I recently heard a sermon online about lamenting the fact that Christians don’t love God the way we ought to love Him. “How do you expect to be used by God if you don’t even fully love Him?” the passionate preacher proclaimed. His message reminded me of the many sermons just like it that I used to preach, but it reminded me even more of the many years I struggled to love the Lord the way I felt I should.
The Greatest Commandment
It’s a sincere endeavor to love the Lord, but so often is misguided. A lawyer once came to Jesus and asked Him, “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the law?” Notice what the man was asking about here. He was asking about the Law. Jesus answered his question, saying, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and foremost commandment.” In response to the man’s question about the greatest law, Jesus answered that it is to love God.
This verse has been abused many times by well meaning Christians because they fail to understand its context. It’s important to note that the man was asking Jesus about the Law. As odd as it might seem, when we believe our greatest need is to try to love God more, we set ourselves up for failure. That’s because of what the Law does to a person.
The Bible says that the Law stirs up sinful passions (See Rom. 7:5). It stimulates rebellion against the very thing it demands. So if you focus on how much you should love God, that law will condemn you and cause you to be filled with a sense of guilt. It isn’t possible to love Him like we want to until we understand how much He loves us. Then, and only then, will we find love for God swelling up within our hearts.
Haven’t you found this to be true in your own life? When you’ve focused on loving Him more, did you feel like you were succeeding? Or did you find yourself literally praying for help to love Him more? “Lord, help me to love you more” was evidence that you knew you were falling short in that area.
How to Love God More
The Bible says, “We love, because He first loved us.” Do you want to love God more? The key, then, is to focus on how much He loves you, not on how much you love Him at any given moment in life. The most important thing in your life isn’t to struggle to love God more. By what power can you do that? Haven’t we all struggled in that area? The secret is to begin to focus on how much your heavenly Father loves you.
As you grow in your understanding of the great love that He has for you, you’ll find that what happens is the love within you will be awakened and motivated. In response to His love, it will grow and flourish and you’ll find yourself loving Him more and more and, for that matter, even loving everybody else around you more and more too.
A legalistic view on the love relationship we have with our Father shifts the focus away from His goodness and grace and puts the responsibility on us. Grace reminds us that He is the initiator and we are the responders. The Bible says that God loves us; it’s all about His love for us, and when we focus on that, instead of on our love for Him, we will discover that knowing the love of God for us becomes the catalyst for experiencing and enjoying His love in a deeper way than we have ever known. We will find that our own love for Him grows by leaps and bounds.