Loveless

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 6:5Without love

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?

  1. 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
  1. 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. 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
  1. 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
  1. 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.

Nim

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The Work under Our Work

Sometimes working for a church scares me.

I will always be inadequate at serving such a large and diverse group of people, there are some things I’m just not good at, opportunities that I miss, and my own sin gets in the way, distorting my desire to do good.

Last week I had a conversation at church with someone I’d not met before, my intention was to confidently welcome them, but I walked away feeling like a failure. I hadn’t said things I should, I didn’t come across as I wanted too, and I felt stupid and discouraged.

But I remembered a quote I’d seen and mentioned to a friend earlier that day, and it gave me the perspective I needed in the moment: “You’ll never take pleasure in your work until you realize that the ‘work under your work’ has all been done by Jesus Christ.” Tim KellerGod-At-Work-

This is something I’ve continued to think about this week, as several of my ‘best laid plans’ have fallen apart, and I’ve grappled with rising stress (and potentially spiritual opposition too). I think that this simple fact is vital for a Christian to remember, whatever kind of work you do, and whether it’s going badly or really well.

The Vital Work Is Done

The important things can’t be threatened because Christ’s salvation work on the cross is complete. Our identity as loved, forgiven, children of God is established. He is at work to bring everything under the Lordship of Jesus Christ forever!

Look at how the Apostle Paul sums things up in the verses below:

 But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. Ephesians 2:4-10

 I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. Galatians 2:20

Paul makes the link for us – we live our lives now in the light of all that has already been done for us, and what God continues to do on our behalf.


His work goes before our work
His work directs our work
His work enables our work.
His work under-girds our work
His work completes our work.

So we rely on God’s work for us because: Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labour in vain. Psalm 127:1    

10 Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.11 If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. 1 Peter 4:10-11

A Lightened Burden
We all experience failure, disappointment, and times of worry about our work or responsibilities. But because of this knowledge we can go about our work and service with humble confidence, joy, peace, purpose, and resolve.
When things crumble, we don’t have to!

The pressure dissipates when we recall that Jesus has already done all that is needed, he wants us to remain in his presence with a yoke and burden that are easy and light (because he shoulders the weight!): ‘Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”Matthew 11:28-29


When we’re not up to the task we can go on, looking to Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.

Praise Him

Nim

P.S If you want to think more about this topic, John Piper writes about why it’s a great thing that God works for us here.