How to: Love God
Loving God with reason and passion
In our walk of faith there will be moments where you will find, just as I did, confronting opinions about how to properly worship God. I won’t even get started on the differences for the discussion does not really edify. Instead, I make you an invitation to look up to what God says about it in the Scripture and my personal understanding of it.
The passage here for reference is a short one, Luke 10:27 (NIV). In this occasion a master of the law was testing Jesus about His understanding of the law. Jesus then made him respond:
He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”
I find it interesting to see how the master of the law already assumed that he loved God. This is easily perceived by analysing the question he directs to Jesus right after responding. His question is not really about the whole act of loving God, but about who his neighbor might be.
I wonder if we all, just like the master of the law, don’t assume that we do already love God, so there’s no need to wonder if we do love Him or not.
If the love that we extend to our so called neighbors comes from the love we give and receive from God, doesn’t the whole act of failing to love our neighbors comes from our failure to love God?
Just as the master of the law mentioned and Jesus agreed, there are 4 aspects in this act of loving God: heart, soul, strength and mind. This means that our love to God needs to cover all 4 different aspects.
Loving God with our hearts means that in our relationship with Him there must be affection. We naturally have it to the ones we love, even the ones who carries psychological disorders feel affection it in their own particular way. There’s no way of loving God without affectively feeling it.
Loving God with our souls means committing to satisfy every single craving in Him and not somewhere else. Cravings such as: sense of belonging, satisfaction, pleasure, etc. If we seek to satisfy a certain craving somewhere else, we are not really loving Him with our souls. It’s an act of distrust just like Adam and Eve did at the very first sin.
Portraying our love to God through our strength means to effortfully seek Him, or in a single word, devotion. Our daily devotion to prayer and studying the Bible is a way of showing love to God through our strength. Believe me, devotion is not easy. It demands effort and strength to discipline yourself into turning it into a habit.
Then finally, mind. Our minds need to understand all aspects involved in how the history of God with men unfolded into the cross and the pouring of the Holy Spirit. Without proper logical understanding of the Scriptures and the very heart of God in all its extent it’s easy to be led astray by wrong teachings about God. Using our logical minds to study God by the Scriptures is loving Him. God gave us logical minds to make logical sense of things, including Him.
I’ve been to many different churches in my walk. Visited highly charismatic to calm intelectual based churches and in all of them I have seen God manifesting His presence and reaching people.
By His grace and mercy, He is in all of them.
However what I frequently hear God saying whenever I visit these kinds of extreme churches is that there’s always something quite missing in their demonstration of love to God and He is desperate to open their eyes to what is missing.
The situation worsen when both extremes meet to discuss about their differences. In occasions like these, I hardly find love for God and even less love for their neighbors.
One accuse the other of lacking discipline, decency and manipulation, coming even to accusation of heresy as the other part throws accusations of spiritual death and praise of men over God. Both sides are right, yet wrong. Neither forms of worship are false, however the inclination to one side is dangerous and blindfolding to the full understanding of God.
Inclination to one side of the whole “emotion x reason” balance illustrates one clear thing. Sin by the declaration of independence from God, which is the very first one and the very root of all others sins.
It’s not true dependence of God if we suppose that He only manifest His presence in a single way.
Charismatic churches are famous for their manifestations and reactions that freaks out fellow Christians that are not used to see people shaking, laughing out loud, jumping, praying in tongues and etc. Truth, some may even fake and abuse it, but the existence of these cannot be denied.
It’s in the Bible.
Prophecy, visions, words of knowledge, healing, etc. these are not charlatanisms meant to amuse the ignorant crowd, these are significant and real signs that the Spirit of God is present. True, sometimes it’s not God speaking, but the possibility of error shouldn’t stop people to keep manifesting their spiritual gifts until they are versed enough to distinguish.
Intellectual churches are prone to spiritual death by neglecting the moving of the promised Spirit who came down from heaven to give us understanding of the word and convince us of our sins, but He also came down to make us ablaze and empower us with gifts as real bearers of the Kingdom of God. Without the moving of the Spirit, the church will keep nurturing a men-centered ‘faith’ among its members and soon fall into a ill and theory based church, not in a God that speaks.
The invitation is for us to be extreme in our acts of love to God. Not to a single side of it, but to all possible sides: heart, soul, strength and mind. But many misunderstand this idea of finding balance into thinking that it is about little bit of both, when we actually are called to love Him with all we got.
The Lesson in prophet Elijah’s Life
We all know the story of prophet Elijah against the priests of Baal. God responded to Elijah’s prayer with a huge fire and proved to all witnesses that ‘YHWH’ is the One and true God.
Elijah had witnessed God responding with power, but still he was afraid of Jezebel’s death sentence to him, so he fled to the wilderness wishing to die. After being fed by an angel, he kept running away until he met God in a cave and then was commanded to stand on a mountain for the Lord would pass (1 Kings 19:11–13 NIV):
The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.” Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave. Then a voice said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”
Elijah knew the God that responded with fire, but it was the first time he had found God in a gentle and encouraging whisper. The great fire demonstrated God’s power, but it was the whisper that changed Elijah’s life. If you keep reading the following chapters, you will notice that something happened to Elijah after hearing the whisper, for he turned from ‘fleeing for his life’ mode to ‘obedience’ mode. Would Elijah’s life had changed the way it changed if he kept looking for God in the fire and ignoring the whisper?
It’s God’s call to decide how He will show up to us, not ours. If we keep blinding ourselves by trying to classify things and not actually getting to love God with all our heart, soul, strength and mind, maybe the whisper or the fire will pass trying to change our lives forever, but we won’t notice it pass.