With all your mind

Last week I quoted a bunch of modern day poets. OK… Rock singers.  But when we finished we found that what they had to say was true. We all follow someone or something. Will we chose who or what we follow or let it chose us?

In the Christian faith there are a lot of quotable scripture that are equally true. But do they come out of your mouth as easily and accurately as the latest song from the radio?

John 3:16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

Matthew 7:1 “Do not judge, or you too will be judged.

A paraphrase of the a scripture is on the front of our Church: Love God ~ Love People 

That came from…

Matthew 22:36-40

36″Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” 37Jesus replied: ” ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38This is the first and greatest commandment. 39And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

But this week I want to concentrate on a different part of that scripture than we normally concentrate on. Let’s look at Matthew 22:37 a bit deeper

Matthew 22:37

37Jesus replied: ” ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’

We usually focus on the LOVE part, and with good reason. John says that “God is Love” (1 John 4:16). But let’s look a bit deeper.

Jesus reply starts with the quote from Deuteronomy 6:5.

Deuteronomy 6:5

5 Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.

Now this line follows a piece of scripture that the Jews to this day call the Shema:

Deuteronomy 6:4

4 Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.

So for Jesus to quote the part of the Torah that contained these word would have immediately had meaning to these people. They would have known the verse like we know John 3:16.

But let’s look at what Jesus said and compare it to Deuteronomy

Deuteronomy 6:5

5 Love the lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.

 

Matthew 22:37

37Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’

Notice the difference.  Mind is substituted for Strength.

We don’t often think of our Love for God coming from our mind. Do we? In fact, we don’t think of Love coming from our mind at all. Love is touchy feely, love hurts, love is a feeling; not agape love. The agape love that Jesus is talking about is a decision. It is love you can’t earn or lose.

The theologian Tertullian asked, “what does Athens have to do with Jerusalem?” and, “what accord is there between the Academy and the church?”

With Athens being a symbol of reason and Jerusalem a symbol for simple saving faith this set the stage for a long series of tensions between faith and reason. We still struggle with this challenge today even if it might be expressed in different ways.

People will quote Proverbs by saying “Lean not on your own understanding” as if what is meant is that we are not to think, but to mindlessly follow what we have been taught by the Pastor.

But listen to the Proverb in context.

Proverbs 3:1-6

Further Benefits of Wisdom

 1 My son, do not forget my teaching,

       but keep my commands in your heart,

 2 for they will prolong your life many years

       and bring you prosperity.

 3 Let love and faithfulness never leave you;

       bind them around your neck,

       write them on the tablet of your heart.

 4 Then you will win favor and a good name

       in the sight of God and man.

 5 Trust in the LORD with all your heart

       and lean not on your own understanding;

 6 in all your ways acknowledge him,

       and he will make your paths straight.

In fact, the Proverb seems to be speaking to someone who has had to spend some time learning.

Proverb 3:1 “Do not forget my teaching”

No, what he is really doing admonishing this person to do is to remember what he has been taught.

Why? If you will learn what God is teaching well enough to keep it in our heart “they will prolong your life many years and bring you prosperity”. 

The lessons that you were taught as a child in school or by your parents that you use today are the ones that you understand well enough to use them without having to quote them. You know them. You can think on your own and apply the lesson as it fits. You can reason with the gift of a mind that God gave you.

If we look at Jesus ministry he was constantly trying to get people to use their mind; to think about what the scripture meant and not just repeat the words.

It is a mistake to believe that Jesus was a peace loving hippy, guru, or wise man who walked the earth spreading compassion and philosophy or a teacher that did not use theology or scripture.

Quite the contrary; Jesus was remarkable to those around Him precisely because He spoke with authority (Matt 9, 8, 21: Mark 1, 10, 11, : Luke 4, 20: John 2, 10) and he knew the word very well. He would ask “it is written” (Luke 4), or “Haven’t you read this scripture”(Mark 12).

It is our job as His Church is to follow His lead and to be prepared to speak to practical issues with scripture and a solid theological understanding of its ramifications.

John Wesley said of reason, “religion and reason go hand in hand.”

When one looks at Jesus ministry as the example he will find that again and again Jesus used scripture and then challenged people to use their mind.

In Matthew 19 he states that Moses allowed divorce, but then tells them that this was never the original intent.

In John 8 Jesus allows for the stoning of an adulterous woman, but cautions that the one who throws the first needed to be without blame.

In Mark when asked if one should pay taxes he says:

Mark 12:15-17 15b he asked. “Bring me a denarius and let me look at it.” 16They brought the coin, and he asked them, “Whose portrait is this? And whose inscription?”

      “Caesar’s,” they replied.

 17Then Jesus said to them, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.”

For us the lesson is that it is our responsibility to know the scriptures and apply them as if we were applying them to Jesus Himself.

The church has a responsibility to minister to the practical issues of life such as divorce, adultery, hunger, and broken families through the use of theological truths or we risk becoming irrelevant.

In an article for the Times Online (“As an atheist, I truly believe Africa needs God”)  the atheist Author Matthew Parris notes that even he knows that Africa needs God. He tells of being among the African people and knowing that what is missing is something basic deep in their moral structure. Without the vision of God that Jesus offers, these people have no personal value. Without personal value they have no reason to fight for social justice. It is all about money or power. Without the theological understanding of who God is and his personal relationship to them, people can be convinced they have no value as an individual because they do not.  Once our faith loses the core understanding of the reality of God and becomes about the feelings and experiences; it becomes just another human experience to be bartered.

In “Bridging Theology To Life And Ministry”, Dr. Thomas Umbel says that Christians “are pretty good with feelings and the heart, but not so good with ideas and facts and knowledge.”  This fact is responsible for the trend in many churches to become more program and event oriented and less geared toward scriptural teaching and Bible study.

The American culture has become a place where clarity of thought and an absolute stand on any subject is thought of as threatening; so it is no wonder that as Minister of the Christian faith and a person living in this culture it can be hard to determine the right relationship between theology and ministry. The persistence of the pluralistic view that “all opinions are right in their own way” makes it awkward to proclaim that there is a purpose in studying God‘s word to find an absolute truth.

According to what Mark Noll refers to the “scandal of the evangelical mind” the issue is causing the dismissal of intellectual content from faith. That isn’t new. Thomas a Kempis in the fifteenth century said that we should, “obey Christ rather than indulge in flights of intellectual fancy.” But what is new is the fact that most do not even consider the Bible to be the true source of knowledge about God.

Why? Because most Christians have not read the Bible.

Most of us can only quote:

John 3:16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

But if we haven’t read the whole book we don’t understand he meant by believe.

Some will quote:

Matthew 7:1 “Do not judge, or you too will be judged.

But if we haven’t read the whole story then we think it means that no one can tell us that we are doing wrong, but us.

If you read the whole book you would find Jesus is really saying that we need to judge others actions based on how we want to be treated, and we should clean up our won problems first.

If you read the whole book you would find that Paul tells us that it is our job to judge each other and to help each other.

Though the ala’ carte approach to all things spiritual may prohibit the absolute truths it is the job of the Church to maintain a constant flow of theologically sound truth. This truth must resonate within the worship, teaching, and daily life of the Church.

Ask yourself these questions:

·       When is the last time I was involved in a formal Bible Study?

·       How much will you grow without someone pushing you?

·       When is that last time I had a deep conversation about the meaning of a piece of scripture?

·       What if you were asked by a friend of your teenage child or Grandchild why God doesn’t want them to have fun? Could you answer?

·       What if they asked you how God feels about divorce? Why does he feel that way?

·       What is the answer to someone who tells you that the Bible can’t right if science is?

Love the Lord your God with all your mind, by putting Him in your heart.

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About toddcbrown

The body of Christ will never grow if the Pastor is the one using his gifts to MAKE IT grow through some cool program or inspiring turn of a phrase.
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