How Do You Love God?
  By Dave Butts

    How do you demonstrate the fact that you love someone? Is it just a matter of telling them? Do you send them a card? Is it demonstrated through your actions? Many people have a difficult time communicating love. That difficulty is not only with other humans, but even with God Himself.

    Chuck Colson shares powerfully how he discovered this difficulty in understanding how we are to love God:

    "One thing all the books dealt with, of course, was God’s love for humanity and how He showed that love by the sacrifice of His Son on the cross. The more I read about this, the more I wanted to know about what I had begun to see as a corollary – how I show my love for Him. Somehow that seemed to be the key to putting more into the Christian life.

    "The greatest commandment of all, Jesus said, is ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ I’d memorized those words but had never really thought about what they meant in practical terms; that is, how to fulfill that command. I wondered if others felt the same way. So I asked a number of more experienced Christians how they loved God.

    "‘Well…by loving Him,’ one stammered, then added by way of explanation, ‘with all my heart, soul, and mind.’

    "‘By maintaining a worshipful heart, offering myself as an acceptable sacrifice,’ another explained quickly. When I pressed for specifics, he began detailing his devotional reading schedule and prayer life. Halfway through his discourse, he stopped and shrugged, ‘Let me think about it some more.’

    "Faithful church attendance was a frequent response, and tithing ranked high on the list. Several recited favorite sins they no longer pursued while many tried to explain ‘loving God’ as a feeling in their hearts, as if it were something akin to a romantic encounter. Others looked at me suspiciously, perhaps thinking my query some kind of trick question.

    "That did it. The cumulative effect of my survey convinced me that most of us, as professing Christians, do not really know how to love God. Not only have we not given thought to what the greatest commandment means in our day-to-day existence, we have not obeyed it" (from Loving God, pp.15-16).

    How do you demonstrate your love for God? Is it a feeling or faith-walk? An attitude or an action? All of the above? Chuck Colson went ahead to write an entire book about what it means to love God. His study led him to include aspects of the Christian life such as obedience, holiness, repentance, and suffering.

    Jesus said it pretty clearly, "If you love Me, you will do what I command" (John 14:15). Without a doubt, obedience to the Lord is a significant part of what it means to love Him. Holiness is essential as well. Repentance is God’s means for us to turn from sin and toward Him. Living a life of obedience to the Word, confession and repentance from sin, and walking in holiness will all be demonstrations of our love for God.

    Without in any way detracting from those parts of our Christian life, I would like to suggest one other very critical part of what it means to love God. It’s very simple and so very human. To love God means to want to be with Him.

    Isn’t that our human tendency? When we love someone, we find ourselves attracted to them. We want to spend time with them. Poems and songs are written expressing our feelings of misery when we are separated from those we love.

    In the Old Testament, David expressed that same kind of desire to be with God:

"One thing I ask of the Lord, this is what I seek:
That I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life,
To gaze upon the beauty of the Lord
And to seek Him in His temple"

(Psalm 27:4).

    This is the cry of a lovesick heart. "God, I want to be with You. Wherever You are, that’s where I want to be."

    This desire to be with God is written of again and again in the Psalms. Psalm 84 is a plea to live in the presence of God:

"How lovely is Your dwelling place, O Lord Almighty!
My soul yearns, even faints for the courts of the Lord;
My heart and my flesh cry out for the living God"

(Psalm 84:1-2).

    The good news for us, as Christians, is that we do not have to journey to Jerusalem or anywhere else to be with the Lord. He has come to make His home with us. Jesus said, speaking of Himself and His Father, "We will come to him (the one who loves Him), and make Our home with him" (John 14:23). The problem that most of us have on a daily basis is to simply be aware of the Lord’s abiding presence.

    That lack of awareness is typically a lack of love. Because we are not passionate about our relationship with God… because we allow our things or other people to crowd our schedules… we forget the most amazing fact in the universe: God Himself has come to take up residence within us.

    Cultivating a love relationship with God is in some ways like any other relationship… it takes time. Time to spend with Him… listening, loving, enjoying His presence. It will involve changing how we view prayer and time in the Word. Rather than seeing prayer as a way of getting things from God, we begin to see it as time spent in His presence. Instead of reading the Bible for insight into our lives (though that is valuable), we begin to see our Bible as a meeting place with God.

    God loves us so very much that He endured the cross so that we might spend eternity with Him. He wants us WITH Him. Our love response to Him will involve cultivating a lifelong, passionate desire to be with Him – not just some day in heaven, but every day He gives us on this earth.

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