You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might (Deuteronomy 6:5).
We shouldn’t follow God’s ways because we think that will make him love us. That’s not the basis for God’s love for us. We shouldn’t follow God’s ways because we feel that God will forgive us. Our forgiveness is rooted in our faith in the gospel. We should follow God’s ways and live for God because we have a love for God.
Jesus said: “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. (John 14:15)”
There are a lot of rules that we can force ourselves to follow, perhaps even if we don’t want to do them.
We can do things to manage our behavior. We can watch our language and not use bad words. Even if we’re going on a tirade in our minds.
We can tell ourselves we should be nice, even if we don’t feel like it.
But you can’t fake a love for God. You either love God or you don’t.
We’re called to love the Lord our God with all of our heart, soul, and might.
You can love him with your words. In that, you can SAY that you love God.
But do you actually have a love for God?
We so often think that the good we do is so that God will love us. Even if we believe in the gospel, and believe we are saved by grace, it’s still hard for us to shake the idea that our acceptance by God is entirely his grace and mercy.
The good we do needs to be out of a love for God. Sinners saved by grace, living life with a love for the Lord.
Loving people because we know that God loves people. And we love God. Serving people because God served us when he came into the world, lived a humble life, a perfect life, and died an unjust death so we could be made right before God.
Following God’s ways because of a belief that they are good, that he is good, and because we love him.
The love of God is essential. It is this love that Jesus calls the greatest commandment.
In the Gospel of Mark, a scribe asks Jesus what the Greatest Commandment is.
And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, asked him, “Which commandment is the most important of all?”Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”-Mark 12:28-31
Interesting to note that when Jesus tells him the answer: he begins with the confessional statement of Deuteronomy 6: Hear, O Israel: the Lord Our God, the Lord is one.”
The command to love God is based out of the knowledge that the God whom we love, is one. The God of Israel. Not just any god. Not just some idea of a god, but the God who created the heavens and the earth. The God who so loved the world that he gave his one and only son (John 3:16).
We aren’t called to love the idea of God but to personally love the personal God who loves us.
Jesus says to love God with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength.
The point of that is that we are to love God with the totality of our being.
Do you love God?
1 John 4:19 says: “We love because he first loved us.”
Love for people flows from a love for God. It’s not the other way around.
It’s because we love God that we can love the people the rest of the world doesn’t. It’s because we love God that we can love the people in our lives who might be difficult to love.
We should love God because he is good. Because he offers forgiveness. Because he gives the promise of eternal life to all who believe in the gospel. Because he loves us. Because he hears our prayers. Because he has prepares a heavenly place for us.
We’re called to love God, regardless of how much money we have right now. Regardless of how good or bad our health is. Regardless of how much time we have. Regardless of how much stress we have.
Do you love God? And have you ever?
To have a love for God is to have a desire for God. A desire to know God.
Psalm 34:8 says:
8 Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good!
Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!
To have a love for God is to have a love of worshipping God.
To have a love for God is to obey God. We don’t obey God so he can love US. He loves us and when we know the love he has for us, we should obey him.
To know God is to love and obey God.
God doesn’t accept second place.
God must be number one because nothing else give us ultimate meaning and purpose and life. No one else points us to eternal life. God points us to righteousness. “No one is righteous, no not one. (Romans 3:10)” God points us to holiness. Through the Holy Spirit, we are transformed in holiness.
That’s not to say we don’t love other things. Of course we’re called to do that as well.
We’re called to love our families, our children, our spouses, our neighbors. But God must be number one. None of those things satisfy the human soul the way the righteous, holy, and eternal God does. And none of those things, people, spouses, children, friends, none of those things can bare the burden of being number one in our hearts. Because they don’t bring us life, righteousness, and holiness.
They’re imperfect. They’re finite. Our hope can’t be in something that God has made. It must be in God alone.
Originally published August 29, 2018
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Josh Benner has a Master of Divinity from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. He has served churches in Minnesota and Illinois. He enjoys writing about faith and culture. He lives with his wife Kari in St. Louis.