Summary: Radical discipleship is self-giving for the sake of the world, and not self-satisfaction nor giving only to those who please us.
When you learn to sing, you must learn to sing scales. Scales start with “do” on the low end and you step up until you get to “do” again, where the frequency exactly doubles the one where you started. That’s a scale.
The syllables that you sing come from a medieval Spanish ballad. “Do re mi fa sol la ti do.” Shall we learn to sing scales? Everybody together now, the scale: “Do re mi fa sol la ti do.”
Very good! Give yourselves a hand! There’s only one thing wrong. That is not the scale we sing today. That is not the scale for our time. Here’s what we sing: “Do re mi mi mi mi mi mi”. Come on, sing the scale of our day: “Do re mi mi mi mi mi mi”.
Why is “do re mi mi mi mi” the scale of our time? Because when I get plenty of dough, I shout ‘ray, because it’s coming to me! When I get plenty of dough, I shout ‘ray, because it’s coming to me! We live with the values of the baby boom generation, who said “what comes to me stays with me.” “What’s mine is mine and I’ll keep it.” We live with the values of the post-war, post-welfare, post-limits world. Our scale sings right up to me and stops there. “Do re mi mi mi mi mi.”
We need to sing a new song. That’s what the Bible says, “Sing unto the Lord a new song.” I’m going to ask you to repeat after me several statements. Listen and repeat each one:
“It’s not about me”
“It’s not about dough”
[Looking at someone to the right] “It’s not even about you”
[Looking at someone to the left] “It’s not about you either”
“It’s about Jesus”
“It’s about a broken world”
A new song. A few years back Lionel Richie wrote a song, “Endless Love”. It was interpreted by the incomparable Diana Ross; it became the theme of a movie. A little later Mariah Carey and Luther Vandross redid it. “Endless Love”. As with a lot of songs, when you strip away the vocal styling and you lose the rhythm section, and get down to the words themselves, you find some interesting things. You discover what it really is about. I have to conclude that “Endless Love” is a maudlin song, a maudlin song.
Do you know that word maudlin? It means sentimental. It means gushy-gooey. It means emotional, tear-jerking, sappy. A maudlin song is one that oozes trite and teary talk. Is “Endless Love” a maudlin song, sickly, sugary sweet? Judge for yourselves. The lyrics, but no rhythm section, and certainly neither Diana nor Mariah:
“My love, there’s only you in my life
The only thing that’s right
My first Love
Your every breath that I take
Your every step I take
And I, I want to share all my love with you
No one else will do, you know
And your eyes
They tell me how much you care, oh yes
You will always be
My Endless Love.
Two hearts, two hearts that beat as one
Our lives had just begun
And forever, I’ll hold you close in my arms
I can’t resist your charms.
And I, I’ll be a fool for you
I’m sure, you know I don’t mind
Baby, you mean the world to me
I know, I found in you
My Endless Love.”
I will spare you the yeah, yeah, yeah, doo, doo, wooh part. “Endless Love” is a maudlin song. It’s sentimental, teary, sugary, gushy. And it is the hymn of our time. It sings what we want to hear. “Do re mi mi mi mi mi.”
However, we are here this morning to understand that with God, “Endless Love” is not just a maudlin song; it is a living, vibrant, rich reality. Endless love, from God, is not a maudlin, gushy, sentimental thing. It is tough. It is authentic. It does things. It changes lives.
With the help of the Apostle Paul, as he writes to the Philippian church, let’s take apart the “Endless Love” maudlin song and find out what a living, vibrant, rich, endless love really is.
Start with this: “There’s only you in my life, the only thing that’s right.” “There’s only you in my life, the only thing that’s right.” The singer has a problem with self-esteem, doesn’t he? “There’s only you in my life, the only thing that’s right.”
The issue is that we look to others to validate us. We look for other people to tell us we are okay. And it will never work. If there’s only one thing that’s right in your life, and it comes from somebody else, you are building on a very fragile foundation. You cannot derive meaning from what others give you. You cannot be somebody on the basis of others’ opinions.