them and you got all excited and you were nervous about meeting them and you didn't know what to say. And then you spent some time together and even now when they walk into the room your mouth goes dry and your head gets light and your heart feels like it has butterflies in it. If I still felt that way with my wife that I had been married to for 37 years she would probably think of us having a heart attack. See the love of marriage is deeper than the mere emotional thing that brings you together.

C.S. Lewis put it this way, quote, Being in love first moved them to promise fidelity. This quieter love enables them to keep the promise. It's on this love that the engine of marriage is run. Being in love was the explosion that started it. So God is not saying I want you to always have your heart aflutter and have an emotional experience with me.

He's saying I want a deeper, committed, lasting love and I want it to stay strong for a lifetime. This is the day, the day when life begins. Hey everybody, thanks for listening to A New Beginning. This is a podcast made possible by Harvest Partners. So for more content that can help you know God and equip you to make Him known to others or to learn more about how you can become a Harvest Partner just go to
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-11-21 05:23:54 / 2023-11-21 05:34:38 / 11

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