Friday, December 4, 2009

The High Cost of Loving God

"I love God, I really do. I can feel it down deep in my soul. I love God so much sometimes I cry when I think of Him when certain songs are playing. How do I know I love God? I know I love God because I feel it so strong in my heart and in my soul! I know what love feels like and that is what I feel toward God."
So goes the typical response of the western church-goer. The typical western Christian really isn't much, if any different than the typical western unbeliever. In a society conditioned on a predominately hedonistic worldview, it is to be expected that appeals to the senses would underpin reality and truth. Yes, appeals to emotions are primiarly appeals to the senses. The foundational problem is that appeals to truth and to "what is" should validate emotion rather than appeals to emotion validating truth and reality. The typical westerner orders their life by an ethical system that feels good.
Think about how we make decisions. Think about the entire idea of political correctness. We don't raise our hand to challenge a viewpoint because we don't want to offend anyone. We want them to feel good at all costs, even if feeling good leads to destruction. I read an article in the WSJ about the current economic crisis we are in and he blamed much of the crisis on political correctness in corporate board rooms. Strategies were posited and although several people in the room realized the risk involved, political correctness kept them from disagreeing with Senior Management. As a result we face the greatest economic challenge since the depression. Furthermore, one has to wonder how much of this political correctness being practiced currently is hindering or slowing our recovery. One thing seems sure: we have not learned our lesson.
Is it any different in the visible church of western culture? Are we not a product of the culture more than we are the product of the power of God's Spirit working in us to transform us into the image of Christ? When we have an opportunity to speak up about error, do we? Or would we rather avoid hurting someone's feeling and allow them to continue in error. And when someone does speak up about error, what are your immediate thoughts about that person? Do you step back and give the content of their conversation a fair hearing and assessment or do you immediate, in knee-jerk fashion, judge the person to be difficult, overly-critical, and just unattractive? Each of us must examine why we speak up and why we don't. But more than that, we must also examine why we adopt a certain attitude toward others who do speak up. What does the Scripture teach regarding these issues? Should not God's word be our standard? If not, what then is the standard? Moreover, we seem to have adopted the hyper-inidividuality of our hedonistic culture? We no longer think what other believers are doing in their personal lives (to include their doctrine) is any of our business. We think we have no right and certainly no obligation to correct those who are walking in moral failure or holding to outright doctrinal error. Biblically speaking, nothing could be futher from the truth. The situation is even worse than that. There are some people do state their opinion and love others enough to engage in the uncomfortable activity of confronting them in love. This takes real courage in our culture, but much more than that it takes genuine love. It takes biblical love to confront. Satan has played us for fools. He has convinced us that the activity of leaving others to themselves to tend to their own business is actual loving when the truth is that we are all to practice the Christian discipline of submitting to one another in the fear of the Lord. (Eph. 5:21)
The one quality, however, that should beautify every believer and every church, regardless of giftedness or personality, is love. [Strauch, Love or Die, pg. 11]
In Matthew 22:35-40, a lawyer tested Jesus with the question of which commandment is the greatest of all. Jesus answered and said, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. The second is like it, you shall love your neighbor as yourself." Wow! Jesus was communicating the high cost of loving God. Actually, Jesus was exegeting the greatest of all the commandments. This commandment leaves no room for autonomy. Moreover, hedonistic philosophy cannot stand up under the pressure of such a radical love for God. The Greek word for all as it is translated here is HOLOS. It's basic meaning is pertaining to the whole, complete, or entire, with the focus on unity.
D.A. Carson says, "From the viewpoint of biblical anthropology, "heart," "soul," and "mind" (v.37) are not mutually exclusive but overlapping categories, together demanding our love for God to come from our whole person, our every faculty and capacity." [Matthew, Expositors' Bible Commentary, pg. 464]
Jesus demands not that we partially work God into our lives, loving Him with some of our being. Jesus does not demand part of us. He does not demand that we set up a hard trichotomy between church, family, and work, relagating God to only the area of church. Jesus does not demand some external religious appearance from us where we simply go through the motions of church attendance, adopt bits and pieces of the Christian ethic where it suits us, and talk about Him from time to time under just the right circumstances. Jesus has acknowledged that the greatest commandment of all is for us to love God with the entirety of our very being and essence. God is to become everything to us. We are to meditate on him when we get up, when we go along during our day, when we eat, when we relate to others, and when we lay down to sleep. God is to be our all in all. His word is to become to us all that matters in this life. Pleasing Him is become the single greatest desire of our heart. All our actions and decisions center around the singluar unified purpose of glorifying God in everything we do, everything we say, and everything we are. Anything short of this is not loving God with our entire being.
John MacArthur comments, We can't know Jesus as the Messiah until we surrender to Him. I couldn't know Him as my Savior until I gave up my life to Him. Then I knew. Parading an infinite number of miracles in front of me wouldn't have proved anything. Miracles are beside the point. You will never know whether Jesus can save your soul from hell, give you new life, re-create your soul, plant His Holy Spirit there, forgive your sin, and send you to heaven until you give your life totally to Him. That is self-denial, cross bearing, and following Him in obedience.
Loving God means more than church attendance. It means more than getting baptized. It means more than signing the church covenant. It means a radical surrender of one's entire being, heart, soul, and mind to God. Everything you think, do, and are becomes radically geared to glorifying God. There enteres a burning desire to please Him regardless of the cost. There is risk here. Make no mistake about it. For some the risk of losing family and friends is very real. For others, the risk of life is a very real possibility. Genuine love for God always involves self-sacrifice and risk. Christ gave Himself for us. What are we willing to risk for Him? What will be our cost of genuinely loving God with all of our being?

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