Tuesday, November 25, 2008

A call to love God

Today is the next installment in my series of posts on the mission statement of our church. As a reminder, our mission is "to make disciples of Jesus Christ who love God and love people, by reaching and teaching everyone."

I've already written on the importance of a clearly defined ministry goal and the definition of a disciple of Jesus Christ. Now we'll move along to the marks of a genuine disciple.

There are two distinguishing marks of a disciple of Jesus. One is a love for God. The other is a love for people. If you claim to be a Christian, these two things should increasingly characterize your life.

Above all, a disciple must have a love for God. All other Christian virtues, emotions, and duties stem from this root of love. When a religious leader asked Jesus, "Which is the great commandment in the Law?" Jesus answered without hesitation that it is a love for God. He said, "You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind" (Matt. 22:37). This is a genuine, all-consuming, love for God that is so strong that all other relationships, by comparison, are viewed with contempt (Matt. 10:37).

Jonathan Edwards calls love "the chief of all affections, and fountain of all other affections" and believes "the essence of all true religion lies in holy love." He goes on to say,

From a vigorous, affectionate, and fervent love to God, will necessarily arise other religious affections; hence will arise an intense hatred and abhorrence of sin, fear of sin, and a dread of God’s displeasure, gratitude to God for his goodness, complacence and joy in God, when God is graciously and sensibly present, and grief when he is absent, and a joyful hope when a future enjoyment of God is expected, and fervent zeal for the glory of God. (Religious Affections)
Likewise, Alexander Strauch writes,
Above all things, we should seek to increase our knowledge and enjoyment of Christ and deepen our love for him (Phil. 3:8-14). After all, the deeper our love for him the more we will become like him in love and the more we will be able to teach others to love. (Leading With Love, 30)
Love of God is the greatest commandment, the essence of true religion, the fountain of religious affection, and the mark of a true disciple. How is your love for God? Is it growing or waning? Have you, like the Ephesians, begun to leave your first love (Rev. 2:4)? Consider the following questions:
  • Are you growing in your knowledge of God? We can't expect to love Someone we don't know.
  • Are you growing in your fellowship with God? We can't expect to love Someone we don't spend time with.
  • Are you growing in your obedience to God? We can't expect to love Someone we ignore.
  • Are you growing in your disdain for sin? We can't expect to love Someone who we enjoy rejecting and offending.
  • Are you growing in your appreciation for the cross? We can't expect to love Someone if we forget their greatest demonstration of love toward us (Rom. 5:8).
  • Are you sure that you are a Christian? We can't expect to love God unless He has first loved us (1 Jn. 4:19).
How marvelous is our God, and how worthy of our love! Let us develop daily a deeper love for God in heart, soul, mind and strength. Let us be satisfied with Him, enthralled with Him, and completely devoted to Him. May He become our portion, our passion, and the sole object of our affection. In so doing, we will prove to be Christ's disciples.

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