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A Pharisee asked Jesus, “Master, what are we to consider the greatest commandment?” Without a pause Jesus answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:35-36).
I suppose everyone worries about this at times. We cannot find any such feeling in ourselves. What are we to do? The answer: Act as if you did! Do not sit trying to manufacture feelings. Ask yourself, “If I were sure that I loved God, what would I do?” When you have found the answer, go and do it. Loving God, then, is not romantic feelings, but a deliberate decision of the will.
As a result, we soon discover that our love for God is demonstrated by the action it prompts. The Bible itself gives a couple of good examples.
- I am to love God enough to be obedient.
Jesus was very clear:
“If you love Me, you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15; cf. 1 John 5:3). Ask yourself this question, “If I were taken to court to be tried for loving God, would there be enough evidence to convict me?”
- I am to love God enough to be contented.
The beginning of men’s’ rebellion against God was, and is, the lack of a thankful heart (Romans 1:21). The apostle Paul admonished the church at Ephesus to “always give thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God…” (Ephesians 5:20). When I lack proper contentment, either I have forgotten that God is God, or I have ceased to be submissive to Him.
Love must carry with it a ‘THANK YOU’ to God. If the contentment goes and the giving of thanks goes, we are not loving God as we should.
If we practice loving God as a deliberate decision of the will, walking in obedience to His word and with a heart filled with contentment, we will in fact “fall in love with God” as the hymn writer expresses:
“Wonderful love that rescued me, Sunk deep in sin, Guilty and vile as I could be, No hope within; When every ray of light had fled, O glorious day! Raising my soul from out the dead, Love found a way.”
Refrain: “Love found a way to redeem my soul, Love found a way that could make me whole; Love sent my Lord to the cross of shame, Love found a way – O Praise His Holy Name!”
II. God’s Love for Us
The principles we used for our love for God was modeled after the way He loves us. If you are familiar with the classic C.S. Lewis work, Chronicles of Narnia (The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe) we find that the lion Aslan, the character portrayed as Jesus, after being betrayed by Edmund, gave his life for Edmund.
- Aslan gave his life by a deliberate decision of his will
John 10:17-18 “…I am willing to give up my life…no one takes my life away from me. I give it up of my own free will…”[Store window: display of crosses of all kinds and a sign nearby which read – “Easy terms!”]
John 3:16 “God so loved…gave…”
- God’s love is not foremost a love of affection – it was drawn out by any nice, attractive qualities in Edmund, or us.
Romans 5:6-8 “And we can see that it was while we were powerless to help ourselves that Christ died for sinful men. In human experience it is a rare thing for one man to give his life for another, even if the latter be a good man…Yet it was while we were sinners that Christ died for us.”
Ephesians 2:4-5 “But even though we were dead n our sins God, who is rich in mercy, because of the great love He had for us, gave us life together with Christ…”
- God’s love can be known by the action it prompted
Romans 5:8 “Yet the proof of God’s amazing love is this…Christ died for us.”
1 John 4:9-10 “To us, the greatest demonstration of God’s love for us has been his sending his only Son into the world to give us life through him. We see real love in the fact that He sent His Son…”
Positive Consequence: Romans 8:35, 38-39
“Who can separate us from the love of Christ? Can trouble, pain or persecution? Can lack of clothes and food, danger to life and limb, the threat of force of arms? …I have become absolutely convinced that neither death nor life, neither messenger of Heaven nor monarch of earth, neither what happens today nor what may happen tomorrow, neither a power from on high nor a power from below, nor anything else in God’s whole world has any power to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord!”
Because it is 1) a deliberate decision of God’s will; 2) not an affection dependent on our attractiveness; 3) proven by His permanent action and eternal promises
III. Loving People
- A deliberate decision of the will – a command (John 13:34). Not foremost an affection
Romans 13:10 “Love does no wrong to a neighbor, love therefore is the fulfillment of the law.” We do not have to like or feel fond of everyone, but we must act for their good.
Whether you happen to naturally like someone or not is probably no more or less of a sin or virtue than your like or dislikes in food. Don’t sit around trying to manufacture feelings of fondness for them; instead act as if you did. A great secret of human behavior will emerge: When you behave as if you loved someone, you will presently come to love them…If you injure or slander someone you dislike, you will find yourself disliking them even more.
Love leads to affection, so that a Christian who loves as God loves comes to like more and more people!
- Love is known by its action
1 John 4:20-21 “If someone says, ‘I love God’ and hates his brother, he is a liar…”
- I must love my fellowman enough not to envy
Not loving: mentality that gives secret satisfaction at his misfortune
Not loving: inward pleasure when a person we dislike loses something
Inward coveting: lack of love soon spills over into disliking the person and then acting so that they have the loss by lying, stealing, etc.
- I must love my brother enough to be a positive testimony to a watching world
John 13:35 “I give you a new commandment; love one another as I have loved you…if there is this love among you, then all will know that you are my disciples.” John 17:23 “May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.”