Yes, you read the title correctly. When we define love for God, too often we make loving God and serving God equal. However, love is not defined as action, nor can a set of actions simply performed together be defined as love. When we hear or read the first commandment – “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength…” – we make the grave error of thinking that the USE of our strength or mind FOR God is the definition of loving God.
Dear friends, love is not an action. Love is an emotion! Love is a feeling. Service and action come out of love, but service and action are not love. This is so crucial for us to understand, because we often give ourselves checklists of how to love God.
We say, “How do I go about the business of loving God?
— I go to church;
— I avoid sin;
— I live righteously;
— I praise Him;
— I study His Word.
And when I have done these things, I have loved God.”
NO! The greatest commandment cannot be boiled down to a set of actions. The greatest commandment regards how we FEEL about God. To “Love the Lord your God…” is to have a heart that yearns for Jesus. It is to have affections that desire Him. It is to be overcome by His beauty.
Think about the way you feel about your family; about your children; about your greatest friends. Do you define friendship by what you do for someone, or how you feel for someone? I have friends that buy me things, like a cup of coffee for instance. However, that does not mean that every person who buys me a cup of coffee is automatically my friend. My definition of friendship is more than the act someone takes to buy me something. I only have one brother, and I love him perhaps more than anyone in this world. Some of the things we do for and with each other, I also do for and with other people. But I do not love them like my brother. Love is bound up in the feelings, not the actions.
One of the greatest deceptions of Satan in our lives is when we become convinced that God wants our actions more than our hearts. It is a powerful, and very old, deception. It is the same thing the Pharisees struggled with. They replaced loving God with doing things for God. So, forgive me for the shock of this statement, but it is altogether true:
If there is not a feeling of love in your heart for God, any action which might have been good, holy, or praiseworthy turns into something detestable to Him.
In Isaiah 1, we see the Lord rebuking the nation of Israel for offering sacrifices on the altar. Now, that should strike you as strange, because they were simply doing what God commanded. And yet, God looks at their obedience and says:
“Stop bringing meaningless offerings! Your incense is detestable to me…Your appointed feasts my soul hates. They have become a burden to me; I am weary of bearing them.” Isaiah 1:13-14
We cannot please God if we do not love Him. We cannot be saved if we do not love Him. Our relationship with God is not based on the things we do, but on how we love Him. Do we love God as He loves us? Do we desire God as He desires us? Do we love Him as a Father, while He loves us as children?
Do you feel affection, love, and desire for God?
This is the measuring rule by which we evaluate our faith. If we love God, then we have been born again (1 John 4:7 & 5:1). If we do not love God, then we cannot be saved.
Now, it’s true: God calls us to obedience; God calls us to be holy. Nothing I’ve written here should be taken to say that if we love God then we can sin all we want. However, we must not allow ourselves to define love – a feeling – by our actions. Our actions are only the evidence of our love. Our actions are the fruit which grows on the tree of love. The tree must come first, and then the fruit. If love is not present, then actions cannot please God, because God’s greatest requirement is love.
So let me encourage you with this: Jesus is worth your love! His glory and goodness will never fail to satisfy! His love for you is great! Ask Him to give your heart more love for Him.
Be blessed in mutual love with Jesus.
Pastor Daniel Lowry