One night, I was sitting in a young adults group listening to a sermon, and the pastor used a quote that I have never forgotten (though I can’t for the life of me remember who originally said it). The quote was: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength… and then do whatever you want.’
And I just thought to myself, That’s it. The key to life. I shall have it tattooed on my body. Here I am a few years down the road and I’m glad I didn’t. I still love the quote, but I have come to realize it is incomplete.
The Bible tells us in Luke 10:27 to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. In fact, this is the greatest commandment. And if it’s a commandment, then it must be attainable with the help of the Holy Spirit.
Yet for years and years I tried and tried and tried to love God with everything I had and I failed, every single time. I begged Him to help me love Him more, to give me the love that I needed to give to Him. But I just couldn’t do it.
Then I found Eph. 3:14-19. In verse 14, Paul says ‘For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ’ and when reading it, and picturing Paul in intersession on behalf of the saints, I automatically figure Paul is about to say that he has asked God to help the Ephesians not to sin, or even help them love Him more and put Him first. Here is what Paul actually says in verses 17-19:
“…that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height— to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.”
It is very difficult to love someone who doesn’t love you back. I’m going to stop short of calling it impossible because through Christ all things are possible and the Bible tells us to love our enemies, which is usually a pretty one-sided love. Even so, the only way to love perfectly, independent of anything the other person is doing for you and completely devoid of selfish agenda, is with be perfect love of Christ.
We cannot access that love unless we are in a right relationship with Christ. We cannot be in a right relationship with Christ unless we love Him. And, finally, we cannot love Him unless He gives us that love.
We can’t love Him unless we know and understand that, as Rom. 5:8 says, He loved us first. Understanding just how much God loves us and how undeserved that love is, is the first, and indispensable, step to truly loving God the way we are called to love Him.
If we just walk out the door and say, ‘I’m gonna love God today’ and don’t fully understand His love for us, it will never work. Reason being that His love for us is the truest and most pure love that has ever existed, ever could exist. God’s love for us is simply what love is. If we do not understand this love, we will not be able to love Him back because we will not know what love even is.
Almost all of us know the children’s song ‘Jesus loves me’. A lot of us were raised listening to it and I’ll bet most of us can’t even remember when the first time we heard it was. It has become a hallmark for Sunday school but it has also, sadly, become a cliché that is commonly associated with children only.
How many times, as adults, do we really sit down and think, “Wow. Jesus loves me”? How many times does this thought even make us smile anymore? I for one am guilty of plodding through life, looking at the bad, trying in all my own mighty power to love and glorify God, and I totally forget to remember the truth of God’s love for me. I’m certainly not stopping frequently during my busy day to smile because Jesus loves me.
How can I hope to give God something that I cannot accept from Him? How can I even hope to know what that something is if I’m not getting it from God and letting Him show it to me?
So I love the quote I heard all those years ago, but I have learned to pair it together with Eph. 3:17-19. Because when we really stop to think on God’s great love for us – love so pure and so undeserved as to be ridiculous by human terms – how can we help but love God back?
I don’t profess to love God with all I have, nor do I fully understand His love for me. But I believe I am growing in both these things and I’m enjoying life and God a lot more these days. Which makes me think of another quote I heard a while ago: ‘The chief end of man is to glorify God by enjoying Him forever.’