As I shared in an earlier blog, my prayer for 2019 is expressed simply in this song:
Day by day, dear Lord of Thee
Three things I pray:
To see Thee more clearly,
To love Thee more dearly,
To follow Thee more nearly,
Day by day.
I will try to expound on what these three phrases mean to me in three different blogs. The first, ‘To see Thee more clearly’ can be read here. The second is –
To love Thee more dearly:
The picture a lot of us have of God does not allow for a love relationship with Him. We can’t imagine God desiring love from us even if we are able to accept that He loves us. It’s easier for us to think that all He wants from us is obedience to His many rules. Yet even the Old Testament shows God’s heart towards mankind and His desire for His love for us to be reciprocated. All the over Deuteronomy, you find verses similar to these ones:
Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.
(Deuteronomy 6:5 NIV)
And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God ask of you but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in obedience to him, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul,
(Deuteronomy 10:12 NIV)
Love the Lord your God and keep his requirements, his decrees, his laws and his commands always
(Deuteronomy 11:1 NIV)
While there was a requirement (and still is) to fear and serve Him, there was also the requirement to love Him. When Joshua took over the baton from Moses, even he had this to say:
So be very careful to love the Lord your God.
(Joshua 23:11 NIV)
To further emphasize how crucial this issue of our loving God is, Jesus restated what Moses had said as being the greatest commandment –
One of the teachers of religious law was standing there listening to the debate. He realized that Jesus had answered well, so he asked, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?” Jesus replied, “The most important commandment is this: ‘Listen, O Israel! The Lord our God is the one and only Lord. And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.’
(Mark 12:28-30 NLT)
What does it mean to love God?
Perhaps the question should first be what it means to love at all. ‘Love’ has come to mean so many different things to different people. Since God is love and the originator of love, I figure it is wise to look at what He says about love. From the scriptures, this is what I learn about love.
1. Love is a choice and not dependent on how we feel or the circumstances
But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
(Romans 5:8 NIV)
God did not consider the fact that sinful humanity was not asking for salvation and did not want Him. Love is a commitment to (do what’s best for) another irrespective of how that person is behaving or whether they deserve it.
2. Love is not about we say but what we do
Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.
(1 Corinthians 13:4-7 NLT)
These verses explain what love is according to God and it is all about how our attitude and actions towards the one we love.
3. We cannot love God without keeping His commands. Love for Him propels us to obey Him because we delight in pleasing Him.
In fact, this is love for God: to keep his commands. And his commands are not burdensome,
(1 John 5:3 NIV)
If someone claims, “I know God,” but doesn’t obey God’s commandments, that person is a liar and is not living in the truth. But those who obey God’s word truly show how completely they love him….
(1 John 2:4-5 NLT)
So, in these last days when, according to Paul, “People will be selfish and love money….. They will love pleasure instead of loving God” (2 Timothy 3:2-4 CEB), I want to love God in the way He desires for me to love Him. How?
With all my heart: This means with my emotions. The relationship between Christ and the Church (the body of believers in Him) is described as one between the Bridegroom and his Bride. If that is not a relationship involving emotions, I wonder which is. While love is not all about feelings, feelings are definitely involved. God pursues us like the lover in the Songs of Solomon woos and pursues the one He loves, ever drawing us to Himself and inviting us into deeper and deeper intimacy and our hearts, recognising His love, leap in response.
With all my soul: This refers to my spirit.
With all my mind: This refers to my thinking faculties, my imagination, my understanding. I don’t want to love God mindlessly, purely emotionally, but with understanding and a conscious commitment of my will to do His will.
With all my strength: With all my ability and might.
No half measures for God. I want to love Him with all of me in 2019. What about you?