Loving God and Keeping His Words

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart” (Deut. 6:5-6).

Love from the heart may sound like the theme of a Valentine’s Day card, but there is much more for us to consider in such a phrase. It is the expression of love, the authentic and tangible reality of love, in focus here. After all, God directly follows His command to love Him with a command to intimately know and apply His words.

What does it mean for any human to love God? It may mean more, but it certainly means no less than giving God – especially His words – attention and affection. Don’t we listen carefully to the wise words of a loving friend? Don’t we read kind and thoughtful notes from our spouse with great care? In the absence of someone’s presence, we cherish and attend their words. However, God is present with us in and through His words.

God’s words are more than mere instructions; His words are life-giving, healing, invigorating, and enlightening. God’s words are perfect, sure, right, and true; they are clean, pure, desirable, and rewarding (Ps. 19). In God’s words, we may find God Himself (Jn. 1:14-18), and we may gain the great joy of genuine love for the God who made and sustains us by His word (Heb. 1:1-3).

Love One Another

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another”(Jn. 13:34).

In poetry, music, theater, movies, novels, and history itself, any observant person can see that humans are obsessed with love. Love intrigues us, it compels us, and it befuddles us. Just as people are fascinated by love, so too people are often unable to define or explain love in any genuinely coherent way. We talk about love as though it were an irresistible feeling, a fleeting charm, and an unbreakable bond. And yet, each of these descriptions contradicts the others.

Like many meaningful concepts in life, God’s word speaks clearly as to the nature and expression of love. But we are often so preoccupied with fantasy that we are unable to consider the beauty and glory of reality. Jesus Himself is offered as the exemplary loving person, and He calls His disciples to love as He did and does.

Far from the romantic imagery of teenaged longings, true and genuine love is robust, textured, and panoramic. Furthermore, there is one place on the planet where God has designed Christ-like love to take its truly expansive shape. In the context of the local church, Christians display the kind of sacrificial, persevering, gracious, radical, and inspiring love that Christ both exemplifies and empowers.

Knowing Love

By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers” (1 John 3:16).

If you ask the average person about love, you are likely to hear at least some intelligible talk on the subject. Love is a common theme both today and throughout history. Companionship, eroticism, fidelity, and a host of other things have been connected to the idea of love. But, do you really know love?

The Bible speaks of knowing love in conjunction with experiencing and understanding the love of God in Christ. One may only know love as it truly is defined when one knows love in the person and work of Christ. We can only know the height and breadth of love when we measure it by the standard of the one who defines such a profound concept.

When we come to know the love of God in Christ, we know love as it truly is. Furthermore, because of Christ’s example and the love He has shown and given to us, we are enabled and compelled to love others. When Christians give themselves away in love to one another, they are following the example of their Savior who has already given Himself in love to them.

May we all come to know the love of Christ, and may give ourselves away in love to others.

Fatherly Love

Who is a God like You, pardoning iniquity and passing over transgression for the remnant of His inheritance? He does not retain His anger forever, because He delights in steadfast love” (Micah 7:18).

Fathers and mothers are distinct from one another, and differences regularly become clear in the discipline of children. A mother will often operate with flexibility in her expectations, but a father will usually demand immediate compliance. A mother may go until her emotional stamina can handle no more, but a father can regularly distribute discipline without much emotion at all.

Both fathers and mothers exemplify greater realities, reflecting characteristics of God Himself (even if imperfectly and sometimes abhorrently). God is like a cosmic parent, and all humans are like His children. Just as children with an earthly father, disobedient and defiant people are liable to God’s anger and wrath. What a heavy thought to consider… Your heavenly Father sees every disobedient thought, word, and deed!

Ah, but the beautiful and profound message of the Gospel is that God does not retain His anger forever. In fact, He delights in steadfast love! Through and because of Jesus Christ, God loves disobedient children. While disobedience requires punishment, God has fixed His wrath-filled gaze upon Christ in the place of those who trust in Him!

The great news is this: God is not a vindictive judge; He is a gracious Father who delights in steadfast love. He pardons sins and forgives disobedience, and He gladly gives a divine inheritance to all those in Christ.

Real Love Endures

Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever” (Psalm 136:1).

This verse begins Psalm 136, the psalm in which God’s steadfast love is extolled more than any other place in Scripture. Every single verse of this psalm, twenty-six in all, praises the steadfast love of God. God’s love is steadfast and enduring, so it is worthy of this kind of emphasis.

When we think about love, we may or may not think of it as lasting. Sometimes we may think and act like love is merely a feeling that may change with circumstance or time. We may have been loved by others who did not continue in their love. We may even have been betrayed by those we thought truly loved us.

Real love, however, is defined by its staying power. Simply put, if love does not last, then it is not real. Conversely, God’s love is as real as it gets. When God decides to love, He does so with the end in mind. He decisively loves, and He commits to the full expression of that love.

What joy and hope and comfort there is in knowing this love from God! Gratitude necessarily exudes from the heart of one who has received and felt this love. The sinner who knows himself/herself to be loved by God is stabilized and shielded amid life’s tremors and storms.

Let us give thanks for the Lord, for He is good, and His steadfast love endures forever!

What kind of love?

See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are…” (1 John 3:1).

If we were to think of different kinds of love, how might we distinguish God’s kind of love from other kinds? Would we say it is deeper, a more intensified kind of love, like a father or mother to a child? Would we say it is sincerer, a more self-giving kind of love, like a virtuous personal vow?

I think both of these are certainly true, but I believe there is something more in this differentiation of God’s kind of love. We might get to the bottom of it by asking a few questions.

First, who is “we”? Well, the “we” mentioned here is sinful, rebellious, and disobedient people. Those who were the original recipients of this letter were, like us today, guilty sinners before God.

Second, what does it mean to be a “child of God”? A child is beloved, joined, and an heir to all of the family benefits. It would take a lifetime to study all that such things mean when we are talking about God as Father to those He calls “child.”

Third, why and when are “we” called “child of God”? Because of Christ… and right now! The profound love of God is distinct from all other loves in that God loves the unlovable sinner. Those who rebel against Him are those upon whom He lavishes His love, and this He does through Jesus Christ. Furthermore, this is true of any sinner who trusts in (i.e. believes in, has faith in, follows) Jesus.

See what kind of love God has for all those who trust Christ! He self-sacrificially gives them all that He is, despite their eager attempts to make themselves His enemies. This is an incomparable kind of love.

Love in Action

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).

How frequently do you say, “I love you”? How does it make you feel when someone says to you, “I love you”? If you are like most people, then the words are regularly on your lips and you enjoy hearing them from others. Love, however, is more than just a word.

Love is a word that has become quite confused in our day. We love cheesecake, baseball, Jesus, and family, but surely, we don’t love these each the same. What is love, anyway? What are we saying when we say, “I love you”? More importantly, what does God mean when He says it?

True love, the kind of love God exemplifies, is always demonstrable. God’s love is on display in what He has done and what He still does. God’s love is decisive, it is willful, it is sacrificial, and it is active. This is, in fact, what love is supposed to be.

In Christ, God shows love for undeserving sinners, and He promises life and blessing for anyone who will trust Him at His word. May we meditate upon His profound love, and may we gratefully strive to love others as He has loved us.