I don’t know about you guys… but I know for me – for years I struggled in my christian walk with loving God more… even with just my Christian walk itself. Staying on the straight and narrow, resisting sin, witnessing, having peace… it all was kind of a grit your teeth and determine to live a right christian life – and I was failing miserably! It was utterly discouraging and frustrating. When asked the greatest commandment – Jesus said that “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength – and love your neighbour as yourself.” – all the other laws are held in these.
Here’s the real secret: You can fulfill the commands of the Bible better by falling in love with God than by trying to obey everything.
Jesus said, “If you love me, you will obey what I command” (John 14:15, emphasis mine). For years I read that verse this way: “If you love me, therefore, you will obey me and prove how much you love me.” But what He’s really saying is that when we love Him, our obedience to Him will flow out of that relationship. Ok – cool – that sounds all well and good – but how!?
Well – we all know that ‘Christianese’ cliché that goes something like “Christianity isn’t a religion it’s a relationship.” ….REALLY? – then why do we try to love God any different to how we would any other relationship? Do you love someone by trying to keep a checklist of things they told you? Do you struggle to stay away from the things they don’t like by gritting your teeth and forcing yourself to? I’d hope not… it’s not that your obedience isn’t significant; it just isn’t the centre of the wheel… if you’re really in love with a person – those things should flow naturally from you. To use an illustration – it’s like Jesus is the centre of the wheel, the ways we obey Him are the spokes that radiate from Him and allow us to roll forward and love is the thing that makes the whole wheel go round!
But how did you get to that point of being “in love”? If Jesus really is the ‘lover of your soul’ – then is He? When last have you had a ‘date’ with your soul’s ‘lover’? (Excuse the mushy language)
“One thing I have asked from the Lord, that I shall seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord and to meditate in His temple” (Psalm 27:4)
So a few things that stick out – He asked – He sought – He beheld. If you don’t have the passion right now – that’s ok – I didn’t either and sometimes I still struggle for it. Ask for it. Honestly. Just lay it out there. I remember praying, “God if you don’t do something big to shake me up – I’m probably gonna give up on faith – because unless I know you with more than just my head it’s not worth it. I don’t even have the drive to read your Word or seek you – so you’ll have to give me that too.” He definitely shook me up and got my attention through the various means… but that wasn’t what made me return to my first love…
Next – seek & behold.
“There is no one who calls on Your name, who arouses himself to take hold of You; [and as a result] for You have hidden Your face from us and have delivered us into the power of our iniquities.” (Isa. 64:7).
If you’re not arousing yourself to take a hold of God – the result is you’re probably not going to experience His presence. Think of it like a relationship again – if you don’t make the effort to take hold of your significant other – you can be pretty sure that she (or he) isn’t gonna be too thrilled and going to feel pretty neglected.
“And without faith it is impossible to please Him for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him” (Heb. 11:6).
So part of that seeking is also believing that God will reward those who seek. That He earnestly waits to hear from us and to talk to us… Your devotional and quiet time is precious!
What if I told you to stop praying? To stop talking AT God and take some time to take a long hard look at Him first before you say anything… I don’t always feel like loving God – sometimes we need to be reminded of God’s goodness. I think we don’t realize just how much God’s heart breaks for us. That infinitely more than an earthly lover – He desires to have an intimate relationship with us. And when we neglect Him, it hurts God… wait did you get that? God. The all powerful, creator of heaven and earth, spoke billions of stars and galaxies too numerous for us to count into being, enthroned in majesty, angels singing and bowing down to Him 24/7…. GOD. That God, wants to be known and loved by you! BEHOLD THAT!
I guess for me it was too amazing, too grand to think that God would care for me so much. It still is to some extent incredulous… but that’s why I worship – because I cannot fully understand His love! I think if I did – then why would I be impressed by that? (One book that helped me a lot with understanding more about God is ‘Knowing God’ by JI Packer – I highly recommend it as a study help to the character of God.)
But I don’t hear His voice…
So – here’s the thing… if you met someone new for the first time and exchange numbers – the first time they call – you’re probably not going to recognize their voice. But as time goes on and you get to know each other better – you’ll pick up the phone and instantly know it’s them (and not just because of caller ID). You’ll know their voice. ‘Hearing’ the voice of God is the same deal. Intimacy makes you familiar with His voice. And the only way you can know His voice is if you know His Word.
Here’s where it gets tricky… so pay attention. We fall in love with someone as we get to know them – and realize attributes and characteristics about them that draw us to them. Some people are trying to be good by doing godly things – praying, reading their bibles, even serving others and going out and doing ministry… but all out of religious duty – then wondering why their spiritual life is so dry and God isn’t coming through with His end of the deal and giving them the abundant life. I know that was me for a long time! But relationships just don’t work that way. Doing a bunch of things to earn love… That’s not grace… that’s living under the law! Our salvation isn’t of our own works, why then do we think that our relationship with God is? Faith isn’t a business transaction – nor is that what God intended. Christianity only works if you’re in love. It’s what Jonathan Edwards would have called “Religious Affections” (great book btw!)
Jesus himself prayed for us, “Father, I desire that they also, whom You have given Me, be with Me where I am, so that they may see My glory which You have given Me, for You loved Me before the foundation of the world” (John 17:24)
So God saved us, and because of our faith in Christ – we can come boldly into His presence. Why? “That they may see My glory” – in God’s presence – we see His glory… and from that our natural response is worship. As we get to know more of God’s character – our natural response is love.
This is why Paul prayed in Ephesians 3:16-19,
“I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.” (NLT – emphasis mine)
You see, we have to understand – just like we could not save ourselves – that we needed God… in the same way you have to realize – YOU CANNOT LOVE GOD. At least not in the way you should. Not on your own strength. You need God to empower you to even love Him! We truly cannot do anything on our own. Coming to the realization of this was quite a breakthrough for me – and made sense as to why all my efforts to force myself to love were in vain. Stop thinking it is about you, it never was – it always was and will be about Him and what He has done. No one comes to God unless the Spirit draws him near. That’s why Paul prays first that God would empower us, then as we trust in Him our roots go down into God’s love – not our love – but God’s love for us – and that keeps us strong. Then that we may have the power to understand (so this is the intellectual part of knowing God). So, as you read His word – He reveals to you how wide, how long, how high and how deep is His love – then we experience His love which is beyond comprehension (the experiential part of knowing God’s love)…. THEN…. ONLY THEN – are we made complete with the fullness of life and power that comes from God.
So how much does God love you?
Well – I really think just like in building any other relationship, that’s better if you find out for yourself firsthand – so I’m not going to spoon feed you everything… but here’s a start:
God loves you so much – he’s taken time to count every one of your hairs! (Luke 12:7 & Matt 10:30) – know that He doesn’t just know the amount of hairs on your head because He’s God and He’s omniscient. It would seem that the original thrust of the text implies that this is an active knowledge – as in He took time to count them! WHY? Why would the God of the universe be so intricately interested in the details of me that he’d even count my hairs? Well – love makes us do things which sometimes seem crazy. And here’s the crazy part – He’s interested in the small stuff just as much as the big stuff – He wants to hear about your day – the little things too. He’s blessed me in the little trivial things – and to me those are often the most special things to me. Because it makes me think, “REALLY??? You care about that!?!?”
God loves you so much – He keeps record of all your sorrows and collects all your tears in His bottle… He’s recorded every one. (Psalm 56:8) God intimately relates and shares in our hurts. That’s why Christ came down as a man to share our human experience and suffer for us – so that we know that we don’t just have a God who is aloof and unconnected with our struggles – but that He KNOWS and empathizes with your struggles… “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden…and you will find rest for your souls” (Matthew 11:28,29) He longs to give us rest for our burdens of hurt and pain… because he feels them too.
God loves you so much – He has engraved your name in the palm of his hand. (Isaiah 49:16)… you ever been in love where you’re so crazy about the person that you can’t stop writing their name? You write it everywhere – scribble it in notebooks, on your hand. That’s sort of the picture. Though, I am not arguing that somehow you were so amazing, so good in and of yourself that God needed to have you, or would be missing out if He didn’t! Our God is totally complete and content in Himself, and we are not that great that He should feel compulsion to love us because of any merit in us. This sort of love doesn’t reflect how loveable we are, but rather how loving He is!
God loves you so much – He passionately seeks you even when you don’t. “The LORD says, “I was ready to respond, but no one asked for help. I was ready to be found, but no one was looking for me. I said, ‘Here I am, here I am!…” (Is. 65:1) – Notice the heartbreak of those words. “But God demonstrates His own love for us in this; While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8) “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) God left His throne of glory, to come to earth to seek and save us. In the words of my friend, Matt Freire – God would be the worst at hide and seek – because He’d just be standing out in the open saying “Here I am”.
God loves you so much – He rejoices over you with singing and dancing! Zephaniah 3:17, Isaiah 62:5. You bring great joy to God.
Why this great God of all is so crazy about me – a scrawny, hopeless failure and sinner – I don’t know! And honestly – I don’t think we’ll ever really fully understand it. But it isn’t for us to understand – but to accept – and in doing so, our hearts will respond in love to the lover of our souls. Obedience, hearing His voice, doing His work, loving others, fleeing sin, all these things will be “added on” and come naturally out of that relationship. We all know the song – ‘Jesus loves me this I know’… but how about ‘Jesus knows me – this I love!’ A true revelation of God’s love to us will give you a magnificent obsession – and you will delight in Him and be satisfied by His presence – though never satisfied in the sense of always wanting more of Him. It’s a beautiful addiction. It will cost me everything – but it’s a beautiful exchange of earthly rags for heavenly riches… so count the cost – Luke 14:31-33. Don’t underestimate the power of God’s Word to be the kindling of flames of passion for Him and His glory. Meditate on His Word, and let it saturate your soul. Dig deep, understand the text, and don’t leave it at a merely intellectual level – but behold it, and allow your soul to respond to the truths you uncover.
Be Thou my Vision, O Lord of my heart;
Naught be all else to me, save that Thou art.
Thou my best Thought, by day or by night,
Waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light.
Oh, God, be my everything, be my delight
Be, Jesus, my glory My soul’s satisfied.
“where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Mat. 6:21)
So stop trying to please Him, stop studying Him like he was some sort of science project, stop trying to do things out of your own resolve and just KNOW Him. Stop trying to love Him more and find out how much He loves you. He eagerly wants to show Himself to you, to give you life more abundantly. Loving God is more of a response of the heart to beholding the glory of God revealed in Christ Jesus.