Do you love God?
If you’re a Christian, maybe that seems like an obvious question with an obvious answer? If you’re not, perhaps it seems a curious and untried concept?
Yet as Kent Hughes says in the book I’m currently reading, this is ‘the quintessential question for everyone who wants to please God.’ Do you love him?
It is so easy to take our eyes away from this goal! We focus on good things – important things, like ‘quiet times’ and church attendance, Christian service, generosity, bible knowledge, prayer etc. But all of these things should be the results of one aim and the means to one end – to love God with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength. Deuteronomy 6:5
When Jesus is asked what the most important instruction in the Bible is, he reiterates this saying: ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment.’ Matthew 22:37-38
I am finding that sometimes I get so busy with everything that I’m doing, even the things I’m doing to please God, that I forget the main thing: Love. Without this, everything I do is emptied of meaning. After all, God doesn’t need me to serve him, loveless duty is not what he wants from the people that he has made, he wants loving relationship.
As the apostle Paul reminds us: The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. 25 And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else. 26 From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. 27 God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. Acts 17:24-27
12 And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God ask of you but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in obedience to him, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, 13 and to observe the Lord’s commands and decrees that I am giving you today for your own good? Deuteronomy 10:12-13
I need to be reminded often not to forget the main thing, not just because God desires this, but because love for God is the source of my joy and fulfilment too. Love for God is not meant to be a burden, but a gift! You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore. Psalm 16:11
The Love Gap
However, perhaps loving God is something that seems easy to talk about yet difficult to do. (And if you’re feeling discouraged by failure in this area please keep reading!) Where do we start?
- The Bible demonstrates repeatedly that love for God is a response. We love because he first loved us. 1 John 4:19 God has made the first move, and the second, and the third…! He loved us even as we ignored him, hated him, and rebelled against him. He came to earth in human form to die in our place on a Roman cross. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. John 15:13
- Love for God involves worship – we naturally praise the things that we love and admire, and you can find some wonderful examples of this in the Psalms: I love you, Lord, my strength. 2 The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. Psalm 18:1-2
- Love for God must include obedience: Those who accept my commandments and obey them are the ones who love me. . .And I will love them and reveal myself to each of them. John 14:21 For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome. 1 John 5:3
- Love for God needs cultivation; it won’t always be a natural response for us because we are sinful. True, deep, intimate love develops when we spend regular and dedicated time with someone, so we need to be intentional about growing in our love for God, by spending quality time with him alone in prayer and reading the Bible.
Don’t Give Up, He Won’t!
It’s easy to feel discouraged or defensive when we consider our love for God – it always looks so weak and insufficient compared to his love for us! He deserves perfect, all-consuming love and devotion, and we give him diluted love and distracted praise.
But I’m encouraging myself to trust in the reality of his faithful love for me as I journey towards a greater love for him in return. We must keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, the one who makes up for our failures, loving the Father perfectly and forgiving every sin, including our loveless-ness: This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins. 1 John 4:10
Just dwelling on the depth of his love for us should begin to stir our sluggish hearts in response.