We just finished up Big Sky’s first ever “youth group retreat” in which various churches brought youth groups to Big Sky for a winter retreat. It went very well and it is definitely something we are interested in doing on a yearly basis. I spoke for the event (which is one reason you haven’t seen a blog for a while!) on loving God and thought I would share some of the lessons I learned as I prepared for the weekend.
Jesus says in Mark 12:29b-30,
“The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 And you shall 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 12:29b-30
I’m sure you are familiar with the Greek term that Jesus here uses for love – agape. The Greek language was much more helpful in understanding love as it possessed numerous different words for love. Simply put, agape is the most noble form of love. It is the term used in 1John 4:8, “…God is love.” It seeks the good of the other person or being, it is a non-sexual love not based on feeling, but on the will. It is a love that gladly denies self or privileges for the good of the other. As the students and I looked at this weekend, the definition of love most often portrayed in our culture is that of eros – an erotic love of passion. Eros is not under control and is for the most part, consumed with self. Below are three important principles as we consider how we may love God more:
In John 14:15, Jesus says, “if you love me, you will keep my commandments.” Yup, that’s right, here is agape again. For many Christians, there is a disconnect between profession and action or obedience. God is not impressed like we are with a declaration of love only. He desires for us to show our love for Him through our obedience to Him. Of course His love for us is not based on our obedience (Romans 5:8), but our obedience to Him should be a result of our love for Him. Of all the motivations He could have chosen for us to serve and obey Him, He chooses love because in His infinite wisdom, He understands that this is the greatest motivation for mankind.
2. Agape love is not half-hearted.
One of my favorite verses is found in Jeremiah 29:13 - You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. Elsewhere in Matthew 6:24, Jesus tells us, “no one can serve two masters.” Literally, the idea here is that no one can be a slave to two masters; two masters can’t own you. We all serve something or someone in our loves and God is not content to only have a part of your heart. If you are married, you can probably relate to this as you would most likely be upset if you found out you only had a portion of your spouse’s love for you!
3. Agape love ignores self
One of the ways we understood how our love is to be for God is that we looked at Jesus’ love for God. In John 14:31, Jesus says, “but I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father.” Your right, agape is used here again in reference to Christ’s love for the Father. Jesus loved the Father with a perfect love that denied Himself and obeyed the task the Father had put before Him, despite the cost to Himself. Jesus’ love for the Father sought His glory above all else. This love for the Father took him to the cross in what was the ultimate act of love both for the Father and for us.
We must elevate our view of love from the mires of this world and realize that a true love for God looks only to Him and desires to glorify Him through obedience to His word despite the personal cost or sacrifice.