The needs you experience are invitations.
Let me explain. All of us are created with deep, profound needs, so naturally, we seek to satisfy those needs. But unfortunately, we often seek to satisfy those needs in ways that are not only unsatisfying but also sometimes downright harmful.
Don’t miss the fact that God’s way of living is also the way of loving.
We often mistake distraction for satisfaction. But a need deferred or ignored is not the same as a need fulfilled. That’s why Jesus invites us into God-designed ways of living that will meet our needs as nothing else ever can.
But it’s up to us to respond to this invitation to join him on the journey.
And don’t miss the fact that God’s way of living is also the way of loving. God intends us to live in three directions — upward, inward, outward. That’s the movement described in the greatest commandment. (I wrote a book on this topic too if you want to read more). Loving God takes us up, learning how to love ourselves takes us in, and then we go out and love our neighbors.
We don’t just live in three directions—Jesus invites us to love in three directions.
Your deepest, most fundamental needs are invitations to love upward, inward and outward.
And to properly respond to that invitation, we must be intentional about God and how we satisfy our needs. Instead of drifting through life or merely reacting to whatever happens to come our way, we need to figure out what’s best…and then do that!
Jesus understands that we need to know what life is about. All of it, and not just a single season, because our seasonal answers are insufficient.
When we’re teenagers, for example, we think life is all about the superlatives. We hope life grants us an identity such as smartest, coolest, funniest, hottest, fastest. That’s how it was for me, anyway, at Cedar Ridge High. When the yearbook came out, the first section we’d flip to was the class awards. And in 1994 I was finally immortalized with my own superlative: Most Unique.
For a former baseball jock who was too cool (and stoned) to play senior year, this was the pinnacle. Sure, student representative to the district school board was nice. Homecoming king was sweet. Student council president didn’t get me a lot of dates, but it would look good on my college applications.
But doing all those things in plaid pants and dreadlocks? Most. Unique. Ever.
What I didn’t understand at the time was that I wasn’t the most unique…and neither was anyone else.
All of us at Cedar Ridge High were just kids trying to find our place in the world. However we tried to construct that, we were still searching for meaning and purpose. We wanted to understand the art of living, but our methods were about as helpful as trying to empty a swimming pool with a coffee cup.
Jesus is saying, ‘Come closer. Don’t be far away. Let me work in your life. You’re almost home.’
Too often we humans are satisfied with small definitions. Over the years I’ve inhabited many different roles: athlete, prep, stoner, musician, wanderer, pastor. None of those roles is the answer to life for me. The answer, in all those roles, is to practice the art of living. To embody the greatest commandment and satisfy my God-given needs by living upward, inward and outward.
Which takes us to Mark 12:28-34, the Greatest Commandment:
“One 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?” “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”
“Well said, teacher,” the man replied. “You are right in saying that God is one, and there is no other but him. To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding, and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.”
When Jesus saw that he had answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” And from then on no one dared ask him any more questions.
Reread the second half. The scribe considers Jesus’ answer, and he’s like, “You’re right, teacher. I agree! What you’ve said is the most important thing in the world!”
And then what Jesus doesn’t say is, “You agree? Great, it’s a done deal.”
Instead, he thinks about the scribe’s wise answer and then says, “You are not far from the kingdom of God” (verse 34).
In other words, outside the Kingdom of God. Not yet living there, as an insider.
But here’s the astounding part: Jesus’ words are an invitation, not a condemnation. Jesus is saying, “Come closer. Don’t be far away. Let me work in your life. You’re almost home.”
No matter how long we’ve been walking with Jesus, let’s respond to his invitation in the details of our lives this week…Come closer. Our needs, our desires and our dreams are invitations to come before the throne of Jesus and allow him to both meet our needs and re-orient our dreams to match his.