Summary: What does it mean to "Love the Lord your God with all of your heart, all of your soul, all of your mind, and all of your strength"?
LAY DOWN YOUR LIFE
Mark 12: 28 - 31
In the gospel according to Mark, chapter 12, verse 30 Jesus says, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength."
If you think about it that is a lot of loving. All of your heart. There can be no other before him. Not mother, not father, not wife or husband, not children. No one. All of your mind. All of your waking hours you will keep him in your thoughts. All of your soul. You commit your soul to him in love. All of your strength. You must devote all of your energy in sickness and health to loving Him. But what of Love? Jesus tells us with what to love, but what does Love mean.
Well, of course, it’s for instance like loving your wife, or your mother, or your children, or brothers and sisters. But what does that mean. Turning to John 3, verse 16, we read, ’For God so loved the world that he gave ...... So to love means to give. Matthew makes it clear that we are to give to God with all of our heart, all of our soul, and all of our mind. There’s more. Turning to John 15 verse 13 we find Jesus saying, "Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends." I believe that "those you love" can be substituted for "friends" without loosing the intent of what Jesus is saying. If we truly love god, we are willing to, no, required to, lay down our lives for him.
Most Christians here in the USA, at the end of the twentieth century have not had to have our faith put to severe testing. Oh, we look around us and see all of the conflict and pain around us, and sometimes our faith becomes a little shaky. We wonder about God, and we ask, "If there is really a God, and if he is really such a loving God, why does he allow these things to happen?" We then rationalize an answer, and don’t give it much more thought. But compared to Christians who have gone before us, our testing is slight. We almost never have to put our lives on the line for our God.
I am going to tell you about some people who suffered that extreme test. They did put their lives on the line, and persevered. The people I am going to tell you about lived Jesus statement "Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his live for the ones he loves." They did "lay down their lives for the one they love." They are included in the great cloud of witnesses spoken of in Hebrews, chapter 12, verses 1 and 2 where it says
"Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God."
Polycarp was bishop of the church of Smyrna, now Izmir, Turkey, where he served for many years. Little is known of his early life and origins, but he is reputed to have associated with some of the twelve apostles, including John of Patmos. It may be that he is "The angel of the church at Smyrna" mentioned by John in Revelation 2, verses 8 through 10. In the second century, during the reign of emperor Marcus Aurelius, Polycarp was martyred because of his Christian faith. Documents from the period tell us about his testimony when challenged to deny his faith: (See Foxes Book of Martyrs)
Now as he was entering the stadium, there came to Polycarp a voice from heaven, "Be strong, and show thyself a man 0 Polycarp." No one saw who it was that spoke to him; but those of our brethren who were present heard the voice. And as he was brought forward, the tumult became great when they heard that Polycarp was taken. And when he came near, the proconsul asked him whether he was Polycarp. On his confessing that he was, the proconsul sought to persuade him to deny Christ, saying, "Have respect to thy old age," and other similar things according to their custom, "Swear by the fortune of Caesar- repent and say, Away with the Atheists." Then the proconsul urging him, and saying Swear and I will set thee at liberty, Reproach the Christ." And Polycarp declared, "Eighty and six years have I served him, and he never did me any injury:, how then can I blaspheme my king and my savior?