Loving God and Neighbor - page 1

 

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From the Fall 2014 issue of Knowing & Doing:  

Loving God and Neighbor

by Thomas A. Tarrants, III, D.Min.
Vice President of Ministry, C.S. Lewis Institute

 

hether we realize it or not, we all have certain priorities in life. Some things are more important to us than others. And those that are the most important shape our lives in significant ways. This is as true for the day laborer as it is for the corporate executive. Have you ever examined your life with a view toward understanding your priorities? For better or worse, our priorities are slowly turning us into a certain kind of person and shaping our destinies.
  Starting our exploration of priorities with what God says they should be can provide a framework or perspective from which to discern what our priorities really are. Fortunately the Bible is quite clear about this. Jesus says the first and greatest of God’s commandments is to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength” (Mark 12:30, italics added).1 The passage from the Old Testament (Deut. 6:4–5) is a foundational command for our relationship with God. The repetition of all and its application to the various aspects of our nature means that we are to love God with all that we are, with every part of our being: intellect, emotion, will, and desire. We are to become God-centered people; He is to be first in our lives, above everyone and everything, without exception.  From this all other priorities will find their place.

Loving God

  Loving God wholeheartedly lies at the heart of spiritual health, and the more we love Him the healthier we are. Echoing the spiritual giants throughout history, C.S. Lewis says, “Every Christian would agree that a man’s spiritual health is exactly proportional to his love for God.”2 Do you agree? Is wholehearted love for God the highest priority in your life?
  To rightly answer this question, we must begin with a basic understanding of what the Bible means by the word God. This is necessary because our view of God has such profound personal implications. As A.W. Tozer said, “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.”3 Discerning the biblical view of God is also important because many Americans who say they believe in God use the word to mean something other than the God of the Bible. And even those who do mean the God of the Bible sometimes have distorted ideas and images of Him that hinder their ability to love Him wholeheartedly.
 In the Bible, the word God describes an invisible and eternal spiritual being who is immense and infinitely powerful, wise, knowing, and good. He is holy, morally pure, loving, gracious, merciful, patient, and forgiving. He created and sustains all things, seen and unseen, and will one day judge all mankind. Much more could be said, but this brief description helps us distinguish the God of the Bible from other gods. Is this what comes into your mind when you think about God? I hope so, because this is the God whom Jesus says we are to love wholeheartedly.
  How do we love this God? We must first come to know Him personally, for it is impossible to love someone you do not know. Coming to know God involves gaining true and accurate knowledge about Him. Although God has shown us something of His eternal power and divine nature in creation (Rom. 1:20), it is preeminently in the Scriptures that He has given us true, accurate, and detailed knowledge about Himself and His ways. This propositional knowledge about God is a necessary and indispensable foundation for knowing Him, but it is not sufficient by itself. With the help of the Holy Spirit, we must go on to meet God personally and know Him in a relational way. This happens as we come to believe what we have learned about Him and entrust ourselves to Him. God has given the clearest revelation of Himself to us in Jesus, who said, “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9). Paul described Jesus as “the image of the invisible God” (Col. 1:15). We come to know the invisible God through His Son, Jesus. More specifically, we must respond to Jesus’ call to “repent and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:15). As we respond to His call with faith in Him personally and His atoning sacrifice on the cross, we come to know God and Christ in a saving and relational way.

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