Mark 12:28-30 And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, asked him, “Which commandment is the most important of all?” 29 Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 And you shall love the Lord your God with ALL your heart and with ALL your soul and with ALL your mind and with ALL your strength.’ *caps added for emphasis
If you read my testimony then you know that I grew up going to church regularly and came to know Jesus at a young age. However, as I got older I went through a phase of pouring everything I had into my relationship with Jesus and then a phase where I didn’t want to sacrifice anything and wanted complete control of my life. I was attempting to fulfill my heart’s deepest longings with empty solutions that left me unsatisfied and still searching.
I lived that life for many years, like many people do, where I would only sometimes pray and only sometimes go to church. While going to church makes no man a Christian, it is definitely a great opportunity for worship, Bible teachings, prayer, and fellowship with other believers. But I was living life my way and while I simply professed the name of Jesus, I thought that was enough. Only it wasn’t. Not nearly enough.
While I look back and realize the lack of depth in my faith during those weak phases, I think about spiritual maturity, which means the more we put into our relationship with God, the more mature we will become in our Christian walk, and essentially, the more like Jesus we will actually become. When we invest in our faith we will grow.
But just because someone else may be more mature in their faith does not mean that they are ahead of you in the Jesus line. He loves us all the same – with unconditional, unwavering, gracious love.
Investing in my faith is like exercise in a way. I know what I need to do to get healthy and strong, but it’s challenging. If I only do it sometimes, the results may eventually come, but surely not efficiently or quickly and others may not even notice. But if I make the sacrifice, give it everything I have, and stay fully committed, I will start seeing the results I hope for much more quickly and in many different ways. Not only will I look healthier, but I will feel healthier, I will feel happier and more confident, and that will radiate into other areas of my life such as my relationships or job performance.
And then other people will start noticing and wondering what my secret is. They’ll want to know what I’ve been doing that has brought on such a change in my attitude and behaviors. That’s when we can say, “It is God. God is doing great things in my life – let me tell you all about it!”
Nobody said it would be easy though. As with a healthy lifestyle, the stakes of following Jesus are high, we will be tempted to veer off course and we will be criticized for our choices and our results by those who don’t follow the same standards.
Like they say, you reap what you sow. Whatever you put in is what you’re going to get back, except with God, I believe the blessings are infinite. You can do life your way or His way. You can believe that Jesus is the Son of God and profess your faith to the world, but if you’re not giving God your all, then you’re not allowing yourself to have the full blessings of God.
The greatest commandment is to “…love the Lord your God with ALL your heart and with ALL your soul and with ALL your mind and with ALL your strength.” (Mark 12:28-30) Not just some of yourself, not just when it’s convenient, not just when the good times roll, and not just when things get tough and you need a lifeline.
The Ultimate Sacrifice
We are approaching Good Friday, which we as Christians recognize as the day of Christ’s crucifixion. I want to ask each of you to examine your life of faith, or lack thereof, and consider Jesus and everything He gave.
I’m asking you today to take a moment, push aside your other thoughts and distractions, and think about, dwell on, and consider the details of the sacrifice that was made.
If we look at the sacrifice, it was multifaceted. God sacrificed His own Son, Jesus. At the very same time, God is Jesus, thus, sacrificing Himself. Jesus could have stopped the arrest, the suffering, and the crucifixion at any given time, but He didn’t. He knew He couldn’t, only because He knew that He was the ultimate offering, taking the ultimate punishment for our sins, and otherwise we would be separated from God.
The Bible tells us that before the arrest, Jesus was deeply grieved and He prayed asking God if it was possible to “let this cup pass from Me.” (Matthew 26:38-39) In His anguish, He began praying more earnestly and His sweat became like drops of blood. (Luke 22.44) This is a sign of tremendous stress.
The human part of Jesus knew what was to come and it was much to bear. He didn’t want to suffer and die, except to pay the price for every single one of us, including Barabbas (a robber and murderer who was freed for the cause of Christ’s conviction).
After His arrest, Jesus was blindfolded and beaten, spat on, mocked and ridiculed, scourged (whipped with a flagrum – a whip with at least 3 strands as much as 3 feet long, weighted with lead balls and pieces of bone), had a crown of twisted thorns pressed into His scalp, and was nailed to a cross. He didn’t just die a quick painless death, albeit, He could have if He wanted, but He suffered major trauma leading up to the crucifixion.
As Jesus was hanging on the cross He cried out “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mark 15:34) The Father gave up His Son and the Son, His spirit.
Three days later, death was defeated when Jesus rose and walked away from the empty tomb. We celebrate His resurrection on Easter.
In all actuality, while Jesus came to live so that people would see for themselves and believe that He was the Son of God by fulfilling prophesy, teaching, and performing miracles among other things, He came to die. He came to take our punishment and to raise us to eternal life with Him. (John 6:40)
Jesus is not a storybook character. He died for YOU. He loves YOU. What is greater than that? (John 15:13)
Everyone just wants to live in their comfortable bubble, walking through life uninterrupted and without a care.
But Jesus gave us His ALL. Are you willing to give Him your all?
You cannot walk with Jesus without making sacrifices and allowing the Holy Spirit to change you. Genuine faith will produce fruit.
I am still a sinner and I do not live up to every single thing that God calls us to do. I strive to be more like Jesus every day, but I am not Jesus. We should strive to live life according to God’s Word and constantly allow the Holy Spirit to do His work within us.
Following Jesus isn’t about a list of rules or do’s and don’ts. But He does command us to give Him our all. All of our hearts, all of our thoughts, all of our priorities, our attitudes, and our behaviors. Give Him everything you have. Allow yourself to experience the fullness of God and His promises!
What’s holding you back?
Go ALL IN!!!