Friday, April 24, 2015

What it Means to Love God

Of the two great commandments, loving God comes first:

  • Jesus replied: "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'” (Matthew 22:37-39) 
So how do we love God? We can’t clean His house or give Him a message. We can express our love for Him in only one way. That is, to keep His Word:

  • “Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him… If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. He who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me.” (John 14:21-24)
Scripture-centeredness has always been the way that God’s people have expressed their love to God:

  • So if you faithfully obey the commands I am giving you today--to love the LORD your God and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul-- then I will send rain… (Deuteronomy 11:13-14) 
Some claim that we can love God by experiencing God. However, such a concept is entirely alien to Scripture. Others claim that we can love God by conjuring up mental images of Him. However, such use of the imagination in worship is thoroughly rejected. Instead, Jesus taught that worship had to be in spirit and in truth - God’s truth (John 4:23-24). Therefore, ministry had to be Scripture – centered:

  • Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching… Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress. Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers. (1 Timothy 4:13-16)
 Even Jesus was Scripture-centered. Instead, of speaking His own words, when challenged by the Devil, He resorted to Scripture:

  • Jesus answered, "It is written: 'Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.'" (Matthew 4:4)
Jesus didn’t pick-and-choose the verses He preferred, because they all came from the Father. All were the words of God and were therefore essential.

When He encountered to the two broken disciples on the Emmaus road, He ministered to them through the Scriptures, not by imparting an ecstatic experience:

  • And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he [Jesus] explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself. (Luke 24:27)
Nor did He enable the disciples, hiding behind closed doors, to “experience” Him or to have heavenly visions. Instead:

  • He opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. He told them, "This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day. (Luke 24:45-46)
Jesus loved them, so He gave them what was most valuable - a mind to understand Scripture. In His ministry to His disciples, imparting truth took precedence over all else.

  • I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them." (John 17:26)
Internal growth depended upon the understanding of God, a message echoed throughout Scripture:

  • Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. (2 Peter 1:2-3)
Scripture was all that was needed for spiritual maturity:

  • All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16-17)
Knowledge of the Gospel/God trumped everything else, even healing. Jesus’ disciples found Jesus after an arduous search and pleaded with Him to return to the village where many were waiting to be healed. However, He surprised them with His priorities:

  • Jesus replied, "Let us go somewhere else--to the nearby villages--so I can preach there also. That is why I have come." (Mark 1:38)
After teaching and crying with the Ephesian elders, Paul pointed them back to the supremacy of Scripture:

  • "Now I commit you to God and to the word of his grace, which can build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified.” (Acts 20:32)
Any servant of God must do the same. This is how we love both God and His people. It is also how we demonstrate our faithfulness.

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