There is nothing that argues more for our desperate need for God’s love and grace than the two greatest commandments:
37You must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ 38This is the first and greatest commandment. 39A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ – Matthew 22:37-39 NLT
How is your walk with Christ in this season? Before we can love God with all our heart, we need to allow God to come close and invade and saturate our heart. We have to be familiar with God and comfortable with him to allow him in. To humbly expose and confess our mess. It’s not about him, he already knows it, he can handle it. It is about us. It is just difficult to admit that we have fallen short, that we still have sin in our lives, but not drawing close to God does not diminish him, it only hinders us.
One of Peter’s difficult times was when Jesus was sent to the cross and Peter was crushed. His response is what caused most of his problems, “he was following at a distance”. This ended up setting the stage for the three denials of Christ that broke Peter’s spirit. When we too follow Christ at a distance, we put our self in dangerous situations.
How is your walk with Christ? Are you casually traveling at a distance? Or are you near by? Or are you close?
How are your relationships and what is your engagement with people outside your circle? Are you interacting with people outside of your 12?
The call to love exposes how dark and depraved our hearts really are. Let’s be honest here. It doesn’t take much for us to be irritated with other people. It doesn’t take much for us to become impatient. Little interruptions, disagreements, and obstacles can cause us to well up with anger. We are easily dismissive of others. It’s too easy for us to be prejudiced and judgmental. It’s far too simple for us to be racist and full of hate. In a variety of ways, we look down on others, failing to see them with eyes of compassion and hearts of mercy. It’s so easy for us to judge others as foolish, lazy, or otherwise incompetent.
Our hope is not in our ability to love God, but in his unrelenting and unshakable love for us.
This is a real struggle. One that many a man struggles with. If we were willing to look at our hearts in the mirror of the Word of God, we would be shocked at how unnatural love is for us. But if horizontal love is hard for us, vertical love is even harder. The connection between the two is made in 1 John 4: 20: “If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.” Wow! There it is. If we have such a struggle loving the people around us, how great and deep must be our struggle to love God? It’s one thing to acknowledge God’s existence; it’s one thing to mentally assent to the truths of his Word; and it’s one thing to participate in the formal ministry of his church. But it is an entirely different thing to have every aspect of our life shaped and moved by love for him.
How is your love for Him? Is it flourishing, or is it in a tough spot? Have you had any experiences where your horizontal (world) love was greater than your vertical (God) love?
10This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.
11Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other. 12No one has ever seen God. But if we love each other, God lives in us, and his love is brought to full expression in us.
13And God has given us his Spirit as proof that we live in him and he in us. 14Furthermore, we have seen with our own eyes and now testify that the Father sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. 15All who declare that Jesus is the Son of God have God living in them, and they live in God. 16We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in his love.
God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them. 17And as we live in God, our love grows more perfect. So we will not be afraid on the day of judgment, but we can face him with confidence because we live like Jesus here in this world.
18Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love. 19We love each other because he loved us first.
20If someone says, “I love God,” but hates a fellow believer, that person is a liar; for if we don’t love people we can see, how can we love God, whom we cannot see? 21And he has given us this command: Those who love God must also love their fellow believers. – 1 John 4:10-21 NLT
We need to acknowledge that the power of sin has been broken by the work of Jesus, but the presence of sin still remains and is being progressively eradicated. So there is still sin in our hearts. That means our hearts are still fickle, we still rebel and want our own way, we still forget God and his glory, we still write our own rules, we still love our kingdoms more than we love his, we still demand what we don’t deserve, and we still question God’s goodness when we don’t get out own way.
What is your biggest struggle with? Do you catch yourself in a rebel attitude? Do you fuss and fight to get things your way? Do you catch yourself writing your own rules? Is there a pattern in this behavior linked to persons, places or activities?
We all fall into doing these things because we just do not love God as we should. We tend to love ourselves and we tend to love the world, but very often the love of the Father simply is not in us. So your hope in life and death is never to be found in the degree of your love for God. It is only ever found in the magnitude of his love for you. This love is yours as a gift of his grace even on those days where your heart has run after other lovers. That’s just how beautiful and faithful his love for you really is.