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Christ, The Lord Of Our Affections – Part 1 of 2

Running to Win / Erwin Lutzer
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October 16, 2023 1:00 am

Christ, The Lord Of Our Affections – Part 1 of 2

Running to Win / Erwin Lutzer

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October 16, 2023 1:00 am

If we are to make God the priority in our lives, we must put him above all other competition for our attention and affections. In fact, Jesus commands us to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. In this message from Mark 12, Pastor Lutzer considers the depth of the love that we should have for God. Is our love for God all-consuming? 

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Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith. Believers are to run life's race for Christ, who taught that the first and greatest commandment is to love God with all our hearts, minds, and souls. Now that's a tall order, one we'll explore today on our broadcast. Do you love God this way?

If not, stay with us. From the Moody Church in Chicago, this is Running to Wind with Dr. Erwin Lutzer, whose clear teaching helps us make it across the finish line. Pastor Lutzer, I'm not sure I'm capable of loving God as the commandment tells me I must. You know, Dave, when you say that I'm reminded of what happened many years ago, I used to always speak in what was known as Bug House Square.

It's a park here in the city of Chicago. You're given a bullhorn, and you're able to speak on whatever you want, and people heckle you. It's a wonderful experience. And every time, I, of course, would share the gospel. And one time, I gave my testimony, saying that I was saved at the age of 14. A woman came up to me later very indignantly, and she said, so what big sin did you commit at the age of 14 for which you needed to be forgiven? And I said, I broke the first commandment.

I didn't love the Lord my God with all my heart, with all my soul, and with all my mind. And you're absolutely right. We can't do that. That's why we need a Redeemer. But at the same time, it should be our goal.

It should be our desire. And I hope that all of us seek to do well at the judgment seat of Christ. That's why I've written a book entitled Your Eternal Reward.

At the end of this broadcast, I'll be giving you some info as to how this resource can be yours. As you know, it is my responsibility to prepare about 60 or 70 new sermons every year. And it's a responsibility that I accept very gladly. But I have to tell you honestly that this past week has been one of the most difficult for me, specifically because of the topic that I have chosen to speak on.

As you know, this is the last in a series of messages on stewardship. And last week I spoke on the topic Christ the Lord of our finances. And today I want to speak on Christ the Lord of our affections. And the text that I chose is one I have never preached on before, Thou shall love the Lord our God with all thy heart, with all thy soul, and with all thy might, and thy neighbor as thyself. When I chose that text, I thought to myself, that's an easy one to preach on. But the more I began to think about it, the more I agonized within my spirit, almost to the point of saying I'm going to preach a different message.

But I chose to stick with it. But let me explain why it is that this text caused me such emotional convulsion. First of all, because I thought to myself, this is an awesome passage of scripture. Who in the world could love the Lord his God with all of his might, with all of his strength, and with all of his heart?

That seems like an impossible dream. And I thought to myself, I'd like to be able to love God like that. But I looked within my heart, and I saw coldness and indifference, and I thought, who could love God with such passion?

It seemed impossible. There's a second difficulty that I had with it, and that is, I thought to myself, who can love an invisible being like that? Now if the text told me to love my wife with all my heart, mind, and soul, it may be difficult, not because my wife is difficult to love, but because by nature I'm selfish.

It may be difficult, but it would be manageable. At least I could begin to work on that kind of love. Indeed, the Bible says that we should love our wives as Christ loved the church, and that comes close to what God demands. But how do we love an invisible being? The greatness, the grandeur of God. I don't know about you, but I often think about God, and I always think of his greatness, the fact that we know that the universe has multiplied billions of light years, and we know that God is bigger than that. I'm so overwhelmed by him, I say, how can I love a being I've never seen, and a being that is that great?

How can I love him with such intensity and passion? And there's a third struggle that I had. I thought to myself, if I ever loved God like that, would I have time for anything else?

I mean, can you imagine it? Loving God with all your heart and mind and soul. There are other things in life that we should be doing. But then I came back to the text, and I remembered that this is the first and the foremost commandment. The first commandment is not, thou shalt not commit adultery, thou shalt not steal, thou shalt not lie. The first commandment is, thou shalt have no other gods before me, and thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart. Today I feel something like a person who is learning to do a high jump.

He can only do four feet, but the bar is 20 feet, and he's supposed to try. There is a part of me that says it's impossible, but there's another part of me that says, oh God, I wish I would love you like that. I think of David who said, as a deer pants after the water brook sole, my soul pants after thee, oh God, my soul thirsts for the living God. When shall I stand before God?

There's a part of me like there is a part of you that says, oh, I wish I could love God like that. So I speak today as a fellow struggler, and I ask you to turn with me in your Bibles to the 12th chapter of the book of Mark, Mark chapter 12. Mark chapter 12, it says in verse 28, one of the scribes came and heard them arguing.

Isn't it nice to know that people actually argued in those days too? And recognizing that he had answered them well, asked him, asked Christ, what commandment is the foremost of all? And Jesus answered, the foremost is, hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord.

If you know anything about Judaism, you know that this is the Shema, because the word Shema means here, and it is frequently said in Hebrew, Shema Yisrael Adonai Eloheinu Adonai Echad. Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord. 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.

I looked in the commentaries, and they just had brief comments on this verse. Many of them said that what Jesus really meant was just to love him a whole lot, and we shouldn't make a distinction between the heart, the mind, the soul. But on the other hand, as I think about it, I'd like to do just that, to try to understand the depth of the love that we should have for God.

So first of all, notice that Jesus says, you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart. That means that we should feel deeply about God. Now, I want you to notice that I did not say that we should necessarily feel God.

That could be dangerous. God may give us his peace. He may give us his rest, a sense of his presence. But actually, there are times when we need to believe that God is with us, even when we don't feel him, because we assume that by faith. And so I'm not talking so much about feeling God, as I am feeling deeply about God. For example, about God's reputation in the world. You know, of course, that God's reputation is always intact, because he is a being of integrity and greatness. But on the other hand, many people in the world make up their mind about God based on the way in which we act. So when we hear of hypocrisy and when we hear of ministers falling into sin, our first thought should not just be for them, but we should think to ourselves, what does this do for God? People are going to degrade God and his people because of what has happened. We should be protective of the Almighty. We should also feel deeply about sin, not just because it ruins people, and it does, but because it hurts God. God has feelings, too.

Remember that. In the Old Testament, there's a very interesting story of Joseph, who was tempted by Potiphar's wife. Text says that day after day, she kept saying to him, lie with me, come to bed with me, and Joseph kept refusing.

And then you know the rest of the story, how she actually caught him and he left his coat in her hands and he fled out the door. But you know, Joseph could have rationalized that relationship. He could have said to himself, nobody is going to find out. If they do find out, we can come to the situation armed with a pack of lies so that we can cover our sins.

We can handle the consequences. If I feel guilty, I know that God is going to forgive me because what is his mercy and grace all about if he can't forgive that? And he could have rationalized it. But there is one thing that Joseph could not rationalize. He said to that woman, how can I do this great wickedness and sin against God? Joseph said, I know that this sin will grieve God. And I'm concerned about what God thinks about this sin, and that was Joseph's first thought.

And that's one thing that he could not explain away or rationalize. I need to ask you something today, even as I ask myself this question. Does God's feelings on a matter, do his feelings affect the way we think? Do you realize that the Bible speaks about grieving the Holy Spirit because of sin in our hearts? And what we should say is, oh God, I feel so deeply about the way you feel about things in the world.

I love you so much that my first thought is, what do you think about this? Let me ask you another question. What is idolatry? Idolatry is nothing more than me feeling more deeply about some person or some set of circumstances or some problem than I feel about God. Because the text says, I should love the Lord my God with all my heart, with depth and intensity. And there should be no rival. There should be no possibility that God feels as if he's in competition.

Because he's number one and nobody is anywhere near second place. Now secondly, Jesus said not only that we should feel deeply, but he said you should love him with all of your soul. As I thought about that, I was reminded that the soul, psychologically speaking, is usually thought of as the area of the will. So what Christ is saying is that we ought to love God by making choices in his favor.

In your outline you'll notice I say that we should choose decisively. Let me ask you something. How do we prove our love one for another? Is it not the willingness to make sacrifices one for another?

You know, talk is cheap. We can all say that we love one another. We love this person or that person.

But the real issue is, how do we react when we need to sacrifice in their behalf and make a tough choice in their favor? One day God came to a man by the name of Abraham and he said, Abraham, I want you to take your son to Mount Moriah. Abraham might have said, well, excuse me, Lord, but I've got two sons. The Lord says, no, I don't even regard Ishmael.

I don't even count Ishmael. He said, I want your son, your only son, your precious son, Isaac. And then the Lord says, Abraham, I want you to take him to the top of Mount Moriah and offer him there for a sacrifice on one of the mountains that I will show you. I can't prove it from scripture, but I don't think Abraham even told Sarah where he was going because she may not have let him.

But here he is. He takes Isaac and they begin that three day journey to Mount Moriah, which very probably is the very place where the Dome of the Rock is built today in the city of Jerusalem because David built the temple on Mount Moriah. But they come there and they trudge up that mountain together. And finally, Abraham is willing to tie his boy to the altar and take a knife to his son. And you know the rest of the story. An angel of the Lord intervened.

But here's the point. Was there any doubt in anybody's mind after that incident that Abraham loved God? Is there anybody who says, you know, I'm not sure whether Abraham really had God as first in his life or not? Of course, we would not even think of questioning Abraham's love because, you see, what God wanted to do is to make sure that this precious son had not taken first place in Abraham's heart. So God says, Abraham, kill your boy.

And he was willing to do it. I need to ask you a question today. Is there any person?

Is there any relationship? Is there any circumstance or desire or ambition in your heart and mind that is more important to us than God? When all of the desires that we have scream yes, are we willing to say no to those things? Because first and foremost, we value God. We value God. And we say, God, my relationship with you is so important.

What you think is so important that I will choose for you no matter what. Because what is idolatry? Idolatry is nothing more than being unwilling to make a tough choice for God. Idolatry is saying no to God. It is saying there is something in my life that is more important than the will and the purpose of God and I will hang on to that thing and I will keep it and I will not submit to the Almighty.

That's idolatry. Now notice Jesus said, thirdly, he says, you shall love the Lord your God with all of your mind, with all of your mind. May I remind you of something, namely that God has given us minds that we can think and the grandest thoughts that we will ever have, the grandest thoughts that we should ever have should be thoughts about God. As I say, I think about God's relationship to the world a great deal and the more I know God, the more mystery I find.

Maybe one of the reasons why God has allowed so much mystery to be in his person that he has not seen fit to reveal to us in the Bible, maybe one of the reasons is because he wants us to never run out of ideas thinking about him. I like what Jonathan Edwards says. Jonathan Edwards says that he believes that in heaven that all of us are going to continue to expand our knowledge of God and that throughout all of eternity our ideas of God shall continue to be increased.

I like that. All of eternity we're going to know more about him, but we should get started on this side of eternity. And how do we do that? How do we use our minds for God? It is through meditation in his word where he leads us into the very depths of the knowledge of him. I will extol thee, my God, O king, and I will bless thy name forever and ever. Every day will I praise thee and bless thy name forever and ever. Great is the Lord and greatly to be praised and his greatness is unsearchable. One generation shall praise thy works to another and declare thy mighty acts.

And on and on the psalmist goes extolling the wonder of God. Now I must ask you again, what is idolatry? Idolatry is when I reserve greater and more magnificent thoughts for other people or for my career or for a situation than I reserve for God. That's idolatry. To think small thoughts about God and big thoughts about ourselves or what we hope to accomplish in life is idolatry.

We have allowed something else to capture our minds and our imagination other than almighty God. And the Bible says thou shall love the Lord your God with all of your mind. Finally, Jesus says you shall love the Lord your God with all of your strength, all of your strength.

I'm astounded that Jesus adds that. Strength means that we are committing ourselves with blood, sweat, and tears toward a very specific goal. That's what it means to exert strength. And Jesus is saying that your strength shouldn't just be reserved for the normal things that we think takes energy, such as the pursuit of our work, our careers, the pressures of life. Jesus is saying you should take your strength and channel it, channel it very decisively into being sure that God is number one on your list of things and beings to pursue.

Let me share a suggestion with you. Every single day I spend some time worshiping God. You know, the older I get, the more I recognize that oftentimes we come before God with a list of requests. There are times when we don't know what God's will is.

Sometimes his ways are confusing. But one thing is sure, we can worship him, give him glory, and make sure that he always is blessed. I think, for example, this morning, even before I got out of bed, I prayed those words, I will bless the Lord at all times. His praise shall continually be in my mouth. We seek to love the Lord our God, and I think that one of the ways this is done is through worship.

Let me ask you another question. The Bible says that our works will be tried with fire. There'll be gold, silver, and precious stones, but also wood, hay, and stubble. What are those gold, silver, and precious stones? What will survive the fire? Well, in my book entitled Your Eternal Reward, I have a chapter on that, what it is that God is going to be looking for when we, even as believers, stand in his presence to be evaluated whether or not we did good or evil. Very important, very critical. For a gift of any amount, you can get this book.

Simply go to or call us at 1-888-218-9337. The title of the book, Your Eternal Reward. Time now for another chance for you to ask Pastor Lutzer a question about the Bible or the Christian life. John from Illinois wrote to us recently with a question on sexual purity.

Here is his story. I'm an average 22-year-old guy who is still a virgin. In our society, that's often seen as pretty pathetic. But I know God wants a man to wait for marriage, and I know he has a reason for that. But it's not easy to hold off the criticism, advice, humiliation, and I dare say the questions about your sexuality and preferences. To me, it's all very difficult and frustrating. Well, John, I was so happy to receive your question, because I think it is wonderful that you are living a pure life. And believe me, you will never regret it.

You talk to all those who are sexually active, and then you think about what they take into their marriage, and they've got a whole lot of baggage they need to take care of. And God is going to honor what he's doing in your life and your commitment to purity and to overcome temptation. You know the bottom line, John? Don't worry about what your friends are saying. You know, the Bible has a great deal to say in the book of Proverbs about those who are influenced by their peers, influenced wrongly by their peers. At the end of the day, what really matters is that you are serving the Lord, that you are pleasing the Lord in all things, and if you take some harassment, accept that also as part of the courage that you have shown to be a follower of Christ.

Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, and keep doing what is right. Thank you, John, for that question. If you'd like to hear your question answered, go to our website at That's, and click on Ask Pastor Lutzer. Or you can call us at 1-888-218-9337.

That's 1-888-218-9337. You can write to us at Running to Win, 1635 North LaSalle Boulevard, Chicago, IL 60614. Others are commanded to love God supremely, casting off every weight and sin that besets them.

Then they can run life's race at top speed, knowing that the goal line will bring them face to face with the God they love. Next time on Running to Win, Dr. Lutzer concludes his series on crowning Christ Lord with more of this message on Christ, the Lord of our affections, Lessons Taken from the Words of Jesus, in Matthew 22, 37. Thanks for listening. For Dr. Erwin Lutzer, this is Dave McAllister. Running to Win is sponsored by the Moody Church.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-10-18 23:38:41 / 2023-10-18 23:47:37 / 9

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