Love God, Not the World, Part 1
About the Guest
Dennis Rainey reveals seven principles that will help you make the most of your days. The world is passing away, and so are all of its desires. We would be wise to cling to the One who will last.
Love God, Not the World, Part 1
Bob: “How central is your relationship with God to everything else that’s going on in your life?” and “How does that relationship with God show up every day?” Here’s Dennis Rainey.
Dennis: Are you, for practical purposes, living life like an atheist?—not acknowledging God. I have to tell you—I am amazed—some days that I can go several hours without having talked to God. Now, I’m ashamed of that. I ought to be conversing with Him from my feet hitting the floor—the first moments of consciousness in the morning—until I put my head on the pillow at night. But some of us leave God out of most of our lives—it’s not just a few hours on an occasional day.
In Matthew 22, what does He say?
“Love God with all your heart, soul, and mind, and love your neighbor as yourself.” He summarized all of the Law and the Prophets, and they marveled that He said this; but Jesus distilled it down: “What is the greatest commandment?”—“Love God.” Christians are great about talking about the love of God, but I think we may be below average in practicing how we love God.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Thursday, July 26th. Our host is Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. If God is not at the center of your life, and your marriage, and your family, then what is? If you say God’s at the center of your life, and your marriage, and your family, how does that show up? We’ll talk about that today with Dennis Rainey. Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. I bet this has happened to you—I bet there have been times, over the last year or two, when something has popped up, and you’ve just found yourself quoting yourself from the book that you wrote, Choosing a Life that Matters, where you just—one of those principles that was one of the seven principles in the book—you’ve said, “This is a fresh place to deploy this principle.” Has that happened?
Dennis: It has. Actually, what I’ve found myself doing is reciting the seven principles that the book is written about—it’s the book, Choosing a Life that Matters. It started out being a message I gave to seminary and university graduates at a commencement address. I’ve now done this a couple of times—spoke to NRB, as you know.
Dennis: Interestingly, Bob, I gave this—back last May—
—at a local university, here in central Arkansas. I think young people / I think older people—in fact, I got stopped in the hall, on the way into doing studio—a guy came up and said: “I sent your book to a few of my friends. I got more letters from people, who said, ‘That changed my perspective of who God is.’ I’ve actually passed it on to other people.”
I’m not about selling books here—that’s not the point. The point is—the book may be the meatiest little book I have ever written; and I mean that literally, because it’s just a bit larger than a postage stamp.
Bob: Well, hang on—you have it open there. Close it up. You said you found yourself reflecting on all seven of these principles?
Dennis: That’s right.
Bob: Can you give me all seven without looking?
Dennis: I don’t know if I can. [Laughter] There have been a few things going on in my life recently, but I guess I can try.
It’s: “Seek God, not sin.”
Dennis: “Fear God, not men.”
Dennis: “Love God, not the world.”
Dennis: “Believe God—
Bob: You peeked for that one. [Laughter]
Dennis: I did—“not the deceiver.”
“Obey God, not your feelings.”
Dennis: “Worship God, not comfort.”
And the last one is “Serve God, not self.”
Now, you notice all of those are about God; they’re not about us. In fact, if anything, they’re calling us away from ourselves to focus on who God is and be reminded of that statement that I’ve made, here, on FamilyLife Today a lot in the last three or four years; and that is: “The most important thing about you”—what is it, Bob?
Bob: —is what you believe about God.
Dennis: It’s what you’re thinking about God; because as you think about God, you’re going to rightly evaluate who you are.
Dennis: It’s only as you think rightly about God that you can accurately depict who you really are and your need of salvation—you’re a sinner; you’re saved by grace—you’re not nearly as hot stuff as you’d like to think you are.
Bob: This is a book that’s not specifically about marriage or family; but at the core, it’s about how we live with God and how we live with others. That plays out in our families before it plays out anywhere else; doesn’t it?
Dennis: Well, I was thinking about how to speak to a group of seminarians, who had spent—some of them, three years; others four or five; others, getting a Ph.D.—they might have spent—I don’t know—six, seven, eight years in study. I was asking the question: “What do you say to somebody, who’s been studying the Bible for eight years with some of the finest theologians in the world?”
It was when, I believe, God gave me the idea: “Why don’t you try to summarize what I’ve called people to do in the Bible? Just be as succinct as you can, Rainey.” Of course, you know, Bob, that’s difficult for me. But I did; I sat down, and these seven came to mind—so put it in this book called Choosing a Life that Matters. We’ve now, here on FamilyLife Today, made it through a couple of them.
Dennis: “Seek God, not sin,” “Fear God, not men.”
Bob: Right; and we have links, by the way, if listeners would like to go back and listen to us having those conversations around those principles. We’re going to pick up today with principle number three; right?
Dennis: Yes; and I’ll just say—each of these principles is something you need to be practicing in your own life / in your own relationships, and you need to be passing them on to the next generation. This would make a great devo for a family just to chew on over a period of seven weeks or seven meals that you’re together over a period of months. I mean, I know how busy families are; but the point is: “Talk about who God is, and what your relationship with Him is, and apply it to your most meaningful relationships that you have.”
Bob: The principle we’re going to talk about today is the idea that we are to love God and not the world. When I read that chapter heading, I immediately went to—
—is it 1 John?—where it says, “Do not love the world or the things of the world.”
Dennis: That’s exactly right, Bob. In fact, have you taken a look at the book?
Bob: I’ve read the book, yes; it just jumped out at me.
Dennis: Well, let me read it—1 John 2:15-17: “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the desires of the flesh, the desires of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world, and the world is passing away along with all its desires. But whoever does the will of God abides forever.”
Here’s the thing—as I started writing this book—and this is kind of terrible to admit—but as I started writing this book, I realized I talked a lot, over the years, about loving God; because it’s one of the things that Jesus Christ commanded us to do.
In Matthew 22, what does He say?—“Love God with all your heart, soul, and mind, and love your neighbor as yourself.”
Dennis: He summarized all of the Law and the Prophets, and they marveled that He said this; but Jesus distilled it down: “What is the greatest commandment?”—“Love God.” Christians are great about talking about the love of God, but I think we may be below average in practicing how we love God.
I kind of pulled back and I asked myself the question, “What are the best lessons I have learned in learning how to love God?” I came up with a handful, Bob. The first one: “Take an inventory of the loves of your life.” J.C. Ryle was a preacher in the 19th century, and he was a really pithy writer and speaker.
He basically came up with a list of things that, when you evaluate them, it really explains what you do if you really love someone. Listen to what he wrote:
If we love a person, we like to think about him or her.
Think about when you first fell in love.
Dennis: You were preoccupied with Mary Ann.
Bob: I was.
Dennis: I was preoccupied with Barbara; I still am. I’m sure you’re still preoccupied with Mary Ann.
We like to think about the object of our affection, so what have you been thinking about? Do a little inventory. What occupies your thinking?
Here’s a second one—he said:
If we love a person, we like to hear about him.
You love hearing good news about somebody you really love. I love my kids—I love when my kids or their spouses call and tell us something great that’s happened to them or our grandkids. We love hearing about those things.
Here’s another one:
If we love a person, we like to hear from him and read what he has to say.
Now, think about it. Didn’t you enjoy getting letters from your dad when he was alive, Bob?
Dennis: I saved those letters.
Dennis: I really relished getting an envelope, because my dad had this distinctive left-hand writing, where—he had a magnificent handwriting. I ran across a bunch of letters and different papers that he had signed. I just had to almost keep them all, because his handwriting is so good. Why?—because I love hearing about him/knowing him.
Bob: You know, people have asked me on occasion, “If your house was burning down, what would you run in and grab?” I have a collection of my dad’s letters from World
War II—I would grab that; and then, I have a shoebox full of letters from Mary Ann from back when we were dating—and I’d grab both of those. You’re right; it’s those things that connect us, relationally, to one another; and those are valuable.
Dennis: They are.
Here’s another one—he said:
If we love a person, we like to please him.
So, if you love God, you obey God. You like to please God. You’re preoccupied, thinking about, “How can I really please my heavenly Father?”
If we love a person, we like his friends.
Do you like God’s friends that you meet at church?
Dennis: Well, most of them. [Laughter]
Bob: People in the family of God, where you go, “Okay; that’s kind of an uncle in the basement”; right? [Laughter]
Dennis: Yes; exactly.
Here’s another one:
If we love a person, we are jealous about his name and honor.
Bob, you’ve heard me tell the story about being in a restaurant with my entire family—it was Fajita Willie’s. The floor was concrete—I’m convinced just for my family. We would go in there and would eat deep-fried chicken fingers and French fries. We were glad, because we got to leave when we were through eating and—
Bob: —somebody else cleaned up the mess.
Dennis: That’s exactly right.
Well, I went and used the restroom. I was washing my hands before I was about to go back out to be with my family again.
A couple of military men were in the restroom, and they were taking the Lord’s name in vain—I mean, it was really vile. I stood there, washing my hands and thought, “Am I going to say anything?—because I really love the one they’re talking about.”
Finally, I dried my hands and I turned around. I said: “Guys, I just want to thank you for your service. You’ve protected my family—I really mean that. But I also want to tell you—you just took the name of my Savior, Jesus Christ / His name in vain half a dozen times. I have to tell you something—you guys can do better than that. It offends me.” I walked out of that bathroom, not as fast as I could; those guys could have broken me in half. [Laughter]
But, you know, if you love someone, you really do like to defend his name and honor him.
A couple more:
If we love a person, we like to talk to him.
There’s a good inventory in your heart.
Are you, for all practical purposes, living life like an atheist?—not acknowledging God. I have to tell you—I am amazed—some days that I can go several hours without having talked to God. Now, I’m ashamed of that. I ought to be conversing with Him from my feet hitting the floor—the first moments of consciousness in the morning—until I put my head on the pillow at night. But some of us leave God out of most of our lives—it’s not just a few hours on an occasional day.
Dennis: One last one—finally:
If we love a person, we like to always be with them.
Now, do you like to be with God? Do you set aside time to be with God? Do an inventory—just look back over your past week: “Are you doing that? Are you expressing the love for Him that He expects of you?”
As I was preparing this, Bob, I thought, “An inventory usually takes place in a warehouse.”
Dennis: The human heart is like a warehouse. You know this—the human heart manufactures all kinds of idols / all kinds of other things that we love. I think it’s just healthy to pull back, occasionally, and walk through the warehouse and walk down the aisles.
I recently went to a warehouse in Atlanta, Georgia. It was massive—300,000-square feet of warehouse under one roof, just aisle after aisle of different products/different things. I thought, “An inventory of my heart—what would be down the aisles?” I wrote down some of them.
By the way, these really come from that passage we read at the beginning of the broadcast: “Love not the world,” because there is the “lust of the flesh,”—that’s pleasure—there’s the “lust of the eyes,”—that’s wanting power—and there’s “the boastful pride of life”—
—that’s wanting the praise of men.
As you walk down the aisles, and you evaluate that passage, and you look up into all the stacks of stuff in your heart, which one of those three trips you up: pleasure, pride, praise of men? I’d add a couple others: possessions, power.
I can just tell you this—I’ve recently transitioned out of being the president and CEO of FamilyLife®—still doing radio with you, Bob, as you know—but that transition took about three years to take place. People in the last few months have come to me and said: “So, how are you doing? Do you miss it?”
It’s interesting, Bob—I have done a little inventory of my heart and I’ve said: “You know, I really don’t miss the power that came with the job. I miss the people.”
Now, it’s not that the power couldn’t grab ahold of you, but that wasn’t why I was doing what I was doing. It was people that motivate me. Now, I’ll tell you one thing I do miss, in addition to people, is being able to get things done; because you’re not able to quite accomplish the same amount when you don’t have the staff that you have to get it accomplished.
Dennis: But I think this idea of doing an inventory in your heart—just evaluating: “What have you been manufacturing?” Some folks, who are listening to our broadcast right now, have been manufacturing idols for years; and your warehouse needs a clearance sale—you need to clean it out!
By the way, I’m going to clean out the warehouse that has all of my books from 41 years of leading FamilyLife. I have not moved, in 41 years, where I have physically moved all the books; so Bob, I always kept them. I wasn’t throwing anything away. Well, you know what?
It’s time to get rid of excess weight.
Dennis: I think there’s a listener, right now, who may need to get rid of the excess weight of pleasure; maybe it’s repenting of pornography—maybe there’s an aisle that’s stacked full of the stuff, and you just have to get rid of it. Why?—because you’re not going to be able to love God if you’re completely possessed with that, or possessions, or power, or the praise of men. Do the inventory, and clean it out—clean it all out.
And then I would say this—and I’m going to ask you this, Bob—out of all five of those I mentioned, every person has a weakness; we have a propensity to sin. Keith, you and Megan, I’m going to ask you guys to weigh in on this too. You guys have always escaped me ever asking you on the broadcast.
Megan is leaving the room, now—
—she’s out in the production area.
Bob: “Got to go!”
Dennis: I think she—[going] to the powder room. [Laughter]
But, which one is the one that trips you up? Where’s your weakness?—where’s your Achilles heel?
I’ll tell you where mine is. After doing my own little inventory—and by the way, I did this as a result of writing this book; and I have to tell you—I like pleasure: I like great food; I like doing things that are fun; I like doing entertaining things. Pleasure can be an idol.
Okay; Bob, your turn.
Bob: I think I’m probably thee for four on the list.
Dennis: Well, I was going to vote for all of them; and then I thought, “That’s a cop-out.” I don’t mean that like a Pharisee—I really do struggle with all of them—I mean, my warehouse has had plenty of possessions, and power, and praise of men in it.
Bob: I do think that I’m not particularly tied to possessions, but I like things to go my way.
I like people to approve of what I’m doing.
I like the creature comforts that you experience. I remember, one time, getting invited to speak somewhere; and when I got there and found out where I would be lodging for that time,—[Laughter]
Dennis: I’ve lodged in one of those places too!
Bob: —I had to pull back and go, “Okay; why am I here?” And honestly, here I was, in conditions better than probably a third of the people on the planet, and it’s just I was used to nicer things.
It’s easy for us to grumble and grouse when we don’t have the pleasure we’re looking for, or the power that we think we would like, or the approval of men. I can see all of those tripping me up at different points in time.
Dennis: Alright; so we’re going out to the control room. Megan, I’ve never done this to you before on the broadcast.
Bob: He [Keith] says the mic is broken; he can’t turn on the mic there. [Laughter]
Dennis: We can read lips!
Keith: Something happened!
Dennis: Megan, we can read lips; and we’ll translate.
Keith: [Unable to hear clearly]—Bob.
Dennis: Megan, do you trust us to translate reading your lips to saying the right thing?
Megan: No. [Laughter]
Bob: No. [Laughter]
Dennis: If you feel comfortable—you’re a mom of two; right?
Bob: She’s nodding her head.
Megan: To say the praise of men sounds a bit much; but I am a people-pleaser, and I need people to think well of me.
Megan: That’s probably my one.
Dennis: It’s a real deal.
Keith: Well, I was going to order Megan to answer first, so that probably tells you what mine is. [Laughter]
Dennis: It took me a second. [Laughter]
Bob: You figured it out, though; didn’t you?
Dennis: I did; I did. I just never thought of you as being a power person. I just—I’m going to be on the watch-out for you.
Keith: Sorry; you said be honest!
Dennis: You do hold the power out there, though, don’t you? You could cause me to go away! [Laughter]
Keith: Think about the occupation—engineer; right? [Laughter] Control room—what’s it called, where I work?—the control room!
Dennis: The control room!
There are some people nodding their heads now—they’ve come clean.
They’re going: “That’s me. That’s me.”
Yes; I do think some people have turned on the broadcast today, thinking maybe they’d find out how to have romance in their marriage or how to raise their kids better; and maybe God wants to have a clearance sale out of your warehouse—wants to clean it out. What’s the action point for you? If you’re going to love God with all your heart, soul, and mind, you have to do it where there’s room—where there’s room for God to show up and be at the center of your heart.
I just challenge you: “Don’t put it off another day. Why in the world—why in the world would you continue eating the fragments that fall from the King’s table onto the floor when you can sit at the table and have a feast for the rest of your life?”—not that life becomes perfect.
You have to have a clearance sale, every once in a while, out of your warehouse. Those warehouses have a way of collecting stuff.
Love God, not the world.
Bob: I’ve been sitting here, thinking about the first of the Ten Commandments: “You shall have no other gods before Me.”
Dennis: I’m telling you—God’s after us on this one, and there’s a lot of stuff in the Bible about your heart.
Dennis: If you want to do a great Bible study, do a study about the heart.
Bob: Well, and if you want to dig in deeper to what we’ve been talking about today, get a copy of Dennis’s book, Choosing a Life that Matters. By the way, that book is available this month to folks who are helping support the ministry of FamilyLife. If you can help us with a donation this month, we’ll send you a copy of Dennis’s book as our thank-you gift. FamilyLife Today is listener-supported. We’re dependent on your donations for this ministry to survive; so “Thanks,” to those of you who support us as monthly Legacy Partners.
If you’re a regular listener, and you’ve never made a donation, we’d love to hear from you today. We’d love to send you a copy of Choosing a Life that Matters, by Dennis Rainey—
—you can donate, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com; or you can call 1-800-FL-TODAY to make a donation. Or you can mail your donation, along with your request for Dennis’s book, to FamilyLife Today at PO Box 7111, Little Rock, AR; and our zip code is 72223.
By the way, when you go online, we have a “30-Day Prayer Challenge” that we have just begun to encourage moms and dads to participate in, and grandparents as well. This is a back-to-school prayer challenge. As your children get ready to head off to elementary school, middle school, high school, college, it’s good for us, as parents, to be praying daily. FamilyLife will send you a daily prayer prompt to encourage you to be praying regularly for your children over a 30-day period as they get ready to head back to school. You can sign up for those prayer prompts to come to you.
Simply go to FamilyLifeToday.com—sign up online—and we’ll start sending you the prayer prompts immediately; okay? Again, find out more about the “30-Day Prayer Challenge” when you go to FamilyLifeToday.com.
Now, tomorrow, we’re going to talk more about loving God and not the world—about what that ought to look like in our lives. I hope you can be with us for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We will see you back tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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