Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Love the LORD Your God, Part 3

In Deut 6: 5 Moses commands that you "love the LORD your God with all your heart." What does it mean to love God with all your heart, and what hinders people from doing that? In the Hebrew Bible the "heart" refers to "the totality of man's. . . immaterial nature" (Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, 1: 466). It is more than mere emotion, as we so often think of the heart today. It is the will and one's thoughts as well. With this in mind, loving God with the whole heart means loving God as an act of the will, being devoted to God in your thoughts, and being affectionately attached to God. That sounds pretty comprehensive.

What keeps people from loving God with their whole hearts? First and foremost, I think, is self-love. Today people are encouraged more than ever to love themselves, even in popular preaching (note Robert Schuller). Whitney Houston sings about the "greatest love of all" being the ability to love yourself. But what does the Bible say about self-love? Jesus calls his followers, not to self-love but to self-denial: "If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow me" (Matt 16: 24 NASB). Rather than thinking that I have some good in me whereby to please God and earn his favor, I need to recognize with Paul that "nothing good dwells in me" (Rom 7: 18 NASB), and so the first step in loving God is renouncing myself, abhoring and loathing my sinful self as something worthy only of God's wrath.

Another barrier to loving God as we ought is loving the world. "Do not love the world, nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him" (1 John 2: 15 NASB). One of the biggest challenges facing Christians in the affluent West today is love of the world, or worldliness. We've become obsessed with games, television, sports, and a host of other insignificant trivialities. We entertain ourselves to the edge of moral bankruptcy. Church services in many places are either nostalgic adventures into beloved tradition or mere entertainment. Instead of putting money into missions and church planting we build bigger and more lavish buildings. The thing is, we do a lot of this in the name of God and under the pretext of honoring him. In reality we do it for human pride and show that we really don't love him.

True love for God shows itself, not in the accumulation of wealth and possessions but in an open heart to the needs of others. How can you love God and not love others? How can you say you love God and not share the greatest news of all time--the good news of salvation in Christ--with other people? Why does the State feel a compelling need to get involved in relief for the poor and help for the sick? These are things that Christians should be taking care of voluntarily. The State shouldn't even have a pretext for getting involved. If only believers would do what they're supposed to do in caring for others there would be no basis for a welfare state. What will you do today to stand and show your heart's love for God?

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