Love God

Love God
New Life Bible Church exists to love God, love people, and make disciples.  This is much more than just a tagline or slogan for our church.  This focus comes straight from our Head, Jesus (Matthew 22:37-40; 28:19-20).  Since this is central to our existence, we must understand each command individually.  We start with the command to love God.  What does it mean to love God?  What does it look like to love God?  How can we as a church love God?
The Meaning
        One of the most important aspects of following a command is understanding the command.  It is amazing how clearly Scripture gives understanding on what it means to love God.  The Old Testament over and over again connects loving God with keeping His commands, obeying Him, walking in His ways, and holding fast to Him.  Look at the instruction offered in Deuteronomy 11:1.  “You shall therefore love the Lord your God and keep his charge, his statutes, his rules, and his commandments always.”  Later in verse 22 we see,
“for if you will be careful to do all this commandment that I command you to do, loving the Lord your God, walking in all his ways, and holding fast to him,” as the foundation for understanding this command.  Loving God means walking in all His ways and holding fast to Him. 
              We will go back to some of these Old Testament passages when we look at the mandate to love God.  However, the meaning behind loving God must extend beyond some sort of self-righteous law keeping that we can in no way attain.  In other words, the definition of loving God is not man mustering up enough good to practice perfect obedience to God.  Our only proper understanding of love comes from a proper understanding of salvation.  Ephesians 2:4-7 explains, “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.”  Church, we know love because God has first loved us.  Love is perfectly displayed in the rich mercy of God in Christ as the wrath atoning sacrifice for sin.  Knowing love is knowing Christ (Eph. 3:17-19).  Believers walk in love because Christ loved us and gave Himself for us (Eph. 5:2).
              We must understand that the foundation of love is God, not us.  Only then will we grasp the meaning behind the command.  In 1 John 4:7-12, it is again the God who is love who gives us the clarity to love Him and love others.  “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. 10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.”  The conclusion of this passage is that one cannot know love if they do not know God.  God is love and has manifested His love in His Son who gives us the ability to love.  Without the gospel, love cannot be correctly defined.  Your love for God is inseparable from the truth that He loved you and gave His Son for you.

The Mandate
              Jesus’ command in Matthew 22:37 stems from the first four commands given to Moses by God in Exodus 20.  Therefore, part of our mandate to love God comes from these commands.  Loving God is the opposite of idolatry.  Loving God and idolatry are incompatible together just as  proper worship and false worship are incompatible together.  Putting love and worship together gets at the very heart of the command to love God.  Joshua 22:5 says, “Only be very careful to observe the commandment and the law that Moses the servant of the LORD commanded you, to love the Lord your God, and to walk in all his ways and to keep his commandments and to cling to him and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul.”  Again, the mandate is loving God, which means walking in all His ways, keeping His commandments, clinging to Him, and serving Him with all your heart and soul.  It is important to mention where all of these acts proceed from.  The service is not just with one’s actions, or one’s hands and feet, but with one’s heart and soul. 
              The heart, the resting place of desires and emotions, is where obedience and service begins because the heart is what is transformed by the gospel.  We cannot forget the meaning of love is rooted in God Himself.  So the mandate to love God begins and ends with knowing God.  1 John 2:4-6 describes it this way, “Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, 5 but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: 6 whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.”  We know Jesus because the Father made Him known to us.  We are able to walk as He walked because love took on flesh and dwelt among us in Him.  Loving God, worshiping Him, is not from an obligated heart, but a joyful heart changed by the gospel. 
              Without the meaning, the mandate will be unimportant.  And as the church, our call is to love God.  The world must see our love for God through our joyful service to Him and our sacrificial love for His church.  Such a crucial aspect of our witness to the world is our love and worship of God.  It is because of the gospel that we get to represent the gospel to the world around us.  In proper worship being restored, proper love has also been restored.  Therefore, our proclamation must always be the same as the psalmist, “his steadfast love endures forever.”