Family service - Mark 12:28-34

This is a family service talk by Nathan Buttery from the morning service on 28th November 2004.

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MARK 12 VV 28-34

I wonder if anyone can tell what the link is between these things I'm going to show you. First we have a lovely bunch of flowers. Next a tasty looking box of chocolates. Next a card with hearts of on it. And finally a (Acetate 1- Ring) beautiful ring! Well if you've not guessed already they are all things that we might give to someone we love. They are ways of showing that we love someone very much.

  Well the theme of today's service is about (Acetate 2- True Love) true love, and in our passage for today we're going to look at a story about a man who met Jesus and asked Jesus what he thought the most important thing in life was. And Jesus' reply was that the most important thing in life is love! So if you've not done so already, do turn with me to Mark 12 vv 28-34 and we'll see what Jesus has to teach us about love.

  Well our story begins with a man coming up to Jesus and asking him a question. (Acetate 3- Man) And we're told that the man who came up to Jesus was a teacher of the law. Now teachers of the law were very good people. They knew all the rights and wrongs people should do. And they tried their very best to live God's way. And this man was probably no different. Except that on this day he comes to Jesus to ask him a question. And he says to Jesus in verse 28: "Of all the commandments, which is the most important?" He wanted to ask Jesus which of the commands or rules in the Bible is the most important. Now in the Bible apparently there are at least 613 different commands! Now that's a lot of commands isn't it? (Acetate 4- Confused man) So the man wanted to ask Jesus which was the most important. Which one should we concentrate on, Jesus? That was his question. He was in effect asking Jesus, which is the most important command that we should follow so we can get to heaven. Which is fair enough isn't? Wouldn't you like to know? I certainly do. So let's see what Jesus said. And he actually teaches us two things which are very important if we are to know God and be with him in his kingdom in heaven.

1) God's Greatest Command

2) God's Greatest Gift

1) God's Greatest Command

(Acetate 5- Title 1) And the first thing Jesus teaches us is about God's greatest command. Jesus tells us what is the most important thing in life is in verse 30. If we are to get to heaven to be with God in his kingdom, then here is what we need to do: Verse 30: "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and all your soul, and all your mind and all your strength! And love your neighbour as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these!" So Jesus says to the man. This is the most important command. This is what is the most important thing in life. It is to love God and to love others! And the Bible says that if we do that we will be with God in his kingdom in heaven!

  Now that sounds pretty easy doesn't it? All we need to do to be with God in heaven is to love God and love others. That's the most important thing in life. But actually let's just see what Jesus means when he says we must love and God and others. And to help us find out what it means to love God and others I have something to show you. Now this something is something so rare there are very few of them in the country. And you are very lucky to see one. It's a loveometer. (Reveal loveometer and Acetate 6- Loveometer) And it's a machine which measures love. Now this loveometer is a pretty old machine. This loveometer is a manual loveometer, and nowadays you can get automatic loveometers. So this one I have to operate myself. But never mind, it still works. And the way it works is that it measures how much we love someone, from no love to total love. So let's just give it a try: How much does Nathan loves his wife? Quite a lot! (Move loveometer!) And this loveometer will help us understand what it means to love God and others. And to help me I will need one volunteer.

  So what does it mean to love God first of all! Well let's ask our volunteer how he shows that he loves his Mum. Volunteer! He shows that he loves his Mum by doing what she says and spending time with her. And doing what she says pleases her. It shows that he loves her! So let's find out how much our volunteer loves his Mum. (Move loveometer!) Now the Bible says that loving God is like loving people. Loving God means spending time with him by prayer and reading the Bible and then doing what he says. If we truly love God, then we will want to do what he says. And Jesus tells us that we have to do that with all our hearts and all our minds and our souls and all our strength! We need to love God with total love! It means do what God says all the time, and loving him with every fibre of our being! But do we do that all the time? Answer, no! Often we don't do what God says, and we don't love him as we should. So when we measure our love on the loveometer, what do we see?. (Loveometer) That's not good news is it? Because it says that we are not doing something which Jesus says is the most important thing in life. Loving God totally!

  So what about loving other people? How do we score on the loveometer on loving others. Well let's ask for another volunteer to find out. Now we heard earlier on that Scramblers and Climbers have been learning the Ten Commandments. And there we find out not just that we are to love God but also what it means to love others. So let's test our volunteer on whether he truly loves others. So the Ten Commandments say that we should not tell lies. Ever told a lie to another person? The Ten commandments say that we should honour our parents. Do you always do what your Mum says? The ten commandments say we shouldn't be jealous of what others have. Have you ever been jealous? Well all those things I have not done. So let's see what the loveometer says about our love for others. Oh dear! Not too good!

  You see the fact is that we do not love God and we do not love others as we should, and we've not kept that greatest command! In fact, it is impossible for us to love God totally, and it's impossible for us to love others as ourselves, perfectly, because we can never live perfect lives. We just never come up to God's perfect standards. (Acetate 7- Failure) And that says Jesus is our biggest problem. If you like we have a fatal disease which needs to be cured. It's the disease of sin which says I will live my life my way, without God as the my King, and putting me first. We don't want God to have total say over our life! Now of course, it's not that we are all as bad as we could be. Most of us I guess are very nice and respectable. But in God's eyes we don't come up to scratch. We don't meet his standards of getting into heaven, because the standard for heaven is to be perfect, as God himself is perfect. We all fall down at this first command. So is that it? Does God say you've blown it? You can never be with me in heaven? Well nobut before we find out God's way of bringing us back to himself, we going to sing that song we sung before the talk again which points us to God's answer to our failure.

SONG- remain seated!

2) God's Greatest Gift

So we've seen that God's greatest command to love God and love others perfectly is something none of us have done. We've all fallen short of God's perfect standard and as things stand we cannot know God and be with him in his kingdom of heaven. But the good news is that God doesn't leave us in that mess. Because the second thing we learn from Jesus is about (Acetate 8- 2nd Title) God's greatest gift.

  So let's go back to our story. Do you remember that the man asked Jesus what was the most important thing in life? And Jesus said it was to love God and love others. And then the man says to Jesus in verse 32 that Jesus is right. "Well done Jesus. Your answer is spot on!" And then Jesus says something to the man in verse 34. He sees that the man is not far from the kingdom of God. In other words he's close but not there yet! There is one more thing that the man needs to do. And what is it?

Well all the way through Mark's story about Jesus, Jesus has been on a journey. And it's a journey that will end on a cross. Because the one thing this man lacked, and the one thing he had yet to understand was that it was only through what Jesus would do for him that he could be in heaven. (Acetate 9- Cross) Because on the cross Jesus would die for us in our place, taking all our wrongdoing and sin, so we could be washed clean and forgiven! And that is God's greatest gift. God knows we cannot meet his standards. So he allows his Son Jesus to die for us so we can be forgiven for all our wrongdoing and we washed clean. So when God looks at the person who has accepted Jesus' forgiveness, he sees a perfect, forgiven person, because we've been forgiven.

Now to help us understand this greatest gift, I'm going to ask my assistant Heather to come and help me. And I have here a bowl of water which represents my and your life. And it looks perfect and clean doesn't it? But the trouble is, it's not! It's actually dirty, because of all the wrong things we do each day. (Pipette of iodine in to water!) We don't love God as we should, and we don't love others as we should! And our problem is that no matter what we do, we can never make ourselves clean and perfect before God again. And we try all sorts of things. Sometimes we try going to church (iodine) but that doesn't work. Sometimes we try praying (iodine) but that doesn't work. Sometimes we try being good (iodine) but that doesn't work. Sometimes we give to charity (iodine) but that doesn't work. All these things are good things, but they cannot bring us forgiveness and they cannot get us to heaven. No what we need is a new heart. We need to be forgiven and washed clean. And that is precisely what Jesus does for us on the cross. So what happens for the person who trusts in Jesus? (Bleach in water) They are totally forgiven and washed clean!

So let's just go back to our Loveometer for the last time and see how much God love us. Loveometer. God loves us very much indeed as he shows us in sending his Son Jesus to die for us and forgive us. And that leaves us with a challenge. First it means we need to accept Jesus' forgiveness. Because God's greatest gift is not automatic. Like all presents it needs to be opened by us. We need to admit our need, and come to Jesus for forgiveness. So let me ask if you have done that yet. And if not what stops you. Because the only people that will be in heaven are forgiven people, not good people, because none of us are good enough. So accept Jesus' forgiveness today. And if you have done that, then will you live life the way God intended, loving him with all your heart and loving others as yourself. Because that's God's greatest commandment, and we can only begin to do that if we have first received God's greatest gift of Jesus.




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