Your Gift to God
Community Group Discussion Guide

Sermon Summary - This message discusses the gift God wants from us this Christmas. He gave us the gift of His love by sending His one and only Son to be the sacrifice for our sins and to be the One who would reconcile us to the Father. The gift He desires from us is our love. Not forced, half-hearted, obligatory love, but love that flows from a grateful heart because He first loved us! Jesus stated we should love God will all our heart, soul, mind and strength. In other words, we should love God with our whole being, with everything we are, and everything we have! What is meant by loving God with our heart, mind, soul and strength are the topics of discussion in this Christmas message.

Discussion Guide

1. While it’s fun to receive gifts, it can really be fun to give a gift to someone you love and watch their excitement. Like watching your kids open their gifts at Christmas or giving your spouse a special gift. Talk about a gift you’ve given that had special meaning and brought you special joy.

2. Have you ever thought about the smile it must put on God’s face when a person accepts His gift of love? Have you ever thought about the smile it must put on God’s face when a person then gives Him the gift of their love and commitment? Jesus gives us several human stories to describe God’s excitement when a person accepts His love. Read the following two stories and then discuss your thoughts.
Luke 15:3  Then Jesus told them this parable:
Luke 15:4  "Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Does he not leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it?
Luke 15:5  And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders
Luke 15:6  and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, 'Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.'
Luke 15:7  I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.
Luke 15:8  "Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Does she not light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it?
Luke 15:9  And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbors together and says, 'Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.'
Luke 15:10  In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents."

3. In Jewish thought, the soul was the seat of the will and feelings. It's the place where decisions are made. And of course those decisions are based on what the heart wants.
Soul and life were sometimes used interchangeably in the Jewish language because what you will to do is what you will do and what you do is your life. Discuss this concept and what the following Scripture means to this discussion!

Mat 15:17  "Don't you see that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and then out of the body?
Mat 15:18  But the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and these make a man 'unclean.'
Mat 15:19  For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander.
Mat 15:20  These are what make a man 'unclean'; but eating with unwashed hands does not make him 'unclean.'"

4. If you allow your soul to become self absorbed, self-centered, self-seeking, self-serving, or to use a little Christmas gift terminology, wrapped up in yourself,
you will end up losing all that really matters in life…Relationship.
Relationship with others and most importantly relationship with God! How does loving God with all our heart, soul, and mind help us avoid such a tragedy?
Mat 16:25  For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it.
Mat 16:26  What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?



SERMON NOTES
Your Gift to God

We can't forget the detail that matters most at Christmas the gift that was given!

Last week we talked about God's gift to us on that first Christmas many years ago!

16“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
John 3:16 (NIV)

As we approach the day we celebrate the birth of our Savior, we think back to the stories of that first Christmas day. Joseph and Mary looking for a place to stay the night in Bethlehem. No room in the inn or upper room, whatever. They had to settle for a place where the animals were kept. Stable, cave, shed, barn, wherever!

We think about the Shepherds in the fields keeping watch over their sheep that night and the angels appearing before them to announce the birth of the Savior!

We also think about the wise men who went to see the One who was born King of Israel! However, as the video pointed out, the wise men did not visit on the night of Jesus' birth.

We know this because of the following verse...

9After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was.
Matthew 2:9 (NIV)

10When they saw the star, they were overjoyed.
Matthew 2:10 (NIV)

11On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh.
Matthew 2:11 (NIV)

Let me interject, you don't have to go home and remove the wise men from your nativity scene! Those nativity scenes remind us when it comes to worshiping Jesus, whether you are a lowly shepherd or a wealthy wise man, we all should bow before the King of Kings and Lord of Lords to worship!

Even though the wise men were not Jewish, the Bible tells us they went in search of the One who would fulfill the Old Testament prophecies. We know they expected to find Him because they brought gifts.

They were very special gifts. Often referred to as treasures, because they were quite valuable.


The gifts were specific and prophetic. It seems the wise men knew just the right gifts to bring!

Gold
A Gift of Value! Precious metal. Used to fashion crowns for Kings.


Prophetic

Rev 14:14  I looked, and there before me was a white cloud, and seated on the cloud was one "like a son of man" with a crown of gold on his head and a sharp sickle in his hand.

Incense - Frankincense
A Symbolic Gift. An ingredient used in making the perfume for the most holy place in the tabernacle.

Prophetic

2 Cor 2:14  But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him.

 Myrrh
A Useful gift!
An aromatic resin used as an ingredient in anointing oil, applied as perfume, placed in clothes to deodorize,and used to embalm bodies.

Prophetic

John 19:38  Later, Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for the body of Jesus. Now Joseph was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly because he feared the Jews. With Pilate's permission, he came and took the body away.

John 19:39  He was accompanied by Nicodemus, the man who earlier had visited Jesus at night. Nicodemus brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds.

John 19:40  Taking Jesus' body, the two of them wrapped it, with the spices, in strips of linen. This was in accordance with Jewish burial customs.

Isn't it amazing how every detail of the Christmas story has great importance. The wise men had seen that special star and it led them to where Jesus was and when they found Him, they bowed down and worshiped Him and then gave Him their treasures.

I wonder, have we come this morning expecting to see Jesus? Have we come to bow down and worship the Savior? Most of you have probably finished your Christmas shopping and have your gifts ready for your loved ones.

But I ask you this morning have you anything for your Savior? You might say,
"Pastor Larry, talk about shopping for someone who has everything! What could I possibly have that God would want or need?"

I'm really glad you asked!!!

At a time of year when it's all about the gifts for a lot of people, this morning I want you know there's just one gift God wants from you.

It's a gift only YOU can give!

 Discussion of this gift is found many times in the New Testament and many times in the Old Testament. Our text is found in one of the discussions in the New Testament.

 It was between Jesus and a teacher of the Law. Let's read it and see if we can figure out what our gift to God should be.

28One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”
Mark 12:28 (NIV)

29“The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one.
Mark 12:29 (NIV)

30Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’
Mark 12:30 (NIV)

31The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”
Mark 12:31 (NIV)

Your Gift to God…

Love the Lord!

30Love the Lord your God...
Mark 12:30a (NIV)

So there you have it. The gift God wants from you this Christmas is you! It's your love! That's all He's every really wanted from us. There's no gift we could offer God that could even come close to the gift of love.

And here's the deal…
God doesn't want token love!
He doesn't want half-hearted love!
He doesn't want obligatory love!
 

We don't want someone to love us because they have to. We want them to want to love us!!
This Christmas, the gift God desires from you is genuine love! Not fake or false, but real and true!

Okay, I want to give my love to God! How does a human being love God?
Jesus tells us in our text and what a lot of people don't know is Jesus was simply reminding this teacher of the law, what God told the Israelites many, many, years ago!

Listen to Jesus' words...

30Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’
Mark 12:30 (NIV)

Now lets go back to the Old Testament and see what God had already told the Israelites, but somehow, they seemed to miss...

4Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.
Deuteronomy 6:4 (NIV)

5Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.
Deuteronomy 6:5 (NIV)

6These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts.
Deuteronomy 6:6 (NIV)

7Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.
Deuteronomy 6:7 (NIV)

8Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.
Deuteronomy 6:8 (NIV)

9Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.
Deuteronomy 6:9 (NIV)

It's amazing to me how much of what Jesus taught can be found in the Old Testament. Why? Jesus gives us the answer...

17“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.
Matthew 5:17 (NIV)

Ok, if the law is a law of love and the greatest commandment is to love God, we need to look at the ways we are to love God! The four ways listed by Jesus are intertwined and overlap.

Your Gift to God…

Your Heart!

30Love the Lord your God with all your heart ...
Mark 12:30 (NIV)

In Jewish thought, the heart was the thinking part of a person that chose to love. The heart mattered because it was the place from which motives flowed! It mattered because it was the place where the fervor and fire of love was kindled!

The writer of the book of Hebrews would have had this in mind when he wrote the following words...

19Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus,
Hebrews 10:19 (NIV)

20by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body,
Hebrews 10:20 (NIV)

21and since we have a great priest over the house of God,
Hebrews 10:21 (NIV)

22let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith...
Hebrews 10:22 (NIV)

 You see, your heart is the heart of the matter! If your heart doesn't belong to God you can't give God your love. Why?

If your one of those, "It's all about the gifts," kind of person and things are what you treasure most, then you won't be able to keep the great commandment. Why?
Jesus explained it to His disciples...

19“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.
Matthew 6:19 (NIV)

20But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.
Matthew 6:20 (NIV)

21For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
Matthew 6:21 (NIV)

The next way in which we love the Lord is very close to the first! Let me show you.

Your Gift to God…

Your Soul!

30Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul...
Mark 12:30 (NIV)

In Jewish thought, the soul was the seat of the will and feelings. It's the place where decisions are made. And of course those decisions are based on what the heart wants.

Soul and life were sometimes used interchangeably in the Jewish language because what you will to do is what you will do and what you do is your life.

The best way to describe this is found in these words of Jesus...

24Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.
Matthew 16:24 (NIV)

25For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it.
Matthew 16:25 (NIV)

26What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?
Matthew 16:26 (NIV)

What in the world does that mean? Save your life and lose it, lose your life save it?

It means just what it says...

If you allow your soul to become self absorbed, self-centered, self-seeking, self-serving, or to use a little Christmas gift terminology, wrapped up in yourself,
you will end up losing all that really matters in life…Relationship.
Relationship with others and most importantly relationship with God!

And we must never forget God is the source of life, and the giver of life!!

Your Gift to God…

Your Mind!

30Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind ...
Mark 12:30 (NIV)

In Hebrew, Jewish thought, the mind was the part of the heart which housed reason and understanding. Mind is sometimes used interchangeably with heart.

With all the infinite wisdom God has, He still desires the gift of your thoughts! He desires to be in your thoughts! Is it not very special when you know your on someones mind. When you know your in someone's thoughts?

God wants the gift of knowing you love Him so much that He's in your thoughts. In fact He tells us this in many ways in Scripture...

3You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you.
Isaiah 26:3 (NIV)

And here's the way the old King James Version puts it. I kinda like it...

Isa 26:3  Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee.


The Psalmist gave testimony to the difference it makes when a person has God on their thoughts and mind...

3Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you.
Psalm 63:3 (NIV)

4I will praise you as long as I live, and in your name I will lift up my hands.
Psalm 63:4 (NIV)

5My soul will be satisfied as with the richest of foods; with singing lips my mouth will praise you.
Psalm 63:5 (NIV)

6On my bed I remember you; I think of you through the watches of the night.
Psalm 63:6 (NIV)

7Because you are my help, I sing in the shadow of your wings.
Psalm 63:7 (NIV)

8My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me.
Psalm 63:8 (NIV)

And because God upholds us with His right hand, we are able to give this last aspect of love to God...

Your Gift to God…

Your Strength!

30Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’
Mark 12:30 (NIV)

This is sort of the wrap up of the verse. When the Hebrews talked of doing something with all your strength, they were talking about giving it your all! Giving it your very best!  

Loving God with your whole being, your whole life, with all your heart! It's kind of like the modern statement...

"I heart you!"

But you might say, "Brother Larry, given my circumstances right now, I don't really have any strength left! I'm tired and I'm weary! I'm so weak and burdened! How can I give God something I don't have?

Paul felt this way. We don't know what he was struggling with, but here's what he said...

8Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me.
2 Corinthians 12:8 (NIV)

9But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.
2 Corinthians 12:9 (NIV)

This Christmas, give God your heart, your soul, your mind and whatever's left of your strength, and I promise you He will make up the difference!!

Did you ever think about the fact God wouldn't ask us to do something He hasn't done!

When God gave His gift to us, He did so in the same way He has asked us to love Him.

God loved us with all His heart, mind, soul and strength! Had He not loved us this way, there's no way He would have allowed His One and Only Son to leave Heaven, come to this old world and die on a cross for you and me! Just would not have happened if God hadn't loved us with all His heart, soul, mind and strength.

This morning we're going to receive the Lord's communion. By doing so we will do two things.

We will remember and give thanks for the gift God gave to us on that first Christmas, which began in a cradle and ended up on a Cross!

As you eat the bread, give thanks for the torn flesh of our Lord, which was broken so that your broken life might be mended! As you remember His gift to you, offer your life to Him as your Christmas gift back to Him!

 As you drink the juice, remember His life blood that was poured out in order to cover the stench and stain of your sin. Offer the filthy rags of your life to Him so that He can clothe you in His righteousness.

 You see, we give to Him our broken hearts, our darkened souls, our troubled minds, and our ever weekend strength and He'll work the miracle of Christmas by giving you His gift of salvation!

 Let's pray!!!

 It may seem like a terrible gift to give to God, your broken life and filthy clothing, but it's what He wants from you this Christmas.
He'll work a Christmas miracle and mend your broken heart and clothe you in His righteousness!