When God created mankind, he gave us an amazing amount of tools to express ourselves, and understand the world, with. Everything ranging from music, speech, emotions, and our senses were all designed so we could know and understand God, as well express ourselves in ways that honor him, both in actions and in words. This is such an important message to be able to share with people we are hoping to bring to Christ, as we should understand, and live according to, the life-changing love that paid for our sins, and is waiting for all who open their hearts to accept it
Who Is God Exactly?
Okay, I know this sounds like a silly question, but it is important to understand God according to what the Bible teaches, as apart from being a supernatural being who gave life to all creation through the sheer power of his words and thoughts, the Bible tells us that God is love itself
1 John 4:16
And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love
1 John 4:8
Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love
Think about that for a moment
The most powerful force in all existence, the one we anchor the hope of our souls to, is pure love itself
Isn’t that amazing?
As part of being a Christian, focusing on this one, uncomplicated fact about God’s personality becomes incredibly important, not only in our daily lives as we strive to be more like God, but also when we are witnessing to others–love should be demonstrated in our actions, and our words, to everyone around us
1 John 3:18
Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth
One of the main challenges we all face when speaking to others about God is dealing with the fact that some people have misrepresented God’s character, and it often results in Christians being labeled as harsh, unloving, hypocritical, judgmental, “Bible thumpers”, close-minded, etc…
Do not be afraid to openly acknowledge there are people out there who do not live according to the truth, even though they claim to, as God does not make himself look bad, Christians do!
Just openly tell people that God is love, and anyone living outside of love has Christianity completely wrong!
Loving God, And Others, Means Being Modeled After God’s Own Character
Before we were spiritually mature enough to use Biblical velcro, we probably read the passage below as it is one of the most quoted scriptures about love:
1 Corinthians 13:4-7
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres
Even though we understand love on an intellectual, philosophical, and conceptual level, we also know that expressing love in our lives, according to the same standard as God defines it, is not something we learn to do overnight–this is definitely a journey!
For example, we know it is not always easy being patient or kind when people drive us crazy, nor is it easy to be slow to anger if someone does something to hurt or offend us, let alone get to the point where we keep no record of wrongs–do not even get me started on forgiveness!
I mean honestly, who can say they have not struggled with these things, or continue to for that matter?
Even though we may read about the definition of love, unless we apply it in our lives through perseverance, and consistent effort, we will never truly understand what it means, ie: loving God, and those around us, means transforming ourselves into God’s own likeness, not just understanding his loving personality and accepting his blessings
2 Corinthians 3:18
And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit
Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will
It is easy to embrace the promises of God’s love and forgiveness when we first become Christians, as it should be, taking the next steps in our journey towards maturity however, involves action and commitment on our part–nobody learned to love others overnight, and it is not an instant process
Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything
2 Timothy 2:12
…if we endure, we will also reign with him
Even though we understand Jesus paid for our sins and promised eternal life if we endure to the end, what does it mean to follow after God, who is love itself, in a way that pleases him?
What Does It Mean To Love God And Others With All Of Our Hearts?
The Bible teaches us that those who love God are the ones who live righteously by obeying his commands
This teaching can be distilled into two very simple points, ie: love God with all our strength, and love each other as we love ourselves
One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”
“The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these”
If you love me, you will obey what I command. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever— the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him
When witnessing, and just living our lives, it is important to share that being a Christian is not about following rules or doing certain types of actions: the end goal should be to fall so head over heels in love with God we cannot even fathom doing anything we know would hurt his feelings
Caring about God’s feelings is a reflection that we understand his character, and care about him like we would care for a close friend, but the ability to love God is the natural progression of our ability to love our brothers and sisters in Christ–we cannot love God without learning to love our family in Christ!
1 John 4:20
For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen
Also, Peter talked about the progression of learning to truly love God and others, as it starts with putting our faith in God, then progresses to learning about God’s character, and finishes with being able to love
2 Peter 1:5-8
For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ
Loving God can feel like a tough thing to understand, as a lot of times people focus on getting forgiveness for their sins, and wiping away their guilt, more than they focus on how much their sin hurts God’s feelings, and how much it separates us from God
1 Corinthians 8:3
But the man who loves God is known by God
(Remember that Jesus said if we love him we will obey his commands to live righteously)
But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear
Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded
Based on this, we must understand that our sin separates us from God, which is the number one thing that prevents us from becoming spiritually mature, and, in some cases, can make us really bad witnesses for Christ based on the way we live our lives
This is also one of the reasons we experience a feeling of distance from God at times, as we may not be sinning outright with things like lust, greed, etc… which can seem “obvious” as they can dominate our lives, but we may be putting other things between us and God, like anger, jealousy, etc… that denies the expression of pure love in our lives
However, if we love God, and those around us, in such a way as the Bible tells us, the world would be an incredibly beautiful place, completely devoid of sin, as no one would seek their own gain at the expense of someone else, nor would we ever want to do anything that hurt others in any way–this is how God created mankind in the first place: completely absent of sin and evil
If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others
What a beautiful thing!
One additional point about loving God, is that our emotions must be sincerely modeled after God’s own heart, lip-service is not enough–this means literally hating what is evil, not hungering for it at all, remembering that God is love and righteousness itself, hungering for anything else is hungering for death
Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good
For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord
Our goal for spiritual maturity in Christ should not be to memorize more Bible verses, attend church regularly, etc… it should be to reflect, all the more accurately, the perfect love that motivated God to step down from his throne to lay his life down for us–Jesus showed his love for us through humble, self-less action, not just words, just like we should show our love for others in the same way
1 John 4:9-10
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
Can you imagine the amount of affection God has for us, that he would forsake heaven, and all, not just some, of his authority and power, for the sake of humbling himself to show us how much he cares for us–even while we were dead in sin
But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart
This is the most beautiful message we could ever share with others, not just in words, but in actions and deeds
In closing, no matter who we are, how long we have been Christians or how much we think we “know” about God, the only thing that matters is the amount of love we are able to exemplify in our lives on God’s behalf, as that is the ultimate expression of our relationship and gratitude for his love for us–we are entrusted with sharing the gospel of love and truth with all those around us through the lives we lead
…he who has been forgiven little loves little
From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded
(Remember that we were given God’s own love, with our sins forgiven through his blood–a gift he expects us to multiply and share!)
The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love