When I arrived at St Thomas’ Richmond in December 1967 as a humble theological student to preach my first sermon (to four people), a small girl met me as I got out of the car. ‘Do you love Jesus?’ She asked me. I said that I did. She said, ‘So do I’. Then, pointing to her even smaller brother, whose nappy was about to fall off, she said, ‘He doesn’t yet, but he soon will’. If directive questions could achieve it, I imagine that he did soon love Jesus!
Do You Love God?
The first and great command tells us to,
Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. (Deut 6:5)
God tests his people to find out if they do love him
The book of Deuteronomy is full of exhortations to love God.
What does the LORD your God ask of you but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in obedience to him, to love him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul? (Deut 10:12 and see 19:9).
Love the LORD your God … love the LORD your God and serve him … love the LORD your God and walk in obedience to him. (Deut 11:1,13,22)
I command you today to love the LORD your God … Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the LORD your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. (Deut 30:16, 19,20)
God tests his people to find out if they do love him:
The LORD your God is testing you to see if you love him with all your heart and with all your soul. (Deut 13:3).
God will discipline and transform his people so that they do love him:
The LORD your God will circumcise your hearts … so that you may love him with all your heart and with all your soul, and live. (Deut 30:6)
Joshua continues the same challenge:
Love the LORD your God … be very careful to love the LORD your God. (Jos 22:5, 23:11).
So too does the Psalmist:
Love the LORD, all his faithful people! (Ps 31:23).
Do You Love Jesus?
Jesus said, ‘Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching.’ (Jn 14:23)
Peter wrote, ‘Though you have not seen him (Jesus Christ), you love him …’ (1 Pet 1:8)
Paul wrote, ‘Grace to all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with an undying love.’ (Ephes 6:24) Have you ever noticed these words?
In John’s gospel we read that Jesus asked Peter three times, ‘Do you love me?’, and Peter replied three times, ‘You know that I love you’ (Jn 21:15.16,17).
Jesus tells us to love God: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ (Mark 12:30)
Here are two promises about loving God from James:
Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him. (Jas 1:12)
Listen, my dear brothers and sisters: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him? (Jas 2:5)
And two promises about loving God from Paul:
We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. (Rom 8:28)
What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived – the things God has prepared for those who love him … (1 Cor 2:9)
And a challenge from John:
We love because he first loved us. Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister. Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves the father loves his child as well. This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out his commands. In fact, this is love for God: to keep his commands. (1 Jn 4:19-5:3)
So what should we do? The simple answer is, ‘Love God, and love Jesus’.
But what does this look like?
Ask God to transform you so that you do indeed love the Lord your God.
Here are some suggestions:
- Ask God to transform you so that you do indeed love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.
- Ask God to pour his love into your heart through the Holy Spirit, so that you have more love with which to love him.
- Meditate on God’s love for you in the cross of the Lord Jesus:
This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. (I Jn 4:9,10)
- Tell God you love him, and tell Jesus that you love him.
- Love God’s commands and do them, and love Jesus’ teaching.
- Love God’s people, and tell them that you love them.
- Dignify and enrich even the most mundane, tedious or demanding tasks in life and ministry by saying to God as you do them, ‘I am doing this because I love you’.
- Remember to say to God when you are doing the most enjoyable, stimulating and exciting tasks in ministry, ‘I am doing this because I love you’.
- When you are about to meet a difficult person, say in your mind, ‘I love you’.
- Ask God every day to give you ‘undying love for the Lord Jesus Christ’ (Ephes 6:24).
I was going out the door the other day to walk the dogs, when the words of Psalm 18:1 came into my mind. ‘I love you, LORD, my strength.’ I thought, ‘I don’t think I ever say to God that I love him.’ So I decided to spend my walk telling God how much I loved him, why I loved him, what I loved about him, and how deeply I loved him. It was wonderful!
I thought, ‘I don’t think I ever say to God that I love him.’ So I decided to spend my walk telling God how much I loved him, why I loved him, what I loved about him, and how deeply I loved him. It was wonderful!
Say it with Feeling – Feel it by Saying it
I once heard Patricia Weerakoon, eminent sexologist, say that we will increase our love for our spouse if we express it. Saying ‘I love you’ to husband or wife enriches a marriage. Saying ‘I love you’ to our children enriches their lives. Saying ‘I love you’ to our church strengthens our relationship with them.
If you tend to love by actions not words, try to add some words as well … (Husbands, pay attention!) But if you say you love, but don’t put it into practice, then repent!!!
Jesus asked Peter three times ‘Do you love me?’ Peter replied ‘You know that I love you’. The more often Peter said that he loved Jesus, the less likely he was to deny him. What we say out loud shapes our thoughts, our emotions, our actions, and our future words. That is why Paul writes, ‘If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved’ (Rom 10:9). Our words clarify our lives, and commit us to them, especially when we say those words to others. The more we say our love, the more we will do it.
Do you remember the words of St Augustine, ‘You have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in you’? I have just discovered the important words which precede this saying.
You move within us so that to praise you is our joy. For you have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in you. (Augustine, Confessions, 1.1).
So our hearts are restless until we praise God, and find our joy in praising God. Let’s adapt that:
You move within us so that we love you. For you have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in you.
We are restless until we love God, we are restless until we love Jesus. In his Reflections on the Psalms, CS Lewis wrote:
I think we delight to praise what we enjoy because the praise not merely expresses but completes the enjoyment; it is its appointed consummation. It is not out of compliment that lovers keep on telling one another how beautiful they are; the delight is incomplete till it is expressed.
This applies to the praise, thanks, trust, and love, we say or sing to God. The more we do it, the more God is honoured. The more we do it, the more fulfilled we are in our relationship with God.
Do you love God? Do you say to God that you love him? Is your life and ministry an expression of your love for God?
Do you love the Lord Jesus? Do you say to the Lord Jesus that you love him? Is your life and ministry an expression of your love for the Lord Jesus?
Let’s take some small steps on this path together …
Grace to all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with an undying love. (Eph 6:24)