Bible passage: Mark 12:28-34
- Thinking back to Will’s message, what were the main themes that stood out to you? What questions did it raise? And what was God saying to you at this time?
Exploring the Issue
The interaction in Mark 12:28-34 emerges from debates amongst the Pharisees and the Sadducees. Maybe it’s useful to think of them as different denominations. We may debate about different things today, but certainly the scene of religious debate and discussion over any number of issues is familiar.
And in the midst of that Jesus is asked what is most important?
What follows are very familiar words, but pause long enough to notice, this is Jesus’ answer for what is most important.
And as such, this is where our vision comes from. We’re not trying to reinvent the wheel here. We’re not trying to ‘invent’ a vision. Jesus has already given us the most important one.
“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 commandment greater than these.”
Our paraphrase at NVBC:
Be desperate for God and passionate for people.
This is the language we use to remind us of what Jesus said here. And what we see for our church, and for everyone who calls it home.
But what does it actually look like?
This ‘simple’ Vision is not a call to a mere passing interest in God or people. Our Vision speaks of a heart-gripping, mind-transforming, life-changing approach to God and people.
Yet the big question that must drop out of our Vision is:
“Is that desperation and passion evident in MY life? Do I live in vital union with God and close relationship with others? Did I used to do life this way, but now not so much? How can that Vision be true of ME … and of US?”
Let’s ‘get back to basics’ of what it looks like to be an individual and a church that is truly Desperate for God, Passionate for People. Together we’ll explore this Vision in our study.
Desperate for God
- Reflect on and discuss the following thoughts about desperation a) speaking to a deep and genuine need and b) being about radical self-awareness:Desperation is a strong word that speaks to a deep and genuine need, rather than just a voluntary or casual desire. It exists between the space of a deep need and the place where it is authentically met.The question is not whether we are desperate for God, but if we are living with the awareness of a desperation for God that God has already placed in every human heart and soul. Desperation for God is about radical self-awareness.
- What might be some practical ways to re-gain some of the sight we may have lost of the desperation for God placed in us? How can we become more aware of it, recognise it, respond to it?
The question Jesus was asked in Mark 12 was a pretty common one. Normally it was posed to various rabbis in Jesus’ day as the sheer volume of commandments was overwhelming to many people. The background to the question was this: “There are sooooo many commandments we’re called to keep. If you could boil it all down to just one … what would it be?”
Jesus doesn’t like to be boxed in to just one important commandment, so He takes His hearers to two passages: Deuteronomy 6:4-5 and Leviticus 19:18 (you may want to read those passages in your Connect Group).
The Deuteronomy passage holds a special place in Judaism. Known as the ‘shema’, it still forms part of the Jewish believer’s daily prayers. As Old Testament theologian Raymond Brown reflects, they are called to “love the Lord because of his nature, work and promise.”
God’s Nature: The Lord is one. He is the only one they can love, there are no other gods. To worship other things is not only pointless (as other gods do not exist), it is also an affront to the kingship of God.
God’s Work: He has deliberately chosen them. He addresses them in these verses by their covenant name Israel, emphasising that they are a people bound to Him. The loving initiative is with Him, not them.
God’s Promise: The name God uses of Himself is Yahweh – The LORD. This was a reminder to Israel that God had covenanted Himself to them.
- What parallels do you see between God’s loving initiative with Israel, and now with you as part of His Church?
In Israel, God’s people engaged in all sorts of spiritual practices to continually inspire them in their relationship with God (e.g. regular feasts, passages of the Scripture tied to themselves, connecting with a local synagogue).
In recent years, at NVBC we have considered a range of spiritual practices. Together we’ve explored practices of relationship, experience, engagement and abstinence. We’ve studied books like ‘The Good and Beautiful God’; and in addition, the Inhabit podcast which Pastors Will and Benj have created, has further encouraged us in this area.
As you look back over the last couple of years, what spiritual practices have helped you grow in greater love for God? What’s helping you right now? What’s one spiritual practice you’d like to ‘give a go’ for the next month that might help you deepen your awareness and respond to the desperation god has placed in your heart and soul?
Passionate for People
In many ways this is the other side of the same coin. The more we live lives oriented around God, the more God gives us his heart. And God’s heart is for people!
The other commandment Jesus identifies is “Love your neighbour as yourself”. The same Greek word for ‘love’ is used in both instances – agape. Agape refers to a God-sourced, God-empowered love that is different to anything that anyone had experienced previously. In other words, as God’s people experienced God’s love, they would demonstrate that love in their relationships with other people.
1 Corinthians 13 is probably the most preached passage in the whole Bible. Who of us hasn’t heard this passage expounded when we’ve attended a wedding? Normally though, the Bible reader commences at verse 4, “Love is patient, love is kind …”
- Ask one member of the group to read the passage immediately preceding this verse (i.e. 1 Corinthians 13:1-3). What do these verses teach us about the importance of loving others?
- Read 1 John 3:14-18. In this passage John highlights the practical nature of loving others. What insights do you gain about the nature of love from this passage? In your relationships, do people regularly experience the agape love of God through you? What might this say about your present experience of the love of God?
Spend time as a group praying for each other. You might like to gather around one person at a time and lay hands on them, asking God for a fresh revelation of the depth of love He has for them.