Pastor Brandon delivered a great sermon yesterday about the requirements and rewards of following Jesus. Wholehearted devotion to Jesus has tremendous rewards… God Himself being the most wonderful… but it doesn’t come without counting the cost.
He quoted great Scripture to validate his points…
1) Acknowledge His Kingdom as more valuable than His gifts:
Luke 14:26: Love Him more, compared to everything else.
Mark 12:29-31: The Great Commandment – love God with all that we are.
2) Acknowledge His Kingdom as more valuable than yours:
Luke 14:27: Carry your cross, the instrument and of death. In our case, the symbol of death of self.
Mark 8:34-38: The paradox of hanging on to our lives in this world system causes us to actually lose what’s really important.
3) Acknowledge the eternal as more valuable than the temporal.
Luke 14:33, Matt 13:44-46, Phil 3:18-20: The kingdom of heaven has tremendous rewards, both in the life to come and in the here and now.
But as a believer, I never knew how to get there. I never knew how to get to that level of commitment. I thought I knew. I tried harder. I worked harder. I even prayed more and read my Bible more. But somehow I knew there was more to it than that.
After making these great points, Pastor Brandon stressed that this was not a “works” message. He stressed that it is “the intention of the heart” that matters, and he asked us to think about and pray the Scripture found in Ephesians 3:16-19:
When I think of all this, I fall to my knees and pray to the Father, the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth. I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God. (NLT)
To me, this was the key. Not actually the verse or the prayer, but what’s contained within. You see, all the good intentions in the world won’t make it happen. All the thought that humanity can conjure up won’t help us make that leap from merely a churchgoer to a authentic follower of Jesus. All the acknowledgement and commitment (or re-commitment) that I can muster will not help me follow-through and be victorious. It is the “intention of the heart.”
It is a fresh revelation of the love of God. It is knowing IN MY HEART OF HEARTS that God loves and accepts me as I am that produces undying devotion and compels me to live my life wholeHEARTedly for Jesus. It’s not perfect behavior, to be sure, but I am compelled by something I can’t fully verbalize, to live a life for the One who lived and died for me. It is a freedom to be “me”, knowing that will be enough.
That sounds like a resignation to stagnation, but what it produces instead is a freedom to grow, blossom and fly. It is a freedom to risk. It is a freedom to try (and fail, possibly) because I am walking with the One who succeeded and is ultimately victorious.
In essence, I am BEGINNING to understand how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. That is how I get from head knowledge to heart knowledge. That is how my commitment moves the eighteen inches from my head to my heart. A fresh revelation of the love of God. That is Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians because it makes all the difference in the world… literally.
I don’t need to move Jesus up on my priority list. I don’t even need to count the cost. Once I realize and internalize how much God loves and accepts me, I don’t need to evaluate my commitment. It automatically occurs. It just happens. There’s nothing else on my list. The costs become immaterial.
Nothing else matters.