Most of us who mix in Christian circles could, if pressed, named a Christian clique (if you can’t you’re in one!). In fact there’s a whole stereotype built up around them, the Holy Huddle, the Gospel Grouping, the Kingdom Kollective…ok, I jest, but there is more than a large element of truth in what I say. Christians seem to have a gift for being ‘cliquey’.
Before I begin I should add that I’m not saying it’s wrong to have a group of close friends. But it is wrong for them to be your only friends. This will hopefully make more sense as I go on.
And I’m not just speaking about a Christian/non Christian divide. No, Christian cliques will often exclude other Christians as well which is particularly damning – we are, after all, brothers and sisters in Christ, citizens of heaven, co-heirs in Christ, members of God’s household, one in Christ.
And now for something completely different…
I won’t embarrass myself by even pretending to like or listen to Lady Gaga; anyone that knows me well will know that it’s not really ‘me’. But today I sat down and listened to her five most popular tunes on Spotify. I did so because Lady Gaga is a popular artist and as such reflects the current culture we live in.
So what I’m going to do is take the lyrics of ‘Poker Face’, ‘Bad Romance’ and ‘Telephone’ and try and work out what they say about modern culture then I’ll take verses from a two thousand year old book and see what that has to say about modern culture. Interested? I should hope so.
If my calculations are correct then today is Valentine’s Day. Now, for those who are completely clueless Valentine’s Day is an annual holiday celebrating love and affection between intimate couples. Thank you, Wikipedia. Naturally, my first instinct was just to ignore the day as being contrary to my twisted and blackened heart. But then I decided to commercialise on it and write a Valentine’s Day Special blog post which asks the question:
Who is the greatest love of your life?
Your thoughts are likely to first turn to that very special someone in your life, whoever that might be. The person who makes your heart beat that little faster, who smiles and brightens up your day, who catches your eye across the crowded room, who puts their hand in yours and suddenly everything is going to be ok…
Or, like me, you might be single. In which case we need to widen the sphere…
You could love a friend of family member, you laugh at the same jokes, you know each other so well that you just look at them and know what they are thinking, you share the same interests, you feel like a part of you is missing without this friend, you have no secrets, you share in each others life and in a entirely non romantic way you love this friend…
You could even love a celebrity, be enamoured by the way they dress, by their words of wisdom, by their appearance on reality TV shows of a dubious nature, follow every twist and turn of their life…
But what if you greatest love wasn’t a person?
What if you loved football or rugby above all else? The turf beneath your feet, the ball in your control, dodging past burley men, the joy of winning, the satisfaction in a precisely executed kick, the animal whoop as the ball thuds into the back of the net…
Or what about cycling? The wind through your hair, looking around you and laughing at the idiots who are walking, the achievement from scaling a steep hill and whizzing down the other side, the freedom a bike brings…
Or computer games? The savage satisfaction from topping the scoreboard and knowing that you’re the best of the best, saving your brains from being eaten by zombies through the use of plant based warfare, rescuing the galaxy again, a ten streak kill in COD…
Or reading? The anticipation of opening a new book and casting yourself into a new world, a new idea, a new story, of looking up three hours later and wondering why it’s gone dark, guessing the plot twist before it happens and getting it completely wrong…
Or watching movies? You know that Han shot first, you can recall who won the first ever best picture Oscar, you love nothing more than curling up on the sofa and watching a classic film…
Or achieving success? You just love getting promoted, imagining being the head honcho, the man, being fabulously wealthy and being respected for your knowledge, skill and talents…
Or listening to music? Nothing quite stirs the heart like a rendition of ‘Sunset Boulevard’, nothing beats the soaring notes of Susan Boyle, the melodious sonnets of N-dubz…
Or maybe you’re in love with an idea: socialism is your love, all equal, no poor, greed vanquished, all wrongs righted, all capitalists burnt, collectivism over individualism…
Or in love with yourself? Nothing better to talk about, you look in the mirror and oh, hey good looking, you’re whole life revolves around you, everything else is just so dull…
And what about writing? The pleasure of putting pen to paper, of creating a story out of nothing, of creating, of laughing at your own jokes, ok, maybe that’s just me…
Or shopping? The burning hole money is burning in your pocket, the beautiful dress in the window, the latest fashion accessory on your wrist, the soothing calm of retail therapy…
Or being a secret agent? Those double 0’s in front of your name, the one line quips, the secret gadgets, defeating an evil genius in the nick of time and still being back for breakfast…
In short, there’s an infinite variety of things to love in this world whether they be people, ideas, hobbies or sports. Even better we don’t just have to love one thing we can love many! Our capacity for love is never diminished by our giving of love. Love is one of the few non-scarce resources on this earth.
Yet, all of us at some point put one thing above all others and have our greatest love. We single a specific person, interest, ambition and hold this to be beyond anything else. We dedicate ourselves to it and place it on the pedestal of our hearts. We draw our identity from it. We all make idols out of our love. We love something so much we begin to worship it.
But it never quite satisfies does it? Whoever or whatever it is never quite returns the full amount of love we give to it. Our love doesn’t make our life perfect, our love falls short, our love could even be spurned. At some point disillusionment sets in, our love fades, we becomes bored of it, disenchanted with its pleasures, we have the sense that there is something else, something missing.
What is missing from our lives is a relationship with God. Man was made in the image of God and as such needs to be a relationship with God in order to feel any measure of true and lasting happiness and satisfaction.
Why aren’t we in this relationship?
As Paul says in Romans about all of mankind:
“For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.”
Romans 1 v 21
Without God our existence is ‘futile’, pointless, without any meaning. Without God we have to cry out:
says the Teacher.
Everything is meaningless.”
Ecclesiastes 1 v 2
Because of our wickedness all humans:
“Exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshipped and served created things rather than the Creator – who is forever praised. Amen.”
Romans 1 v 25
Success, wealth, sport, hobbies, celebrites, anything else we can put before God is a created thing and therefore a lie.
What are the consequences of our failed relationship with God?
Because human beings choose not to obey God and glorify him as we should then:
“They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant, and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they are senseless, faithless, heartless and ruthless.”
Paul doesn’t mince his words here. I know I’ve committed 90% of the sins there, in thought if not in action, and I think if we’re all being honest we can all admit that Paul’s description is an accurate one.
What are the final consequences of our failed relationship with God?
The result of our damaged relationship with God is death and after that the eternal punishment of Hell. As Jesus says:
“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction and many enter through it.”
Matthew 7 v 13
“He [Jesus] will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and the majesty of his power.”
2 Thessalonians 1 v 8 – 9
The Bible is clear on the subject – those that refuse to acknowledge God as their Lord and Ruler and repent of their sins are damned for all eternity.
Is that it? Is there more?
Yes! There is so much more. Our relationship with God is shattered and in pieces. On our own we could never make it up, we could never enter into another relationship with God, our lives would always be empty and his wrath would always be upon us.
But in God’s mercy and abounding love he provided us with a way to salvation.
“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: while we were still sinners Christ died for us.”
Romans 5 v 8
And verse 11
“Not only is this so, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.”
Jesus died on the cross to take the punishment for our sins. So that whoever repents and believes in him shall be reconciled to God. Through Jesus Christ our relationship with God can be repaired.
And, more than that, we are given new hearts. Paul speaks about us “being dead to sin but alive to Christ.” Our old sinful, god hating, hearts are miraculously replaced by new hearts that beat in time to God’s will. Suddenly we gain the ability to really and truly love God.
What has this to do with the question: what is the greatest love of your life?
Everything! The greatest love of my life is God. I can only write those words in truth because through God’s love he sent his Son to die on the cross for my sins. And more than that he led me to repentance and put within me a new heart that allows me to say: I love God.
What does loving God mean?
Well, it means obeying his commands, following Christ’s example and to do everything possible to bring glory to God.
That sounds impossible
Yes, it is. I fail at it – a lot! But Christ is with me and for me. I have been given a new heart but that is only the start of the work in me. Everyday God is pruning my sinful urges, gently guiding me to walk more in him and less in the world!
This leads me onto the next wonderful truth: the greatest love of my life loves me back!
Wow! God, Creator, all knowing, all powerful, holy, wise and good loves me: a wretched sinner. The amazing nature of this truth cannot be over emphasised. God in his love provided humanity with a way to salvation. And then in his love guided people to see the truth of this salvation. And then in his love looks after his people and cares for them – building them to be better Christians and making them more and more righteous. Love for God is never unrequited!
But what does this love mean?
Again, God’s love for me means everything. I know that God’s love me. Therefore, why do I worry? Why do I fear? Why do I feel down hearted? For the Lord God loves me. And is good to me. What more could I ever ask for?
And if God loves me so much how much more should I love him back! Why do I place other things before God? Who or what could possibly ever return even a fraction of God’s love to me? Nothing should replace God in my heart. God is everything I need.
The world offers only false love, deceiving love, shallow, aimless, superficial love, love that doesn’t satisfy, love that doesn’t fulfil, love that is pale and weak.
But God offers an abounding love, a love deeper than the deepest ocean and wider than the widest sea. For while we were still sinners Christ died for us! So when I ask the question: who is your greatest love? Realise two things:
First, your greatest love needs to be God, you need to repent of your sins, you need to seek God because eternal damnation awaits those that don’t.
And secondly, the greatest love in the world is not your love for God but rather God’s love for you. That exceeds any description, that is enough to satisfy any aching void, that alone will bring you true happiness, joy and lasting delight. For through God’s love he provided salvation through the sacrifice of his Son for our sins and through God’s love he has promised to care for his people until the end of the age.