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What is Love to God?

1) Love to God (or "loving God") is the most delightful, satisfying, euphoric, and rapturous experience we can have on either side of the grave. Only true believers- before or after the arrival of Jesus Christ- can experience this love. For example, King David was ecstatic in his love for God. "And David was dancing before the LORD with all his might." (2 Samuel 6: 14) It is the soul's going out to God in sweet affection, and bathing in the bright rays of His holiness and love. And often, as was the case with David above, it energizes and animates us from head to toe.

When we're in the midst of loving God, we know, beyond explanation, that we are doing the very thing we were made for. We know we are home, and there is great soul-rest. Feeling love to God is not a journey to a destination. It is the destination itself. Intensely loving worship is seen at the Christian journey's end in Revelation 15:3,4:

"And they sang the song of Moses, the bond-servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying,

“Great and marvelous are Your works,
O Lord God, the Almighty;
Righteous and true are Your ways,
King of the nations!
Who will not fear, O Lord, and glorify Your name?
For You alone are holy;
For all the nations will come and worship before You,
For Your righteous acts have been revealed.”

Yet we need not wait to arrive in Heaven before we experience the destination- love to God- now, as a foretaste:

"And though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory." (1 Peter 1: 8)

Isn't the experience of loving God the destination of your heart? Isn't that where you want to stay forever?

2) Love to God is in and by the Spirit of God. "Now I urge you, brethren, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit..." (Romans 15: 30) It is the Spirit Himself that we feel within us and through us as we pour out our love to God and seek the good of our fellow man.

3) God-pleasing Love is not first and foremost an action, it is a Spirit-initiated affection, yes, a Divine feeling, which draws our hearts out to God and forward to actively care for all people.

The popular saying. "Love is not a feeling, it is an action," is a false dichotomy. It is both, and if not both, it is not God-pleasing love. He is still passionately in love with us when we are cold-hearted, but if the Spirit of love is not in our actions then there is nothing in the action (whether the action be soul meditation or feeding the poor) which is Him, so it can't please Him.

When Jesus said in John 14: 15, "If you love Me, you will keep My commandments," He would have been making no sense if love for Him were the same as obeying Him outwardly. That would read, in effect, "If you obey My commandments, obey My commandments." But the natural sense of the verse is that if you feel loving affection for Him, demonstrate it in obedience. True love for God does in fact carry in it a passion to be more holy, more loving, more like Jesus.

As a caveat, it is true that many Bible verses have the action of love to others in view, but necessarily the affection in the act is understood or implied. Otherwise, on a heart level the act would be no better than what the Pharisees did or what your kind unbelieving neighbors may do.

Jesus came to get us beyond externals. He came to get to our hearts. And Biblically the heart includes not only the thoughts of man, and his mental reason for doing something, but it includes the feelings, and in the case of Christians they must be more than the mere fleshly compassions that a kind unbeliever might have.

Is this a challenge? Of course! But why should it be otherwise?

I have heard people say, "How do I know if this feeling is the Holy Spirit or the pizza I ate?" In this they demonstrate their own weakness of love and basic unfamiliarity with life in the Spirit.

4) Our love for God is God's own Trinitarian love for Himself. God is infinitely passionate about Himself, and His own glory, because He is infinitely perfect. It would be an infinite injustice, and evil of God, if He did not infinitely value and love that which is infinitely valuable- Himself. Things must be valued and treated according to their worth, or it is injustice and wrong. God can do no wrong. "A just balance and scales belong to the Lord; all the weights of the bag are His concern." (Proverbs 16:11) On the cosmic scale measuring worth against worth, God is of infinite weight and the whole creation less than nothing. He must do right and value Himself, love Himself, infinitely.

"Behold, the nations are like a drop from a bucket, and are regarded as a speck of dust on the scales. Behold, He lifts up the islands like fine dust. Even Lebanon is not enough to burn, nor its beasts enough for a burnt offering. All the nations are as nothing before Him, They are regarded by Him as less than nothing and meaningless. To whom then will you liken God? Or what likeness will you compare with Him?" (Isaiah 40:15-18)

It is because of His righteous Self-love that He is infinitely happy, infinitely blessed in and of Himself, eternally. His Self-love overflowed in giving us the gospel of Christ, which is thus called in 1 Timothy 1: 11, "the glorious gospel of the blessed God." As the love is amidst the Trinity, so it is into this blessed love that He has adopted us. And it is by God's own Trinitarian love that we love God back. We are now in the everlasting family, and so He gives us (lavishes us with!) the family love.

Someone may object: "Isn't it our love for God, not His? When I'm loving Him, isn't it really ME loving Him?" Yes, it is OUR love to God in that it flows through us and we joyfully will its glorious outlet from our souls. But it is GOD's love in that the Spirit of love is God, and that it's origin is the Divine Trinitarian ecstasy.

5) God's Self-love includes love for us individually and by name, since we bear HIS Name. He not only loves Himself infinitely but He loves each Christian infinitely, since we are in Christ His beloved Son.

He cares for every cell in our body! "For You formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mother's womb." (Psalm 139: 13)

There is no conflict between God's love of Himself and His love for us. He has an intimate knowledge of us! "O LORD, You have searched me and known me. You know when I sit down and when I rise up; You understand my thought from afar. You scrutinize my path and my lying down, And are intimately acquainted with all my ways. Even before there is a word on my tongue, Behold, O LORD, You know it all. You have enclosed me behind and before, And laid Your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; It is too high, I cannot attain to it." (Psalm 139: 1-6)

6) Love to God is the simultaneous reception of God's love and giving back of God's love. We give as we receive. A flower opens only when the sun shines on it, and it opens with the energy of the sun. So it is with God and His people. Our hearts open in love to Him as we receive the power of His love.

"Revive us, and we will call upon Your name. O LORD God of hosts, restore us; Cause Your face to shine upon us, and we will be saved. (Psalm 80: 18b, 19.)

"Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me." (John 15:4)

Our love to God and others is utterly dependent. We are utterly unable to love Him unless and until we receive the sap, the Spirit. When we are receiving, we can't but give, and give in the truth and joy of the blessed Spirit!

7) True love to God has a direct relationship to our rewards in Heaven.  It is the spring from which all other God-pleasing love comes. Whether doing good to our neighbor or tending the garden, if the Spirit of love is not in it, God is not in it. And if God is not in it, it is not pleasing to Him. "When you fasted and mourned in the fifth and seventh months these seventy years, was it actually for Me that you fasted? When you eat and drink, do you not eat for yourselves and do you not drink for yourselves?" (Zechariah 7: 5b, 6) If it is not pleasing to Him, there will be no rewards in Heaven for the particular act.

This is how Paul is able to speak of the man who arrived safely to Heaven but only as just escaping the fire. All His "good works" were burned up, because however glorious they had seemed to the man, God was not truly loved in the doing of the work. Hence, they were not good works, but works of the flesh only.

"And the fire itself will test the quality of each man's work. If any man's work which he has built on it remains, he will receive a reward. If any man's work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire." (1 Corinthians 1: 14b, 15)

8) The love we experience varies by degree. Often we have none of it. We at other times may have only the faintest sense of it. At other times, and increasingly as we get back to growing in Christ, the love can be overwhelming in a way that simply can't be fully described.

Whether weak or strong, though, love to God finds us wrapped up in a loving heart-vision (true faith) of His holy glory. In our own measure, we behold and adore what we can of His infinite holiness, His infinite beauty, His infinite weight of glory!

"But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit." (2 Corinthians 3: 18)

This is eternal life. The renewed heart is ravished by His excellence and perfection, and feeds on it as long as it can do so. Oh, if only we could hold on to the vision! The day is coming when faith shall become sight, and the often fleeting nature of our affections will give way to permanent, ecstatic, inexhaustible, love for the One Who made us and redeemed us from all our sins. Oh, for the day to come! Hallelujah! It hastens every moment! Hallelujah!

9) Love to God is only experienced by true Christians. False Christians do not love Him for His bright, blazing, sweet, pure, spotless, infinite, beauty of holiness. They "love" Him for the gifts they have from Him. They do not love His Face, they are enamored by the idea of His generous hand.

"Now when Simon saw that the Spirit was bestowed through the laying on of the apostles' hands, he offered them money, saying, 'Give this authority to me as well.'" (Acts 8: 18, 19a) Simon wanted the authority, a gift, not the Giver.

Again, love to God is only experienced by true Christians. There are a thousand religions and philosophies, and they bring no true love to the true God.

There is no other way to truly love the true God but through the true Jesus: He Who is fully man and fully God, had no sin, died as a Divine substitute for sinners, and was raised to live forevermore as their Lord and Savior.  

Speaking of the name of Jesus, Peter preached: "And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved." (Acts 4: 12)

Two fundamental applications of all this:

If we are true Christians yet want higher degrees of love to God (what true Christian doesn't come to live and breathe for this?) we must devote ourselves to working where the true spring water bubbles up and overflows. We must not wander downstream to muddy waters. Get up to the spring itself, the Bible, and stay there, drinking it in. Let His Word refresh you. Let the Book of God's promises pour out on you. BE, with God. May the Lord shower you with sweet love, and sweet prayer and praise back to Him!

A Bible search in Psalm 119 for "Your Word" gives us these hungry words:

Psalms 119:9 >> How can a young man keep his way pure? By keeping it according to Your word.

Psalms 119:11 >> Your word I have treasured in my heart, That I may not sin against You.

Psalms 119:16 >> I shall delight in Your statutes; I shall not forget Your word.

Psalms 119:17 >> Deal bountifully with Your servant, That I may live and keep Your word.

Psalms 119:25 >> My soul cleaves to the dust; Revive me according to Your word.

Psalms 119:28 >> My soul weeps because of grief; Strengthen me according to Your word.

Psalms 119:38 >> Establish Your word to Your servant, As that which produces reverence for You.

Psalms 119:41 >> May Your lovingkindnesses also come to me, O LORD, Your salvation according to Your word;

Psalms 119:42 >> So I will have an answer for him who reproaches me, For I trust in Your word.

Psalms 119:50 >> This is my comfort in my affliction, That Your word has revived me. 

Psalms 119:58 >> I sought Your favor with all my heart; Be gracious to me according to Your word.

Psalms 119:65 >> You have dealt well with Your servant, O LORD, according to Your word.

Psalms 119:67 >> Before I was afflicted I went astray, But now I keep Your word.

Psalms 119:74 >> May those who fear You see me and be glad, Because I wait for Your word.

Psalms 119:76 >> O may Your lovingkindness comfort me, According to Your word to Your servant.

Psalms 119:81 >> My soul languishes for Your salvation; I wait for Your word.

Psalms 119:82 >> My eyes fail with longing for Your word, While I say, "When will You comfort me?"

Psalms 119:89 >> Forever, O LORD, Your word *is settled in heaven.

Psalms 119:101 >> I have restrained my feet from every evil way, That I may keep Your word.

Psalms 119:105 >> Your word is a lamp to my feet And a light to my path.

Psalms 119:107 >> I am exceedingly afflicted; Revive me, O LORD, according to Your word.

Psalms 119:114 >> You are my hiding place and my shield; I wait for Your word.

Psalms 119:116 >> Sustain me according to Your word, that I may live; And do not let me be ashamed of my hope.

Psalms 119:133 >> Establish my footsteps in Your word, And do not let any iniquity have dominion over me.

Psalms 119:140 >> Your word is very pure, Therefore Your servant loves it.

Psalms 119:148 >> My eyes anticipate the night watches, That I may meditate on Your word.

Psalms 119:154 >> Plead my cause and redeem me; Revive me according to Your word.

Psalms 119:158 >> I behold the treacherous and loathe them, Because they do not keep Your word.

Psalms 119:160 >> The sum of Your word is truth, And every one of Your righteous ordinances is everlasting.

Psalms 119:162 >> I rejoice at Your word, As one who finds great spoil.

Psalms 119:169 >> Let my cry come before You, O LORD; Give me understanding according to Your word.

Psalms 119:170 >> Let my supplication come before You; Deliver me according to Your word.

Psalms 119:172 >> Let my tongue sing of Your word, For all Your commandments are righteousness.

Try reading When the Bible Bores Us for encouragement.

If you are not a true Christian, judging by the absence of any true love for God, then suddenly you have only one thing on your "To Do" list. Nothing else matters in the end if you don't truly love God. So, beg over the Bible. Ask Him to open the eyes of your heart that you might behold His glory. Like the rest of humanity, you have no right to His salvation. You have sinned treacherously against Him. But- the holy God of love may yet pierce your heart with His Word, His shining sword, killing your deadness to Him and bringing you to spiritual life for the first time! It is not too late for you. Please see this summary of The Good News, which can save your everlasting soul.

My great hope and prayer for all who read this is that you grow in your love to God, and consequently your love to others. If you do not love Him, I pray that you put everything aside at this very moment and seek His glorious Face.

May God bless You beyond understanding!