Tuesday, April 25, 2017

What does it mean to love God?

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Everyone in the Bible Belt loves God. 

Well, at least most people say they love God. In fact, when teaching and preaching on the reality of depravity it is difficult to communicate to people our relation to God apart from Christ. Most people view our love of God like our love for our 3rd Cousin that we never visit. We don't wish any ill will toward him or her so we say we "love" them. Surely we don't wish any ill will toward God! So, we conclude that we must "love" His as well.

This is problematic for a couple of reasons. First, it's not true. We do wish ill will toward God for we want Him to be like us instead of Who He is. We want Him to love what we love, to be ok with our sin, and to let us live a life unbothered by Him and His holiness. In fact, if it were possible, we would throw off the restraints and cast Him forever into the abyss so that we could rule and reign the universe instead of Him. Secondly, it is problematic because it does not convey the biblical understanding of love. 

So, biblically, what does it mean to love God? For that, we are going to call in a guest writer. Thomas Watson (1620 - 1686). (All words except those in brackets are Watson's) 

"What is love? 

It is a holy fire kindled in the affections, whereby a Christian is carried out strongly after God as the supreme good. The nature of love consists in delighting in an object. This is loving God: to take delight in Him. 'Delight thyself also in the Lord' (Psa 37:4), as a bride delights herself in her jewels. Grace changes a Christian's aims and delights."

"What are the visible signs of our love to God?

1. If we love God, our desire will be after Him. He who loves God breathes after communion with Him. 'My soul thirsteth for the living God.' Psa 42:2. Persons in love desire to be often conferring together. He who loves God desires to be much in His presence."

2. "The second visible sign is, that he who loves God cannot find contentment in any thing without Him. Give a hypocrite who pretends to love God corn and win, and he can be content without God; but a soul fired with love to God, cannot be without Him."

3. "The third visible sing is that he who loves God, hates that which would separate between him and God, and that is sin. Antipathies can never be reconciled; one cannot love health but he must hate poison; so we cannot love God but we must hate sin, which would destroy our communion with Him."

4. "The fourth visible sign is sympathy. Friends that love, grieve for the evils which befall each other. If we have true love in our heart to God, we cannot but grieve for those things that grieve Him. They surely have no love to God who can laugh at that which grieves His Spirit! Does he love his father who can laugh to hear Him reproached?"

5. The fifth visible sign is, that he who loves God, labours to render Him lovely to others. He not only admires God, but speaks in His praises, that he may allure and draw others to be in love with Him. True love to God cannot be silent, it will be eloquent in setting forth His renown. There is no better sign of loving God than to make Him appear lovely, and to draw proselytes [converts] after him."

6. The sixth visible sign is, that he who loves God, weeps bitterly for His absences. What can all worldly comforts do, when once God is absent? 

7. The seventh visible sign is, that he who loves God is willing to do and suffer for Him. He subscribes to God's commands; he submits to His will. If God bids him mortify sin, love his enemies, be crucified to the world, he obeys. It is a vain thing for a man to say he loves God, and slight His commands. If God would have him suffer for Him, he does not dispute, but obeys. It is true that every Christian is not a martyr, but he has a spirit of martyrdom in him; he has a disposition of mind to suffer, if God call him to it. We [only] pretend to love Him [if we] will endure nothing for His sake."

So, the question is, do you love God? Do you love Him? Not do you love Him perfectly, for no man save Christ has done this! But do you love Him at all? And if you love Him at all, then these 7 signs Watson lays out will be evident in your life. And while it is true we don't know anyone's heart or motivations, we can and do see their actions. Yes, we must exercise Christian prudence and grace, but it's not helpful to affirm one's love for God when they manifest little or no evidence that they do actually love Him! Remember, we aren't to let culture dictate to us what 'love' is but Scripture.

Do you love Him?

Consider the gospel. Although we wanted to replace God in hate, He instead, in His great mercy and sovereign grace, replaced us on the cross in love. He substituted His own Son to bear our guilt for all who call to Him in faith. Will you look to Jesus in faith?

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