In my previous post, I wrote a bit about the nature of love…the basics. In this post I’d like to address one of the first implications of understanding what it means to say, “God is love.”
If God is love, and He is, and love is defined in God by His atoning work on behalf of sinners, and it is, then we are compelled to embrace truth and do something with it. As much as we seek love, or whatever we are calling “love”, we must understand that we are hardwired to pursue love with relentless passion.
So, the first implication of running after love as it is defined by God (His nature & work) we must love what God loves. So, what does God love?
God Loves His Glory
11 Judah has been faithless, and abomination has been committed in Israel and in Jerusalem. For Judah has profaned the sanctuary of the Lord, which he loves, and has married the daughter of a foreign god. 12 May the Lord cut off from the tents of Jacob any descendant of the man who does this, who brings an offering to the Lord of hosts!
This “self-love” of God does not make Him egomaniacal. Throughout the Old Testament, whether established “on the run” in a tent, or fortified and beautified in the heart of Jerusalem, the temple represented God’s presence with His people, reminding the people that He is their God. The very first commandment states, “You shall have no other gods before me,” (Deut.5:7). This commandment begins the famous 10, but is preceded by God’s reminder, “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt…” (v.6).
So, loving God is an expression of those who have been delivered by God’s gracious, sovereign hand. Loving God is the natural response of God’s people. In fact, in Deut.6 we are given the “great commandment” to love God with all we are (6:5), summing up the heart of the law itself. God loves His glory and has brought about redemption to put His glory on display. This glory is displayed with the redeemed love God above all else.
God Loves His Bride
25 I have said these things to you in figures of speech. The hour is coming when I will no longer speak to you in figures of speech but will tell you plainly about the Father. 26 In that day you will ask in my name, and I do not say to you that I will ask the Father on your behalf; 27 for the Father himself loves you, because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God. 28 I came from the Father and have come into the world, and now I am leaving the world and going to the Father
Toward the end of the Upper Room discourse, Christ addresses His disciples to prepare for what’s to come. He is telling them that they are about to understand a whole lot more about His divine purposes, and much of what He has already done in their midst. It’s about to look pretty grim, so just prior to His high priestly prayer in Chapter 17, He follows the above words with the bold declaration that He has overcome the world. This is coming from their leader who is about to look awfully defeated. He tells them this in love, for love.
Christ’s bride is made up of the redeemed, and the redeemed believe that Christ is exactly who He says He is and trust all that He said and did on their behalf. The Father loves His children, His bride. We are reminded here that you cannot love God without loving Christ, and you cannot love Christ if you do not love His bride.
God Loves Cheerful Givers
6 The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. 7 Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 8 And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.
2 Corinthians 9:6-8
Cheerful giving is the fruit of those who find their sufficiency in Christ alone. Essentially, God loves those who treasure Him above all else. We are to love what He loves. We are to love treasuring the Son and giving of ourselves and possessions as fruit of that treasuring. God loves it when we hold loosely to stuff, even the very blessings He has given.
We should esteem lavish giving. Now, this is not some kind of “giving” trick…you know, the kind that says, “Sow your seed and watch God give you back ten-fold. You can’t out give God!” Sorta truth, but sounds & feels more like rubbish. You give to give, not to get. To reap from sowing doesn’t mean you invest in God and ministry like some aggressively played stock. This sniffs of those who treat God like a genie or sugar daddy, thereby saying they love God’s blessings more than God Himself. I don’t love God because He gives me stuff. I love God because He gave me Himself!
God Loves His Children Loving One Another
34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. 35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.
Back in the Upper Room, at the beginning of His discourse, we see the front bookend of His passion for love for the disciples. Here, Christ states the novum mandatum (new commandment…think, Maundy Thursday during Passion Week), that the disciples are to love one another, most distinctly as Christ as love them. There’s really not space here to trace the manner in which He has loved them, but they are about to see the culmination of His love in His death, burial, resurrection, and ascension.
John the apostle gives us a more “interpretive” gospel and we see this extrapolated in 1 John. Essentially, John’s gospel helps us see what God’s love for us looks like in the finished and sufficient person and work of Christ. John’s letters (1-3 John) give us a picture of what the true believer’s love looks like in conjunction with their love for God. Remember the great commandment? John’s work in the New Testament gives us a great picture of loving God and loving others.
Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.
1 John 4:7
Loving “one another” is a direct expression of God’s love abiding in the believer. Most of us know that 1 John is written so that the believer will have the blessing of being assured of salvation. Loving the body of Christ, the church, is the great evidence John says we are to look for for such assurance.
Do you love the church?
What marks of love for the church do you possess?
20 If anyone says, I love God, and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. 21 And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.
1 John 4:20-21
“Hate” is a strong word. While this word certainly carries the strength of meaning we associate with it, it also means to “consider with less affection.” At the core, hatred is selfishness. Do we seek the good of others above our own in the gathering of the saints? Do we seek to outdo one another in service and acts of kindness?
Christ said the world we know we are His by our love for one another (John 13:35). We cease to be salt, light, evangelistic when we are not expressly seeking to love the body of Christ.
With all that we’ve said about love, it is clear that for love to be present in the local church it must be explicitly and implicitly about the gospel of Jesus Christ. At the heart of our love is redemptive love. Christ defined love for us in His saving work…
In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. 10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.
1 John 4:9-12
So, in the church there is no love apart for real knowledge of the atoning work of Jesus Christ. We should preach this gospel to ourselves in every corner of our gatherings and seek to see this gospel exercised in every show of love in our gatherings, both corporately and more individually.
God Loves Obedience
1 Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him. 2 By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. 3 For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome. 4 For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world— our faith. 5 Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?
1 John 5:1-5
Loving God means loving what God loves. God loves obedience to His commandments because ultimately our obedience to God shows that Christ is victorious! That’s right…our obedience shows that Christ has overcome the world in our overcoming obedience. We forget just how totally the world is held captive in sinful disobedience because the world is an unregenerate enemy of God and all that He deems beautiful and loving. Only the sovereign grace of God through the person and work of Christ can cause us to joyfully obey God.
Those who love God love His children…His church.
Those who love God obey His commandments.
Those who love God do not see His commandments as burdensome, rather as acts of victory.
Those who love God want to see Jesus Christ put on display more than anything else.
Those who love God only do so because, through Christ, God loved them first.