As I prayed last night, I mused about what it means to ‘love God.’ It’s a good question to ponder since Jesus said that loving God with heart, soul, mind, and strength is the top priority for every one of us. Trained and shaped by the Pentecostal traditions of Christianity, my first thought is about emotional engagement. From my youth I absorbed the idea that knowing the Lord will include laughter, tears, passionate prayers; a very personal engagement. When I hear my people pray for ‘revival’ what they often mean, perhaps unconsciously, is that God will let them have a highly charged emotional encounter with the Holy Spirit. Time and experience have taught me that God is loved in obedient service, in steady discipline, in studious understanding, too. Perhaps you are old enough to remember that old song that includes this line – “Love is a many-splendored thing!” It is!
And, we need to learn to love God in many ways, too. Are you ‘in love’ with Christ Jesus? If you define that by applying the romantic ideals about love in our culture, you will be disappointed. Yes, we should be passionate to know our God. Christianity without passion just isn’t Biblical!
The grandest love story of all time is the story of God’s love for us, written in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. There’s mystery in it. I could never explain how I loved my wife of 41 years just with logical bullet points. Oh, I could have tried, but I found my love for her inspired by more than her beauty, her diligence, her grace, her gift of children- and whatever else I might list. I loved ‘her,’ the unique, complex person she was, with something that defied complete definition. In a similar way we cannot reduce the love of our Abba to a neat paragraph of theological jargon. We should be able to converse about our love for Him, but there is a mystery to it as well – one that should and will deepen with time and experience.
There is a story that Jesus told about that inspires our love for God. It isn’t a nice, pretty tale. It is about a rebellious son, a man who selfishly abused his father’s good heart, who made a mess of life. After he wasted his fortune and ruined his life he finally began to grasp a little about the love he had known! He decided to go home. There he expected to find condemnation and a place with the hired help, not in the family’s house.
What did he find? Love! “And while he was still a long distance away, his father saw him coming. Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him.” That is compelling stuff! It defies logic, cannot be explained. It’s just love. John says that ‘we love because God loved us first.’
We cannot love God apart from faithful acceptance of the fact of His grace and love. If we won’t start there with Him, with His love for us, inevitably we will turn our “love” into duty, deal making, and calculations of appeasement. God just wants us to respond to His declaration that He loves us and to weave that acceptance into every part of life, making it the foundation of every choice, every day. The Bible often talks about the concept of covenant with God. Jesus told us that God was writing a new covenant, an agreement, based not on our performance but on a gift. It’s not a deal, not a contract, that says “You do this and then I’ll do this.” It is a declaration of love, eternal, embracing, hopeful, amazing, and deep.
Ah, friend, do you love Him?
If we love Him, we will stop playing “let’s make a deal” with God. Our theology of love will go way beyond the idea that if we believe some facts, then we get the key to Heaven. Our love will be a tumultuous discovery of a Person, a weaving of His life into ours, surrender, acceptance. In the process, we will start to think as He does, acts as He wills; not because we must, but because we have become of His heart.
Let this ‘love letter’ inspire you today. Read of God’s many-splendored love for you and bring your heart home to Him.
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves.” (Ephesians 1:3-6, NIV)
So, “I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge,” Why?
So, “that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” (Ephesians 3:16-19, NIV)
Lord, teach me to love You as I ought to love.
Inspire me my mind, enthuse my heart.
When other lovers offer me their delights,
Give me the courage and wisdom to choose You.
May love mature and deepen as I live for You and with You
Until that moment that You invite me home forever. Amen
Spirit Of God Descend Upon My Heart
Spirit of God descend upon my heart
Wean it from earth thro’ all its pulses move
Stoop to my weakness mighty as Thou art
And make me love Thee as I ought to love
I ask no dream no prophet ecstasies
No sudden rending of the veil of clay
No angel visitant no opening skies
But take the dimness of my soul away
Hast Thou not bid us love Thee God and King
All Thine own soul heart and strength and mind
I see Thy cross there teach my heart to cling
And let let seek Thee and O let me find
Teach me to feel that Thou art always nigh
Teach me the struggles of the soul to bear
To check the rising doubt the rebel sigh
Teach me the patience of unanswered prayer
Teach me to love Thee as Thine angels love
One holy passion filling all my frame
The baptism of the heav’n descended dove
My heart an altar and Thy love the flame
Frederick Cook Atkinson | George Croly
© Words: Public Domain