One day a proud Pharisee, a lawyer by profession, who had seen Christ silence the Sadducees but still believed he could call the Lord’s wisdom in question, asked, ‘Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?’ The Lord replied, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it, You shall love your neighbour as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets’ (Matthew 22:36-40).
These words strike a responsive chord in the heart and mind of all who rejoice in their salvation. All who can sing with joy the wonderful words of the psalmist: ‘I love the Lord, because He has heard my voice’ (Psalm 116:1). Those who belong to Christ love God intensely because of his great love for them. Together they shout with joy, ‘We love the Lord because He first loved us!’
Escape from danger
We once lived in a suburb of hell and played our games upon its brink. The fumes of that eternal garbage dump wafted about us, but we so enjoyed our sinful ways that we could not see our spiritual danger. However God, in his great love and mercy, intervened. The Holy Spirit opened the eyes of those that God ‘foreknew’ (or loved beforehand) and showed them their danger. We saw our sins, and shame covered our faces. We saw the broad way stretching before us, the end of which was hell. With a God-given spirit of repentance, and with a broken heart, we confessed our sins and cried out for forgiveness. The Holy Spirit opened our spiritual eyes to behold the saving work of Christ and our hearts were filled with love for the One who loved us and gave himself for us.
Through the regenerating work of God’s Holy Spirit, we became new creatures in the Lord Jesus. We read: ‘And the Lord your God will circumcise your heart … to love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live’ (Deuteronomy 30:6). The Spirit of Christ came to indwell our hearts and gave us a saving faith in Christ through which all the divine blessings could flow. We saw the love of God as seen in the Lord Jesus, the sinless sin-bearer, suspended between heaven and earth upon a Roman cross, with life-saving blood pouring from his broken body. Tears of love and gratitude flowed freely as the realization burst upon our heart and mind: My sins did that to the Son of God! And when we heard that awful cry from the cross, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken Me?’ (Matthew 27:46), love filled our hearts.
Our Lord was forsaken, tasting hell for his people, that they might never be forsaken. As redeemed people with new hearts of flesh replacing hearts of stone, we cannot help but love God. We know, of course, that ‘we love him because he first loved us’ (1 John 4:19). We know that before creation our names were written in the Lamb’s book of life. As redeemed sinners we praise and magnify the God who loved us. Our hearts burst with love towards God because our salvation is all of him. With the heavenly host we sing: ‘Blessing and honour and glory and power be to Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb forever and ever!’ (Revelation 5:13). We rejoice knowing that Christ won for us the righteousness needed to enter heaven and stand in the presence of the eternal God.
The beauty of Christ
There is a second reason why we love God. Our love of God grows stronger each day as we discover more about his character and attributes. His holiness fills us with awe and wonder, while his plan of salvation displays the magnificence of his wisdom. Our hearts are flooded with love as we meditate upon his abounding grace, love and mercy. The words of David are a cause for rejoicing: ‘The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in mercy … He has not dealt with us according to our sins, nor punished us according to our iniquities. For as the heavens are high above the earth, so great is his mercy toward those who fear Him’ (Psalm 103 8ff). We discover that our God is immutable – he cannot change. This means we trust all his promises. He has promised that he will never leave us and that all who place their faith in his Son will be saved, for no one can snatch us from the hands of the Saviour. We are eternally secure.
There is an indescribable beauty to be found in Christ. Meditate upon the words of the psalmist (Psalm 45:2ff): ‘You are fairer than the sons of men; Grace is poured upon Your lips; Therefore God has blessed you forever. Gird your sword upon your thigh, O mighty One, With your glory and your majesty. And in your majesty ride prosperously because of truth, humility, and righteousness.’ Our salvation is all of God. His gracious love has closed the mouth of hell and opened wide the door of heaven to his people. The Lord bids us welcome. Our hearts are overflowing with the desire to be with Christ.
The obedience of love
Jesus said, ‘If you love me, keep my commandments’ (John 14:15). Our obedience does not come from a slavish fear of God nor because we seek some reward, but simply from a heart that loves the Saviour. There is a true desire to gather with other redeemed people to serve and worship God. To the One we love, we offer the ‘sacrifice of praise’, which is ‘the fruit of our lips’ (Hebrews 13:15). With the psalmist we sing: ‘Give unto the Lord the glory due to His name; worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness’ (Psalm 29:2). All that we are, soul, heart, mind and body, is willingly put at the disposal of Christ because he has redeemed us by his precious blood. We are no longer our own, for we have been bought with a price. Therefore we glorify God in our body and spirit, which are God’s (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). We are his willing servants rejoicing in our salvation.
All who love God read and meditate upon his Word and count it a privilege to come to him in prayer. There is a longing to walk the golden streets of heaven and gaze upon the face of ‘the Son of God who loved [us] and gave himself for [us]’ (Galatians 2:20). We are humbled into the dust because we know that everything we have, and will ever have, comes from God. We are what we are by the grace of the God of grace.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us show this sin-sick world, by our life and words, that we love God totally. Let us rejoice as members of the kingdom of heaven, whose Lord is ‘King of kings and Lord of lords’ (Revelation 19:16).