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Encountering Truth: Love the Lord; Love His People
Scripture: Mark 12:13-44
Track 15 of 19 in the Encountering a Changing World series
Running time: 28 minutes, 19 seconds.
Emphasis on the Great Commandment determines how we respond to government, giving, challenges.

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Chuck Sackett Speaker: Chuck Sackett
Dr. G. Charles Sackett is minister of Madison Park Christian Church.

View all sermons by this speaker.

Sermon for Palm Sunday, April 13, 2003
(Transcribed from Second Service Tape)
"Encountering Truth: Love the Lord, Love His People"
(Mark 12:13 - 44)
G. Charles Sackett

The line was always, "A bull was nothing more than a male cow." It was the ongoing, nonsensical argument that a friend of mine and I used to have all day, every day, in the hay fields when I was in highschool. Now, he was a country kid. We were working for his family. I was the city kid. I was from a town of 400 people so I was city folk. And every day we'd get into the same argument. In the field of cows there would be one bull, and he insisted it was a bull and I said no, it's a male cow.

Ya know, sometimes you do that kinda thing you know, you just argue for the sake of arguing. You have absolutely no intention of trying to mean anything by it other than this is, well, we would have called it fun! I don't know if that's quite accurate. My brother-in-law was really good at that. Gail's brother loved to argue just for the sake of arguing. This guy would argue about absolutely anything. But the fun thing is, if you did it just right, and you planned it well, by the time you were done, you could stop talking about what you were talking about, and all of a sudden he'd realize he was saying exactly the opposite of what he said the first time. It was so much fun just to turn it around and let him realize that - - oops - - this was just to argue, that's all it was!

Sometimes arguments are, however, more malicious than that. They tend to be designed in order to just trap you. You know, do you ever feel like that? That happened to me last week. I was in a, really very important conversation. I did what I rarely ever do, in the middle of the day, I answered the telephone. I usually let the answering machine tell me whether I really want to talk and I made the mistake of picking up the phone and answering it, and it was the inevitable telemarketer. Now, no offense to telemarketing, unless of course, you need to be offended. It didn't matter how I answered the question, I mean, any way I answered, I was in trouble. If I said, yes, I was in trouble. If I said, no, I was in trouble. I mean, it was just worded in such a way, I was trapped. About seven "no thank you's" later, I finally got off of the phone. I have learned to try to be polite to telemarketer's. That's because one day at a dinner we were having at our house with some freshmen from Lincoln, one of the girls in the group said, I called your house once. I wondered how I might have handled that - I was a little afraid to ask.

Some arguments, you know, are profitable arguments. You get into a conversation with somebody and, actually, you feel like you're going to get somewhere. This is one of those that happens, well, it happens a lot on a campus, for example, when you're dealing with college age kids, who have some serious questions about the truth, and you banter back and forth, but you feel like in the bantering you're getting somewhere, that this is actually profitable kind of, kind of conversation. We used to have those a lot when we were in college. We'd go down to Julia Davis Park in Boise and you could sit around and talk to anybody about Jesus in those days, and you'd get into these conversations with college students from Boise State. Part way through the conversation, you'd come to the realization this is really not going anywhere, this is all just talk, or you'd realize this conversation has merit and so you would stay in the argument.

In our text, in Mark Chapter 12, Jesus is in a debate, if you will. He's being asked questions. It's a kind of argumentative sort of text and its pretty obvious that some of the argument is just for arguments sake. Some of it is rather malicious. Its intended to trap him. We pick it up in Verse 13 of Mark Chapter 12. And its clear from the very first verse here, Verse 13, from the very outset, that this one, this one is one of those arguments that's intended to be malicious.

It says, Verse 13: Later, they sent some of the Pharisees and Herodians to Jesus to catch Him at His words. Now, that's - - - those are strange bedfellows. Pharisees and Herodians didn't like each other. They were on opposite sides of the coin. They did not believe the same things, but when you're out to get somebody, sometimes you'll join forces with people you don't normally like, in order to accomplish something that you want to do.

They came to Him and they said, "Teacher, we know you're a man of integrity, you aren't swayed by man; because you pay no attention to who they are, but you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth." Do you hear the flattery? Come on! I mean, they are buttering him up, setting him up, Oh good Teacher, you're such a wonderful guy, you don't pay any attention to what the kind of people are that ask the questions. Here's the question, "Is it right to pay taxes or not. Should we pay taxes to Caesar, or not?" You know the odd thing is , he can't win this argument, no matter what he does. Cause the Herodians would have said, absolutely! I mean, after all, we're under Herod's rule. He's providing the peace and the safety, the good roads, he's taking care of us. Pay taxes! And the Pharisees would have said, absolutely not! We don't want to be under Roman domination. I mean this pair of people have come and put Him in an absolutely "rock and hard spot" kind of place. It doesn't make much difference which way He answers, He's in trouble! Well, at least that's what they're hoping.

Jesus knew, it says, their hypocrisy, he said, "Why are you trying to trap me? Bring me a denarius and let me look at it."

The denarius is one of those Roman coins, and on one side it has the picture of Caesar, and on the other side, it has an imprint identifying him as the ruler supreme of the nation.

Jesus asked, "Whose portrait is this and whose inscription?" "Caesar's," they replied. Interesting that a Jew, who refused to worship idols, who didn't believe in icons, would carry in his coin purse, an icon to Rome! It's the subtlety, I think, of the text that you get to see. Well, he says, "Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, but give to God what belongs to God." He says, if it has Caesar's imprint on it, then it obviously belongs to Caesar, so give it back to him. But, if it has God's imprint on it, then give it back to God. Well, guess what has God's imprint on it? We do! We're the ones made in the image of God!

If it bears Caesar's image, give it to Caesar. He's got some coins, give him the coins! But, if it belongs to God, if it bears God's image, then you give it to God. You hear the call, right?? You give yourself to God, cause you bear His image. Then, the paragraph closes by saying, They were amazed.

Then we get argument Number Two. Verse 18 - Sad'ducees , who say there is no resurrection, came to Him with a question. This is the aristocracy, these are the rich priesthood - "Teacher, Moses wrote for us that if a man's brother dies and he leaves a wife but no children, the man must marry the widow and have children for his brother. There were seven brothers; the first one married and died without leaving any children; the second one married the widow, he died leaving no child; it was the same with the third, in fact none of the seven left any children. Last of all the woman died too. At the resurrection whose wife will she be? Since the seven were married to her."

It's the Old Testament, (??)___________right marriage principle. And the problem is, they think that what's in the afterlife is just more of the same of what's in this life. Now I have a pretty good life, but if you're telling me that what I have to do is experience what I experience now - just longer! I don't think that's what I want to do. I mean, I love my wife, but eternity!! I should probably tell you, I didn't say that first service because she wasn't in here!

He says in this text, you just don't get it! "You are in error, because you don't know the scriptures and you don't know the power of God. When the dead rise, they don't marry or give in marriage, they are like the angels. Now about the dead rising, have you not read in the book of Moses, in the account of the bush, how God said to him, ‘I am the God of Abraham, God of Isaac, God of Jacob.' He's not the God of the dead, but the God of the living; you are badly mistaken." I mean, you just simply says, you've got it wrong - you don't understand - let's move on. Now that's when you get the good question. You can contrast Verse 13 - they came to trap him - with Verse 28 - Here is this man who comes, who has a real question. And it's a legitimate question, he says:

One of the teachers came and heard them debating, he noticed that Jesus had given them a good answer and he asked him, "Of all the commandments, which is the most important?" That's not an uncommon question. That's, in fact, a very common Jewish question. They wanted to know, out of the 613 commandments that they had counted in the Old Testament, which one is the most important one?

That's really a fair question. It's the kind of question you would ask someone that you considered to be a good teacher. Jesus says the most important one is this. "Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one; love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength.' the second is this, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no commandment greater than these."

"Well said Teacher," the man replied. "You are right, in saying that God is one, and there is no other but Him; to love him with all your heart, with all your understanding, with all of your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself, is more important than all the burnt offerings and sacrifices." Jesus saw that he had answered wisely, and he said to him, "You are not far from the kingdom of God." And no one then asked him any more questions.

It is a rather remarkable answer to the question. It's the Shema of Israel. Deuteronomy, Chapter 6, Verse 4. You shall love the Lord your God with all heart, soul, mind and strength. It's the thing that was supposed to be taught from the Father to the Son. It was supposed to be written on the door posts, on the gate post. You were to talk about it when you sat down. You were to talk about it when you stood up. God is One and you are to LOVE HIM! That's the number one commandment, Jesus says. In fact, what he tells us is that disciples LOVE GOD WITH THEIR WHOLE BEING! That's what we do. That's the nature of what it's like to be a Christian. We love God with everything in US! And he begins to delineate some things. It's probably not an exclusive list, but it certainly gets at the heart of what things are about. We're to love him, he says, with our whole heart. In other words, our decisions please him. See, the heart was not the seat of emotion, alone, like it was in American culture. The heart was the place where decisions were made. It was that part that stirred within us that said, this is what I want to do. This is what I want to invest myself in. We've fallen prey to a pretty typical kind of cultural phenomenon that says that we give ourselves to the things that we love, things that we feel good about, but that, sometimes, is as far as it goes. When the feeling stops, then we're no longer in love.

I was doing a wedding, and a, I don't know if you realize, if you run a keyboard, you realized that the i and the o are pretty close together on a keyboard. I'm right in the middle of a wedding ceremony. I'm looking at the vows, pronouncing the vows to this couple and I come to this place that says, and we will be faithful for as long as we both shall (except I had typed love instead of live) _ _ _ _. Now, I caught it and I said, as long as we both shall live. But the more I thought about it, the more I reflected on that experience - I thought, you know, that's really where we are in American culture. As long as I love you, then we're okay - but, if I stop loving you - then, we don't need to worry about that faithfulness thing.

I got to thinking about that when it came to the church. Ya know, it's not unlike that in the church. We get excited about making a decision, something happens, maybe it's a crisis event in our life, maybe it's just because we sat long enough around the feet of Jesus, and suddenly we came to realize that he loved us and we wanted to respond. We made a decision. I want to give my life to Christ and then something comes along and, all of a sudden, we're not quite as much in love with him as we were. Maybe it's a crisis event in our life and we think, awe well, maybe I don't mean that after all.

I don't always Love God. I want you to know that. In fact, I can tell you a time, December 5th, 1985 when I stood on the sidewalk, and I didn't love Him. I believed in Him and I trusted Him, but right at that moment, I didn't love Him. In fact, it was not until May, 1987 that I had my first thought, my first inkling, that maybe my imagination and my creativity were coming back and God was breaking through this thing where I could fall back in love with Him. But I got to tell you what, for about a year and a half, I wasn't sure I could have ever said I love God. There was no emotion involved. But my heart, my decision making process said there's no place else to go, so I might as well stay here until I get the feeling back. It's the nature of commitment to God to love Him with your heart, that you make your decisions please Him, whether you feel like it, or not. He says, we not only love Him with our heart, we love Him with our soul. It's the place of our passions. Our passions please Him, the thing that we really give ourselves to. Ya know, everybody's got something that turns their motor on. I mean something that makes ya hummmmmm! Something that excites you - you just can't hardly live without it. I don't know if you know this, maybe you probably do. One of the things that turns my motor on is I like to preach. If you haven't figured that out, then I haven't been doing my job very well. I just love to do this! It turns my motor!

You know, sometimes, however, I struggle with letting the wrong things turn my motor. Some of you know I like to run. In fact, there was a time in my life when I liked running too much, and God and I were having this conversation. Lord, this isn't going very well, because I'm crowding out my spiritual life in order to put my shoes on in the morning and go run. Oh, I'll find the time for my devotions during the day, and then somehow, during the day, there would never just be time. But there was always time for my shoes. And for 3˝ years, I didn't run, because of an injury, and when I'd get up in the morning, instead of putting on my shoes, I had all kinds of time. So guess what happened?? My Bible study started hummmmm'n my motor again. See, some things just turn you on, some things don't and what He's calling for is, Let your passion belong to Him. I love the song that we just sang. I absolutely love this song, about my only passion, my only ambition. That's all I want. I don't know about you, but all I want is for my passion to be Him. I want to love Him with everything in my soul that turns me loose. Do I always succeed at it? NO! That's what I want.

He says, love God with all your heart, love God with all your soul. He says, Love God with all your mind. In other words, our intellect, our thinking, our understanding, our thoughts begin to honor Him. Paul says that we're to take every thought captive to Christ, all the areas of our thinking. Romans, Chapter 12 tells us that transformation occurs when we begin to think differently. See, if you want to change the way people live, you got to change the way people think. And so He says, love Him with your mind. Give Him your intellect. Put your brain to work around this thing. It's why we do strange things around here like when we have church, we try to preach the Bible. We start back there in the nursery with the kids learning something. We don't babysit your children! We teach your children, all the way up to our oldest people, we want them in the Bible. We want them in adult discipleship classes, we want them in small group studies, we want them in men's groups, we want women's groups. Because we understand this, if life is going to be lived to the fullest, to the way God wants it lived, you have to start by changing peoples minds. You have to change the way we think and if you change the way we think, then you can change the way we act. So we will be relentless, encouraging you to get into the Bible. If your not in a Bible study someplace, either at your dinner table at home or in one of our studies here at church, or in a small group someplace, GET INTO SCRIPTURE, and get your children there. They have plenty of other people vying for their minds. They call it school and they call it entertainment and I guarantee you, for better or for worse, their after your child's mind and it's mostly for the worse. Get them into scripture. Even if you don't like studying the Bible, make it possible for your children to study. Because if we're going to love God, He says we're going to love Him with our minds. And He says we're going to love Him with our strength. We're going to give our energy to Him. Our activity is also going to please Him. It's the way we portion our time. That's what He's talking about.

I've made a discovery. There was a day in my life when I had almost unlimited energy. That day was not yesterday! I remember the last time - I remember when I was a young person, my wife and I would get out of church on a Sunday night. We'd hop in the car, we'd drive 500 miles, we'd spend all day with out families visiting, we'd hop in the car Monday night, drive 500 miles back home, be to work on Tuesday morning - not think a thing about it! I remember the time when I said, NEVER AGAIN! I just didn't have what it took. I'm discovering that if I'm gonna actually get things done, I've got to start to portion my energy. Can I say this without getting in too much trouble? I know your lawn needs mowing. I know you need to go shopping. But, if come Sunday morning, you're too tired to go to church or you do not have the energy to serve the Lord at some other point of the week, you are not portioning your time with this in mind. Love the Lord your God with ALL your strength. You are only loving Him with a little of it.

So what does He say? He says, love God with your whole being. You notice the guy only asks this question. What's the greatest commandment? Jesus comes along and says well, I'm gonna give you two. Just like him, ya know? Only want one, thanks, it's tough enough to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. Now He says you've got to love your neighbor as yourself. But that's what a disciple is. A disciple is somebody who loves God's people without discriminating. We love ourselves, that's what He says. And it's okay. There's nothing wrong with that. You've got to learn to appreciate yourself.

One of the troubles we have in American culture is we don't like ourselves. You know, we look in a mirror and we wanna throw up. Well, in some cases - - - - I don't know if this is true or not - - - - It's in last week's Christian Magazine that I'm reading. Here's what he says. "Self-hatred is the biggest problem in the church and culture today." (I don't know if that's right - but think about this) He says, "In my thirty-nine years as a pastor, I have found that it is the root of many other problems. All of the Christian psychiatrists and spiritual directors that I meet on my retreats tell me that self-hatred, specifically the inability to accept one's self and one's shortcomings, is the number one problem in the clients that they council." So says Brennan Manning.

We don't like ourselves! So we just don't treat ourselves (well, can I just let you in on a little secret?) You have enormous value. Why? Because you're made in the image of God. You're good just because of who you are. He said, before you were ever born I had my imprint on you. You belong to me and you're made in my image and God only makes that which is good, so He says, feel good about yourself and don't worry about what somebody says. You know how that is?? We're so American, we keep thinkin' that what somebody else says about us is what's right. You know, if enough people tell you that you don't feel good today, by the time you go to bed tonight, you're taking aspirin. Because we're so concerned about other people and what they say. He says, listen to me. I made you in my image. You have value. Love yourself. Oh, I don't mean in an unhealthy way, but love yourself. Because if you don't love yourself, you're not gonna love me.

See, some of you guys don't like me. I wonder what's wrong with you cause I'm just so likeable! (First service response from Roger Nicloy, who said , "AMEN!") "Thank you!" So if you don't like me, you must not like yourself. And that could be a problem! He says, we love ourselves, but, we also love others. We love our neighbors. We have this healthy sense of God's family. We have this, this statement in the scriptures that says we're supposed to love each other. In fact, Galatians says that you're supposed to do good primarily, first of all, to the household of faith. We're supposed to love those in the church. That just means, we don't go around harboring anger, don't go around gossiping about one another, we don't go around with, with these hard feelings about each other. We deal with those issues because we love each other. We care about each other. It's the thing that, it's the greatest commandment that God gives; love each other. But He says, you also love those who are not among the faith. You know you don't have to go very far, maybe a hundred feet out that front door and you'll see 22,000 cars a day go by full of people who are hurting. Their in enormous pain and they need somebody to love them. That's our job. That's the greatest commandment, to love people like we love ourselves.

Maybe you remember back in 1992, Reginald Denny was being drug out of a truck in downtown Los Angeles, and a fella got up out of his chair, left his easy chair, walked down there, took this man to the hospital, and saved his life. I don't know whether this man was a Christian or not, but I know this, that was a Christian thing to do. That's what He's talking about. Loving people, people you don't even know, investing yourself because that's the thing that God calls for you to do. What do disciples do? They love God and they love themselves and others. Well, bottom line, here's what it is. Discipleship calls for absolute surrender. That's what it bottoms out at. If you want to be the person God wants you to be, He calls for you to give yourself totally to the Lord, to Love HIM and others without reservation. That's what discipleship is! It's absolutely surrendering yourself to HIM because He's the one who wants best for you.

In fact, that's what the last two questions become, or the last two paragraphs. He says down here in Verse 38. He gives us this example. He says, "Watch out for teachers of the law, who like to walk around in flowing robes and be greeted in the market places. They have the most important seats in synagogues and places of honor at banquets, they devour widows' houses and for show, they make lengthy prayers. Such men will be punished most severely." He says we sacrifice our self-importance. These people wanted everybody to notice. They put all the colors in the robes. They went to all the important places and Jesus says, watch out for people like that. Their too self-important!

You know people like that. He says, you want to be my disciple, you've got to surrender that kind of self-importance. And then He uses this illustration in Verse 41. Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were taken and watched the crowd putting in their money and into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. But a poor widow came, and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a fraction of a penny. Calling His disciples, Jesus said, "I tell you the truth, this poor widow has put in more in the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; she out of her poverty put in everything, all that she had to live on."

See, real disciples surrender their self-reliance. Those coins weren't worth a thing. You couldn't buy lunch on those two copper coins. They wouldn't even make a sound when they hit the offering plate. But Jesus said, you notice. . . . . . . . . . . .just one, she put in both. She wasn't reserving anything. She was loving without reservation. Oh, the other people put in a whole lot more money, but it didn't cost them anything, cause they still have stuff in their pockets. They drug it out of their riches, and when they got done giving, they were still rich. But, when she got done, she had given absolutely everything, leaving herself no place to turn except one place, to God, in reliance.

That's what it is you know, discipleship. It's that kind of absolute surrender to the Father so that you're no longer worried about your own importance. You're no longer worried about your own ability to rely on yourself. You have come to the place that you understand there is only one place to turn, one place only, and that's to God through Jesus Christ. And, if there was a model anywhere, of somebody who practiced absolute surrender, it was HIM. No self-importance, no self-reliance, just do what God calls you to do, love Him with everything in your being, and the next time you see a cross, you'll understand what that meant. And He calls you to love Him the same way, totally surrendered to Him - everything - your hands, your feet, your lips, your heart - given over to Him - totally relying on Him and since that's what He invites, that's what we invite. We invite you to love Him that way. To give yourself absolutely to Him. If you need to do that in public, if you're ready to make that kind of decision, then certainly come. Maybe right where you're sitting, you just need to reconfirm - I am giving you everything I am. Maybe you don't know what to do and you're just a little worried about coming up here in front of us. Then you come find us as soon as this service is over and you talk to us. Don't leave here without knowing what to do to know Jesus personally, this one who surrendered Himself for you!