For God so loved the world that he gave his only son, that who ever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life
The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks.
Let us pray:
Hide me behind your cross, Lord Jesus. Articulate the Father’s heart through my voice and let the Holy Spirit breathe new life to us, opening our ears to hear the message of God. Amen
This morning’s message is not deeply theological. It is not political. It is not revolutionary or overly complicated. It is instead a simple thought straight from Jesus – what we are passionate about spills over into what we do and say. Out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks.
The summer after I graduated from high school, I was not living with my parents so I called them from time to time. I started out that summer dating a particular boy, but by the end of the summer I had become engaged to Tom (my current husband for those of you keeping track at home). When I called my parents to give them the news, my mom said she was not terribly surprised. Since my decision to marry Tom had sort of been a surprise to me, I asked her why…and she said, the last three times you called you stopped mentioning the other boy at all while everything was Tom this and Tom that…I hadn’t even realized that had happened.
See, he had become the most important thing in my life, without me even knowing it. My heart overflowed and my mouth spoke. Once we start following Jesus, the same thing should happen in relation to us as Christians – we simply start to be so in love with Christ that we don’t even realize when we speak about him. But Jesus offers a bigger admonition here, too, in that He points out that we have to be intentionally focused on what we bring into our hearts – the good man has stored good things there, the evil man, evil. These don’t just pop in – they’ve been stored there, put away for later pulling out and examining and pouring out all over the people around us.
We have all encountered someone who is extremely passionate about some area that is incomprehensible to us. It is sometimes inconceivable that someone could be so completely taken with, say, 17th century English Literature to the point that they can quote extensively from multiple works by Francis Bacon or describe the interplay between Genesis and classical myth in Milton’s Paradise Lost. Sometimes knowing that someone is that deeply buried in a topic means that we avoid them, not because we do not like the person, but because we are not so ready to spend 45 minutes receiving a lecture about the importance of their topic. There are people who are deeply into a particular television show or a particular sport or team, political stance/agenda and it is not long before you can identify the people in your life by the particular passions they pursue, talk about, and live vigorously from day to day. That kind of passion is not accidental – it is the kind of thing that has to be sought out and kept and held on to. It requires effort.
If you have ever been involved in sports, you will recognize this phrase – muscle memory. It is when you practice something so often that you no longer have to think about how you react in a certain situation, your body simply moves that way and does what it is supposed to do. As a former bowler and bowling coach, I can tell you that this how you become a consistent bowler – you repeat your best approach over and over until it is simply a matter of allowing your body to do what it knows how to do…it is automatic that you will take the same steps, swinging your arm in the right rhythm, and release the ball exactly where you are supposed to – because you have done the work to make sure your muscles know how to do it. Malcolm Gladwell has said that it requires 10,000 hours of practice at any one thing to be world class at it. At that point your mind is no longer working on the fundamentals anymore, but stretching your physical abilities to a point where they are able to do more than the next competitor. It is like going from being able to frost a cake to being able to design an intricate wedding cake with multiple layers and colors. They both involve the same concept – covering a cake with sugar – but on one hand is the simple use of a spatula and the other requires icing bags and tips and all manner of other things that create roses and floral arrays and whatever else makes a cake magazine picture worthy. Devoting yourself to these tasks are what make you good at them, what makes the simpler parts automatic and what begins to fill your heart beyond the minimum to the point of overflowing.
So it is with following Jesus. The more time we spend with him, the more often we pray, the more often we worship, the deeper we get in our relationship with him, the more likely it is that the words we speak about him will be automatic, that our ability to rely on him will become more and more reflex and less and less effort. That is when we get beyond simply frosting the cake and become adept at really making an impact. This leads me to my second point about this simple verse – the reason we do the work.
There is a very real and concerted effort to take faith out of the public square, to try to make everything about our religious lives individual. What’s right for you may not be right for me, so keep it to yourself. The awesome thing about what Jesus says in this passage is that not only is our faith deeply personal – we must accumulate the good things that come from good hearts – but it is widely interpersonal – we speak it, not just to ourselves, but to those we come in contact with everyday. I recently read a book called Clear Winter Nights about a young man who is questioning his faith. He is having conversations with his older grandfather and he says that evangelism bothers him, it makes him uncomfortable to do it. The grandfather, a former pastor, replies “People rarely fail to evangelize because of their intellectual questions. Failure to evangelize is almost always a worship problem. It’s not that we don’t know what we ought to be doing. We do. We’re just not doing it. That’s a sign that we’re not overflowing with worship. Whenever you are completely taken with something or someone, you can’t help but talk about it. Love can’t stop talking about the beloved.”
Love can’t stop talking about the beloved. Hold onto that for a few minutes.
I can think of several saints whom I love to spend time with, primarily because when I am with them I am almost always encouraged. These are people, young and old, whose hearts have become so enraptured with Jesus that they speak often and lovingly about him, sometimes without even realizing that they are doing so…it is so natural to them to live in such a state of worship and passion that without even realizing it they have poured out their hearts, and their hearts are full of Jesus. You know people like this, people other people love to be around, even though they may not be able to point exactly to why. These are people who are so in love with Jesus that they can’t help but talk about him, even when they aren’t even saying his name. Their voices, their actions, their very beings resonate with the light and life of Christ –they are the saltiest salt and the brightest lights. The great news is that it does not have to be “them,” every Christian carries within them the potential to be that enamored with the Redeemer. The more time we spend with him, the more often we will see him in the moments that matter in our lives. Prayer, worship, reading the Word – these are all intentional things we can do to strengthen our relationship with Him. The great news is that it doesn’t have to be the same kind of work that practicing a bowling approach is – primarily because the Holy Spirit works in us to transform our thinking so that our love for him is greater and bolder than we could ever accomplish on our own, and simply by resting in him, seizing the opportunities to trust him, to rely on his work, He begins to fill our hearts to overflowing with His fruit, with His presence, with Him – so that we indeed can say “love can’t stop talking about the beloved”.
One more time, I would remind you in the week to come to think about how deeply personal your faith is and yet how widely interpersonal it is as well. Our hearts overflow so that our speech can impact another – we communicate with each other most often and most thoroughly about the ideas and people that mean the most to us. We give away something more than just a shared passion when we speak about Jesus because we can’t help it. We offer a glimpse into the promise of redemption and the sweet hope of an eternal future. Love can’t stop talking about the beloved because there is nothing better to say.
As we have been doing every week in this series, I will remind you of what it looks like to say that the love of God is found in every page of Scripture. Follow along on your sheets and whenever I point at you say whatever is bolded on your page:
What does it mean to say God loves?
God loved us enough to create us, to form us from the dust.
God loved us enough to let us fail, to let us choose our own way over God’s – to let us chain ourselves to sin and defeat and heartbreak and sorrow and death.
God loved us enough to provide a rescue, a way back: through wanderers, murderers, adulterers, defaulters, promise-breakers, foreigners, strangers, and lovers.
God loved us enough to show us mothers, judges, kings, and prophets who loved and spoke for God and kept reminding us of the promise of redemption
God loved us enough to show us how evil and wrong continually mess things up and how obedience to God fosters holiness and bestows blessing
God loved us enough to send us Jesus, the only begotten Son of God, to preach and live peace, grace, hope, joy, and love.
God loved us enough to see Jesus rejected, to see him die, to see him buried.
God loved us enough to raise Jesus from the dead and send the Holy Spirit to remind us of all we have in him and empower us to live like Jesus.
God loves us enough to want us to live like Jesus – an abundant life infused with all the fruit of the Spirit, redeemed, free, loved.
God loves us enough to still let us choose our own destiny.
God loves us enough to promise the hope of forever, of resurrection from the dead, and final judgement.
God loved us enough, God loves us enough, God will always love us enough.
For God so loved the world…
God loves you.
God wants you to know it. God wants you to live in it.
God wants you to be able to love others because you know you are loved.
God’s love is expressed to us every week, most tangibly, as we gather at this table: The Son who died and yet lives, gave everything so we could know the depth of God’s love.
So, Come. Drink the wine. Eat the bread. Know you ARE loved.
God loves you. Go, love the world with him.