How Do We Love God?
Would your spouse say you loved them if you never demonstrated that love? If you always put your interests above theirs would your professions of love be believed?
Surely no healthy, discerning person would.
So, how do we demonstrate our love for God? We can’t meet God’s needs—he doesn’t have any. But, we can put his interests above our natural inclinations. We can show by our actions that we believe God’s plan is more important than our desires when they conflict with each other.
The Two Greatest Commandments
Jesus left no doubt as to the importance of loving God when he responded to a scribe who asked, “Which commandment is the most important of all (Mark 12:30).” Jesus, expanding on Deuteronomy 6:5, commanded us to love God with all our heart, with all our soul, with all our mind and with all our strength (Mark 12:30). No part of our being is excluded.
The scribe only asked for one commandment, but Jesus followed this greatest commandment with another like it, declaring the second greatest commandment to be “you shall love your neighbor as yourself.” By doing so, Jesus indicated the primary way we demonstrate our love for God—by loving others.
These two commandments are necessarily connected. We cannot love God and hate our brother (1 John 4:20). To hate our brother disobeys the second greatest commandment and we know that if we love Jesus we will keep his commandments (John 14:15).
Walk By the Spirit
Galatians 5 explains that it is through love that our faith works (v6). Our freedom in Christ is not an opportunity for the flesh, but an opportunity through love to serve one another (v 13). “For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself (v 14).”
Therefore, loving God consists of more than obeying commands not to commit certain sins. Loving God requires our positive action. So, obeying biblical commands to love one another, instruct one another, serve one another, pray for one another, encourage one another and forgive each other demonstrates our love for God. Obeying Jesus’ command to “go therefore and make disciples of all nations” demonstrates our love for God.
But we cannot do it on our own. We cannot love God in the power of the flesh. We must walk by the Spirit. Then we will not carry out the desire of the flesh (v 16).
When we look at Galatians 5:19-21, we see that the deeds of the flesh are the opposite of loving our neighbor and therefore the opposite of loving God. But, when we walk by the Spirit, our actions are good for everyone around us. And good for us.
Seek Life and Peace
Romans 8:6 gives more incentive to walk in the Spirit. When we set our minds on the things of the Spirit rather than on the things of the flesh, we go from death to life and peace. When we walk in the Spirit every encounter with people can be viewed through the lens of the God’s will and purpose. Every encounter can be one in which we seek to be in peace (Romans 12:18) and one in which we show God’s love. When we walk in the Spirit we won’t see interruptions the same way. We won’t be inclined to become angry at the person who delays our plans for the day. Instead, recognizing God’s sovereignty we consider how this “divine appointment” might be an opportunity to advance God’s kingdom or grow us in our faith.
Romans 8:6 echoes Jesus’ words in the Sermon on the Mount-that the easy road leads to death and destruction but that the hard road leads to life (Matthew 7:13, ESV & RSV). It’s easy for me to tell someone without food or daily bread to “go in peace, be warmed and be filled (James 2:16).” It’s hard to put aside my plans and help them. It’s easy to tell my neighbor to “Come back later; I’ll give it tomorrow (Proverbs 3:27)”– when I have it with me to give. It’s easy for me to act in this manner when I walk in the flesh. When I walk in the Spirit, I will hear him nudging me– “If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him (1 John 3:17)?”
Jesus’ commandments to love God and neighbor come with responsibility. His disciples are ambassadors for Christ through whom God makes his appeal for reconciliation to a lost world (2 Corinthians 5:20). Unbelievers know we are Jesus’ disciples, his ambassadors, by our love for one another (John 13:35). Ambassadors in both the ancient and modern world present credentials from their sovereign leader to prove their office. Christian’s love for one another act as credentials from our sovereign God.
Jesus’ commandments to love God and neighbor come with sacrifice. We cannot live out our Christian lives in isolation or indifference.
This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth. — 1 John 3:16-18
My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. — John 15:12-13
Jesus’ commandments to love God and neighbor come with a job description. We are disciples who make disciples.
As disciples, we learn and grow in grace and the knowledge of God’s word (2 Peter 3:18). God works in his disciple’s lives to accomplish his will (Philippians 2:13). We can be confident in the promise that God will complete that work which he has begun in us (Philippians 1:6).
As disciple makers, we not only share the gospel but we teach and care for Jesus’ sheep. We do so because we love Jesus (John 21:15-17).
Jesus’ commandments to love God and neighbor come with an assignment. We have heard it many times:
Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age. —Matthew 28:18-20
Our efforts to share the gospel will take us out of our comfort zone. We will have to sacrifice our spare time to love others enough to tell them about Jesus. We may suffer for it. We may even become ambassadors in chains (Ephesians 6:20).
God has given us the privilege of proclaiming to the world the good news of the kingdom of God. As we celebrate the birth of our Savior, let’s resolve never to leave that privilege to others.