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Primal Christianity: Love4
01/09/2011
Scripture: Mark 12:28-31; Revelations 2:1-5; Philip...
Track 1 of 9 in the Primal Christianity - Love4 series
Running time: 1 hour, 04 minutes, 39 seconds.
If Jesus said loving God with all our hearts, soul, mind and strength is the most important commandment, then doesnt it logically follow that we ought to spend an inordinate amount of our time and energy trying to understand it and obey it We cant afford to merely be good at the Great Commandment. Weve got to be great at the Great Commandment.



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Mike Nobis Speaker: Mike Nobis
Sunday School Teacher, Former Elder at Madison Park Christian Church. Mike is President of JK Creative Printers & Mailing in Quincy, IL. He is married to Pam and has three children, Tom, Tyler and Jennifer. Mike has three grandchildren: Ryne, Ivy and Alicia.

View all sermons by this speaker.


Primal Christianity: Love4

The farther backward you look, the further forward you are likely to see
Winston Churchill

If we strip away all those layers of history will find the very beginning of Christianity. This is where Christianity started in all its primal glory. As I stood there looking down onto the ruins of history where it all started I was reminded that it was here that our spiritual ancestors risked everything, even their lives to worship God. You and I live in a first-world country in the 21st century. We have so many blessing and privileges that I am very grateful for but when I experienced the opportunity to look back and see the roots of my faith I have to admit I felt uncomfortable.

The question that dogged me was this, are the efforts I make on behalf of my faith or the sacrifices and the work I do for the cause of Jesus, would they even qualify under a first century definition of a Christian? Has our generation forgotten how inconvenient it can be to follow in the footsteps of Jesus?

Christianity has evolved in a lot of ways since the beginning. We have come out of the catacombs and over time built majestic cathedrals, we wrote creeds and canons, we now have pews and pulpits, worship bands and stage lighting, video productions, and the IRS even gave us the tax status of 501c3. Now all of these things are okay but I often wonder if our evolution is much like the building practices in ancient days, building one building over another to where the primal, the very beginning is lost and unseen. Has the church accumulated so many layers of traditions and institutions that we have obscured what lies beneath?

Our lesion series is going to attempt to strip away all the superficial layers of our modern Christianity and look at what Christianity meant in the very beginning. What did primal Christianity look like and how does 21st century Christianity measure up?

What is the primal essence of Christianity? Or what is primal faith?

The Far Side of Complexity

Can anyone tell me what a prime number is? SLIDE 8: It is a number that is divisible only by itself and the number 1.

The important thing about math is, math proves there is absolute truth. In mathematics only certain numbers are prime numbers. But there is only one even number that is a prime number, the number 2. Certain truths qualify as prime truths. In the church, Christians will disagree about a variety of doctrinal issues until Jesus returns and that is why we have so many denominations today. But prime truths have an indivisible quality to them. Chief among the primal Biblical truths, the even prime so to speak is what Jesus called the most important commandment. It is the primal commandment because it is of first importance.

Mark 12:28-31 One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?” The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.

Now why was this a trick question? Why did they use this question to catch Jesus in a mistake?

Jesus was a genius. He had the ability to strip away the most complex to find the simple truth in unforgettable ways. Today, Christians are the opposite. We tend to complicate Christianity. The religious has a tendency to over complicate simple spiritual truths. For example the Pharisees; the Law that God gave to Israel was direct and simple to understand. But by the time of Jesus, the Jews had added 1,500 more Laws to the mix and made worship and loving God very complex and restrained. Jesus came and stripped away all the layers of tradition and Law to its primal form, the Great Command. It is Christianity in its most primal form. Sounds simple, right?

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. once made a very interesting statement on the two kinds of simplicity during a great law case:

There is simplicity on the near side of complexity and there is simplicity on the far side of complexity. “I wouldn’t give a fig for simplicity on the near side of complexity.”

What do you think he was saying, what does this statement mean to us as Christians?

Many Christians settle for simplicity on the near side of complexity. Their faith is only mind deep. They know what they believe buy they don’t know why they believe what they believe. Their faith is fragile because it has never been tested intellectually or by experience. Near-side Christians have never been in the catacombs of doubt or suffering. It is these experiences that result in heightened appreciation for a God who does not fit within logical constraints of the left brain. Near-side Christians have a tendency to lose their faith when tested before they really find their faith. This type of Christianity is known by another name, SPIRITUAL IMMATURITY.

This is not the simplicity Jesus calls us to. In a world that can be very complex, Jesus calls us to a simplicity that is on the far side of complexity. In fact, he calls us to a faith that is on the far side, the joy he wants us to experience is on the far side as well as suffering. So what does that mean and how do we get there? It is not all that easy but it requires us to strip away all that we have learned and experienced and rebuild and reconstruct everything based on the primal essence of Christianity. We are going to go back and look at the very beginning and go underground.

There is a Primal Problem

From the world looking into Christianity, what is the world’s perception of us?

We do have a perception problem. According to some studies, the Church is better known for what it is against than for what it is for. But the real problem isn’t perception; the real problem is the world’s perception is our reality. We are often times quick to point out what is wrong with our culture. The temptation is to ask the question: what’s wrong with this generation? But that is the wrong question to ask. The right question is: what is wrong with the church?

Today, age group between 20-29 (the “20 somethings”) are leaving the church at an alarming rate. According to Barna, 61% of the “20 somethings “who grew up in the church will quit attending church sometime in their 20’s.

The answer why to all of this is simple, we are not great at the Great Commandment. In too many cases, we are not even good at it. That I think is the primal problem with the church as a whole.

Homework: Here is something I want you to do this week. I want you to keep a detailed time study on your hours. Keep a “time sheet” on how you spend your week. What is it you do? How much time does it take to do certain things and what things do you spend your time on? At the end of the day on Saturday, I want you to add up your time on all the different things you did and I want you to contrast that time and activities to the Greatest Command.

If Jesus said loving God with all our hearts, soul, mind and strength is the most important commandment, then doesn’t it logically follow that we ought to spend an inordinate amount of our time and energy trying to understand it and obey it? We can’t afford to merely be good at the Great Commandment. We’ve got to be great at the Great Commandment.

To keep this simple, I want to use a math term to help us remember what this is all about. The Greatest Commandment is all about our love for God. In math terms it is Love4. Basically the love Jesus is talking about describes the 4 dimensions of loving God. As we study this we will discover that it is hard to tell when one dimension ends and the other begins. In fact, they have a tendency to bleed into one another. But there is one very important truth to understand about this love, all four dimensions must be present. It is impossible to remove one without damaging the others. It is not enough to love God just with your heart or soul or mind or strength. We are called by commandment to love him in all four ways, Love4.

Some truths can be understood using logic. Math for example and scientific principles are types of truth that are understood using the left side of the brain. But there are truths that are not logical. The world has problems with these kinds of truth. Imagination comes from the right side of the brain. For many, Imagination is not logical. Both logic and imagination are necessary to have a well balanced life. Faith comes from the right side of the brain. Many call it fantasy because what faith requires goes beyond logic. The love Jesus calls us to also lies on the right side of the brain. To understand fully the four primal elements detail by Jesus in the Great Commandment, reimagination is called for. We will discover the following four truths in our invitation to Love God.

The heart of Christianity is primal compassion.
The soul of Christianity is primal wonder.
The mind of Christianity is primal curiosity.
The strength of Christianity is primal energy.

In preparing this lesson, I was concerned that some of you might not agree that the way to move forward is to look backward. In track in field the worst thing a person could do when running was to look back because it causes one to slow down. Even Paul stressed not to look back when running the race of our faith.

Philippians 3:12-14 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

Is it good to look back as we try to move forward for the cause of Christ?

But looking back is exactly what Jesus told us to do. Every week when we gather together, we look back to the primal love of Jesus. We celebrate that love when we partake in communion. Communion is a pilgrimage back to the foot of the cross. And going back to that primal place helps us to find our way forward.

So here is a hard question that only you can answer, does your heart break for the things that break the heart of God’s? If no, then it is time to rediscover the primal love God called us to.