Thursday, April 17, 2008

Loving God

One of the benefits and curses that I currently experience as a bachelor is having cable television. I say it is a benefit because it keeps me informed on today's culture but it can become a curse because with ninety-nine channels there is nothing worth watching. I get either bored or frustrated watching people in the name of our Lord swindle innocent people's money, seeing another author get his five minutes of fame at a book signing, young men and women being immoral for the sake of "reality," another re-run of The Brady Bunch or shows dedicated showing creation without mentioning their Creator.

One evening as I was in search of something to watch until my game had returned from half time, something caught my eye. It was one of those dating shows. There's one guy who is famous and he's looking for love among the ladies the network chose for the show. Apparently, the episode that I was watching was the finale where he chose his lady from the two finalists. I came into the action where he broke the news to the loser; she won't be the "one" for him. After he assures her, she's still a good person; he hugs and kisses her a final time. As the camera lingers on this young lady as she is tearfully walking away, an emotional voice-over comes on and replaces the sappy break up music that is playing in the background. It is our tearful contestant and in front of maybe millions of complete strangers, she boldly declares, "If I knew falling in love was going to be this rough, I would never want to."

As heart wrenching this might be for some people to hear, it provoked my thoughts. Love is seen as something that can be easily obtained and maintained. As Christians, we are to love God, but what does this mean? I think one of the biggest troubles that we encounter in our sphere of Christianity today is that we've lost what it means to love God, which I think has come from letting our world dictate what it means to love Him. I think that in order to reclaim our culture but also our own hearts, we need to go back to the Scriptures to discover what it means to love God. Once we have discovered what it means to love our Lord, we will be able to love our neighbor and the world around us.

When we first go about and think what it means to love God, I think the first verse that comes to many of our minds is Jesus' response to the lawyer in Luke 10:

And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, "Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?" He said to him, "What is written in the Law? How do you read it?" And he answered, "You shall 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 your neighbor as yourself." And he said to him, "You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live. (Luke 10:25-28)

I think that what has happened is that we have taken each part of Jesus' command and loved Him in that way instead using all the ways He mentions. For example, loving God has become an emotional experience or a passionate love that becomes more mushy than realistic. We then write songs about this experience that could be top forty hits on the pop charts by replacing Jesus with our girlfriend’s or boyfriend’s name. I think this is why most men are not drawn to modern churches in America today, when it comes to expressing love for Jesus, it looks more like a romantic lust. However we must be reminded of Jeremiah's prophetic words, "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?" (Jer. 17:9). He is to be our groom and we (the church) his bride, but I think that we cannot love him the say way we love our girlfriend or spouse. I think there is an expectation between two people today, be it married or dating, that both people will bring something to the relationship. Both single men and women have a desire to meet the "perfect one" who will sweep them off their feet, a knight in shinning armor or princess in need of rescuing. I think dreams like this can be damaging because we have set the bar too high or too low. One classic example that makes me laugh is young women's fascination with Jane Austen's fictional character, Mr. Darcy. I recently came across an article written by a friend of mine who illustrates this point much better than I, Irony abounds in the fact that in our search for finding the "perfect one", we neglect the fact that the Perfect One loved us even before we could love Him (see 1 John 4:9).

One of the other ways we have separated our love of our Lord is loving Him our intellect or mind. My pastor a couple of weeks ago posed this question to us, "are you striving towards knowing God or knowing about God?" This may not seem like a powerful statement but if we love Him solely with our minds, it becomes knowledge that may become like party trivia that makes us sound intelligent. I think if you're like me, it is hard to determine how this has manifested itself in my life. I found the following list that I think illustrates the point better than I could, Jonathan Leeman's blog,

In their book How People Change, Tim Lane and Paul David Tripp lay out seven counterfeit gospels.

1. Formalism. "I participate in the regular meetings and ministries of the
church, so I feel like my life is under control. I'm always in church, but it
really has little impact on my heart or on how I live. I may become judgmental
and impatient with those who do not have the same commitment as I do."

2. Legalism. "I live by the rules—rules I create for myself and rules I
create for others. I feel good if I can keep my own rules, and I become arrogant
and full of contempt when others don't meet the standards I set for them. There
is no joy in my life because there is no grace to be celebrated."

Mysticism. "I am engaged in the incessant pursuit of an emotional experience
with God. I live for the moments when I feel close to him, and I often struggle
with discouragement when I don't feel that way. I may change churches often,
too, looking for one that will give me what I'm looking for."

Activism. "I recognize the missional nature of Christianity and am passionately
involved in fixing this broken world. But at the end of the day, my life is more
of a defense of what's right than a joyful pursuit of Christ."

Biblicism. "I know my Bible inside and out, but I do not let it master me. I
have reduced the gospel to a mastery of biblical content and theology, so I am
intolerant and critical of those with lesser knowledge."

6. Therapism.
"I talk a lot about the hurting people in our congregation, and how Christ is
the only answer for their hurt. Yet even without realizing it, I have made
Christ more Therapist than Savior. I view hurt as a greater problem than sin—and
I subtly shift my greatest need from my moral failure to my unmet needs."

7. "Social-ism." "The deep fellowship and friendships I find at church
have become their own idol. The body of Christ has replaced Christ himself, and
the gospel is reduced to a network of fulfilling Christian

I have only shared two of the ways that I struggle in loving God, I'm sure that there is many more ways that this looks in the lives of believers. However, I think a good reminder we must speak to ourselves before saying we love God, is remembering at what cost are we allowed to love God. It did not come from loving ourselves more, putting together all of the systematic formulas in the world, but it came through God's one and only Son, coming to earth to be the sacrifice for all of our sin.

"For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." (Romans 5:6-8)

One of the most powerful images in the Easter story is the curtain in the Temple that separated God and man was torn in two. No longer is God's presence seen in a building but in the hearts and minds of His people. Now anyone can come and speak with Him, not just the priests of old. We can come boldy into His throneroom because of Jesus has bridged the gap between His Father and His creation by His death. Not only His death but Him conquering the grave for sinners who would become His new chosen race. This has allowed us to love Him because of His great love for us. Keep in mind; what we love will be what we speak about the most.

No comments: