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What Does It Mean To Love God?

Let’s say that a survey taker decided to make it his goal to stand outside of every church building  in America each Sunday and ask every person who left the building if they loved God.  How many do you think would answer in the negative?  My guess would be that the overwhelming majority of churchgoers would gladly and sincerely profess their love for God, and I am thankful for that.  It is due to their love of God that they are attending church in the first place.  It’s because of their love of God that they own a Bible and peruse through it from time to time.  Their love of God is a major reason why they love others and help others in their time of need.  Professing a love of God is an important first step.

“’First step’?” you might ask.  “What do you mean, ‘first step’?  I thought loving God is the ultimate, the pinnacle, the highest we can achieve!”  That is true, but consider this.  We say that we love God…but does God agree?  Does God think we love him?  Does God define us loving him the same way that we define loving him?  We might be tempted to assume that he does, but God’s Word suggests otherwise (Is. 55:8-9).  In fact, Jesus said that there would be religious people who call him “Lord” and are involved in many good works who would still be condemned at judgment (Matt. 7:21-23).  Obviously, those who call Jesus “Lord” and do many good things in his name would also gladly say that they love him…so why are they being condemned?

The more Beth and I come to know and understand each other, the deeper our love grows. That’s how it is with our love for God as well.

The answer lies in finding out how God defines our love for him, and the way to do that is to go to his Word.  This makes sense when you think about it.  Consider your spouse and your closest friends and the love you have for them.  When you think about it, the love you have for them and they have for you is based upon your mutual knowledge of each other.  You know each other well, you understand each other, and that’s what causes your love for each other to grow more and more.  It’s the same with our relationship with God.  The more we come to know God, the more we will love him…especially when we grow in our understanding of just how much he loves us!  (John 3:16; 1 John 3:16).

The Scriptures contain the revealed mind of God. Only through deep study and obedience of his Word can we come to truly know him and love him.

But how do we come to know God?  The only way that will happen is by going to his Holy Spirit-inspired Word (2 Pet. 1:19-21; 2 Tim. 3:16-17).  After all, no one knows the mind of God except the Spirit (2 Cor. 2:9-11), and the Spirit revealed the mind of God to the writers of Scripture (John 16:12-15; 1 Cor. 2:9-13; Eph. 3:3-5; 2 Pet. 2:19-21).  When we study and meditate upon God’s Word day and night (Ps. 1:1-3), we grow in our knowledge of God and how he looks at things.  We also grow in our knowledge and understanding of how God defines our love for him.

So just how does God define loving him?  Over and over again, the Scriptures correlate love of God with obeying God (John 14:15, 21, 23-24; 1 John 5:3).  In fact, obeying God is how we come to know him as well as to love him (1 John 2:3-5).  Even in the Old Testament, God always defined the concepts of loving him and obeying him interchangeably (Deut. 6:4-5; 7:9; 10:12-13; 11:1).  So if you obey God, you love him.  If you choose to unrepentantly disobey God, you don’t love him.  If you love him, you obey him.  If you don’t love him, you will not obey him.  It’s that simple.

With this in mind, go back to Matthew 7:21-23.  Why did Jesus condemn some even though they called him “Lord” and did many good things in his name?  He tells us why.  “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord, will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.”  They weren’t doing the Father’s will.  Perhaps they were doing some of it, but they weren’t obeying him in all areas of their lives.  That’s why he called them “workers of lawlessness.”

Abraham was willing to obey God even if it meant sacrificing his own son. By being willing to do even that, he passed the test and proved that he truly loved God.

Do we love God?  Sure, we might say we do.  We might sincerely think that we do, and perhaps in some areas of our lives we do.  All of that is good and shouldn’t be ignored.  Like I said earlier, it’s an important first step.  However, ask yourselves this.  How well do you know God?  How well do you know the Bible?  How often do you go out of your way to study his Word in depth?  Furthermore, are you obeying his Word?  Are you doing so as best you can in all areas of your life?  Are you willing to obey God even if his revealed will in the Scriptures goes against your most cherished belief?  Are you willing to put God above even family, even above self?  When you disobey him, are you willing to repent?  Are you willing to obey him no matter what?

That, and that alone, shows how much we truly love God.

Do Consequences Determine Truth?

God warned Christians, “See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ” (Col. 2:8).  There’s a reason we have this warning.  One of the most effective devices Satan has ever used to deceive mankind are false doctrines and philosophies (Matt. 7:15-20), particularly the false concept floating around these days that truth is determined by its results.

Many believe that truth is defined by whatever works, whatever is good or expedient.  They say a statement is true or false depending on its results.  This has led to the popularity of “political correctness,” a philosophy which seems to promote “tolerance” for everything except Christian commandments and principles.  Therefore, “tolerance” demands that we support abortion and same-sex marriage, and that we must not disagree with any religious faiths (even the ones which go against biblical teaching).  This is different from the notion of earlier generations that tolerance permits each of us the right to believe or disbelieve according to our own conscience.  No, modern “tolerance” demands acceptance of all truths, beliefs, and values…no matter how spiritually or morally bankrupt they are…as being equally valid.

What it all boils down to is this:  What works for you?  That is the key.  If you “need” to have your unborn child burned alive by a saline solution while still in your womb, if euthanasia would make your life easier, or if homosexuality works for you…then those are the right things to do.  “What works” is the governing principle.

Believe it or not, this philosophy has existed from the beginning of time.  Cain and Abel both brought an offering to God (Gen. 4:3-5), but Abel’s sacrifice was offered “by faith” (Heb. 11:4).  Since faith comes from God’s Word (Rom. 10:17), God must have had specifically told them what kind of sacrifice he wanted.  Abel honored what God had said, while Cain didn’t.  The “if it works for me” mindset would have demanded acceptance for Cain’s sacrifice, because what worked for Cain would be all that matters…but God didn’t see it that way.

Nadab and Abihu made a similar error (Lev. 10:1-3).  These two priests decided to off “strange” or “unauthorized”fire in their sacrifices, fire which God had not commanded.  God burned them alive as a result…but they were only doing what worked for them, right?  Apparently that wasn’t enough for God.

Here’s the thing.  “What works” does not determine doctrinal or moral truth.  What determines truth in these areas is and always has been God’s Word!  Read Psalm 19:7-11.  What is the law of the Lord?  Perfect.  What are the judgments of the Lord?  True and right.  What happens when we keep them?  Great reward.  What “is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path”?  God’s Word (Ps. 119:105), not the philosophy of “the ends justifying the means.”

The time has come to embrace the philosophy of “Thus says the Lord!”  The time has come to get back to the mindset of not going beyond what is written in the Scriptures (1 Cor. 4:6)!