Dear Friends,

In our current message series entitled “The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah” we have been looking at some snapshots of Jesus’ life and ministry and how He used those interactions to meet the deepest needs in the human heart.  Join us for worship at Conner Prairie at 10:30am Sundays.

What Do You Need The Most?  It is interesting to read articles and research on the most significant needs of the human heart.  Various authors list things like admiration, acceptance, approval, freedom, escape, pleasure, happiness, peace, joy, balance, awe, fulfillment, stability and passion.

We think that pleasure, or possessions, or power will make us happy.  These are the three greatest pursuits of mankind.  But I would suggest that these are not the things we really want.  We want fulfillment, satisfaction…and as we pursue pleasure, possessions or power, we find the truth that Mick Jagger sings, “I can’t get no satisfaction!”

What do you feel you need the most?  As I have thought about this question, it seems to me that all of these needs might be reduced to one single, all-encompassing need:

The Need to Love God with All Your Heart, Soul, Mind and Strength!

Jesus was asked by one of the religious leaders, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”   Jesus replied, “The most important commandment is this: ‘Listen, O Israel! The Lord our God is the one and only Lord.  And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.’ ” (Mark 12:28-30).

Jesus answered the religious leader’s question from the very first Bible verse He learned as a young boy.  He was probably around 3 years old when Joseph and His mother began teaching Him this particular Scripture verse.  It comes from Deuteronomy 6:4-5 and is called “The Shema” because of the first word of this passage “hear” which is shema (sha-maw) in Hebrew.

In effect, Jesus said that the single most important instruction for us that has ever been communicated in the history of the world is to love God with every fiber of our being.  This is not for God’s benefit, but for ours!  Do we realize that God does not NEED our love?  He is complete with or without us.  But the opposite is not true.  We do most certainly NEED God!

Augustine said to the Lord, “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in you.”  Augustine understood that the ultimate need of our lives is found in our communion with the Creator God of the Universe.

Although God does not NEED us, He does want us…He pursued us…He called us…He redeemed us…He made us His own children.  This happens only if we love the Lord with our whole being.  As the story of the rich young leader teaches us, anything we love more than the Lord will keep us separated from Him (Matt. 19:16-26).

Our loving, patient, forgiving, and all-knowing God knows what we need the most.  He knows that we were created for the purpose of having an intimate love relationship with Him.  Until we have this we will never be fulfilled…satisfied…complete.  So He instructed us with His greatest (highest, most significant) command: to love Him totally.

The Day I Fully Understood Why This Is the Greatest Commandment…

It was in September 2000 and I was preparing my message in which I was to provide an overview of the book Song of Solomon.  I knew this book records the passionate love story between Solomon and his young wife, and is an illustration of God’s love for His people.  As I was preparing my message I was having difficulty figuring out how best to present this book so I thought I would simply reread it.  I read through chapters one, two, three, and then as I was reading chapter four something incredible happened.  I read…

You have ravished my heart, My sister, my spouse; You have ravished my heart With one look of your eyes, With one link of your necklace” (Song of Solomon 4:9).

Through the Holy Spirit, the Lord impressed on my heart, “Gary, you ravish my heart!”  My immediate response was, “O no, Lord, you mean we (all of us who are your people) together, we ravish your heart?”  The Lord said, “No, Gary, you individually, personally, ravish my heart!”

Immediately I thought of how Kathy “ravishes my heart.”  Even today, after almost 30 years of marriage, every time she walks into my presence my heart leaps within my chest.  I am overcome with my love for her.  Just one glance of her eye from across the room and I am captivated by her love.  And now the Lord was telling me that He loves me like that!

As I sat in the restaurant where I had gone to study tears began streaming down my face.  The presence of the Living God closed in around me as if I had entered the Holy of Holies.  I was basking in His unconditional, steadfast, passionate love.  I lost track of time as I sat there meditating on how thoroughly, completely, perfectly God loved me…me…Gary Stump…this broken, blood-bought sinner, pursued, redeemed, and set apart by my Lord.  I ravished Yahweh’s heart!  The thought overwhelmed me.

That day something snapped in my heart.  Never again would I study the Bible to know the Bible.  From that day on I would study the Bible to know the Author!!  It makes all the difference in the world.  I have never gotten over that encounter with my Lord.  Whenever I think about God’s love my heart soars and my eyes fill with tears.

I need to experience His love.  There is no need in my life greater than loving the Lord with every fiber of my being!  So the Lord, in His wise providence, has commanded this to be the Greatest Commandment.

How do we learn to love the Lord with our whole heart?  We do it (as illustrated in my story above) by becoming aware of God’s great love for us.  The Apostle John states, “We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19).  We only love Him when we first understand His love for us.  Push into His love…grasp at it…embrace it…comprehend it…

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” (Ephesians 3:19).

How are you doing loving the Lord with your whole heart, soul, mind and strength?

Onward loving my Lord,

Pastor Gary