My whole “theology” of “live in Love, find your true reward,” finds its root in 1 John 4:15-17. It reads, “Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God—God remains in Him and he in God. And we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and the one who remains in love remains in God, and God remains in him. In this, love is perfected with us so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment; for we are as He is in this world.” Again, I will explain my plan for the next few (many) entries to this blog at the end of part 3. It is important first to spell out what liL fytr entails.
Before moving to part 3, which will lay out the most externally visible application of this line of thought, it is important to make another observation first. Last time, we explored the phrase “God is love” in verse 16 to try to understand something of God, to try to grasp the source of love, to try to grasp the only hope we have to ever live out this high calling. Next time, we will focus on the end of verse 17 which is the goal of the Christian life: “we are as He is in this world.” If God is love, then the call for a Christian is to reflect His love well to a watching world.
But this time, the focus is a step that must come in between. Because, it’s all fine and dandy to know that God loves you, but try taking that and immediately translating it into loving others, and you quickly realize two things. First, you’re being idolatrous. Second, it’s idolatrous because you skipped a step. You can’t properly love another human being if you don’t properly love God first (aside: Thank You, Lord, for letting her break up with me so I could finally realize this).
The Gospel of Mark describes the focus for the life of a follower of the Way as follows: “‘This is the most important [commandment],’ Jesus answered: ‘Listen Israel! The Lord our God, the Lord is One. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength (cf. Deuteronomy 6:4-5). The second is: Love your neighbor as yourself (cf. Leviticus 19:18). There is no other commandment greater than these’” (Mark 12:29-31). Jesus sees the greatest focuses of the believer’s life first as actively loving God (what we are looking at this time), and second as actively loving neighbors (which we will look at next time).
It’s definitely not the best way (inspired, authorial intent) to understand the book of Song of Songs, but the closing line can definitely help us understand somewhat what it means to love God. Song of Songs 8:14 has the bride saying, “Hurry to me, my love, and be like a gazelle or a young stag on the mountains of spices.” If we ignore the very likely present connotation of gazelles and stags, and if we focus on the first line, we see that true love actively desires another. And before anyone accuses me of making this weird, look at the next to last verse in the Bible—Revelation 22:20. “He who testifies about these things says, ‘Yes, I am coming quickly.’ Amen! Come, Lord Jesus!” This should be every believer’s cry. This is how much we should love God. We should desire His coming more than anything else.
I was convicted in the last few years when writing a song about my future wife, that maybe I was potentially being idolatrous; maybe my focus was misplaced, so the following verse came into being:
While I'm waiting for her, that ain't all
cuz maybe before then the trumpet will call
the heavens might fall--sinners appalled
please oh please LORD do not stall
I'm looking forward to meeting my future wife
but this line of thinking leads to strife
Matthew 22:30-- I should desire Christ
wives and marriage absent in next life
Christ be my all-- someday You'll come
blazing resplendent in glory to gather the sum
of those You died to redeem--sinners fear numbed
as all the saints shout, “Jesus please come”
so Christ be my focus-- Hebrews 12:2
Matthew 6:33-- I'm seeking only You
if you bring her to me, glory to You
Your timing’s the best, and this all is true
The things we long for the most are the things we love the most. The things we think about most are the things we love the most. The things we spend the most money on are the things we love the most. Song of Songs helps us understand the longing that should be there, but then the verse Jesus quotes about loving God helps us narrow it down and see specifically how we should be loving God.
Jesus says that we are to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. John MacArthur says, “The use of the various terms does not distinguish among human faculties but underscores the completeness of the kind of love commanded” (John Macarthur Study Bible, note on Matthew 22:37). This is correct, but a few words still need to be said.
Love God with all your heart. Your desires must be for God. All your desires should be for God. No part of you should desire anything less than God. How far short of this do we all fall? It’s a point at which we must all repent and ask forgiveness.
Love God with all your soul. The Greek word for soul is the same as the Greek word for “life.” Our whole life should love God. Basically our motto should be that of Paul: “living is Christ and dying is gain” (Philippians 1:21). We should love Christ more than we love life. However, we are much too quick to cling to our lives, to cling to our comforts, to cling to our plans for ourselves than to love God with all our life. (My recent life situation change proves this one greatly for myself.) Christians in ISIS occupied lands are doing a much better job at loving Christ with all their lives than we are. We should praise God for our relative security from persecution in America, but lack of physical persecution can be yet another form of persecution that distracts us greatly from loving God with all our life. Again, it’s a point at which we must all repent and ask forgiveness.
Love God with all your mind. Christianity is a thinking religion. It’s not a matter of blind faith. We have been given 66 books from God that have been translated from the original Hebrew and Greek into many different languages that are still powerful to speak life into our lives. We aren’t Muslims where only the Arabic text of our holy book is from God. No! Our translations of the Hebrew and Greek are God’s Word too, “inspired by God and . . . profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17). For this reason, we must love God with our minds and get His words in our heads. We must read books by authors throughout the ages that have honored and revered God and the Scriptures, and gain wisdom and insight and love for God from them. This is my favorite aspect of loving God, but I need to repent of making it my only aspect. Some may be in the same boat, but there’s plenty of others who don’t love God at all with their minds. If we’re to live out our Christian calling, we must repent of apathy and love God with our minds!
Love God with all your strength. This is simple. We should love God in our actions. We strive to honor those we love. If we love God with all our strength, we will strive to honor Him in all we do. We will live out Colossians 3:23, “Whatever you do, do it enthusiastically, as something done for the Lord and not for men.” This is the clearest area in which people fail to love God rightly. I’m sure guilty here. Thankfully, there is grace, because this isn’t a works based religion, but since God loves us so much, we should strive with all our effort to love Him back the best we can. When we sin with our strength, we should repent and keep going.
When we sin with our minds, we should repent and keep going.
When we sin with our lives, we should repent and keep going.
When we sin with our desires, we should repent and keep going.
God’s grace is so much greater than our failures. God’s love is so much more perfect than our love. But the call is large and weighty. Let’s love God with all our beings. He loved us enough to become one of us. We should love Him so much more than we do. I call it “living in love” because it’s all about a relationship with God.
So the question I leave you with is, “How much do you love Him? How much more—specifically in what areas—can you love Him?” Let’s walk this thing together, striving to love God as God! He’s returning soon.
Soli Deo Gloria