Love Your Neighbor | What Matters Most

Love Your Neighbor  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  33:40
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We live in a world of competing priorities and limited resources. In order to love others the way Jesus shows us, we need to first consider what it is that matters most.

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What matters most to me

What matters most to me

What matters most to me is what matters most to me. This is our natural default.
Check my heart, check my motives
Last time we talked about this in looking at where we begin in loving our neighbor. We noted that before we can love our neighbor the first thing that is absolutely required is to check my heart, and to check my motives. Because I can never love others the way God wants me to love others if my heart is in the wrong place. And I can never love others the way God wants me to love others if I have the wrong motives. So today we’re going to pick up with that idea where we left off last time. Here’s why this is so important. If you and I are completely honest with ourselves, I think we all need to admit that sometimes we have the wrong heart, and we have the wrong motives. For some of us that might be an confession that, in fact, most of the time—maybe even ALL of the time—I have the wrong heart and the wrong motives. It’s a confession that basically boils down to this: God I cannot love other people the way you want me to love other people because I don’t love other people the way you want me to love other people.
We work our way around that confession in so many ways. We tell ourselves, I know I’m supposed to love others. Or we know that the Bible teaches us about loving others. And if I stand up here declare that God wants us to love other people, and then ask if you love other people, we might all affirm that we do. Yes, I love other people. We can sit here today and say those words even if they are empty words because our hearts are in the wrong place, or we have the wrong motives. But here’s the thing. You can’t hide your heart from God. God knows your heart. God knows your motives.
We all need God to change our hearts so that we can love others the way God wants us to love others.
So maybe today the next place to go in this whole thing about loving our neighbors is to admit before God, I need a change of heart. God, I need you to change my heart so that I can love others the way you love others. It needs to start with that prayer. And let’s not kid ourselves. We all need to pray that prayer. We all need God to change our hearts so that we can love others the way God wants us to love others. And we all need to keep praying that prayer. Because there is never a point where you have that completely mastered. There is never a time where I can say I now totally love other people the way God wants me to. There is always room to improve. There is always space for God to continually keep changing my heart to love like he loves.
And who wouldn’t want that? Who wouldn’t want to be better at loving others the way God wants us to love others? Who wouldn’t want to be better at loving your spouse? Or better at loving your kids or grandkids? That would not only be great for you because it makes you a better person, but it’s great for everybody else around you in your world as well. Every single person here should want that, right?
So how do we get there? How do I change my heart so that I love others the way God wants me to? The net step goes here. When I change my heart like that, then the things that matter most to me fall in line with the things that matter most to God. Because when I truly desires most the same kind of things that God truly desires most, then my heart will also follow.

What matters most to God

What does God desire most? What matters most to God? If the key to changing my heart to love others like God loves others is to follow God’s desires for what matters most, then it only makes sense that I need to begin by answering the question of what matters most to God. And Jesus gives us a clue about that today in .
Luke 15:1–10 NIV
Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.” Then Jesus told them this parable: “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent. “Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Doesn’t she light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.’ In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”
When Jesus tells a parable, it’s always for a reason. Usually he uses the story to describe something about the way God intends his world to work so that his kingdom can thrive. And usually there is some sort of problem or behavior that gets in the way and keeps this from actually happening. So what’s the problem in this story? You might be tempted to say that the problem is that there are people who are lost from God. There’s a story about a lost sheep, and a story about a lost coin. And these these things echo and illustrate lost people.
Religious people don’t like to associate with non-religious people.
That’s reading too far into the story. That’s not the problem here. The problem starts in verse 1 & 2. Jesus is having dinner with the wrong kind of people. And the religious leaders complain about who it is Jesus associates with—that he is with the sinners, the bad people. This is the problem Jesus is addressing with this story. Religious people don’t like to associate with non-religious people. The entire reason Jesus tells these stories is so that he can address what he sees happening around him; that the religious people don’t associate with non-religious people. They don’t even care. The religious elite of Jesus’ day were sort of the star belly Sneetches of that time. And maybe we in the church today can be a bit like the star belly sneetches too.
Do you think that’s still true today? Do religious people still prefer not to associate with non-religious people? Do Christians just hang out with other Christians? What about you? Jesus had his top 12 list of his closest disciples. It’s certainly not a bad thing to have some close friendships with other Christian people. But Jesus tells these parables about the lost sheep and the lost coin because he is saying that people who are far from God matter too.
In fact, Jesus is saying more than that. Jesus is saying that people who are far from God matter more. And when even just one person is found the reaction in heaven is rejoicing. Joy. There is a party when even one lost person comes to be included. What does that say about what matters most to God? So, sure, there’s nothing wrong with having a circle of Christian friends. But Jesus is instructing his hearers that your circle of Christian friends absolutely needs to make room for others to be invited in—others who are very different from you. All people matter to God. And the people who are being left on the outside matter to God the most because he desires for them to be included.
Synchronize hearts
Then here’s what we’re left with today. How do we synchronize those two things? How do I take the thing that matters most to God and make it the thing that also matters most to me? God’s heart bends towards people who are left on the outside. How do you and I bend our hearts toward that same thing as well? Because maybe this is where you are today. I know who God is. I know what the Bible says. I have faith; I believe. But I also know that I just simply do not have a heart for outside people the way God does—the way God wants me to. How do we go about synchronizing our hearts with God’s heart?
There is a book I’ve mentioned recently that I think is so helpful. Jamey Smith’s book, You Are What You Love provides some good advice. Smith argues that our passions—our heart—develops around the habits and rituals which we practice most regularly in our lives. Smith calls these our cultural liturgies. For example, if the only television channel I ever watch is ESPN. And if the very first section of the newspaper I flip to every day is the sports section. And if the only radio stations I ever listen to are sports broadcasts. And if my closet is filled with jerseys and team caps. And if I prioritize personal budgeting every year to have season tickets for Rockies home games, and Broncos home games. All of that—all those habits, rituals, and patterns—all those cultural liturgies feed into and along side of what you would rightly identify as a great passion for sports—a heart for sports—a love of sports.
Wherever you want to develop
Wherever you want to develop a greater passion and a greater heart for something in your life, we need to understand today that there will always be habits, and rituals, and patterns that must go right along side of it. Those things go hand in hand. So you want to synchronize your heart with God’s heart, and you don’t know how to get there? Here’s what you do. Develop some habits and patterns and rituals that go along side of what that heart looks like.
Some of you know I have a passion and love for cooking. But I wasn’t always that way. It started with a curiosity to be better in the kitchen. And from there I had to make some intentional choices about habits and patterns. I had to start regularly following a couple of cooking shows and magazines to read about and see some techniques. I had to start gathering some kitchen equipment that could do a better job. And above all, I had to start prioritizing time in the kitchen to prepare the meals on a very regular and ongoing basis. And over time as those habits and patterns continued, I slowly got better and better at cooking. And right along side of all of this—interwoven with these habits and patterns—I was also feeding and building a love and passion for cooking.
Jesus has a love and a passion for reaching people who are outside of the church. Jesus demonstrated habits and patterns which shows his intense desire to connect with and spend time with people who were outside of the church. If we want to begin synchronizing our hearts with the heart of Jesus to also reflect that love for other people outside of the church. Then it’s pretty important to step into some habits and patterns that will feed and build that love for others.

Love your neighbor - action step:

Let’s talk about today’s Love Your Neighbor action step. This is an action step that is all about starting that habit, that pattern of loving others.
It was about two and a half years ago I re-read the book The Art of Neighboring. One of the suggestions in that book was to focus on one household on your block. So that is what I did. I picked one household.
Pick one household
We don’t have to individually reach out to the entire world. I don’t need to single-handedly evangelize my entire block. Be realistic. Start with one. Maybe it’s not a household on your block. Maybe instead it is a co-worker or golf league acquaintance. But here is the criteria. Pick someone who you don’t already have a close relationship with. And pick somebody who you know is not a part of a close Christian community.
Last week I introduced the idea of a block map. The cards are included again this week in the handouts. Last week I encouraged each one of us to begin by learning the names of all the people in the eight closest residences to your own. Now today we add to that the step of picking one out of those households.
Pray for an opening
After picking one household, the next thing is to start developing a habit and pattern of praying for that household. Specifically pray for an opening. Here is how it worked two and a half years ago for me. I picked one household on my block. And then I began praying regularly for the people of that household. I didn’t begin by going right up to the front door and knocking and telling them, hey you know what I’m praying for you. I just started a regular habit and pattern of praying often for the people of that one family. I prayed for an opening. And here is specifically what I prayed.
God, I want your church to be a blessing to this family the way your church has been a blessing to me.
God, I want your church to be a blessing to this family the way your church has been a blessing to me.
That’s it. That’s where I began, with a habit and pattern of regular prayer for one household on my block. And that is what I regularly and consistently prayed. Every time I was out in the neighborhood for a walk, and I walked past that house about four days a week, I prayed that prayer for the people in that house, by name.
Pursue relationship
And after picking one household, and after praying for an opening, the next thing is to pursue relationship. The next thing was to begin looking for opportunities for real genuine authentic relationship. Not fake relationship. The people in this house were not a project. Nobody wants to be treated as a project. Rather, I want to know them simply because God knows them. I want their lives to be important to me because I know that their lives are important to God. I want my family to have real relationship with this family because I want that relationship to be a blessing the way I know God wants. And I want God’s church to be a blessing to the people of this family the way his church has been a blessing to my family.
So that’s what we look for. We looked for opportunities for that relationship to take hold and go deeper. And here is what it looked like. As I prayed that prayer and as my family opened new opportunities for relationship, those opportunities for relationship with just my family opened into opportunities for relationship with more people.
Turn my relationship with someone new into our relationship with someone new.
There was an opportunity for my kids to invite those kids to something at our youth group here at Horizon. Then another new relationship was added with the youth pastor and youth leaders here. My family’s relationship with a family was now opening into an opportunity for our relationship with a family. And that relationship continued to deepen and continued to grow. Last summer, those kids were part of the group of students that received baptism here. And now as those relationships continue to grow, one of those students stood up here and told about an opportunity to spend some time this summer in missions. We are helping to send one of those students off into a mission opportunity this summer.
I want you to see where this started. Pick one household. Pray for an opening. Pursue relationship. I didn’t do anything spectacular or amazing. In fact, I think the heavy lifting of developing these relationships actually happened with the others in my family and with others here at Horizon. Here’s the only thing that I did. I made a decision to pick one household, to pray for an opening, and to pursue relationship. You can do this too.
Now I want everyone here to close your eyes for moment. I want us all to picture something. I want each one here to pick one household. Close your eyes and picture the person or the people of that one household, or one co-worker, or whomever it may be. Pick one and picture who that is. Now if every single one of us here today does this. If each one of us picks one household, prays for an opening, and pursues relationship. Then picture that within a year, 75 people here becomes 150 people. five baptisms becomes ten baptisms. And if we all keep doing this together then within another year 150 people becomes 300 people. And ten baptisms becomes twenty baptisms. And if we continue, then within three years this room on a Sunday morning has 600 people. And twenty baptisms becomes forty baptisms. Can you picture that? This room maxed out for space because there are 600 people here. A line of forty people coming forward for baptism. How did this happen? Where did this come from? It happened because right now here today you are picturing one household. And it happened because right now here today you are making a choice. I will make a habit and pattern to regularly start praying for this one household. And I will pursue a relationship with someone who is outside the church. Because I so desperately want that matters most to God to be the thing that matters most to me.
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