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Up And Down And All Around

Dear Friends, 

For the past few days I've been thinking a lot about what it means to love God. It's been on my mind because we're approaching Easter, and so I've been studying the death and resurrection of Christ in preparation for our church services. And as I've studied what Christ went through in the week leading up to His crucifixion, I keep thinking, “He must have loved God a lot”.

To be honest, this is an unusual thought for me. Typically when I think of the crucifixion, I think of how much Jesus must have loved us since He endured such horrors for us. However, for some reason, this time around I keep thinking of how much He must have loved God, because it was God He was being obedient to when He went up on that cross. That seems like a directive that would take a lot of love to carry out.

And thinking about “Jesus loving God” has led me to think about whether or not I’m good at the same thing - am I good at loving God. Honestly, I don’t regularly think about how I’m loving God because I'm too busy thinking about whether or not I'm being obedient to God. So this question intrigued me, and led me to Matthew 22:37. If you’re not familiar with that passage, here’s what it says: “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.” This is Jesus talking, and He’s answering a question about what the most important commandment is. Matthew 22:37 is His answer.

So, while obeying God is important, Jesus says loving Him is even more so. In Jesus’ answer about the most important commandment, He outlines three measurements of love. First, we're to love God with all of our hearts. In the Biblical Hebrew culture, the word “heart” was used to refer to the core of someone's being. That means Jesus was telling us that loving God should be our foundation - it should define us.

Second, Jesus says we are to love God with all our souls. The word He uses for “soul” is the same word He uses when He cries out in the Garden of Gethsemane:  “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow, even to the point of death.” (Mark 14:34)  So in the Matthew passage, Jesus is telling us that loving God includes our emotions.

Finally, Jesus tells us that we are to love God with all of our minds. This is an interesting one to me because I've always assumed it meant we needed to have a good academic, or factual understanding of God and His Word. However, as I studied it, I discovered that in the original language, this word actually carried more of a meaning of “might” or “strength”. So it actually speaks of loving God with strength and determination.

In looking at those three descriptions of how we should love God, it seems clear that Jesus is telling us we need to love God with every part of our lives. We need to love Him from the deepest part of our being. We need to love Him with our emotions. And we need to love Him with all of the strength and determination we have.

Sounds great, doesn’t it? Well, here’s the challenge: too many of us tend to love God the way we feel most comfortable loving Him. For example, some of us love God with all of our minds, but we're afraid to express any emotion about Him. Others of us love God with great emotion, but it's an up-and-down roller coaster ride of feelings, depending on how our lives are going. There’s no determination to love God when we don’t “feel” like it. Both approaches are unhealthy for us because God wants us to love Him with every fiber of our being - and to do it with our hearts and our minds fully engaged.

So this week, as we prepare for Easter and the celebration of the resurrection of our Savior, let's ask God to help us love Him well. Let’s ask God to show us the areas in our lives where we're unbalanced in our love for Him, and then let’s ask Him to give us the desire and ability to love Him the way He desires and deserves to be loved.




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