The Most Important Thing

Posted on 02/09/2014 by Rev. Benjamin R. Faust D.D.

AUDIO: dialup - broadband - podcast

TRANSCRIPT: (does not contain everything found in the audio above)

*** listen to the audio for introduction and prayer ***


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KING OF KINGS

King of Kings and Lord of Lords
Glory, Hallelujah!
King of Kings and Lord of Lords
Glory, Hallelujah!

Jesus, Prince of Peace
Glory, Hallelujah!
Jesus, Prince of Peace
Glory, Hallelujah!



HIS NAME IS JESUS

He is the King of Kings
He is the Lord of Lords
His name is Jesus, Jesus,
Jesus, Jesus
Oh -- He is the King

...of Kings
He is the Lord of Lords
His name is Jesus, Jesus,
Jesus, Jesus
Oh -- He is the King

His name is Jesus, Jesus,
sad hearts we've no more
He can heal the broken hearted
open wide the prizon doors
And he's able, yes he's able
to deliver evermore


You are the King of Kings
You are the Lord of Lords
Your name is Jesus, Jesus,
Jesus, Jesus
Oh -- you are the King

Your name is Jesus, Jesus,
sad hearts we've no more

You can heal the broken hearted
open wide the prizon doors

You can heal the broken hearted
open wide the prizon doors

Yes, you can heal my broken heart and
open wide my prizon doors

And you're able, yes you're able
to deliver evermore



WORD OF GOD SPEAK

I'm finding myself at a loss for words
And the funny thing is it's okay
The last thing I need is to be heard
But to hear what You would say


CHORUS:

Word of God speak
Would You pour down like rain
Washing my eyes to see
Your majesty
To be still and know
That You're in this place
Please let me stay and rest
In Your holiness
Word of God speak


I'm finding myself in the midst of You
Beyond the music, beyond the noise
All that I need is to be with You
And in the quiet hear Your voice

(chorus)

I'm finding myself at a loss for words
And the funny thing is it's okay
The last thing I need is to be heard
But to hear what You would say

I'm finding myself in the midst of You
Beyond the music, beyond the noise
All that I need is to be with You
And in the quiet hear Your voice

(chorus)

I'm finding myself at a loss for words
And the funny thing is it's okay


*** listen to the audio for the message introduction ***


Well, unless you're the one in a million who has perfect memory recall, it's probably safe to say that after three years, you might forget something someone said. Or maybe it's just me. You probably remember every single word spoken here three years ago. And since the notes I reviewed suggested we discussed something important, I'd like one of you to volunteer to remind us of exactly what was said.

Exactly! I KNEW you'd remember! We talked about the meaning of life!

Seriously though. If there's one thing everyone seems to be trying to find in their life, that one thing just might be happiness. People think if they win the lottery, they'll be happy; if they find their soul mate, they'll be happy; if this or that circumstance in their life changes, they'll be happy.

Come on now, don't be all sanctimonious. You've felt that way about things, even if you didn't put it into words. I know I have.

But happiness is a slippery little fish. The harder you hold on to it, the quicker it slips out of your grasp.

Aren't Christians supposed to be happy? Well, that's a good question. You may have heard of the book "The Happiest People on Earth" by Demos Shakarian. The bottom line is that the happiest people on earth are those who follow Jesus and believe and obey God's Word.

And that is certainly true. Of all the people I know, the born-again, Bible-believing, obedient Christians are the happiest by far. But does that mean they're always happy? And did they find their happiness by searching to be happy?

Well, let's consider the meaning of the word "Christian." Acts 11:26 tells us that Jesus' disciples were first called Christians in Antioch. Perhaps the word "Christian" was used to mean "Little Christ," or, "Imitator of Christ;" for as Romans 8:29 tells us, Jesus became the firstborn among many bretheren, for we are predestined to be conformed into the image of God's Son.

Of course that's not talking about the physical appearance of Jesus, especially for the women among us; and it's not talking about every aspect of Jesus' life, or there wouldn't be any Christian pilots or computer programmers or parents or cashiers or Internet users.

So no, it's not all the outer stuff we're supposed to imitate; instead, it is the image of our heart that is being conformed to the image of Jesus.

And what can we learn about Jesus' heart from His life? Well, here's a pretty easy one. Isaiah 53:3, speaking prophetically about Jesus, says that He was a man of sorrows, and aquainted with grief.

Sorrow and grief. It's hard to be happy while you're grieving. The first two ways the dictionary defines the word "happiness" are "good fortune" and "pleasure." Well, sorrow generally isn't caused by good fortune, and pleasure generally doesn't walk hand in hand with grief.

So while I do believe those who follow Jesus have a great source of happiness, I don't believe they are always happy, nor do I believe we can find lasting happiness by making our own happiness our top priority.

After all, Jesus wasn't a man who always made himself happy, was He? No, He was a man of sorrows, and aquainted with grief.

BUT, Jesus was also a man of joy. In John 15:11, Jesus says this: "These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full."

And Romans 14:17 says this: "For the kingdom of God is not food and drink, but righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit."

Joy is part of the trinity of the kingdom of God -- righteousness, peace, and joy.

Righteousness is like the rain; Peace is like still waters flowing beside green pastures; and Joy is like the radiant sun.

Even when there are clouds in the sky, the sun is still shining underneath. The clouds of trials and tribulations bring the rain of righteousness, watering our peace; and even while they tend to block our view, the sun is always shining.

Maybe that's what the writer meant in James 1:2 when he said, "Count it all joy when you fall into various trials."


You know, it's worth noting something that righteousness, peace, and joy have in common. They all have the same source, which Romans 14:17 says is the Holy Spirit. And they all have the same core nature, like different manifestations of the same thing.

And that one central thing is Love.

Love brings both the sunshine and the rain. And when the two mix together, it matters not how violently they do so; there is peace.

The same love that comes as Joy also comes as Peace; just as it is the same love that comes as Righteousness.

As John 4:8 tells us, God is Love.

We, on the other hand, are not.

We have our human love, but the nature of love with which mankind was created was corrupted by disobedience. And selfishness and other forms of hate were born.


If you observe someone who is constantly seeking their own pleasure regardless of the cost to themselves or others, you might think they love themselves a little too much.

They eat whatever tastes good, drink until they pass out, and cheat on their spouse (if they have one). But is that really self-love? And are we supposed to love ourselves anyway?

Well, let's take a look at what the Bible tells us about those two questions.


In John 12:25, Jesus says this: "He who loves his life will lose it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for life eternal." Is Jesus teaching self-hate? Are we supposed to despise the life God gave us?

Well, consider what He says in Luke chapter 14 and verse 26: "If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple."

So not only are we supposed to hate ourselves, but we are supposed to hate everyone in our family. And yes, I've actually talked with more than one person who believe that God hates people, and that He commands us to hate them too.

But that doesn't quite jive with countless other things in Scripture, including 1st John 4:8 which says, "He who does not love does not know God, for God is love."

Jesus was speaking about comparisons. Just imagine someone who is being tied up and beaten. His or her captors have repeatedly told them that all they have to do to go free is to say they want to be free. And yet that person would rather be beaten, stabbed, tortured, and eventually die a slow, painful death, rather than say the words.

That would sound like either self-loathing or severe mental illness. Until you throw in a little context, a little purpose. Many men and women have been put in that kind of situation, and all they had to do to be set free was to deny Jesus. Just a few simple words.

Did they hate themselves? Did they hate their families they were leaving behind, or who they were putting in danger of being hunted down as well? Of course not. But compared to their love for God, they were willing to act as though they hated everything else.

And this gives us a fuller understanding of what Jesus said in Mark chapter 12, verses 30 and 31:

30 "'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.' This is the first commandment.
31 And the second, like it, is this: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no other commandment greater than these."

We know we have to love others if we love God, so if we're supposed to love our neighbor the same as we love ourselves, then we'd better love ourselves as well. But that is the second commandment. The first is to love God. And if our love for God causes us to forfeit our own lives or even, as in our earlier example, the lives of those we love, then so be it.

But we can also look at this the other way around. Our love for our neighbor should be second only to our love for God. Nothing else is as important as those two things. Which means, by extension, that your love for yourself is the second most important thing on earth.

And I don't mean self-obsession or self-seeking. Love is not obsessed, and love does nothing to harm.

Imagine a parent who lets his or her child do whatever they want whenever they want. They can watch movies all night, eat nothing but potato chips, and hop in the car with any stranger they choose and stay gone as long as they will.

It might not take too long for Social Services to come knocking at their door, and that parent is very likely to lose the right to have custody of their child.

And yet, many of us treat ourselves like that parent treats that child. Our schedules and limitations are often created for us; but if we had no responsibilities and had to answer to no one, many of us would destroy ourselves pretty quickly. You've probably heard of people who drink themselves to death after winning the lottery. They were seeking happiness and thought they found it, but they were lacking true love.

Why do people smoke themselves into an iron lung? Or drink themselves into kidney failure? Or eat themselves into sickness? Or sex themselves into a broken home?

You see, self-seeking and self-love are opposites. If you're seeking your own pleasure, you're like that unfit parent. But if you're willing to do only things that are good for your body and mind, THEN you are learning to obey the second commandment, for you are learning what true love really is, and you are strengthening the Biblical model for how you should love your neighbor.

And that is the model Jesus lived for us to see and follow. The most important thing in the world, is love, after all. So learn to saturate everything you think, say, and do, in God's kind of love.

Love doesn't come from a center of hate. Those who hate others really hate themselves, and they see others and treat others out of that atmosphere of hate. In the same way, those who love others love themselves, and they see and treat others out of that atmosphere of love.

If you truly love yourself and those around you, you will obey God. Not to prove that you're better than those who don't obey God in the manner you think everyone should. But because it is good for you and everyone around you. Not out of fear that something bad will happen or you'll go to hell if you don't, but out of a three-fold love:

- Love for God, first and foremost, and a desire to please Him;
- Love for yourself, knowing that everything God tells you is for your good, while disobeying God will bring you harm;
- and Love for others, as an extension of that core of love, knowing that you will only hurt yourself and others if you disobey God, while you will bring only good to everyone if you obey Him.


Now, our addictive and self-destructive natures make true love a very difficult way to live, to say the least. But when you mess up, just get up and go on from there. Remember that if you compromise love in yourself, you compromise love for your neighbor and for God. And if you've been doing that, welcome to the human race. Just get back up in this present moment, and choose to live in love right now. Don't worry about failing tomorrow or in the next five minutes, and don't dwell on or beat yourself up about having failed yesterday or five minutes ago.

The future and the past aren't what God has called you to oversee. The only time in which God has called you to love is this present moment. And if you continue to love in the present moment, you will love for all eternity.


So... While everyone seems to be searching for happiness in life, we see that happiness isn't enough. Without contentment, happiness becomes an addiction that leads to misery and pain.

1st Timothy 6:6 says that "Godliness with contentment is great gain." And verse seven goes on to say that "we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out."

And the truth is that righteousness, peace, and joy produce and flow out of Godly contentment. Each one leads to the other. After all, isn't contentment part of love?

If we love God, will we complain because He hasn't given us a different kind of life?

And if we love our neighbors and our self, will we complain because we're not different than we are and our neighbors haven't treated us like we're more important than they?

After all, what makes life beautiful? It is not mere pleasure or fleeting happiness; It is love, after all.


Now, our carnal minds tend to constantly find problems with everything. And as a result, we are content with almost nothing. Everything becomes a problem, and we are not content with problems.

But love sees the life God has given us as beautiful. It sees everything that happens in life as working together for our good. It sees the dark clouds as bringers of the rain of righteousness, watering the meadows and stream of deep peace; and it knows that all the while, the sunshine of Joy is still shining.

So today, the challenge to us is this: to change our perceptions, to live in the center of an endless love that radiates from our very core, into our selves, and out into everyone around us. And that love abandons all to answer the Master's call.


In closing, I'd like to open this altar. And if you would like to commit yourself to living more in love, to bringing God's love into the center of your being and radiating it from there to the world around you, then you're invited to get out of your seat right now and make your way to the front for a time of ministry and prayer.

If you'd like someone to pray or talk with you, you can instant message one of us, or if you're listening outside of Second Life or later in the week, you can point your browser to almcyberchurch.org, click the prayer room or pastors' offices, and contact us there.

Whenever you need to go, you're dismissed, and if you can stay for a little while, you're invited to gather in the room to your left for a bit of fellowship after this time at the altar.

Come, and let's dedicate ourselves as imitators of Christ, who radiate and daily grow in the very nature of God and the very meaning of life, which is Godly, everlasting Love.


*** listen to audio for closing and prayer ***