Monday, November 22, 2010
Today’s Topic: Love God More Than Self
Today’s Text: Isaiah 27:9-11 By this, then, will Jacob’s guilt be atoned for, and this will be the full fruitage of the removal of his sin: When he makes all the altar stones to be like chalk stones crushed to pieces, no Asherah poles or incense altars will be left standing. The fortified city stands desolate, an abandoned settlement, forsaken like the desert; there the calves graze, there they lie down; they strip its branches bare. When its twigs are dry, they are broken off and women come and make fires with them. For this is a people without understanding; so their Maker has no compassion on them, and their Creator shows them no favor.
I do not believe that I love God enough. Maybe I never can, but there is one thing that I must use as the litmus test of love – do I love God more than I love myself?
I want to tell you a story of a young woman from Germany. Her name is Rica. She came to America in August as a one-semester exchange student at the University of Wisconsin – Eau Claire. Sometime during her first two months here, she was befriended by a student leader from a campus ministry called Navigators. They became friends, and he invited her to church. She accepted the invitation, came, and came again the next week.
The sermon in church that second Sunday she attended was called “You Can Start Over.” During the final song of worship, she turned to her friend and said that she was ready to accept Jesus as her Savior. That afternoon, after lunch, she prayed to receive God’s gift of grace, the forgiveness of sins, made possible by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
The following two weeks were very hard for her. Her live-in boyfriend back in Germany became very angry at her decision. He began rejecting her. We met to talk about it, and shared with her the truth that living for Jesus will bring alienation from the world, and cause division between us and the people we once lived to please. She cried. I cried. But she understood, and gave her heart more deeply to the one who had died for her.
Yesterday during worship, she, along with 5 others, was baptized by immersion in obedience to the command of Jesus and was publicly identified as a follower of Christ. As I stood beside her preparing to immerse her under the water, she closed her eyes and tilted her head toward heaven. I have never seen such an expression of peace. The Spirit of God has captured her heart, and she is in love with Jesus. As I quoted the verse I always quote at a baptism – “You are buried with Him in the likeness of His death…” – she completely relaxed and released herself to my control. Then, as I brought her up out of the water – “You are raised to newness of life” – she opened her eyes, still looking to heaven, and broke out in the biggest smile possible as the joy of her salvation flooded her soul.
As a part of her exchange student program, she was scheduled to take an 11-day trip starting this week to visit historic sites in America. Two weeks ago, after receiving Christ into her life, she canceled that trip. Why? So she could stay in Eau Claire and be more deeply disciple by her new family of God so she is better prepared to go back to Germany and share the Gospel. She loves God more than she loves herself.
The prophet Isaiah said that the atonement for Israel’s sin would only be complete when sin was fully removed. When Jesus atoned for our sins on the cross, He paid the full price to have them completely removed from our lives. There is only one reason that sin still pops up in our lives and is an option to be considered – we love ourselves more than we love God.
Rica is willing to give up everything because she loves God more than herself. God forced the nation of Israel to give up their sin. He took away everything from their religious lives that stood opposed to Him – the altars to false Gods and the Asherah poles, which were the sexual monuments to the goddess of fertility named Ahserah. He took away their cities and fancy homes. He took away their basic necessities. He did this because He wanted them to become people of understanding. As they were, loving self more than God, they were living according to their own understanding, loving their own way. God broke them down so they had to depend on Him and Him alone. In that way they would learn to love Him more than self.
My dear friends, I cannot tell you how significant this message is for all of us today. Please do not pass it over lightly. We have become self-centered and self-dependant. We have chosen our own way instead of God’s way. We have chosen to justify all of our connections with the world and all of our pursuits of the world’s pleasures with the rationale of personal rights and benefits, when in reality we are simply loving ourselves more than God.
It is time for repentance.
It is time for revival.
It is time for sacrifice…like the one Jesus made for us, who loved us more than He loved His position and power in heaven.
It is time to love God with ALL OUR HEART, ALL OUR SOUL, ALL OUR STRENGTH, AND ALL OUR MIND!