Have you ever looked around at the times that surround us and asked
yourself the question, “What in the world went wrong?” I know that I
certainly have! What I have discovered to be the main problem is that
although we love God, we don’t love Him to the right degree. Let
One day as Jesus was teaching, He was approached by one of the Scribes. The Scribes in the New Testament usually belonged to the sect of the Pharisees, who supplemented the ancient written law by their traditions. On this occasion, this particular scribe came up to Jesus and asked this question, “Which commandment is the most important of all?” His answer to this all important question is at the center of what Jesus is looking for in His followers.
LOVING WITH ALL OUR HEART
And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ This is the great and first commandment. (Mark 12:30; Matthew 22:38)
Jesus answered the Scribe’s question by stating that we are to love God with everything within us. By saying that simple yet, profound statement, Jesus was inviting His listeners that day – and us as well, into loving Him with all that we are. Beloved, we are commanded (invited) to throw each and every facet of our existence unreservedly into loving God. That is well and good, but how do we actually do that?
Loving God with everything within us consists of dynamics that we don’t normally associate with love: faithfulness, humility, obedience, generosity, etc. Love, by Jesus’ definition, encompasses much more than just “warm fuzzies”! In other words, the nitty-gritty of this command is actually found in the routine and mundane arenas of life when we do not feel anything ay all.
Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me…(John 14:21)
Let’s examine for a moment what it means to love with all our heart. Recently I was at a home group Bible study being led by my Pastor, Eddie Mason. Eddie asked the group this probing question, “If we love God with all our heart, would we have any love left to give others?” Eddie’s design in asking that question was to get the group to ponder on what it actually means to love God “with all our heart”.
Within this context, let’s examine what it means to love with “all” of our heart. As human beings we were created with powerful capacities for emotions, affections, and desires – this is what is God is addressing when He speaks of the arena of the heart.
We all have emotions, don’t we? I mean, none of us are from the planet Vulcan! We all feel, sometimes strongly, about many things. And how we feel about people, things and circumstances in our lives is very important, our affections go much deeper than the surface levels of our emotional experiences. Our affections, not our emotions, are the deep currents within us that are designed to steer our life, just as the rudder of a boat lies hidden beneath the surface of the water yet directs the course of the vessel.
Jesus isn’t simply saying that we are to love God with all of our emotions. Rather, He is saying that all of our affections should be directed towards Him. So what we have to ask ourselves is this - where do our affections truly lie? Emotions are sometimes hard to pin down, aren’t they? But our affections are much easily recognized. If we want to see where our affections lie, all we have to do is look at what occupies our time, what motivates our actions, what shapes our aspirations, and what do we perceive that comprises our reward. These are all stable indicators of what ultimately stirs and moves us as individuals – our interior passions.
Yet while our affections are easily defined, they are not as easily focused. Many of our affections remain dangling, waiting in angst to be captured by someone or something worthy of their allegiance, leaving us with a feeling of what I call “holy discontentment”. Often the longing that this discontentment breeds is as powerful in directing our lives as those affections we have actually fastened upon something – often more so.
We are all desperate for our hearts to be utterly apprehended for something – or Someone! When they aren’t then we wander about aimlessly, fluttering from one fleeting pleasure to another, waiting to be consumed. All of us naturally loathe boredom and yearn to be fascinated and exhilarated.
THE ORDERING OF LOVE
So now we can see a little clearer the core issue in seeking to love Him with the fullness of our heart. The question is, “how are my affections conquered? Or, “how can my heart be enraptured with love?” To answer these questions we must first have at least a basic understanding of the movements of love and how our hearts are swept along in its currents.
For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matthew 6:21)
Here Jesus reveals to us an important principle. Our heart will dwell and abide wherever it is that we find our great treasure. In other words, in our desire for love to fill our hearts, we cannot actually pursue love directly. Let me restate it this way – you can never love God by seeking to love God! Instead, what we must seek is a great treasure and love will naturally be the result of finding that treasure.
The paradox and irony of love is that it can only be obtained when it is not sought. If we are to ever love Him completely we must first treasure Him supremely. And it only happens in that order. When we truly encounter the glory and worth of who He is, loving Him with all of our heart is the inevitable consequence.
CHRIST OUR GREAT TREASURE
We don’t love Jesus because we are not convinced of the surpassing worth of Jesus.
The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed and bring me safely into his heavenly kingdom. To him be the glory forever and ever. Amen. (2 Timothy 4:18)
But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen. (2 Peter 3:18)
To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen. (Romans 9:5)
Throughout the New Testament there is a melody that we hear playing again and again – the refrain to which the Holy Spirit ever returns to, as a sort of motif, in His work of inspiration. Have you ever noticed as you read the writings of the apostles, those who had personally heard the sound of Jesus’ voice and seen His earthly form with their eyes, one gets the sense that they are meeting men who had been utterly overwhelmed by something and were still reeling in the wake of its magnitude.
Over and over again, the testimony emerges that there was a life manifested, an identity made known, so staggering and sp majestic that when glimpsed, at even the most elementary level, leaves us with the realization that He is worthy of all our allegiance, affection, and attention forever. All they speak of is Christ, in everything they point to Him alone, all their strength is spent upon Him, and all their love isset upon Him.
A RADIANT WITNESS
Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ (Philippians 3:8)
Our generation desperately needs to be enlightened by the burning hearts of those who treasure Christ above all else and have found His glory to be supremely conquering.
Therefore, to you who believe, He is precious…(1 Peter 2:7 NKJ)
For the apostle Paul, Christ was so precious – He was of such inestimable worth – so much so that the loss of everything else was as nothing compared to the gaining of Christ. What Paul found is true for us all: the glory of Christ is so marvelous, so enrapturing, so satisfying and so grand that to see Him and savor Him is the greatest of all treasures.
To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, (Ephesians 3:8)
It is in the unsearchable riches of Christ that we find the secret of Paul’s selfless love and his irrepressible joy in the midst of even the most difficult of circumstances. When the streams of our gladness are birthed and wrapped up in Jesus, then they do not fail us even in the midst of persecution, rejection, suffering, criticism, or pain.
Paul said that all of the experiences of this earth could not rival the crowing joy of departing to be with Jesus and beholding His glory.
21 For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. 22 If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. 23 I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. (Philippians 1:21-23)
8 Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. (2 Corinthians 5:8)
22 If anyone has no love for the Lord, let him be accursed. Our Lord, come! (1 Corinthians 16:22)
In comparison, how sad that most of the modern Church knows almost nothing of this consuming passion for the glory of Christ that kindles flames of yearning to depart and behold Him with unveiled eyes.
And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. (Matthew 24:12)
1 But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. 2 For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money…lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5 having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people. (2 Timothy 3:1-5)
OUR GREATEST NEED DEFINED
To summarize what we have looked at so far; our problem of not loving as we should isn’t so much a love problem as it is a Christ problem.
2 For I feel a divine jealousy for you, since I betrothed you to one husband, to present you as a pure virgin to Christ. 3 But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ. 4 For if someone comes and proclaims another Jesus than the one we proclaimed, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or if you accept a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it readily enough. 5 Indeed, I consider that I am not in the least inferior to these super-apostles. (2 Corinthians 11:2-4)
Our enemy’s strategy is to divert our attention away from Jesus. In contrast to that, God’s strategy is that we see that the beauty of the incarnation, redemption, and return of Jesus – if we see that, we will experience the fathomless love of God, and if we experience that love, we will reciprocate that love (1 John 4:19).
17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. (Colossians 1:17-18)
The extent to which our lives are entrenched in the preeminence of Christ in all things is the extent to which we are in agreement with both the passion and the plan of the Godhead. What that means to us individually is that when we come into agreement with the dream of God’s heart concerning our life then our soul will automatically be caught up in adoration and passion for Jesus.
OUR PROPER RESPONCE
6 For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. 7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. (2 Corinthians 4:6-7)
Now that we have a working understanding of what is required of us – what do we do first? We need more than just an idea, we need an action plan. Step one, we must actively begin to schedule quality time that we can give our undivided attention to gazing on the glory of the face of Christ, asking God to command His light to shine upon us.
Only through persistent and uninterrupted gazing upon His glory will the rays of Divine light pierce our hard hearts, sweeping us away in the captivating beauty that has held fast the attention of the seraphim for billions of years and break the vice-grip of narcissism that threatens to enslave our every moment.
Pastor, John Piper says:
“Our fatal error is believing that wanting to be happy means wanting to be made much of…This path to happiness is an illusion. And there are clues. There are clues in every human heart even before conversion to Christ. One of those clues is that no one goes to the Grand Canyon or to the Alps to increase his self-esteem. That is not what happens in front of massive deeps and majestic heights. But we do go there, and we go for joy. How can that be, if being made much of is the center of our health and happiness?...In wonderful moments of illumination there is a witness in our hearts: soul-health and great happiness come not from beholding a great self but a great splendor.” - God is the Gospel page 11-12
When the eyes of our heart are illumined and His glory becomes our greatest treasure then, and only then, are we happy. Our joy doesn’t come from His benefits (though they are many) but from basking in the majesty of who He is.
Again, Piper says:
“How do we understand the gospel and the love of God? Have we shifted with the world from God’s love as the gift of Himself to God’s love as the gift of a mirror in which we like what we see? Have we presented the gospel in such a way that the gift of the glory of God in the face of Christ is marginal rather than central and ultimate?...Can we really say that our people are being prepared for heaven where Christ Himself, not His gifts, will be the supreme pleasure? And if our people are unfit for that, will they even go there?” - God is the Gospel page 15
ACQUIRING WHAT WE ARE DESIRING
If we desire to acquire the riches of the knowledge of Jesus (Eph 3:8); it does not come down to whether or not we purchase the hottest teaching series, attend the most anointed conference, live in the best place, experience supernatural visions or experiences, or read the right book. The one necessary thing we must embrace and commit to is to actually sit down and open our Bible and, together with prayer and fasting, lovingly search out everything it says about the glory of who Jesus is and what He has done.
As the Holy Spirit shines His revelatory light upon our heart through the written Word, the majesty of the divinity of Christ, the perfection of His humanity, the wisdom of His sovereign leadership, the tenderness of His mercy, the blood of His cross, the hope of His Kingdom, the greatness of His strength, and everything else about Him will become our sweetest portion in life.
Beloved, as you drink in the beauty of this Man, your soul will at last find rest you have been seeking. This is intimacy, and this is what you were created for – to know God by enjoying Him forever!